By: Darrelyn L. Tutt

Max (not his real name) is a "regular" on my walk.
I like him.
Bound to a wheelchair and seated on a portion of sidewalk linked to the VA (Veteran's hospital,) we intersect on my daily speedwalk. My greeting consists of a shoulder squeeze in passing, a cheerful greeting, and sometimes a little verbal tease thrown in ... which I think he likes very much.
Based on scent, I know in advance when Max is on the trail.
An extremely heavy smoker, the strong pungent aroma of his cigarette signals me to his presence about a block in advance. Sometimes I tease hiim about whether he's smoking his "last" cigarette and he laughs and says, "Maybe the next."
We've exchanged phone numbers and Max has called me a few times to "chew the fat." A humorous expression, I've done my best to digest the curious contents he's supplied me with.
Yesterday, Max was in an unusually good mood and shared the favorable news of an upcoming transfer soon to be his. The move is a positive one and good news indeed, but I'll feel his absence on the trail and I know I'll miss him.
I'll even miss the smell of his pungent cigarettes.
And I think to myself how thankful I am for Max; for a cigarette addiction and a speedwalk linking us together.
For God's grace and a Veteran's face on my path.
A few more shoulder squeezes and a few more verbal teases will be mine,
but then Max will be gone and so will our time.
I'll leave him with a huge massive hug (both shoulders) and an earnest prayer, and the smell of his cigarettes will linger long in the air. We'll remember each other in a soft and tender way and who knows but that he might call and still "chew the fat" with me one day.
Sometimes a walk includes a smoke ...
 And a friend named Max.