They’re really the ugliest animals. Dirty dappled brown skin, squat, a face like a grimace. They look like gargoyles on all fours. Pitbull terriers. But I don’t suppose that many people noticed the ugliness so much. It was pretty dark. This one ran unleashed into the crowd eagerly, terrifying the bystanders. A lot of Asian people have a sort of dog phobia in any case and most of the people standing around were from the Subcontinent. Some froze or faltered in their steps. Some yanked their bags up suddenly. I wondered idly who his owner was.
Myself and my friend had just come back from Argos. He had recently bought a video camera and I had loaned him the money on my debit card so I had to accompany him down for an exchange. The thing had got these dead pixels in the viewfinder after about a week. Floating green spots on the screen which showed up when the lens was on. Over an incredibly boring and protracted thirty or so minutes while the store had been closing down, I had watched him getting slowly annoyed at the well-meaning lady on the counter. He had been particularly incensed because he couldn’t get a refund under their policy. He’d had to get a different camera – a Hitachi instead of a Toshiba.
We were just walking up to the station, him carrying the lime green Argos bag to his side, me on the left. I was looking at an interesting figure to my left, making some random comment about something, not really paying much attention to anything. Suddenly, he spat out something at a very tall man in front of us. Oi. Your dog just hit my bag.
The tall man turned around. He was about our age, with a leather jacket and a crew cut, tanned skin. What? Your dog just hit my bag. So? He spoke quite softly, as though he were having some sort of a normal conversation. My friend was screeching at him. What are you going to do about it – I’ve got expensive stuff in here. How about a sorry? I’m not going to do anything about it, the tall man said, slowing down. I don’t care. He shot me a quick look. I gave him back a bored and noncommittal stare. He had previously been walking much quicker, to keep up with the dog. Is that manners screeched my friend. He was literally shaking his fist at the guy, his hands dancing in the air in front of him to emphasise everything he was saying in short aggressive jerks. The tall man was now walking just ahead of me. He said so what or something. He was being deliberately soft and quiet. He was a passive aggressive sort of guy – they’re the worst ones. You’re a stupid cunt said my friend. I ought to teach you a lesson.
I sighed. I stepped in between the two while they traded insults over my head. I noticed that the tall man was stupidly repeating what my friend was saying. But he wasn’t even angry. Everything he said was absent of any passion. He was probably scared we were going to gang up on him and beat him up. Or maybe he figured we wouldn’t fight because of the clothes we were wearing and our middle class accents, plus the fact we were shorter than him, as though that meant anything. Or maybe there was something wrong with him mentally speaking. It was all pretty infantile anyway. We went a few more paces. It was about the length of four shops. I noticed that my friend didn’t know very many good swear words. Or if he did, he hadn’t been able to recall them for his angry little tirade.
After a bit, the tall man walked into my shoulder, then tried to push me away saying don’t touch me. I say that he tried to push me because there was absolutely no force in the movement of his hand. He was astonishingly weak, although people so lanky usually do lack strength and I suppose the dog must have been there to make him look hard for some reason.
The whole time, my friend had been looking at the tall man and the tall man had been looking at my friend. What had I been looking at this whole time? I had been looking at the group of three police officers that we were almost on, just outside the station. I had actually been walking towards them the whole time and the other two had just followed me down, unconsciously. An accidental and arguing group of three walking largely accidentally towards a more powerful and unified, deliberately placed group of three.
As soon as the guy pushed me, in front of the eyes of the police, I called the brunette woman in the front and middle of the group, telling her in a measured voice that the man was starting on my friend. She stared into my eyes for a long second. In the light, her hair was so dark it was almost black and her skin gleamed whitely in the light from the station. She had big eyes and a beautiful mouth. The tall man must have heard me and she watched him try to walk off quickly. She called out excuse me. He wasn’t completely an imbecile, so he came back, looking rather apologetic. I told the police lady we hadn’t done anything though and she said she knew. She was delving into my eyes again. I suppose if you wear smart clothes, speak in a posh accent, wear a good cologne and are complaining about someone that looks like a wannabe gangster with a ferocious pitbull terrier on the loose, the police are probably just going to automatically assume you’re telling the truth.
I watched the tall man lower his head and get rather anxious, like a school child that knows he’s about to get a scolding. He was actually dumbstruck. Of course the idiot had never realised the police were anywhere near the vicinity. My friend was standing next to me now. He was curiously silent and didn’t at all look angry any more. The existence of the policewoman and men at our side must have had a beautifully calming influence on his mind and tongue as well. We were both waiting and watching to see what would happen.
The police lady started asking the tall man why he was letting his dog just run around like that, scaring the old ladies. She had the typical Barking accent, seemed quite plump in her baggy uniform and was slightly shorter than me, although you wouldn’t have been able to tell it for the hat. She had very nice blue eyes. The kind of blue that is marbled inside, infinitely complicated. The other two policemen stared at the tall man silently. It must be pretty intimidating standing in front of three police officers when they’ve just seen you try to push a stranger around on the street.
We didn’t wait around to see what the idiot tall man had to say for himself or to say any thank you or bye to the police. I guess the guy was going to get fined or something because the dog didn’t even have a muzzle on – that is, if the police could be bothered doing anything about it. I was also bored. I said to my friend let’s go. We walked down the length of the station, past the big crowd outside waiting for their buses. I wanted to catch my train and go to Central and he wanted to go home with his new video camera. At the entrance he said see you later casually and walked off. Later, for a joke, he started referring to me as a snitch.