By Jeff Flodin
From my vantage point, the problem is obvious: the blind guy wants to go up the stairs and his big, black dog wants to go down the stairs. The solution is being negotiated – the guy’s nose to nose with the dog, wagging his finger in the dog’s face. He’s really giving the dog an earful, but I can’t hear a word, being inside looking out.
From my window, I look down on that skeletal staircase connecting Upper and Lower Michigan Avenue. It’s more of a ladder with a handrail, really. Cast iron exposed to the elements. This blind guy trudges up the stairs, grabbing the railing with his right hand while his left holds onto his dog. The dog’s pulling the guy – I guess they call it “leading” – when all of a sudden the dog does a one eighty and heads down the stairs.
I don’t know why the dog decided to head down the stairs – food, probably – but he almost takes the guy backwards, ass over teacup. And the guy’s hanging there, all splayed out like Christ on the cross ‘til he gets his footing and he lifts that dog’s front half off the ground by its harness and puts him back so he’s facing up the stairs again. But no sooner does the guy put his foot on the next step up when, don’t you know, that dog swings around and heads down the stairs.
So, now I’m starting to wonder if this guy and this dog can ever agree on anything. And I wonder what the guy’s going to do now. Well, instead of giving the dog what for, with the finger wagging and the dog lifting, he sits down on the step and puts his head in his hands. And I’m thinking the guy’s either going to crack up or start crying and I’m wondering if I should call the cops or the SPCA. But the guy reaches into his pocket and pulls out this strap and fits it around the dog’s nose and fastens it behind his head. And he does it all real gently, all the while talking to the dog, which I can’t hear, but I know that’s what he’s doing. And the dog sits down and licks the guy’s face. Then, they stand up and the guy takes the dog by the harness and they walk up the stairs together and they get to Upper Michigan Avenue just in time to catch the 147 bus.
Well, I see lots of things from my window – drunks, lovers and thieves. And I’m putting them all in my novel. But this guy takes the cake. I’ll write a whole chapter about him and his dog and whatever invention it was that he took out of his pocket. I like to think that, once he stopped the rough stuff and used that magical strap, how he got through to that dog. I like to think there’s a lesson there. I’ll put it in my novel so other people can get the message, too.
Don’t forget to check out Jeff’s own blog, www.jalapenosintheoatmeal.wordpress.com to read some very insightful pieces.