The Occurrence on Christmas Eve

 

        So, there we are, at the in-laws, holiday attire on, ready to greet baby Jesus. I’m drinking all the gold, frankincense and myrrh; the edibles were downed hours ago. Lethargy from the massive Christmas Eve gormandizing has me glued to the warmth of the hearth but I know I saw it all. I saw the dog disappear.

        I saw it all and it was cus little what’s-his-name was spinning that thing, that shitty toy every kid gets at some point at a Christmas Eve party. You know, it is a gryo-something, it has metal rings on a post you are supposed to spin. It is the toy given to keep kiddos busy for 20 minutes while the adults ‘step outside’. But this isn’t about adults, this is about kids, and dogs, and shitty gifts and useless traditions.

        As per tradition, Dolly got new collar and tag.

        “Isn’t is adorable?” Muriel said stepping back to present Dolly. “I got it on a Cyber-Monday sale.”

        “It is a waste, Mom,” Anne chided. “The one you got her last year is perfectly fine.”

        “It’s tradition,” Muriel said defiant. “Besides, it was made by local craftsmen.”

        “Craftspeople,” Tess corrected her mother.

        “Local craftspeople,” Muriel said through a fake smile.

        “Yeah,” I mockingly agreed. “’Assembled in US with foreign made parts.’”

        “You said it, bro,” Jeff chimed in, “Always verify your materials.”

        “You are one to talk,” Anne glowered, “You didn’t ‘verify your materials’ last night with the fishsticks.”

        “They were fine,” Jeff grinned at his girl. “The boys ate them, didn’t they?” Tess broke the brief standoff by obliging her mother.

        “I saw those at the Tremaine Gallery,” Tess says eyeing Dolly’s collar. “So cool, mom. The Martins gave one to Tucker for the 8th night of Hanukkah.” Tess inspected the collar and got a welcome lick from Dolly.

        “Mom, how much did you pay for that?” Anne set a familiar wry smile on her mother.

        “Oh, who remembers,” Muriel shrugged. “Look at Dolly’s happy face, it was worth it.” After a moment Muriel smiles proudly at her girls and heads back to the TV room.

        “Worth every penny,” I yelled to Muriel hoping to win some points. I felt the weighty piece on the collar. It was a pewter looking hunk of metal in the shape of Massachusetts. A slight relief of the topography of the state was prominent. Nice, solid, but no big deal.

        “We doing this?” Anne says coming back from the hall with her coat on.

        “Yes, ma’am!” Jeff smiles and tosses her the lighter. The adults muster energy to pull on boots and patronize the smoking porch, but I didn’t step outside. Because I had already stepped outside. Twice. And the edibles I mentioned. But I don’t want you focusing on that, focus on the fact that the place was quieting down, and I was jonesin’ to stare at the fire and lose myself in its crackling light.

        The only other person in the living room was nephew Randy trying to spin his new toy.              “You are never going to figure that out,” I said blankly stretching out by the fireplace using Dolly for a pillow.

        “Just cus you can’t do it doesn’t mean I can’t,” Randy said without pulling his eyes off the toy. I was adding another log to the fire when the little shit figured the thing out.

        “Yesss!” he hissed raising both arms in victory. Tess had shown him the basics, but he finally got the real threading and, BAM, the thing spun for a solid minute, maybe two. Gyroscope! That’s the name. Had to give it to the runt, he nailed it.

        “You just wasted your Christmas wish,” I smirked as I got comfy by the flames.    “Everybody gets one and you spent yours on a spinning top,” Randy ignores me for a moment then asks a question.

        "What is your wish?"

        "I wish I knew what Dolly’s Christmas wish is?” I said scratching her chin. Randy nods without taking his eyes off the spinning rings of metal.

        "She’d probably wish for more balls than she could count,” he said.

        "Yeah," I say hoping to end the conversation. I was just about to start a snooze whilst watching the spinning metal hoops and this high pitched tinnitis creeps into my ears. It starts small, then rises to a brutal crescendo and Bang! My head hit the floor. The dog was nowhere to be seen. Not like it left, like its gone. Like it no longer exists(here anyway).

        Randy didn’t see, he was watching the gyro spin. None of the family was in there, they were in the TV room or puffing out on the porch. I ask Randy where the dog went but he is no help. He thought it was with me, cus it should have been. I try to pretend it just the booze, but something wasn’t sitting right. You know when you have one of those feelings? Kinda like dejavu, maybe it is dejavu, but it feels real. Like something is out of sorts and only you can see it, but it takes the balance out of the place? 

        I muse over it for a time and then decide to go prove to myself the dog is alive. I check her bowl, nothing. I check under the table, loads of scraps down there, nothing. I check the bathroom and her favorite spot behind the recliner. I check the crate and the basement. I do a sweep upstairs by the time the goofs have finished on the porch but still no sign of dog life. Bleary eyed they ask why I mussing around. 

        “Have you seen Dolly?” I ask my wife.

        “Nope,” Tess says with a wide smile.

        “Maybe she snuck out,” Jeff offers through his reddened eyes.

        “Who’s out,” Muriel asks coming around the corner.

        “Dolly,” Jeff informs.

        “Who let her out?” All movement stops, Muriel doesn’t like errant dogs or those who allow it. She can smell the porch activities on the quartet, the cold air they hold on their coats betrays them. I revel in the fact that my coat is not on, nor my boots; a rare moment of innocence.

        “She’ll come to the door when she wants in,” Anne waves off her mother while moving to the living room. “We watching this movie or what?”

        We started the Christmas classic and made it to the part where the in-laws arrive; no Dolly. The nieces and nephews took off after a while, still no dog. We finished the movie, most of us were finished too, still no doggy at the door. I didn’t want to be the last one up, so Tess and I leave the remote to Jeff. The last thing I do on Christmas Eve is wish that Dolly would miraculously be by the tree when we came down for presents.

        We wake, Christmas came but no Dolly. Muriel was tense through the gifting. She eased a bit when she saw her new boots, but her mind was on her pooch. Text threads turned to message boards and soon the local social was blowing up with the conversation of missing dogs. I was relieved it wasn’t just us. I wasn’t insane! But the dogs, so sad, half a dozen in the friend set alone. News broadcasts were saying as many as 200 dogs had been reported missing.

        Then the rumors start, hoodlums bent on mischief, neighboring town retribution, mass sacrifice. FB threads try to assemble search teams but when we collect the emotions are high and the lot of us were rife with suspicion. Threats escalate, there are numerous fights and a few arrests. Christmas Day ends with an exhausted town filled with angst and longing for their dogs. Tears stream, dishes are put off till tmrw.

        I wanted to say something, but I couldn’t. What could have I said that would put Muriel at ease?  ‘Don’t worry, Dolly’s not dead. She just vanished.’ I couldn’t bring myself to say that, so I didn’t say anything. I just watched in silence as Muriel scanned posts and looked longingly at old pictures. We all went to bed early. For some reason I could not imagine the dog was dead. The whole situation was too weird, too easy to poke holes in. I have never believed that time heals all wounds, but I fell asleep hoping for my mother-in-law’s sake it was true. My dreams swirled between barking Christmas carols and visions of puppies pig piling atop me. I was wrested from peaceful slumber by yelling downstairs.

        “They found dogs!” Muriel shouted as she threw open the door to the guest room. “Tess, get dressed, we have to go to Pittsfield!” Tess rolled back over so I was left to investigate Muriel’s claims. I slogged my way to the kitchen where the news broadcast was announcing the recent findings:

        ‘Then, when the world opened back up again on December 26th, we found them! A shock went round the New England when dogs all over the tristate showed up in a Petsmart in Pittsfield.’

 

        Apparently, it was true. In a bizarre, unexplained event 300+dogs materialized where before there existed none. The mutts tore through the wall of the building into the adjacent laundromat. They lazily ate through the holiday chewing on old socks and countless dog toys and on the 26th when workers returned, they found scores of happy mutts crowing together.

Local police officials took hours to sort out owners and addresses and as of 10pm tonight just two dogs remain in police custody. They are waiting to be retrieved by their out of state owners. By out of state, I mean South Dakota.

        Gyroscopes are known to create energy fields. Looping metals, spinning shapes, circles circling. Dogs are known to be beings of positivity, always wishing for the utmost fun. With some digging we discovered the ‘local craftspeople’ has sourced their metals from recycled steel forged in China from Russian and Mozambique metals. Somehow through the spinning of the gyroscope connected with the dangling metal of the dog collars, the frequency of the dog’s heart is able to be heard. In turn the energy sustained with the spinning is enough to transport that frequency.

        Near as I can tell this is the truth. Near as I can tell this never would have happened without the Tramaine gallery selling crap for no reason other than to sell it, or Muriel excited to buy said crap. Then again, without these silly traditions Dolly never would have seen her wish come true. I wonder what she will wish for next year…