A penny for your thoughts

A short festive story by Claire Brooks

It was a crisp, white morning in the village of Sunnydale. The skies were clear, the air was fresh, and the sound of children laughing as they built snowmen in their gardens filled the street. 

“Wait for me!” One little girl cried, as she chased her brother through the snow, clutching her sled. 

“Let’s go and get some mince pies for Santa!” Beamed a young boy, as he grabbed his mother’s hand and hurried towards the shops. 

However, there was one house in Sunnydale that didn’t have a snowman in the garden. It belonged to Mr. Wilson. The retired teacher lived alone in his bungalow, following the recent unexpected death of his wife, Penny. 

It was the week before Christmas, and 

Mr. Wilson was getting ready to head into the village. His children had moved away to Australia years ago, and since Penny passed away he often spent his time alone. 

Although, there was always Dodger. Dodger was a little black dog. Like Mr. Wilson, he was no spring chicken, and he didn’t have any family either. In fact, he didn’t even have a home. Dodger was a stray, and lived under the bus shelter in the next village along. Yet, he and Mr. Wilson had made an unlikely friendship.

Every morning, without fail, Dodger would turn up at Mr. Wilson’s house. He’d let Dodger in, they’d sit together by the fire, and then the scruffy mongrel would be on his way – with one of Mr. Wilson’s homemade shortbread biscuits. 

On this particular morning, Mr. Wilson was leaving his house while Dodger was turning onto his street. However, as the elderly man stepped onto the pavement, his walking stick gave way and he fell onto the cold, icy concrete.

Dodger’s little paws froze. His ears pricked up and panic filled his eyes. He skidded over to his friend and licked his face to try and wake him. Nothing. Dodger knew he had to do something, so he started barking. 

“Mummy, look,” shouted one little girl from her garden. “That man’s hurt.” 

Her mother called for an ambulance. 

* * * * *

It was Christmas Eve. Sunnydale stood silently under the starry sky. The snowy roads reflected all the colours of Christmas as the residents’ tree lights sparkled in their windows. There was only one house that stood dark. Mr. Wilson’s. For it was his late wife, Penny, who always put up the decorations.

As the night drew in and midnight grew closer, a vehicle pulled up. A young woman got out of the driver’s seat and opened the passenger door. She then retrieved a wheelchair from the boot and brought it to the front of the car. 

“Are you sure you’ll be okay, Mr. Wilson?” She asked, softly. “It’s not a very nice time of year to be alone.”

Mr. Wilson took one look at his house, and gently nodded. “I’m not alone.” He smiled. For lying on his doorstep, shivering and wet, was Dodger. Mr. Wilson went up to his loyal friend and leant forward to stroke him. As he did, he couldn’t quite believe his eyes.

Under Dodger’s paw was a single, bright, copper penny. He looked up at the Heavens and thought of his beloved wife. 

Dodger’s tail started to wag as Mr. Wilson unlocked the front door. “I’m not alone.” He said softly, with a smile.