Except for a quick walk with Miss Piggy while she makes her afternoon deposits and a tour with the watering can to hit the most desperate plants, I’m not getting out much in this oppressive heat and humidity.
I don’t even like driving anywhere, but I do have to make rounds occasionally: the library, farmer’s market, grocery store, or Walgreen’s, so I save them and make a circle to hit them all at once. Whenever I do, the sidewalks which used to be lively with mothers with strollers, joggers, and dog walkers are practically deserted. Only the most dedicated of spandexed cyclists, water bottles in hand, cruise the streets these days, not even enough to incite drivers to dash off a complaining Letter to the Editor.
Somewhere along my circular rounds, I always see a guy in a baseball cap, walking at a good pace even though his shirt and shorts are soaked with sweat. I can tell that he’s listening to music by the white wires protruding from his ears and disappearing into his pocket. Unless it’s on one of the busiest streets, I pull over to the side of the road and offer him a lift. He always smiles and refuses, telling me he’ll see me back at the house.
Yep, it’s Dearly Beloved, the biggest nut in town.
(Remember, he’s the one who hears the beach ozone warnings advising people over 60 to stay inside and thinks, “Good, the beach won’t be as crowded on my walk.”)
Here in our neighborhood, he’s just about the only fool out in that heat and as he looks harmless enough, I’m not the only one who stops to talk to him. This area is a tangle of streets, enough of them named Queens to confuse even the fanciest GPS. He has steered people to the park, to the interstate, to South Carolina, to hospitals, to the largest mall or the most obscure street. He knows them all. Even delivery truck drivers have stopped to ask for directions.
Last week he was walking along one of the busiest roads when he noticed a large knife lying in the gutter, up against the curb. He picked it up and stuck it into a tangle of shrubbery on the other side of the sidewalk, then continued on his walk.
He had gone only a block or so when he reconsidered his actions, worried that he might have inadvertently tampered with evidence from a crime. He returned to the spot and dialed 911. The dispatcher told him to stay there and wait for the police car they were sending. DB stood there, waiting in the exhaust fumes by the knife-hiding shrubbery for 30 minutes until the car pulled up beside him.
The cop told DB that he had checked the area crime reports and there were none involving a butcher knife during the previous week, adding that DB could take the knife home with him if he wanted. My husband declined the offer, picturing himself walking through a residential neighborhood with a large butcher knife in his hand.
The officer shrugged and took the knife, broke it in half, then tossed it in the back of his squad car. DB continued on his walk, but couldn’t help wondering whether checking the crime reports for one week in one area was a thorough enough investigation.
We talked about it later, after he had tossed his dripping clothes into the washer, showered, and poured us each a glass of wine. He said the knife had a chip in the blade, like it had struck bone. Since I’m the mystery reader, he wondered what I thought. Indeed, I did have a question.
“The knife. . . it wasn’t a Wüsthof or a Henckels, was it?”
I’d have driven over to pick that sucker up myself.