Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Repeat Wednesday: What A Dump

I don't understand my dog Snowflake. Three times a day I take him out for a walk, and he always scurries over to the same old tree. To the naked eye it looks like all the other trees, but from the way Snowflake acts you'd think it was Bob Fosse. He sniffs at the bark, paws the fallen leaves, circles endlessly. It makes me wonder if he's stupid. This thing's the botanical equivalent of "The View," except even Barbara Walters rarely reeks of piss.

I yank on his leash and drag him farther down the block, past a new apartment house they're building. I've got a love/hate relationship with it. It's an oversized concrete box surrounded by classic old brownstones, but since it brings ten hunky Polish construction workers to the neighborhood it could be the Gates of Hell for all I care. Whenever I pass one of these guys on the street I'm tempted to strike up a conversation. I usually go for flattery as a pick-up line, but I'm not sure "You can sure stack concrete blocks!" will prompt eyelashes to bat.

Snowflake and I are almost to the corner when we find an enormous brown pile in the middle of the sidewalk. It's about enough to make me lose my lunch, but to Snowflake it's like finding vintage Gucci. He tiptoes up to it, circles a few times, sniffs. He can't take his eyes off it. If he had opposable thumbs he'd be snapping pictures.

I'm tugging on his leash when a construction worker appears. He's picked up a Snapple at the deli, I guess, and now he's headed back to work. He's one of my favorites, reminding me of a guy I used to date. We went all hot and heavy until his birthday came up. I still get defensive about it: I mean, if mango shower gel is a crime, color me guilty.

"Hey," he says, in a thick Polish accent, "you gotta clean up after your dog."

I show him my hand, stuck inside a plastic bag, and think about making it talk. I decide not too: I mean, if there's a profession that less sexy than accountants, it's puppeteers. "I do," I say. "He hasn't gone yet."

"Then what's that?" he asks, pointing to the sidewalk. Like an idiot I look. It hasn't changed. "Your dog took a dump."

"It's not his," I say. "It was here when we got here."

"Of course it's his. He's standing right next to it."

"You're standing right next to it and nobody's claiming it's yours."

He starts his next sentence with "Listen, wise guy," which doesn't bode well for our future together. I don't date anybody who reminds me of Dad. "I just went to the store, and it wasn't here when I left. Look around -- you see any other dogs? Who else could have done it?"

I don't see any other dogs, but this doesn't prove anything. "My dog's poo is nothing like this," I maintain. "For one thing, this is bigger than his head. Snowflake ate a whole pizza once and barely crapped a cannoli."

"I'm not even listening," he says. "I'm not buying your excuses, and you're not leaving until you clean that up." He's just dripping with macho swagger. It's only hot when you're sure the guy's not going to kill you.

I come to the conclusion that I can't win this argument by myself. I need backup; I need a character witness. Surely some of the neighborhood folks have seen Snowflake poo before, and can testify that this monstrosity isn't his.

Like the answer to a prayer, the guy who lives upstairs from me is fast approaching on the other side of the street. I've kind of got a crush on him too: he reminds me of a guy I used to date in college, who dropped me when I gave him a ring. It wasn't commitment he was afraid of -- some folks just don't get Cat's Eye. "Hey!" I yell. "Excuse me! Have you ever seen my dog take a crap?"

"No!" he hollers, and he darts across the road like the Clash are playing on our side. He takes one look at the sidewalk and scowls. "Damn," he snaps. "Did I miss it?"

This is such an allegory for my life, I think. Two men I'm interested in, and the topic of discussion is whether or not my dog took a dump. Under other circumstances I'd probably have caved, but the dog that left this muffin was clearly not in good health. Let's just say it'd be easier to pick up apple sauce.

From four different directions bystanders approach. In a quiet Italian neighborhood like this, a giant crap is like Cirque du Soleil. I get the newcomers up to speed, hoping somebody'll back me up, but everybody takes Construction Worker's side. "If I wasn't going to clean up after my dog," I ask, "why did I bring the bag?"

"You were gonna pretend to clean it up," a chubby kid replies. Right, I thought -- now I'm the Sociopathic Urban Mime. He's just mad because I gave out Swiffer refills last Halloween.

"You know," somebody says, "I'll bet he's the one who's been carving graffiti into the trees."

"And setting off the car alarms at four in the morning."

The crowd murmurs like a posse on "Bonanza," accusing me of everything from destroying the ozone layer to reusing postage stamps, and the circle around me starts to close in. By now I'm thinking, hey, maybe Frankenstein didn't have it so bad. Sure, he was chased around by villagers with torches, but it wasn't in a hip neighborhood, and he didn't have to worry about ruining flattering clothes.

Just as I'm deciding on the best direction to run, an old lady in a faded housedress breaks through the circle, wielding a cane like a tire iron. Somebody explains the situation to her in Italian, and I'm guessing they offer her first whack. Instead she takes a look at the dog, the poo, the plastic bag over my hand, and puts it all together like a Sicilian Miss Marple. "So your dog hasn't gone yet?" she asks. I nod. "Then make him go."

A gasp of surprise erupts from the crowd. It's like we're all gathered in the library and she's just picked out the killer. Even I'm impressed -- I mean, I wouldn't have expected anything more than interesting than curse words and tasty gnocchi from her. "Easier said than done," I complain. "I have to massage his lips to get him to eat."

"Convince him."

All eyes turn to the dog, who's shivering like a chilly chicken. "Poor little puppy," somebody says. "He's too nervous to go."

Now this was just flat-out wrong. Snowflake's never cared who was around when he went. In fact, he seemed to be spurred on by attention from attractive guys. It was the bane of my existence: I'd meet somebody, we'd flirt, he'd try to make friends with the dog, and before we could swap numbers we'd be scurrying for gas masks.

A lightbulb goes on over my head. "Hey," I say to Construction Worker, "pet the dog. Pretend you like him."

He stares at me like I'm crazy but follows my instructions. Not two seconds later Snowflake is proudly standing over his own, markedly-smaller creation.

The crowd grumbles and I beam like a new dad. "See?" I say, gesturing like it's a game show prize. "There's a huge difference."

They nod reluctantly. It's a rollerskate next to a Humvee. "Sorry," Construction Worker says. "I guess I jumped to the wrong conclusion."

"No prob," I reply, and then comes our first awkward silence. Pause. "You can sure stack concrete blocks."

He smiles and his brown eyes twinkle. "Thanks. Well, I gotta get back to work. Maybe I'll see you later."

"Yeah, that'd be nice." We all watch as he walks away.

Snowflake and I head back towards home, and he runs to the safety of his tree again, circling like a Spirograph. I still can't claim to understand the little pooch, but he's a chip off the old block in a couple ways:

Great taste in men. Really not so great with gifts.

2 comments:

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Anonymous said...

ahahahahah omg.
Wish my dog had a good taste in men.

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