The small things

“I’m taking the dog for a walk.” I clipped the leash on Lala. “Anyone want to join me?”

“I will.” Flicka stepped into her shoes by the door, and we set off together.

The first walk of spring always revealed what winter had tried to hide under its pristine covering. But now, after the melt, we witnessed the naked truth of inner-city living: old chip bags and candy wrappers speckled the sidewalks and four months of doggy-doo peppered the boulevard in front of that one house. Not dampened by our surroundings, though, we breathed in air that hinted at gardens and sandals, barbecues and bike rides. And as Lala trotted along between Flicka and me, her nose twitched; her world of smells was new again.

A couple of blocks from home, I spotted two young men standing up ahead on the corner. Soon, we would reach them, but since Lala was uneasy near strangers when on her leash, I planned to cut across the street before getting too close. One of the men motioned to me, though, and called out something I couldn’t decipher. I had been approached before on that corner; I hadn’t had spare change on me that day either.

“I didn’t catch that,” I said to him when we were closer. Lala’s fur stood in a ridge along her spine.

“Do you live on this block?” His gaze darted to something behind me, and urgency was etched in his expression. His friend shifted his feet, wearing the same anxious look.

“No.” I furrowed my brow. “Why?”

“There was a baby in the street back there.” He pointed behind us. “Maybe you could get him?”

I squinted in the direction he indicated and glimpsed the jerky steps of a toddler in a green coat across the street and a half a block away. The little one climbed onto the curb and wobbled to a standing position on the sidewalk. Just then, a van pulled up next to us. The passenger side window rolled down, revealing four women inside.

“There’s a baby outside alone back there.” The driver’s words came out choppy as she thumbed to the same location. “Did you see him?”

The men nodded.

“I’ll go,” I said.

The woman in the passenger seat jumped out, her mouth a straight line. She jogged across the street toward the spot where we had all spied the baby.

I waved to the two men. “You guys are the best.”

Then Flicka, Lala, and I took off too. But where was the little one now? We scanned the sidewalks and street. Nothing. He couldn’t have wandered too far. We caught up to the woman from the van.

“He was just here.” She scowled, putting her hands on her hips. “Now he’s gone.”

We scoured some nearby yards together. As the seconds ticked by, worry squeezed my chest.

“Over there.” The woman pointed to a house.

Inside the home—and standing at the picture window—was the baby in green. He pressed his forehead and palms against the glass and stared back at us.

I blew out a sigh, and concern fluttered away. “Thank goodness.”

The driver of the van circled around and picked up her friend. Then Flicka, Lala, and I walked home.


Each day holds small things we hardly notice. Cups of coffee and hot showers; dog walks and brushes with strangers. But in a slice of time and three blocks from home on our first walk of spring, our lives had intersected with the lives of six others, and in an instant, our priorities melded. The small thing that day wore a green coat and rattled the lives of eight people for two minutes on one block in north Minneapolis.

Maybe the small things aren’t always so small.




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*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.