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Yeah, I think just a cheeseburger will be fine,” I told my dad as we stood outside McDonald’s. “I’ll take Beacon while you do that.”

I grabbed my dog’s leash from my father as he strolled into the restaurant. Seconds later, my brother emerged.

We watched as cars, spewing smelly exhaust, drove past. A navy-blue Mercedes suddenly stopped, leaving a car sitting irritatedly at the drive-through window.

The window opened and a man with a face the shape of a perfect oval and hair that was graying and balding appeared. He said something that was inaudible over the rumble of his car and then repeated it.

I swear, I had never seen the guy before. He was a total stranger and I probably will never see him again.

“What breed of dog is that?” the man asked. “’Cause I had a dog that looked just like him.”

“He’s a Maltipoo,” Atticus replied.

I was lost for words but I managed to utter, “A Maltese-Poodle.”

Don’t Talk to Strangers A man in a car
All there was in the world were the dog in the picture, Beacon, and me

The stranger pulled out a brown wallet. He opened it up and I saw what I thought was a picture of the Beakmeister himself (the Beakmeister was my father’s favorite nickname for Beacon).

The dog in the picture had Beacon’s silky fur and black nose and pinkish tongue. The dog curled his tail up against his back like Beacon did when he was happy, and most dogs didn’t. He had Beacon’s floppy ears too. I wondered if the two dogs were related.

“This is him,” said the man. I jumped a little. I had almost forgotten he was there. All there was in the world were the dog in the picture, Beacon, and me.

I saw a little bit of something in the man’s eyes go out, as if in longing for the dog. He tightened his lips a little and dropped the wallet abruptly. Reluctantly, he tore his eyes back to the wheel.

“Take good care of him,” the man murmured, and drove off.

I scooped up Beacon and hugged him close.

Don’t Talk to Strangers Annabel M. Smith
Annabel M. Smith, 11
Manchester, Massachusetts

Don’t Talk to Strangers Elena Delzer
Elena Delzer, 12
Suamico, Wisconsin