Wishing everyone a Happy & Healthy New Year!
Wishing everyone a Happy & Healthy New Year!
Twas the night before Christmas and the kennels were still, with most dogs now asleep having eaten their fill. The Labradors sprawled out, quite snug in their beds, while visions of ANYTHING edible danced in their heads. And the Goldens and Shepherds curled up on the floor, some twitched in their sleep and some even did snore. The dog food was stacked in the feed room with care, in hopes that a trainer soon would be there.
On the window ledge, one of the kennel cats lay, surveying the lawn at the end of this day. Something was different, that little cat knew. Tonight something would happen, it had to be true.
For that day as the workers had left to go home, They’d wished Merry Christmas! before starting to roam. The dogs had noticed it to during this past week’s walks, the trainers seemed just that much happier and eager to talk. In the mall where they worked through the maze of people and stores, there were decoration and music and distractions galore! Most dogs pranced along without worry or fear, but some balked at the man on the sleigh and those fake looking deer. The cat was almost asleep too when he first heard the sound, a whoosh through the air and a jingle around. It reminded him of a dog’s collar when the animal shook, but this sound kept on growing. He’d better go look. From the ceiling there came a faint sort of thunk, as the kennel cat climbed to the highest pile of junk. Once before people had worked on the roof, and come down through the trap door to a chorus of “Woooof!” But the dogs still were quiet, all sleeping so sound, as this man dressed in red made his way right on down. He patt ed the cat as he climbed past his spot, then made his way right to the trainers’ coffee pot. A shepherd sat up, not fully awake, then a Golden followed her with a mighty loud shake. That did it! All the dogs sprang to life with loud noise. In spite of the din, the old man kept his poise. He filled the pot full and it started to brew, then he pulled up a chair and took in the view. Dogs all around him, so carefully bred, he knew well their jobs, the blind people they led. Some had stopped barking and looked at him now, while others delighted in their own deafening howl. Laying a finger in front of his lips, the jolly old man silenced the excitable yips. “You all may not know me, but I’m Santa Claus,” the old man smiled and took a short pause, While he filled up his mug with hot liquid and cream, “I’ve always wanted to stop here. It’s been one of my dreams.” The cat had climbed down and was exploring Santa’s sack. “Yes, little kitty, that’s an empty pack.” Santa smiled as he drank and looked at those eyes, deep brown ones and gold ones held wide in surprise. Some of these dogs, he’d seen just last year, in their puppy homes, cute and full of holiday cheer. He’d seen the effects of a pup on the tree, but now they were here at the school, just waiting to be. “I didn’t bring you presents or bones just to chew. I’ll tell you something better, what you are going to do.” “You all will work hard and the trainers will share, both praise and correction, gentle and fair.” “You’ll go lots of places and face big scary things. You’ll ride buses and subways and hear fire sirens ring.” “Cars will drive at you but you will stand strong, not moving into danger, not moving toward wrong.” “And then just when you think that this trainer’s the best, the kindest, and funnest person, toss away all the rest,” “That trainer will begin to ignore you and give you away, handing your leash over despite your dismay.” “Now the person who pets you and feeds you will be
a blind person. That’s a person who can’t see.” ” This man or this woman may see just a tad, but their view’s missing parts or the focus is bad.” “So you, well trained dogs, will act as their eyes. You will work as a team and discover the size” “Of th is great world we live in, because you will go a million new places with this person, you know.” Santa sipped at his coffee and looked over the brood, knowing what he had to say next might sound kind of rude. “Not all of you will make it and become canine guides. Your time here isn’t wasted though. You won’t be cast aside.” “Some of you will be drug dogs and some will find bombs. Some will become pets in a home with a dad and a mom.” “All these things are important. People wait on long lists, to receive such good dogs as you, the school folks insist.” The last drop of coffee had gone into his cup as Santa turned, smiling at each wide eyed pup. “The best gift of all is to give something back. That’s why there’s nothing for you all inside of my pack.” Draining his mug, Santa went to each pen, and petted and scratched each dog again and again. “Now next year and many more years after that, you all will give gifts wherever you’re at.” “You might lick a hand that’s had a bad day, Or notice a car and step out of the way.” “You might help catch a crook or discover some loot, Or just bring some joy to a tired old man in a funny red suit.” “Your master will love you and treat you with care. In return, your training and trust will always be there.” After the last dog had been petted and soothed, Santa put away the coffee pot and made ready to move. Up the ladder he rose to the door high above, with a smile and a wave as he slipped on his gloves. And all the dog ears were pricked as he disappeared out of sight. “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night!”
When Lana moved in two years ago she didn’t know she would become part of our apartment-life legend. My first real conversation with her concerned our lobby’s lack of Halloween reminders. “I love decorating,” Lana explained. “Of course my favorite holiday is Christmas.”
Black Friday jingled and glistened. I was outside to meet a sale-loving friend. I suddenly heard, very clearly, Perry Como and Nat King Cole singing carols from above. I knew Lana lived somewhere up there.
“Lana must be decorating,” I thought. “She really must love carols, but she’s going to annoy lots of people.” I didn’t know her apartment number. I couldn’t warn her about non-Christmas celebrators or afternoon nappers or people who work nights.
By the time I returned home, the building was silent. I wondered what I’d missed, envisioning not-heavenly door-banging and yelling.
The next night Lana sheepishly told several of us what actually happened. “I left the TV Christmas channel on and ran out to get that tape that doesn’t hurt walls. I came back and wondered who was playing music so loud. And it was in my apartment! My cat Princess was lying on the TV remote. She must have stepped on the volume button. I swear.”
Two other neighbors said they’d heard the carols and wondered about them. We all laughed and teased Lana about blaming the poor cat. And the story was told and retold.
Each Black Friday now, Lana assures us, “I’ve turned on the carols, but I collected all the remotes first.” It makes some of us smile. And for the rest, the story is still told and retold.
Nancy Scott, Easton, PA, is a blind essayist and poet. Her over 600 bylines have appeared in magazines, literary journals, anthologies and newspapers, and as audio commentaries. An essayist and poet, she has published three chapbooks. She won First Prize in the 2009 International Onkyo Braille Essay Contest. Recent work appears in Breath and Shadow, Contemporary Haibun Online, and Stone Voices.
What is change? Change can be what’s left over from a dollar after purchasing a pack of gum or candy bar. Change can be a different way of doing something, it can be a new address or town. Change can be simply another way to look at something. Over time, the way I remember this story has changed my perspective on that day.
It was summer 1973, maybe 1974. The rain that pelted the beaten down, weathered streets of my north side Chicago neighborhood had given way to brilliant sunshine that had all the birds, as well as most of work-goers, in a decidedly cheery mood. It was on this Friday that my mom was taking me to the Cubs game! This was a rare treat for a 10 year old, less than perfectly obedient kid, but it was lady’s day at Wrigley Field, so all women got in free, my bleacher seat would be $3.00.
My mother spent the morning making crunchy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We also packed her thick plastic flower covered bag with a thermos of homemade chocolate milk that poured like motor oil. When we arrived at the platform in order to catch the train to the ballpark, the amount of people that were ahead of us was, by estimation, the population of the whole world. We got to the park, where instantly, my nose was greeted with the heavenly aroma of hot dogs, cigar smoke and stale beer, it was a memory that still lingers now. When we got to the ticket window the uniformed cashier ruined my day as well as my summer; “Sold Out”. I cried, threw a fit, and complained to my mom how unfair it was. I had been looking forward to this day forever.
My mom and I got off the train, my eyes were still red, puffy and the tears were still glistening. My mom seeing this, grabbed my hand and said “Instead of going home, let’s go to the park by the beach. ”We sat on the blanket that my mom had packed for the game and ate the best peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and drank the best chocolate milk I’ve ever had.
I lost my mom 3 years later. My perspective along with the way that I choose to remember that day changes frequently. When it happened I was a brat, I didn’t realize how lucky I was to have my mom all to myself for the whole afternoon, I do now. I can’t tell you who won the Cub’s game that day, but I can vividly describe my mom’s beautifully flowered bag and the bright purple scarf she wore on her head. This story remains as one of my fondest childhood memories for somewhat selfish reasons; it’s all mine.
Jim Holzman joined a creative writing workshop for visually impaired people at Second Sense in Chicago. He jokes that he joined due to some arm-twisting but as his story shows, his writing just keeps getting better.
Charlotte Poetschner is a lifelong writer and poet. She is unpublished at this time, but is working on her first novel manuscript. For over twenty years, her main writing commitments involved preparing a weekly sermon, creative dramas and liturgies for worship and essays for church newsletters for her ministry as a Presbyterian pastor. Charlotte has been blind herself from diabetic retinopathy since 1986.