It’s been raining here in Maine for the past couple weeks. Without fail, storm clouds move in and it’ll dump on us. The pages of the books I’ve been reading out in the shack are damp and the new Bible my Jehovah’s Witness friend gave me has swollen slightly. I don’t mind the rain. It doesn’t deter me from being outside. When I was a kid, I played in the rain as much as possible, crawling through mud with sticks and pretending to be in Nam. I did that a lot. My friends and I eventually got our hands on some lawn darts, the kind with the heavy, metal ends that somehow made their way into stores and outdoor toy bins. We’d play the same war games and chuck those lawn darts over the neighbor’s six-foot wooden fence and giggle whenever we heard metal clatter or glass break.
One of the benefits of the rain this summer is that the neighbors usually shut themselves in along with the barnyard-size collection of animals they have despite the meager acre of land they live on. The tiny house they live in, where they keep some of the animals, seems less appropriate for some reason. Fortunately for them, there’s plenty of tar where the goats can scurry and drive the occasional car off the road.
Before all the rain, before the neighbors poached a deer in the middle of the field one night, before people complained that the goats were eating their gardens and animal control told the neighbors to keep their animals on their own property, I used to walk the dogs past their house. That was until one of their dogs charged out into the road after us and I got pulled into a conversation about breeding and my dog that I didn’t want to have.
A man came out into the street after his dog, shirtless, and a couple faded tats made him look like he’d just finished a tour of tossed salad ballads at the state prison.
Hey, he said after he got his dog by the collar. Is that a red-nose? He pointed at Kamani.
My son’s got a blue nose male he’s looking to breed.
Kamani is fixed, but that doesn’t really matter. I wouldn’t subject my dog to breeding so more fucking cabbage patch gangsters and other various Mountain Dew petrified rednecks can get a pit bull puppy then drop it off at the pound after six months or a year or shove it into a ring to do what they couldn’t. That type of shit puts me on edge, makes me want slam things like bricks or economy-size cans of ravioli into faces that emit stupid. I also feel that it’s pretty fucking grimy to ask someone to borrow something they love so something else can fuck it for profit. Explaining how he or his son is part of the problem with pit bull stereotypes, how the both of them should waltz off a pier with an anvil chained to their face, would have been a waste of time.
I didn’t interact with the neighbors again for a while, until yesterday when I was walking the dogs through the field. The goats and the chickens and geese and the horse all wandered toward us. Kamani showed little interest in them while I threw the ball for her. Kojack, my mother’s dog, kept his nose on the ground most of the time. Something finally caught Kamani’s attention, though, and by the time I saw the neighbor’s new calf shambling toward us, it was too late. Kamani started after it, and the two of them ran in a wide circle around the goats.
Part of me, the responsible dog-owner part of me called for Kamani, but I couldn’t help but find it hilarious to watch her run around with a calf. The goats scattered and the neighbor, dressed in red and her pale arms flapping up and down like a perfect lawn dart target, screamed while two dozen goats charged toward her. I waited for it, waited for the neighbor to turn and scramble away, swing her arms in a circle to gain momentum while trying to dodge the piles of horse and goat shit littered in their yard. I got a flash of Rodney Dangerfield pointing and laughing while riding the enormous pig in the back corner of the neighbor’s property. I wondered how I’d explain the goat stampede to animal control, somehow deciding that if they did show up after that, I’d wear one of my grandmother’s dresses and smear puce lipstick around my mouth before I spoke with them. Maybe I’d had too much caffeine or time alone in the shack, but it all just bloomed there in the few seconds that Kamani ran alongside a calf with her tongue hanging out.
But the neighbor just closed her eyes, the goats tore left toward the road and Kamani peeled off her chase and ran back to me, cowering slightly when she returned.
The woman held her chest and yelled out to me, her words intermittent and patched with gasps of air. That was almost worth it to see the cow run, she said.
Yeah, I replied, a bit disappointed. I winked at Kamani and fought the urge to encourage her behavior.
The goats stopped running and milled around on the freshly paved tar. A car came down the road and slowed then beeped its horn. The neighbor started yelling after the goats. I went back to the house and hunted for lawn darts on eBay.