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Tuesday, 22 May 2018

The chugger

In Redfern yesterday the sun was shining and we had brunch in a small café on the corner of Pitt Street. The food was tasty and reasonably-priced. I sat facing the direction the sun was shining from and people walked along the footpath where the table had been placed with chairs that had backs and metal legs. After eating, we left and walked down the street.

At the traffic light a tall thin man holding a disposable coffee cup in his hand was waiting for the light to change. At his heels was a black cavalier King Charles spaniel that had paralysed legs and wore a device on its lower body that had wheels on it, allowing the animal to pull itself along the pavement using its front paws. We crossed when the signal went green and walked the same way as the man. He stopped at a café near the corner and the dog came up to the step that separated its interior from the pavement. The man then turned to walk away and called the dog and the animal did not move, but kept facing into the shop. Then a woman holding a white plastic bag came out of the depths of the café and squatted down on her haunches in front of the dog, which had a diaper attached to its lower body, presumably to prevent waste from escaping unchecked.

The woman spoke to the dog in her native language; it sounded like Tagalog or Thai. She took some cooked bacon out of the bag and gave it to the dog, who greedily ate it, dropping part of the snack onto the pavement as it wolfed the food down its throat. The woman also spoke in English to the dog's owner who answered, “I got a free coffee from the park.”

Next door to the café an old woman wearing a printed dress and a black cardigan sat on the small verandah at the front of her house next to the door that led inside it. On her feet she wore socks and plastic slippers. Behind her the window of the front downstairs room had bars over it fashioned into a shape like a Christmas tree and images of Christ embellished the window for people in the street to see. The woman got up from her chair and came to the kerb where her wheelie bin stood. She did something with some newspaper and opened the top of the bin, then turned and walked back to her house. The garbage truck had just gone past, with a man driving and another man attending business at the back of the vehicle, collecting rubbish.

We walked through the streets and looked at the trees with their leaves changing colour with the season. The shops were open and people were eating and drinking at tables set on the pavements. The sun was warm where the trees did not shade the street from it. After a while we walked back toward the city, through Prince Albert Park along the paths that curve through the grass there. We separated at the train station and I continued alone toward home, through Belmore Park where a chugger said something to me as I approached him on the path. He kept facing me as I walked along intending to ignore him. “I have to ask you a question,” he insisted. “I don’t think so,” I answered without stopping. “Enjoy yourself today alright?” he replied passive-aggressively as I stalked past him in the waning sunlight, making my way northwest.

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