Southern Life

I believe I may have told you that I have three dogs. Each was a gift from one of my daughters while they were in high school and/or college. The smallest of these mutts is a little over eighty pounds and the largest something over one hundred pounds. They are what some might call “big dogs.”

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For the most part, they are sweet and well behaved. However, they do appear formidable, especially when they charge out from the dark shadows of bushes at night. So, I tend to keep them on a short leash, so to speak.

The dogs have a fairly large yard to stay in. Even so, to get them some exercise I walk them twice a day and usually to a large area several blocks from my house where they can be let off the leash and run around, chasing tennis balls and one another. It is an idyllic life for both man and beast.

Tonight, as I approached an intersection on the way to the release field, I first heard and then saw a young couple walking on a trajectory that was perpendicular to mine. To keep from crossing the intersection at the same time as the couple, I stopped at its entrance, made the dogs sit and waited for the couple to pass.

For a while, they noticed neither the dogs nor me. Their physical attitude one to the other indicated a substantial physical attraction existed between them. They walked, ambled really, side by side, her with her arms wrapped around and entangled with the closest of his. If this were not clue enough, she inclined her head so that it rested against his shoulder, removing it only to gaze up at him and reply to some little thing or other he said to her.

The night itself was one of those soft, southern nights, warm, but not too warm, and offering the skin just a kiss of a breeze, what our grandparents used to call a zephyr.

They passed me as they walked though the intersection and, as they did, the young man inclined his head to me and spoke, saying, “It’s a nice night.”

I replied, “Yes, it is a great equalizer.”

It took a moment for my reply to marinate in their love besotted brains but when it had they turned, as a single unit, still arm in arm and head on shoulder, to face my dogs and myself.

The young man spoke a single word question, “Equalizer?”

“Of course,” I said, “when you are young and in love any weather will do. To make things fine for an old fat man out walking his dogs, beautiful weather like this is required.”

My retort elicited a gratifying belly laugh from them both. However, I must confess the young woman’s laughter was like ear nectar, auditory ambrosia, the bells of Heaven calling angles to choir.

Had she merely laughed and been upon her way, it would have been a wonderful thing. She was not so content. She disentangled herself from her young man and walked the thirty or forty feet that separated us. She braved the dogs, who sniffed her private fragrances and demanded the affection of her hand on their various heads and rumps, as dogs will do. Having run that gauntlet, she bent down, for she was a good four inches taller than me, and kissed my cheek. She stood back straight and said, “Thank you, that made my night.”

Now, I am an old fool, but not that big a fool. I knew from the way she walked with her young man that her night had been well made long before I showed up. Not only that, I had no doubt her night would likely be remade shortly upon her return to wherever they were staying.

So, after watching her turn and begin to walk away, I said, a heart beat or two too late, “If that is true, then,” now turning to face her young man and wag a pointed finger at him, “you should be ashamed of yourself.”

This remark elicited a chuckle from each of them but it did so at a great price.

Instead of allowing her to walk away, basking in the glow of my mute admiration and appreciation, something she richly deserved, I succumbed to ‘last word ism.’ Had I not done so, the incident would have remained one of the most perfect in the lives of at least two of us. But no, I took one of the very few perfect moments ever made available to mankind and cheapened it with one jest too far.

Don’t get me wrong. It remains a great moment. But, because of a mouth that outpaced its brain, it is not the perfect moment it could have been.

Mike Copeland

Mike Copeland

I am old enough to know better. I have a B. A. from Birmingham Southern College and a Master's in City Planning from Georgia Tech. I have worked in SC State government for over a decade leaving as the Deputy Executive Director of the State Budget and Control Board, the state's administrative agency. I have owned the Fontaine Company since 1984 and am the managing member of a management, marketing and consulting company.

I am the author of several novels, some of which you may buy and read if you are of a mind to do so.