as though their bodies were boneless.
has its own defense:
theirs is plasticity.
Kick them in the face
and nothing breaks.
It’s as if your boot
sank in wet dough."
Aldon Nowlan, The Shack Dwellers
Like one fella, who was sitting in a wheelchair. He told me he needed money for a new wheelchair. But I’d already pulled out a toonie, solely for him, so he didn’t have to waste his breath. Air could be expensive someday.
Later on, I ran into a woman panhandler, to whom I’d given some money earlier. She asked for more. I declined, and mentioned I’d given my money to the man in the wheelchair. Who, I explained, needed the money to buy a new wheelchair.
“Wheelchair, my ass,” she’d said. “He’ll use the money to buy more lotto tickets.”
Once, in Halifax, a panhandler asked me for money. He also wanted my coat. He didn’t get the coat, but I did empty my pocket into his outstretched paw.
He looked at the mess of change, and do you know what he said?
“I don’t do pennies.”
The man was tearing through the hotel’s garbage pail and it was Thanksgiving, for St. Peter’s sake. So, I pulled a fiver out of my pocket and gave it to him.
He was shocked.
“I don’t know what to say,” he said. “Well, thanks.”
And that was that, until a few days later, when I was sitting on a bench in front of the hotel, waiting for a cab. The same man walked by, wearing the same clothes and besides looking poor, he looked intelligent. I figured he knew where the chuck wagon was and was going to be having his hand out for some more money from this money bag. But he didn’t, damn it, so I stood up, caught up with him and offered him another fiver.
He was nearly speechless and gladly took the money. Maybe he was beginning to wonder about me.
Finally, I saw him a few days later. And seeing I was on a roll, and also because I would be leaving the city soon, I offered him more money.
“No thanks. I used the money you gave me to buy some groceries.”
I was dumbfounded, happy, slightly embarrassed and more respectful. He then told me he used to teach at Oxford and things hadn’t worked out too well for him. What did I know?
It reminded me of another time I ran into a fella who asked for money. I gave him some as he told me his wife was in the hospital and he was broke. “Sure, sure,” some folks would say.
A month or so later, I ran into him again. I automatically reached into my pocket and pulled out some change. I was dumbfounded, embarrassed and surprised again. He refused the money. Things were working out for him.
You never know, do you?
We have already completed another session of his training program. His being-let-outside-so-he-can-have-a-treat-when-he-comes-inside scheme. Where’s our diploma? And it’s pretty damn ingrained in us. He barks to go out. We let him out. It should be noted that each command comes with a different kind of woof. Then he barks to come in and we let him in. Good doggie. Good doggie.
He proudly, and I repeat proudly, tail in the air and walking right smart, prances to the stool by the counter, where his treat stash is kept, puts his front feet on the stool like a trained seal with a ball and waits until one of us serves him. Note the trained seal fallacy.
And in case you don’t think his training techniques are rock solid, well, let me tell you this little story about how well it has gone for Buster.
One day he came into the house and instead of going to the treat stash, he went to the window, to see what he could see with his little canine eyes.
So, what did she do? She went to the goodie stash, pulled out a biscuit and delivered it to Buster. Wow! Where will his training stop? It’s not like she expected a tip.
Buster is relentless in his training. Sometimes, his techniques are so subtle, we don’t even know we are being conditioned.
Buster would speak his usual woof-woof-go-outside bark. We’d immediately get our asses in gear, go to the door and tie him out. But this time he wouldn’t leave the deck. Instead he’d sit on the porch and give his let-me-in woof. So, we’d wind our asses up once more and open the door. This began happening more often than could be considered just coincidence.
We became suspicious. Because we’re smart too, damn it, but my god, his plan is absolutely brilliant. Scary, really.
You see, Buster sees us as his buddies and a breed of dog. I don’t want to know what kind I am and what kind Sue is. And call me paranoid, if you want, but I think what he’s up to, what he has on his overflowing bucket list, is a dream of training us to share his doggie world with him.
Because, as soon as one of us went outside, he’d stop barking. Then he’d step off the deck while suspiciously looking behind him to make sure one of us was staying outside. If Sue or I complied then he was just fine, thank you.
But my paranoia hasn’t stopped at this point, nor do I think has his training. Because, can’t you see it? Can’t you? Us at the pet shop buying a second long chain and collar. A chain for Buster and one for Sue or me.
What’s next? Buster and one of us on our knees, well at least us down on our knees, eating from a doggie bowl. Buster’s stainless steel and ours yellow plastic.
Having doggie sharing time. Peeing on rocks, trees and car tires. Rolling in the grass. Rubbing our faces in dead leaves. Sniffing places. What a lovely time we’d be having. Romping and rolling to the sounds of the universe.
Then when he’d decided, I repeat, when he’d decided that it was time to go in, he would bark. Whichever one of us was on Buster duty would slide down the pole, march, or preferably run right smartly to the door and remove the chains from us before we’d enter the house. Buster’s feet on the stool and us serving the canine god.
Could it end up that someday, he’d be tying Sue and me out? Master Buster our caregiver?
Of all the dogs I have the best master
What a great master
Yes I can get on the bed
Yes I can have
A bite of her brownie
Oh no it’s a Pot brownie
Oh No it’s a Pot brownie
Oh god I am so high
She is starting to look very weird to me
So much skin so much open skin on her so bald all over
I want to smell her mmmmmmaster mmmmmmaster
She’s laughing at me quit laughing at me
Now she’s barfing now who is laughing
Har Har Har Master oh no now I’m barfing
She thinks there was LSD in the brownie—-"
Lynda Barry, “I love my master I love my master”