There are nights that blow so cold and strong trees cry out and snap. There are nights so dark that they extinguish any light. That is the north. That is the land of the lost. People wander until there is nothing.
“Only demons come out on nights like these,” Shepherd said to Pal.
Pal was laying in front of the fireplace and lifted his head as if agreeing.
“You know that don’t you boy?” Shepherd said staring into the embers. “It is instinctively etched into your mind and it is dialed up when you feel danger.”
“It’s cold and lonely,” Shepherd said. “New York is teaming right now. It’s the city that never sleeps. Did you know that?”
Pal laid his head between his two front paws.
“Are you lonely as I am, Pal? Can you live a life in solitude? Do you need me?”
Pal’s eyes shifted from side to side. It reminded Shepherd of the way he felt when his father arrived at home drunk. Nothing was good, nothing was right, and nothing satisfied. It was best not to add fuel to his fury; just sit, wait, and wander what will set him off.
“Don’t worry, Pal,” Shepherd smiled kindly. “I am not of that sort. I turn to drink for good times. I left my misery in New York… along with the good times.”
“Pal!” Shepherd said. “Knife!”
Pal jumped to all fours. He dashed to the dinning room table, pulled a chair out with his teeth, hopped on it, grabbed a knife, and brought it to Shepherd.
“You are going to be a magnificent dog,” Shepherd said.
“Back!” Shepherd commanded.
Pal grabbed the knife and returned it to the table.
“You could kick Lassie’s ass,” Shepherd said. “Lay down!”
Pal returned to in front of the fire and laid down.
“Stay!” Shepherd said. “I’ll get you a treat.”
Shepherd raised out of his chair and walked to the kitchen. He sliced a piece of moose. His eyes roved past the bottle of whisky. All that was gone from the bottle was what he and Daniel had. “Now is the time,” he thought. He reached for a glass and sat it on the counter. He slowly grabbed the bottle and sat it next to the glass. “Now is the especially good time.”
He left the kitchen and added three logs to the fire. “Enough to cover a good drunk.”
He walked back to the kitchen. He looked at Pal. “Pal, it’s going to get pretty funky in here in a while.”
Worry cast on Pal’s face, but held his position in front of the fire.
Shepherd smiled at the bottle and glass.
There was a tug on his sleeve. He looked down. Pal looked worried.
“I told you to stay,” Shepherd said.
Pal seemed resolute in staying next to Shepherd.
Shepherd reached for the bottle. Pal tugged at his sleeve again.
“It’s okay, boy, I’m putting it back, unless you want a drink.”
Pal returned to his place in font of the fire. Shepherd brought a slice of moose and handed it to Pal. He took it with gratitude.
Shepherd returned to his chair. “That’s one trick I never taught. Instinct is an incredible thing.”