Costs of Childhood

When we were young and we encountered a dog for the first time I am sure we were all guilty of uttering any number of the following lines: “Does he bite?”, “Is your dog friendly?”, “Is it a he or a she?”, etc. Today, I was approached by a little person who uttered something that took me by surprise. It amazed me that this question could emanate from the mind and mouth of a child. The more I thought about it, the more it angered me. But then again, what does not anger me these days right? Well, I will share with you what this little person said but before I do I need to set the stage.

I was walking my girl Akira, like I do twice a day, everyday, for the rest of my life. Or the rest of hers. Oh gosh.. that sounded dreadful. Hold on….

….. I just did a shot of Chinaco. The last sentence was so dismal and sad I had to do something happy and well, doing shots makes me smile but doing shots of Chinaco tequila makes me happy. (Although this bottle I just sample is a bit dusty… never mind!)

So.. I’m walking my girl around the field and her head suddenly kicks up at the sound of peddling and bouncy bike chains and we both focus our gaze on two children on bicycles rounding a corner on the leave strewn street towards us. Then a third child turns the corner but does not make it. Both of the wheels slide out from beneath him and he goes down hard. A spectacular sliding crash. It was nearly silent as the blustery day drowned out all noise, but his shrieks of pain and agony silenced all else.

“Oww…ohh… WAHHHH!!!!!!” shrieked into the later afternoon soundscape.

I was ten houses away, up the street, and Akira had already lost interest and was pawing the ground in an effort to find the exact spot where her contemporary had peed so she could top it off and I felt compelled to run towards the children. But, not really. I wanted to tug at her leash and run, but I did not. As I stood listening to the little boy cry out in pain I wondered what kept my feet rooted and motionless. Before I could make any headway on this mental inquiry a woman near the kids ran to the fallen boy to see if he was okay. His sobbing stopped immediately. His friends had ran back to the scene of the accident, one on foot the other peddling a well padded and colorful bike. I stopped thinking whether I should run to offer help for at this point everything seemed to be under control. I continued my walk, which happened to be in their direction.

The woman had walked away. The boy who had fallen was sitting in the leaves and the other two straddled their bikes and looked down at their fallen compadre. Akira and I continued our walk and slowly made our way towards the three of them. Akira pooped, I bagged the poop, and we continued.

“Everything okay here?” I said when I got within range. “You okay?” I said looking at the boy on the ground.

“Yeah”, the one in the blue woolen hat said, speaking for the fallen one, “He’s okay. The lady already said so.”

“You sure?”, I asked to the boy sitting on the ground. He quickly glanced up at me and nodded his head. “Then it was a wicked crash, man. Cool.”

I looked at his two friends and I could not tell if they were boys or girls. Thus the lack of possessive pronouns in my essay to this point. Blue hat was small and stood next to the fallen boy, red hat was nearly twice the size – both still under four feet – and did not seem interested in what was happening. Then blue hat spoke.

“You have a cute dog.”

“Thank you. “ I said.

“Is it a boy or a girl?” blue hat asked, as we all have at some point in our lives.

“A girl”, I responded, “Akira is her name.” I walked towards them checking to ensure Akira was cool and the kids were not frightened. “Would you like to say hi? Akira, say hello.”

To this, Akira lowered her ears and approached blue hat for a sniff or two. She then turned towards the fallen boy. I envisioned her licking the snot out of him seeing as though he was down and helpless on the ground and I said, “She is going to administer some first aid. Be ready.” At Akira’s first lick the fallen boy smiled for the first time, but it quickly disappeared. And then I heard the question I still cannot believe I heard.

“How much did your dog cost?”

This rocked me. I stood and stared into the eyes of this little person. I still could not tell if it was a boy or girl but I could not imagine the chain of events or the smattering of experiences this person has already lived through to want to know how much my dog cost. Is this really an innocent question that I am overreacting too? Or is this yet another bit of proof that the world has gone terribly wrong? I think, of course, the latter.

I then told blue and red hat of the fact Akira was a rescue dog and the home she was living in could not care for her anymore so we took her in. (Yes, it is and will always be ‘we’ who took her in). She then licked Blue hat’s hand and red hat said,”She has a purple tongue!” This thrilled them all to no end and I was sure to tell tham that I did not paint the her tongue myself.

I still had no idea if I was talking to three boys, or a boy and two girls or what. They were all too bundled in winter garb for me to tell. I started walking away as Akira had already lost interest and blue hat started to speak.

“I have a puppy and a kitten. Well, actually its not my puppy or kitten but my dad’s. I am just here to see them today, like I do every Saturday for a little while. I don’t live with him ay longer.”

“Well, thats good you see him”, I said, not knowing what else to say to a small person who was obviously starved for conversation and emotional contact of any sort. I held Akira’s tug in check and thought of something, anything to say to keep this person engaged. “What kind of dog is the puppy?”

“A Cairn Terrier.” blue hat responded.

Now, I think you all know that Scuffy, my old, senile, pavement fucking dog was a Cairn Terrier. I loved that dog. I looked right at blue hat and said, “I had a Cairn Terrier when I was a little boy. It looks like Toto from Wizard of Oz right?”

When I mentioned Wizard of Ox blue and red hat both exclaimed with glee in such a show of happiness that is so rare for boys, I immediately deduced blue and red hat were girls.

I looked into the eyes of the little girl wearing the blue hat and smiled with her. I have no idea what the divorce she is living through is like, nor whether life is good of bad for her, but at that moment I wanted to make sure as long as she could open up and share a moment with another person, even though it was a stranger with a cute dog, well, everything was okay. I am not sure who I wanted to believe this more, she or me.

At the sound of the girls glee, fallen boy finally stood up, grabbed his bike and started to walk up the road away from the scene of his accident. Akira tugged again at her leash to continue on our walk back towards the house so I obeyed her commend and said goodbye to blue hat, red hat and fallen boy.

As we approached the house I could not help but repeat in my head the question that little girl asked and could not help but be completely disturbed by it.

She loved Akira, was thrilled at her purple tongue but in her little still developing mind she already was putting an economic value on my dog. Is this how it works these days? Little boys and girls preparing their Christmas Lists to Santa thinking not of what they want or what will make them happy but what will yield them the most bang for their buck?

When did I become such a curmudgeon? And what can a 40 year old curmudgeon expect to achieve in the next 60 years? To what new heights can I take crmudgeonosity? I guess we’ll see. Well, if I were to make a goal of perfecting this art, I guess at least I will see.

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