The river trail snakes through the city and washes out into the country. It’s deserted; the type of place girls avoid. After sitting in meetings all day, I look forward to my long walk; it gives me something to follow. The October sun sets, and I make it onto the trail. Black trees are painted in orange and Evergreens are even greener at night. I don’t expect to see anyone. It gets cold and the homeless move where the ground it warm.
A Chocolate Lab is wading near a make-shift campsite and the owner is sitting on some logs drinking a Budweiser.
“Goin for a walk?” He asks.
“Gettin out in nature is a good way to clear the head.” He takes another drink. The middle-aged man is wearing a construction shirt and torn jeans. He’s got an unintentional beard and a happy-go-lucky demeanor. I guess that’s the alcohol working and I know he’s harmless.
“You must be in construction?” I ask.
“Yeah; I do jobs when I can get them, but I try not to work. I might have to pick up a few more hours on account of my dog though. He needs surgery.”
“Look at that tumor.”
Its tail was the size of a small football.
“I thought about cutting it off myself, but I don’t want Charlie to feel any pain. There’s a cost to not working, but there’s also a cost for trading your time for money, as I’m sure you know.”
I was taken aback; he seemed to know me.
The alcohol started talking. “Yeah, I’ve been working construction sites since I was in high school. It’s not meaningful work, but I enjoy shooting the shit with the guys. How about you? Do you like Education?”
“I don’t think I told you I work in Education.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Sometimes that happens. I let things slip and I don’t realize it.”
“What do you mean?”
“Ever since I could remember, I’ve known things about people that I shouldn’t; believe me, it’s a curse.”
“Can’t you make money with that?”
“People do, but I’ve never been able to control how it makes me feel.”
“Do you live around here?”
“I’ve been livin out of my truck for a couple of weeks and I’ll be movin on soon. I go where the work takes me.”
He was only a shadow in the dark when we stopped talking. “Maybe I’ll see you around sometime?”
“No, you won’t; and that thing you’ve been thinkin about doin; don’t do it. Take your time and enjoy the river. It’ll take you where you need to go. He toasted me with his beer and walked off.
I forgot to get his name.