(This is the second post from Tom Pitts on Sit Down, Casper. He’s agreed to take over duties on the first Monday of the month. Thanks. Tom)
Dog Shit Park. That’s what they called it. It was the place I drank my coffee every morning. I was usually bent over, hung-over, and groaning with a cigarette hanging out of my mouth. While most of the other dog owners would be cheery, on their way to work, calling to their dogs in high, spirited voices, I sat, confused about what had just transpired the night before, dreading the work hours ahead.
I let my dog dart between the endless new arrivals. My dog was in his element, sniffing butts and chasing tails. I felt anti-social and out of place with the comfortable looking young professionals and their pure bred dogs and I’d keep to myself as they went about their business.
As the morning wore on, the dog owners would come and go, picking up shit and tossing tennis balls out to their respective dogs. My job started late in the morning, so I watched them come and go. Dog interplay. Quick frolicking relationships, before their poop was scooped and they were locked away in a kitchen or crate for another 9 hours till their owners got home.
At nine am the park began to empty out. The people remaining were in no rush. They were dog owners that had no jobs to go to. That is when I met the Colonel. His real name was Don, but he shared more than just a physical appearance with the famous Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken Fame, he shared the same southern drawl.
Don was gay. The southern drawl was infused with a feminine lilt, a sassy twang that told you not only his sexual orientation and his origins, but that he was fiercely proud of both. He wore his hair, too, like the great Colonel Sanders, or maybe a little more like that other famous Colonel, Colonel Custer. It was tied back in a pony tail and boasted a full goatee in front. To update the age old look, Don died it pink. The pink had faded into his blond grey hair to give the impression that it had always had a pinkish hue. One imagined Don running around the Mississippi Delta, ten years old, with his blondish pink pony tail flapping at his neck like a raccoon tail, tricking Tom Sawyers and Huck Finns into sordid sexual experimentations before being exiled out to California where there were other deviants of his kind.
In the mornings Don bitched. It was what got his blood moving. He bitched about the other dog owners, he bitched about the dog shit in the park, he bitched about the weather, but mostly he bitched about having no money.
He watched his old poodle, discolored and dirty with uneven hair, limp around the bench where he sat telling anyone who would listen about the unfairness of being on a fixed income.
He had many ideas for how to bring in a few extra dollars, but shot most of them down himself.
“Collect bottles? Honey, I collect ‘em … then I drain ‘em. I don’t bring ‘em back. I leave that to the ne’er do wells. Can you imagine? Me? Pushing a cart? Not a chance … too unladylike.”
He’d tried working at home.
“Phone sex? I loved it, honey, but at the end they wanted to charge me instead of pay me!”
He refused to accept that he was unemployable. He always remained upbeat about his situation, sweetening his rationale with some southern sounding saying, things swishy enough that they sounded as though they’d just been sung from the lips of a southern belle.
“Not every day can be a Doris Day, sweetheart!”
One day, he decided that he’d found the vocation best suited to him: Dog-walker.
“Fuck these lesbian bitches who think they’ve got a corner on the industry. It’s time to give these dogs some real hospitality.”
Don showed us the hand drawn fliers that he was going to hang up all over the Lower Haight. He’d proudly undercut the rates he’d seen on other fliers and told us all he was now just waiting by the phone for business to roll in.
It was a few weeks before Don showed up at the park again. I asked if he’d been busy with his dog walking business.
“Don’t ask,” he said, but he began to answer anyway. “I waited five days for a phone call. Finally, the phone rings and I go to meet my first customer. I ring the bell and when the door opens, get this … there’s a guy holding a chicken.”
“A chicken?” I said
“Uh-huh, that’s what I said, ‘a chicken? You gotta be kiddin’ me.’ But this freak is real serious, serious as a heart attack. This sumbitch wants me to walk his chicken twice a day.” Don paused to shake his head. “I figured, what the hell, if I’m getting’ paid, I don’t care if he wants me to walk a Siberian tiger. I mean, this is my first customer. I thought, maybe this is how it’s gonna be, my new business, exotic.”
“A chicken?” I asked. “An actual chicken?”
“Yeah,” he squealed, “A regular garden variety chicken, with the little red thingy on top and everything. I know, what are people thinking? A chicken in the city. Good lord. What next? I mean come on.”
“So what’d ya do?”
“I walked it.” He said in a pitch that suggested surprise for me even asking. “Hell, he was my very first customer, I wasn’t gonna turn him down.”
He paused for me to affirm his work ethic. I took a slow drag off my cigarette.
“I mean, it was a nice chicken and all. Cute little thing, had a little collar and a leash and everything. Of course, I looked ridiculous, like a maniac, walking a chicken on a leash.”
“I’m sure you’ve suffered worse humiliations.” I said.
“Oh no, wait there’s more. I’m walking this little chicken, and it’s a good little chicken, walking right up in front of me. Real proud. Pretty soon, people are saying hello. Hello to the chicken, and hello to me. I’m starting to like this chicken. Well it comes time for us to cross the street. And what happens? This chicken decides to dart right out in between two parked cars. I thought the damn thing was gonna get run over. I didn’t know what to do, I just gave a tug on that leash and said … Chicken Stop!”
“And did it?” I asked.
“Well do know what?” Don’s voice got a little bit higher and a little bit quieter. “When I tugged on that leash, it broke that damn chicken’s neck.”
Don flicked his wrist back to show me. “Snap!”
“I had to take that poor chicken back to that sumbitch and tell him that I killed his pet.”
We both paused and looked at the ground for a minute, listening to our dogs paws click around us on the asphalt walkway. It was turning into a beautiful summer day.
“It’s shame too, ‘cause I woulda stuck that sumbitch in my freezer and I’d be having southern fried chicken tonight.”
Tom Pitts 8\24\2010