My story, "Eighty-five Percent" illustrates what a waste worrying really is!
A day or two before Christmas I crawled out of bed and realized I'd wrenched my back the day before, shoveling snow from around my front walkway. I hobbled downstairs, tossed a jacket over my long velour robe, leashed up Tsunami, my 120 pound Akita and headed for the mailbox by the side of the road to get my morning paper. I live on Pend Oreille Loop in Arden, and have a circular driveway that turns into an ice rink at this time of the year. At 75, I fear slipping and falling and breaking something that might not mend.
So I inched along, following in Nami's wake. Even my normally sure-footed purebred had trouble maintaining her footing. As I retrieved my newspaper, I saw a trio rounding the curve at the eastern end of the Loop. So did Nami. Good guard dog that she is, she wanted to bound over and ensure that nothing wicked our way came. I struggled to pull her along behind me, anxious to get back in the house. I feared if she gave a sudden lurch she might yank me over, so I hurried as best I could, despite my aching back, hunched over so that if I slipped I wouldn't fall backwards and bang my head against the ice.
By the time I got up to my door, I'd run out of strength. I collapsed in one of the chairs in front of my door, keeping a tight two-handed hold on Nami's leash. The advancing strollers had drawn up in front of my yard where they slowed, swiveling their heads in my direction. I smiled in anticipation. So often people walking around the Loop who see my dog for the first time remark on how beautiful she is. I waited expectantly as the woman in the center of the trio leaned forward. Maybe she'll ask about the breed. Lots of people do. Or maybe she just wanted to shout out a Christmas greeting on this chilly morning.
Her shrill words slapped my ears. "Can't you pick up your dog's poop?" she yelled, pointing back in the direction from which she'd come, where Nami and I definitely had not trod that morning. "There's a big pile of it in the road."
I sat stunned. Mind you, this is a country road, well traveled by dog walkers because it's on a school bus route and plowed regularly. Occasionally an equestrian or two passes by, as well, with their horses leaving their calling cards. Why did the woman assume Nami and I were the guilty parties? Because she saw us outside on a winter's morning, I guessed.
Don't reply, I told myself, but then I couldn't resist. "Twenty dogs a day walk down this road," I shouted back, shaking my head in disbelief. The man and child who accompanied the woman said nary a word, and the three proceeded down the Loop towards the Old Arden Highway.
Later in the day, after I got dressed, I wandered down the road with a plastic bag to collect what had offended the morning stroller. There it was...a neat pile of poop just inches from the snowbank on the side of the road. I'd figured maybe it had been in the middle of the road and she'd slipped in it, so angry was her tone. But no...it was a pristine pile off to the side, well out of the way of foot traffic!
All day I kept thinking about how aggressive people have become...to assume it's acceptable to walk down a country road and shout at an elderly woman who is minding her own business in her own front yard a day or two before Christmas, the day that celebrates the birth of the Prince of Peace.
Then my imagination kicked into gear. What if I'd been a crazy evil witch with a trained attack dog? I could have leaned forward, whispered "sic 'em" into Nami's ear and let loose of her leash. Or...like so many I read about in the newspapers or hear about on the news...maybe I could claim I'd been attacked on my own turf and needed to stand my ground...with a weapon. Or maybe I could snoop around and find out where she lives and collect dog droppings for the next month to deposit in front of her property.
Maybe my furious neighbor is a fastidious lady who believes she was doing me a favor by pointing out what she assumed was the error of my ways. I was still in my bathrobe at 8 a.m., so maybe she'd classified me as a lazy layabout who needed a good bullying. I don't know.
I do know that I hope she enjoyed her Christmas and that she's starting her New Year off on a happier note. I know I am. My backache has subsided, the snows have slowed, and nobody's accosted me in my yard for the past week.