Same Time, Next Year: A Cocker Spaniel Mystery by Carol Bryant
Alice waited for this day her entire life. She played it over and over in her mind, waiting for mister tall, dark, and handsome to walk into the door of her heart. Who’d ever marry a waitress from a small town who was more than a little obsessed with dogs she’d questioningly doubt herself 364 days a year.
Now he was late for his own wedding.
“Someone call for a postman from a small town?” Carl beamed as he bolted through the church doors that cold December night, jostling his postal cap while wiping freshly fallen snow from his raven locks.
Alice ran so fast into his arms, her backdraft extinguished the dim light from the candle nubs.
“Oh Carl, I thought I was a jilted bride,” Alice imparted, gently caressing his face as if stroking away a 5 o’clock shadow.
Amos wagged and barked in unison, almost to the cadence of the falling snow outside. The Cocker Spaniel’s bowtie tilted sideways despite Alice’s futile attempts to keep it straight.
“Doll, you know the train doesn’t run tonight, not at this hour anyway. Do you realize how long it took me to walk from the post office to the chapel? Age is creeping up on me,” Carl reminded her.
“Silly, to me, you look just like the day we met, isn’t that right, Amos?”
“You remember that far back?” Carl laughed. “Amos was just a puppy then, and look at him now, grey in the muzzle, all grown up waiting for his owners to get married.”
“You ordered a cup of coffee, two creams on the side, on that day,” Alice daydreamingly recalled.
“Gee, for a gal in a hurry to get hitched, you sure talk a lot,” Carl mused, brushing wet snow from his pants while Amos shimmed under his legs for attention.
“What in tarnation am I thinking? We’ve got to do this before it’s too late! Reverend Joe, we’re ready,” Alice called out in a panic.
The small wood stove normally kept the tiny chapel warm, but the reverend’s wife couldn’t keep the logs burning long enough to emit much heat. Amos play bowed towards the stove, taunting it with a back and forth motion.
Carl glanced over at Alice, the weathered hands of time etched across her skin. Amos was a senior dog now, but he saw past the grey muzzle and focused on the dog’s spunky demeanor.
“Allow me to help. You two sacrifice for us year after year, trying to get us wed. It’s the least I can do,” Carl said as he sprang for the woodpile while Amos picked up a stick and dropped it in front of the reverend’s wife.
“Dearie, you say that every year, and every year I tell you I need the exercise,” the reverend’s wife mused. “Now go gather yourselves. You haven’t much time. Amos is getting antsy, too, and you know what happened the last time we tried this.”
“Oh, look at me, I’m a mess,” tears mistily fell to Alice’s apron, “Who in their right mind gets married in a waitress’s dress?”
“Looks like you drew the short straw. Twenty-five years delivering mail to Forrest Circle’s residents, and I can’t do better than a letter carrier’s uniform,” Carl reminisced.
All four turned abruptly when they heard a cough by the door. Amos cocked his head, let out a piercing bark, and darted towards the front of the church.
“Oh no, it’s starting! I just can’t bear losing you again, Carl!” Alice blurted and shook her fists high to the rafters.
“Amos come, Amos come, Amos come,” she repeatedly and frenetically beckoned to her spaniel with selective hearing.
“Maybe they’ll just go away this time,” Reverend Joe offered.
“We haven’t time to waste,” Carl mused and glanced at his watch as Amos sauntered back to the pulpit.
The sounds outside the church doors inched closer. The reverend’s wife stuck her head out to see if she could determine what creatures this way had come. Snowy footprints melted by the door. Amos’ keen sense of smell caused his snout to lift toward the heavens in an attempt to catch wind of the outside aroma.
“Keep them away, it won’t take Reverend Joe long,” Alice desperately pleaded.
Alice rose, soothed the invisible wrinkles from her dress, and scurried to Carl’s side. Amos posed faithfully between the couple. Reverend Joe relit the candles and read silently from his prayer book.
“Tell me again, Carl. Tell me how our honeymoon will be. It won’t be long now…” Alice begged.
With his arm around her, Carl began, “On our way out tomorrow morning, we’ll stop at Harry’s Pharmacy for sundries. Next, we’ll make a stop at the five and dime so you can pick out some dresses. My doll deserves nothing but the best.”
“Oh Carl, can we really? Truly and really this time? What about Amos?” Alice pleaded longingly into Carl’s eyes.
“That dog is a part of our family, sweets, and we’ll stop at the Blue Dot Animal Supply Store on our way out of town to stock up on treats and food,” Carl assured Alice.
She sighed as Carl squeezed her closer and glanced back at the empty pews.
“You wanted our family and friends here, didn’t you Carl?” Her sunken eyes followed his gaze across the barren rows.
“You insisted this is your dream wedding. You picked the worst night of the year to marry this old letter carrier. We’re here and that’s what counts.”
Thunder rolled over the village and the lights went out.
“Get out! You don’t belong here! You’ll wreck everything! Go wake up Timmy!” Suzy ordered.
“Carl, Alice. If you plan to wed, it’s now or never!” Reverend Joe shouted.
In typical Cocker style, Amos began to quiver at the sound of thunder, his ears hanging low, looking to his owners for reassurance.
The minister’s voice bellowed, “Do you, Carl, take Alice to love and hold forever and do all the things I’ve said the 24 other times we’ve tried this?”
“Yes, I do, again and again!” Carl shouted.
“Me too,” Alice cried.
“Aroooo,” Amos barked assuredly.
“If any of you can show just cause why they may not lawfully be married, speak now or…”
And the chapel toppled on its side, bodies tumbled out onto the train platform, barely missing the diesel engine that wasn’t running that day.
“Amos, stay by us buddy,” as Carl failed to grasp the dog’s dangling leash.
Charlie’s Butcher Shop jackknifed to the left. Buddy’s TV Repairs tumbled in the snow. Kegler’s Lanes rolled down the tracks. The Blue Dot Animal Supply shop’s windows cracked under the weight of the moment. Trees bent and townsfolk skidded onto the ice skating rink.
“Mama, get Shadow out of here! His big paws just toppled over the village! He’s ruining Christmas morning!” Suzy yelled.
“Shadow, come here big fella! A Christmas village isn’t a playground for dogs. Chew on your rawhide from Santa,” Suzy’s mom giggled as she lovingly stroked the Labrador’s floppy ears.
The big pooch refused to move, instead planting his two front paws in front of the tree, maneuvering his head under its lowest branches.
“Shadow, you know better. There are no real dogs to play with under that tree,” Suzy’s mom chided.
“And Suzy,” her mom continued, “Stop messing with those villagers. You know your father likes the waitress kept in the diner, the letter carrier in the post office, and the Cocker Spaniel in the front window of the pet shop!”
“Yes, ma’am.” Suzy solemnly picked up the villagers and placed each figure upright. She cleaned up the broken shards of glass and placed the Cocker Spaniel next to the mailbox until her dad could repair the Blue Dot’s windows. With each building returned to its proper location, all was right with the world.
Amos sorrowfully pined to be closer to his owners on the other side of the platform.
“Carl?” Alice’s voice cascaded across the train tracks as she waited to be picked up.
“Same time next year?”
“Same time next year.”
About The Author
Carol Bryant is a pet influencer, writer/blogger, speaker, social media pro, dog mom, and the President of the Dog Writers Association of America. She owns the trademark, “My Heart Beats Dog” and proudly wears the mantra on her left bicep. A dog lover of the highest order is how Gayle King introduced Carol when she appeared with her Cocker Spaniel, Dexter, on Oprah Radio’s Gayle King show to dish dogs.
Copyright © 2019, all rights reserved. This work may not be reproduced without the express written consent of the author.