Our town put a wonderful walking path down by the river a few years ago, complete with benches, porta-potties, flower gardens, totems carved by a local artisan, a wooden bridge, and all sorts of wildlife. It’s a rare day that you don’t see ducks, groundhogs, heron, deer, and even an occasional skunk along the scenic three-mile walkway.
Last Saturday, I was reading on one of the benches. Even with my eyes closed, I would have known it was fall, because the rich scent of decaying leaves hung sweetly in the air. I watched as some Canadian geese flew overhead and then had to laugh at a honking straggler trying desperately to catch up and take his place in the perfect “V”. It really was a beautiful day, a really fine day.
I was minding my own business and enjoying a rare day off from my writing and editing, when I saw the strangest thing. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to share it …
This all came about as I was turning a page in my book. I looked up for only a second and, on a nearby bench sort of kitty-cornered across the path from me, I noticed a heavy-set old woman noisily gumming a soda straw which was poking out of the hole in a Pepsi can. Watching her, I almost laughed because she reminded me of a hungry baby nursing at the breast of its mother.
The woman’s corpulent face was even older than ancient. Her many wrinkles had wilted into tiers, like icing spread on a cake that was still too warm yet for icing. Her eyes were deeply set and nearly hidden, like two dark asterisks set in among the folds of flesh.
I tried not to stare. I tried to turn away. Failing miserably at both, I tried even harder not to laugh, I really did, and I didn’t actually lose that battle until I saw her dog and what he considered his role to be with this strange woman.
At first, I only noticed the woman, but all at once, with a high-speed upward-outward motion, a hulking canine face popped out from in between the woman’s legs down at ground level. I thought, my God, that is the ugliest dog I have ever seen!
The dog’s face was framed on either side and above by the woman’s long pink skirt and it’s face was nearly engulfed by its own myriad of wrinkles of the hugest kind. His eyes were like two lumps of coal stuffed deeply into a large wad of brown dough. The mouth, a gaping slobbery hole, housed a pink tongue that hung down, almost touching the bully-boy collar around its neck.
Just above the mouth, also poked way into the brown dough, was what I presumed to be its nose. The total picture was one of insane hilarity — the stout head above, and the massive ugly twin below, peering out from between the woman’s legs. Ironically, the wrinkled and toothless woman
perfectly mirrored the droll and homely animal beneath her. That’s still not when I lost my battle to laughter. Up to this point, I managed to contain myself pretty well. The old woman finally finished her Pepsi and rose from her bench. She slowly shuffled toward a trash can bolted to a fence post by the edge of the sidewalk.
The dog waddled along just behind her. After dropping the soda can into the barrel, she turned her head to the side and with a series of revolting sounds, belched loudly and hawked up a wad of phlegm — a loogie of vast proportions — which she promptly spat onto the sidewalk. Without missing a beat, the dog waddled over to the mess and promptly “cleaned it up” for her.
I was so busy trying to keep my gag and retch reflexes in check that I missed where the two went after that, but when I recovered, I took a quick peek. The old woman was back on the bench, the dog below, its enormous head again neatly framed in the pink folds of cloth and once more peering out at the world from between her legs.
It was that final picture and the improbable role reversal between dog and human that finally eroded my self-control and I drowned in a sea of my own laughter. My only thought was, thank God I didn’t know her … and I grabbed my book and ran before I peed myself.