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A Little Night Music (for Wanderer)
by Bob Stein
Bob Stein -- all rights reserved

Wanderer sighed as he trudged towards his front door. The evening at the Blind Pig had been pleasant enough, though there had been no party. Of course, since he had never TOLD anyone when his birthday was, he couldn't really expect them to know why he had been in such a melancholy mood.

It didn't help matters that Jack was missing from his usual spot at the piano. The mulish musician was off somewhere, taking care of personal business according to Donnie. That unused stool had made the crowded bar feel somehow empty.

A rustle from the bushes stopped him as he reached the step. A soft giggle. Frowning, he called out. "Who's there?" There was a flash of movement, and he thought he caught a glimpse of red as a small figure darted around the back of the house. He started to give chase, only to stop when he saw a small package stuck inside the mailbox.

Damn! Probably another dog collar, or a box of Purina Treats. Although most of his beighbors had accepted his transformation without too much trouble, a few still liked to make his life harder. Somebody's idea of a joke was leaving a stew bone on the step, or a squeaky toy. Usually, he could shrug it off, but tonight it seemed to cut deeper.

Snatching the little box, he started to throw it after the fleeing culprit. Whatever it was was heavy for the small size. Curious, he took a moment to open it. And stared at a small, silver grand piano. The metal had been polished to a high luster, but he could tell the item was old. He lifted it out of the box and saw a small key sticking out of the bottom. A music box?

The lid lifted easily, and he heard the whir of a clockwork motor just before the notes tinkled out. The melody was instantly famliiar to him, and he felt a touch of heartache as memories flooded over him.

"Caesar! Get the ball! No, not the remote control! You silly dog!"...

claws digging into my legs as Sunshine got herself comfortable, purring in my lap....

"Charles! You cooked this all by yourself? It's wonderful!"....

And others, more recent.

"...and you've been such a help to me, Wanderer. I was ready to kill myself, I think. I just wanted you to know what difference you've made..."

"...such beautiful singing. And that was really your mother on the tape? Must be wonderful..."

"...your fundraiser paid for just about everything we needed for the Clinic..."

Thinking back, Wanderer realized that there were a lot of positive things in his life. And that he had contributed a lot to other people's lives as well. Friendship and love always carried the price of pain. For there can only be pain when you care. And he did care about so many people. Who, he realized, also cared for him. The heartache faded, and he found himself actually smiling as the final notes of the music drifted lightly into the night sky.

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