Sunday, July 19, 2009

Who has seen my neighbor?

I don't know the man's name. Three times a day he walked his dog, a self-contained gray-black mutt, part shepherd, part hound, down Lakeside Drive from his cabin to the clubhouse and back, about half a mile. Six in the morning, one o'clock in the afternoon, and shortly before dusk settles down on the western side of the lake. Made no difference if it was five below in the dead of January or a shimmery ninety in muggy July. He had gear for all kinds of weather.

A silver twelve-year-old Toyota Tacoma sat in his driveway, but I hardly ever saw him driving it. About once a week, though, I'd notice the hood up, a handful of tools sitting on an old towel near the front driver's side wheel, and his legs and feet just visible, sticking out from underneath the truck. Once in a while I'd hear a wrench slip and the ping of metal on metal, followed by a spell of soft cursing.

It was always just him and the dog. Given his taciturnity and colorless utilitarian clothes, I doubt if he'd ever been married, but one never knows -- there are a few older quiet couples living back in the woods who stare off into space and seem to live pretty separate lives. Maybe at one time he was in a marriage like that. I don't know if he still had a job or not -- I'd say he was in his late fifties -- or whether he'd retired, or how he made a living. His cabin and yard were kept neat enough, but no effort was made to prettify either one.

If I waved to him, he would wave back vigorously, but he never spoke a word, he just proffered a crooked smile and turned back purposively to his walk. There was no meandering or lingering. The round trip was accomplished in nine minutes, hills included, which barely gave the dog time for his excited sniffings and urinations. But the old boy had gotten his timing down pat, having become so habituated to the routine that he was able to fire off a couple of squirts without hardly breaking stride. When the two of them fell into the same rhythm, it was hard to tell who was holding the leash.

On these walks, he looked like a man who has made up his mind about the important things in life and was then just following those thoughts to their natural conclusion. I haven't seen him in five days. His cabin's still standing, but the Tacoma's not there, and something seems off. Maybe he's gone to visit somebody or take a break. I have no idea. I hope I see him walking his dog tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment