I’m staying at my friend Ellen’s house for the next three weeks until I leave for Europe. Her family has a dog, Furball. Furball is barely two feet in length, reeks of piss, and shits out his remaining brain cells every time he takes a dump. It’s my job to take him out for a walk when no one else wants to, which is why I was outside this afternoon, panting and sweating and holding a leash, while Ellen and her family sat inside, cool and relaxed and sucking on popsicles.
Twenty minutes had passed but all Furball had done was piss on trees and trashcans. “Please walk him until he poops,” Ellen’s mother had instructed, and my eyes were focused on Furball’s tight, brown sphincter, waiting for its release. Furball trotted up to a fence, attempted to balance on three legs, fell, and urinated on himself. Sweat trickled down my eyebrows.
South Philly, where Ellen’s family lives, is scenic and lacks the gaudy fakeness of neighborhoods in New York City. The houses that line streets such as Lombard, South, and Naudain are old and narrow, like someone stacked cubes on top of another, with soft faces poking out of the weather-beaten doors to stop a neighbor and her child on their way from pre-school. Brick homes face brick homes, and common starlings fly between the trees and rooftops. Dainty cafes put out tables outside with flowers on them. A homely Chinese restaurant stands on the corner of 22nd and South to contrast it all.
Then again, people don’t ponder the beauty of South Philly neighborhoods when the thermometer spits out a number in the upper-nineties and must forms in their pits and groins. On a day like this, the city, streets, homes, bricks, doors, windows, faces, trees, birds, and concrete are all the same: hot.
“Furball, just shit already, man.” I felt the clamminess in my palm slobber over the leash, and I wondered which one of us the leash was actually constraining. I reached into my pocket for my phone, and the clock read that we’d been out for thirty minutes. “Tits,” I mumbled.
Furball didn’t care. He sniffed every bush for traces of another dog’s scent, and he scampered down each block to re-mark his territory. By this point, no liquid came out of his small, furry pecker, but he was content nonetheless to go through the motions. He even pretended to kick dirt onto the mark he didn’t make.
“Mommy, look at that silly doggy,” a little boy with an oversized black t-shirt quipped after seeing Furball kick up more imaginary dirt to cover a spot he failed to mark. “What a silly doggy!” The boy scampered off laughing, and his mother agreed that he was, indeed, a silly dog.
“Even the kids are talking shit about you, dude,” I told Furball. Furball looked up, took two steps forward, caught his leg on the leash, and tripped. I sighed.
“What a cute puppy!” Exclaimed an attractive woman who happened to pass by us. She wore spandex shorts, a Phillies cap over her brown hair, and a blue tank top that noticeably bounced as she came to a halt. She pulled her headphones out of her ears and bent down to pet Furball. Her squatting thighs showed she ran regularly. “What’s his name?”
“What a cute name! I can see why he’d be called “Fur” ball.”
“Actually, if you look closely, he’s only got one nut.”
“Yeah, the second one never fully ‘dropped,’ so to speak, into his sack, so it’s just kinda stewing in his insides. Hence, you know, Furball instead of Furballs.” The woman remained squatting, staring at me with her small mouth gaping.
Then, Furball, too, began to squat.
“Oh.” The woman stood up and took a step back.
“Let it out, buddy, let it all out,” I said to Furball, as he hunched his back and excreted two-inches of brownness in front of the cute brunette. Even though I wasn’t pulling on his leash, Furball walked around in his hunched posture while he shat.
“First dog I’ve met that hasn’t figured out how to shit after seven and a half years on Earth,” I explained. “Pup can’t help it, I figure, because he’s getting dumber every time he pops those miniature logs out. I’m positive he’s shitting out his brain cells.”
The babe gave Furball a look, and then to me. I nodded and returned her look with a smile. Furball continued to hobble around with small brown pieces plopping out every couple of seconds.
“Blame his parents,” I went on, “Incest from breeding. Fucked up his brain. Can’t shit straight. Isn’t that right, Furball?” The mutt was busy sniffing and licking his own creation. I picked up Furball’s poop in a plastic bag and bid the woman goodbye.
When I got back home, Ellen’s sisters had gone upstairs and her mother stood in the kitchen washing dirty dishes. Ellen lay sprawled out on the couch, a glass of milk on the floor and a sock missing from her left foot.
“How was the walk?” She asked. I shrugged and reached down to unhook the red leash from Furball’s collar.
“Can’t beat free rent and food. Right, Furball?”
Furball made a dash for the water bowl. He still smelled of piss.