I saw her walking her dog every morning, at, or near, the corner of Elm and Main; every morning, come snow, come rain, come heat, etcetera. She invariably wore dark blue factory pants and a light blue polo, a uniform of some kind. She looked like the manager of a Best Buy or some similar company. I don’t really know why I pictured that store in particular, but when I would watch her waiting for the light at the crosswalk to change, sometimes for a minute or more, I would envision her helping a customer find the appliance that best represented who they were as a person. She looked helpful, maybe even comforting. It had become a ritual for me, looking for her, and waving. She always waved back, like she might have been looking for me too.
I’m not gonna lie; she wasn’t pretty. She was overweight by any reasonable standard. Her hair was short and indiscriminately brown, the bangs just east of even, as if she had cut them herself. Again, I’m not gonna lie, she wasn’t pretty. I always liked pretty girls, thin ones, and some of them even liked me, but that never turned out well, the last one even less well than the others. And even though she wasn’t pretty or thin, my single-serving dog walker friend was attractive to me. Like I said, she looked comforting.
In terms of beauty, her pet made up for what she lacked, an Irish Setter, not prototypically red, but more of mahogany. I thought they were all red and had to Google to confirm that some were indeed mahogany. It was the most graceful dog I had ever seen. I thought about getting one just like it. I had never had a dog, pretty or otherwise, but my apartment is kinda small, so I decided against it.
This morning I was about 6 minutes later leaving than usual. I snapped a lace on my work boots and tried to find another. That sort of thing drives me crazy. I couldn’t, so I tied the ends together, a reef knot. I didn’t expect the knot to survive the day.
I hurried, but expected she would have already passed the crosswalk when I got there.
She should have, but I guess the lady in the smashed Prius was texting or scrolling Sirius. Anyway, my friend was lying in the crosswalk. I was the first on the scene, not counting the Prius lady who was screaming and babbling incoherently, or the graceful setter who circled and whined incoherently. By the time I heard the sirens, I knew my friend was gone, or almost so, her eyes already glazing over, like I had seen so many times on all those boys in that God-forsaken desert. Soon the intersection was a working hive. No one noticed that I took the Mahogany Setter with me. I guess my apartment is not so small, and I figured I owed her that.
Alan Caldwell lives in Carroll County Georgia, but is working on moving to his rural property in the mountains of Northeast Alabama. He has been married to his lovely wife, Brandi, for 33 years. He has one son, Caleb, who is a firefighter, a daughter-in-law, Chelsee, who is an emergency room nurse, and a grandson, Asher. Alan has been teaching for 27 years and spends much of his free time outdoors or reading. Alan has been collecting stories, mostly about his family, for over 40 years, but has just begun writing them.