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Ronald, across the street sideways, and I are almost neighbors. He and his missus are five years or so new to the neighborhood. Physically close enough, what keeps us from being real neighbors is our ages and that we only occasionally enjoy pre- and post- work-commute meetings. Ronald is early career and go-get’m. I’m late career and ‘when I get around to it.’
We’ve chatted, most often when he quizzes me on why my lawn is such a lovely, luxuriant green while his tends to straw-yellow or high summer brown. I’ve patiently explained he can’t continue to scalp his yard when he mows, leaving not much more than roots when he’s done. In the summer heat, I suggest, grass needs more than an inch of blade for its chlorophyl to perform photosynthetic magic. It was during one of these landscape discussions he dropped an aside.
“I’ve worked with dogs all my life. Trained’m. Good at it. We have a thing, dogs and I.”
“I like dogs a lot,” I offered. I wasn’t lying. “Had my share. But I don’t think the city is the proper place for a dog. Dogs need space, defined freedom, and lots of exercise.” I was thinking, and a state-regulated place to poop.
Having seen me on yard patrol, large, heavy digging shovel over my shoulder, Ronald might have been skeptical. Can’t blame him. Rare untended dogs, tended bowsers, dog owners, and my shovel have had discussions. Lest you assume otherwise, civil discussions. Attendees always knew why the shovel attended. In all cases, parties of all parts came to an understanding. Me, all the dogs, and most of the dog owners. As a rule, dogs are smarter than dog owners, especially smarter than male dog owners.
“I’m gonna get me a dog,” Ron said.
“Probably a good idea,” I replied with no particular expectation of any truth in the matter.
Shortly after, Ron got a dog. A beautiful, piebald, shaggy-haired shepherd. Truly a regal beast. I was mildly envious.
Some days later, I was working the yard, not on patrol as it were. Across the street, at the end of his driveway, Ron was yelling his lungs out.
“Whiskers! C’mon boy! C’mon home! Whi-i-i-i-skers! Here, boy! C’mon home, now!”
Across the street, about ten houses up, ‘Whiskers’ was busy exploring. He wasn’t keen on interrupting his work, listening to Ron, or coming home.
“Maybe he’s mad at ya,” I suggested.
“Why?” Ron paused his yowling at Whiskers to chat neighbor-like.
“Embarrassing him. Whiskers ain’t no name for a dog.”
“Cat’s name. Not suited to a dog. Dogs are Charlie. Or Dusty. Or Prince.”
“My wife likes it. She helped name him.”
“Well, that explains some. You know, I been thinking maybe even in the city, time for me to get another dog.”
Ronald smiled. “That’d be swell.”
“Reckon Ron, you’d have time to come help me train one proper?”
“You don’t have a dog yet.”
“Right now, Ron, neither do you.”
The bite of my comment was lost on Ron. He’s one of those dog owners struggling to be superior to his dog.
Of course, I explained Whiskers, and Whiskers’ penchant for ignoring Ronnie to the Missus. We do chat when circumstances find us together in the house or the yard. She was mildly interested since she’d heard Ron yowling.
One scorching midsummer afternoon, I was working in the yard, soaked in sweat. Contemplating a trip inside for something cool, I saw Whiskers nervously pacing the length of Ronald’s front lawn. No Ronald. No Missus Ronald. And no earthly idea how Whiskers gained his freedom. Before tending my thirst, I found a heavy plastic bowl I hoped my Missus wouldn’t miss. With it full of water, I went back outside and crossed the street into Ron’s yard.
“C’mon Whiskers. Got some water here. Let’s take it up to the front porch.”
Whiskers thought that a good idea. I suggested he stay on the porch, in the shade, convenient to the water. Through the afternoon, Whiskers stayed there. I kept an eye on him until at last Ron came home to be surprised by his pooch on his porch, patiently postponing dog stuff.
Ron likely was surprised how effective his training had been, since Whiskers was somehow loose, he’d obediently stayed in the yard, on the porch. Neither I suspect, did Ron question the strange bowl on his porch nor the fact it was some kindaway somewhat filled with water. I remarked earlier Ron is still in a contest for Alpha male over there. Ronald never asked, and I certainly never volunteered. It was between Whiskers and me.
Some weeks later, the Boss yelled into the garage for me to shop the upright freezer for something delightful for the next day’s evening meal before I came inside. Yes’m. Depositing my treasure in the refrigerator, I adjourned to the bedroom to call it quits for the day and prepare to shower. I do that with some regularity.
While I was paring down, the Missus commenced to giggle somewhat uncontrollably. First, I checked to be sure, but I was confident I didn’t have my t-shirt on backwards or inside out or my shorts for that matter. I’ve been dressing myself pretty much unassisted for sixty-some years. Undergarments still, on occasion, test my skills.
“What’s so funny?” I asked.
“You don’t hear that?”
I’m more than a little hard of hearing. It’s mostly convenient. Easier to ignore certain women’s voices, screaming kids, and the six AM idiot running his fossil fuel blower for forty-five minutes across all fifty feet of his lawn’s street-side gutter.
“Ron’s outside yelling again for Whiskers to come home. Been at it for fifteen minutes now.”
“Gonna have to have a talk with that dog. Long as he’s been over there, you’d think he’d have Ron trained by now.”
The Missus giggled. Not sure it was at me, or Ron, or Whiskers. My t-shirt and drawers were not the issue.
© S P Wilcenski 2020
— FF:10; WC:996