It Happened One Night

neighborhood-at-night-two

“Wake up Jonathan. Wake up.” It was some time after midnight when Daddy stood at my bedroom door, calling my name from the darkness. I opened my eyes, barely seeing him at first in the dim light.
“Huh?” I asked, with a foggy head.
“I want to show you something in the kitchen.” Dad said in a near whisper, and coaxed me out of bed to lead me through the drowsy silence of our house. As I followed him around the dark, mysterious nighttime corners that led to our kitchen, my slowly awakening brain tried to process why I was suddenly stirred at such a late hour, without explanation, just to see something in the kitchen.
“What is it?” I questioned, with my mind beginning to race; befuddled by the whole situation.
“You’ll see.” he answered.
When we got to the kitchen, my kid sister, Juanice, was already standing there in the dark room, looking through the sliding glass door at the yard beyond our carport. We joined her there and gazed out at the yard, too. The misty light from the early winter moon covered our neighborhood, and filtered its way through the glass in front of where we stood and stared.
“What IS that?” I asked.
“I think it’s Candy Man,” my father replied.
“Candy Man? What is he doing out there?” I questioned, even more confused than I had been.
“I think he’s asleep.” Daddy said.
The three of us watched as Candy Man stood motionless in the quiet stillness of our narrow north lawn. He was facing our back yard, and did seem asleep, or in a trance, with his head hung low to the frosty ground. He glowed in the magical shining of the moon, and I was mesmerized and full of wonder at the sight of him.
“I guess I will have to call Pop,” Dad said. “I hate to wake him up at this hour, but it could be dangerous if Candy Man stays out.”
Pop Peacock lived across the street, and Candy Man was Pop’s small, aging Shetland pony. Pop had had him for years. Some time during the late night hours, the little horse decided to leave his companion, Star (a tall, bay-colored Thoroughbred), alone in the large pecan grove that was their home. He must have squeezed through the gate, and walked over the span of the vacant lot that was next to Pop’s house. Candy Man then apparently proceeded to cross our deserted street; ending his short journey by snoozing in the quietness of our sleepy yard, for some strange reason.
Juanice and I finally crept back through the dark house to our dark bedrooms, and returned to the land of Nod, while Dad made the late night phone call. I can still remember how entranced I was at the unusual site of that scruffy little cream and tan colored pony dreaming on our lawn, glowing in the moonlight. Not to mention the mysterious way that Dad had revealed his presence to me.
————————————————————————————–
I told my friend Dot Ayers that same whimsical story over 40 years later, while I sat in the living room of Pop’s old house, as she was his daughter, and has lived there since the 1970’s. Dot and her husband, Jimmy, moved into that house to live with Pop after Jimmy finished serving in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Unfortunately, Dot lost Jimmy on Pearl Harbor Day a few years back, after failing health had left him bedridden for a time. Jimmy had finally surrendered to the effects of 92 years of heartaches and joy and everyday life. They were married for an unheard-of 68 years. I had dropped by to check on her that afternoon.
As the two of us continued to visit after the Candy Man story, Dot had her own stories to tell. She spoke of the wonderful life they had in raising their daughters, her cherished and beloved grandkids, teaching young children in Japan for many years, cross-country trips in an eighteen wheeler after military life was over, successful gardening projects, and a few other interesting things.
And then Dot told me the amazing story about a wonderfully mysterious encounter she had two nights after Jimmy died, on the ninth of December. She was awakened around three o’clock in the morning by the sound of the coach’s whistle that Jimmy would blow when he needed her, as his voice had become weak. Then she heard him call out “Dot!” So she got out of her bed like always and walked across the short hallway, passed the bathroom, toward the place where his hospital bed was still set up.
“Jimmy, is that you?”
When she opened the door, Dot noticed that the room was filled with the most comforting and wonderful white light that she had ever seen. And as she came to the foot of the empty bed, she heard Jimmy ask, “Dot, are you okay?”
“I’m fine Jimmy. I’m fine.” Dot answered. “What is it Jimmy?”
“I just wanted to let you know that everything is alright.” he told her.
By now, Dot was sure she was wide awake, and this wasn’t just a vision or her imagination- it was all so vividly real.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” she continued, with a sad and troubled heart.
Then she heard the voice of her dear husband say, “Yes, I’m okay. Everything is fine. Don’t’ worry about me. You’re going to be fine, Dot.”
“Okay, Jimmy, good night.” Dot said.
“Good night- I love you.” Jimmy gently replied.
“I love you too, and always will.” Dot answered.
“Me too, I will always love you.” Jimmy said, as his voice faded with the dwindling, phantom light.
Dot closed the door and walked in silence, back to the spare bedroom where she slept. And as she rested her head on the cold pillow, Dot had an unexplainable, overwhelming peace come to her. It was a peace that eased her heartbroken mind, because she knew that her beloved Jimmy was going to be okay- and so would she. Dot said that she has experienced that same peace and comfort ever since.
What a beautifully chilling and awesome story Dot shared with me, in her home that day; and what a touching final conversation between a husband and a wife who had been together for so very long.
So, from now on, whenever I chance to walk down those old, cracked sidewalks late at night, I will think of Jimmy and Dot and a midnight pony; and all the people and stories that have shaped my life over the years. The old neighborhood sure is full of wonderful and fantastic tales.

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