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On my last trip to Massachusetts, I had car trouble and ended up leaving the car out east. Needless to say, this put me a few days behind schedule and I still had one more trailer I promised to get to the next customer before Christmas. I would have to pull it with my truck. I was in the northeast part of the country and the next trailer was going southwest – to California. That’s a long way away.
I was driving down the interstate toward the southwest listening to Christmas music. I’ll Be Home for Christmas was playing on the radio. The version was done by Pentatonix, a modern group of a Capella vocalist who do some amazing songs, but I didn’t care for their version of this song. They were trying to give it an upbeat tempo - this song was meant to be solemn. It was written to be a soldier’s point of view, one whom desperately wanted to be, and would be home for Christmas…if only in his dreams. Nobody sings that song quite like Bing Crosby.
I started wondering if I would make it home by Christmas. Calculating my route and schedule, I determined: “Good Lord willing, and no more car trouble, and I’ll make it with a day, maybe two to spare.” The song really had me thinking about Christmas and home.
Edgar Allan, our cat, dips his paws into the water bowl. Melissa says he does this to create ripples, making it easier for him to see the water; I say he does it to annoy our dog, June, with whom he shares a water dish.
Edgar and June were traveling with me on this trip. In the back seat of the truck, Edgar was sitting at the water bowl. He dipped his paws into the water and watched June to see her reaction. June, with her head lying flat on the seat bench, was looking up at Edgar but gave no reaction. Edgar dipped his paw in the water again and watched June. Again, June gave no response. Edgar poked his paw deeper into the water a third time, this time flicking the water in the face of the non-responsive canine. Ha! Proof! I knew I was right all along.
With his wet paw Edgar gave two playful bats to June’s long schnoz, June pawed back at him and a ruckus was underway. A few moments later, June tired of the play stepping onto the arm rest between the two front seats, “Dad, will you tell Edgar to stop touching me?” “I’m sure you two can work this out without me.” I replied and continued down the road.
We were in Wyoming when I stopped for gas. I rolled each of the four windows down about two and a half, maybe three inches. It was fairly warm and I wanted June and Edgar to have plenty of fresh air while I was stopped. “Stay here while I fill the tank,” I told them, “and no fighting!”
The gas pump wouldn’t read my card, so I moved the truck to another pump. The next pump wouldn’t read my card either, instead it flashed a sign, “Please See the Cashier.” Inside the clerk asked, “Are you on pump one or seven. They’ve both been giving us trouble today.” I looked outside, I started on pump one, then moved my truck to pump seven. “How much do you want to put in it?” he asked.
“Can I just leave my card with you, top it off, then come back in?” I asked. I hate when they enter one amount and promise, “It will only charge you for what you get.” I don’t trust that system and frankly, I forget to check my account to see if they did credit me the difference. “Nope” he replied, “I have to enter an amount.” “Don’t worry about it,” I said, “I’ll move to a different pump.” It was frustrating, but I eventually topped off the tank so we could get back on the road again.
A mile or so down the road I told June, “This place was just too busy. At the next stop I will find a grassy area and we can play ball for a while.” June’s ears perked right up. “I’d really like that,” she said. “How are you doing. Edgar?” I called out, but he didn’t answer. A little louder. I repeated. “How are you doing, Edgar?” Hmfph, still no reply. “Edgar?” I glanced over my shoulder to see what he was up to.
Edgar wasn’t on the seat, nor on the seat back. He wasn’t sleeping on top of his litter box and he wasn’t in it, nor on top of the tote where I keep some groceries and snack. He likes to sit up there and look out the window. “Edgar?” I hollered, but got no response. I quickly turned into a business driveway, threw the transmission into park and jumped out of the truck. I ran around to the passenger side, opening the back door, I called his name, “Edgar? Edgar buddy, where are you?” Searching frantically, I moved the sheets and blankets from the pet bed. No Edgar. “Come on buddy, where are you?” I pushed my hand feeling under the front seat. He wasn’t there. I was getting nervous.
When Edgar was a little kitten, we were on a road trip in New England. He was sprawled out sleeping in the front window on the dash when an ambulance went by. The loud, ear piercing siren scared him. He jumped off the dash, and ran to the back crawling behind the back seat. It’s a very small, tight area with a stationary seat back bolted to the wall. The space is not accessible without dismantling the trucks interior. He would go back there whenever he was scared.
I was sure he wouldn’t fit back then anymore because he is so much bigger but I had to check. I looked but could only see a few inches. I reached my arm behind the seat on the passenger side, but my arm was too big. I couldn’t reach in far enough. I ran to the driver’s side, looked and reached, but could not see or feel him. “Edgar? Are you back there?” I called gently to him, “Come out buddy.” There was no reply. I was on the verge of panic and wanted to cry.
In my mind I retraced my stop at the gas station. Surely those windows were not down nearly enough for him to get out and I didn’t leave a door open. I started thinking about how busy that street was. “Oh, Edgar!” Fearing the worst, I jumped in the truck and raced back to the gas station.
There was a maintenance man working on the car wash. I stopped and quickly jumped out. “Have you seen a black cat wearing a blue harness roaming around?” “No, I haven’t.” he said, adding, “and I’ve been here for a couple hours.” I quickly scribbled my phone number on a scrap of paper, handing it to him. “His name is Edgar Allan. If you see him, please call me.” The man took the paper and said he would.
I walked several feet away, breathing hard, anxiously turning circles in the driveway. I looked blankly around, calling his name. “Edgar? Edgar Allan! Come on buddy, let’s go.” I sighed bewildered. “Oh, Edgar...” I felt empty, helpless and completely lost. I was scared and wanted to throw up, but instead I prayed, “Oh dear God, please help me find him.” Then a voice said to me, “Go get June, she will find him.”
I ran to the truck. June was in the front passenger seat where she’s not supposed to be, but there was no time for discipline. I put June’s leash on her and said, “Come on, June. You have to help me find Edgar.” June looked at me and calmly said, “He’s behind the back seat.” In disbelief I said “What? He can’t be. I looked, I felt for him.” June repeated, “I’m telling you, he’s behind the back seat.” I opened the back door and looked. Edgar was sitting there at the edge of the small opening, looking at me.
Every parent has experienced this rush of emotions: when you go from being worried sick and praying for your kid to be safe; desperately longing for them; fearing you’ve lost them and promising God you will give anything if He will just bring them back…to suddenly wanting to ring the kids neck!
Edgar looked up at me with his big remorseful eyes and let out a soft meow. He said, “I got scared when that ambulance went by. It was so loud.”
I recalled moving my truck from pump number seven back to pump number two, opposite of pump number one – the first pump that gave me trouble. While I was fueling my truck, a SUV pulled up to pump one. The man was grumbling. I walked around to his side and asked, “Is it not accepting your card?” “It’s telling me to see the cashier and I know my card is good.” he said. “Yeah,” I explained, “It did that to me too. Pump seven is doing the same thing.” The man and I both turned and looked to the street as an ambulance went racing by with all the lights on and sirens blaring. “Man, those things are loud.” the man said, then asked, “Did you say pump seven is doing the same thing?”
I reached behind the seat and pulled Edgar out, lifting him into my arms. I instantly went from wanting to ring his neck to needing to console him. I cuddled him close to my chest and kissed his head. “I’m sorry about that ambulance buddy.” I said then assured him, “It’s going to be okay. You’re safe. I won’t let anything happen to you. You’ll always be safe with me.” Edgar started purring. I held him for a moment then set him back down on the pet bed on the back seat.
June was still sitting in the front passenger seat with the door open, her leash dangling from her collar. “Do we still get to go for a walk, Dad?” I detached the leash from her collar, “Not right now Bugs. It’s too busy here. But we will stay longer at the next stop where I promise you, I’ll find a grassy area and throw the ball as much as you want.” She seemed a little put off, but said, “Okay. I can wait.” I gave her a good rub on the head, “Thank you for helping me find Edgar, June Bug. You’re the best dog in the world”
I got back into the truck and looked over my shoulder. Edgar was sitting on top of the tote looking out the window. June was sitting in the front seat with her head hanging low, looking at me with an expression that said she knew she was doing something wrong. “It’s okay Bugs, you can sit up here with me for a while.” I lowered her window so she could poke her nose out into the fresh air and let her ears flap in the breeze. I thought to myself, “Whether I make it to my house or not, I will always be at home with these two around.”
I turned right onto the road, merging into the busy traffic then adjusted the volume on the radio. A commercial just finished playing, talking about being home for the holidays. Then a jingle ran promoting the radio station: “Happy holidays from Kxxx, where we play the most Christmas music…” The music started and a smooth, gentle tenor began crooning, “I’ll be home for Christmas, you can count on me…”
I got a little tear-eyed as I pulled onto the ramp leading to the interstate. I turned the volume louder. Nobody sings it quite like ole Bing Crosby.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
Tom can be reached for comment at facebook.com/tompalen.98