Walking the Dog

A couple of days ago my husband and I stayed overnight in a mid-sized town we’d previously only driven past. Our hotel was centrally located and the weather was nice so around seven o’clock in the evening, the dog and I set out to explore, while my husband bought us dinner. After a bit, I noticed a man walking about thirty feet behind us and thought nothing of it. I turned a corner, so did he. Another corner, the same man behind us. “I’m not following you,” he hollered. “Okay,” I said and yet, I began to feel a little creeped out when I did a U-turn, starting back toward the hotel, and he did the same. Eventually he came up alongside of us. “Would you like some bread?” he asked me. “I’ve got a ten dollar bill in my pocket and I’d like to buy you food.” I assured him it wasn’t necessary and turned into the parking lot of the place I had left my husband to pick up our dinner. The man walked on. I had no sooner sat down on a bench in front, than a young woman dressed in a long black robes like graduation attire, walked up and warned me that the girl at whom she was pointing — the one I could see waiting on my husband inside — was a thief — and that my husband — “I assume he’s your husband,” she added — had better count his change. “I grew up here and was gone for three years but now I’m back.” She went on at length about the twenty dollars this woman owed her and told me she regularly stands outside the place, trying to get her money. “Last time they called the police but I just walked up and licked the window,” she went on to say. My husband came out and we walked back to the hotel, where I saw from our window, the black-robed figure walking back and forth whenever I looked out. The next morning I was out with the dog again and a homeless man stopped to tell me about his shoulder injury. He didn’t ask for money, he just seemed to want to talk. He had fallen down over by the river, he said, and was taken to the hospital and treated, but he couldn’t use his left arm any more. “And that was my good one,” he sighed sadly. On our way back home, we stopped at an interstate rest area and a young man sat with the familiar sign: “Homeless. Anything helps.” I must’ve reached some personal tipping point, because I slipped him a five on my way back to the car.

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