I met Franklin outside my favorite cafe. He was black, white, and tan and connected by a leash to a man sitting in a green, slotted, folding chair.
"May I steal him?" I asked.
"You can pet him," the man said.
Franklin wore a red holiday sweater, and his fur was silky and smooth. "He just had a bath," the man told me.
The man asked if I had a dog. I told him how I'd had a cat. How I'd lost the cat. How I wasn't ready to try again. I didn't tell him how I still find the cat's hairs on my clothes and on my sheets or how my dustbuster recently popped open, spilling the litter it'd sucked up eight months before, or how the loss of the cat followed the loss of the person I'd adopted him with or how I'd recently found a ticket stub from a sculpture park in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with that person's name on it marking the page of a book I sold at The Strand. He said, "maybe next time, try a dog."
I laughed as I stood up from the sidewalk where I'd been kneeling, petting Franklin. "Maybe next time."