The damn wind, it never stops. Nor the heat. A dust devil skips across the parking lot as a lone boy wanders around the back of the café, between the cars — some parked, others abandoned — calling for his dog that’s been gone for a day. The cook leans against the door jamb and lights a smoke.
“Whacha doin’ there, boy?” he hollers.
The boy ignores his question, puckers his lips, and tries to whistle.
“Your dog’s gone, boy. You ain’t goin’ to find him.”
The boy walks around to the highway, watching the heat rise from the blacktop. Illusions dance as he looks to the west.
“Git away from the road,” his mother yells from the front of the café. He walks to the center of the road and looks both ways. Nothing’s coming for
A twinkle in the asphalt catches his eye. He pulls his Barlow knife from the pocket of his coveralls and digs at his treasure. It pops out. He squints at the figure on it and gives it a rub.
“Ma, Ma,” he yells as he runs through the café doorway, “I found a gold coin.” His mother wipes her hands on her apron and kneels to see his treasure.
She smiles. “That ain’t gold, son. It’s just a medallion.”
“Whats a m’dallion, Ma?”
“It’s like a coin, but you can’t spend it. See that man on it? That’s St. Christopher.”
The boy looks, wanting to hear more.
“St. Christopher. He protects travelers. It’s like a lucky coin.”
The boy darts back out the door and heads to the shed. He slops some gasoline from a can on a rag and wipes the medal until it shines. He cuts a length of twine from a roll, pokes it through the hole on the medallion and ties it around his neck.
He goes back in the café, opens the cooler door, pulls out a soda, and heads back out the door to the highway. In the heat of the evening the dancing figures wave to the boy. He waves back. “Y’all seen my dog?” he hollers. They don’t answer. He takes a final swig, tosses the bottle, and heads in their direction.
The boy walks down the pavement. The figures have gone for the day.
Twilight begins to settle as the boy sees a distant shape on the shoulder of the road. Closer he recognizes his dog. He calls to it, but it doesn’t move. He kneels in the coming darkness, and lifts his limp dog to his lap. “Why’d you run off, boy? Why?” He rocks back and forth, weeping, holding his dog.
He pulls the medallion up over his head and puts it around the neck of his dog. “Why, boy? Ma said not to go out in the highway.”
Through bleary eyes a light blinds his vision. He clutches his dog, waiting for a car to pass. But the light doesn’t move. He wipes his eyes. A robed figure faint and pale stands in front of him.
“Who’re you?” the boy asks.
“Look at the medallion around your dog’s neck, son.”
The boy squints at the medallion. In the dim light of the night sky he can barely see that the image.
“Are you Christopher?” he asks in a meek voice.
The figure smiles. “Yes, I am Christopher. What’s your name?”
“What’s your dog’s name, Aaron?
Aaron pauses. “Well, I don’t know. I never gave him one.”
“I think it’s time you named him, Aaron.”
The boy tries to think of a name. He looks at an advertising sign off the road. He smiles. “How about Jax?” he asks.
“Jax is a fine name, son.”
The boy looks down at his dog. “Jax.”
Christopher kneels in front of Aaron and Jax. “Aaron, it’s time for Jax and me to go.”
“Go? Where you goin’? Where you taking my dog?”
“I’m taking Jax to a peaceful place. A place where he will be safe.”
“No cars?” asks Aaron.
“No. No cars.”
Christopher lifts Jax and cradles him in his arms, and looks toward the boy. “It wasn’t your fault, Aaron. Not your fault.”
Aaron tries not to cry, but he can’t help it. The figure walks away, down the side of the highway, and in moments is no longer visible.
“Aaron. Aaron, are you okay?” The boy’s mother is frantic, shaking the shoulder of her son who’s curled up along the roadside, asleep.
“Christopher, is that you?” Aaron asks.
“It’s your Ma, Aaron, your Ma. Oh, God, I’m so glad you’re safe.”
“Is Jax safe too?” His question passes unnoticed.
They walk hand in hand back toward the diner. Aaron tries to tell his ma what happened, but she pays no mind to his ramblings. Her son is safe.
The land glows under a full moon. As they reach the diner, Aaron spots something gold shining on the road.
Jeff Switt is a retired advertising agency guy who loves writing flash fiction. Some days to curb his angst. Other days to fuel it. This is his 7th story at Every Day Fiction.
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