It was Christmas Eve and it began to snow as the old dog waited for the man to return. The woman in the house worried about Tillie but the dog refused to come inside, ever since that night weeks ago when the ambulance came and took the man away. Tillie spent her days at the edge of the driveway and her nights sleeping in the man’s old rusting truck that was parked behind the barn. The woman brought her food and water every day, and spoke kindly to the dog, but Tillie would not abandon her watch.The woman had left a door open in the truck for Tillie, and on this night, as she did every night, the old dog grunted her way into the front seat. The man’s scent was still there, on the seats and steering wheel, and on an old ball cap that the man used to wear. There was a headless cork duck decoy in the back seat that Tillie had found and brought to the front seat where she slept, the ball cap between her paws and her chin resting on the decoy.
Every night she dreamt of the man, and this Christmas Eve was no different. She dreamt of days when she and the man would roam the marshes, or lie on the sand at the edge of the bay where he had thrown lots of decoys into the water and used his big stick that made a loud bang that made the ducks fall out of the sky so she could get them and bring them back to him. It made the man happy, and he would say “Good girl” and rub her head with his rough hands, and Tillie would wiggle with joy. As she dreamt, Tillie’s tail wagged.
And she dreamt of the rides in the truck with the man, and how sometimes they would stop at the little house that smelled good and the man would go inside and come out with a little bag that had good things to eat that he would share with her. And they would sit there together, Tillie leaning against the man, him putting his arm around her and rubbing her gently.
It grew colder and a light snow grew heavier, and off in the distance voices, singing and laughing, stirred Tillie’s dreams. She dreamt of a house full of children and noise and laughter and food dropping on the floor just for her, and the man talking to her in words she couldn’t understand but she knew they were good words. And she dreamt of the man coming back.
And as the night air grew even colder, and the falling snow blanketed the earth and muffled all sound, the man came to her. He sat in the truck with her and spoke to her gently and rubbed her head with his rough hands, and Tillie sighed, her heart filled with joy. The decoy her chin rested on became the man’s knee, and she was comforted and warm, and slept deeper and deeper, until she dreamt no more, her Christmas wish realized.