Tempting Fate

The two heads that went streaking past the kitchen window were little more than a blur.  The same two heads, recognizable as belonging to a couple of my friends, had gone the other direction mere seconds before.  My brother and his wife, along with this young freeloader, were just finishing their noon meal with generous servings of a delicious, freshly baked cobbler.  I had assumed that the two fleeing pals would knock on the door, since we had made arrangements for them to pick me up so we could go canoeing that afternoon.  And yet, here they were, leaving in an amazing hurry!  Without me!

Photo by gabster10

A moment later, we realized the reason for their fleet-footed retreat, as Heidi, the huge Saint Bernard, ran barking wildly past the same window.  Assuming that she would stop at the end of her chain, I lazily got up and ambled to the door, pausing to thank my sister-in-law for a delicious meal.  Only then did it register that the barking was no longer coming from the place where the length of chain would have ended.  The big dog was over at my little apartment next door, still barking and growling.  Her snarls were mixed in with the sound of human voices shouting. I slammed the door and raced pell-mell toward the shouts and snarls, to find my friends on the top of their car, with the over-sized canine standing on her hind legs attempting to grab a piece of their tantalizing limbs.  As I stood, shaking with laughter, my brother, who had followed me out, called to the dog and she came to him reluctantly, not without a few backwards glances at her two would-be victims who were now clambering sheepishly off the car on the far side, being sure to keep the vehicle’s body between them and the dog.  I’m pretty sure that I saw her lick her chops as she turned away from them for the last time and headed around the corner of the house with her owner.  She had been hoping for a bite of dinner too, it seems.

When they were able to speak rationally again, the pair told me what had happened.  As they walked beside the house, the friend who had been there before told the other, “If the dog chases us, it can only come to right about here,” as he pointed to a spot beside the window through which we had seen them.  “If we get past this point, we’ll be safe.”  Then, as they turned the corner toward the front door, the dog, who was lying near her house, lifted her over-sized head from between her huge paws and let out a single warning, “Wuff!”  They turned back the way they had come, but hesitated to see what she would do.  She did it instantly.  Leaping up, she headed for them like a freight train.  They ran past the point of safety and turned to await her anticipated discomfort as she was drawn up short and flipped to the ground when she hit the end of the chain which limited her freedom.  It didn’t happen.  The one hundred-fifty pound animal had enough inertia when the end of the chain was reached that it snapped like a string and she continued on to where they stood, now frantically scrambling to get out of her reach.  The car was the only place of sanctuary they could see and the frightened duo were on top of it within a second or two.  I honestly believe that if we had been a few seconds slower coming to their rescue, she would have found a way to climb up there after them.

We still laugh about that event, decades later, but I’m pretty sure that those two men learned an important lesson that day.  I haven’t asked them, but my guess is that they no longer trust the shackles that keep dangerous animals in their place.  I would think that the sight of those slobbering jowls and exposed fangs, connected to such a large and vicious sounding animal, would be enough to serve as a reminder for many years.  It doesn’t pay to trust your safety to a chain that you haven’t installed and tested yourself.

“That was a close call!”  How often those words are uttered, usually by folks who have pushed the limits, have tested the length of chain, only to find that safety was not to be found where they thought it would be.  I’m not only talking about the daredevils, the Evel Kneviels, of the world.  I’m speaking of everyday people, just like you and me, who take unnecessary risks; risks that put our reputations and our relationships in harm’s way.  We push the limits, anxious to prove that we can withstand temptation.  We tempt fate, so to speak, in an effort to show that we won’t be limited by anyone else’s definition of normal or safe.

The road of life is littered by those very reputations and relationships which have been shattered, as the beast which was thought to have been shackled broke loose and mauled yet another victim.  You don’t need me to provide a list; just check the news; think back to the people you have looked up to and respected, only to find that they had mistakenly marked the safety zone and gotten caught where they should never have ventured in the first place.  Pastors, politicians, actors, and even the man or woman next door.  We all think we can walk right past those slobbering jowls and not be touched.  Sometimes, that is the case.  Many times it is not.  I just believe that the risk is too great, the consequences too extreme to put ourselves in danger.

I think often of the advice from the Apostle to his young protege’ as he urges him to run as fast as he can from the lusts that tempt him as a youth.  He goes on to encourage his promising young companion to pursue several lofty goals.  It strikes me that if we are testing the limits on the dangerous side, we can’t be pursuing anything positive at all.  Even if we succeed in avoiding the pitfalls, we will accomplish nothing of import.  I also know that even at my advancing age, the warning to flee from danger is sound advice.  Believe me, temptations still abound.

Oh!  If I’m remembering correctly, it seems to me that the next time my friends came to pick me up for something, they remained in the car and honked the horn until I came out.  I’ve got some wise friends.

Maybe we could all take a lesson from them.  Discretion, after all, is the better part of valor. 

“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”
(Alexander Pope~English poet~1688-1744)

“Discretion will guard you, understanding will watch over you, to deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things; from those who leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness.”
(Proverbs 2: 11-13~NASB)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2012. All Rights Reserved.

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