dog shit.

Once in a while, I tell a story in this blog that has nothing whatsoever to do with Dromedary, but is worth telling anyway.  This is one of those stories.

Our driveway backed up against a chain-link fence that we shared with a gas station.  During the spring and summer months, grapevines grew over the fence, partially obstructing our view of the gas station and all the cars sitting in the parking lot, waiting to be serviced.  During the cold months, there was nothing in the way, and we could see right into the lot.

We had a garage.  It wasn’t really our garage, it was a garage, right at the end of our part of the driveway.  The landlord used it to store his cleaning and maintenance supplies, and who knows what else.

On the left side of the garage, there was about a two-foot gap, inbetween the garage and the chain link fence dividing our driveway from the gas station parking lot.  The gap ran the entire length of the garage, was obscured on both sides, and was too narrow to use as any sort of storage space or common area.

That’s where I threw our dog shit.

Our dog, Sambuca, was an 80-lb black lab/German shepherd mix.  We got her from a shelter when we lived in Lodi, mostly to provide Sandy with some protection from the psychos that lived in our apartment complex while I was working the late shift at the wireless company.  Now that we lived in a much more peaceful place, Buca was sort of superfluous; we loved her but she didn’t get the kind of attention that we gave her in Lodi in terms of bringing her to parks for exercise and stuff like that.  We were five months pregnant, shopping for a house, and working too far from our apartment to take her for walks frequently.  Most of the time, I would just attach her to a leash and hang the leash on the outside door.  She’d stay out there for a while, squat, and then bark to come in when she’d had enough.

Eventually, when the dog shit would start to pile up, I’d scoop it up with a shovel and toss it into the space alongside the garage, as far back as I could throw it.  Out of everybody’s way, where nobody could see it.

After a year or so of living there, this pile of dog shit got to be pretty big.  It’s not like it soaked into the ground or anything – the garage was built on a concrete pad, and it sat alongside a gas station parking lot.  There was nowhere for it to go, so it just sat there.  And piled up.

And piled up.

It never occurred to me that we were doing anything wrong.  The side of the garage was invisible to everyone.  We couldn’t see it, the gas station guy couldn’t see it, none of our housemates could see it.  Once I flung a couple days’ worth of crap alongside the garage, it was, for all practical purposes, gone.

Until the landlord rang the doorbell about it.

Our landlord was a nice, older gentleman who was sometimes a little lazy about taking care of maintenance work around the apartment.  When we first moved in, part of the terms of our lease specified that he would replace the antiquated stove with something new.  If I’m not mistaken, it took him a month or so to get around to it.  We also had a refrigerator die, and he wasn’t particularly responsive about that, either.  We’d call him about a problem, and he’d take his time getting back to us.

Beyond those mild annoyances, however, he was a nice man.  And occasionally he’d stop by to check out the property, and knock on our door with some innocuous question or other.

So I wasn’t surprised to see him that blazing hot Saturday morning in late May.  I was sitting in the living room, watching the Yankee game.  Sandy was upstairs.  The bell rang, and I answered it.

“Hey!” I exclaimed. “How are you?”

“I’m fine,” he said.  “How about yourself?”

“I’m great.”

“Do you know anything about the poop on the side of the garage?” he asked.


Now, I ask you this question: when you’ve been dumping dog shit alongside the garage for more than a year, thinking there’s absolutely nothing wrong with what you’re doing, and then somebody suddenly calls you on it, what do you do?

I’ll tell you what you do: you deny it.  And don’t try and tell me different.  Because when you get blindsided with “Have you been dumping dog shit alongside my garage?” nothing can prepare you for that.  All at once, you suddenly realize: I have been tossing dog shit alongside my landlord’s garage for over a year.  I probably should have been doing something different with it than that.

So I said “I have no idea.  There’s poop on the side of the garage?”

“Yeah,” he said.  “Like somebody’s been throwing it there.  I know you have a dog, and I know Linda has a dog.  The guy at the gas station also has a dog, but I can’t imagine that he’d throw the poop over the fence onto my side like that.”

I shook my head disdainfully.  “What a horrible thing.”

He sighed.  “I guess it must be Linda, then.  You know, I really didn’t want to let her have a dog, but I figured a pretty young woman, living all alone like that – she could use some protection.  It’s a shame that she’d take advantage like that, make such a mess.”

“Shame,” I said.  “Okay, I’m going to get back to my ballgame.”

“Okay,” he said.  “Good seeing you.”

I shut the door and raced upstairs to Sandy.

“He asked me about the dog shit,” I said.

Nooooo,” she said.  “What did you tell him?”

“I told him it wasn’t mine.”

Sandy was quiet for a second.  “You realize he’s going to blame Linda.”  She seemed angry, like as if I had done something wrong by blaming my neighbor for the massive pile of dog shit that I spent a year constructing alongside the garage.

“She’ll deny it, too,” I said.  “What’s he going to do, DNA testing?  There’s no way he’ll ever find out whose shit it is.”

I walked downstairs and began watching the game again.  I became aware of the conversation between Linda and the landlord, which I could hear taking place in the courtyard between our apartments.  I couldn’t hear what was being said, but I could hear them talking, and her voice was a little more high-pitched than usual.  

They’re really arguing about this, I thought.

The Yankees were playing.  They were an exciting team.  I was almost completely able to drown out the guilt while I was watching the game.  I got up and went to the kitchen for a beer.  On the way back, I glanced out the window facing Linda’s apartment.  I could see the landlord standing in the doorway, and I could make out her image, standing in her kitchen, talking to him.

What if he fines her?

Nah.  No way he could prove it was her.  It wasn’t her.

What if he evicts her?

He couldn’t.  If he tried to take it that far, I’d just come clean and admit it was me all along.  Problem solved.

What if he makes her get rid of the dog?!

That was more realistic.  He could do that any time he wanted.  Hell, he even told me he had regretted letting her get the dog.  Bo was his name.  Once, he tried to come right through our window, chasing Buca.  She really did need a big dog for protection – she was all alone in that apartment, and she worked in a go-go bar.  Some psycho could follow her home any time.  That dog was huge.  A Rottweiler.

I stood up and paced back and forth in my living room.

How do I do this? I thought.

“Fuck,” I said.

I waited for him to finish his conversation with Linda and come out the courtyard.  Once he got back into the driveway, I opened my door.

“Excuse me,” I said.

“Yes?”  He seemed irritated.

“It was me.”

“What was you?”

“The dog poop.  I don’t know why I lied, but I’m sorry.  I got nervous when you asked me about it, and it just sort of popped out.  I shouldn’t have lied.  I’m sorry.”

“That’s okay,” he said.  “I just wanted to know who was doing it.  I would have sworn it would be Linda.”

“I’ll clean it,” I said.

Sandy was in the stairway, listening to this, laughing.

Once he left, I had to go to Linda’s.  I knocked on her door, and she answered.

“It’s my dog shit,” I said.

“I know,” she replied.  She seemed angry, too.  As if she had a right to be angry when her neighbor pinned the blame for a year’s worth of dog shit on her.

“I told him it wasn’t you.  I’m cleaning it.  I apologize.”

“Thanks,” she said.

Now, there are lots of disgusting things in the world.  But you have not experienced disgusting until you’ve gotten a shovel, squeezed your body into a two-foot gap that’s perhaps twenty feet long, walked to the back, and scooped up shovels full of year-old dog shit in 90 degree heat.  One shovelful at a time, I’d walk into the gap, make my way to the back, scoop up some shit, then back out (I couldn’t turn around and walk forward; there was not enough space).  

Then, I’d dump the dog shit into a 30-gallon garbage pail.  

Again and again, more than 365 days’ worth of dog shit, all in one moldy, steaming, festering pile.  It was easily up to my waist, maybe even higher, and in the confined space alongside the garage it seemed almost as if it were alive, crawling up my nose, seeping into my pores, coating my body with a hot, steamy, shitty film.

Within about a half hour, I started getting dry heaves and would have to stop right there in the driveway, double over and retch.  If I remember correctly, eventually I did vomit.  Sandy wouldn’t go near me.

I had dog shit on me – on my clothes, smeared on my skin, under my fingernails.  I tried to keep it off, but there was just no way.  And it wasn’t ordinary dog shit, no – this was special dog shit, aged to perfection in the searing heat of the late spring sun.  At the bottom of the pile, some of it was more than a year old, and with the weight and nastiness of all the shit on top of it, it had congealed into sort of a paste that needed to be scraped away.

This was dumbass dog shit.  Dumbass dog shit is the kind of dog shit that you pile high to the sky all by yourself, then lie to your landlord about, so that when you clean it up, you can’t contain your embarrassment.  You’re cleaning it and eating it at the same time.

I filled the garbage pail about two-thirds of the way with shit, took off my boots, put them on top of the shit pile, and then tied the bag shut as tightly as I could.  Then, barefoot, I dragged the garbage pail filled with dog crap and work boots to the curb.

Man, the garbage man is gonna have a field day with this tomorrow, I thought.

The smell stayed in my nose for days.  I showered until there was no hot water left, and then I stood under the cold water, shivering, washing myself over and over again, trying to get the shit off me.  I couldn’t eat dinner that night – no way I could swallow food, or even put my hands near my mouth.  A couple of times that night, while sitting in front of the television, I’d suddenly double over and spontaneously heave.

I should have blamed Linda.

~ by Al on August 27, 2009.

3 Responses to “dog shit.”

  1. Option B: you could have told him you were composting.

  2. I really shouldn’t have read this before lunch. I’m glad you came clean, even though it made you feel filthy in the end.

  3. […] when Officer Friendly invaded my house to play me his demo.  And of course I spent an entire day shoveling a year’s worth of her shit in the most disgusting thing I’ve ever had to do in my […]

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