It was one of those days, cold but not heavy jacket cold, rainy but just a slowly, dripping mist. The parson and his faithful canine companion were on a morning walk. The breeze blew. No, the wind blew peppering the back of the parson's neck with the wet cold of the morning. He pulled the hood of his jacket up over the baseball hat. Charlie Brown paused on his walk to take inventory with his nose of other canines who may have passed that way. Inventory complete, he reclaimed the area as his own and the two proceeded.
Charlie Brown stopped just as he was about to turn a corner. His tail wagged slowly. The parson stepped up beside him. There, about twenty yards away, stood another dog on a leash held by a bearded man in an aged poncho. The man was leaning against a fence eating a piece of what appeared to be beef jerky. Both Charlie Brown and the dog now strained against their leash seeking to greet each other.
“Morning,” said the man as the parson drew closer. “Fine looking dog there.”
“Thanks,” said the parson. “Same to you.”
Charlie Brown and the man's dog were now wagging their tails in unison and glad to see each other.
“What's your dog's name?” asked the man.
“Charlie Brown,” the parson said.
“Good name,” the man replied. “May I?” He held out a pack of beef jerky and pointed it toward the dogs.
“No problem,” the parson replied. “What's your dog's name?”
“I call him Guide Dog.” The man tossed a piece of jerky to both Charlie Brown and Guide Dog.
“Yep, Guide Dog. I know it's kinda a funny name. But he's my guide.”
“How's that?” the parson asked.
“It's like this,” the man replied. “I'm just an old wanderer, as you can see. I once had this old preacher tell me I needed some direction in my life. Well, the next morning after he'd said that I woke up beside the embers of my fire from the night before and there said this old dog. So, I decided to let him give me direction. So, I let him guide me along the way. That's how he got his name. He guides me.”
“You just go where the dog goes.”
“Well, pretty much. I mean, I don't let him go places where he shouldn't go, but other than that if he wants to take a left at the intersection we take a left.” He pulled the jerky out of the pouch on his belt again, extracted a piece for himself and held the packet out to the parson. “Want some?”
“No, thanks,” the parson said. “How long have you had Guide Dog?”
“We've been road buddies for about three years now.”
Guide Dog had made his way to the parson's side. He knelt down and began to pet him. Charlie Brown came to stand between the parson and the visiting canine, allowing the parson to continue petting but making sure Guide Dog understood who belonged to whom.
The man spoke, “You're the parson, aren't you?”
The parson stood, puzzled. “Yes, that's what folks call me. How'd you know?”
“Well, I asked the clerk at that store over there,” he pointed over his shoulder, “where I could find a motel that would welcome Guide Dog. He said he didn't know but you would. He told me you'd be walking Charlie Brown down this way. So me and Guide Dog came looking for you.”
The parson asked, “What's your name?”
“Henry,” said the man stretching his hand out to shake.
“You're needing a place to stay?”
“I am,” said the man. “Oh, wait a minute. I'm sorry. We're not asking for a handout. I'm sorry. No, I just need to know if there's a hotel that won't mind if Guide Dog stays in the room. We need to get in out of this rain, My iPhone says it's going to rain for two more days. And, truth is, I need a good hot shower myself.”
“The La Quinta will let the dog stay,” said the parson. “Are you sure there's no way I can assist you.”
“Parson,” the man said, “look, I've got plenty of money. I've got some investments and they should keep me and Guide Dog well fed and healthy for as long as we want. Look, Parson, we just are outdoor creatures. We like wandering this way. But every once in a while we take a break and act like civilized folks.”
The parson told him where the La Quinta was located.
“How about a meal later?” the parson asked.
“Sounds like a plan,” said Henry, “but only if it's my treat.”
The parson and Henry agreed on lunch the following day. As they walked away, the parson said to Charlie Brown, “There's a story there, Charlie Brown.”