Easy Mark

by jkatejohnston

9 October 2015

Dear Max,

If I were brave enough, I’d quit my fish book, but that would mean I’ve wasted so much time, and I don’t like that idea at all. Also, I don’t want to abandon the people. But my God it seems pretty hopeless. I have three documents going: one is chapters that at least make sense chronologically. That’s about fifty pages. Another is chapters that make sense in themselves but not in the book. That’s about fifty pages too. And then I have about a hundred pages of outtakes that might be used later.

And what about my diary? I feel what most sensible people do all the time: nothing that happens seems interesting enough to write about. Normally I think everything that happens to me is interesting. I’m like a celebrity in my own mind. But that way of thinking is a habit, and habits can be broken. (I blame my fish book for all this.)

*

Enzo said, “Petey is stupid, dumb-founded and an easy mark.” He meant it affectionately, of course. He’s in love with that dog. They lie on the floor in each other’s arms, and Enzo sings in his tuneless chanting way, “We’re dancing, we’re dancing.” And then, “We’re kissing, we’re kissing.” He lets Pete lick the inside of his mouth.

And it’s true, Petey isn’t bright. But what I like about Enzo’s description is—he’ll try anything.

Stupid. True, but the wrong feeling.

Dumb-founded. Incorrect, but closer to the right feeling.

An easy mark. Perfect. Petey is so gullible.

When we took him to a crowded dog beach, I didn’t worry that he’d wander off or hurt anybody, but I knew if anyone put a leash on him and led him away, he’d go with his tale wagging and his rangy hind-end swinging from side to side in that fetching way. And of course everyone who sees Petey must covet him. He’s very popular. One day when Teresa didn’t bring him to after-school pick-up, one of the teachers said, “Where’s your giant-headed dog?”

Speaking of dogs, yesterday I was out with Colin, who trusts no one except Teresa, but who loves to walk. We stepped over a fresh dog poop right in the middle of the sidewalk. “I can’t believe people do that!” I thought. And about twenty feet past the poop I became aware that there was a guy about a block behind us walking his dog, and soon they’d be approaching the poop, and he’d probably think it was ours. I went to get a poop bag out of the little plastic dispenser that’s clipped to the leash, but it was empty. So not only was I not going to pick up that poop, I was going to have to leave one of our own when the time came.

I called back to the guy, who was now within about five feet of the poop, “Excuse me! Do you have a poop bag that you could give me?”

“Sure.”

He was at the poop now and had a bag out to pick it up.

“Just so you know, that’s not my poop,” I said. He didn’t answer. “It’s also not my dog’s poop.” We both laughed. He caught up and gave me a bag. We were near a corner and walked off in different directions.

*

Enzo notes:

“Did you know that Bass rhymes with the A-word?”

*

“Mom! I saw a male squirrel. I saw its nuts. The squirrel’s junk is the size of its head!”

*

“I’m actually starting to grow hair inside my scabs. And I have so many, I’m going to name them.”

*

“Do you have any idea how many Jolly Ranchers I managed to get down my gullet?”

*

“Left-cross plus right-cross equals haymaker.”

*

“I’ve heard that at Troy there was a river of blood with parts floating in it, like armored breast-plates with like—” And here he pauses, not wanting to say “with the breasts inside them.”

“With torsos?” said Teresa.

“Yeah, with the torsos inside them. I’ve heard there were even some faces.”

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