I was driving an old beat up silver Ford van. My friend was sitting in the backseat wearing blue jeans, a white t-shirt and sandals. The middle row of seats had been pulled out long ago. We pulled up and parked in an empty small gravel parking lot on the side of a two-lane road in the middle of the desert. My friend hopped out the side door and walked straight into a wooden-shack of a restaurant as if on a mission.
I slowly exited the driver’s side door and walked around to the back of the van. There was practically no green to be found on the gently rolling desert hills. Only rocks, boulders, and dirt with a rare sage bush dotted here and there. In the clear blue sky, a late morning sun was already beating down and baking the desert floor. Heat waves were shimmering off the blacktop of the road behind me.
To my surprise, this friendly, nearly knee-high, little white fuzzy dog appeared from around the side of the van and approached me, half begging for some attention, half trying to ignore me but not doing a very convincing job of it. I slowly knelt down as my back and leg muscles enjoyed the stretch from the long ride. I reached out my hand and the dog cozied up to me to be petted. The fur was soft and cool. Odd that he would feel cool to the touch with scarcely any shade in sight. Too much fur for an animal in the desert. But the little guy did not seemed to be bothered by the heat.
As I knelt there petting the dog, gazing at the horizon, a slight breeze blew across the desert and touched my face and arms. It felt refreshing. I sank into the moment, absorbed in the softness of the dog’s fur, the contrast of the azure sky with the tans of the desert and the hot sun on my shoulders with the caressingly cool breeze on my face.
My moment was broken when I heard the screen door to the restaurant squeak and close with a clack. I stood up and the little white fuzzy dog stepped back from me a few steps. Our encounter was over. Part of me was eager to get started back on the road. Another part of me wanted to reach out and hold on to that little fuzzy white dog, to cling to that moment of peace. But the moment was over. A new moment was waiting.
By now, my friend had reached the van, but instead of jumping into the open side door and climbing into the backseat where he had been sitting, he smiled at me, opened the front passenger door and hopped into the seat next to the driver’s seat. He leaned his right arm out the window and smiled again at me. The little white fuzzy dog patiently walked to the edge of the gravel parking lot and turned to watch us, wagging his tail, almost in anticipation of something.
I closed the side door of the van and walked around the back of the van to the driver’s side door. As my hand touched the door handle to open it, I paused. A thought occurred to me. I should ask him to drive.
With a sheepish grin on my face, I let go of the handle and walked around the back of the van to the passenger door, to the open window where my friend was, leaning his arm out. I stood there for the briefest of moments looking down at the dust on my shoes. I slowly looked up into his face and asked, “Will you drive?”
He smiled a warm and inviting smile. He gently shook his head and said, “No.”
My heart sank.
“But I would really like you to drive now,” I implored.
“I know,” he said. “I know. But you are not quite ready for that yet.”
“But I really want you to…”
“Soon,” he said confidently, “soon.”
My spirits rose again. He had said “soon.” I can wait for that.
I walked around the back of the van again, hopped into the driver’s seat and started the engine. As I backed up the van, I caught a glimpse of the little white fuzzy dog. He looked as if he was smiling. How could a dog smile?
I popped the gear into drive and pulled up to the edge of the parking lot next to the road. I smiled a little grin towards my friend and asked, “Which way?”
He grinned wide with a sparkle in his eye. He pointed down the road to the right and said, “Let’s go this way.”