Pugs

First draft.

If there is a distinct sound that reminds me of my neighborhood, it is the jingling sound of bottles  being pushed in a shopping cart down the narrow concrete streets.

I was walking my dogs on Belmont and passed a indigent man tending to his cart and just as one of my dogs (whose nickname is Low-4 because he can overcome any terrain, but only has one speed), stopped to sniff a juniper the cart and man pulled up beside us on the sidewalk.

“Nice dogs”, he starts, the stub of a cigarette smoldering in one hand, the other firmly grasping the handle of his cart. He’s bent slightly and he moves his head and neck together with a stiffness earned from years of keeping his head down and his eyes averted.

He then recounts to me a story of a woman whose husband has died and left her with 5 pugs. She walks them up and down Hawthorne Boulevard every day, no matter the weather. During the snowstorm last week he saw her walking on the snow and ice covered sidewalks and she stopped to tell him about her oldest pug.  This particular pug reminded her of her dead husband.

“Why’s that?” I asked, taking the bait.
“Because he just lies around the house and only comes around when he wants something.”

The story went on for a few minutes, but the story wasn’t the interesting part. More interesting was the man telling it. The way he looked past me as if we were two drunks perched atop barstools at Sewickley’s Addition; faces pointed forward and slightly down staring ahead for a thousand yards. He was living entirely in his head. I didn’t really need to be standing there at all and the story would have gone on.

My dogs were busy sniffing around. The man had nowhere to go.
So we just stood there for a few more minutes and I enjoyed his story.

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