Joe stared down at his stocking feet below the silly papered gown and waited for the doctor to come back. He already knew what doc would say.
“You have a few weeks, Joe. Maybe more if you stay quiet and in bed. Have any questions?”
Joe sighed. “No, you’ve told me all the particulars. If that’s all, I have things to do.”
“Remember, Joe, quiet bed rest.”
Joe’s bowed legs carried him in the sunlight wrapping him in a blanket of coziness, the same coziness his mother wrapped him in when she tucked him in bed at night and sang him to sleep. That was a long time ago.
He heard his mother singing as he slowly drove his ancient pick-up home. The old truck sputtered, but kept moving. Joe much preferred his horse, but driving the old pick-up got him to town and back faster. Besides Spark was getting as old as him now. He was the last of his animal comrades.
Memories of Stormy flitted through his mind. The little black curly Cocker Spaniel had been his constant companion around the farm. Skippy had been the runt pup he’d picked out of the neighbors litter one spring. Skippy had been his friend all his days. Those days hadn’t lasted near long enough.
He’d had several horses. The noble animals carried him many miles as they rode fence lines and brought cattle to market.
So many pets in his life, each one special in their own way. Each one bringing him moments of happiness and mainly friendship. He’d never really found the same happiness with people. Not that he didn’t try. He preferred being by himself with his dog or various cats who he befriended on the farm. The animals were more honest. They were excited to be with him when he was there. Otherwise his dog laid on the porch and the cats sat on a window sill or curled up under a tree. When he had time for them they were more then happy to quit what they were doing and play or enjoy a moment with him.
The friends or at least he’d called them friends, had teased him, left him out of their games, and generally ignored him.
Joe learned to ignore them right back and felt better for it. He’d take his dog fishing. He rode the horse and the three of them took care of an afternoon. Pleasant and no fights or teasing. Most occasions he brought fish home for dinner.
Things hadn’t changed much as he got older. The friends didn’t tease him as much, but it was still there now and then. He laughed along. It had been easier. As soon as he could, he’d walk away and be riding his horse up a trail.
Since his talk with doc, Joe wanted to be alone. There wasn’t anyone to tell. The bed rest, Joe chuckled to himself about that one. Doc knew better then to tell an old cowboy to take it easy. Doc knew too, but Joe realized he’d had to say it, it was part of being a doctor.
He saddled up Spark. The old horse patiently turned his head and gazed at his owner, ears forward. “Yeah, old boy let’s go for a ride.” Joe wanted to be out in the hills, just him and his horse now. All the others were gone, waiting.
Joe soaked up the sunshine, but admitted he liked a good old thunder and lightening storm with a rainbow to top it off. The sun shined now, but he watched the clouds cluster, smelled the air and knew he was in for a treat. He’d be out to the outcropping before the storm hit.
Everything was pleasant, his heart, his soul, his mind. It was all okay. He had no regrets. He even welcomed it. Soon he’d be with his loved ones.
As Joe guided Spark along, he talked about the other horses in his life. “Blackie my first pony, stubborn little guy. Then I had Sandy, a pretty little filly. She was one of my most loyal.” At that Spark gave a snort. “Oh, now, old boy, you’re my most loyal now.” Joe chuckled as Spark nodded his great head in response.
The storm hit as Joe and Spark arrived at the shelter of the overhanging rock. Pine trees grew near the rock and gave a bit more protection. The lightening shattered the sky in steaks all across the tops of the mountains. The rain came next saturating the thirsty dirt and plants.
Joe watched it all and faithful Spark stood next to him, head hanging low.
Joe couldn’t wait to see Stormy, Blackie, and all the others. He wondered how it would be. There was no fear, no anguish. Even with the storm being loud and obnoxious, Joe felt a sense of pleasantness. A sense of calm and happiness. It was okay, he was okay. He was ready.
He saw the rainbow. He felt something soft against his legs. Various kitty’s he remembered meowed up at him as they walked back and forth through his legs. Joyous barks came from Stormy and Skippy. A high whinny made him look as Sandy came trotting towards him with the black pony, Blackie following behind. They and Spark touched noses in greeting.
When Joe was found a few days later, it was wondered at his position. He sat propped against the rock with arms outstretched resting on his knees as if gathering loved ones to join him.
Judy Blackburn has been writing for most of her days. You can find more of her work at; judy-blackburn.com.