It's about seven in the evening, still light, and we're watching King of the Hill. For the past half hour I've been dimly aware of a dog barking, although it's more like yapping because it's a small dog. There are dogs around here, mostly spread out in an assortment of yards so we hear rather than see them. One of them gets to barking and they all join in and it becomes background noise, something you no longer notice after a while; but I notice it now because it's on our porch, right outside our front door.
'That arsehole,' I mutter as I get up.
I suppose it's a stretch to say that we live in the 'hood, but at times you could be forgiven for thinking so. By zip code we're in the affluent part of the city, except we're in the crappy, run down corner, which suits us just fine. It's affordable, and we don't have to look at no socialism signs stuck in anyone's lawn, or have doctors, lawyers and dentists complaining to the city about the state of ours. More obnoxious relatives tend not to visit, possibly for fear of some neighbour stealing their hubcaps, so it all works out quite nicely. On the other hand, we get to be neighbours with Shooty the drug dealer. He's a young man living at home with his family and certain social issues meaning that he doesn't play well with others. He's been inside the stripey hole for something or other, but now he's toned it down, just selling the occasional baggie to fellow enthusiasts.
Once he called out, 'Nice bike!' as I rode past.
Another time he asked if I'd like him to mow my lawn, which struck me as a stupid question given that I was myself in the act of mowing it when he made the enquiry.
That's been the full extent of our interaction, although I once helped his mother push her stalled car to the side of the road. She was intrigued by my displaced nationality and I had the impression she was taking the piss out of me, just a little.
A couple of years back Shooty supposedly shot someone in the head inside his own home. I guess they must have had a disagreement about something. The entire street was full of cops, and even a television news crew, but no gun was ever found. Everything returned to as it was before, except that now I had a nickname for the guy which saves me using the more nebulous those people qualified with similarly vague hand gestures.
Shooty has a dog, a chihuahua. He's had it for about a month. It roams up and down the road, just yapping away. It never seems to be inside his house. It's always there, sometimes yapping outside our window at two in the morning. Sometimes I see Shooty walking his dog, which just means that he walks alongside it as it covers its usual ground, up and down the road, yapping away. We have cats, so it's becoming more and more annoying.
'That arsehole,' I mutter as I get up and rush out onto the porch to chase it off. No-one fucks with my cats.
Shooty himself is there, stood at the end of our drive, stood on our drive. 'Good boy,' he says in his stupid sing-song voice. 'Good boy.'
He's a walking, or at least shuffling, cliché. He makes me think of Chico and the Man, although truthfully I barely remember the show. He's the racist beaner caricature of the stupid, simple Mexican who wobbles his head from side to side as he grins and admits I no know, Señor. It's a bit of a shock to realise that such people exist.
'Good boy,' he says as he watches his dog bark at the side of my house, as though this isn't something the dog would be doing regardless of his tutelage, like this is some fucking trick he's managed to teach his pooch. 'Good boy.'
How the fuck is that good?
I stand on the porch, arms spread like I'm Ice Cube in Boyz n the Hood as Ferris drives past. It's a challenge. Get at me, dog.
'You maybe want to call him away - off my lawn,' I suggest kind of forcefully. I should probably be scared of this arsehole, but I just can't get there. I can't bring myself to respect this walking cliché; and besides, twenty-one years as a postman has made me pretty hard to kill. I can feel myself wanting him to start.
'He like to chase the cats,' Shooty explains happily, because like, liked, likes - that be some complicated shit right there. Ain't nobody got time for that.
'Yeah, I can see that,' I say. 'That's why I want him off my lawn. I don't want your dog chasing my cats. Do you understand what I'm saying here?'
Incredibly he doesn't, and I hear some sort of question forming as I slip back into the house and close the door, because I've remembered that there's never anything to gain from getting into arguments with morons, and this moron supposedly shot someone in the head. Additionally, it's mainly just the yapping that's driving me batty. Not even Holly, our smallest cat, is bothered by the chihuahua.
'Something's going to happen to that dog,' my wife mutters darkly, and over the next few days we realise we've both been thinking the same thing. The dog is always there, with his owner usually nowhere in sight. All we need to do is to lure him into the car, drive out to Boerne or Selma or somewhere, and let him go, hopefully to find a better home with owners who actually give a shit and don't just let him roam free. The plan changes to taking him to an animal rescue center in another city, then to the one in our own city because it's not like Shooty's going to bother to check.
One week later we hear Shooty having an argument with the guy over the way. The guy over the way owns a couple of large flat-faced dogs, quite vicious looking. One of them escaped a few years ago and met me as I returned home. It was sat on my own porch growling at me, and not that happy waggy-tailed growl of when Fido or Rags or Scamp just wants to play; so thankfully the guy over the way makes sure his dogs stay inside his yard. Excepting this one occasion, I guess.
'How can you be so stoo-peed?' Shooty is screaming. 'He jos' a leel' puppy dawg! He never done no harm to no-one!'
My wife and myself peer out of the door, across the way, then duck back in before we're seen. Shooty is stomping back to his own house. As keen practitioners of the detective arts, my wife and I are able to ingeniously piece together a scenario equating to what we think must have happened.
The chihuahua was roaming up and down the road unsupervised, as it always is. One of the larger dogs escaped and attacked the itinerant chihuahua. Elementary, my dear Watson.
So fuck it, we're definitely going to dognap the yappy little bastard. Truthfully, we feel sorry for him having such a shitty owner. Maybe he'll have a better life with someone else. We're definitely going to do that.
Then I go back to England for a couple of weeks, and a couple more weeks have passed following my return before I remember the chihuahua and realise that I haven't seen him around.
I mention it to the woman next door, having previously established that the dog's constant presence was likewise getting on her nerves.
'It died,' she tells me.
'I saw her just putting it in the trash so I had to ask, and she told me it died. It had been laying around ill for a week, then it was gone.'
'Maybe it ate something.'
'Yeah maybe - you know they just let it run all up and down the street. It could have eaten anything. They didn't really care for it none, just let it loose.'
I step back inside, a little shocked.
Poor little cunt.
I didn't like the dog much, but I didn't want it to die. Maybe somebody else enjoyed the constant yapping even less than we did and laid out poison.
Then again, I wonder if Shooty even bothered to feed the thing.
I guess I don't really want to know.