She was apparelled like any barbaric Ethiopian emperor, his neck heavy with pendants of polished ivory. She was a thing of trophies. A cannibal of a craft, tricking herself forth in the chased bones of her enemies. All round, her unpannelled, open bulwarks were garnished like one continuous jaw, with the long sharp teeth of the Sperm Whale, inserted there for pins, to fasten her old hempen thews and tendons to. Those thews ran not through base blocks of landwood, but deftly travelled over sheaves of sea-ivory. Scorning a turnstile wheel at her reverend helm, she sported there a tiller; and that tiller was in one mass, curiously carved from the long narrow lower jaw of her hereditary foe. The helmsman who steered by that tiller in a tempest, felt like the Tartar, when he holds back his fiery steed by clutching its jaw. A noble craft, but somehow a most melancholy! All noble things are touched with that.
Lately I have been depressed and it has been hard to see the point in writing. I go through the motions of my day, all the while looking for a sign that will send me in the right direction. Yesterday after I dropped John at school I took the dog to the park, as usual. As we came around the corner by the tennis courts I saw a woman whose dog had a heavy head and dark, sagging teats. This dog was interested in my dog, and the interest was mutual. So the woman and I chit-chatted as the dogs sniffed each other’s butts.
While we spoke I tried to determine whether this woman was a rich eccentric or someone only marginally attached to society. She had a bright pink sore patch on her face, which is often a sign of mental distress or difficult physical circumstances—but it was also maybe just a pimple that she hadn’t yet covered with makeup. (I myself had a pimple on my face.) She wore a puffer coat that went down to her knees, around the waist of which she had tied a dog’s leash like a belt, but I didn’t think she thought the leash was really a belt, I just thought she thought this was an efficient way to carry a leash. Her shoes were covered with sparkles, like a child’s shoes, but they were in good shape, and in fact looked a little too nice for the dog park.
She told me that her dog, Dolly, was a rescue dog, which is what everyone says unless they’re walking a Portuguese Water Dog or one of the doodle breeds. I don’t say it, because I can say that my dog is a failed assistance dog, which is also a socially acceptable origin story for having a dog. But Dolly was not a regular rescue dog. The woman told me that Dolly had been rescued from a South Korean dog meat market. “They like to eat dogs there,” she said, as an explanatory aside. While we spoke some more I imagined the rescue operation at the South Korean market, from the dogs’ point of view. I imagined the dogs as the compromised heroes in an action movie, moving ever closer to the villain’s chopping block. Finally, at the last moment, the Navy SEALs arrive, taking out the dog butcher with sniper’s bullets before moving in and hustling the dogs onto a chopper bound for an air field and from there to the safety of the United States of America. Mission accomplished.
While I was imagining this and still making chitchat, Dolly was busy pooping. The woman didn’t have the same reaction I do to my dog pooping in a park, which is that I wait in a crouch for her to finish and then spring into immediate, almost manic action. We were still talking, and she in a sort of desultory way pulled a yellow plastic bag out of her puffer coat pocket. She then used it to pick up the massive dump, incidentally also picking up some sticks and leaves that it had been lying on. Then, and I really wish I could remember what we were talking about as this happened, she stood in front of me, talking and talking, and carefully picking the sticks and leaves out of the poop in the bag in her hands, and throwing them on the ground. Then she tied the bag up and we went our separate ways.