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She was walking her dog in the park on a warm summer evening.

He noticed her across the field and thought she was pretty. If she walks her dog over this way I’ll make sure to smile and say hello and hope I don’t get tongue-tied. He always had trouble meeting people for the first time, non adept at small talk he found those first few minutes of meeting someone new left him struggling for appropriate words only to find them missing completely from his mind; like blanking out on lines while auditioning for a part in a play. As a result, the first impressions he presented of himself usually turned out to be more of a caricature of himself rather then an actual impression of who he was, and that would lead to suddenly remembered, previously scheduled meetings, hair needing to be washed or ovens forgotten to be turned off that needed to be urgently seen too. If only he could meet someone new without having to deal with that nerve-wracking first two minutes of small talk. The opportunity was about to present itself.

Across the park her dog got off the leash and was running away.

Surveying the situation and doing some quick geometrical calculations in his head, he determined the path of the dog and the path he could to take to intercept the fleeing little mutt. He had always argued with his high school math teacher that he would never need to know this stuff for the real world. It surprised him to be wrong. Here he was plotting vectors and determining angles that could very well change his the future of his life. He jumped off the picnic table on which he was sitting and started to run for the calculated intercept plot. This is perfect, he thought. Helping her catch her dog will allow him to meet her without having to deal with all that tongue-twisting, gut-churning small talk. He could introduce himself by his actions rather then his words. She’d thank him and he’d say no problem. They’d laugh. He’d find out her name. She’d learn his. He’d walk her home (just in case her creature got off the leash again). She’d thank him on her doorstep. Music would play and the story would end happily ever after.

Reaching his mathematically determined destination he turned to face the approaching pup, ready to cut off its route and tackle it to the grass if necessary, but the dog was not there. Unfortunately, in the few seconds it took for him to run from the picnic table to this spot where he was now standing, the dog had made a sudden right turn and was vanishing over the grassy hill with it’s pretty owner running not far behind.

She was shaking her fist and angrily calling her dog names that would turn the air blue. Both her and her pet vanished from his sight across the street.

He stood there, alone, in the middle of the empty field as night closed in. He would learn, that shortly after that missed encounter, she would met someone special, fall in love and move away.

A cold winter night, years after that summer evening had long since faded in memory, with the outside wind howling as it hurled snow and ice against the frosted window, he gazed into the flames glowing in the fireplace and pondered a simple question. What would be if that dog had run straight? He would never know the answer, but the possibilities always brought a smile to his face.

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(Well, you would think he would never know the answer, but life sometimes can surprise you and give you a second chance. Twenty years after he thought this story was over, it continues. Read it on this blog later this season in S is for Sequel – Dogcatcher II )

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