Everyone had an animal on their back and Lawrence alone saw them.
| Lawrence was moving really slow. It could have been his imagination, but it really seemed to him that the mule on his back had gotten larger. He still distinctly remembered, so many years ago, asking Mr. Paterson, his fourth grade teacher about the mule, but received only a quizzical look. Lawrence wondered why he had a mule on his back. But he also wondered why everyone else had various animals on theirs as well. His best friend, Bart, had a boa constrictor on his and his dad, a pit bull. After the brief conversion with Mr. Paterson, Lawrence didn't bother asking anyone again.
As he crossed over Seventh Ave. he passed a woman with a very large rat, perched on her shoulder. It seemed to be whispering in her ear and Lawrence unfortunately made eye contact. With the rat, not the woman. It bared its teeth at him, but turned back to the woman's ear. Lawrence involuntarily shuddered. The mule on his own back, now he was certain, had grown much larger than he had ever seen it and Lawrence was growing tired. He turned into Vlad's Bistro and Bakery for a mid afternoon snack when something caught his eye, something so unusual, so unexpected that he stopped in his tracks and simply stared. A little old man, surely no more than five feet tall and very likely at least 100 years old, sat alone, facing the door, and Lawrence, and his back was empty. The old man immediately noticed Lawrence staring and smiled at him with a slight nod. Lawrence continued to the counter, ordered his blackberry scone and sat down. As soon as he sat, the old man rose from his seat and joined Lawrence at his table.
"I know what you're thinking," the old man said, smiling. "You are wondering why I have no dog, cat, llama or kangaroo attached to my back, aren't you." Lawrence sat in stunned silence. He has spoken to no one about the animals for so long, the mere fact of someone else acknowledging their existence, nearly befuddled him.
"Why, um, uh, y-y-yes," Lawrence stuttered. "Yes, I see them as well, I always have," the old man continued. "I too, have always wondered why no one else saw them or acknowledged them, and came to live with the fact that I alone saw them. But we are not alone. Every so often, you'll see someone, and the simple act of eye contact will tell you, they see them too. But the bigger question that I know is on the front of your brain, where is my animal?" Drawing a business card from his pocket, the man gave it to Lawrence. He rose from his seat and simply said, "Meet me at this address," pointing to the card, "Sunday at ten o'clock, and everything will be answered." With that the man put on his hat and left.