They looked alike, father and son. Both adults wearing scraggly beards and suspenders with baggy work jeans, from their outward appearance they sure didn’t look like the kind of guys to own labradoodles. On walks the big black dogs bounded this way and that as the pair tried to keep them under control. The dogs seemed more intelligent than their masters, but not by much. Like father, like son.
I spotted them through the living room window when they stopped at the corner where I live.
Sure enough, Dad let the clumsy mutt jump around before he settled in to squat on our tree lawn grass covered with dirty, icy-crusted snow that would hopefully disappear in the next few days. The meteorologist on TV said temperatures would rise into the high 50s.
I try to take care of my corner. This winter I shoveled snow on seven different days, two hours after the biggest storms and an hour each time after that. I also shoveled from the back steps to the gate and dug out the Subaru, actually clearing a space for the car after pulling it forward and moving it back.
The landscapers handle summer work, cutting and seeding the grass in the front and sides of the house, raking and hauling leaves, spreading mulch beneath the rhododendrons which they trim as well as clipping the Japanese garden in the back. I used to do the work but they’re professionals and I like their look better than mine. Some nights I stand across the street after they finish and look at our house. I’m happy here, comfortable and secure.
I don’t know where Dad and his boy live but I believe they’re nearby. I’ve seen them a few times on our walks, when my wife and I hike through the neighborhood to mindfully stretch our muscles and consciously breathe the air. We live in the Hill Section of Scranton, a historic and supposedly civilized place.
I didn’t wait to see the dump, so when I got out on the porch I tried to de-escalate the conflict with reverse psychology.
I appreciate it when people pick up after their dogs, I said, not shouting or accusing them directly.
Dad must have thought I witnessed his transgression.
Diarrhea, he said.
I couldn’t and didn’t want to see evidence.
A confession would do.
I try to take care of my corner, I said.
The men started to walk away. I had to say something.
You can’t do that. You should clean that up. It’s against the law.
The adult son looked pained. They kept walking.
I can file a complaint if you want, I said.
File a complaint, Dad said.
The son looked more pained.
If I went to the magistrate they’d lose. They’d pay a fine. They’d be inconvenienced. But I’d have to go to the magistrate’s office and expose myself to coronavirus and who knows what other kind of societal upheaval. The first time I went out during the pandemic a woman pulling out of a McDonald’s slammed into my car and drove me into the center passing lane. Nobody suffered injuries.
Why couldn’t people just leave me alone to live in peace?
Because a labradoodle has the runs, that’s why.
You’re a bad neighbor, I said.
File a complaint, Dad repeated, I’ll pray for you.
In the old days that would have set me off. But, at almost 70 I’m a new man.
Somebody needs to pray for you to show some kindness, I said, sounding like St. Stephen.
Dad must have had second thoughts. Looking again through the living room window, I saw the son trying vainly to clean up the mess. Then he left alone, talking to himself and holding a bag of waste as Dad awaited his return on the corner. He came back shortly and they eventually left together.
The stain on my now filthier snow-packed tree lawn is bad enough.
The smear on neighborliness by a couple of shitheads is worse.