On Accident

by E.M. Killaley

 

‘I’m really sorry, but I think I got your mail on accident.’ Harry’s neighbour handed him a magazine as he wheeled his bicycle by her apartment.

‘No, you didn’t,’ he replied.

‘Oh, sorry, is it not yours?’ She turned back.

‘I think you’ll find it was by accident.’ 

His neighbour blinked.

‘Something can be done on purpose, but not on accident.’

‘Right.’ She closed her door on his grinning face.

Harry went into his own flat and called for his dog. It was a fairly tricky thing to do, as he’d never actually named the dog. It responded to ‘hey you’ and ‘dog’ well enough though, and on at least one occasion it seemed to recognise that the ‘it’ Harry was referring to in conversation was in fact itself.

Harry had just never felt there was a point in naming it. As he maintained, the dog was not entirely intelligent. It did not speak, so there would be no cause for others to differentiate to whom they were speaking. If someone did speak to the dog, it was usually pretty obvious to those who could speak, and often the dog as well. People had a tendency to speak at a higher register to animals. And in any case, dogs didn’t live that long anyway.

‘I think they could have cared less.’ Harry had given an actual guffaw when he’d told the dog about describing this reasoning to someone at work once. The dog, in response, had merely hung its head.

So when Harry asked the dog if it wanted to join him for a walk, it wasn’t a surprise when the dog turned and sat facing the wall. It didn’t get out much.

‘That’s fine, old dog. I’ll be home in an hour.’

Harry cycled along the river, chuckling to himself as he pedalled. The sky was that endless kind of pale blue, not a single cloud ahead, and the breeze was carrying the scent of baking pastry from a nearby shop.

‘On accident,’ he said, smiling as he shook his head.

As he did so, he missed the van that was barreling towards him. Harry saw the driver, unconscious against the wheel, when they broke through the barrier and dove into the water. He heard the yells as people rushed to help, one man jumping in beside the van. But in the chaos Harry had already begun to sink, and as the surface rose away from him, he realised no one had seen him. He didn’t think about the dog. He thought about his bike. He watched, unable to move while it floated downriver, slightly bent, and he imagined the stranger who would boast that they literally got it for free.