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Suzie’s House 508 : You Always Do

“Walter!” Drew panicked when he found the mobile phone abandoned on a stump next to the back side of Lake Mendota. “Where are you!!!”

There was no response. Drew crashed through the underbrush around the lake, painfully aware he was on private property, but that Walter wouldn’t care. Could the old man have slipped in the mud around the shore and drowned in the lake? Could he have drowned on purpose? These were exactly the sorts of things Drew had been hired to prevent. But how can you watch over someone with the childish contrary nature of a two year old and a body just as tall and heavy as your own?

“Walter! Where are you?” Drew stopped to listen, in case there came a response, even as he knew Walter would only call back if he had forgotten his own little game.

If he hadn’t paused, he might not have noticed the scarf. Walter had taken to wearing it, though on a day like today, it wasn’t yet cold enough for winter wear. The scarf was like a clue – a breadcrumb intentionally left behind. Sometimes it even lay on the ground in a straight line pointing toward Walter’s hiding place. And sometimes it was intended to be confusing. Today, it pointed right at the log where Walter sat, staring at the bulk of the city across the water.

“Why didn’t you answer?” Drew kicked himself for asking as he hustled down the slope to the stump.

There were several reasons Walter might not answer. The list ranged from that it was part of the game, to that Walter forgot his own name. Regardless, the answer would make no difference to either of them.

Walter did at least glance at him as he arrived, and didn’t try to shot him with an imaginary gun or run away. He seemed supremely unconcerned.

“There you are, my boy. Took you a while this time.”

“Did you have to ditch the phone? I thought…” Drew didn’t want to say what he really thought. He didn’t want to give the old man ideas. “I thought I’d never find you.”

“But you did. And you always will.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Because you always do.”

“Walter.” Drew glared, though he was more worried than angry. “I’m only human, you know.”

Walter looked amused. “Was there once upon a time when you would never say that?”

“I…” Drew hesitated. A few years ago he would have unflinchingly and automatically assured Walter that he was well aware of his failings. But then, he hadn’t known just how badly he could fail. In his mind, being “only human” had also gone hand in hand with being competent. His limitations weren’t so important because he was a competent man. Now…

“Looks like a lot of thinking going into that answer.” Walter smiled up at him in a world weary way. “Did I ask something strange? Seems I do a lot of that lately.”

“Not so strange. Just that life took me places I didn’t know I could go.”

“You and me both, my boy. Help me up.” Walter stuck a hand in the air.

Drew gave him a hand. As the two headed back to Drew’s car, he handed the old man the phone and scarf.

“I miss the kids.” Walter draped the scarf around his neck.

“The ones in the band Malaprop?”

“Yeah. Them. What ever happened to them?” He slipped the phone into his pocket.

“School started. They’re all in High School now,”

“Oh. And I suppose State Street has become so busy now because the college kids a in town.”

Drew answered with just a nod.

“Still, you’d think the kids would play in the park on weekends at least.”

“You remember they cut an album.” Drew looked closely at Walter’s face to see how lucid he was. Even though he’d been in the studio for more than one session he might not remember any of it.

“Oh right. Fist Things Fist, they were going to call it.”

“That’s the one. They made a music video to go along with it. You can see it for yourself on youtube.”

“You tube?”

They stopped next to the car. Drew gestured for the phone, which Walter handed to him. Shoulders together, Drew showed Walter how to find the video.

“Wow. They already have over a thousand views,” Drew noted. He didn’t pay a lot of attention, but that seemed like a fair amount to him.

“Hey, this little thing’s more useful than I thought. I’ll have to do a better job of hanging on to it.”

“Yeah, Walter. You do that.” Dew refrained from saying anything about the GPS app inside.

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