Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Folklorist: "Miller time"

They sat on the park bench beside the sidewalk, sharing a forty swaddled in brown paper. The sack wouldn’t have fooled anybody. But it was moving toward late afternoon, hot as a kitchen, and there was no one else in the park, except the two of them, huddled together on the bench, and me and the dog.

We entered the park from Montford Avenue and followed the curving sidewalk down toward the bench. I let the dog go, and she scooted down into some trees to relieve herself, then trotted back up the hill to greet the men on the bench. They’d seen her before, and on those other occasions had shown concern, but they knew her well enough now to know she meant no harm. They knew the dog better than they knew me. We’d never talked. Just nodded.

The taller of the two spoke now.

“Is that a standard poodle?”

“Yup. She’s smaller than some. But she’s a standard.”

“Thought so. I had one half that size and it was standard.”

“They’re good dogs,” I said, being friendly. I wanted to keep moving.

“You got that right,” he said. But he was back on her size: “I think it’s something to do with a certain weight or height or something like that, like from here on up, they’re all standards.”

He put his hand down close enough to the ground that by his definition a dachshund was a standard poodle.

“I guess so,” I said.

The dog was leaning on his leg, wanting to be scratched.

“She’s friendly,” I said. “She can tell a dog friendly person.”

But he wasn’t really interested in her. He didn’t pet her.

“If it comes from a standard, it’s a standard,” he said.

The dog lost interest and returned to my side.

“They’re great dogs,” I repeated.

The other extended his hand. “We were just visiting, catching up. We meant no disrespect.”

I didn’t know what he meant at first.

“None taken,” I said.

“I mean we was finished. We were just talking.”

“That’s good. Nothing wrong with that.”

Then it occurred to me that they thought I’d have some thoughts about their drinking beer in the park. Drinking beer at all. I didn’t know.

“Don’t think nothing of it,” I said. “I’m going home to have a beer myself.”

The other grinned. They seemed assured.

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