Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Dogs and Stingrays

My youngest brother said, referring to plant poison, "I'm sure you'll write about it in your blog ..." and so the pressure's on!

But first ... have you thought about that Altoids tin with quarters in it? I haven't. I quit thinking about it as soon as I discovered that it was gone ...

Today I tried to help a little girl quit being afraid of dogs. Benji -- a fifteen-pound, black-and-white, cute-as-can-be mutt of some sort, with whom I am completely in love -- and I were walking around Gulfport. We didn't mean to. We meant to mail the landlady's lease to her in Atlanta, which we did, and then we meant to go into Small Adventures, a little bookstore, which we didn't. Instead, we walked up their wooden ramp but then bypassed the door. We went down the back steps and into the back alley of a bunch of businesses.

Benji, never a scavenger, was particularly interested in a big square black dumpster that announced (in a booming voice) that it was for discarded cooking oil only, and that it was private property. I was so busy gazing at it and wondering why, for instance, it would be square. I connect liquids with roundness -- like milk tanks in the barn and milk tankers on the road, like gasoline trucks, like grape juice, like cement trucks ... or am I going too far with the liquid thing? Yes. Surely I am.

But yes: liquid and round, not liquid and square.

Okay. You've got your square cardboard cartons for milk and some juice, but originally, the way god meant it, it came in round bottles.

I also wondered who picks this oil up. I've never in my life seen a square (?) tanker coming to get the discarded cooking oil. Perhaps Texaco comes for it, shouldering in on the cooking-oil cars.

Well, while I wondered all that, Benji was LICKING the weeds around the dumpster. I would have dragged him off by his collar, his feet flailing in the air, his trachea collapsing, his torso writhing as it twisted wildly to evade my grasp -- except that he came willingly, as he always does.

It turned out that we were stuck in the alley. All the buildings are connected. So we wandered around till we got out. We went out on a street and I heard the ominous sound of dog tags. It's only ominous because Benji, alas, doesn't get along with other dogs. I turned and looked. Two big, mottled dogs were standing at attention across the street, wondering what we were up to, wondering if there were a game to be played, a snack to be had, a sudden war, what? In the end, the dogs and I just looked at each other, wondering. Benji, on the other hand, was snoozling around in some weeds, paying attention to none of us.

The critters at home act like this, too. I'll look up from the keyboard and see that Benji's on his couch, looking at me like, "What? What're we gonna do now?" And Mittens will have her head up, too -- amazingly -- unfurled from the wooden table long enough to maintain a similar gaze aimed at me. Sunny's on the floor, looking up at me expectantly.

What do they want?

Benji and I rounded the corner, back on the civilized sidewalk now, and there was a young man with two young sisters or two young daughters or something. I can't judge ages. It seems like I used to be able to at least guess the decade, but even that dubious skill was lost when I turned forty.

I overheard the littler girl telling her father that she's afraid of dogs. Well, I can't tolerate that, so I told her Benji's nobody to be afraid of. I asked if she'd come pet him but she just stared at me. The older girl came willingly. Benji, on the other hand, was snoozling around in some other weeds, paying attention to none of us. When he could be convinced to join the fun, he showed up with teeny little plant pods on him. I picked them off while the bigger girl pet him and then the littler one decided not to be afraid of him, and she pet him, too.

I told her that she can no longer say she's afraid of dogs. I gave her permission (like it's mine to give) to say she's afraid of all dogs except one. "And if there's one, there's got to be two."

There's no logic to that, but no one was screaming for logic ...

I was always afraid of dogs when I was a kid. Well, and when I was a grownup, too. Even little dogs could kind of spook me. I don't really understand it. We had a dog once, Gramps. He was a beagle-mutt, I think, from Bliss (NY), I think. Still, I've always been at least wary of dogs.

I can't believe how important they are to me even now.

I was herded by a border collie one time. It was so strange. I was in Napoleon, Indiana, which harbors about two hundred souls. Sunny and Benji weren't in my life then. I don't know if it would have made a difference.

I was at my friend Beth's house and she was gone. I strolled out of town, which was four houses down. It was May and just gorgeous, especially to someone who hadn't seen a real spring in more than a decade. I saw lilacs again! Oh my! I saw my first-ever beaver in a creek. It was great. I was ambling down this country road, feeling fine, and up on the left came a farm house. When I got even with the house, a big ol' collie came out barking. It came right up to me. Its mouth was about the level of my hands as they hung down, a fact I was extremely tuned to. It stood in front of me and did not budge. I was scared and then, of course, I remembered the admonition about dogs: Don't let them know you're scared.


I tried to walk around the dog, but it followed me. It stuck to me like Benji's little green seeds. That collie just walked and nudged until it had me completely turned around and heading back to where I'd come from.

I wish I had a video of that. (See how modern I am!)

I'm off to a ballgame tonight to help Steven celebrate his birthday. I really like him, but I am not a sports fan. Mike'll buy me hot dogs and ice cream, though, and there will be laughing and screaming even though I don't even how how football's played. It's the Rays and the Red Sox.

And who names these teams? I remember cheers from high school -- Red and white! Fight! Fight! and (for Warsaw) Orange and black will fight 'em back! -- so, clearly, danger and warriorlike behavior are involved. I get it with the Rays. Seems like they were better as Devil Rays, but who am I? It's about stingrays and they are scary. Fine.

But Red Sox? They can't even spell it right. Maybe if it were Red Socks there'd be some hint of the violence we require in sports. Otherwise, what? I'm supposed to be afraid of underwear?

And how 'bout them Jazz? Now there's a scary name. Look out or we'll come in on the off-beat!

1 comment:

Steven said...

Thank you for coming out and celebrating my birthday with me! I doubt you had as good a time as I did but enjoyed having you there.