That Night In Ashland

That Night In Ashland

By Linda L. Steele

novels@att.net

 

asland

“When you run into your old buddies from high school, you won’t have anything in common with them. You will have changed.  Don’t be surprised about that.”

I heard that kind of talk all the time. Now I was back in my hometown, with my folks, on leave, and what I noticed was not so much that I had changed, but the old hometown was different. My friends from school were busy making lives of their own. Some had gone off to college and others were busy working every day.  None of them had time to hang out with me. They had moved on, just like I had.

Main Street was deserted at 9:00 on that Sunday evening in early fall. A stiff wind was blowing, and it was chilly. The only signs of life were the occasional car moving slowly up the street and in the distance I could hear the whimpering of a small child, or an animal, coming from the dark alley between the bank and the jewelry store. Surely nobody had abandoned a small baby.

Curious, I had to investigate. The cries were louder as I neared the end of the cluttered alley. Empty packing boxes littered the back entrance. The crying was frantic. I started moving boxes and down at the bottom of a large tissue box was the tiny little being who had been making all that noise. It was probably foolhardy to have blindly reached down into that box when I was unable to see more than a dark shadow squirming wildly inside, but that was just what I did. I grabbed the little thing and pulled out . . . a tiny little puppy. 

“Shhh, shhhh,” I crooned to it as I cuddled it in my hands and then tucked it into the front of my coat to warm it. “What have they done to you, tossing you all by yourself into that big old box?” I asked.

The little ball of fur just grunted and gave a little snort as it calmed down.

“I’ll bet you’re hungry. I wonder if you could share a couple of hamburgers with me. Are you big enough to do that? There’s a little place down the street where we can get some.” I hoped it would be open this late on a Sunday evening.

As we approached the little diner, an old railroad passenger car that had been converted into a restaurant, the lights were on and several cars were parked outside. Behind the counter was a large, older woman wearing a white uniform with a lacy green hanky that had seen its better days, drooping out of her front pocket. It was probably meant to be some sort of decoration. She looked tired and grumpy. 

“What can I get for you?” she asked loudly, without the hint of a smile. The words were no sooner out of her mouth than her eyes fell to the puppy with its tiny head protruding through the opening of my jacket.

“You can’t have that dog in here,” she cried loudly. “Take that animal out of here right now.”

“Could I just order a couple of burgers and some fries and wait outside till they’re ready? We won’t stay inside while you fix them.”

“You certainly cannot! Get that dog out of here, now!”

As I slowly turned to leave, I was surprised to hear the young woman who had been sitting on a stool near the angry waitress say, “Well, if he has to leave, then you can just cancel my order. I’m leaving too.”

I looked down at the earnest-looking face of the sweetest young woman I have ever seen. She was a very small-statured blonde. When she smiled at me, I forgot all about being hungry. I wanted to get out of that diner, and I wanted to know all about that pretty girl.

“Do you suppose the Lyn-Way is still open?” she asked with an impish grin on her face. “Or shall we take my car to the Dairy Dolly and have our burgers in the car? I’d hate to see you get kicked out of another place.”

“I’d hate to get kicked out of any other place, and,” I added, “I’m not gonna leave this poor little guy anywhere by himself.”

During the next two weeks my pretty girl, June, and I were together every day. By the time I had to leave, she was my wife. I hated to leave her, but I was glad to leave my little four-legged friend, Copper, with her to keep her company.

So much has happened since then. We had two sons. She was the perfect mother, made our home a secure, happy place. My June was an excellent cook.

That eventful night in Ashland, Ohio, was 51 years ago. Now my June is gone, carried away to heaven in the middle of the night, and I’m an old, retired guy. To this day, I am still so glad that I investigated that box in the alley and found Copper and that I was thrown out of the diner. I can only believe that the angels must have been watching over us that night. 

 

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