A Yellow Dog at the Gate (Dream Journal 2/97)


Tonight, my dreams held me captive until, thirsty, I woke up a little past three. A shattering noise on the street startled me. I looked out my front window; the woman turns the corner, only the brown skirt flapping around her ankles convinces me that it's her. She's younger than me, but stooped and bent. Old. From living on the streets, I think. Maybe, she lives under the freeway with the others. If she sleeps, it's not during the night. During the night, she roams my street searching for wine bottles and soda cans. Anything she can sell the next day. The city calls her a poacher and asks all residents to call in reports on her poaching activities. I can't do it. Where else can she make a little money?
I tried talking with her once. I thought she had started taking the plants from my porch steps. Nothing she said made any sense. The neighborhood kids call her MaiMai. I think it's because of the sound she makes deep in her throat. Sometimes, she walks around the block five or six times. Vocalizing. I wonder if she has Terette's Syndrome. I wonder where she sleeps. Is she like electronic sheep? Does she dream?
Gus, my neighbor, always yells at her from his upstairs window, calls her crazy. He yells, "MaiMai, get the hell off my grass." He bangs on the window glass with his cane. "You're crazy. Crazy! Get some help." I was shocked the first time it happened. A grown man tormenting another being that way.
Last week, he came down stairs and chased her off with a gun. She stood her ground until he came down from the porch onto the sidewalk. Then, she just ambled away, making that cooing sound in her throat. After one of these encounters, Gus stays angry for days. Yells at his wife (I know because I can hear him), yells the kids playing on the street, yells at the postman for being late. Who's the crazy one in this picture?
There's usually a yellow dog that follows along behind her, just as shabby as MaiMai, but, it does more damage. Whether it's hers or not is unclear, she doesn't call it to follow her. It's almost as though she is oblivious to it. Sometimes, when she vocalizes, the dog howls with her setting off a terrible commotion around my house. Dogs from all around join in.
The house next door is dark. Good. Gus must be up in Reno, again, gambling. Probably took his wife with him to make up for yelling at her. She sure puts up with a lot. Never says a word to him. Never complains to me about him. A real saint. Not many around these days. I'd boot him out in a minute.
In the moonlight, the yellow dog, with tail curled between its legs, roams from trash can to trash can, knocking the covers loose, tipping some over, scattering garbage on Gus' lawn. He makes a bigger mess than usual. Gus will be steamed when he gets home. Would save a lot of hassle, if I picked it up. At least put the covers back on the cans. On the other hand, I like a good fight. And I can wait to decide in the morning whether to pick it up before he gets home.

The only light comes from the flames and the pulsing red of the police car.