It was almost serendipitous, the way I looked up from the sink just in time to see Mercutio running down the street.
“Shit,” I muttered, dropping the lettuce I’d been cleaning and running out the front door, grabbing the leash from the hook as I left. Jogging after him, a quick glance behind confirmed that yes, the door had failed to latch after I unloaded the groceries.
I really need to be more careful about that, I thought. Mercutio was not the kind of dog you wanted running around the neighborhood – he was the kind of dog you wanted when you were a single woman living alone at the end of a cul-de-sac.
He stopped at the elm around the corner, sniffing around the roots where other dogs had marked the spot. I slowed to a walk, calling “Mercutio! Come!”
He cocked his head, and proceeded to ignore me and continue sniffing the tree. Obedient as he was at home or on the leash, his escapes seemed to render my voice inaudible.
As I got closer, I saw a man in a navy blue windbreaker crossing the street and walking right up to Mercutio, grabbing him by the collar. He bent down on one knee, rubbing the thick fur behind Mercutio’s ears with both hands.
“I assume this is yours?” he said, grinning at up at me. He had a small chip in his front tooth, I noticed. I also noticed how thick and shiny his hair was – I suppressed an impulse to run my fingers through it.
“Yeah, he accidentally got out,” I said, hooking the leash onto his collar. “Didn’t you, you maniac?”
The man laughed, the sound unfolding out of him like a cheerful afghan. I wanted to climb inside his laugh and wrap it around me.
“Mercutio? Is that really his name?” he asked, getting up with one last pat on Mercutio’s head.
“Yeah,” I laughed nervously. “It’s silly, I know.”
“Silly? That isn’t one of Shakespeare’s sillier plays,” the man chuckled.
I felt myself swallow a fuzzy lump as I smiled. “I’m impressed. Most people don’t get the reference.”
“But isn’t Romeo and Juliet required reading in, like, high school?” he asked.
“You’d be surprised…”
“I guess I have a leg up. My dad was a lit professor, so Friday night entertainment included a lot of PBS performances,” he said, shooting me a sideways smile. My heart beat faster, even though I had stopped jogging long enough ago.
“Really? I teach literature over at Woodside,” I said, flashing him my biggest smile, the one I reserve specifically for that topic.
“What a coincidence,” he said. “I’m Kevin, by the way.” He stuck out his hand.
“I’m Delia.” His hand was warm, slightly rough.
“And this is Mercutio,” he stated, patting the dog’s head again, itching behind his ear. Mercutio sniffed at him gratefully.
It seemed that this was the time I should have thanked him and turned to go back home. But that laugh…that hair…
I though of the best possible way to extend the chance encounter, but Kevin interrupted me in mid-scheme.
“So, do you and Mercutio want coffee? I was walking over to Nano’s…”
I have never been more grateful for my disobedient dog.
– – –
Jumping back into the Speakeasy fiction challenge after the summer hiatus. I might be a little rusty – most of my fiction is kept in an encrypted file on my hard drive where no one but the brightest hacker could infiltrate.