The sign was eight by eight and had been torn from the bottom of a cardboard box.
In thick black ink it said, Tumors Detected, $1.
He had tied it to the post at the dog park with a piece of string.
People avoided him, even looked away, as though he were a cancerous mass.
What about this lump here, a couple stopped to ask, more as a joke.
The detective searched near the dog’s belly with his hand, then touched the lump gently.
Lipoma, he said tersely. Nothing to worry about.
His hands had become sensitive after the protracted loss of his own animal.
Without being asked he stopped a young woman and reached for her dog.
She picked the tiny terrier up to defend it, hold it close.
I’m sensing heat, he said, may I hold her for a moment.
When she handed him the dog the heat dissipated, but he passed his hands over it to be sure.
He opened another campstool next to him and invited her to sit down.
I don’t have a dollar, she said.
I do, he said. How do you feel?
She began to cry, at first softly and then convulsively.
It’s still early, he said. Chances are good.
The woman sat next to him for a time without speaking and he patted her shoulder.
Finally, when she had gathered herself, she put the little change she had in his cup and went away.
Andrew Rooney teaches writing at Jindal Global University in Sonipat, India, and has published numerous stories and novels.