A Quiet Holiday

Scott Crockett woke up at 5 a.m. on Christmas morning, dressed warmly, and took his dog Jasper for a long walk in the darkness. Jasper plunged into a few snow drifts along the way, his tail wagging and his breath creating a fine mist in the brisk morning air. They played fetch in a fallow field for a while, with Scott throwing a stick as far as he could and Jasper flying after it, sometimes even catching it before it hit the ground. When they returned home, Scott fed Jasper some dog food out of a can. Then he made himself some sausage, eggs, and coffee, pulled up Google on his laptop, and read the morning news.

After breakfast, Jasper took a nap, and Scott sat down in the living room and read a few chapters of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian until he, too, fell asleep. His buzzing cell phone woke him at 10 a.m. Once it fell silent, he checked his voice mail. Jane, his former girlfriend, had left a long, rambling message. Among other things, the message said, “Janet’s back from Cedar Springs. Her cuts are almost healed, and she’s on a medication that seems to be balancing her out. Everyone wants to see you. Come on over! Mom’s worried about you being alone today. We’ll be eating at noon.”

Scott looked over at Jasper, who was now staring at him. He said, “Let’s go for a drive up in the hills, brother.” Jasper thumped his tail against the ground a few times, hopped up, and they were on their way. The roads were quite and clear, and Scott drove for hours, passing through small mountain towns he hadn’t visited in years. Sometimes, he would roll the window down so Jasper could stick his head out and enjoy the brisk air. At one point, Scott parked by a lake, and he and Jasper walked to a clearing where he skipped rocks across the lake’s frozen surface. Jasper disappeared in the woods for a while and eventually returned, sniffing the foliage as he went.

It was starting to get dark by the time they returned home. Scott heated up some ribs, mashed potatoes, and green beans he had brought home from a local restaurant the night before and shared them with Jasper. When he was done eating, he checked his landline messages. Everyone in his nuclear family had called and offered best wishes. He built a fire in the fireplace, sat down on the sofa, and turned the TV to NFL Total Access. Then he shouted, “C’mon over, buddy!” Jasper hopped onto the sofa and curled up next to him.

An hour later, Scott changed into some gym clothes, walked into his exercise room, and did a full workout, to include bench and shoulder presses, curls, rows, and crunches. Then he took a long, hot shower, dressed in his pajamas, and went to bed. Jasper strolled into the bedroom looking tired. The long day had worn him down a little. He jumped up on the bed and was soon asleep. As Scott began to drift off, he thought about how good life could be, and he looked forward to the next morning’s walk.