Once Upon A Christmas Eve
“Time for bed, finally.” I close my laptop and stand. Stretching, I feel the soreness of my stiff muscles and hear the soft pops of creaking bones. “I could use a massage,” I tell my furry companion. Of course, he never answers me but it is nice to talk to someone who doesn’t complain like my boss always does. Memories of hearing another long drawn out speech about how we need to get our sales up with yet another catchy advertisement play around in my head. Strands of my hair fall out of my pinned-up bun as I try to shake the never-ending list of things still to do from that conversation.
“Good Night Snickers,” I mumble as I click off the living room lights and I shuffle my feet slowly down the hallway towards my bedroom. Visions of a hot shower filter across my eyes as I am stopped in my tracks by a voice filling my head.
“Nighty night Sally.”
I freeze. The voice gruff, sending goosebumps running down my arms. I couldn’t have heard, that, right?
I jump. The same voice filled my head. I am so confused about where it is coming from because I know I am alone in the apartment. No one else is here and to be certain, I swivel around. The Christmas tree and simple lights lining the windows the only illumination in the room. Snickers stretching out on the couch paused and tilted his head towards me.
“Did you hear that?” I ask him, feeling silly. I know he won't answer me, but wondering why he didn’t make a noise if there really was someone else in the room. His tongue laps out and licks his nose before sitting down to watch me. I could swear he narrows his eyes at me, making his pointed face even sharper at the edges. I chuckle at the absurdity of his look and shake my head.
“Of course, you didn’t. I think I am losing it.” I run a hand through my hair and look around the room one last time. Before going down the hallway again, I check and make sure the door is locked and the alarm is on. After I am satisfied all is in order, I start walking down the hallway. I rub my arms, the goosebumps still there.
“Well Sally, you really do need some time off. You are hearing things.” I blow out a breath.
“You can’t go on vacation. You always leave me with weird people.”
“AAAAHHHHH!” I jump and hit the doorway to my bedroom. My shoulder stings and my heart races. “Who is there?!”
Eyes wide, I press myself against the flat part of my bedroom wall just inside the door. I peer into the dimly light hallway to see Snickers sitting there wagging his tail, staring at me. My hand shakes as I motion for him to come into my room. He blows out a snort and moves as if he has nothing to worry about down the hallway.
“Come on slow dog.” I urgently whisper. The feeling of someone else being in my apartment and I can’t see them driving my anxiety skyward.
It felt like an eternity when he finally passed my door and I quickly close it. The click of the door followed by the click of the latch semi comforting. I back up and bump into Snickers, who was standing behind me.
“Oh, sorry,” I mumble, looking down at him and then patting my pants pocket for my cell phone. I needed to report this.
“Well, you didn’t step on me this time. That is a plus.”
I scream and jump back.
You have got to be kidding me, right? My stomach feels like it leaped into my chest.
“What?” I hear that gruff voice fill my ears as Snickers tilts his polka-dotted head. “Why are you looking at me like that? You sure are acting weird Sally.”
“Oh. My God.” I shift away from him and close my eyes. “This is not happening.” I pinch the bridge of my nose. “I have officially gone insane. I’ve cracked. I mean,” I drop my hand and open my eyes, trying to focus on my breathing, “There is no reasonable explanation for this.”
“You could use some time off.”
“Shut up!” I scream. “Just shut up!”
Snickers whines and lays down. His black eyes staring up at me. His tail tucked underneath him he waits.
“This isn’t happening right now. I have been thinking too much about work and the ad. It’s Christmas eve for crying out loud. I am not going to lose it on the one night I get to actually sleep in.”
I move, giving a wide birth as I go around Snickers, to the bathroom. I look over my shoulder to make sure he is still in the same spot. Satisfied he will stay; I pry open the medicine cabinet and pull out the Escitalopram my doctor gave me. I haven’t been taking it but I think this calls for a restart. Hearing voices might require more than this medication can handle.
I hear a snort. Water cup in my hand, I turn as I lift the glass to my mouth and swallow down the pills. Snickers is sitting up now, staring at me with an odd expression on his puppy face. I took another gulp of water.
“Why are you taking those?”
“What do you mean?”
Snickers' eyes seem to widen. He shakes his head back and forth before staring at me again. “You don’t need them.”
So, we are doing this now? I am really arguing with my dog? “I am talking to my dog. I think this calls for some medication.”
He makes a low bark, something he usually doesn’t do unless he is trying to chase a squirrel or cat. His slim body lifts and he backs away from me slightly.
“Yes. I answered you.” I roll my eyes and he barks. “That is what I have been trying to understand too.”
“Told you I was losing my mind.”
His head shakes again and I chuckle. A full belly, loud, chuckle. Snickers struts over to me and tugs on my pants.
“Hey! Stop that.”
He gives a playful growl and releases my pants. “Well, you stop it too.”
“I didn’t start it. You did,” I point to him.
“His mouth drops open and his tongue lolls out. “I most certainly did not. You started talking to me.”
“I did n-“
“Yes, you did.”
I close my eyes again and pinch my nose. “Whatever. Look, how is this possible? This is just because I am tired, right?” I drop my hand again and put the pill bottle back in the cabinet. “I mean, this isn’t normal.”
“Well, you always talk to me anyway. So… in a way this is normal.”
I go to protest, but I stop. My hands rest on my hips. My head tilts to the side and I am at a loss for words. He was right. I do talk to him all the time.
“Fine. You are right, but usually, you don’t respond.”
He barks and wags his tail. “I do but you never listen.”
My brows draw together and I stare at him. Don’t I? He just never talks back. I think to myself and wonder. Maybe I don’t listen to him. I chew on my lip and frown. Maybe he was right.
“Since you are listening now, can I please tell you that you are too good for that job.”
“What?” I blurt out. My hands lifting at my sides.
“You do too much and have no fun.” He whines from his seated position on the floor. “I never get to play or spend time with you. When you do it’s sitting around.”
“Really?” I cross my arms over my chest. “That is what you wanted to say to me? Out of everything, you are complaining about having fun?! You do realize I work so hard to put a roof over our heads and feed us, right?”
I feel my anxiety rising along with my irritation. Great, now someone else to complain to me about stuff. Just what I need tonight.
“Sorry, but I think you would feel better-“
“I would feel better,” I yell into the room, “if everyone would lay off me for once.” My hands fall and clench into fists at my sides.
“I want what is good for you.” He responds. Some of my rising anger fading at the drop of his jaw.
“Fine.” I blow out. “Can you at least explain to me how any of this is possible?” I grind my teeth together.
He licks at his nose and gets up. Crawling under my bed I see his whip-like tail swish back and forth as I hear rustling.
“What are you doing?”
More rustling and then he is tugging on something. His growling noises mixed with grunting as he jerks back and forth from under my bed. I raise an eyebrow when he emerges from under the mattress, yanking a small box out.
“Why are you pulling out Nana’s box?”
He pants when he finally stops tugging on the freed box. Sitting down and opening his mouth wide. Suddenly, he shakes his head and takes his paw to rub at his nose. Nipping as he rubbed. He sneezed once and shook his head again.
“I know it probably was dusty,” I said.
“Ok.” He sat up and looked at me again. “Open the box.”
I nod and do as he asked. In the box were old photos and letters, along with other knick-knacks. His paw lands on a stack and I pick it up. I look through it, dropping the letters and pamphlets down one by one.
“There,” he says as I reach a small book.
I put all the other items back in the box and turn the book in my hand. “This is an old fairytale book. What does this have to do with anything?” I read the title: Once Upon A Christmas Eve
“Do you remember it?”
His gruff words starting to become less surprising in my head, have me thinking. I remember this as a child, yes. “Nana used to tell us this story,” I remember her reading it before bed every night in December. “Something about a little girl and animals. It was a story to help children get to sleep.”
Snickers shook his head and his ears flopped back and forth. Drool flew around from his panting.
“No?” I questioned. What else could it be?
“It was about animals talking to people on Christmas Eve.” He snorted. “It isn’t a fairytale. Just a rare occasion.”
My mouth fell open and I gaped at him. “You are joking.”
Snickers just tilts his head and squint his dog eyes at me.
“Fine, it’s possible.” Still, in disbelief, I look around. “Why now?”
“I don’t know but at least we can talk.”
A question pops into my head and I bite my lip. “OK. So how long does this last?”
“Well,” He turns to nudge the book in my hand, “according to this, only tonight.”
I frown at the book in my hand and stand to move to the bed. I sit down on the mattress and feel the bounce underneath me. Only one night? If the universe is going to throw me a curveball couldn’t they make it last for a little while? Now I know how Cinderella felt, geez.
Snickers jumps up on the bed and lays beside me. His head rests on my lap and I place the book on the bed to my other side. I involuntary start to rub his head like I always do. He rubs into my side.
“Mmmmm. So good.” The gruff voice runs through my mind. “Like that.”
“Well, at least I know I make one guy happy in my life,” I joke. The thought of talking to him still weird. I wonder what he thinks about every day. Is he happy? Is there something else he would rather be doing? Where does he want to go?
“Speaking of guys, can you please dump Josh now?”
I stop petting him and place my hands on the bed behind me. His eyes tilt up to mine.
“What? What is wrong with Josh?”