Four degrees of Drew


He’s starting to sweat. It’s got to be here somewhere. The contents of his briefcase have spilled out onto the passenger seat as he rifles through the folders and loose papers in front of him. Christ, there it is. He doesn’t have time for this. He sweeps everything back into the bag. He’s going to be late for court, and he’s regretting that he skipped breakfast. His client is on the steps, waiting, looking nervous in a pair of ill-fitting slacks and a tie. Maybe he shouldn’t have advised the tie. He goes to open the car door and almost hits someone walking by with his dog.

The dog walker is short of breath. Pulling him along is a puppy with enormous feet and boundless energy. The pup is beyond happy to be out of the house, and is jumping up and down, catching the leash in her mouth, growling as she shakes it from side to side. Her owner dodges the car door opening in front of him, and smiles at the harried, frowning man inside. There is no smile in return. Looking down at his sweat pants and the XL Giants pullover he’s wearing, he shrugs. Who is this person, this heavy, balding, bad knee guy who feels out of breath walking a puppy around the block? He tugs back on the leash, and the puppy stops and looks up at him expectantly, wagging her tail. Just a quick break, here on the bench, okay?

The man on the other side of the bench is tying his shoe, giving encouraging smiles to the little girl yelling “Watch me! Watch!” from the playground. He nods at the man with the puppy and then heads back to the swing set, grabbing her ankles and pulling her high up into the air. She shrieks with delight. She’s not his, but it hardly matters. He’s been there for every milestone, and she loves and accepts him, no strings attached. If only the rest of his relationships were as uncomplicated. She grins and hops off the swing, heading for the street. He catches her before she can leave the sidewalk, holding up a grateful hand to the car that slowed as she got close. He scoops her up, and they head back across the park. He’s promised her ice cream.

He saw the child’s father coming for her but he slowed anyway. Jesus, keep a better eye on your kid. Accepting the man’s silent thanks, he heads toward the freeway. Up the onramp to I-80 East, he has a two and a half hour drive ahead, as long as the weather cooperates over the pass. He could drive there with his eyes closed, but once he gets out of the valley, the scenery is too pretty to ignore. The air coming through the vent is fresh, and the pressures of the day have let up a little. No need to think about anything but the song on the radio and the chip bag open beside him. Some things are simple. He’s grateful for this.

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