Thursday, April 19, 2012

Morning Detox and Decompression

When you're standing in the stuffy, moldy mission breezeway at 5:45AM in line for breakfast with a bunch of fellow neurotics, assorted felons, brigands, rapscallions, miscreants, and good old fashioned lost souls, naturally the conversation turns to dog poisoning.

"I fucking hate dogs," says a young thug with a Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon cap turned backwards.  He's a pimply, jittery white homey with rap sizzling out of his ear buds and pants so gravity sunk that he looks like a wet-brained bindlestiff with a load in the seat. 

"I don't really like dogs either," says Eternal Pothead.  Each morning he fills the corridor with quality fumes.  How he gets away with this is a profound mystery, like the guy who runs a soda and bootlegged DVD concession in the chapel during worship, smiling behind wrap-around shades while hawking cans of Tiki Punch and Nicolas Cage discs from a giant athletic bag.   The immunity and impunity on display in these cases still  has me baffled after all these months.   It makes me feel vaguely daring or entrepreneurial, but the key word is "vaguely."  What kind of scam could I run?  Doctoring dormitory write-up forms?  Selling selected literary quotes?

Someone else chimes in about shit-bag canines.   Why this dog hostility has erupted this morning is another poser.  The whole bombed out skid row area is crawling with strays, and most people seem to feed them, play with them, tuck them into over coats.  Everybody likes dogs.  Right?

"Know the best way to poison a fucking mutt?" asks Pink Floyd.  "Antifreeze.  You inject a bunch of cheap steaks with antifreeze and toss them around and you can kill as many of the stupid shits as you want."

"We used to shoot dogs with BB guns."

"Dogs are worthless."

"Fleas and shit.  Gotta vaccinate them, eat like horses."

"I'm a cat man myself."

"I hate animals."

I'm seized by a momentary urge to display some literary erudition, to flash my college cred by alluding to the famous dog poisoning rant in Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five--Private Paul Lazzaro with "rabies fizzing and popping" in his brain, bragging about killing a dog with razor-sharp metal and a steak.  But suddenly everybody in line, most with ear buds hissing, looks and sounds rabid. 

I'm out the mission gate by 6:15, on the northbound bus by 6:30, and into a 4th grade classroom by 7:00, reviewing the morning's lesson on that week's character trait--Caring.   This is one of the district's Six Pillars of Character, and for once they don't seem corny to me.   They are: Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Citizenship, and Caring.   This class--I haven't met the kids yet-- is nurturing a white rat named Melvin in a cage.   To the extent I can judge such things, he looks healthy and happy.  As the children gather outside the door, I wonder what lie will come unbidden to my lips today when one of them asks me the common question, Where do you live, teacher?

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