A beautiful July morning in upstate New York. The wide backyard glows green, maple trees standing fifty feet tall crown a cloudless blue sky. I walk out onto the back patio in a cotton nightgown and sweatshirt, clutching a red mug of hot coffee, my face beatific at the perfection of the day. Another woman walks a smallish dog along the street that borders the far end of our yard. She and her dog waddle, lumber, limp a little along the edge of the fresh bright grass. I watch them but try not to judge.
Dog woman and her charge pause. They look over and move a few steps further down the street. Walk back to a spot between our trees. Waddle. Pause. They're both getting up in years.
Then I hear her voice chirping across the yard. "C'mon - poop! Poop for mommy!" The dog hesitates. "That's it - poop right here!"
The bitch is telling her dog to take a crap on our grass. A hard voice I don't recognize rises out of my throat as I shout: "Don't let that animal crap in our yard!" I rasp like Marge Simpson's third sister. "That's right, you heard me!"
Dog lady turns as I move towards her across the grass. "I was going to pick it up," she says, brandishing a Kleenex.
"You didn't yesterday! We watched you - your dog took a crap right there and you left it. We walk there! We cut the grass there! Don't tell your dog to shit in our yard! If it happens again, I'm bringing it to your house and putting it on your front step!"
"Okay, okay - I get it," she says, making a lame show of scooping something into her inadequate piece of tissue.
I remember the neighborly feeling I had giving her a ride to the supermarket in subzero weather, that time I saw her waiting for a bus on the icy street corner.
That was a Good Samaritan costume I put on. This harridan in a nightgown, the property police - that's the real me.