I recently had to collect a stray package from the UPS store. I headed for the West End, where the yellow note that UPS had left on my front door directed me to go.
It was a balmy weekday afternoon. Strong sunshine, but not too strong. Canadians like to stroll on summer afternoons. They seem to have no destination or purpose. They don’t walk, per se; more accurately, they drift. They pause at random moments. They gaze up at trees as if they’ve never seen trees before.
I know West Coast Canadians now. They’re lovely, but most have static in their heads, like TV’s without signals. Or they’re stoned.
I spotted a white chihuahua without a leash cantering on the sidewalk about half a block in front of me. He was on his own, or seemed to be. This was puzzling and vaguely upsetting to me. He had that buoyant dog energy, where all four of his feet never seem to be on the ground at exactly the same time. I wondered if the dog was lost and in need of my assistance. I’m always game for a pet rescue; I’d reunited a lost cat with its owners earlier in the year. I got a terrific amount of satisfaction from doing that.
A figure also loomed in the distance up ahead, about a block in front of the chihuahua. Is the figure this little guy’s owner? I thought. I hoped so.
As I watched, the chihuahua abruptly stopped cantering. He moved into the grass next to the sidewalk and proceeded to sniff the area with purpose. The little guy had a contemplative look in his bulbous eyes. Then he hunkered down and released a turd—a surprisingly good-sized turd too, considering the dog’s size.
Unburdened now, his system cleared, the chihuahua left his effort behind. He sprinted along the sidewalk. He really opened it up, racing all the way to the distant figure.
The leash-less chihuahua, it seemed, belonged to that man.
I caught up with the man about thirty seconds later. I pointed at the dog and said, “Is that your dog?”
The chihuahua was turning figure-eights through the man’s ankles. The man stopped and looked at me. “Well, that’s a difficult question to answer,” he said. He rubbed his stubble-covered chin theatrically, as if he were auditioning for the part of “Seafarer No. 2.” “Somedays I don’t know if he belongs to me,”—another chin rub, another melodramatic pause—”or if I belong to him.”
He chuckled in a self-satisfied way.
“I’ve got some news for you. He took a big shit back there,” I said. I pointed behind me, back along the sidewalk.
“Did he?” the Seafarer asked. He was concerned, or seemed to be concerned. “Where?”
“Two blocks back. Just after that stop sign. Next to the sidewalk.”
The man made a frustrated exhale. He turned around a little too quickly and began to retrace his steps.
I continued on my way to Denman to pick up my UPS package, pleased with myself. He’d probably been doing this kind of thing for years. Now he’d been caught and brought to justice.
The package at the UPS store turned out to be some random trash—boring documents that a colleague had been promising to send for months. I thought about putting the documents directly into the garbage, but reluctantly carried them home out of a bizarre sense of duty. I stopped and bought myself an ice cream cone on Denman Street, figuring I deserved one. I considered taking a different route home, but then curiosity got the better of me. I wanted to see if the Seafarer had made good on his promise.
As I drew closer to the spot, the ice cream began to lose its flavour. By the time I actually saw the stop sign up ahead in the distance, all the satisfaction that I’d previously felt was gone. A pit opened in my stomach. I was sure that I’d made a mistake coming back this way. Yet I had to know. I had to have an answer.
The important thing is that you said something, I told myself. That’s what matters.
I don’t think I have to tell you what I found there.
You know what I found.