Marmeduke veers off the sidewalk and into the neighbor's yard and gets into position. His haunches shake. I start preparing what I'll say:
"You have to clean that up, you know."
"I got your dog's poop on my finger this summer."
"How would you like it if I crapped in your yard?"
A dog has been shitting in our yards all summer. I suppose it's a local canine, but I've imagined that he is an import from another neighborhood. I'm not a trained investigator, but I know we're looking for a big dog with a diet of semi-raw burritos slathered in chorizo cheese sauce. I have it in my head that his walker loads him into the back of a nondescript van, drives halfway across town in the dark of the night and then lets him out on our block. Owner stays behind the wheel, smoking a heater and listening to Styx while Fido unleashes his bowels, building cairns of crap. Fido leaps back into the van, lets out a deep yelp and the van chugs down the street.
According to the 5-year-old next door, the Grill Master on the end of the block is going to kill the dog if he ever catches him.
"Oh, okay," I say to the 5-year-old.
We've gotten hit a few times. The worst was a mound close to our kitchen window. I was mowing the lawn and purposefully circling it. I couldn't avoid it forever, so I stopped the mower and grabbed a plastic bag from the newspaper. I closed my hand around the pile and tugged. It hadn't quite set yet, though, and getting it off the grass was like cleaning peanut butter out of hair. When some of it smeared on my thumb, I ran into the house screaming like it was a burn.
"I really wish this dog would stop shitting in our yard," the 5-year-old's mom said to a few days ago and I nodded, then pictured the Grill Master holding the large, burrito-eating dog by the neck.
Everyone started leaving their porch lights on at night, as though an illuminated yard would make the excrement climb backward in the dog's intestines. Chuck noticed one night that a dog walker was eschewing the sidewalk in favor of walking down the middle of our front yards. When he came out of the shadows, the walker returned to the sidewalk. Could've been The Neighborhood Shitter.
So here I am, watching this crime unfold, moving my mouth to warm it up for the accusation. Then the dog notices me and yelps. He tries to sprint at me and trips over his leash. He goes vocally crazy.
"Gretzky!" his owner growls.
Gretzky? I think. Ugh. I know exactly what this guy's basement looks like.
"Gretzky!" his owner growls again.
The woman with a new job backs away from the man and the dog and disappears at the end of the block. She's either embarrassed about the ruckus, embarrassed about the shitting, or embarrassed about the earnestness with which she described her new job not knowing she had an audience.
"Gretzky, sit still so I can clean this up," the man says.
He pulls a plastic bag out of his pocket, a sort of magician's tug.
He leans down and collects the sample.
So maybe this isn't The Neighborhood Shitter, but I still kind of think it is. If I had a dog, I'm pretty sure I'd only clean up the crap if I knew someone was watching.