It had been howling for, oh, two hours straight. The wind that had begun as a hesitant breeze had grown swiftly to unrelenting gusts. Hard pellets of icy snow filled the air, swirling and crashing on streets and cars and homes. No one in their right mind would be out in this weather. And no one in their right mind was.
“Jiffy!” His words were snatched by the wind and tossed into a sea of soundless air. Still, he persisted.
“Jiffy! Jiff, please! I’m here. Follow my voice!”
How had it even come to this? He’d been a slug for days on end after. That’s how he’d begun to think of it. After. After he’d lost his job due to cuts because of one more regulation the small company just couldn’t afford. After he’d discovered his girlfriend had been seeing another man on the side. Well, that was that. As they say, once trust is gone, what else is there? After he’d had to move from his apartment to a much smaller, less expensive place in another part of town.
The ‘after’ part of his life hadn’t been long – just the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas – but it had been brutal. The road ahead was dark and hopeless, the girl he’d once considered his best friend – wasn’t, and despite knowing it would just make things worse, he’d begun to allow himself to sink into the despair that knocked incessantly at his door.
The one thing that had kept him from crawling under the covers and checking out completely was his dog, Jiffy. He’d rescued Jiffy from the pound at a bargain price the day before he was scheduled to be put down. They were as close as it was possible for man and dog to be. When he went anywhere, Jiffy was right beside him. They ran together every morning and every evening. Before. Yet even when he’d begun his long slide, Jiffy hadn’t deserted him. He’d nudged him out of bed, snuggled next to him with camaraderie’s warmth, and made him keep going somehow.
And now, on a lonely Christmas Eve night, his one loyal friend was lost during a walk around a block of the new part of town; an impulse that, like everything else in his life of late, had gone horribly wrong.
Wasn’t Christmas, if not a time of joy and gladness or lights and presents, at least a time of hope?
He sank to his knees and the snow seeped through his jeans with its numbing cold.
“Jiiiiffyyy! Ji . . .”
He covered his face with his hands. There was no light for him. No joy. No warmth.
Something made him look up: A sound; small, but real, and getting louder. It was a sound he knew by heart. By heart.
After. After they’d gotten back to his apartment, after he’d rubbed Jiffy down with a thirsty towel, after he’d changed into warm, dry clothes, after he’d grilled a steak to split between the two of them, and after he’d turned on some Christmas music, he and Jiffy sat close together and watched the busy snow against a dark sky. He didn’t have a tree this year. There were no lights. Yet something he’d missed began rising up inside him.
And he and Jiffy celebrated like there was no tomorrow. But there was.