Unexpected DutchmanÓ

By Joe Mikuliak

Outside was dark, cold, damp, and the time-too late for a dog walk. I don't want to go out. But out I go-into the winter night with Tray, my Akita. I have only a direction, south, in mind. And that this is my last dog walk for a week. I'm leaving on my trip tomorrow.

My dog's fast to the corner pole. Then we turn right. Down at the bus stop a guy stares up at us. No one else is within sight.

I look at the young man. Everything I see on him looks dirty. His thin coat is mud encrusted; his black knit cap-torn and tattered, his white face as filthy as a face can get. He looks like a chimney sweep. When is the last time you saw one of them? Tray and I are at thirty-five feet and closing.

The man's bright eyes alternately glare at us, and then past us up the empty street. I turn and look north too, no bus in sight. At this time of night one comes every half-hour. One can get old just waiting for the bus. Tray and I will walk past him now, I think. Our eyes meet.

Nothing ventured; I say "Hi", nothing gained, he says "Hi". He looks at the dog. It is a look of great loss. He is missing something. I say "Do you like dogs?" He says, "Yes!"

I wheel Tray around. The young man's down on his knees. Tray sits. In an instant we both put our hands into the thick, thick, hair of my dog's neck. I know it's a great feeling. I get to do it all the time. It's like touching a warm, live, fur coat, and the fur coat loves it. The young man gives Tray a great big hug. And me a giant smile of white teeth and dirty cheeks. This moment brightens the night for all of us. Dogs can do that between people.

"What a beautiful dog" the young man says, repeatedly. What an accent he has! I know it because three co-workers, men from Holland, all have the same accent. He's Dutch! And I leave for Amsterdam tomorrow.

At that moment, over his shoulder I see the bus zooming toward us. I want to tell him I'm going to visit his country, but the bus has the green light. I want to know why he's so dirty, but the bus will keep going right by us.

Out towards the street I jump, waving my arms; the bus screeches to a halt. The young man gets up and says "Thank you, thank you, thank you" in his thick Dutch accent. He and the bus leave me and my dog to a completely quiet, totally lonely corner. But it's not as cold. I'm very glad I came out to walk the dog. And I'm thinking, I will see this Dutchman again.

But I never have.

The end.

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