Lyn sent me on my way, but her words repeated in my head. Why would anyone want to look after the complex, especially Patrick? I sat in my car and counted out the money Lyn had given me. I unfolded the first couple of bills and out fell a square piece of paper, a small note in cursive handwriting.
To look after Patrick is to look after you. To live in the complex you are living in, means to know Patrick. See for yourself.
Below was a time and an address. Getting to know Patrick? I think I knew enough about him already. I knew more stuff than I wanted to know. He’s spends his life under the influence, he’s not afraid to yell or fight, and if I wanted to find myself in an hour long story with no ending I’d talk to him. Part of me wanted to fold up the letter, ring the doorbell to Lyn's house, and ask for an explanation. Just because I’m one of his neighbors, I have to get involved in his life? A moment of frustration was quickly followed by a moment of anticipation. Patrick’s van. If Lyn documented Patrick's whereabouts, she must know what he does in the middle of the night, why he drives the van, and why he makes occasional trips into the forest. A flash of my potential future shot across my mind. Ditching the bakery to follow Patrick, working with Patrick on whatever he does, giving my life a meaning I wanted it to carry. I know fantasies like this are nothing more than a fictional representation of what I want my life to be like. But sometimes life needs a little fiction.
When I got off work I headed over to Bea’s place. The address Lyn wrote on the backside of the note was around a five minute walk away so I thought, if the cards play out I’d happen to stumble across whatever it is she wanted me to see or do. Bea lived in the trendy part of town, recently gentrified, with people wearing cutoffs riding their bikes through the streets, all seemingly on their way to the local farmer’s market to get some unpasteurized milk. It’s strange, being on this side of town made me feel more attached to Las Colinas, home of the underdogs, the rejects, and the forgotten. There is a pride I have in that. I’d much rather be living at a place like Las Colinas, where the people aren’t afraid to be different.
The one time Bea came over to my place she left abruptly because she thought she heard a gunshot off in the distance. I tried to assure her it was how a couple of folks in the area celebrated the local basketball team winning, but she left anyway.
When I got to Bea’s house, she was in the backyard with Franny, her hopelessly dopey dog, so I plopped down on the couch and stared at the ceiling. I started to think about what Lyn had mentioned about Patrick and watching over him. It wasn’t long before my thinking was interrupted by a big, wet, kiss on the face.
“Heeeeyyyy, Franny.” I muttered and winced at the little terrier that had now made its way right on top of my chest. “You know, you really should look into dog training, I hear they offer it at most pet stores nowadays.” I directed at Bea.
Bea sighed, “I know, I just don’t really have time for all that, with all they’ve been having me do at the law firm. Maybe you could take her to training classes, since your schedule is more flexible at the bakery. Plus, it would be good bonding for the two of you!” Bea beamed with delight at the thought of Franny and me bonding over simple commands. Sit, stay, roll over, play dead. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy getting out of this. “Maybe you can take her today! To check out the training schedule, maybe even meet the trainer for an evaluation. I need to run some errands later, so it’s perfect.”
I checked my watch. About ten minutes until the time on the note. “You know, why don’t I try to bond with little, old Franny right now. I’ll take her for a walk around the block. We’ll get to know each other, and it’ll be great.”
“Well not right now, I mean, this is the first time in awhile that I’ve had some real time to spend with you. And-” I acted like Franny was pulling me to the door and within the seconds I was walking away. I scratched my head and looked at the dog walking in front of me.
‘I love you,” she yelled out.
“Love!” I shouted back. I didn’t even feel guilty about walking out on Bea. I wondered for a moment if it had always been that way. Then I remembered what I was out here to do, I double checked the address, double checked the time, and started jogging down the street with the dog. As I ran, the sidewalk turned into this picturesque spring time fantasy, where the trees on either side of the street were tall and the fresh, green leaves acted like a roof over my head. Little petals of flowers fell onto Franny’s back and she gracefully shook them off. We drew near the address, and I kept my eyes peeled for any sign of Patrick.
“Kino,” came a low whispering voice. “You got a cigarette?” Joel was leaning against one of the bigger trees. He had on a white undershirt with no sleeves and already had a cigarette in his mouth. I jumped back, stuttered a bit, and ended up pointing to his face.
“You have one,” I said.
“Yeah, but this one is all, you know?” He shrugged one shoulder. From what I could recall, Joel didn’t have a car, so what was he doing halfway across town? Just waiting for me to stroll on by to ask me for a cigarette?
I handed him a cigarette from the pack I kept in my pocket and asked, “So, where’s Patrick?
Joel pointed in the direction of a tall, Victorian style house further down the street. I wondered what Patrick could be doing at such a nice house. Maybe he had a yard business and was out back mowing their yard. But I knew deep down that wasn’t the case. As I got closer, I saw Patrick’s van, back doors wide open, in a small alleyway beside the house. Franny started to bark in the direction of Patrick’s van. She pulled back quickly on her leash and slipped her head out of her dog collar. Franny charged toward the van, and I desperately ran after her. Bea would kill me if her dog got lost on my watch. I watched in amazement for a moment as Franny hopped right into the back of the van. I quickly climbed in and clanged on the rusty floor, scooping her up with both hands. As I emerged from the back of the van, I jumped to my feet and frantically looked around for Patrick, who was walking away and around a corner with a shovel in one hand and a beer in the other.