There she was again: the well-heeled woman of a certain age from my neighbourhood, walking her toy poodle. There to let her beast “do its business”. And madam without a plastic bag on her person to pick up the mess. (Or is it madame? I was never sure if it was Madam Butterfly or Madame Butterfly … or even Madama Butterfly?)
Anyway, our Madama Butterfly and her dog had been befouling Mosman for years now and no one had ever called her up on it. Yet we had rules in society … one was that you cleaned up after your pet. If everyone did what she did, we’d have anarchy. The streets of Mosman would resemble Paris, the boulevards festooned with dog merde. Someone had to make a stand. Heroism was on the line, Mr Templar – would I accept the charges?
I popped on a shirt and jeans and raced down to the lawn just as her poodle stopped shaking its leg, a satisfied post-crap look on its tiny face. The haughty madam looked at me in alarm … perhaps almost guiltily. Because she was indeed guilty.
“Hi there,” I began. “I noticed that your dog just crapped on our front lawn. I was wondering if you were going to pick it up.”
She looked down her nose at me in disdain. “I beg your pardon?”
“I mean you’ve been letting your dog soil our grass for years without picking up his business. I was hoping that one day you’d do the neighbourly thing and bring along one of those black plastic bags and collect the crap. You know, like everyone else does.”
“You’ve been watching me?”
“Both of you, actually. Not in a creepy Sting ‘I’ll be watching you’ way, but in a neighbourhood watch way. And I have to say, it hasn’t been a pretty sight, what with all the lawn defilements. But your poodle has an excuse. I can’t expect little Cujo there to pick up his own mess. That’s your job. So … ummm … next time you come by here, please make sure you’re ready to clean up after Mr Tiddles there.”
“How dare you talk to me like that!” she gasped, taking a step back.
“Hey, lady, how would you feel if I came and took a crap on your front lawn? I can’t imagine you’d be too pleased. I’m sure the rest of the people in my block don’t appreciate you treating our nature strip as a public toilet.”
Alarmed, the dog owner started walking away. I followed her slowly as she led the poodle up the street. “I hate bringing this up as much as you do having to hear it. I didn’t wake up this morning and decide to play the role of dog faeces enforcer.”
“Get away from me!” She walked away quicker, dragging little Cujo on his leash.
“Sure, I’ll give you and your pet your space. Just remember our little talk. Or who knows what might happen to your own lawn.”
“You wouldn’t dare!” But of course she really didn’t know me at all. If I’d posed nude in an art class, worked as a Santa at a shopping mall, tried to marry a sex doll and completed any number of daring and foolish tasks in the name of journalism, a bit of DIY lawn brownscaping wasn’t beyond me.
Let’s hope it wouldn’t come down to that.
Awkward neighbourhood encounter aside, the other big business of the day was a night-time story shadowing a young rogue who worked for one of the big music promoters, affixing posters around the Sydney CBD at night. He’d contacted me and said it might be an interesting story to see the promotional aspects of the music industry. No doubt his boss had put him up to it. Curious, I’d said yes. I’d always marvelled at those posters everywhere and wondered about the tireless souls who glued them up.
Anyway, after that had wrapped up, I’d enjoyed a few cleansing Strongbows with the lads.
Then I staggered out of the pub at 2am in search of a taxi … and maybe a kebab. My journey took me down a darkened cul-de-sac off George Street. A rather large, nattily dressed, fair-haired white dude hove into view. I went to move past as I listened to my iPod. He moved to block me.
“You’re in my way,” I said as I came to a halt, removing the headphones.
“Not really – this is my profession,” the stranger intoned.
“Getting in the way of slightly inebriated townsfolk?”
“Nah. Mugging people.” He flexed his fists, which resembled hammers. As Scoobie-Doo might say: “Ruh-oh.” I clutched my satchel possessively as I felt a frisson of fear. But also curiosity.
“You’re … mugging me? I thought they didn’t have inner-city muggings any more.”
“No one told me.” He didn’t appear drunk, so maybe he really was a mugger and not one of those binge-drinking steroidal assholes who cruised the city late at night looking for teenagers to king hit. He reached towards me with a meaty hand. “Now hand over the iPod.” I paused. Flight or fight, I asked myself. The mugger professionally eyed me over. “Don’t mess around. I can tell what you’re thinking. You’re a big man, but you’re out of shape, and this is my job.”
“A Get Carter reference. Well done, sir.” A significant part of me was alarmed by this encounter. Yet another part of my mind thought it might make a great story. That’s journalists for you: they’re ready to turn any personal calamity into a front-page story. I handed over the iPod. Rather than immediately pocket it, he scrolled through my song selection. I watched him scroll for a few seconds.
“What’s all this eighties crap you’ve got on it?”
I felt strangely offended. First he was mugging me, then he was criticising my taste in music. “I like the eighties. The New Romantic period was great.”
“The New Romantic period was balls,” he declared, continuing to scroll.
“I defy anyone not to be moved by Ultravox’s Vienna.”
“Never heard of it. I’m surprised you even have an iPod. You should have a Walkman. Or a collection of eight-track cassettes. Hmm, Nana Mouskouri, Flock of Seagulls … let me just check one final thing … yes, you have 99 Luftballons. I thought so.” The odd interloper stopped scrolling through my list of artists. “That’s it. I’m afraid I can’t take this. Your musical selection is too embarrassing.” He promptly handed the iPod back to me.
“What are you talking about?” I croaked.
“They call me the Discerning Mugger. That’s because I’m discerning about the tastes of the people I rob. I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to mug you tonight. Good night. Sorry to bother you.” He turned around to leave.
“Wait! I’m a journalist from the Clarion. I’d be interested in interviewing you.”
The mugger stopped, then turned around. “You’ve got to be joking.”
“No, I’m not. Think about it. It would make a great story. The annals of the Discerning Mugger. Or The Guy Who Mugged Me.” The mugger laughed, joy twinkling around his eyes. He paused, thinking. He was intrigued.
“I don’t know about that. But you just might be weird enough to be worth having a drink with, as long as you don’t bear a grudge about what just almost happened.” He handed me a card. It read “The Discerning Mugger”.
“Like the colour? That’s bone.”
“Give me a call sometime and we’ll go to the pub and talk about your dubious musical choices.”
“I might just take you up on that.” I looked down at his card again.
“Don’t worry – people think I’m just being ironic and postmodern with that card. They never really believe that I’m a mugger. Anyway, must dash. Those discerning victims won’t mug themselves.”
“Happy hunting DM,” I said to his retreating back. “I’ll be in touch.”
What a strange man.
It had been a full day but not without its rewards. As the taxi drove past the house of the poodle faeces offender I had a sudden idea. Perhaps it was time for justice after all. And I did need to go to the bathroom somewhat urgently.
“Mate, let me off here,” I said to the driver. Once on the street I crept up to the middle of the lawn and eased down my trousers. Yes – it was time for revenge, for all the times Madam Mosman and her poodle had befouled the lawns of the neighbourhood. I grunted as the noble path of justice took its majestic course.
If you woke up early enough in the morning, had your window open and your ear cocked at the right location, you could just about hear it: “Nooooooooo!”