The old pick-up truck packed with kids rattled past our house. From the cab, Gussy, one of my school friends, waved to me. A few moments later, I heard the click of claws striking pavement. I looked up and saw Gussy's dog approaching. Chopper, a huge brown-and-black dog ran by. His long ears flopped. His thick, pink tongue trailed from the side of his mouth.

Chopper flew by. His eyes focused on the retreating truck. The truck rounded the corner and disappeared from view with Chopper in hot pursuit. An hour or so later, Chopper returned, plodding home. He'd lost the race, but the game wasn't over.

We lived in a small fishing village. The only road wound around the harbor.

In half a mile, it made four 90-degree turns. Not many people walked those turns. They followed the well-worn paths that meandered close to the shoreline.

Chopper learned those paths.

Once again I watched the truck make the first turn and disappear from view.

Chopper, running madly, appeared soon after. With his tail stuck out behind him, ears slapping the side of his head, and that dangling tongue dripping drool, Chopper passed our house. Instead of following the road, Chopper cut to the right and disappeared into the tall grass.

He reappeared around the bend, just as the truck got there. The truck gained ground, took the second turn, and once again fell from view. Chopper, not to be outdone, took another shortcut, and caught up. At that point, they both disappeared over a hill.

Eventually, the truck pulled away for good. It would be a long time before Chopper returned. The chase had been long and hard. I patted his head as he passed.

"Good boy, Chopper. You did well." He turned his big brown eyes to me, licked my hand, and continued his journey home. The next day would bring another chase.

Years later, an older Chopper chased a newer truck. He couldn't keep up, but he didn't admit defeat. The truck would be around the second turn before Chopper came into view and took the shortcut. By the time he burst out of the grass, the truck would be around the third turn and gone. Chopper continued on for a while, knowing the way, but soon returned home.

One day, the truck went by, but Chopper didn't. He'd passed away in his sleep the night before.

In life, Chopper had a goal. He went straight for it. He didn't waste time meandering. If he had to jump off the main road, he did. The road everyone else takes is not always the best. Chopper knew the best way.

Michael T. Smith

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