The Critical Mass

The morning walks are getting strange

Abilene: Does this look a police dog?

Abilene: Does this look a police dog?

The morning dog walks have been encouragingly productive in recent weeks. I’ve picked up a lot of scrap wood on the curb, of course, I always do. I found a screen to replace the damaged one in the front window, oven racks I can cut down to use on the smokers and some brass hardware that matches the fittings on the upstairs window frames. I can’t believe you people throw out this stuff.

Following Abilene through the neighborhood, I also encounter humans. Rare, but it happens. Like the guy from last November, waiting at a bus stop.

“Is that a police dog?” he asks.

“No, she’s a sporting dog. A Weimaraner.”

“Those police dogs, they train them to make arrests,” the guy says. I guess he didn’t hear me. Abbie doesn’t make arrests. “A burglar breaks into the house and those dogs come out of nowhere and hold them down until the police arrive. They stand on the burglar’s chest and hold them down, and they don’t dare move, because that’s a police dog. You don’t mess with them. They’ll go right for your throat if you move. They just hold you until the police can get there with their guns. They’re trained to do that, burglars are scared of them, those dogs just stand on their chests and stare into the burglar’s face, and they’re too scared to move…”

This guy is getting a little too worked up. He’s bubbling over with nervous excitement. “We gotta get going…”

“…The burglar is begging for help when the police come in the front door…”

So I avoid humans on the morning walks.

Many different species of trees line these streets. Lots of housing choices for the squirrels. Most mornings I hear a woodpecker hammering away. Abbie sets off a lot of dogs as we walk by their houses. They’re agitated. My dog ignores them. Yes, she’s thinking, you’re trapped in there, and I’m enjoying the morning walk. One morning, on a street we don’t usually take, I hear a dog barking from behind a living-room window. I am staring off in another direction when I heard a whoomp and glass shattering. Abbie and I freeze. The dog in the living room must have had his paws up on the window and knocked it clean out of wall, frame and all. Now the window is lying on the front lawn, shattered. The curtains move listlessly in the gaping wound. No sign of the dog. I respect the intelligence of dogs, and their almost sixth-sense cognitive abilities. And this dog must be thinking: Something’s broken, Master home soon, I am up shit creek now.

One morning I run into another guy walking a dog. I kinda recognize him. Not the dog, the guy. Some years ago he’d recorded a concept album with his girlfriend, a true story he insisted, about how he’d been kidnapped by aliens and they’d planted some chips in his body. These chips were showing up on X-rays taken by Air Force doctors, but no one knew what they were. And maybe I’d want to write about the album, to get his story of the aliens out there. I’d told him that I wished aliens existed, but I don’t think they do, and if they did they wouldn’t come all this way to fuck with him. Now he was telling me the girlfriend had left him, but he was getting ready to record another album. “Only this time, I’ve figured out that I’m actually an alien-human hybrid…”

Science fiction cliches in the morning. Another reason to avoid humans while walking the dog.

On one of the routes we sometimes take, the street is lined with smaller houses, looking kinda shabby, crouching close to the sidewalk. Their occupants make curious landscaping decisions. More often than not, a really nice car is parked in the driveway. Or maybe a couple of well-groomed pickup trucks. Those two vehicles are worth more than the house those people are living in.

The routine rarely varies. On one of this week’s morning walks, Abbie and I wander past the bus stop, and a guy is standing there. He notices the dog. “Is that a police dog?” he asks.

“No, she’s a sporting dog. A Weimaraner.”

“Those police dogs, they train them to make arrests,” the guy says. “A burglar breaks into the house and those dogs come out of nowhere and hold them down until the police arrive…”

Wait, we’ve already had this conversation.

“Yeah, they stand on the burglar’s chest and hold them down, and they don’t dare move, because that’s a police dog. You don’t mess with them. They’ll go right for your throat if you move. They just hold you until the police can get there with their guns. They’re trained to do that, burglars are scared of them, those dogs just stand on their chests and stare into the burglar’s face, and they’re too scared to move…”

“We gotta get going…”

“…The burglar is begging for help when the police come in the front door…”