How are you feeling? I hope this time is not lonely for many of you who miss family gatherings. sharing grand meals with others and watching grandchildren showing great delight in the gifts given.
Many years ago, I wrote this story and as time went on the story became my story. The story is titled Night Watch.
The red glow of the flashing hotel sign cast a slanted rosy hue through the ragged venetian blinds. The old man stood watching from that window at the dismal night below. His blank stare waiting for some event to take his thoughts away from this night. A night that would soon be his third Christmas Eve alone and lonely.
As people came and went from the beer parlour entrance he could hear the contrived gaiety of the other “residents”of this hotel as they supplied good cheer for all from their newly cashed welfare cheques. The old man had been asked to come down for a couple of “snorts” but he declined knowing full well how many times he had done that very thing and a few snorts later he was left without funds and food until the next cheque came in. This Christmas Eve the man would stay in the confines of his rosy room imagining the glow of Christmas trees and family which now seemed so long ago.
The man stood wrapped in the sad cloak of memories for a seemingly long time, remembering all he could or wanted to. Then, as if by some remote command he drew himself away from the window, put on his weathered coat, retrieved his walking stick , then left the miserable room to walk with his thoughts in the cool coastal Christmas air.
He walked for some time along the busy street seeing faces and seeing none. He stopped at shop windows, watching the mechanical elves and Santas move stiffly through their enticing festive scenarios. Over and over again the painted wooden faces reminded the old man of another time and place.
He continued to walk down the gaily lit street, then turned away from the merriment retreating down the dark alley. He stood listening for a moment — listening to familiar sounds. Alley cats scurrying here and there, moans of the homeless as they settled down to sleep off the night of celebrations in their own dark hell. Then came the wafting odours of urine, vomit and bags of garbage that should have long ago been taken away. Into this sad scene the old man walked with confidence and knowing — knowing this was really his place.
As he picked his way through and around puddles and garbage his attention was pulled to an out-of-character sound coming from a large industrial garbage bin. Following the sound he carefully lifted the heavy battered half-side lid. For a moment the sound was gone, a sound like that of a child whimpering. Something small and in distress. He stood quietly holding open the heavy lid, then again from the bowels of this putrid bin came a sound of sadness.
He was unable to to see the bottom of the bin, nor could he reach as far as the reeking collection of garbage. He stumbled about in the alley looking for something to stand on so that he might be able to reach well into the bin.
Finally he was able to find a sturdy box to stand on and he reached down as far as he could. He waved his hand back and forth but still he could not fathom or feel the source of the sound. Climbing down from his perch, he picked up his walking stick and poked around a bit more. Very soon the stick struck the something that changed the sound of the desperation. He reached down getting a firm grip on a cloth bundle. As he pulled the bundle to the lip of the bin the wrapped weight wiggled and whimpered.
The man put his cold hand into the breast pocked of his tweed overcoat to pull out a box of Eddy Light Matches. After a few lost match heads and a couple choice four-letter words, a match lit. There in the flickering light, lay wrapped in a grimy Regency Hotel towel, a hairless new-born puppy.
The crusty, mucused blue eyes of the creature started vacantly at the old man, as if half listening to the tsk tsk sound he made as he lifted the tiny puppy and placed it inside his coat next to his heart.
He retraced his steps along the festively lit streets The rain had stopped and the Christmas lights shone like stars in the night. To all he passed he wished a Merry Christmas! At Mings Grocery, he bought two cans of Pacific Milk and a baby bottle. To all the quizzical looks the man received he just smiled.
He returned to his room all rosy aglow where he heated the milk on his two burner hot plate. After testing the milk on his wrist he squirted the right amount of nourishment into the waiting hungry mouth. He cleaned the sickness from its new blue eyes while love and kindness shone from his own.
Well into the new year, and for some time after, the old man could be seen walking the streets of the city with a very healthy puppy of some breed. They walked happily together showing great pride in each other. One day their walk through life was over and the old man and the puppy were seen no more. All that was left were the stories told by other old men about the happy thing that happened to one of their kind some time ago.
I think of this story when I look at my old cat who came here rescued from garbage. He was warmed inside Al’s coat and still lives here today. My old dog also rescued lives on even though Al died 10 years ago. Maybe when I am gone you will remember my walk through life with rescued animals.
The best to you this Christmas. Be well . Call 250-846-5095 if you wish or send your story of good times to firstname.lastname@example.org.