One could sense discouragement and sadness in the air. The intentions were good: to let go of the disaster and to meet with friends again, in a welcoming and protected place. But each one brought the wounds of the vicissitudes just experienced. Many had lost loved ones, all had to abandon their jobs, or their homes too. Distorted lives. How could anyone remember? Telling what had been before, without get caught up in melancholy, anger, fear?

Now, after the first practical matters, the enthusiasm had diminished. Everyone was avoiding eye contact with the others. They were lost, ashamed. The intention was to tell stories, yes, but how?

Delia broke the ice. She was the inspiration of that adventure, they all agreed that it was an exciting idea but also a frightening one, especially now that they were face to face with ghosts of the recent past. She had contacted everyone, she had suggested the place to take refuge. No one better than she could tune their voices in the right register.

Delia was not used to hiding. The tension had to be dissolved, she knew it well. She quickly made up her mind while looking at those present. She tried to look at the scene as if she were not there, she tried to notice the details.

A knot of two boys and a woman with long auburn hair spoke in a corner, they were Leo, Gep and Francesca. Two girls, Elisabeth and Rachel, were busy arranging a table that in fact was already prepared, everything seemed perfectly in place but they were asking another very young boy, Samir, to go and get this and that. The fire emanated flashes of Caravaggio’s light that lit up the scene in a rather dramatic manner.

Delia put her left hand in her pocket, rubbed the mixture of rosemary and thyme that she had picked up earlier in the garden and brought her fingers to her nose. She inhaled deeply. Whatever happens, it will be a success, she thought. OR at least, it will succeed. She just couldn’t stay in the drama.

“What a company! What a society!” She said aloud, but as if to herself, without talking to anyone in particular.

“Of course! A shitty society!” one of the two girls who seemed busy in all other matters replied immediately.

“Shit? Maybe it was! Shit is gold, my biology professor once said. He was an ecologist in his own way. I remember it as it was yesterday: the bus full of shouting kids who suddenly start screaming ’What a stink! How disgusting!’ Because we were passing amidst the freshly fertilized fields of fresh manure. And he: ’Guys, but this is gold! Open the windows, breathe deeply! This is how first fruits grow!’”

No general laughter broke out, but Delia saw some faint smile. Go on like this, she thought…

“Ah well, it’s easy to make jokes like that, but really there is little to laugh about”, the other girl insisted, “Or do you want to make a toast to shit?”, she provoked.

“Come on Rachel, don’t take it so seriously,” said Delia. “I didn’t want to make a silly joke. It was an old memory, of forty years ago, I always remind to myself that there are many points of view on things. And yet, when something stinks, you are right not to trust it even if others think you are a weirdo. Have I ever told you the story of the poop prints?”.

Rhetorical question. Poop prints? What kind of crap…

The faces become quizzical. Delia served herself a drink, she resumed her position beside the fireplace, and began to speak.

A Poop Society

Just before the plague it became very common to have a dog. A cat. A canary, or at least a goldfish. It was almost a craze, pet food stores sprouted like mushrooms, especially in the big cities. There were obviously also the eccentrics, which were accompanied by pythons or others wild animals, not to mention endangered ones. In short, a huge business.

I grew up in a house in the country, there had always been animals around and at home. In 2017, however, I lived in London, for work. I didn't like at all the idea of living with a dog or any other non-human animal in an apartment. In May a dear friend whom I rarely heard from called me. She had to leave suddenly, matters of health, but she did not want to tell me much, except that she would have to stay away at least six months, and then probably she would only return to the city occasionally. She made me a proposal: to leave the small rented house where I was living and go to stay at her home. It was an old family house with two floors, a real luxury in the city. She would pay the expenses, I only had to take care of her little dog that she could not take it with her.

It was a fantastic opportunity. I would move to a big house with a small garden in Hackney, not far away from the university where I taught. And the dog, Lea, a crossbreed between a Norwegian shepherd and something else, was twenty pounds of sympathy, a funny naughty furry creature. I accepted the proposal without any hesitation.

Summer came. I liked walking with Lea. Our cohabitation was indeed an idyll, even London seemed almost livable.

Until one day, as I was coming back home, I found myself facing Lea’s muzzle, stuck to the wall. At least, it seemed just her. Below was written:


“Anyone who has seen this specimen is asked to report it, thank you.”

Followed phone number, #pooprintswanted, email address and others references.

I didn’t understand. Was Lea wanted? For what?

I tore up the strange poster and threw it in the bin. It had to be a joke, absurd and idiotic, but a joke.

A few days later a strange letter arrived. It was signed “committee for law and decorum”. I was commanded to subject Lea to “regular procedure for recording the excremental DNA” in order to “Avoid further, unpleasant incidents” with respect to “alleged defecatory irregularities” of the dog in question.

I could not understand what it was. Attached to the letter was a brochure of the Pooprints, INC. and a package from the same company. It contained sterilized gloves, some plastic bags and an invitation to receive at home “Free and without obligation” the visit of a Pooprints representative to “solve the problem of canine dirt” through a “safety, simple and reliable DNA indexing”.

I did some research on Google and inquired among the neighbors. The company had already been dealing for a decade with “Management of waste through DNA”. A few months earlier the company had signed an agreement with the two major real estate companies in the area, which controlled large part of the locations. Tenants with dogs were obliged (referring to specific contractual clauses) to provide a sample of the poop of their dogs.

The dog’s DNA was stored in a central database. In case of shit findings on the street, in the flowerbeds, in the dog areas and so on, it was enough to test the suspect sample with the practical kit-control provided by Pooprints: the guilty quadruped was identified immediately and without any error and the human responsible was appropriately sanctioned.

Apparently, Lea was the last dog in the neighborhood not filed on the database. Not only: several neighbors had carried out tests on samples of shit found in the neighborhood and had given them to Pooprints which, thanks to an amazing new predictive technology, had been in able to provide an COLOR identikit of the alleged culprit: long fur, shepherd’s face, medium size…

I could not believe. Here’s what that “Wanted” poster was!

There was one thing that made me even madder about all this absurd story. I had always been very careful to collect Lea’s shit. Sure, not in the countryside, but in the city, yes, including the neighborhood. So the should be a mistake. Unless… someone wasn’t trying to set us up!

The idea was put in my head by an old friend of mine, a real freak, we called him El Mago. Together we had studied the fantastic services of the poop society. It turned out that the canine DNA tests were very precise, the chances of error were minimal. Then, according to El Mago, there was only one real possibility: someone had messed around with Lea’s poop! We had begun to draw a profile of the possible maniac.

There were a couple of neighbors who had always been really rude to me and decidedly intolerant with Lea. In particular a middle-aged man, tenant of an apartment building at the end of the street, who from the first meeting had looked at Lea with ill-concealed disgust and he had declared:

As I said to the other lady, you should put her on a diet, she’s too big!

Once I ventured to point out that Lea was very hairy, and so she looked a little chubby, and in any case what was the problem? But he mumbled something unpleasant and went straight ahead. My sixth sense told me that Mister “put the dog on a diet” had something to do with this. El Mago agreed.

From that day on I paid close attention to all the scatological details. Until the discovery: that man followed us and gathered Lea’s poop from the basket! El Mago had the photos that proved it. We found out that he was obsessed with fat (yet he was not thin!) and he had chosen us as a target.

And so Lea was exonerated, completely rehabilitated, and everyone lived happily ever after!

Or rather, I was able to postpone the DNA filing to a later date. But even then I was like a sore thumb, or a black sheep, the only one in the district who was considered “uncooperative”. It was a strange time in which those who did not conform, those who did not accept any news without complaining or with enthusiasm, were looked at with suspicion. Maybe they had something to hide…

But that’s another story!