Sunday, June 17, 2012

Buffalo Wings: Serendipity with The Shepherds

It has been a very long time since Duncan and I have encountered The Shepherds on our walks so I was surprised this morning to come face to face with them once again, only this time the outcome was completely unexpected.

We were playing fetch on the shady side of the park, staying under the tall elms that grow above the lower soccer field. The morning was hotter than usual and Duncan was feeling it, panting and laying down to roll in the grass clippings. He lost interest quicker than usual and instead became fixated on sniffing out the goodies leftover and discarded in the grass from yesterday's sun-worshippers. Just as I laid down next to him I noticed The Shepherds not far away. We have been respectful and courteous to each other since our showdown that dark night several years ago, keeping far away from each other, nodding politely and leashing our dogs as we pass one another. I leashed Roo and stood up to move away but Duncan, always far wiser than me, turned and trotted right in their direction. When I pulled on his leash and said no, he bore down against me, flashed me a look as though to say, "trust me," and pulled me after him. I was nervous but he has yet to steer me wrong so I followed, reeling in the leash and commanding him to heel as we approached the man and his two dogs.

"Good morning," I called.

Mr. Shepherd leashed his dogs, one of them a dark puppy with enormous feet and a too-big tail, fluffy and black and longer than his body. "Good morning," he replied tentatively. After all, none of our conversations have been positive and he was as nervous as I was.

We made small talk for a bit and I asked about the puppy. All those years ago there had been two mature shepherds but Enzo, the male, died just before Christmas and Bodi, the puppy, was a new gift to his wife. Bodi was playful and loveable, nipping at Duncan's ears and rolling in the grass at his feet, but Jay, the large female, was still aggressive and unsure of our presence.

I don't remember exactly how it came up but Mr. Shepherd said that he'd just returned from Buffalo where he was born and raised.

"I'm going there in a few days!" I exclaimed. He asked if I was from there so I explained about Kevin's father's memorial service and meeting his family and how I'd only passed through Buffalo on a train twenty years ago on a trip to visit April in Boston. He asked if we were planning to visit Niagara Falls, which is where his family now lives.

"Of course!" I said. "We're really excited about it!"

"Oh, that's great. It's a pit, a real shit-hole on the American side," he said, "But you have to stop and eat at Viola's! They have the best sandwiches! Don't get anything except the double steak and cheese. You'll thank me later. And if you have time, go to The Como! They have the best Italian food you'll ever eat!"

"Viola's and The Como," I repeated. "Got it!"

"And be sure to try beef on a weck. And don't shy away from the horseradish!"

We talked for nearly an hour about Buffalo and Niagara Falls and then about our dogs, all of whom were laying in the grass, Duncan minding his own business, Bodi still struggling to latch onto one of Roo's ears, and Jay batting at our shadows on the ground. We laughed and exchanged stories and shook hands when it was time to go. I still didn't get his name but I'm sure we'll meet again, next time under far better circumstances than in the past.

It felt good walking home afterward, grinning ear to ear, which puzzled Ken, who was sitting on the patio sipping his coffee and watching us when we arrived home. I explained the story to him and we both marveled at how The Universe has a way of giving us what we need exactly when we need it. Forgiveness, like feathers, come in the most surprising shapes, at surprising times.


GOOSE said...

I could listen to MOM read your story again and again. Duncan you sure know what to do to bring about a beautiful ending to what might other wise have been a missed opportunity to bring a smile to your dads face.
Goosegstomsa 66

Mrs. Applebaume said...

What a wonderful resolution. One more change for the better checked off the list. xo