Make Time for Me

Dog-walking was supposed to get her out of the house, not tangled up with the FBI.


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In late April, I advertised my new dog-walking business on the A&P bulletin board, where I hoped old folks and Luddites still looked for opportunities in the Garden State. Mature, reliable dog lover, former college professor. Rates reasonable. Call Irene McLean.

I had quit the college and needed a job, but more urgently, I needed an escape as we entered month two of my husband’s disability leave. A high-school Phys Ed instructor and amateur triathlete, Zack had collapsed on the Florida Ironman running course nine miles from the finish line. He’d staggered in pain over several miles before falling on top of another competitor. A tough break for that poor guy but also for Zack. At 53, how many more shots at Ironman would he get?

After his injury, Zack loitered around the house, taking a renewed interest in me. One morning, he was waiting for me at the door when I returned from yoga class.

“I’ve been watching you, Irene,” he said.

“Really? Did you die of boredom?”

“Last week, you biked two days and did a Pilates video. This week, you ran two days and took that tap-dancing class, and now yoga?”

“Sounds right.” I didn’t know where this was going, but it couldn’t be anywhere good.

“It’s not right. You need a disciplined schedule if you expect to make any progress.”

“Why? I’m not training for anything.” I knew he meant well, but I felt judged.

“Let me get this straight,” he said. “You don’t want to improve your cardiovascular endurance? You don’t want to avoid injury?”

“For god’s sake, Zack, are you really lecturing me about injuries?”

He flinched. “Well, sure. If I can save you from getting hurt. Basically, you need aerobic and strength-training goals.”

What I needed was a job before we became a front-page murder/suicide story. Rescue arrived on a Wednesday in mid-June. Zack and I were eating tuna sandwiches on the patio after his orthopedist’s appointment. His doctor had recommended spinal fusion surgery. I waited for Zack to bring it up — anatomy was his jam — but the procedure came with risks, including nerve damage and paralysis. He griped about the garden hose instead.

“You have to hang up the hose,” he said. “See how the grass is all yellow by the fence.”

“Isn’t the grass always greener on the other side of the fence?”

My phone buzzed on the ironwork table. I snatched it up and barked hello. A man identifying himself as Tony asked for “the Professor.” He hired me sight unseen to walk his dog five days a week, starting right away.

“Who was that?” Zack asked after I ended the call.

“Anna. We’re going for a walk.”

“Isn’t she teaching?”

“Summer session. Shorter days.” I didn’t know if that was true. I should’ve named a friend who didn’t live across the street. I’d never lied to Zack before (aside from lies of omission), but if I told him about my new venture, he’d only scoff at my low rates and reproach me for not having a contract or liability insurance.

Looking miserable, he accused me of always going out.

“It’s just my normal routine,” I said.

“I miss my routine. I don’t know what to do with myself if I’m not training.”

“Watch a ballgame. Read a book. Have fun for a change.”

His face darkened. “Training is fun for me.”

“Sorry, Zack, it doesn’t look like fun. You’re a mess before every race, trying to fit your workouts in, stressing over aches and pains.”

“You’re only pointing out the bad stuff, but yeah it can be stressful.” He scraped back his chair and slowly unfolded his six-foot-two frame. He crossed the lawn with mincing steps. I followed close behind to provide a soft landing if needed. He picked up the hose and then dropped it, squeezing his eyes shut.

“Let me.” I coiled the hose the way he’d shown me: clockwise on the ground.

He stood over me, his hand on the back of his neck. “I’ll tell you what, Irene.” His voice had turned soft and confiding. “If I had it to do over, I’d never attempt an Ironman.”

“Unfortunately,” I said, “do-overs aren’t a thing.”

* * *

I walked the quarter-mile to Mulberry Street and rang the bell on number 15, a yellow Dutch colonial. Leggy rhododendrons concealed the first-floor windows. After a suspenseful three minutes — with no barking, oddly enough — an elderly man with a misbuttoned plaid shirt wedged open the door and squeezed through as if to prevent his dog from escaping, though a gray terrier sat at his feet, looking up at me. Tony was tall for an old person and only a little stooped. He had a long, earnest face, like a spaghetti western sheriff’s.

“Professor!” He shook my hand.

“Actually, it’s former professor. But, please, call me Irene.”

“I’m Tony and this is my pet Peeve,” he said.

“Pardon?” I followed his gaze to the schnauzer, its gray beard draping Tony’s loafer like hairy tassels. “Oh! Hello, Peeve.” I squatted to pet the dog.

“So, I asked around,” he said. “A few retired teacher friends told me you were their favorite substitute. Reliable, creative. Kids loved you.”

“Feels like another lifetime.” I stood to face him. To make a good first impression, I’d changed into control-top yoga pants and a white cotton camp shirt. After the short walk, I was drenched in sweat. Zack was right: I did need a more disciplined workout schedule.

“Did the little kiddos call you professor?”

“Oh, god, no,” I said. “When my daughter left for college, I took a job at Dayton State.”

“Why don’t I know you?” he said, looking perplexed. “I know everyone in town. I was mayor from ’96 to ’99.”

“Before my time,” I said. “We moved here in 2006. We live on Millbrook. In the old Cooley house,” I added. In real-estate parlance, our house was “stigmatized property.” The agent had met her legal responsibility to report that in 1998 the youngest of four teenaged Cooley boys had overdosed in the detached garage. Undaunted, Zack and I bought the house and moved in. A few months later, our hacksaw went missing. We used our Ouija board to question the Cooley kid. I only half-believed in the supernatural but totally believed in scaring myself. When the planchette spelled out T-E-D, Zack remembered he’d lent the saw to Ted, the guy next door. Without a word, we boxed up the board, and I stashed it away.

Tony had grown silent, and I regretted mentioning the Cooley name. Tony’s children, if he had any, could have been the boy’s friends.

“Maybe you know Zack Taylor,” I offered.

“The twelfth president?”

“My husband. He teaches Phys Ed at the high school.”

Tony brightened. “The good-looking, fit fella? Running and biking in all kinds of weather?”

“That’s Zack,” I said. At least it used to be.

* * *

For our first walk, I took Peeve on his usual route down the half-mile wooded trail leading to the elementary school. Peeve loved children, Tony told me. He’d offered to draw a map, but I knew the way from when I’d walked Rollo, my sweet old beagle who died last fall. I’d done some of my best thinking on dog walks. Like figuring out how to adapt to Zack’s triathlete schedule — his early bedtimes and endless training sessions, all those out-of-state races. I filled my time with yoga and tap-dancing classes as well as movie dates and cocktail hours with my friend Anna, and now I couldn’t live without that breathing room.

I left the sweltering street and entered the wooded trail. I suppose I could’ve walked anywhere I pleased — the dog couldn’t report me — but I would’ve deprived an elderly dog of this evident pleasure. When Peeve wasn’t sniffing and pissing, he strained at the leash, eager to chase every chipmunk and squirrel darting across his path. The deeper I went into the woods, the calmer I felt. Forget all those sweaty yoga classes, nature was a more direct route to nirvana.

Near the trail’s end, we crossed over a wooden foot bridge spanning a shallow trickling stream and headed toward the sun-drenched opening in the trees. Peeve dragged me down the sidewalk past the cars idling on the school pickup line. He made a beeline for the playground, a futuristic city with fiberglass tubes in primary colors, twisting in every direction. Peeve barked at the children spitting out from the red tubular slide. The children! How I missed them. Above us, on a platform, two girls chirped Peeve’s name. One after the other, they shot through the slide’s opening and knelt beside him. One girl opened her dirty fist to reveal star-shaped treats.

I blocked Peeve’s snout. “He might be allergic.”

“Mr. Fox lets her,” the other girl piped up, exposing a missing front tooth. “Where is Mr. Fox? Is he dead yet?”

Her question startled me. Before I could answer, a voice behind me said, “Wouldn’t it be nicer, Cheyenne, to ask how Mr. Fox is feeling?”

I turned to see Ms. Winkle, my daughter’s beloved third grade teacher. She’d grown so old: Her blond bob was silver, and fine lines webbed her cheeks. She didn’t seem to recognize me, but of course I’d aged, too. Before I could reintroduce myself, she said, “It’s wonderful Tony has so many people helping him out. He’s had such a tough year after losing Rita. Sixty years they were married.”

Tony hadn’t mentioned a dead wife, but of course she was there in the unmown lawn, the overgrown bushes, and his shirt buttons done up wrong. On the car line, a driver leaned on the horn, and others joined in.

“Better get back to my post,” she said, looking over her shoulder, “or I’ll have car-mageddon on my hands.”

While my back was turned, Peeve had stretched the retractable lead to reach a cluster of children. He licked their faces and sniffed their clothes. They squealed with joy. I joined the circle and knelt down to settle him. The children blasted me with questions: Could Peeve walk on his hind legs? Did he respond to other languages? Did he have a job sniffing out bombs or diseases? Their questions amused me.

I should have stuck with substitute teaching. After my daughter left for college, I looked for steadier work. My friend Anna, an astrophysics professor, contacted her colleague in the English department at Dayton State; with my master’s degree, I was qualified to teach freshman composition. I spent four miserable years chasing down late assignments, ferreting out plagiarism, and begging students to attend my classes. I should have quit sooner. I suppose I was as tenacious as Zack, staggering toward the Ironman finish line.

* * *

The next afternoon, Tony waited for me on his porch. Peeve thumped his tail as I came up the walkway. “Professor,” he said.

“Mr. Mayor.” I knelt down to scratch Peeve behind his ears.

“Do me a favor, Professor, keep Peeve out for at least an hour — well, I’ll be damned.”

“What is it?” I straightened to face him.

“Have you noticed a black SUV circling the block? Could be an Explorer.”

Zack drove a black Explorer. When I’d realized my walking-with-Anna lie would be unsustainable, I told Zack a half-truth: I was helping out a retiree on Mulberry Street.

“Lots of black SUVs around here,” I said. “I wouldn’t worry.” I took the leash and set off down the road, keeping an eye out for my husband’s car. Was he stalking me? I imagined how I might look to him before he recognized me: a short, curvy woman walking a gray terrier. Hard to believe we were ever strangers. He had been working for his uncle’s moving company when I first laid eyes on him 27 years ago. He carried one end of my pull-out couch up three flights. From the landing outside my first solo apartment in Hoboken, I watched him ascend into view: wavy dark hair, bulging biceps, shoulder muscles straining under his Columbia University T-shirt. Brawn and brains! When I told him I taught second grade, he peppered me with questions until his burly workmates — his cousins, I later learned — dragged him away. But not before he scribbled my name and number on an old invoice.

Out of your league, I’d told myself. Don’t get your hopes up. The next day, he called to invite me to the Mike Nichols horror film Wolf, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Peeve dawdled more than usual in the woods. I stopped three times to let him lap up bottled water from my cupped palm. When we reached the school, I led the listless dog past the playground to the shade. A few children joined us. We sat in a circle around Peeve on the grass and took turns stroking his trembling back.

“He’s getting worse, isn’t he?” Ms. Winkle said behind me.

I looked up. “It’s not the heat? What’s wrong with him?”

“Cancer. He’s Rita’s dog. Probably why Tony can’t let him go.”

“Poor old Peeve. I should get him home.” I stood to go. On cue, Peeve climbed to his feet and shook himself. The children reared back, laughing.

Recharged, the terrier trotted into the woods, scanning for rodent spoor. Halfway down the trail, he came to a standstill and whined. He squatted to empty his bowels, taking crouching steps between bouts of diarrhea, and then collapsed, panting, onto his side. I scooped him up — 20 pounds of dead weight — and carried him out of the woods. On Mulberry Street, the terrier squirmed to be released and I set him down. As we approached Tony’s house, the front door opened and a slender, dark-haired woman emerged. “Anna?” I called out to her. She glanced at me with a startled expression before running in the other direction.

Anna and Tony? Tony’s worry made sense: Anna’s husband, Klaus, drove a black Suburban. I went up the porch steps, intrigued by this pairing. Tony was old, but he had a rascally charm. In her haste, Anna had left the door open. Peeve trotted inside, and I followed, surprised to see five people standing around in Tony’s living room. Among them, Anna’s handsome husband, Klaus, wearing his signature black turtleneck and jeans. He talked with an older, animated woman in a turquoise jumpsuit. Peeve barked and the room fell silent.

“Sorry to interrupt,” I said. “I’m back early. Peeve’s sick. Bad diarrhea.”

The terrier had propped his front paws on the glass coffee table and helped himself to a corn muffin. Yellow crumbs speckled his beard.

“Well, he was sick.” I crossed to Peeve and unclipped the leash from his collar.

“Irene’s my dog walker,” Tony said. “Professor, let me introduce you to my, um—”

“Your book group!” the older woman supplied.

“Yes, book group.” Tony went around the room, introducing me. Klaus Huffman I knew, but he avoided my eyes. Ethel Kiss, the woman in the jumpsuit, taught physics at Zack’s high school, though we’d never met. Roger Allen, the heavyset bearded man, was a mechanic at Planet Motor; he’d revived my daughter’s old Toyota too many times. Next, Tony guided me to a handsome, sandy-haired man in his mid-40s.

“You might recognize this fella from CNN,” Tony said. “Kevin Cooley.”

Cooley! Before I could speak, Tony grabbed my arm above the elbow and guided me to the door. “I was thinking, Professor, you could drive Peeve to school tomorrow.”

“Sure, I could do that.”

In the next instant, I found myself on the porch, alone, watching the door close. I walked home in a daze. A book group? What book would appeal to everyone in that group? Lost in thought, I wandered into the middle of the road. A black SUV honked at me, and I scampered to the sidewalk. Odd that Tony hadn’t mentioned to Kevin Cooley that I lived in his old house. Last August, Anna and I had used my Ouija board to contact his younger brother, Kyle. We were drinking martinis on my patio, our Friday routine while Zack trained for the Ironman. Anna asked to borrow a Stephen King novel, 11-22-63. Indolent with gin, I texted my daughter inside the house. Laura brought out the novel along with a cardboard box — the Ouija board I’d tucked into the bookshelf all those years ago.

“What are you doing with this?” Laura gave me an odd look.

Anna suggested we contact Kyle. When I balked — why poke around in the past when the present was so compelling — Laura egged me on. “Are you scared, Mom?” she teased. “Who would’ve guessed my sensible mother believes in the occult?”

I grabbed the box from her hands. “Who’re you calling sensible?”

I started out tipsy but sobered up when we got a reply to our questions. Kyle had stolen pills from one of his older brothers, he told us. The planchette spelled out K-E and stopped. It could have meant Kevin. Or, Keith or Kenneth Cooley. Anna was thrilled, but Laura was convinced that I’d moved the planchette. Maybe I had, but just a little bit.

Now, I headed down my driveway, peering with apprehension into the dark maw of my garage.


I jumped. The voice came from the sky. Zack leaned from the second-floor window. I lifted my hand to wave and discovered Peeve’s leash gripped in my hand.

“I wasn’t honest with you,” he said.

“So you’re telling the whole neighborhood?”

“I scheduled the surgery for the week after next. I can’t live with this pain.”

“But the risks—”

“I’m in pain!”

“We’ll talk it over. I’ll be right back. I have to—” I waved the leash. Across the street, Anna pulled envelopes from her mailbox at the end of her driveway.

“Anna!” I shouted. “Didn’t you hear me calling you at Tony’s? What’s going on over there?”

“What did Tony tell you?”

“A book group.” It occurred to me only now that I hadn’t seen any books.

“It’s a book group then,” she said, taking a few steps backward. “We’ll talk later, okay?”

I tramped down Millbrook. Why was everyone keeping secrets from me?

On Mulberry, a black Suburban slowed in front of Tony’s house. I went up the steps, glancing over my shoulder at the driver in reflector sunglasses. I rang the bell, fearing what I’d find inside. A pyramid scheme? A fetishist group? When no one answered, I pressed my ear to the door and it opened; I stumbled into the living room. Where was everyone? I leaned my back against the door, and it clicked shut with the sound of a lock engaging. Peeve brushed my ankles and then scampered away. I followed him into a dated but cozy kitchen; he slipped through a door near the wall oven and went down a flight of stairs. I was right behind him but stopped midway when I heard voices.

“Let’s get this show on the street, Tony. You’ve been dragging your shoes for weeks.” I recognized Klaus’s deep voice and muddled idioms.

“He’s right, Tony.” This was Roger, my mechanic. “Peeve isn’t getting any younger. Irene says he’s sick.”

Were they experimenting on Peeve?

“Another reason to get moving,” Klaus said. “That McLean woman is a loose bazooka. Can we trust her? You wouldn’t believe the stories Anna tells me. Seances and stalking. She tipped off the FBI.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It took all my self-control not to charge down the stairs to confront Klaus.

“I keep telling you, it’s those defense people,” Ethel scolded. “You should never have taken their money.”

“Let’s not beat that dead horse,” Roger said. “So, Tony, is today the day we send Peeve back to Rita?”

Were they euthanizing Peeve? I rushed down the stairs into what looked like an ordinary unfinished basement, except for the blacked-out windows, a science lab table, and blueprints covering one wall. Tony, Ethel, Roger, Kevin, and Klaus stood around a metal box the size and shape of a washing machine. The terrier barked in Ethel’s arms.

“What are you doing to Peeve?” I said.

Tony turned from the box with tears in his eyes. “Professor, what are you doing here? I didn’t want to get you involved.”

“Involved in what?” I handed him the leash, which he apparently wouldn’t need. “Are you killing Peeve?”

“Of course not. How could you think I’d do something like that?”

“I don’t know what to think, but I know this isn’t a book group.” I turned to Kevin Cooley. “You lived in my house: 22 Millbrook.”

“That’s right,” he said. “Anna told me about the Ouija board.”

“Can we focus here?” Klaus said. “If we’re not sending the dog, it needs to be one of us.”

“What is this?” I said. “Tell me.”

“This, Irene, is a time machine,” Tony said, looking sheepish.

“No, really, what is it?” I searched the others’ grim faces, expecting them to break out in laughter. “Oh, my god, don’t tell me you’re serious?”

“As serious as a gall bladder attack,” Ethel said.

“For seven years we worked with zero interference,” Klaus said, “until you showed up. Now the government’s breathing down our throats.”

“Necks,” I corrected. “Don’t blame me, Klaus. I’m just the dog walker.”

We all heard the banging upstairs. It sounded like someone trying to break down the door. Kevin Cooley went to the foot of the stairs. Klaus and Roger tore blueprints off the wall. Their movements seemed rehearsed.

“It’s a heavy door. Reinforced with steel. We’ve got time.” Tony sounded oddly calm. “So, do we have any volunteers?”

“I’d go, but Anna would kill me.” Klaus came forward, his arms full of blueprints.

“Ditto for Dotty,” Roger said.

Their terrified faces told me they were using their wives as an excuse. Was the time machine real? I wanted to believe. But I couldn’t believe. But I wanted to believe. In my dreams, I talked to my dead mother; I ran through the hallways of my elementary school with my dirty-faced friends. Wasn’t that time travel?

The banging upstairs stopped. We all looked up.

“You should go, Tony,” Ethel said, handing Peeve to him. “You lost Rita, and Peeve’s on his last legs. What’s left here for you?”

“All of you,” Tony said, dryly. “We don’t know how this works. I could go back too far, before Rita’s time. No, I made up my mind. I’m staying here with all my happy memories.”

I patted Tony’s arm, relieved. I’d grown fond of him and his sick little dog.

“How about you, Professor?” he said. “Got a compelling reason to go back?”

I’ll admit, I considered it. Faced with Zack’s surgery, his possible paralysis, I feared nothing more than our future. In a nanosecond, my happy childhood flashed before my eyes, as well as the blissful first years of teaching and my marriage, the sweet pleasure of raising Laura. Also, a boatload of heartbreaks, my mother’s drawn-out cancer death, and the terrifying touch-and-go night when Laura’s appendix burst. As Tony acknowledged, I could have landed anywhere inside that timeline. If this time machine was real — and that was a huge if — it wasn’t for me. I preferred to place all my chips on the present and the future rather than spin the roulette wheel on my past.

In the end, Kevin Cooley crawled inside the box as footsteps clomped the floorboards overhead. Roger grabbed my arm and pulled me into a utility room. I waited at the bottom of a short flight of concrete steps while he unlatched the metal doors. I ascended behind him and stood blinking in the sunlight, taking in the rusted metal swing set, a rotting split-rail fence. Klaus elbowed me aside and took off across the yard through the overgrown grass. Roger and Ethel trailed him to the neighbor’s yard. I waited another minute for Tony. When he didn’t appear, I followed the others.

* * *

Time marched on. Kevin Cooley was on the six o’clock news, looking no worse for his brief time in that metal box. In late July, a real-estate sign appeared on Anna and Klaus’s lawn. They were moving to New Mexico, Anna tearfully told me. Klaus had lost his teaching job and faced a possible indictment. She returned the King novel and gave me a rib-crushing hug. I would miss our long walks, our martini Fridays. My dear friend, Anna. I hardly knew her.

Zack’s doctor declared his spinal fusion surgery a success. After six painful weeks of recovery, he finally got the greenlight for short walks. I led him down Mulberry Street and stopped in front of Tony’s yellow Dutch colonial. I was worried about the mayor; he wasn’t answering my calls or responding to my messages. Plywood covered the lower part of his damaged front door. The grass was overgrown, and a dozen or so newspapers lay like speedbumps in the driveway.

I told Zack about Tony’s time machine, about how it had failed in the end.

“A time machine? Oh, boy, you got mixed up with some characters this summer, Irene.” He laid a heavy hand on my shoulder, more for support than reassurance, I suspected. “You’ve had a tough time of it, haven’t you? Quitting your job. My surgery. And now Anna is moving—”

“That’s another thing. The Huffmans are moving because Klaus lost his job. He’s facing a possible indictment.”

He looked stunned. “For what?”

“Aren’t you listening? The time machine. He got government funding for his project, but he didn’t get the clearance to work on it. That’s why the FBI showed up.”

“FBI?” Zack’s face drained of color and his hand weighed heavier on my shoulder. “Let’s go home, Irene. I’m feeling a little lightheaded.”

* * *

In the days after my confession, I continued to phone Tony, but all my calls were sent to voicemail. After banging on his smashed-up door with no answer, I hunted down Ethel’s number in the high-school directory and invited her to lunch. She arrived at our house, dressed in a bright yellow jumpsuit. Zack had set the patio table with paper plates and a platter of turkey sandwiches. I came outside with a pitcher of mint ice tea. As soon as we all sat down, Ethel broke the news that she had reached Tony via email. Peeve had died.

“I’m so sorry to hear that,” I said.

“Who’s Peeve?” Zack looked confused.

“His dog, Zack. The dog I walked.”

Ethel reached across the table for a sandwich. “He’s in mourning, of course.”

“Of course,” I said. “How did he get involved with this time machine stuff anyway?”

“Tony and Rita worked with Klaus’s uncle at Bell Labs back in the day,” Ethel said. “We’re all physicists. Rita brought me in on the project. We’ve been friends forever. Since our kids were small.”

“What about Roger and Kevin?” I asked.

“When it came time to build the machine, who better to call than the best mechanic in town?” She sighed deeply. “But then, Roger drank too much at his class reunion and spilled the beans to Kevin Cooley. Of all people, he blabs to a TV reporter. We had no choice but to read Kevin in.”

“Do you think Kevin tipped off the FBI?”

Ethel shrugged, but the look on her face told me she’d considered that possibility.

Zack looked incredulous. “I thought this was all a joke. The FBI, Bell Labs, physicists?”

Ethel recited some British physicist’s theories, reeling off terms like quantum mechanics and the parallel worlds theory that went right over our heads.

* * *

Summer ended, and Zack returned to his job at the high school. While it was true that do-overs weren’t a thing, sometimes life gave you a second chance. I was substituting again. Ms. Winkle called me to cover for her while she recuperated from a double hip replacement. The children were a delight but more exhausting than I remembered.

I spent an entire Saturday morning in October peeking out of my living room window, watching a young couple move into Anna’s house. As one of the older people on the street, I’d grown used to watching neighbors come and go, but it had never gotten easier. I grabbed my coat and a few shopping totes and headed out the door.

The A&P parking lot was empty for a weekend afternoon. I steered my shopping cart through the automatic doors and stopped short in the entryway when I spotted Tony scanning the bulletin board.

“Mr. Mayor!” I said.

He spun around. “Professor!” He gave me a look I couldn’t interpret.

“I’m so sorry about Peeve. He was the sweetest little dog.”

Before he could respond, the doors opened behind us, and in came a young woman with a half-moon scar on her cheek and an infant strapped to her chest. A former student from my first years of teaching second grade. She strolled right by me into the store with no sign of recognition. The past was all around us.

“Funny you should show up, Professor,” Tony said. “I was just looking for your ad.”

“You can stop looking. I got out of the dog-walking business. I’ve gone back to substituting.”

He raised one eyebrow.

“What?” I said. “It was time to move on.”

“Interesting concept: going backwards to move forward.” He took a deep breath. “Thing is, Professor, I adopted a sweet terrier mix. Marie Curie I’m calling her.”

I wished him luck before wheeling my shopping cart into the store. If Tony Fox had another time machine in the works, he could count me out. I pulled my shopping list from my pocket and hunted down the ingredients for Zack’s red velvet birthday cake. He was turning 54 tomorrow. Fifty-four! Where on earth had the time gone?

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  1. Such an enjoyable read, Irene! Always love your shorts. Keepem coming

  2. Thanks for this story, Janis. You skillfully blend the normal and abnormal, ordinary and outrageous with a sweet older dog at the center of it all. In these times though, what would have been considered far out even five years ago, is ‘normal’ now. I just added the latter to clarify.


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