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The Cinnamon Walnut Monkey Muffin
One watching from the sidelines – or from, say, behind ferns in restaurants, or streetlamps on the corner of Chambers and Broadway (not that I was doing that) – might’ve seen it differently. But when Corporal O’Dey and his German shepherd police dog Mecca crossed the street looking fierce, there was a sudden shift in the city’s drama meter. It was palpable.
Two blocks down, coming out of the bakery on Murray with a Cinnamon Walnut Monkey Muffin with white icing clutched in her hand, Autumn Polinski (known as Miss Autumn to her first grade students) headed directly toward her school. Class was starting in twenty-three minutes. She couldn’t be late.
To reach the school, she decided to take a shorter (but much busier) route to the school building. She would have to pass the 9-11 monuments at Ground Zero. Then, a few more blocks and she’d be able to see the red rooftops of the school.
Picking up his speed, Corporal O’Dey headed toward Wall Street, called there urgently on his radio to assess some vandalism attempts. “Komm, Mecca,” he commanded. He used only German with his dog (not that he could’ve done different; the dog was trained in German), thinking that a stronger language was not only better at conveying emotion to the animal, but also liking the feeling that he was infinitely more intelligent than some people roaming the streets, as he knew a few words of a different language.
As she was passing Ground Zero, where reconstruction was happening – as it had been for several long years – Autumn saw a man in her peripheral vision. He looked like a hobo who’d been hired off the street and given a hard hat: his beard was scraggy and unkempt, he hunched unattractively, and he had mean, rough features as he lifted heavy objects. At the same moment that she saw the man – not paying much attention, might I add – Autumn saw a scruffy tan dog with a large bite out of his ear trot, tail between his legs, head down, away from the scene. There was a limp sandwich – plastic still on – dangling from his teeth. The hobo-worker-man saw the scruffy dog’s stolen lunch and he flung down his burden, going after the animal. “Oy!” he shouted. Autumn stopped and turned. The man was running after the dog and kicking its rear, shrieking obscenities until it dropped the food with a yelp and streaked behind a nearby building for cover.
Still spitting curses, the man went back to his work. Autumn normally wouldn’t have gotten involved – after all, this was New York City; these things happened all the time – but she somehow felt personally insulted by the man’s treatment of the poor creature. “Hey!” she yelled at the man. When he turned and saw her, he sneered, spat on the concrete, and answered, “Eh? An’ whadda you want, missy?” He picked at his tooth with a chipped, yellowing nail, still leering.
“Who do you think you are, mister?” she said in a firm voice, letting disgust drip from her every syllable. “You don’t just go around kicking animals, no matter how much they resemble yourself! That probably would’ve been the first meal that poor dog had had in weeks, don’t you think? Frankly, I am offended at the behavior you just displayed. For a grown man to act like an absolute imbecile out in public, all because of a pathetic sandwich, is absolutely appalling, and I’m going to have a word with your manager about the kind of riffraff they hire around here to work on a national monument being built to honor the lives given in the name of selflessness and patriotism!” And, hiding a smirk at the bewildered expression on the man’s face, Autumn whirled around and marched out of the construction zone.
On the sidewalk, where he had just arrived, eager to begin the urgent task of assessing graffiti, Corporal O’Dey watched the woman stomp towards him, a triumphant look on her face. The construction workers behind her, eyeing her with a mixture of apprehension and derision, were muttering amongst themselves. He stopped her in her parade. “Excuse me.”
“Am I in trouble?” she demanded, narrowing her eyes at him. She was clearly still in a fighting mood. “Because I think it is perfectly within my rights to defend my own home against the filth being spewed by our local laborers. Officer,” she added, as if it was an afterthought that might get her out of trouble.
Trying to hide a stunned laugh and failing, Corporal O’Dey quickly turned it into an over-exaggerated sneeze. “Bless you,” murmured the woman. “I really have to go. I’m already late for work.” She checked her watch; it was a lie, she still had twelve and a half minutes until classes started.
“Wait!” said the policeman, absently rubbing his German shepherd’s soft pointed ears. “That was an impressive speech,” he said, somewhat lamely, brushing a free hand over his severely short haircut. Miss Autumn gave him a lopsided grimace, fighting the sudden urge to laugh. “Feel… feel free to stop by the police station on 82nd anytime to… you know, inform my chief about the kind of riffraff they hire around here to work on a national monument being built in the name of selflessness and patriotism… and all that.” He smiled.
Autumn exhaled a laugh, relieved that he wasn’t going to cart her off to prison. “Thanks, Officer…” – she glanced at his badge – “O’Dey. That’s a beautiful dog.” She patted Mecca’s sharp nose, then straightened, finally remembering herself. “We-ell… It was nice to meet you, Officer. Goodbye!” And with a last smile, she walked off.
Watching her retreat, Corporal O’Dey muttered to Mecca, “Whaddaya think?” He had forgotten to use German. The woman, halfway past the monument, crouched down, right at the corner of a building, and called a few words he couldn’t hear. There was sympathy in her smile, and she gestured gently, coaxingly. After a moment of watching out of curiosity, the officer saw that a scruffy dog was cautiously limping towards her, his bitten ears perked up. She held out her left hand, where sat a Cinnamon Walnut Monkey Muffin with white icing.