Monday. November 14, 2016..
8:30 AM. 43 degrees. Decided to take a walk around Downing Park after dropping Oliver off at school. Seemed like a perfect morning for it. Sunny. Sky clear and blue. But not a bright blue. Pale as faded jeans. Should have been a warning. That’s a November sky. Should also have checked the temperature before I got out of the car. Chilled to the bone before I’d walked twenty yards.
Only other human being in the park a man I immediately described to myself as old although he probably wasn’t much over 60. Which means not much older than me. African American with a pale gray cast to his cheeks with a woody brown showing through like the bark on certain trees. On the shorter side of average height. Thin in a way that suggested age overtaking him but might also have been evidence of exercise and healthy eating habits or simply genetics. He does get some exercise. A good walk at least. His dog sees to that. He was out with his poodle. A full-sized poodle. Biggest poodle I’ve ever seen. Standing on its hind legs it would have towered over its master by a head. If it wasn’t for the poodle cut on the top of its head and the ball on the tip of its short tail I’d have taken it for a wolfhound. Also it was chocolate brown and I think most wolfhounds are gray.
The dog was off its leash. Rooting around in the leaves, throwing up leaves with its nose. Man and dog seemed to be taking each other’s company for granted, neither paying the other much attention, until the man started off on his own across the park, hands in his pockets, eyes ahead, not looking back. At first the poodle didn’t notice or care. It tossed about in the leaves for a bit and then, when the man was a good ways away, fifty yards or more, it turned away from whatever in the leaves had fascinated it until then, and loped off after him, without showing a sign it was surprised or concerned the man had left it behind. It was as if it knew he’d have gone off and where exactly to find him. This must be their routine. The man continued walking, hands still in his pockets, and the dog followed, running but not in a particular hurry. It ran with goofy, loose-limbed joy, its tongue hanging out, and I swear a smile on its face.