Home James (A Short Story)
I awoke in a strange place. My vision is blurry and I am overwhelmed by the smell of chemicals that remind me of the pine flavored floor cleaner used at home. This is comforting and I almost doze back to sleep, but my reminiscing brings with it the truth that home no longer exists for me. I try to lift my head but it feels so heavy, so I just try to focus my eyes again and I wonder where I am.
When my eyes finally focus, panic sets in. I am surrounded by metal bars and the reality of imprisonment frightens me as my instinct to escape takes over. But when I try to stand I am unsuccessful and fall over into the bars. There is a loud howling of one in pain that echoes in my head; inside my cell and I realize the sound came from me. I feel the sharp pain that radiates through my hip into my leg. I am breathing hard, almost a pant, and I try to calm myself; I try to remember. I wait for my captors, who may have been alerted by my cries, but no one comes and so I relax and I think.
My last memories before waking up here are not pleasant. The last thing I recall was hiding behind a dumpster in the Joe’s Grocery parking lot hoping that tonight they would throw away enough meat to fuel me up for a few more days of searching. I’ve been searching for my family for so long that I’ve lost count of the days. My hope of finding them now is minimal.
It seems like hours have passed since I’ve opened my eyes and all I can do in this confined space is think. I may have to accept that my family is lost forever. I have often wondered if they search for me at all. I have no hope left, so I close my eyes and dream of the good old days when I was young and useful and most of all loved.
I awake to the sound of someone entering the room. My captors? I stay quiet and hope that they will at least bring me water, if not food. I wish that I could ask them the purpose of my capture and what they plan to do with me. I am so frightened that I shake uncontrollably and this makes my pain ten times worse. I did not mean to, but the pain makes me whine aloud and now I have their attention. I open my eyes to see the face of a beautiful woman with big doe eyes and when she speaks in such soft tones, my fear melts and I stop shaking. She has in her hands both food and water and I look at her pleadingly. I back away from the door and for a second I think of bounding out of this prison, but I know that my injury won’t allow it and I may suffer more consequences. I let her place the food and water inside and I wait until she backs away until I dive into it.
It may be my last meal.
I am old and I do not have much to offer. If I cannot escape, I must accept my fate. I have heard stories of those unfortunate souls who were snatched up and never heard of again. Rumor has it that if you aren’t young and strong or pretty that they sentence you to death. I am only a shell of what I once was. I question my own ability to live happily again; to love again. If there is no more hope, then I can accept my fate. I can no longer survive out there without my family and if I can’t be with them, then I do not want to live.
I awake again, confused. I am sure the pretty lady had drugged my food and I have no idea how long I have slept or how long I have been here. Forgetting about the injured leg, I stand and realize that the pain from before has lessened considerably. I wish I was able to walk around, but my prison is not a very big one.
The pretty lady with the drugs returns and opens my door. She wants me to follow her and though I am cautious, I really want out of here. She escorts me to a door that leads outside into a fenced yard. The sun is bright and warm and I walk along the fence until my leg throbs. She watches me, but does not seem to be ready for me to return to my cell, so I lie on the ground and soak up the sunlight. It may be my last time to see it.
I assume that I will be escorted back to the tiny cell inside the door, but she prods me to follow her down another hallway into a room that looks like an office. There was an office at home. A nice room lined with shelves of books from floor to ceiling. I breathe in deep, but the office here doesn’t smell like home. I sigh and look at the pretty lady and wait for my instructions.
A man walks by and pokes his head in. He refers to me when he says, “How long till you know what?” The pretty lady looks at me before she scowls at him and in a hushed tone, she replies, “tomorrow morning”. My head hangs even lower than I thought possible. So that’s it, huh? Not even another 24 hours. I thought I might panic at this news, but I am calm. Accepting fate. At least I know what’s coming. Why would they repair my wounds only to send me away forever? How cruel can you be? I wished they’d just put me out my misery now.
Today is the day. I couldn’t sleep much even with a full belly and the drugs I’m sure she snuck into my food. I am awake when Pretty Lady enters the room. She tells me, “It won’t be long now, old man”. Old Man, huh? I knew it. Abandoned like an old pair of tennis shoes. Thrown away like last nights leftovers. She walks me to the outside door and leaves me in the yard to soak up my last rays of sunshine. I lie down and think about the days I would hang out in my own yard. I can almost smell the Lake that bordered the property. I’m daydreaming of my old life when the door opens and small, blonde female limps out into the yard and lies down just a few feet away from me. She looks at me and we just stare at one another. She has the same look in her eyes that I do. Hopelessness. I don’t have any encouraging words for the young female so we just lay there in silence and wait.
After a short nap outside the door opens and the pretty lady emerges. She looks at me and tells me it’s time. I stop close to other lost soul and try to give her a sense peace and calmness. I try to show her with my eyes that all will okay, even though I am not sure what’s to come.
I follow the Pretty Lady down the corridor and I am surprised when we enter a large foyer with bright lights and shelves of books, toys, and odd things. This definitely wasn’t the place I pictured in my mind. I sat patiently waiting for instructions and took in a deep breath. I guess Heaven does smell like home because the scent filled my nostrils and I could almost taste it.
I closed my eyes and breathed again. Facing death is peaceful, I thought.
I wanted desperately to see him again, but Diane put me in her office to sign paperwork while she went for him. I finished signing and threw them on her desk and rushed out into the foyer. I couldn’t contain my excitement. "JAMES! Oh Buddy, I've missed you!".
Diane warned me that he had been through a lot and may not recognize me right away. However, before I could kneel down eye level to the old mutt hound I’ve called family for the last 7 years, he bounded toward me knocking me to the ground and kissed my face.
I looked James right in the eyes and I swear to you that old dog was crying. Well, this old dog sure was! A grown man ought to be embarrassed for this display of affection, but there is nothing sweeter in the world than finding your missing loved one and taking them home.
“Let’s go home, James”
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