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White Devils and Stolen Dogs

Monday afternoon was sunny and gorgeous and because we knew rain was predicted for the rest of the week, Mike and I decided to take the dogs to the off-leash park.  We stuffed our pockets with treats and poop bags and tennis balls and were on our way.  A few blocks from home, while Valentine was crouched to do her business, a homeless man with a long grey beard walked up and reached out for her.  Thinking the man was trying to pet Valentine, who does not like to be touched by strangers, Mike leapt between them, laughing and warning to be careful because the little yellow one bites.

She doesn’t, actually, but she is an unpredictable little dog and while most days she’d froth at the mouth and lunge at anyone trying to pet her, that day she just squatted by the tree, doing her business.  She didn’t seem at all bothered when the homeless man began chanting and petting the tree under which she pooped, but I was not pleased and neither was Mike.  We couldn’t wait for her to finish and when she was done we couldn’t walk away fast enough.  Then I glanced over my shoulder and saw that he was following us.

I wanted to believe he was just headed in the same direction, but it was a little disconcerting that he insisted on walking so close to us.  When he started chanting about white devils and stolen dogs I got a little nervous.  I looked over at Mike and he grinned and suggested that when we get to the market, I give him the dogs and go inside, and let him talk to “our friend”.  So I stayed calm, because my husband had a plan, and it was a good plan.  The market was less than a block away and I could all ready see the usual crowd gathered in front.  I was sure that once we were surrounded by people the whole thing would dissipate and Mike wouldn’t even need to address the guy.

For the next part of the story to make sense, I need to explain that our neighborhood market is not like those sprawling, glittering Mecca’s of rare wines and organic canned soup you find in suburbia.  Our market is a tiny, dingy market with aisles so narrow you can’t fit a cart through them.  It’s so small it could fit in the deli section of most suburban super markets.  It’s so small that when I stand at the checkout paying for my groceries, my butt rubs against the butt of the cashier at the checkout behind me.

So when I got inside the store and realized the man had followed me in, I kind of freaked out.  I ducked into the cereal aisle, walking so fast I was practically running.  I looked over my shoulder and he was there.  I started feeling claustrophobic.  My heart was racing, my breath quickened and my limbs tingled.  I turned into the canned food aisle and the man followed me.  The next time I looked over my shoulder he waved his hands in the air, bared his teeth and growled.

To be continued…

Came Tumbling After

JackandJill

At Easter time, when my mother was a little girl, you could walk into any corner market and buy live ducklings or chicks for your Easter basket.  The baby birds were dipped in vegetable dye and available in a rainbow of pastel hues.  The year my mother was seven the Easter Bunny brought her a pink duckling and a blue duckling.  She was delighted, and named them Jack and Jill.

Weeks passed and the ducklings lost their baby fuzz and grew into beautiful white ducks.  Jack and Jill behaved, whole-heartedly, as if the little girl named Terrie Frances was their mother.  They greeted her at the door when she came home from school.  They followed her around the yard, quack-quack-quacking, wherever she went.  They perched on her feet while she did her homework, swam in her inflatable pool, and pooped all over the place.  Since they weren’t allowed indoors, they slept each night in a wooden crate beneath her bedroom window.  They were her best pals.

Then one day she came home from school and the ducks were gone.  Terrie Frances and her Papa had talked about taking the ducks to Westlake Park once they were fully grown, but she hadn’t thought the day would come so soon.  She was heartbroken and tearful, but Papa reminded her that Westlake Park had a huge lake and lots of other ducks lived there, and Jack and Jill were likely much better off.  As a consolation promised her that one day they would go to the park to visit the ducks, and even though the day never came, she often thought fondly of Jack and Jill and ducks remained her favorite bird.

Years later, when my mother was a grown woman with four children of her own, we were sitting at the table over Easter dinner when my mother told the story of Jack and Jill, her beloved ducklings.  When she got to the end and was describing their new home at Westlake Park, my grandfather began to chuckle.

“Aw, hell.  I never took ’em to the park.  I wrung their necks and fried ’em.  You ate ’em too!  I told you they were chicken and you thought they were delicious!”

Happy Easter from all of us at ASG