As a mailman I got to know many a dog.There were a couple of Dobermans, for example, which camped out behind the door with the mail slot. With my first footfall on their property they would go into a snarling frenzy, sticking their narrow snouts out the slot while snapping their teeth like investment bankers anticipating a government handout. Holding the mail gingerly from one end, I’d feed it to the canines one piece at a time. Just audible among the snorts and growls, I could hear the day’s mail being torn to shreds.
Luckily, that was as close as I got to physically interacting with canines, with only one exception.
Typically they’d bark – through the window or at the fence or at the end of their chain – at my arrival and continue to bark until I went away. On more than a few occasions, a dog would shoot out the door or jump over the fence or break the chain, but I never got bit. I credit my good record to the fact that I never showed fear or flinched.
But there was the one exception.
Walking mid-block I noticed a women about three houses ahead working on a flower bed near the sidewalk, with a Dachshund by her side. Still 100 yards away, the dog looked up, saw me and made a beeline toward me. The dog wasn’t very fast and the women had plenty of time to stand and yell to me, “Don’t worry, he doesn’t bite.” After assuring me that I was safe she began calling little Fifi to come back. Fifi, of course, ignored all of this and continued straight for my ankle − which she bit, piercing the leather of my boot and my skin.
Besides hurting like heck, the incident was a bit of a hassle, as I was required to go to the hospital and fill out a bunch of paperwork.
I also missed bowling that night in the mailmen’s league, at least the bowling part of bowling.
My team was hopelessly floundered in last place.
Team members included Frank, the WWII veteran who celebrated the end of the war by getting drunk and then staying that way for the next three decades. Some bowlers use a three-step delivery, others four. Frank never used the same amount twice, and only a few were actually toward the pins. On the rare events when he actually hit pins we all cheered.
Gabe was also on my team, and his expertise about everything spilled over into bowling. Before the match he’d lay his cheek to the floor and peer down the alley for several minutes. Standing up he’d give us a scouting report: “Boards four and five are a little oily so avoid them if you’re sparing on the seven, eight or nine pin.”
Next he’d sit on a bench and rub the ashes from a cigarette into the sole of his bowling shoes. Ever so often, he’d stand, run and slide on the alley with a deep look of concentration on his face. Then he’d return to doctoring his shoes.
For all his self-proclaimed expertise he was a terrible bowler, knocking down even fewer pins than Frank. But like a lot of so-called conservatives, there was a definite gap between how good he was and how good he thought he was. Conservatives have the same flaw: they believe they have a moral high ground but are really down in the murky ground we all live upon.
He was an asset for our team, however, because he could drive the bowlers on the other team to distraction by offering unsolicited advise. He’d walk up to the top bowler in the league, put his arm around their shoulder and give them tips about their delivery. This friendly advice would continue unchecked as the bowler lined up his shot and made his delivery. The distraction often lead to a poor shot, which Gabe would jump on as proof that the man needed even more coaching.