Summer was officially over when you dove in the swimming pool and the chill numbed your body, and you darted like an arrow from underneath the frozen cold well water that filled the pool, in search of a patch of hot sun.
It was time to get ready for school. Shopping for the perfect gray uniform with perfect little white buttons, a pair of black shoes that fit and didn't hurt your feet when playing jump rope or “kesh bazi”. A handbag for your books, light enough to carry for long periods of time while walking to school.
Also on the list were pencils, a fountain pen and notebooks that were purchased from Seyed, the owner of our local convenient store. Seyed was a young man, in his late twenties, who had inherited the store from his father. He always gave us treats when we went to buy items from his store. We never paid him; he had a running account of our purchases, which my mother paid for at the end of every month. I saw Seyed again after a long time; he is still in the same store with minor modifications to the décor with his son working at his side.
I could never blink an eye the night before the first day of school. Excited about seeing my friends again, listening to their stories, playing, giggling and running around. What a perfect beginning to a fall day filled with bright yellow, orange and red leaves, flying in the air while you walked by the beautifully manicured gardens with iron gates that sometimes were open wide enough so that you could take a peek at the colorful flowers that were perfectly aligned and planted by some skilled gardener in exchange for food and lodging.
My route to school was a half-hour walk in the back streets and narrow walk ways in Shemiran. In addition to my bag filled with my school essentials I always carried my lunch, usually some tasty treat from the night before, in three-tiered stackable containers that were held together by a metal frame. The smell of the food made it hard for me to control my appetite and I always ended up having a sampler bite before lunchtime. That was if I were able to make it to school safely without sharing my food with the hungry dogs that were ready to attack at the first whiff of the “ghormeh sabzi”.
Through out my school years, I researched dog encounter schemes and tested my findings with various dogs. We even had “doggy attack” conversations with my brother and his friends who had the same experiences, sort of a “support group”. There were usually two types of dogs, the hungry dogs, which were the morning dogs, and the playful dogs, who were the afternoon dogs that have already digested your lunch and may or may not recognize you on your way home.
Throwing rocks at dogs was a reactionary trait of an inexperienced victim. You threw rocks at the dog, the dog became more furious and caught up with you until you either wet your pants or if you were lucky an older person would come to your rescue. I had already graduated into the “no rocking the dogs ” stage.
Escaping an attacking dog was no easy solution either. The faster you ran, the faster the dog ran, until they caught up with you and again, if you were lucky you were either saved or had to say goodbye to your lovely dry pants.
Then there was the leaving your lunch for the dogs and going to school alternative, hoping that when you came back your stackable containers were in the same place where you had left them, or otherwise you would be in trouble with mother and that was always worst than the wrath of dogs.
Someone even suggested sitting down. “Just sit still,” they said. Well I never dared to try. How could you sit still when you are staring at a mouth full of foam and hungry fangs of a canine?
Finally I figured it out. In addition to my lunch, everyday, I buttered a large piece of hot bread and smeared it with some of my lunch, as soon as I saw the first signs of a dog, I would throw the bread at him, when he got busy with ripping into the fresh hot whole wheat bread, I quickened my steps and disappeared.
This worked for a long time until one day I was greeted by a pack of dogs I had been feeding every day. They wanted it all and there was not enough for them to go around. I gave them the bread, my lunch, a little candy in my bag even a pack of gum, they ate everything and kept following me.
I still had about fifteen minutes to deal with these savage beasts. I started running and throwing stones and running. Exhausted and angry, I decided to become like them. So I stood still, dropped my bag and suddenly turned around as if to attack them showing my white teeth. All five of them retreated as quickly as a heart beat as I stood there in disbelief with a smile of victory.