Casper watched from the passenger seat of the car as the snow fell heavily outside. He could sense his mistress was tense. She had turned the radio way down, and the windshield wipers were a blur as they swept away the falling flakes. Casper smiled to himself as he thought of how Radar had sent Alastair into near panic this morning. He recalled the thunk of the overturned chair as the cat tried to “fly” when goosed by the invisible dog. Looking back at the falling snow, Casper knew the weather was a serious issue.
“We maybe should keep today’s visit to a minimum.” Meg spoke to Casper, as if he would understand and reply. “We don’t want to be caught out in the snow. We need to get back to our house.”
Casper gently whined his comprehension and lowered himself into a ball on the seat. He was stiff and cold in this weather. He felt the presence of Radar in the car more than saw him. When Radar was around, there was a cold that surrounded him.
“We going visiting again!” He heard the white dog’s voice.
Without lifting his head or making a sound, Casper answered by wagging his tail.
“This visit is important.” Radar sighed, “I have a feeling we are in for a long visit..”
As the car pulled to a stop in the lot, Casper rose wearily from his seat. Radar was no longer in the car. His mistress lashed his leash to him and gave his head a gentle pet with her gloved hand. Her smile told him more than Radar’s words. Something was up; he knew that Meg would not have risked the weather if it wasn’t important.
“Come on Big fellow.” She motioned him out of the car. Dutifully, he followed her. The went to the front doors, and the warmth of the building engulfed him as he entered. He could smell wonderful smells from the kitchen. They must be close to meal time. He could also smell something else. Something he had sniffed before. It hung in the air and grew stronger as he moved deeper into the building. After Meg removed her boots and coat, they went to the sun room.
Mrs. Cleaves was sitting in her favorite chair. Casper went to her and nuzzled her hand. It was cold, and her fingers did not entwine with his fur. He looked to her face; her eyes were closed. He nuzzled her hand some more, and then gently licked her fingers. Her could hear the steadiness of her breath, and he knew she was sleeping. Plaintively, he looked to Meg. He wanted to know this was alright.
“She is sleeping, sweet man.” Meg whispered, and led him to another waiting pair of hands. Casper made his rounds as he usually did. The warmth of the gentle hands warmed him from the snowy cold outside. He nuzzled up to Mr. Snache, and felt a coolness on his spine. Radar sat quietly beside Mr. Snache, and glanced off in the distance to the hallway. Following the line of sight, Casper remembered Mr. Hastings. With a brief lick, he excused himself and went to find his new friend.
“The weather is getting worse out there.” He heard one of the humans say.
Sitting in a chair by the window, Mr. Hastings was lost in his own thoughts when Casper found him. Cautiously, not to startle the man, Casper approached. He thumped into the chair making a scuttling noise that cause the man to turn.
“You’re back?” The man smiled slightly.” Yes, I am still here.”
Mr. Hastings reached out for Casper. “Seems that my boys aren’t taking their old dad home anytime soon. If I have to stay put…at least I can have visits with you.”
Casper licked the man’s callused hands. There was something magical about the man’s hands, a solid firmness, but still a delicateness. There was music in those hands. Casper could feel it.
“Mr. Hastings!’ Meg smiled from the open door. “Nice to see you. I see Casper found you.”
“He is a fine dog.” Mr. Hastings patted Casper’s head.
“He loves to visit, but he is supposed to stay in the sun room.” Meg fibbed. “Perhaps you would come and join us there.”
Reluctantly, the older man followed Meg and Casper to the sun room. Casper edged him toward the piano. There was music…he felt it. Mr Hastings looked at the worn keys, and a slight smile crossed his face.
“Do you play?” Meg asked.
“I have been known to in the past.” He hesitated. “I haven’t sat at a piano in some time.”
“The weather report says they have closed the main highway!” A nurse spoke to Meg.
“Well, it seems I am going to be here for a little longer….” She turned to Mr. Hastings. “You know my grand-dad had a lovely singing voice, and my grandmother would play for him to sing. It would sure help to pass the time if you would play for us…” She motioned to the room. “I think everyone would enjoy a tune.”
Mr Hastings sat on the bench and looked at the keys. He stared at his old hands for a long while before he struck a note. Casper slid back over beside Mrs. Cleaves. She was still breathing steadily, but he rested his head on her lap. The music filled the room like a morning sunrise. The old piano began to sing with a zest it had not know in many years. Mr. Hastings played a wild Honky-Tonk piece that cause Mrs. Cleaves eyes to startle open. She gripped Casper’s fur as she roused, but quickly settled, her fingers caressing his golden mane. As Mr. Hastings played, the room filled with life and excitement. Mrs. Cleaves tapped her toes in time. Some of the other residents got up to dance to the music. Mr. Snache sat smiling; at his side, unmoved and quiet, Radar waited. Casper watched the little white dog as he watched the merriment in the room. If he was going to stay somewhere this night, this would be as good a place as any. The white dog would have to learn to enjoy it when humans had their fun.