By Lou Gaglia
By the third day, I’d had enough of the German Shepherd puppy. He nipped at my hand if I tried to pet him and bit my calves when I walked. When he chomped into my ankle near the garbage chute, I roared into his face. My new neighbor gaped at me from her apartment door.
“He keeps biting,” I said.
She said nothing. The dog ran to her.
“No, no,” I called. But when he reached her, she bent to pet him, and he licked her fingers.
In the kitchen, I poured alcohol on the two bloody puncture wounds in my ankle. He lay in the corner, his head resting on his large paws.
“You never lick my fingers,” I complained, and he looked at me without raising his head.
I imagined him full grown in my small apartment, knocking over furniture and biting my hand off while I slept, so I listed those who might be willing to take him. He followed me onto the balcony and jumped into my lap, his nails digging into my thigh. I tried to pet him: “Good puppy,” but he snapped at my hand, so I pushed him off. He whined and went for my punctured ankle, and I shoved him hard. “Stop it!”
The balcony door of the next-door apartment swung open. The woman stood there, staring at me.
“Let’s go, puppy,” I said and led him back inside while he nipped at my heels.
In the bedroom, I found two heavy wool socks and tied them around both of my ankles.
“Good luck biting through these, chump,” I told him. He cocked his head to the side, his ears straight up. “That’s right. Chump.”
At the door, I gave him an old sneaker, and as he tried to tear it apart, I clicked the leash clip onto his collar.
Julie from the 15th floor was on a bench in the courtyard, reading a book. Instead of proposing to her, I asked if she knew anyone who wanted the puppy.
She pet him without incident, then put her whole hand in his mouth and let him bite at it.
“Careful,” I said, but she kept doing it anyway, and when her hand came away, there was no blood, nothing but a beautiful hand with dog slobber on it.
“I like him, but I can’t handle him,” I explained.
“I know someone on my floor who might want him.”
“He’s very obedient,” I said. “When I put food in his dish, he goes right over to it and eats it.”
“Wow,” she said. “I think you’re wonderful, rescuing him.” He sat near her, looking out at the courtyard, maybe watching for birds or muggers.
“He’d be a good guard dog, but he doesn’t like me. Dogs are a judge of character, so maybe my character stinks.”
She looked at me.
“You see what I have to do, to protect myself?” I lifted my pants leg to show her the socks tied to my ankles.
She laughed. “Well, I think your character is just fine.”
“My ankles aren’t fine.”
She took the little monster to her neighbor for a meet and bite. Meanwhile, I went to the new bank on the Bowery to open an account. A young teller wasn’t sure what to do. The manager, my new neighbor, came to help. She frowned when she saw me and dourly walked the girl through the process.
“What’s your social security number?” the girl asked.
They waited. It was almost closing time. But I’d frozen before my neighbor’s dull stare and couldn’t remember the first three numbers.
“I’ll know it if I write it,” I said, and the girl slid a paper under the glass.
As I wrote the number, one of the wool socks loosened and slid down my ankle. I snatched it up from the bank rug and shoved it into my pocket. The girl was busy punching in numbers but my neighbor peered at my bulging pocket with knit brows. The other sock came loose and I pulled it from under my pants leg.
“There it is,” I said and shoved it into my other pocket. “I was looking for that.”
Her eyes widened and she looked away.
I had to wait in the lobby while they put my information into the computers. Four security cameras, mounted high, were aimed at me and my stuffed pockets.
Outside on the busy street, I roamed. With more time, maybe Julie would find a home for the dog, and then we could marry, and she could visit the little bastard whenever she felt like it while I stayed home and cleaned the fridge or scrubbed the toilet. A woman passed and glanced at my pockets. A big guy blocked my way and grinned, but I went around him. Julie’s “your character is fine,” rang in my ears, and I smiled a little doubtfully. At the altar, we’d make our vows, and Chump would take a chunk out of my ankle just as we kissed.
I didn’t see the old man coming. His forehead slammed into my chin, and he went down backward and lay on the pavement. I froze while a crowd quickly surrounded him.
He tried to sit up, but they made him stay down and wait. I caught some blood from my chin, then pressed one of the wool socks into it and cursed myself. Julie had been wrong. I would free fall to hell because I yelled at puppies and knocked down old men.
Just beyond the crowd, my neighbor the bank teller, released from work, gaped at the scene. She headed toward me, and I tried to move away, to squeeze through the crowd to the man—standing now, but woozy. “Sorry,” I called to him, but the circle around him was a fortress of good people, and I had no chance.