Trixie and Bernard: A Love Story

As the worst blizzard in 40 years raged around them, Bernard crossed 72nd and 5th Avenue to take his chihuahua on their daily walk in Central Park.

At 6’5”, 275 pounds Bernard was a very large man. He’d always prided himself on his stolid strength and would insist to anyone who would listen that he was as strong at 80 as he had been at 21. Still, the winds whipping around him in this “snowpocalypse”, as CNN insisted on calling the storm, did push him around a bit.

The little dog, Trixie, whined and pulled on the leash, but her 5-pound frame was no match for Bernard’s determined march through the deepening snow. Only an inch had accumulated so far, but the blizzard was just an hour old. “Give it time,” mumbled Bernard, to himself. Trixie, shivering, stoppedmid-step and looked up at Bernard accusingly. Bernard frowned down at her. “You’ve got your booties on!” he cried irritably.

Central Park in a blizzardBernard and Trixie entered the park on Terrace Drive. They took the first right, onto a familiar trail that would take them past the little pond. The wind picked up, shoving Bernard forward.  He stumbled, but then stiffened his back and shouted, “I grew up in Florida!” The roaring wind snatched away his words before he could even hear them himself. He went on anyway, shaking his fist at the weather. “We had hurricanes!  My whole family was tough! My father was a trucker and my mother taught 7th grade math!”  He stopped and turned.  “Trixie!”

Trixie had stopped again and was glaring up at him. Her little body trembled with the cold.  She pulled back against the leash.  It resulted in very little pressure on the leather strap, but her message was clear. “Trixie,” Bernard scolded. “It’s our walk.  We always take our walk. You’ve got your booties and your new winter coat on!” He tugged a little on the leash. She resisted still. He began to pull the leash, and she skated through the snow, leaving little trails behind her. “Fine,” Bernard grumbled.  “Fine.”

Bernard continued their walk, pulling Trixie along. They approached the little pond on the right.  Bernard knew that the Hans Christian Andersen statue was coming up on the left, but he also knew he wouldn’t be able to see it. Too much white. He glanced back at Trixie.  She had given up skating and was trotting along the best she could through snow that went halfway up her tiny legs. “Good job, Trixie,” Bernard said gruffly.  He knew he shouldn’t praise her too much, or she might get cocky.

They passed the pond and arrived at the Alice in Wonderland statues, which were close   enough to the path to still be visible in the driving snow.  Bernard glowered at Alice, out of habit. There were usually children there, and Bernard was automatically and endlessly annoyed by all children. Their noise. Their chaos. Even without kids, the very sight of Alice on her mushroom, with the Mad Hatter on the right and the White Rabbit on the left, made Bernard very cranky. He scowled at the snow-dusted statues.

The snow was getting heavier and blinding him in the whipping wind, so he didn’t notice the patches of ice here and there on the sidewalk. Blinking away the flakes sticking to his lashes, he thought, “I should’ve brought my swimming goggles.”

They continued walking.  As they were approaching the Glade Arch, the wind shifted direction suddenly, socking him right in the face and the gut.  He stumbled backward, his arms flailing, as he tried to get his balance. As he maintained his grip on the leash, poor Trixie was nearly lifted off her feet. Barnard almost had his balance back, when he stepped on a patch of hidden ice. His feet flew out from under him, and he landed on his back. Mid-fall, mercifully, he dropped the leash. Otherwise, Trixie would’ve taken quite a ride. Flat on his back on the snowy sidewalk, Bernard grunted, “Ass over teakettle.” Trixie, instantly forgiving, scampered over and licked Bernard’s face with concern.

Bernard struggled to push himself up to a sitting position. Pain shot through his left hip and down his leg. He gasped. The wind flagged for a moment, but then picked up suddenly with a great force.  It drove into his chest, knocking him backwards as Trixie was forcefully swept down the sidewalk. She tumbled and rolled out of sight, leaving a fresh trail alongside their disappearing footprints.

Bernard panicked. He struggled to get to his feet. “Trixie!” he shrieked. “Trixie! Come back! Trixie!!” He determinedly ignored the flaring agony in his hip. He lurched down the sidewalk, terrified. Where was his little buddy? “Trixie!” he shouted hoarsely. Tears ran down his face, tears that were no longer from the cold. “Oh Trixie,” he cried out sorrowfully. “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!”

As he neared Alice in Wonderland again, the trail of Trixie’s rolling little body seemed to move towards the statuary. He staggered off the path, heading towards the hateful bronze figures. He prayed that Trixie had stopped rolling under one of the mushrooms and might be safely sheltered there. As his hopes lifted, he suddenly loathed the statues a little less. He leaned down and crawled under the largest mushroom.  A sudden yip surprised him and caused him to raise his head too quickly… and the roaring, blinding white of the blizzard raging around him turned into a silent but equally blinding black.

2

Bernard blinked, straining his eyes to catch some light. There was none. His heart, already beating frantically, thudded so loud that Bernard felt dizzy and weak.  “Hello?”  he called into the silence. Nothing responded. He tried to walk, but seemed to be immobilized… pinned to a chair?  He couldn’t tell.

He heard a high-pitched barking. His hopes soared. “Trixie?  Trixie girl, come! Come here!” Silence. He strained to hear her, holding his breath. Nothing. “Oh, I’m sorry, my girl, so sorry!” His lower lip trembled as a tear slid down his face.

“Curiouser and curiouser!” A young girl’s voice echoed in the black.

“Hello! Can you hear me?” shouted Bernard. “I’m over here!  I can’t – move! Hello?”

“Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?” The girl’s voice returned.

“Towards my voice! Come towards my voice!” Bernard bellowed.

“That depends very much on where you want to go.” A male voice chimed in.

“Well – I – the hospital I guess,” stuttered Bernard.

The girl’s voice piped up, “I don’t much care where.”

Bernard’s lips were getting numb. “Lenox Hill Hospital!” He yelled. “Or New York Presbyterian. Doesn’t matter!

The male voice returned, “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

“Well… whichever is closer!” Bernard called. He was shivering now. Neither the girl nor the man responded. “Hello?” He tried again.

“Goodbye!” The girl giggled and the man laughed. Bernard heard the crunching of receding footsteps in the snow.

“Wait! Wait! Don’t go!” Bernard started to sob. “Please, please, help me!”

His cries were met by silence.

3

Illustration of a redwood forestBernard found that he was sitting on a tree trunk in the middle of a redwood forest.  Sunlight streamed down between the trees. He paused, stunned. “I know this place!” he exclaimed. “This was my favorite place when I lived in California. This is where my parents’ ashes… oh. Oh. No. Oh my god, no!”

“Who died!?” A little girl shouted up at him. She stood in front of him in a blue pinafore, wearing a sly grin. She waggled her head back and forth, causing her high blonde ponytail to dance and bob. “Did someone diiiieeee?”

“No, no of course not!” Bernard fumbled. He took a breath and asked, “Where did you come from? What’s your name?”

“My mother said only ask one question at a time,” the little girl replied, her hand on her waist and her head cocked peevishly to the right.

“What? Oh. Where did you come from?”

“I live here.” When Bernard glanced around at the trees, she laughed. “Not in the forest, silly! We have a nice hovel at the end of gravel path that goes around the forest.”

“A hovel?”

“A hobbyhole, a happy shack, a tarpaper monstrosity… that’s what my mother calls it.”

“Ah.” Bernard, despite himself, was curious to see what this terrible home must look like. “At least there’s no snow.”

“Why would there be snow? This is California, silly!” the little girl shook her head, as if she couldn’t believe how dumb Bernard was.

“You had another question,” the girl teased. “Can you remember it? You are old!  And you have a broken hip!” she crowed.

She’s only a little girl, Bernard told himself. He tried very hard not to take umbrage, but he failed. “I’m not that old!” he exclaimed. “And I do remember my question! It was ‘whaaaat’s yooouuur naaaaame?’” He dragged out the words of the question for emphasis. Surely the girl could tell there was nothing wrong with him now, he thought.

“Myyyyyy naaaaammme iiiis Aliiiicia!” The girl smiled merrily. “I like copycats!  Let’s keep playing!”

“I’d really rather not.”

“I’d really rather not,” Alicia taunted. “Why? Cuz your butt hurts?” She laughed uproariously.

“No!” Bernard boomed. “It’s because games are dumb!”

The girl laughed harder. Skipping around him, she mimicked, “Games are dumb! Games are dumb!”

Bernard’s stomach growled and the girl stopped. “Are you hungry?” she asked.

“No! Well – I – I have to find my dog.”

“You eat dogs?”

“No! I said, I wanted to find my dog.”

“I ate a brown dog once. Creamy center.”

Bernard shuddered.  This little girl was horrid! “Well, I’m sure Trixie would not taste good at all. She’s a Chihuahua.  Never mind the taco commercials, she’s all bones.  She wouldn’t do a burrito any good!”

“Oh. Well. Would you like some mushrooms?” Alicia plucked out some black mushrooms and plopped them in her mouth.

“Are you sure they’re safe?” Bernard frowned.

“They can help us find Trixie. My favorites are the red ones…” Alicia’s voice trailed off as she hunted around. “Oh!” She squealed. “Here’s one!” She picked a mushroom as big as Bernard’s hand, red on top with white spots.

“I really don’t think you should eat that,” Bernard warned.

“Why not?” She asked in a snotty voice. “Whhhyyyyyy nooooootttt?”

“I just don’t. They’ll do something to you!”

“They’ll make me big! I’ll see everywhere!” Alicia crowed, and bit into the red mushroom.

Bernard stared at her as she chomped noisily. He couldn’t be sure, but it seemed like the girl was getting a little… bigger? She opened her mouth to take another bite, and it seemed that her mouth itself was stretching longer and longer. Her little teeth were getting larger and sharper! She snapped her jaw decisively on the mushroom again and again. The grotesque sounds of her chewing filled the entire forest.  Bernard felt a little nauseous. As she ate, Alicia grew bigger and bigger and bigger.  Soon, she towered over Bernard.

“Let’s play on the tire swing!” Her voice sounded slow and deep, like a record played at quarter speed. She swung her giant legs closer to Bernard.

Bernard stumbled backwards away from an approaching knee. “Um, it’s uh, still there? The tire swing?”

“Yes it is,” came Alicia’s answer in those distorted bass tones. “Let’s play! You swing! Or are you too old?”

“My hip hurts!” Bernard exclaimed. “I can’t… please stop walking towards me! You’re going to squash me!”

Alicia stopped abruptly and began laughing. The sound seemed to reverberate from her entire body, quaking the trees and shaking loose a shower of redwood needles and leaves. Bernard was soon up to his trembling knees in tree detritus.

“Ha!” Alicia boomed. “You’re afraid of me! I win!”

“Sure, you win,” Bernard said weakly.

“Now I will look for Trixie!” Alicia announced.

“No!  I’m sure she’s not here! She’s – she’s still in Central Park!” Bernard was very afraid that this terrible girl would find Trixie and eat her.

“Trixie!  Trixie!” Alicia called.

Bernard stuttered in terror, “Such a big girl like you wouldn’t like such a tiny dog as Trixie! She’s no good to you!”

Alicia stooped down so that her face was right beside Bernard’s. Her mushroomy breath was a strong, warm wind, knocking him to his butt in the deep pile of redwood needles. “I’m too big?” she asked. She focused on the tree to his left. With her giant fingers, she dug at the roots of the tree, searching for something. “Here it is!” she shouted. A tiny blue mushroom was pinched between her fat fingers. Still stooping, she shifted her eyes to Bernard, then plopped the mushroom into her mouth.

She immediately began shrinking. Bernard squinted and blinked, trying to get his eyes to adjust to her new form, but that form kept changing. Finally, she was back to her original size.

“Are you – uh – done?” Bernard’s voice shook.

“Back to normal!” Alicia cried. “Let’s swing!”

“Well…”

“You’re afraid!” she taunted him.

“Of course not!”

“We could go look for Trixie!” she half-teased, half-threatened.

“No, no, let’s find the tire swing!” Marshaling all of his inner resources, and grabbing a nearby tree for support, Bernard managed to stand and kick his way out of the pile of debris. This little girl scared him, sure, but he would not let her find Trixie. “So the swing is still there?”

“Yes it is,” Alicia smiled and pulled at his arm. “Let’s go!”

They began to walk. Bernard briefly noticed that his hip no longer hurt. Adrenaline, he thought. Never underestimate the pain-relieving effects of stark raving terror.  Together, they walked up one rise, down another, and through a fairies’ circle of redwood trees.

On the other side of the fairy circle, there was the lone pine tree, and there, still, was the tire swing.

“Go ahead,” Alicia smiled. “You can go first.”

“Oh, I don’t know…” Bernard hesitated.

“You’re too old!” Alicia shouted.

Bernard bristled. He couldn’t help himself. He walked over to the tire swing. He hesitated, trying to remember how to get on it. Finally, he got behind it and bent over, propelling his head and shoulders through, and plopping his belly down on the bottom of the swing. “Oof, that’s a little harder than I remember it.” He pushed against his feet and swung a little. That should show Alicia that he was not too old!

Alicia smiled gleefully. She started hopping from one foot to the other. “Now I’m going to go!” she exclaimed.

“To the bathroom?  We always used to go right out here.”

“No! I’m going to get Trixie! I know where she is!” Her eyes glittered with delighted malice. She skipped around him and gave him a push on his behind.

Bernard gripped the tire. “Stop that!” He was panicking. He couldn’t get the swing to stop!  What if this horrid child found his dog first? “Wait! Trixie’s my dog!”

Alicia sneered from behind him. “I know where she is,” she sang, taunting him.

“Where?  Where???” Bernard could not get the darn swing to stop. It was like a nightmare where he couldn’t move, except that he couldn’t stop moving! He let out a great roar of frustration.

“Bye!” And with that, Alicia ran away into the forest, her ponytail swinging wickedly.

Bernard tried to call her back, but she was gone. He finally managed to stop the swing. He placed his feet firmly on the ground and extricated himself. He glanced around, but he could not determine the direction in which Alicia had gone.

Exhausted, Bernard took a couple steps and painstakingly lowered himself to the ground next to the pine tree. His hip had started to hurt again, a terrible ache. Tears rolled down his face. “Trixie!” he called hoarsely. “Trixie, come here, don’t go to that awful girl!” He cried for some time.

Finally, exhausted, he leaned back against tree. He found it surprisingly comfortable. He closed his eyes. He was very, very tired. “Trixie,” he mumbled. “I’m so sorry.” He fell into a deep and dreamless sleep.

4

Something licked his face.  “Trixie,” he murmured.  Another lick.  “Yes, yes, I’ll feed you.” His eyelids were heavy, but he managed to open one eye. He found himself staring into another eye, a very red one. With a rush of adrenaline, he rolled over and pushed himself back up on his feet to try to get away. “What sort of demon is this? Oh, I am in big trouble for taking you out in the blizzard–” He looked again and realized that the creature was nothing more than a white rabbit. “Oh. Oh,” he took a trembling breath. “You’re not Trixie.”

“Yes I am,” the rabbit said.

“What? No, Trixie is my dog.”

“I am the reincarnated Trixie. I harassed cats so much that now I must be a rabbit.  You know what cats do to rabbits,” the rabbit announced.

“Oh yes, I had a rabbit once, and my sister’s cat…” Bernard’s voice trailed off as he remembered. He had caught the cat with its teeth deep in his bunny’s bloody neck.  Bernard fought off the old wave of horror. He looked at the rabbit with compassion.  “But Trixie, you were never a threat to any cats. Most of them were bigger than you!”

“My bark was worse than my bite.”

“They did tend to run off when you started barking.”

“My bark was so high-pitched, it hurt their ears.”

“But you couldn’t help that.”

“Yes I could.”

Bernard paused. “You could?”

“Sure. I knew exactly how to cause a cat pain with my barking. And so I did.”

“Trixie, I didn’t know you were so… devious.”

“Well, I was. And now, I am on the run from every cat in the neighborhood. Gotta go!” Trixie the rabbit disappeared right before Bernard’s eyes.

“Wait, come back, I’ll protect you, Trixie!” Bernard called plaintively. “Like I should have!  Oh, just don’t leave me alone, don’t leave me alone…” But Trixie was gone.

5

Bernard noticed a smart-looking top hat and cane, sitting right where Trixie had perched. “Where did these come from?” he wondered. He couldn’t quite reach the hat, and he knew better than to bend over. Slowly, and somewhat painfully, he squatted down to retrieve it. It was made of very fine silk and was pleasingly smooth to the touch. He set the hat on his head, feeling whimsical. Before rising, he reached over and picked up the cane.

It was raining, and he was standing in the middle of the street. It was absolutely pouring. Man with top hat and cane.There was a man, in a tuxedo and an elegant hat, singing about the rain. A little dog danced and yipped around him.

“Trixie?” Bernard’s heart soared. Here was Trixie! He was so happy to find her that he wanted to sing and dance too! He tried to remember the words. He listened very closely to what the man was singing and heard, “I’m so very late!  For a very important date!” The man danced and swung around light poles, as the little dog barked.

But those aren’t the words, Bernard thought to himself. What are the words, he wondered. Then the memory came rushing back. He grabbed a pole and croaked out, “Singing in the rain/just singing in the rain!” But soon he found himself singing, “I’m so very late! For a very important date!” He stopped himself. Those were not the words! He started again, “Singing–”  But he couldn’t complete the phrase without switching to “so very late.” He tried again, and once again, he was singing the wrong words. Soon he and the man in the top hat were singing, in perfect harmony, over and over again, “I’m so very late!  For a very important date!”

Bernard thought he would lose his mind. They sang together for what seemed to be hours, the same phrases, over and over again. Finally, the man tossed his hat to the street and dashed off, with the little dog racing behind him.

Bernard ran after them. “Trixieeeeeeee! Come baaaaack!”

Bernard opened his eyes to the redwood grove again. Well that ruined a perfectly good movie, he grumbled to himself. And Trixie! She was there! But no, how could she have been there, there was no dog in that movie. Besides, wasn’t Trixie a rabbit now? Bernard was bewildered.

6

A cat was floating in the air right in front of him. A Cheshire cat. It was grinning.

There was a strange beeping sound. “Excuse me, cat, but could you tell me what that beeping is?”cheshire cat

The cat said nothing, just licked his lips. Bernard noticed a bit of white fluff stuck between the cat’s top middle teeth. “Excuse me, but you have something stuck…” Bernard tried to indicate to the cat.

“Oh, right.” The cat’s voice was as smooth as Barry White’s. He picked the fluff out and popped it in his mouth. “Some don’t like the fur. I say, why waste anything?”

“Oh no. Oh no… did you… did you eat Trixie?” The stab through his heart staggered Bernard.

The cat just smiled and smiled. Its body faded, but its smile remained, gleaming.

7

Bernard heard a quick, panting sound. Trixie! Now where was she? He struggled through the snowstorm, trying to follow her tracks. Wasn’t she sliding through the snow at one point? Were those lines in the snow her little tracks?

The wind blew punishingly, and Bernard shivered despite his heavy overcoat.  “Trixie!” he called, hoping to hear her little yip. He listened closely for the panting. There it was… it seemed to be coming from his right. Yes! Near the Hans Christian Andersen statue. He started to move that way, but realized his feet were stuck to the ground. They were frozen to the ice-covered path! He wailed in disbelief.

Illustration of distorted old womanAnother person appeared on the path in front of him. He squinted through the snow, and recognized Ms. Hart, a daunting former English teacher, from his building. But she looked odd. Her face was very distorted. Panic surged through Bernard. Ms. Hart was a terrifying woman – even when she looked normal. She never hesitated to browbeat the super, the mailman, city workers – anyone really – on anything and everything she found unacceptable. Three years ago, Bernard himself had been taken to task by the formidable lady. He had made the mistake of calling her Mrs. Hart, instead of Ms. Hart, and she had given him an earful. By the time she was done, he was quaking in his boots like a 10-year old boy that had failed his grammar exam.  Bernard prided himself on being afraid of no one, so he never would’ve admitted how much this woman intimidated him, but she did, terribly.

As Ms. Hart approached Bernard, she nodded her weird head in greeting. When she saw he was not moving, she called, “Bernard? Bernard? What are you doing?”

“My – my – dog. Trixie. She’s out here somewhere…” Bernard looked down in shame. He stared down at his boots, then shook himself. He raised his head and made himself look at Ms. Hart in the eye.

She scolded him roundly. “You took your dog out? In this weather? How utterly ridiculous!”

“Dogs always need to go out, whatever the weather,” Bernard defended himself.

“Some people are so stupid,” she muttered under her breath. “Off of their heads.”

Bernard heard the panting again, closer yet. Then he heard a little yip. There, off to his right, was Trixie, struggling to get back to him through the deep drifts. “Trixie!” Bernard shouted in relief. “Thank god you’re ok!”

Then Bernard heard another yip, off to his left. Another Trixie appeared, panting and thrashing through the snow.

Ms. Hart rolled her eyes back into her head, and then popped them back. “Now you have two dogs? The building only permits you to have one dog!” she exclaimed.

“No, I – I only have one dog,” Bernard was extremely confused.

“Well I see Tweedledee and Tweedledum,” declared the lady. “Two dogs!  Off with their heads!”

Shocked, Bernard stared at Ms. Hart, whose face was becoming more and more monstrous. “What? No, you can’t – you can’t behead them!”  He struggled to move his frozen feet, to no avail. Another yip sounded behind him.  He twisted around, only to see another Trixie panting and swimming her way through the snow. A fourth Trixie appeared behind Ms. Hart.  When Ms. Hart heard that dog bark, her eyes bulged. Her face turned read.  Steam spewed from her mouth. She screamed, “Off with their heads! Off with their heads! OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!!

8

Bernard cried, “Leave them their heads! We’ll find them new homes…” His voice trailed off as he blinked awake. He heart was pounding and he was sweating in fear.

“Mr. Lewis?” asked a high-pitched voice. A nurse in blue surgical scrubs was looking at him. She was standing at a bed only a few feet away from Bernard.  It was very dark, and she seemed little more than a shadow. “Are you finally awake?” she asked softly. “I’ll be there in a minute. Try to calm down.” Turning back to her patient, the nurse said, “As I was saying, Mrs. Wilson, you cannot go off your meds. Not if you expect to get better.”

“I want off of the meds. Off of the meds!” the patient angrily insisted.

“We’ll talk about it when your daughter gets here. Now, Mr. Lewis–”

“Off of the meds!” the woman shouted.

The nurse rolled her eyes and ignored Mrs. Wilson. “Alright, Bernard, how are you feeling?”

Bernard was starting to calm down, but his head throbbed. He groaned, “My head… where am I?”

“You’re at Bellevue Hospital. You’ve been in a coma for 3 days. You have a concussion and a broken hip and-”

Bernard pushed through his haze of pain to blurt, “Where’s Trixie?”

“Is she your daughter? Because your daughter was here, I think…”

“No…” Bernard closed his eyes and tried to breathe. “Trixie is my dog. And there should only be one of her.”

“Excuse me?”

“I mean I have one dog, and her name is Trixie, and I think she got lost in the park.” Tears flooded his eyes and made the pain worse. “I want my dog. She’s at the park under the Alice in Wonderland statue. But she might have gotten buried in the snowdrifts, so please dig for her.”

“Ok Bernard, maybe we’ll slow down your morphine a bit,” the nurse soothed and reached for the IV.

7

“Oh, Trixie.  Oh I’m so sorry,” mumbled Bernard. The beeping seemed to be getting more persistent.

He opened his eyes to white. The blizzard? He blinked, trying to bring his eyes into focus. There was a ceiling. It was white. There were walls. They were white. There was a blanket. It was white. Am I in heaven, Bernard wondered. Are my ashes scattered in the redwood grove, and now I’m in heaven?

A face appeared above him. “Dad?” it queried.

Bernard blinked, confused. “David?” he croaked.

“Yah. We thought we lost you!”

“I’m not dead?” Bernard bellowed.

David grinned wryly. “No, and it looks like you’re back to your old irascible self.”

“Where’s Trixie?”

David ignored the question. “Would you like me to raise your bed?”

“Where’s Trixie?” Bernard repeated. His lip trembled.

David glanced at a woman standing by the window. His wife. Bernard racked his brains for her name. Rosie! “Rosie, have you seen Trixie? Are you taking care of her for me?”

The woman and David glanced at each other. She said, gently, “I’m not Rosie, remember? I’m not your wife. I’m David’s wife, Jean.”

“Rosie, Jean – you know what I mean!” Bernard was nearly shouting. “Where’s Trixie?”

“I’m sorry,” Jean began, but David interrupted quickly, “She’s fine. She’s staying with a neighbor. She’ll be fine now.”

“Not Ms. Hart! You didn’t leave her with Ms. Hart, did you?” Bernard asked fearfully.

“No, no, of course not,” David shook his head.

Bernard sank back into the pillows and closed his eyes. When he opened them again, he looked straight at Jean. “She’s dead, isn’t she? Trixie’s dead.”

Jean glanced at David and pressed her lips together. She squared her shoulders and met Bernard’s eyes again. She said, “We couldn’t find her. I’m sorry. Ms. Hart saw you out there in the blizzard and followed you. When she found you lying down in the snow, she called 911. She did not see Trixie.”

Bernard’s lips trembled. Jean continued, “That first day, David stayed with you while I looked for Trixie, but it was no use. The weather was just too bad.”

Bernard’s voice shook as he said, “So she might be out there somewhere.”

“Yes. She probably is.”

“I mean, she might be alive.”

Jean said nothing for several moments. Finally, she said, “I suppose it’s possible.”

Bernard suddenly felt very tired, and very old. He closed his eyes and drifted for a moment. “Remember what I said about California?” he asked.

“You’ve said a lot of things about California,” David replied.

Bernard opened his eyes. “About the redwood grove in Strawberry Canyon.”

“It was your favorite place as a kid?” David dodged.

Jean said quietly, “You want your ashes spread there.”

“Now hold on! You’re not dying anytime soon,” David objected.

Bernard said gruffly, “Maybe not.  But, when I go, I want to be with Trixie. So spread my ashes in Central Park. Alright?”

David was about to protest again, but Jean moved beside him. She put her hand on his shoulder as she held Bernard’s gaze. “We will,” she said.

He repeated, “Spread my ashes in Central Park.”

Jean nodded.  “Yes, we will,” she confirmed quietly.

“Thank you.” Bernard returned sadly. “I need some rest. I want to be alone now.”

David sighed. “Ok, Dad.” He and Jean gathered their coats and headed to the door.

Jean stopped in the doorway and turned back to him. “You need to forgive yourself.”

Bernard’s eyes filled with tears. “If I wasn’t such a stubborn old bastard, Trixie would be alive!” He wailed.

Jean walked back over to him. “Trixie loved you, always. Remember that.”

“I do! I keep seeing her little face… oh I shouldn’t have taken her out!” he cried.

Jean held his hand. “Trixie would forgive you,” she said simply.

And Bernard wept.

When he was finished, Jean squeezed his hand and left. Exhausted, Bernard fell into a deep sleep.

He dreamed of Trixie playing in the sunshine.

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