Matthew walked bow-legged with quick, northbound jerky strides up the hill above Pescadero State Beach. His blue nose female kept up alongside, but her grey head hung lowered, shoulders hustling, tongue panting. Matthew’s back, young and strong, held his yellow backpack upright. It’s top peeked high above Matthew’s head. It’s bottom strapped snug around Matthew’s hips. The dog’s leash dragged on the ground, handless.
“I saw that guy south of Davenport on my way to Santa Cruz on Thursday!” said the passenger in the car driving southbound on the coast road. “On the way back home, he had reached Swanton.”
The driver regarded Matthew as the car sped past. The speedometer needle poked 60. Only a couple state beaches and a eucalyptus grove altered the contours of the coast hills. “If we see him on the return trip, we’ll pick him up.”
After dinner and drinks at Duarte’s the two hopped back in the car and headed north. On the hill north of Pomponio creek, Matthew and the dog climbed. No arm outstretched with a thumb up asking for a ride. Matthew didn’t turn to even look at the oncoming car.
The car slowed over to the shoulder ahead of Matthew and his tired dog.
The passenger looked surprised at the driver, “I can’t believe you’re actually doing this! Maybe this guy won’t even want a ride?”
“Doubt it,” replied the driver, looking in the rear view mirror. “He’s running towards us.”
“You’re going to let the dog in here too?” asked the passenger.
“I let our dogs in here. And one of ours is a Pit. Why not?”
Slightly winded, Matthew reached the car by traversing the drainage gully along the road’s edge. The passenger stepped out of the car, onto the paved shoulder, opened the back seat door and introduced himself to Matthew. The driver waited behind the wheel, brake applied, engine running. Matthew unclipped the waist strap and slung off his backpack, tossing it to the side of the backseat. The dog jumped in, tail a little tucked, sniffing the carpet of the car.
Through his bushy black beard and his white evenly-spaced teeth, Matthew broadly smiled and said, “Thank you so much for stopping!”