Monday, July 25, 2011

Johnny Cash's Dog

It's not my imagination, more and more people are dressing in all-black. Black sweaters, shirts, jeans, jackets. It's as if the world is hosting a fashion tribute to the late Johnny Cash. He left a musical legacy unparalleled by few, and many people apparently feel the urge to pay homage to him through fashion. It's a good look on some, but now there's Johnny Cash at the Kandle Nook, Johnny Cash at the Rexall, and his likeness can be seen browsing the display cases at the Fudge Barn. I've been noticing something about these dressed-in-black people, especially when standing in line behind them at the grocery store. The all-black garments seem to attract a large amount of debris, like threads and dog and cat hair. This is especially true if the dressed-in-black person has a light colored pet. The hairs littering their backside form a sort of untidy collage that screams anything but Johnny Cash.

As a public service, while waiting in line behind Mr. or Mrs. Cash, I count the pet hairs on the back of the person's clothes, and when finished (often, this takes almost until they are checking out and leaving the store), I say the number out loud, followed by the identification of the pet. For instance, I might say "thirty-six, dog," or "fifty-five, cat," depending on the animal. This is not an effort to be rude, rather it's an attempt to be helpful, alerting the wearer-of-black that they have some personal maintenance to do before attending that all-important-meeting. There is no charge for this favor.

So far, no one has thanked me for this valuable observation, even though it's delivered in a soft-spoken and respectful manner. There have been some off-putting looks, and one woman turned around after I said "forty-four cat, twenty-two dog," (the combo, perhaps the most difficult to sort while counting), and quickly replied, "Sixty-six, nut-ball." I figured she was just one of those math whizzes, because she didn't even bother to take into account the dog and cat part.

Another time, after I said, "Twenty-nine dog," this guy delivered an immediate, "Hike!"
It became clear that my message was not being received as intended. That is, until I ran into Mincey: waved-out, wild looking red hair and big peace-symbol earrings. She was ahead of me in line at Happy Foods and wearing a black cape when I said, "Nineteen, cat."
"Twenty-one, if you look closer," she replied. "I counted them before I came into the store. I left my beret in the car because, besides looking not right, it had thirty-three, and the two added up to be an even number, and you know what can happen with that." She held out her hand, "I'm Mincey; I count. My cat, Mr. Numbers, keeps me busy. Beige fur."

We walked out of the store together, counting out-loud, in unison, the floor tiles beneath our feet. Once outside, the subject eventually turned to the wisdom of Zorro for choosing a black horse. "Imagine the maintenance on the cape if he'd have ridden a white one," she said. We laughed and also agreed there's no room for plaid in our lives. As Mincey says, "It's a confusing mass of every-which-way colors that has the ability inspire a headache." And shirts with pictures on them. Mincey said when a guy shows up for a date wearing a t-shirt featuring a picture of a largemouth bass or a deer head, the relationship is deemed unsalvageable.

My own shirt was a plain light grey, and, other than buttons, had no ornamentation, which gave me the courage to ask a question that's kept me wondering for a long time. I asked her what kind of dog she thought Johnny Cash had. Her answer was very definite, "A black one." She told me how she observed these things for many years and even brought binoculars to a Johnny Cash concert in 1976. Her report: "Nothing, not one hair, so it must've been a black something-or-other." Mincey was an expert in her field.

I thanked Mincey for assigning a punctuation to this mystery, and when I turned to go, she shouted after me, "See you on the next odd numbered day with a multiple of three, my shopping days."

On the way home, I wondered if that meant we had a date. This could be trouble. Maybe I'd gotten in over my head and people will talk about my new affair and I'll be relegated to the liquor lane at Happy Foods where the guys wearing odorous cologne check out. I can't possibly have an affair; it's just one more chore with extra laundry, leftover beverages, and unexplainable half-eaten bags of snacks, not to mention the burden of keeping stories straight. This had doom, worry, and disappointment written all over it. There was only one option: I headed to Gibler's Sporting Goods where they sell t-shirts emblazoned with the wholesome, yet pugnacious, largemouth bass. I hope Mincey understands. Breaking up is so very hard to do.