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Dog-gone by Paul Beckman

She walks down the street wearing a fur coat and wide-brimmed hat leading a Jack Russell terrier on a leash. I watched her sit on a bench outside Central Park, back erect as it was when she walked. I took the seat on the opposite end removed my Amy Hempel book Animals from my backpack and read a page before turning to her and saying hello. She turned her head my way and I held up the book and asked her if she read it. She turned back, bent over, whispered to her dog, got up and walked away.

I wouldn’t have started a conversation with a total high class looking stranger if I hadn’t observed her two other times this week going through the same ritual with different dogs. I felt the need to know if she was a rich society lady with multiple dogs or a down-on-her-luck once society lady now earning food money by being a dog walker.

There were other possibilities but I liked these two so I followed her—from a discreet distance of course. Tomorrow I’ll dress better than today which is my normal ripped and stained jeans, hoodie and boots. My beard and mustache both have minds of their own but I speak softly and friendly and while I’m a tall good-sized guy I believe I’m non-threatening.

Today I see her with a large bulldog (but aren’t they all) and she does her usual walk around Central Park South and heads uptown and finally lights on a bench. She’s wearing a blue Ike jacket, tight pink jeans and a fedora with a feather. I have on my blue blazer, white shirt with blue stripes, and chinos with cuffs falling just above my scuffed penny loafers. I stopped at a barber shop and had my mustache and beard trimmed short and took a seat on the bench a non-threatening distance away and told her that her dog was beautiful and asked if I could pet him. She handed me the leash and I coaxed the bulldog over and rubbed and petted him and became his best friend.

The lady looked over at the two of us, got up and walked to the street where I watched her flag down a cab and drive out of my life leaving me with this beautiful dog. Finally I got up and walked until I saw a cop and told him my story. You’re the third one this week he told me and wished me luck.

Paul Beckman was one of the winners in the 2016 The Best Small Fictions and his story, “Mom’s Goodbye” was the winner of the 2016 Fiction Southeast Editor’s Prize. He’s widely published in the following magazines among others: Raleigh Review, Litro, Playboy, Pank, Blue Fifth Review, Matter Press, Pure Slush, Thrice Fiction, and Literary Orphans. His third and newest flash fiction collection is Kiss Kiss, (Truth Serum Press.) Paul had a story selected for the 2018 Norton Anthology Micro Exceptionally Short Fiction. He hosts the monthly FBomb NY fiction readings at KGB’s Red Room in New York.

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