Tar Baby

Nice, calm dog at rest. His name is Pancho. He's a hound.

So, on this one morning this week I find myself in the shade of an ancient pine, knocked down on my ass with my legs splayed in the air and speaking both loudly and bluely. How’d I get here?

School has started, even thought it’s before Labor Day, which simply makes me twitch since there should be more play for kids, but I digress.

When school starts, even when you aren’t going to school, even when nobody who lives with you is going to school, it seems like a new beginning. Some people think that spring is the beginning. It’s not. It’s the end of winter. When school starts, you turn a page. And you get new shoes.

In that spirit of freshness, despite desperately needing to see my colorist, I selected to be super-fresh. A little bit of bronzer across the bridge of my nose and swept along my cheeks. A dab of silver-white color at the inner eye. A pinky brown lipstick. And an office-appropriate little black dress with a sweet patent and fabric flat. The sun was shining from the dawn side, the air wasn’t burdened with water and there was enough breeze to ruffle hair.

I wrapped the pinch collar around The Beast’s thick neck and clipped on his leash. We were going to make a quick business stroll before I headed off to work. It was a morning that made you say the word, “fabulous.”

I won’t lie. I was feeling cute as I walked down our slate walkway and exited past the white picket fence to the sidewalk. The Beast was feeling the day, too. He looked up at me and wasn’t even sad that I had no pockets for treats. It was an excursion and a constitutional. And it was mostly a morning that made you look.

Turning the corner I saw the water crew. There was blocked sidewalk and men with hardhats. I don’t care that they weren’t actually looking at my saunter, because I knew that I was worth a look, with my ready-for-prime-time outfit and my hulking companion walking like a show dog on my loose lead. I turned the next corner feeling a preposterous level of confidence. Nay, cheek. In fact, hubris. As I would soon see.

Walking along at a quick clip, I checked my partner as we walked toward the place where he could see his nemesis, the train. I had his attention. We were just going to round this block. Then a big white panel van appeared.

Now this was, frankly, ridiculous. It is a known fact that he hates the postal truck. It is also known that he can recognize the U.S. Postal Service logo. The blue one with the stylized eagle. We know this because he gives a look to the FedEx truck and seeing the purple and orange letters loses interest. The PeaPod truck, also a big white boxy vehicle, only holds his tension until he sees the guy holding the grocery bag and reads the words PeaPod. Seriously, I actually believe that he can read.

But, this morning, this morning full of long strides, and spirit, and self-assurance and sunny skies, was interrupted by the white van carrying linens to the neighborhood bar & kitchen. As it turned the corner towards us, The Beast let out his full-throated bellow and pulled toward the street. Unhappy, but unsurprised, I planted my legs, pulled my arms closer to my chest and held the leather strap tight.

That’s when it happened.

The Beast and I were facing the street and the oncoming sketchy (only to him) truck, when from behind this likely certifiably insane cat pounced on the dog. Yeah. This stupid less than ten pound orange and white mange of fluff flies through the air like some ninja Garfield to ambush The Beast. It was pissed. And hissed.

The Beast reeled to his left to see this strange apricot creature filled with bloodlust. He immediately backed away with a genuine WTF look through his eyes and brow. And the friggin’, frightful feline came at him, again. As The Beast worked on his dodge and parry I became tangled up and was deposited without fanfare on my ass.

Be assured, however, that I was not passive during the attack. I was shocked and then angry. I expressed my displeasure at the cat in a verbal manner with much volume and many words that the two-year-old girl across the street should not be familiar with. As if the cat knew my words–most of which rhymed with truck, like “muthatruck,” “stupid truck,” and “what the truck?”–were threatening. But know this, Loyal Reader, they were said in a most aggressive and bellicose fashion.

The cat did not care.

The cat did not care that I was kicking at him and that I landed a foot. The cat did not care that the dog was eight to ten times his size with a mouth that could dispense with him in a minute. The cat just kept coming with back arched and teeth bared and a literal hissy fit.

I detangled myself from the leash and the dog trying to do the right thing by not responding to violence in kind and the maniac cat asserting and reasserting himself in his crazed territorial defense. I verbally expressed my disapproval in the most ineffective way possible as I pulled The Beast away from the attacking critter. And the cat kept on coming at him. Until we crossed the street.

There was something gross on my palm. It was sticky. I put my hand to my scrunched nose (really, who wanted to know what that was) to smell the pine. Pine tar. Another deposit of pine tar on my scraped elbow. I looked down at my bleeding feet, most likely from the dog stepping, but maybe a cat scratch, too. I was breathing fast and heavy. And my black dress, that I was going to top with a black and white checked jacket for the office? The entire back of it was coated in pine tar. Time for this morning’s second shower.

And that’s what you get when you think you’re cute.

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