Something Different

Something Different

Rain, snow, sleet, or hail—every day, at precisely 7:30 a.m. Michael takes Goldie, his golden retriever-german shepherd mix, for a walk. Every day at 8:55 a.m. he arrives at work, checks his email, watches the large windows for customers entering the used car lot where, for the last 40 years, he’s sold minivans to families with sticky-fingered toddlers, sport cars to retired men with bald spots and dropping testosterone levels, even a few RVs and a handful of motorcycles. Every day since his wife died, for dinner Michael microwaves a frozen dinner—meatloaf or chicken tenders or lasagna, shares his scraps with Goldie, then takes her for another walk at precisely 8 p.m. Every day, by 9:30 p.m. he’s drifted off to sleep, Goldie curled up by his feet. Every day until today.

Today, at 7:30 a.m. when Goldie whines to go for a walk, he lets her out into the yard, and sits at his kitchen table staring out the window. When 8:55 a.m. rolls around, he’s still wearing sweatpants, watching the local weather channel, swearing when the weatherman announces an incoming cold front. Today, he is jobless.

First, Michael couldn’t find the car keys. A couple would want to test drive a Subaru Outback and he would grab the keys for the Ford Focus instead. Then, Michael couldn’t find the cars. He’d finally locate the correct key, but when he went into the parking lot, he’d wander around the lot, in the winter weather, customers trailing behind him. Finally, what sealed his fate was when he started to lose the checks—big, fat checks. His boss, a young guy who had fewer years of experience than Michael had wrinkles, fired him without so much as a severance check.

Michael looks at himself in the mirror. “You’re not old,” he says to his graying hair and crow’s feet. “You are not losing your mind,” he says to his slate eyes.


On Saturday, Michael’s grandsons climb, jump, and tumble in the mall play area. Michael’s daughter, Danielle, sits next to her father on a bench nearby.

“How have you been, Dad?

“I’m good.”

“Yeah? I worry about you. Since mom’s been gone you’ve—”

“Goldie and I get along just fine. We get plenty of exercise and eat healthy dinners every night.”

“I know, but it would do you some good to try something new. Meet some people. Maybe a card club at the community center?”

“Card club? No way. That’s for old geezers.”

Danielle sighs then hands a water bottle to one of her sons. “Anyways, how’s work been?”

“Oh. Uh, it’s been… great!” Michael says with too much enthusiasm.


“Yeah, I sold two cars just today.”

“That’s great, Dad.”

The next morning, Michael’s body wakes him up at 7 a.m., despite having no alarm set, despite having no job, despite it being Sunday morning. When Goldie whines for her morning walk, Michael lets her out into the yard.

Michael looks in the mirror. “You’re not getting old,” he says.

“You’re not losing your mind,” the Michael in the mirror responds.

“I’m going to do something different today, Goldie” he says as he lets the dog back inside.

Michael gets dressed in his typical work outfit—dress slacks and a button-up shirt. After 20 minutes of searching, Michael locates his jacket and keys, gets into his car and starts driving.

He finds himself following a route, as if by memory, but it’s not to the dealership. Where is his car taking him? He ends up in the parking lot of a church. He used to go to this church with his wife sometimes, before she passed away.

Inside, the service has already started. Michael slips into the back row, into a plush seat, not like the pews he was used to. The music is too loud. The preacher is boring. But two rows in front of him, Michael spots a woman. She’s about Michael’s age, and she’s holding a chihuahua. The chihuahua is gray around its mouth, with cataracts on its eyes, wearing a bedazzled collar and a pink tutu.

After the service ends, out in the foyer, Michael introduces himself to the woman. “Hello, I’m Michael. I was watching your dog during the service. She’s so well behaved.”

“Hello, Michael, I’m Bernadette and this is Princess. Yes, she especially enjoys the music.”

“I have a dog too. Her name is Goldie.”

After some more small talk, Bernadette asks, “Would you mind holding her for a little bit, while I use the restroom?”

“Certainly,” Michael replies. Princess sniffs his hand then settles into his arms.

“Princess,” Michael whispers into the dog’s ear. “Can I tell you something?”

Princess licks his hand three times. Michael takes that as an affirmative gesture.

“I got fired.”

Princess’ ears perk up.

“I’m getting old,” he whispers. “I’m losing my mind.”

She nuzzles into his arm, and Michael pets her head.


About the Author

Bethany Jarmul is a writer, editor, and poet. Her work has appeared in more than 40 literary magazines and been nominated for Best of the Net and Best Spiritual Literature. She earned first place in Women On Writing's Q2 2022 essay contest. Bethany enjoys chai lattes, nature walks, and memoirs. She lives near Pittsburgh with her family. Connect with her at or on Twitter: @BethanyJarmul.


Photo by JCT 600 from Flickr