Stranger Danger

My latest entry to the Angry Hourglass Flash Fiction contest. Photo prompt above, word limit 360. 

Marvin came to the dog park every day at noon without a dog. He sat on the bench with his legs crossed. It made him stand out to the dog walkers and the Frisbee-throwers and the dog-sitters in the park. Only creepy old men crossed their legs.

And he always brought a pink leash with him, which he kept firm in his grip, as his eyes scanned the park behind black sunglasses. A bowler hat sat atop his fraying hair. Thick beads of sweat dripped down his wrinkled neck. Strike number two for onlookers in the dog park. Only creepy old men wore bowler hats anymore.

He never said anything. But he scribbled. Every few minutes, he would pull a tiny notebook from his breast pocket, a pencil and begin scratching away. Nobody knew what. Nobody tried to talk to him. Some would even walk their dog by him to see how they’d react. If the dog snarled its teeth or tucked its tail, Marvin must be a pedophile. Only creepy old men made dogs uncomfortable.

Only creepy old men could be a pedophile. Stranger danger was prominent among the middle-class moms and dads in the suburban dog park. Some had even phoned the police. Dispatch would send a patrol car to drive by, but they couldn’t do anything. There was a “file” on Marvin, they said.

Then, Michelle, a talkative third-grader with a penchant for asking, ‘But why?” stopped to talk to Marvin. Her collie sat by her feet panting, hot from the heat. Her mom had run to the bathroom for “just a minute.” Onlookers had their hands hovering over smartphones like a holstered gun.

“Hi, whatcha doin’?” Michelle said.

“Drawing,” Marvin said. His voice aged, dusty.

“Drawing what? Can I see?”

She could. She looked at the first page, then flipped through several more.

“Doggies! What’s this one?”

“That’s a pit bull named Gus,” Marvin said.

She noticed his pink leash.

“Where’s your dog at?” she said.

“Oh, he joined the other doggies in the clouds last winter.”

Then Michelle’s mom returned and hurriedly ushered her away, interrupting her next question.

Marvin smiled and returned to drawing.

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