I saw him from a block away and slowed a little, hoping he wouldn’t see me.
I didn’t have time for a conversation.
He was moving quickly, hands behind his back pulling a strange little handcart, moving much faster than his age and wrinkles implied he could.
I’d seen him before, at the same part of my walk, there by the junior high.
Last time, it was cold and I was walking fast, late for work. He came up beside me, pulling that cart, and said good morning.
I answered, passing him as I spoke, late for work and trying to stay warm.
Only he sped up, the cart rattling on the asphalt.
“Going to school?” he asked then and I had to slow down half a step to answer. He kept pace.
“Where do you work?” he wanted to know and oh, did I know so-and-so?
And for the next four blocks he kept up with me, or a step or two behind, talking nonstop.
I learned about his grandsons, the ones who delivered the paper in Homer City and whose father spent weeks away on drilling teams. He spoke of how he used to deliver the paper, and his wife, and how they met and how he worried about finding the “right one,” all those decades ago, after watching brothers go through one wife after another.
He knew, though, when he met her and they’ve been married for decades now. I don’t remember how many.
He finally left me when I cut across a parking lot to the office door, the cart bouncing and rattling behind him up the hill.
This morning was warmer, coats and boots left behind, the gray sky streaked with color in the east behind us and birds loud in the blossoming trees that line the street and fighting under bushes and between blooming daffodils and hyacinths.
And he again crossed in front of me there at the junior high, funny little cart bouncing behind him, wearing a knit sweater and a bright white cap.
I liked him, though I thought he was strange. But I was late for work again this morning and didn’t have time to slow my steps and so I was glad when he waved from half a block away, called out a hello but kept moving in his own direction.
And so I kept walking fast and was almost too warm in my sweater by the time I reached the office and I wasn’t late – there about a minute before the morning meeting.
And I wonder where he was going, with his little cart.