Return of the Light by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. The prompt for this month is to write about new neighbors moving in. Today’s tale comes to us from Val Muller, author of the Corgi Capers kidlit series. 

Return of the Light

By Val Muller

The fire crackled, and Samantha tossed another log on it. She half turned, was almost about to shush the dog—Bella always startled when Sam threw a log on the fire. But then Sam remembered. Bella was gone. It hadn’t been a year, not quite. It seemed like forever. Then again, it seemed just yesterday that Bella had been there, at her feet. 

But last year, at the winter solstice, Bella had been there at the campfire, keeping watch in the night, the darkest night of the year. 

What’s supposed to be the darkest night of the year, anyway. There was a darker one. A night without Bella. The first night, then the next one, and many, many more. It was getting easier, but some habits were hard to break, like searching for a dog at her feet, looking for a begging pup at mealtime, that sort of thing. 

The fire at winter solstice was a tradition, but doing it alone was not. This celebration was about the return of the light—the return of the sun. It was supposed to be happy, but—

Sam stared into the fire and imagined the next year stretched out before her, stretched out the way a dog would stretch, head down, rump in the air, just like—

No, the fire dancing along the trees was playing tricks on her. Sam could swear she saw a dog stretching by the tree, but surely it was just a log or a—

“Simba!” a voice called. 

“Hello?” Sam called back. 

The “log” turned to her and scurried over, tail wagging. It was no log, but a golden doodle, and a happy one at that, showering her in kisses. She’d almost forgotten that ineffable feeling, the one that transcended the senses, the unconditional joy and Zen of the present brought when a dog—

“Simba!” the voice called again, and the dog reluctantly backed away and hurried to the voice at the edge of the fire. 

“I’m sorry,” the voice said. “Simba’s a little excited to be at his new house. Isn’t he, you good boy, you.” The man’s voice degenerated into dog cooing. Then the man, realizing his neglect of fellow human, turned to Sam. 

“Mike,” he said. “My wife and I moved in just this morning.” He motioned to the darkness, toward the recently-sold house. “Poor guy’s been crated much of the day. You a dog person? He seems to take quite a liking to you. I’ll have to have my wife come over in the morning. The two of you seem like you’d get along. You don’t have dogs, do you?” 

Sam took a breath, allowing the shock of it all to dissipate. She turned to the fire, watching the crackling flames make patterns on the logs—now a dog, then a cloud, then a person jumping, now a bird in flight—the solstice flames embracing the ephemeral nature of life. She looked up as the circle of light embraced her new neighbor and his companion. Then she took a deep breath and spoke, for only just a second imagining Bella still at her feet. 


The Spot Writers—Our Members: 

Val Muller:

Catherine A. MacKenzie:

Phil Yeats:

Chiara De Giorgi:

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