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My master was acting strange. More so than is common I suppose for creatures with only two legs. Normally his actions don’t concern me much though for some reason my curiosity was sparked and so I managed to pull myself away from the warm spot I’d claimed near the fire and I followed him. He glanced at me briefly, just to let me know that he was aware of my presence, but then paid me little mind. This baffled me somewhat because he would, on any other night, stoop down to pet me or even pick me up and carry me in his arms.I wasn’t deterred in the least by my master’s lack of interest mind you, but his odd behavior was, none the less, something of a mystery that required further investigation.
He lit a candle then turned and began to walk down a long and narrow corridor. I sometimes pitied lesser creatures and their need of candles and lamps. The light from the flame cut through the inky darkness like a knife but unlike my master, I had no need of such things, I could see perfectly well in the dark. I followed along behind him at a faster pace in order to keep up. His long legs and even graceful stride allowed for him to cover more ground but I was fast. I could run down a rabbit and dispatch it before it even realized it was in danger. My master always seemed pleased and slightly amused with my hunting skills but they came naturally to me; I was after all, a born predator.
As my master neared the end of the corridor he stopped and while holding the candle in one hand, he unlocked a door with the other. I moved beside him and sat, watching him. He looked down at me somberly. “No Sebastian.” He said to me, calling me by name. “You stay here this time.” I was confused by this but I did as I was told. He opened the door and stepped through it, closing it again behind him. I took a step back then quickly jumped up into the only window in the corridor and watched him walk across the yard. His silhouette bathed in the moonlight. Farther and farther he walked, until he had moved out of my sight.
“Left you here alone did he?” I turned my head and looked down to the rat on the floor. “Scurry off rabble.” I told it, “Before I make a meal of you. The affairs of my master are no concern of yours.”“Pathetic Kitty,” The pest
chimed again. “The
“two-legs” have you whipped in submission.”
“Not at all,” I corrected her. “We have an understanding is all, I am his companion and he mine. One such as yourself could never understand our relationship. Two-legs see your kind as nothing more than vermin, you are disgusting to them.”
“And your kind are their pets, how degrading, which is worse?”
I snarled and growled, baring my fangs. “You try my patience insect. If you value your miserable life, I suggest you flee because I tare you open and spill your innards across the floor.”
“I’m going.” The rat grunted as she turned from me. “There’s no food for me here anyway.” She stopped briefly and looked at me. “You know…” She chided, “The time will come when your master will lose interest in you and cast you out. You will be forced to scavenge for your food. It’s bound to happen. The two-legs are so fickle that way. Perhaps, once you starve to death, it will be I who will feast on you.”
I hissed a warning as the rodent laughed then hurried down the corridor into the darkness. “Filthy thing,” I yelled after her, “Show your face to me again you pest and it will be the end of you!”
The vermin disappeared into the darkness and I snarled after her. What a wretch, I thought to myself, as if my master would ever cast me out in such a way, it was unthinkable.
I leapt down onto the floor quickly and headed back down the way that we had come. I had planned to return to my spot near the fire but as I rounded the corner I heard a noise like feathers rustling. It was coming from the breezeway and so I stopped to investigate. The light from the moon cast shadows all around the place, my eyes sliced through the darkness as I scanned for the source of the noise that I heard. Finally my gaze settled on a large crow that was perched in one of the arched windows. He was full black with sable eyes, a magnificent looking bird. He turned and looked at me then bowed his head slightly to acknowledge me. “Greetings,” The bird said, “I hope I’m not intruding. I followed a beetle into your house, he thought he could escape his fate but I quickly snatched him up.”
“No, not at all,” I told the bird. “You are welcome to hunt here, I’m sure my master would not mind.”
“Thank you,” The crow fluttered his beautiful wings then left his perch and lighted on the floor before me. “You are very kind. Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Victor. I have a nest in a tree in your cemetery here, I’m sorry that we had not been introduced sooner, being that we are neighbors.”“Indeed,” I bowed respectively, “I am very pleased to make your acquaintance Victor, my name is Sebastian, my master owns this estate, and I live here with him.”
“I have seen your master.” Victor told me. “Just recently, He was in the cemetery kneeling by a stone. He seems quite somber. He was there for a short time then stood and left.”
My ears perked at this. Why would my master have been in the grave yard? I wondered. Again my concern for him was triggered and I thought to question Victor more about what he had seen.
“If you follow me,” victor said, “I will show you right where I saw him last.”
I nodded in agreement and quickly followed after my new friend as he took to flight, leading me in the direction of the grave yard.
I passed many old stones, most of them faded, and neglected. The weeds had grown up around them making the entire atmosphere seem that much more pathetic and melancholy. I stopped along the path and glanced at a few of the forgotten monuments. The cemetery itself rested on the land that my master owned making it quite private and a bit eerie. Victor flew on ahead then landed on the top of a hauntingly beautiful statue of a woman. I crept closer to it and looked over the replica; it bore a striking resemblance to someone I had seen before. Yes, I thought to myself, I know this woman, though I was unable to recall her name just then.
There was such detail in her features and the sculpting of her gown. The look on her face so morose, it saddened me to look upon her. I turned my gaze from the woman’s face and concentrated on the letters etched at the bottom of the monument. I these letters formed words, they were the language of the Two-legs, something I have grown accustomed to over the years. My master was fond of reading and sometimes he would sit next to the fire with me on the arm of his chair and he would read allowed to me. I began to follow along and soon was able to understand the writing. “Beloved,” I read the words aloud. “Iris…”
“Do you know the deceased?” Victor asked me.
“I know of her.” I admitted. “She was my master’s mate, his lover. He was quite devastated at her passing. I only saw her a few times myself. She was very beautiful for a creature of only two legs. My master loved her a great deal and I know that she loved him as well, but she was unhappy in her life. She always wanted something more and she dwelled greatly on her displeasure. There was nothing that my master could do to ease her anguish. I began to notice that their meetings became fewer and fewer and then stopped all together. It was then that I learned of her death though I don’t recall my master mentioning how she died; only that she had.”
“So tragic,” Victor lamented. “I do so hate to hear of young love cut short. The pain your master must of felt, I can only imagine.” He hung his head as if he too were grieving for the lost lady. I gave him a moment and looked around the cemetery grounds, hoping to discover some bit of evidence that would alert me to my master’s whereabouts. “You didn’t see where he went when he left here?” I asked Victor.
“No, sadly I did not.” Victor spread his wings and then flew up onto the branch of nearby tree. “And I don’t see him anywhere now.”
“Perhaps he’s returned to his bed.” I said, thinking out loud. It seemed unlikely to me that he was retire when the night was still new and without wishing me a good day as he normally did, but at this point I considered that given his unusual behavior, anything was possible really. I ran off quickly for the place where he sleeps, a small sepulcher at the other end of the cemetery. Victor followed me in flight, and then sat on the ledge of an open window as I squeezed in through a small hole in the side of the building. The chamber, as I thought, was empty and I sat on the floor feeling dispirited. Victor flew over to the top of my master’s coffin and alighted there. “Again our pursuit has shown no results.” My friend sighed. “Is there no where else you can think of where he might have gone?”
I thought for a moment, weighing all the possibilities in my head. My Master would often leave the estate at night and return just before dawn. This was not an uncommon occurrence though he would always find me, leave me a bit of food or a saucer of milk, and tell me that he was going out for the night. Before her death, his lady would often accompany him when he left for the evening. In the weeks since her passing though he ventured out less frequently, sometimes not at all, other times only for a short while and would return to his sitting room where he lounged in his chair in front of the fire with me curled up at his feet. I found it unlikely that he would leave the grounds without alerting me first to his departure and so I deducted that he was, currently, somewhere nearby, but still within the grounds of the estate.
I told victor this and assured him that my master was close, I just wasn’t sure where. I began to grow more uneasy as time passed. My instincts told me that something was not right and I learned as a kitten to always trust my instincts as they were quite attuned to the world around me.
“Perhaps you could sniff him out?” Victor suggested.
I snorted in disapproval at his assumption. “I’m not a dog.” I hissed.
The corvid laughed at my reaction. “I only meant that being familiar with his scent you could use it to trace his steps.”
“Not in this place.” I explained. “His scent is masked by the fragrance of death that surrounds this place, following it would only have me going in circles.”
Victor raised his head thoughtfully as he considered other options. “I don’t like to brag…” He said suddenly, “But, I am quite the tracker myself. I have a gift for seeking out the dead and those who are linked with death. It’s an art that my kind are very skilled at however, we tend to keep that secret to ourselves.”
“Your secret is safe with me.” I assured him, “Can you help me?”
The crow nodded, “Follow me.” He instructed me. I watched as he escaped through the window and I exited once more through the hole in the wall.
I ran along on the ground as victor flew above me. He circled around the ladies statue for a moment then suddenly turned and took off in the direction of the woods where apparently my master had traveled. Victor soared through the trees and I followed quickly down the path through the secluded copse. Finally, he slowed as we came into a clearing and there, sitting on the ground near a small pond I saw him, master. He was so absorbed in his own thoughts and pain that he didn’t even realize that we had come up on him. I sat back a ways and watched, waiting for him to turn and smile at me before scooping me up in his strong arms and caressing me, but he did not. I lay down near a small bush and watched in silence. My master had been crying, the tears still stained his ivory flesh. He reached up and wiped the wetness away with the sleeve of his blouse then he leaned forward and stared thoughtfully into the moonlit pool before him. What was he thinking about? I wondered. Was his still mourning his lady?
Victor let loose with a mournful “Caw!” suddenly, surprising my master out of his grief for the moment.
“Hello there old friend,” My master said and he extended his arm for the bird to rest on. Victor swooped down and perched himself there and my master stroked the top of Victors head with this thumb. “Where have you been hiding yourself then?” he smiled as Victor “cawed” once more. I stood up and carefully moved closer to my master, rubbing myself along the side of his leg. He looked down and smiled again. “Ah, Sebastian,” He grinned, “So, you found me, clever cat.” I purred and leapt into his lap as Victor fluttered his wings and then perched on my master’s shoulder. I nudged my master with my head, demanding he caress me to which he obliged. “Rotten cat…” My master mused, “You’re so spoiled, aren’t you?”
I mewed in agreement, placing my front paws against my master’s chest and stared into his eyes. He picked me up then, holding me against him, and scratched me behind the ear which was something I found quite enjoyable. “I bet your hungry.” You spoke softly as he hugged me to him. “Let’s go home and get you something to eat.” He stood up, still holding me, and turned towards the path through the woods. “Coming, Victor?”
“Caw! Caw!” Victor exclaimed as he flew up ahead of us.
“I’m sure I can find something appealing for you to snack on as well.” My master smiled as the crow circled around above us. “Come gentlemen; let’s take our refreshments in the library. I have a wonderful book in mind that I think you both would truly enjoy.”
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The sterile smell of the hospitals maternity ward filled Corry's nostrils and instantly brought him back to the reality of the situation. He had first entered the hospital through the emergency department and directly into the center of the chaos therein. The busy buss of the ER surrounded him, the many faces that passed by him were forgotten now; just a nameless blur in the back of his mind.
It was quiet up here on the fourth floor though, save for the sounds of infants crying. Soon peacefulness washed over Corry that made him relax some, the worst of the night was over and now he had to wait. He sat down in the visitor’s chair that was provided beside the bed, and watched Andrea sleep, although she was unconscious, Corry thought that she looked more beautiful in that moment then she ever had before. Hours passed as Andrea slept, nurses came and went, and some were there to check the machines and some to give injections or start a new IV. Not once did she show any sign of revival and Corry feared that she would forever be trapped within the darkness of her own mind. This was not death yet it was not life, just a sad limbo from which there was no escape. Tears sprang to Corry's eyes as he watched her, this woman, the one and only person he had ever loved, would ever love, how he longed for just the smallest sign that she would be alright.
The crash was bad, or so he had heard people say as they passed by the open door. It was a wonder that she had even survived at all. Corry had few memories of the accident even though he had been the one driving. They were on their way to the store with a gift certificate that they had gotten from Corry's mother. There was a stroller for the baby that they wanted and with the extra money they now had enough. It was raining and dark but Corry had no trouble seeing the road, it was the other truck that was out of control. He ran a red light and hit Corry and Andrea's car head on. The collision was so quick that Corry had little time to react. He remembered the head lights of the oncoming car and then the impact as both vehicles were smashed together and thrown over the guard rail into the trees and brush that covered the hill on the other side of the road. After that, there was only darkness.
He awoke sometime later in the hospital, laying on a stretcher, tubes and machines hooked into him and strange faces walking in and out of the room. He wondered at first where he was, and then when realization hit him he wanted to know where Andrea was and what had happened. He tried to speak, to ask someone the questions that were burning in his mind but his body would not cooperate with him.
He could see everything around him, he could hear and smell but he could not move and it was then that true fear gripped him for if he were here like this, then what had become of his pregnant wife?
A woman came with a needle and stabbed it into a plastic tube unaware of the tears that were escaping her patient’s eyes. Corry slipped into the sweet oblivion of sleep, his questions unanswered for the moment but at least his pain had stopped.
Now, he looked at Andrea, her sweet ivory face and auburn hair. He wondered what she might be dreaming. Every now and again she was shiver some from the pain and once she made a slight whimpering sound. Corry placed his hand atop her head and whispered to her gently, it was all he could do for her now; she was so far out of his reach.
Corry stepped out of the room when Andrea's family arrived. He wanted them to have a moment alone with her so he walked mournfully down the hallway to the nursery where the crying sounds of new born babies could be heard. His child was not crying; she was asleep still, so small and fragile wrapped in a soft pink blanket and laid aside from the other children in a small, clear, plastic bassinet.
They had removed her from the incubator just recently and taken off the wires and tape that had until this point littered her tiny body. Corry walked to her side and looked down; a sad smile crossed his lips as he whispered, "My sleeping Angel." and touched her head. The baby made a cooing sound and opened her eyes. She looked up at Corry and a slight recognition passed between them as if the child was thinking, 'Yes, you are my daddy.' Corry picked her up and cradled her against him, his heart was aching for the child's mother to do the same but he knew now that it was not possible.
"Your mother would have loved you." He said to the child and the baby smiled. He turned, and with the baby in his arms walked back to Andrea's room.
His father and mother in law were there with their daughter, her mother holding her close. Andrea was awake now and crying. Corry walked into the room and stood at the end of the bed. “Live well, “he said to her, "And be happy. I love you."
A light filled the room and the baby Angel closed her small eyes as Corry held her closer to his chest, he nodded at the woman standing in the doorway. "I know." He said to her, "I was just saying goodbye."
He looked to Andrea one last time and for a moment he thought their eyes met but he knew that was not so, she could not see him anymore than her parents could but he felt for a moment that she knew he was there. With the baby in his arms, Corry walked through the door and to the others waiting for him there. The light vanished and with it so did Corry and his tiny Angel.
Andrea's mother held her tight as Andrea cried against her shoulder. "It's not fair." Andrea sobbed, "I wish it was me."
Her mother nodded as a tear slipped from her own eye, "My darling." She told her daughter in a shaky voice, "Before he died Corry asked God to take him instead...after that he was no longer able to speak."
Andrea closed her eyes and brushed the tears off her face, "I love you Corry." She whispered as her mother rocked her back and forth, "I love you so very much."
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I was on my way home from work one night when I saw something catch my eye. I wasn't sure what it was at first so I pulled over alongside the road to get a better look. There on the ground, among the tall grass and weeds, I saw a small tattered umbrella. It looked as if it might possibly be a child's umbrella due to its size and style. It was almost see through, with la water drop pattern through it, and a light blue trim. Tiny cartoon fish were scattered throughout the design as well. The handle was blue like the trim, though a piece of it was broken off. One side of the plastic was torn and the metal rods inside were bent or broken. It's a shame, I thought to myself as I pulled away, leaving the umbrella undisturbed on the ground, some poor child has lost his or her umbrella. I shrugged it off and continued on my way, I had things on my mind, concerns about money, work, my children, things that most adults worry about. I didn't have the time to be concerned over something as trivial as an umbrella, after all, how often does one have the opportunity to make use of one?
Just as the last thought had crossed my mind, a single drop of rain fell and hit my windshield. I looked up through the glass at the darkening sky and watched as another drop fell, and then another. Soon it was raining so hard that it became necessary for me to turn on my wipers. The rain beat and splashed against my car more violently now and as it did I started to think about the broken umbrella once more. Now, some poor child was without his or her umbrella when it would have become very useful to them to have it. I wondered where that child was now; at home perhaps, maybe at school or at a friend’s house. I pictured them standing by the window or at the door watching the rain pour down and sadly wondering what ever happened to their little umbrella.
My thoughts were then transferred to my own children and I suddenly wondered if either of my sons had an umbrella. It surprised me that I was unaware of something so simple but at the moment it seemed to be something very important, shouldn't they have an umbrella if they needed one? When it's cold my wife and I would buy them coats, hats, gloves, and boots. In the summer we would put sun block on them to keep them from being burned so why would we not buy them each an umbrella to use on rainy days such as this? I sighed heavily at this thought and in that instant my heart sank. I realized just then that there were a lot of things I didn't know about my children. I always took for granted that their mother would make sure they were equipped with everything that was needed, my purpose was to make sure there was money in the account. That was my job as the father, to go to work, provide for my family and make sure the bills were paid, and I served my purpose well. I went to work each morning and returned in the evening. My wife would be busy in the kitchen, the kids would be playing or working on their school work and I would retire to the living room to relax after a hard day. I started to wonder though, when was the last time that I had asked either of my boys how their day was, or asked them if they needed help with their home work. When was the last time I took them fishing or offered to play ball in the yard? My life had become so wrapped up in work and financial issues, paying bills, upkeep on the vehicles, and other things that seemed to fall into the category of "dad's duties" that I think I honestly forgot to act like a dad.
My boys were growing up so fast and it occurred to me that there was so much about them that I really didn't know, so many mile stones in their lives that I have missed. I've missed so many important moments like first steps, and first words. I didn't know their favorite colors, or the names of their favorite toys. I couldn't recall the last time either of them had lost a tooth, and I couldn't even remember the last time I soothed a fever or kissed a scraped knee. Their mother took care of all those things as I sat in my recliner and became lost in some unimportant television program that I had probably seen a dozen times before. I had lost touch with my children and that really worried me. Soon they would be in high school, they would start driving, then they would be off to college, eventually get married and have families of their own and I suddenly began to wonder, when that time came, how important would I be to them? When I became an old man, retired and nearing the final stages of my life, when I finally had time to get to know my children and grandchildren, would my children have time for me?
I pulled my car up to a stop sign and sat there a moment as I reflected on all of this. I was close to my house now; it was just down the road a ways. I could pull into the garage, turn off the car, and then assume my place in the old recliner that had for so many years become a source of comfort for me. My boys wouldn't think anything of it, they were used to it, and my wife would watch me walk silently past her, we rarely spoke these days about anything other than what needs fixed and what bills are due. Life could go on the same as it has every night for as long as I can remember and nothing would change, or, I could turn right.
The line of cars behind me began to honk angrily as they waited for me to make up my mind. It wasn't a hard decision to make. I put on my blinker and turned my car to the right, going down a side road that I have taken a hundred times before in my life. Today it seemed different though, I wasn't going for milk or toilet paper. I wasn't picking up a pack of cigarettes or going for a case of beer. I pulled the car into the parking lot, got out and walked to the front of the store, a store I knew well. I went inside and looked to the left and there I saw what I had come for, hanging on a rack between the soda pop and potato chips were the umbrellas. The rain outside had since stopped but I knew that the rain would come again someday; and when it did I wouldn't wonder if my boys had umbrellas, I would know.
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