They are here in the shop. They are blue, cream, and white, and happy with the weather. Their heads go from side to side, looking at everything fast. They talk at the same time and stack books back on the shelves, placing them exactly as they were before. One lady taps the spines back into soft lines with her fingertip. Lovingly. They call to each other, and their heads go from side to side again as they look at each other’s books, and then back to their own books.
One says, ‘Quick, the lads are here.’ They shuffle and stack harder. One shows the other a picture in a book and they both give quick screams of laughter. Two men come in. The four of them gather tightly. One lady is balancing some books on one hip, ‘I’m getting these, and she thrusts them at one of the men, and he looks down admiringly. He says, ‘Did you leave any for anyone else?’ and the ladies give small screams again, and the man looks happy.
Illustration by Inge Look
He is always out there. He is always laughing.
He is always talking.
Sometimes he is with a quiet group at the bakery; they line up along the windows, everyone with morning tea and a dog. Many of the dogs have a mat and a bowl and are important. Some just have the ground, and these dogs are also important. Everyone talks about their dog and how they manage. It is a happy group. The dog man sits here and his laugh scatters and scribbles up and over and up and over, sailing and swooping and interested in everyone and really liking dogs. Everyone smiles, even people are who not in that group.
To me, hearing from inside, the dog man’s space always seems to get bigger. He influences the air across the motorbikes and the galahs, the traffic and the parking dilemmas and the bus queue. His laugh folds out and up, it concludes over the top of everything and then returns to him, like a lasso, ready for the next go.
Two motorcyclists outside my shop window are shouting: do you need fuel, do you need fuel, mate… three times they roar at each other over their engines, they won’t turn them off and nobody can hear anything. But the laugh of the dog man is even louder, it touches them like the end of a whip and their heads turn sharply toward it, they are silently trying to locate it, that loosening knot of mirth that punctures power with a new authority and then slides away from them again before they can place a boot on it.
Artwork: A Man and His Dog by Gary Bunt