“As the Lodge Turns” Episode 70: It Really Is a Wonderful Life!

On this episode of “As the Lodge Turns”…

I wander through the darkness, searching in vain for Ralphie, but my friend and guardian angel is nowhere to be found. My paws are weary from what feels like miles of walking, and with no visual cues to reflect my progress, I suspect that I’m just stepping in place.

I’ll never find my way out of here…

But this is what I wanted, isn’t it? I didn’t want to torment my family anymore, or to meddle in the lives of my friends. I thought everyone would be better off without me, until Ralphie showed me the impact my actions have had on the ones I love.

I want to exist! I need the chance to make things right.

Before, when I made my selfish wish, I thought only of running away from my mistakes. I didn’t want to face them, to grow from them. Now, I’d give anything to get back home, to see my parents again…

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Please let me apologize.

A delicate snowflake flutters down to land on my nose. I cross my eyes to watch it melt, and realizing what it is, turn my head up towards the pitch-black sky. Hundreds of feathery snowflakes fall to the ground, then thousands, until I’m entirely surrounded by the blinding white light.

“Bing?”

I hear a voice calling my name.

Could it be Ralphie?

“Bing!”

My eyelids tremble as I open them, apprehensive about my current circumstances. To my amazement, I find that I’m not submerged in a sea of darkness or snow, but curled up in a pool of soft, colorful light on the deck.

Am I really here…?

Dad stands in the doorway, calling to me with a smile on his face. His mouth moves, and though I can’t make out what his friendly barks mean, I can see that he isn’t angry or upset.

I can’t get to my paws quickly enough! I trot to the door with a fiercely happy tail, and in the rush of excitement, I nearly bowl him over. He laughs, the brightest, most wonderful laugh, and before I know it, I’m back inside the comforting warmth of my house.

“Bing, look,” Mom says, giving my head a loving pat.

My breath catches in my throat. The Christmas tree that I believed I’d destroyed stands in all of its glowing glory before me, twinkling with lights and ornaments as if nothing had happened. I approach it with a heart full of awe and gratitude, and as I stare at this beautiful sight, I realize it’s been made all the more beautiful because I was so sure I’d lost it.

“Merry Christmas, Bing,” my parents say, pulling me into a family hug.

As I wiggle with joy between my two favorite people, I promise never to wish away my very special, wonderful, one-of-a-kind life ever again.

——

At the Lodge the next morning, I spy that familiar face from across the yard. Ralphie is strolling around in the sunshine, a pleasant smile on his long, white snout, and I’m reminded of our adventures in the world where I never existed.

I’ve been wondering if it was all just a dream I had, or if we really did journey into the darkness together…

Though I know it would probably be wisest not to discuss what I experienced last night, my gut spurs me towards him at a brisk run.

“Ralphie!” I call in an excited bark, and my tail wags when he looks my way.

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“Hey there,” he says, slowing his trot so that I can catch up. “What’s the rush, anyway? It’s a beautiful day.”

Fear wrings my stomach, but I have to thank him for changing my perspective!

“Y-You were right…about everything. If you don’t exist, then you don’t have to act or engage with others. You’re not responsible for anything, or for your own choices. You won’t disappoint or hurt the ones you love, sure, but you won’t be able to help them either. So…I’ve decided not to run away the next time I mess up! And I know there will be a next time, because there always is, and even though that scares me, I’m going to work hard to make things right. I’ve decided not to race around the house, no matter how excited I get. I love my parents, and I know I need to listen to them, because they want what’s best for me…”

I pause to take a deep breath, but Ralphie’s blank stare compels me to continue.

“Oh, sorry for the rant! I’m…I wanted to thank you, for showing me that I’ve had a positive impact on the lives of others. I don’t know whether you’re really a beginner guardian angel or not, but…well…thank you for not giving up on me.”

I stare at my paws, unable to meet his gaze. What I’ve said sounds ludicrous, even to me, but I had to tell him how much I appreciate his kind deed.

“Hmm…I’m not a beginner guardian angel,” he finally says with a mildly amused expression.

I smile up at him.

“Are you sure?”

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“Last time I checked,” he says, trotting away from me with his usual airy gait.

I bound after him with a wagging tail, enjoying the sight of my friends playing and frolicking in a picture of Christmas cheer. I really was blessed with a wonderful life. I have parents that love me, and the most amazing home away from home with my buddies at the Lodge. Whether I actually visited a world where I never existed or not, I’ll always remember that I’m a very lucky beagle to live in the one where I do!

But as we join the rest of the pack in their spirited sprints around the yard, I think I hear Ralphie murmur:

“I’m just a regular guardian angel now!”

…to be continued…