by Lynn Clement
Barney stepped lightly, almost tiptoeing across the crisp snow. He was not enamoured of this white stuff. He didn’t understand why everyone else in the house got so excited. Joel and Lindy had wrapped themselves up in woollens and gone off to play in the park. Well, it was mother who’d wrapped them up really, as they were too small to do it themselves. Barney didn’t mind that they’d gone without him. He wasn’t keen on the park, too noisy. He’d see them later anyway and by then the fire would be lit.
He had a job to do today which was the only reason he’d ventured out, otherwise he might have even stayed in bed. He wanted to visit old Henry at The Manor. He’d not been too well and Barney was off to cheer him up.
As Barney was deliberating which way to go, a snow ball smashed into his face and nearly knocked him sideways. Shaking his head vigorously he looked in the direction of the missile. Gavin Peterson! He lived next door to Barney, Joel and Lindy but he wasn’t a friend. In fact the twins called him ‘The Enemy.’ All Barney knew, was that he was mean. Gavin had that look on his face, the one when he tosses toys over the fence and then yells to his mum that the twins have taken them. The two mothers have had shoutings before.
Barney decided to run, even though it meant sinking further into the stuff. He was steeling himself when another snowball caught him, followed by a loud laugh at his expense. He knew he could outrun Gavin Peterson and he did, saving himself more discomfort than he could take.
The Manor was on Tile Street and Barney got there quickly, leaving Gavin Peterson in his wake. He tapped on the window; he could see Henry sitting alone on one of the comfy chairs by a fire. His eyes were closed. He was looking raggedy, not really taking care of himself nowadays. The cleaner was putting the bins out at the back and let Barney in. At the door he shook himself so that he didn’t take any of the wet into Henry’s room. As Barney approached, Henry’s eyes opened. They were watery and dull but grateful. Barney sat next to him and patted him on his back. There was a drink offered and Barney had some but Henry didn’t. They sat for a while, companions warming themselves by the fire.
Barney let himself out when it was dark. People were arriving and the noise was beginning, so he sloped through the front door. He wanted to get back to the twins. He’d nodded at Henry and Henry had nodded back. Barney wasn’t sure he’d ever see him again. Tomorrow was Christmas day and he’d spend it with mother, Joel, Lindy and a lovely log fire. He might even get a fishy treat. He was looking forward to that, but most of all he loved to chase the wrapping paper balls the twins made for him after opening their presents. He knew not to climb the tree any more after last year’s disaster but he was allowed to pat the twinkly balls on the lower branches. Christmas in his house was such fun. He thought about Henry and hoped he had at least one more Christmas day, curled up in his warm arm chair by the pub fire.