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Contemporary Creative Nonfiction Speculative

I noticed something different today. Perhaps more unusual than different, I see this guy walking by here towards the river, always comin after this mangy looking dog goes by. Didn’t think much of it the first time, but like most things when something keeps happening you get the hint that you maybe should be paying attention. 

I like to sit on the porch and keep an eye on the street so as it don’t get any funny ideas, like pot holes and such. Not that they bother me much more than the taxes do. Don’t drive anymore. They said I was too feeble to be allowed the opportunity to kill someone accidentally and get away with it. They think cause you’re old you are going to start running people over, just cause you can. There are a few benefits to getting old, killing people I don’t think is one of them. 

Anyway, I keep an eye on the neighborhood cause most folks is gone, and I don’t have a lot to do, so I kind of volunteer my time, like a neighborhood watch kind of guy. Never have seen anything funny going on except this guy who comes by every day following this dog. It made me curious cause the dog would be about a couple hundred feet in front of this guy, and it could've been they’re just going the same direction at the same time.

So I decide I’ve got to see what’s goin on, for the good of the neighborhood. I started walking around looking to see if I could find that dog. Well, one day I sees him slinking down the alley like I used to do when I was a kid, and knew I did something wrong but wanted to pretend I didn’t. So I follow this mutt for a little ways, keeping an eye out for anything suspicious. 

I notice right off that he stops like he knows where he’s goin, and slips up by the back of a house, there is an old dish with what I supposed was food, as he looked like he was eating. His tail goin a mile a minute, like he’s enjoying it. Then I have to hide cause he’s coming back. He goes down the alley and then ducks into this other yard, where he goes up to the back door and finds another dish with what I supposed was food and he pushes it around for a while, and then as if he weren’t caring much for it, he leaves. Then he turns and heads back down the street to where he come from in the first place.

Then I see this guy coming, so I watch. He’s just slinking along like he was taking lessons from the dog. I wait till he goes past, and I follow him. Keeping back, pretending like I was enjoying the beauty and all, just in case he should notice. Not that it mattered; no one sees old people anyway.

He walks about a couple of blocks, and then slips into the bushes that go along the river. There’s a small bridge there and so I watch as he goes across the bridge and then disappears. 

I don’t know what kind of guy this is. He might be a bad customer of some kind, so I just watch. I see him on the other side of the river tucking himself down next to this bush. Then I see that dog. He’s lying on this old blanket. They got a bunch of stones in a circle and the guy starts building a fire. He puts what looks like a can of beans or soup, something, right in with the crackling sticks.

I got tired of standing there guarding the neighborhood so went on home. Sitting on the porch I got to thinking if that could be the guys dog, he follows all the time. I decided to ask around to see if anyone knew anything about this guy and this dog. A lot of the neighbors can only watch so much TV, so they sometimes in the evening make up an excuse to walk down to the store. I get to know what’s going on when they stop to talk. I ask about the dog and the guy; no one knows anything about them. Seems peculiar to me, so I decide to see if I can follow them the next day.

Just like clockwork the dog comes prancing down the walk, and a couple of hundred feet back, the guy is coming. I wait till they pass and follow them. He goes the same route to the trail and then across the bridge. I see him settle down over there by the bushes. I’m guessing he lives there with the dog. I watch him put another can in the fire and lay down next to the dog. Then it looks like he’s telling the dog stories. I started to feel like I was doing something wrong, being snoopy like, so I went on home feeling like it was none of my business, but it was. 

Sat on the porch thinking about this guy and it starts in to raining. Can’t see how it can be much fun being out in the rain with just a blanket. I knowed from all the miserable times I spent camping over the years, the worst is when you get wet. Cold just won’t leave you alone. So I start thinking about camping. I got all that old stuff in the garage, don’t use it no more, kind of give up on camping. Comes a time when getting up off the ground ain’t as easy as it used to be.

The next day when I’m thinking he’s out with the dog, I take this old tent I got and a sleeping bag, and some old pans and put them in a duffle bag and take them down to the river. I don’t see them over there by their bushes, so I go across the bridge and leave the bag by the bush. I’m getting ready to leave when I hear something and look up, and here they come. I didn’t want to embarrass him, so I slip on down the river trail. They got another bridge down a ways; forgot how far it was though. Didn’t get home till near dark. 

I put an old sweater and a couple of old fishing shirts in the bag too. Hoped he’d at least get to feeling warmer. You never know about people. I have found over the years people are pretty much what you expect them to be, so it’s best to think they is alright, think they are good and see if they surprise you. 

The next day I wait, and here comes the dog. I wait for the guy, thought I’d introduce myself, let him know to stop by if there was something, I might help him with. Some people just have hard luck, some go a little crazy, war stuff, and some people just like being alone, keeping to themselves. But he doesn’t come. I wait and wait, and he doesn’t come. Finally I decided it was too late to stumble down to the river in the dark and so I just went to bed. 

The next day my curiosity got the better of me. I went down to the river and waited to see if he’d showed up. Waited and waited, but he never showed. I went across the bridge to the bush he was camped at and everything was gone. He’d put the rocks back by the river’s edge and scattered the ashes under the bush. Nothing left to say he’d ever been there. Got to thinking, maybe I made the whole thing up. Sometimes when it gets real quiet and lonely I tend to make up stuff to entertain myself. Never made up a real person and a dog before though, so didn’t know what to think.

Then I see it, tied to the branch of the bush with an old shoe lace. It’s paper from a soup can. Some writing on it says, “Thank you for being you.” That’s all. I don’t quite know what that’s supposed to mean. I’ve always been me, so I don’t really need anybody thankin me for it. 

I’m back on the porch wondering about the guy and the dog and what do you suppose? This gray three-legged cat comes by.  He stops on the walk and just looks at me like he knows me. Then he runs off next door. I asked George when he was goin by to the store, if he’d get me some cat food. He just looks at me like maybe he should call someone. “If’n you’re hungry or need somethin, all you got to do is ask,” he says. Some people just can’t seem to not put meanings where they don’t belong. So I just hissed at him and he wandered off, George, not the cat.

March 16, 2021 16:14

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