Mathias Conway looked out the plate glass window of his convenience store and watched a lonely figure meander his way up the road.
He squinted his eyes against the sun and took a long hard look. He could tell by the stride the walker had come a long way and wasn’t used to hoofing it. The man’s gait had a half-limp that shuffled from foot to foot as if he had sore feet or was a zombie.
Walking beside the man was small dog. Mathias correctly guessed it was a beagle. Every few feet the beagle’s nose would catch a scent and the dog would stop and take a sniff.
The walker looked familiar but Mathias couldn’t recall his name.
Mathias wasn’t a bright man. He was a good man, a great father, and a wonderful husband, but smart he was not. What Mathias was though, was a mechanical genius – his skill at repairing automobiles was legendary and very close to being preternatural.
His service station was renowned and business was steady. Mathias prospered and shared his good fortune with his church and community.
Life was good and Mathias Conway was on top of the world – at least he was until computers became standard in automobiles.
Computers confounded him. He had always been able to diagnose a problem just by the sound of the engine and how it ran on the open road. Computers changed all that. A car with a computer was suddenly a strange and mysterious artifact that defied divination.
As more and more cars came with integrated computers his business suffered until the steady stream of work that had blessed his garage dwindled to the occasional oil change.
Luckily he had his daughter Randi. What lumens Mathias lacked in his brain bulb Randi had and multiplied by factors of 1,000. She graduated WVU with honors and went on to the Osteopathic School down in Lewisburg.
Before leaving she convinced her father to add a convenience store to his garage. Randi had Yancey Stubbs set Mathias up with a state of the art point-of-sale and inventory control system that was almost Mathias proof.
All Mathias had to do was point a scanner at the UPC code and computer would do the rest; it even gave correct change back to cash paying customers.
Mathias was happy. He had his convenience store to keep him feed and enough oil changes to keep him happy. Life was good again.
His newfound happiness lasted only a few years before it was interrupted by the death of his wife Mary and Mathias fell into a deep depression.
Randi again come to her father’s rescue. She recognized her father was depressed and did the only thing she could to bring light back into his life. She bought him a puppy.
Her father had special needs. He needed a dog that demanded attention, would cheer him up, and one that could watch out for him. The dog would have to be wicked smart but eager to please. She reasoned it needed to be a working dog and put her research skills to work identifying the perfect breed.
Randi settled on a Portuguese Water Dog.
When Randi came home for Christmas she didn’t come alone. She brought with her a small, dark bundle of fur and attitude.
Caesar crossed the Rubicon and marched into Mathias’s life.
The puppy was aptly named. What little Caesar saw he was compelled to conquer. Stuffed animals lost their squeakers to his playful viciousness and no trashcan was safe from his pillaging ways. The puppy was hell on four paws and a delight to everyone who encountered him.
Mathias and Caesar quickly bonded. The dog, stubborn and strong willed as he was, wanted nothing more to please Mathias and make him happy.
The dog was smart and easily trained. He quickly learned proper potty habits and never stopped learning. He learned to open doors, and he learned to open the refrigerator.
Mathias often joked that Caesar was always the smartest person in the room and Randi secretly thought he might be right.
Randi watched in wonder one lazy summer afternoon as Caesar nudge the refrigerator door open with a paw and quickly inserted his snout into the opening and fliped the door wide open. Randi expected carnage to follow but Caesar paused to appraise the refrigerator’s contents before selecting a smallish block of Wisconsin cheddar cheese and deftly plucking it from the shelf.
The dog turned and trotted back to the living room to eat his booty in leisure glancing at Randi on his way out of the kitchen.
“That dog is proud of himself.” She thought.
Fast forward to the present. .
Mathias stared at the man through his plate glass window and set his brain to remembering. Synapses fired both right and left; chemicals flowed and long-term memory cells were activated. Straining with the effort of remembering he came dangerously close to having a stroke
A sharp “look at me” bark from Caesar broke his concentration.
He looked from the window to his dog.
While Mathias was deep in thought Caesar had retrieved an old Sports Illustrated magazine and dropped it at his master’s feet.
On the cover of the magazine were Patrick White and Steve Slaton. Just behind them. Rich Rodriquez could be seen on the sidelines.
Mathias looked at the magazine and back to the man slowly making his way up the road. His gaze continued to shift from the magazine to the man and back again in disbelief.
Rich Rodriquez was headed straight for his store.
Mathias looked at his dog and said: “It’s Rich Rodriquez, Rich Rodriquez!”
Caesar growled at the mention of the name.