Jane was discreetness itself. She got everyone to see luscious bouquets of kale in their respective futures but the more skeptical also saw that no matter how you designed it or fenced it, the planting space would be narrow. One of the skeptics commented, in a tone that hinted she had someone specific in mind, “It’s not all dog owners. Some give the rest of us a bad name.” She probably was talking about Dwight and his aggressive bulldog. There was a murmur of approval.
Then Lexi, ever the rabble-rouser though ensconced in the plushest chair of the room because of her bad hip, raised her cane high to get attention and said, “I’m bloody sick of finding bags of feces in my garbage cans. Hey dog owners, take your stinking feces to your own damn house.”
Whoops and a short fusillade of applause gratified her, and she sank back into plushness.
Vince took his turn. He said the whole park stank of dog. He didn’t have a solution, he was just saying it. Arlen had a suggestion, that dog owners stop treating their dogs like children, start treating them like dogs. Arlen had dogs and children both, and his dogs were better behaved than his children, so nobody had any idea what he meant. Millicent guiltily thought of the $400 she spent getting Spangles’ teeth cleaned, money her son could use. Sam the collegian was strategizing about what to do if Lexi’s garbage can was no longer an option. His lease stipulated no pets. Let Strider loose on the street? He’d done that, but it was risky. Rick the gardener, in a lame stab at humor, offered that the two big lies his clients told him were that they would hand-water and they’d clean up after their dogs. The meeting was getting out of hand.
A history of perceived oppression breeds reactive militancy, and the hands that rested on the necks of Neener, Spangles, Honey and Clarissa squeezed tighter. The dog lovers were feeling piled upon. Sides were forming, though it was not clear who was where. As in the first Civil War, families were split.
Jane, alarmed at the direction the meeting had taken, a tango of grievance and self-defense, signaled Eric to do something, so he stood and spread his arms to calm the waters. “People, people,” he paused until everyone was listening, “obviously there are strong feelings here. Surely we are not going to find all the solutions tonight, maybe there are no solutions, but what we need to do is keep the communication flowing and not to let things go off track, like what happened between Suellen and Maurice.”
Hearing his name as the subject of hearsay gave Maurice a shock. Even worse was to be cited as an example of unfortunate behavior. He turned flaming red. He thought it could get no worse, but then Dwight the psycho roared, “Yeah, what about him,” he pointed at Maurice, “why doesn’t he rake those leaves that keep blowing on my property? Who the fuck does he think he is?”
Dwight got scattered hoots and claps and some yaps from the yorkie. The subset of humanity that relished conflict, called “fire-eaters” in the first Civil War, was having fun. Almost everyone else was appalled, especially the other dog owners, who didn’t want Dwight, ever, to be a spokesman for their side. They all avoided him and his dog. Many had gotten involved in vicious shouting matches with him. Mild Jane once said, I think he has that dog so he can yank it around.”
Maurice noticed that Suellen was one of the ones applauding. Communication was well and good, but that did it for him. She was cut off.
Eric soon declared the meeting over. People rose and ambled out the door into the street. The moon was full; the air a bath of electrolytes. Even the tipsy felt it, the weird vibration. A Rubicon had been crossed.
to be continued