Paternoster Tales: Chapter 25

Putting the pages back

If you rip the pages out of a book – what are you left with?

Just the cover; an empty book.

If you pull all the petals off a flower, you’re left with no more wishes and no flower.

To be good, a life needs words and wishes. Wishes are the paint we use make a picture called hope. If hope fails words tend to follow and fail too.

Patrick wasn’t quite without hope.

Or words; he muttered something quietly to himself as he shuffled along the narrow valley floor of Paternoster Row; his spirit fading fast and already invisible to the windows of the office blocks pressing in on either side.

“Mungo … dear Dear Boy … good boy … Mungo … Mungo …”

He was rehearsing what he would say if his dog was still there.

He looked at his feet. He knew he was close enough now to see into the Square.

But he couldn’t look up.

The Pound … some charity … a stranger … someone would surely have taken pity on the old dog. Taken him.

Patrick’s head – a dampened pendulum slowly swinging out its final hours – traced a shallow arc of despair; once. And he stopped. He stooped, folding in on himself. Tilting his balance further and further over his feet.

A tear dropped onto his coat. Followed by another. And another.

He started to fall forward. Crumpling at the knees. Earth to earth, he thought; accepting the loitering dusk seeping into his life. But below him, the earth he saw was hard stone. Bone-breaking, unforgiving! He stopped himself. And teetered for a moment. With a huge effort, he pushed himself upright.

He would look now. He had to.

Mungo had pushed himself up too. He still sat but his long back was straight and his head held high. Alert, attentive and electric. His tail began to sweep the ground, slowly at first not quite believing what his senses were whispering, then as belief changed to conviction the tempo increased, swishing up dust and beating against the legs of one of his new homeless friends.

Dogs can’t really smile. But the brightness in Mungo’s old, teak-brown eyes and his slightly open mouth and the shivers running through his body could only be happening because of one thing – his heart was smiling; a vast, bursting, wide grin of love.

A sudden bark. And they were running. Like a boy and his puppy, they fell into each other.

All around them people stopped what they were doing. They watched. They smiled. They  applauded.

And several onlookers, including several waifs, shed several tears.


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