Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Home for Christmas (11/20/08)
TITLE: A Blizzard and Fancy French Mustard
By Betty Castleberry
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“I’d love to.”
It was only a partial fib. I did enjoy going back to my hometown. The dinner was nice, although there was at least one thing I could do without. A tone deaf person had once told my brother Irvin that he sounded like Tom Jones. Ever since, our after dinner entertainment has been an off-key rendition of “It’s Not Unusual” delivered by my brother while doing a revolting Tom Jones dance. Still, the get-together was usually worth the three hour drive.
I spent the following week in happy anticipation. A few days before my scheduled trip, I was listening to the weather. The weatherman was predicting a white Christmas, with up to a foot of snow. It was to start on Christmas Eve and continue through Christmas day. It wouldn’t be good traveling weather. I did have the option of leaving the day before Christmas Eve, but I had no idea how long I might be marooned at my brother’s. While I love him and his family, I didn’t want to get stuck there.
Picking up the phone, I pressed Irvin’s speed dial number. He answered promptly. “Hey sis, can’t wait to see you.”
“Well, that’s what I was calling about. I’m going to have to watch the weather. I may not get to come.”
He sounded genuinely disappointed, but agreed it would be foolish for me to start out in a snow storm.
On Christmas morning as I was watching the snow drifts piling against my house, something caught my attention. A ball of non-descript fur sat huddled near my holly bushes. The hairy stranger spied me, and came to the partially opened door, wagging a scrappy tail. I groaned. “I do not see you.”
The tail went into high gear at the sound of my voice. I closed the door. I counted to ten, then opened the door. It was over. I couldn’t stand the thought of the little waif being left out in the snow.
The dog came right in as if she owned the place. I swear she smiled as she crossed the threshold. She wasted no time doing the Doggy Shake, flinging wet snow all over my carpet. I didn’t see a collar, and was certain she was a bona fide stray. Her fur was matted and her ribs showed. If she was going to be my guest, she was going to have a bath.
She insisted she was not. I battled her while she tried repeatedly to climb out of the tub, but I am bigger, and I won. The bath and following blow-dry revealed a curly coat, leading me to suspect French poodle in her lineage. Oddly enough, the color reminded me of Dijon mustard.
Miss Dijon and I went to the kitchen to make chili. She plopped herself down in front of the stove, sighing as she placed her head on her paws. In no time, she was back up, sniffing the air.
Assuming that she was hungry, I tossed her a piece of cheese. She swallowed it whole. “I don’t have any dog food, but you can have a bowl of chili when it’s done. Wait. How’s your digestive system? You aren’t prone to gas, are you? Maybe I’ll cook you a burger instead.
“You do understand that tomorrow you’ll be on your way, don’t you? This is only a port in the storm, understand?”
The little dog tilted her head sideways as if trying to understand me. I was chopping onions when the phone rang. When I answered, Vera’s voice sang out, “We wish you a merry Christmas.”
“Thanks. Sorry I couldn’t be there.”
“We missed you. Here… Irvin wants to talk.”
My ears were assaulted with a chorus of ‘It’s Not Unusual.’ I held the phone out near Dijon. She howled. I had a kindred spirit. Irvin asked, “What on earth was that?”
“Never mind. Merry Christmas, brother.”
“Merry Christmas, sister.”
“Sorry you didn’t get to make it home this year.”
“Maybe next year.“
When I hung up, I plopped down beside Dijon who had made herself comfortable on the sofa. She listened intently while I spoke. “You know girl, I am home.
“You want to watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life?’”
She licked my hand. That was it; she had me. Miss Dijon was home, too.
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