Our fixed stares at one another were interrupted by a coprophagous Weimaraner. An otherwise respectable-looking dog, it came to a stop in the ten to fifteen feet of lawn between us and began to sniff and nibble at a small pile of feces, presumably canine. It settled its hindquarters on the grass and started to feed with great urgency. As I was distracted from the attractive stranger who had been returning my gaze, my legs slowed and my eyes locked on the shit eater – not exactly something I’m proud of in retrospect.
“Worthington, no! Worthington.” A middle-aged woman dressed for a Fourth of July parade in the 1940s entered my view from the right at a brisk hobble, dragging a shrouded leash in one hand and flailing a small American flag in the other. It was May.
“Oh, my Worthington, don’t do this to mummy.” She grabbed his collar and jerked her arm inward. He wriggled himself free and returned to the pile. She fastened the leash to the ring on his collar without any protest, then stepped back from the dog and tugged with all she had, which proved to be quite little. After a few more seconds of unthinkingly watching her struggle, both with the dog and her own embarrassment, I found myself a few steps closer with my right arm extended, on the point of offering my help.
“Would you like me to – can I help you?” I fumbled, a little uncomfortable myself and unsure how to proceed. She turned her face to me burning red, lowering her jaw and opening her mouth a bit as if to speak. She looked back towards her dog and shook her head, her mouth still baring a few of her teeth in a quarter smile of self-pity. All she could muster were a few exasperated exhalations. She wanted my help but did not want to have to ask or know how to put it, Could you help me pull my dog away from the dung? or something similar not being anything one would ever want to say. After adding my hands to the leash, our combined force was more than enough to pull Worthington away. He resisted the first few feet but submitted after four or five seconds and trotted towards and then ahead of his owner, who thanked me and walked away, forcing a smile with her head held high – it reminded me of Nicole Kidman in “Far and Away,” or just about any other movie she’s done.
A few days after the Worthington incident, the girl with whom I”d exchanged stares came into the bookstore where I was working at the time. At the park we both seemed to forget about each other after I began to help the distressed madam. Upon noticing me she sauntered to the counter with a quizzical smile. I recognized her immediately.
We met for dinner the next night. I had the Halibut. We kissed two or three times at the table. I imagined myself excitedly telling my friends in later weeks that we laughed away the absurd circumstances of our first encounter, that it didn’t result in the least bit of awkwardness, and that we’d been out several times and something semi-serious was developing between us. The time came to pay the check, which I did, not sure if this was the end of the night or not. We exited the tavern together. She got in a cab by herself. I haven’t heard from the bitch since.