Copyright is held by the author.
I WAKE UP, as I usually do every morning at 6 am, to the sound of a barking dog. Not my dog of course. I wouldn’t be caught dead with a smelly, fur covered beast. No… this is Agnes Parker’s dog. We have been neighbours for over a year now and if I wanted to get up at 6 am, I certainly wouldn’t have to set an alarm! The real complaint I have is that today is Saturday.
“That’s it,” I say aloud. “This is the day I confront the old biddy!”
I shout this at no one in particular, as I live alone in my somewhat disorganized bungalow. I toss and turn and finally give up on any idea of getting back to sleep.
I should be able to get up whenever I damn well please, I think, glaring at my reflection in the bathroom mirror. Of course I am agitated enough that I nick myself with the razor, and now have a piece of toilet paper stuck to my chin.
I like living alone. I am 30 years old and have a great social life. I haven’t seen the need to get married, or to have kids. I do get a kick out of telling people I own my own house…status and all that.
I throw my dirty T-shirt in the rough vicinity of the laundry basket and grab a fresh one as I stomp down the hallway.
OK, here I go. I’m not afraid of Mrs. Parker. She may be old, and she may not like me, and I have never been invited into her house, but surely she can agree that her dog is a nuisance.
I bolt out the front door and veer right until I am standing just outside the front door of my neighbour’s split level home.
I practice my introduction out loud, “Mrs. Parker…no that’s too formal. Agnes, I’d like… no that is too presumptuous…after all, she must be nearly 100.”
I raise my finger toward the doorbell and am startled by a loud voice in my left ear.
“Mr. Griffin, you stepped on my sedum.”
“What is a sedum?” I ask.
Is that the name of her freaking dog? Did I step on his tail when I cut through the bushes between our houses?
“Mr. Griffin, sedum is a plant and you have crushed mine with your foot.”
I look down from my height of 6” 2” straight into the angry eyes of a little grey-haired lady who appears to be 5 feet nothing tall.
“Mrs. Parker, I am sorry about your sedum, but I came over to discuss something with you…your dog.”
“What about my dog?” she asks.
“Well,” I said. “He’s noisy.”
“So is your motorcycle and so is your sports car.”
I take a deep breath and try again.
“Anyway…about your dog. He wakes me up every morning at 6 am with his barking. Can’t you make him stop?”
“Young man, you step on my plants, play loud music until the wee hours of the morning, rev your motorcycle in your driveway and have loud parties until after midnight. You throw cigarette butts and chewed gum into my garden and you now wish to complain about Coco?”
I fell back a step at this onslaught. She actually thinks I am the problem! This conversation is not supposed to be about me; it is supposed to be about a dog…a noisy dog! I work hard and have long hours and I should be able to sleep in on weekends. I certainly don’t need to feel guilty for wanting a decent night’s sleep. I take another deep breath.
“Mrs. Parker, there are noise by-laws about dogs, you know. We don’t want to call the police do we?”
“Mr. Griffin, there are by-laws about loud noise after 11 pm too. Maybe the police would be a good idea.”
Now that is a twist on things, I think to myself. I might have to rethink this noise thing. This conversation might just come back and bite me.
“Mrs. Parker…may I call you Agnes?”
“No,” she replies curtly. “You may not.”
“OK, Mrs. Parker, maybe we could work together on this. How about I promise to bring my friends inside the house after 11 pm? I have quit smoking too…if that is of any help…and I am sorry about the gum. I will spit that out inside. If I do all that, can you let Coco out at 9 am instead of 6 am?”
“Certainly not! Coco will have to pee before that! She goes to bed at 9pm. You surely can’t expect her to wait 12 hours! Could you wait 12 hours?” she asks slyly.
“Well, no.” I said…already imagining my discomfort. “Why does she have to go to bed so early?”
“Mr. Griffin, I am not about to let my dog out at 11 pm, when any manner of person might be lurking in the bushes, waiting to rush in and take advantage of a senior citizen.”
I don’t think anyone could take advantage of Mrs. Parker, but this doesn’t seem like the time to point that out.
“What if I take Coco out for you at 11 pm on weekends, and then all of us could sleep in?”
Agnes Parker looks at me for a moment, as if to decide on my reliability and my moral fortitude.
“What about your motorcycle?” she asks with a crooked smile.
“Well, I still want to ride it!” I reply quickly.
“So, ride it,” she said. “Just don’t rev it.”
I guess she has a point. I do love that sense of power and control, but it seems like a small price to pay for a good night’s sleep.
“OK, Mrs. Parker, you have a deal.”
“Jack…may I call you that? Why don’t you come in for a nice cup of tea and maybe we can discuss your taste in music.”