One night, while I was walking through my neighborhood in the light drizzle of another bad weather day in upstate New York, footsteps began to approach me from behind in a hurried way that I was certain meant trouble. Suddenly, there were enough shadows to concern a platoon of kindergarten soldiers or somebody spooked as easily as I was after years of living in cities. When whoever it was caught up, perhaps five feet behind me, yet didn’t pass, I felt like I had dropped down the food chain, all instinct and senses, the world turned to sound and smell and the anticipation of touch.
And then those footsteps disappeared, the person behind me mimicking the pace and length of my stride so perfectly I couldn’t hear him. Which made me breathe easier, because I knew I was getting my first dose of Malcolm, the local man who got into stride with pedestrians, then followed them closely but so much in rhythm that some people didn’t know he was there.
Once upon a time Malcolm had been a smart man, I’d been told, but shell shock had gotten him in Korea. He lived in a house somewhere in town and walked the streets until he found someone to march behind.