|Wrinkly Sharpei Dog|
by CJ Heck
In the town where I used to live, there was a wonderful walking path down by the river. It was lovely, complete with benches, porta-potties, flower gardens, totems carved by a local artisan, and a wooden footbridge so you could cross over to the other side.
On any given day along the scenic three-mile walk, you might see ducks, geese, groundhogs, heron, deer, and even an occasional skunk -- though this wasn't something you actually looked forward to seeing. I remember once, while speed-walking with a friend, seeing a baby skunk in the grass beside the path just ahead of us. We steered a very wide berth, just in case mama skunk was nearby watching her baby.
I used to love going there for a walk, or with a good book, when I needed to unwind. One fall afternoon I sat reading on my favorite bench, which was set in the grass under a tree, several feet from the path. I was enjoying a rare day off from writing and editing. Even with my eyes closed, I could tell it was fall. The heady scent of decaying leaves hung sweetly in the air.
The usual quiet was suddenly breached when a flock of Canadian geese flew overhead. Looking up, I had to smile as one honking straggler tried desperately to catch up so he could take his place in the perfect "V". It really was a beautiful day -- a really fine day.
Then I saw the strangest thing I've ever seen. This all came about as I was turning a page in my book and just happened to look up for a second.
Sitting on a bench kitty-cornered across the path from me was a heavy-set old woman wearing a long pink dress. She was noisily gumming a soda straw poking out of the hole on the top of a Pepsi can. I almost laughed, because she reminded me of a starving baby nursing at its mother's breast.
The woman's round face looked older than ancient. Her wrinkles had actually wilted into tiers. It vaguely reminded me of the time I was in a hurry and frosted a cake when it was still too warm. The icing slowly slid down the sides of the cake in much the same fashion.
The old woman's eyes were deeply set and nearly hidden, almost like two dark asterisks set into the folds of her flesh. I tried not to stare. I tried just turning away, but I failed miserably at both. I had to try even harder not to laugh, I really did, and I didn't actually lose the battle -- until I saw her dog and what he considered his role to be with this strange woman.
At first glance, I only saw the woman, but all at once, with a high-speed upward-outward motion, this hulking canine face popped out from between the woman's legs down at ground level. I thought to myself, my God, that is the ugliest dog I have ever seen!
The total picture looked so insane! It was hilarious! Here was this grotesque old woman's head, and down below, her massive ugly twin peering out from between her legs! The wrinkled, toothless woman perfectly mirrored the animal beneath her.
But that's still not when I lost my battle to laughter. Up to this point, I had managed to contain myself pretty well, although I will admit, I did look around to see if I was on Candid Camera …
The old woman finally finished her Pepsi and got up from her bench. Slowly, she shuffled towards a trash can that was bolted to a fence post near the edge of the path. Sure enough, the dog was just behind her.
After dropping her soda can into the barrel, she turned her head to the side and with a series of revolting sounds, she belched loudly and hawked up a wad of phlegm -- a loogie of vast proportions, I might add -- and she promptly spat it on 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 my composure, I took a quick look. 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 what remained of my self-control and I drowned in a sea of laughter. My only thought was, thank God I didn't know her -- and I grabbed my book and ran before I peed myself.
"A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write." ~CJ Heck