By Christine Hennessey
The last thing Reggie Tipton expected to do on Christmas Eve was drive his red pickup into a troop of Boy Scouts who were waiting for their turn to march in the annual holiday parade. One minute Reggie was listening to Bing Crosby on the radio and thinking absently about the last time he’d seen his dog, 62 years earlier. The next, the sickening series of bumps roused him from his memories and screams reached the inside of his truck. In one jerky motion, his foot found the gas instead of the brake and pushed down, hard. The truck lurched forward, rolled across a yellow stretch of police tape, and then Reggie was on Main Street, empty except for a few floats made by the local high school and a row of people staring at him with their jaws hanging open in horror. Reggie stared straight ahead and kept driving.
Reggie was nine years old the last time he saw his dog. Boy and dog were trudging through the lightly falling snow when Reggie decided to walk across the frozen pond. His mother had given him strict instructions to stay away from the water – the ice was thin, it could break at any moment – but Reggie ignored her warnings as he toed the edge of the ice. The dog barked and Reggie told it to shut up. He put both feet on the ice, slipped a little, and got scared. The dog barked again, as if laughing at him. Reggie saw a stick half buried in the snow by his shoe and, without thinking, picked it up and hurled it over the lake. The dog was on the ice before the stick even landed and it wasn’t until he was a hundred feet out that Reggie heard the ice breaking, the yelp of the dog as the water grabbed at his padded feet. There was some splashing, but it didn’t last long.
When Reggie came home his mother asked about the dog. Reggie shrugged and went to bed, certain that come morning, there would be a dog-shaped box, wrapped in a riot of green, red and gold, tail wagging and tongue lapping, to greet him and grant him forgiveness, or something like it. But there was no dog-shaped box under the tree. There were hardly any boxes under the tree at all, and when Reggie burst into tears his mother looked away, shame on her face.
Reggie reached the end of Main Street and turned off his truck. He heard voices shouting behind him, the faint wail of a siren in the distance. He didn’t want to deal with all this right now. He wanted only to think, to remember. Ahead of him he could see Christmas lights twinkling brightly against the black sky and he watched them, hoping once more for the shape of a dog to emerge from the darkness.