“I love you fellow. You warm me when I’m cold. You cheer me when I’m sad.”
The panting bulldog slowly inched his way over the bed closer to the reclining boy. His tail wagged exuberantly as the frail hand reached out and softly stroked the smooth brown coat.
“You’re a good dog, fellow. Someday, we’ll roam the park together and play the games we’ve only been able to talk about. I know we will. I know we will.”
A murmur of agreement reached him as his hand slowed its movement on the journey to sleep.The bulldog nudged its head under the boy’s hand to urge a continuation of the soothing contact. The boy smiled and gently stroked him again. He saw only warmth and affection in the glistening black eyes peering at him through the ever deepening twilight and shadows. The grotesque limbs of an ancient oak futilely guarded the window from the approaching darkness---but disappeared in it as they were overwhelmed.
The boy slept, his hand wrapped gently around the warm, comforting presence of the bulldog. The ticking of the ship’s clock on the wall measured the silence with a rhythmic beat. The growing shadow of the dark hid the souvenirs and knickknacks of his young life: Dodgers’ pennant; signed baseball; cap and mitt; Cub Scout derby racecar; merit badge sash. They all seemed so distant now. A gyroscope.
A quickly increasing light suddenly broke the darkness as the bedroom door opened. A mother’s soft voice spoke to her husband in the hushed whisper of a sick room visitor.
“He’s asleep again. George, he’s been sick so long and sometimes I’m so afraid I won’t be with him when the time comes. Soon, he’ll sleep forever, and we might miss him those last few moments.”
With tears moistening her cheeks, she turned to bury her face at her husband’s chest. George comforted her as best he could and gazed past her to the boy on the bed.
“He’s happy; it shows. Ever since he was visited by that magician friend of yours from Connorsville, he’s been happy. He knows he won’t be with us much longer, but he’s happy.”
Tears filled his eyes, too, as he tightly embraced his wife in mutual sadness.
“There was magic in that man; Billy’s been so peaceful these past few weeks…”
He stopped and stared at the bed.“There it is again.”
“There is what again, George?”
Mary straightened with apprehension and dabbed her reddened eyes with a tissue. She watched her husband quietly approach the bed, bend over, and remove something to the floor near the corner. He returned to the doorway, closed the door, and, together, they slowly made their way to the front room.
“It’s that ceramic bulldog,” he said as he drew his wife closer. “I simply don’t understand how he gets that heavy thing up on the bed with him.”