A Night in October

A Night in October

by: Reggie Barnes (Copyright © 2011)

It was a quiet night… cool. The wind blew gently with an air of sweetness – jasmine. Lights illuminated brilliantly from the windows of houses standing in rows for the night was clear. Branches of the pine danced with the breeze, singing their rustling song in chorus. It was a night of nights.A car appeared at my drive, turning past the thicket by the curb and then up it’s length to rest behind mine. I watched from my upstairs window as a shadow emerged then strolled the sidewalk noting autumnal azaleas, roses and ivy. Downstairs I went to greet the traveler as I donned a light jacket.“Knock-knock-knock,” came from the front door which puzzled me. Why not the bell? But then, no one had rung the doorbell for days and I couldn’t attest to its proper working. “Just a minute,” I called as I flung the jacket to and tied the sash.

Opening the door I had my first look at the traveler. He wore dark trousers engulfed by a large camel overcoat, unfastened but tied. With black lace-ups and windblown sandy hair he stood around six feet. His eyes were hazel with accompanying laugh lines, drawing out the strong features of his face to be seen; A chin of character that could not be denied followed by his pointy red nose covered by a white handkerchief – he had a cold.

He greeted me and I did him the same while asking the nature of his visit. He told me he ad been traveling the better part of the day and was wondering if I could give directions to a relatively nice inn within the territory. The wind was picking up and I suggested he come in from the cold while I found him a proper bed for the night. He accepted gratefully then cleaned his feet, sneezed and came in.

Inside the door I took his coat and suggested brandy for his cold and pointed the way towards the bar. Hanging his wrap I asked if money would be a factor in my choice of lodging and he obliged me with, “The skies the limit,” so I proceeded to call the five-star in the vicinity. Upon picking up the telephone I discovered the lines were down and relayed the message to my guest who had found the brandy and was sipping it lightly, still covering his nose. He sighed and he set the brandy on the bar and thanked me for my hospitality, then prepared to leave. Feeling his despair I offered to take him for a late supper seeing that he was a friendly sort and of good caliber. Through little deliberation he accepted and I went up to change into more suitable wear.

In my yard we agreed the logical choice would be to take his car since it blocked mine in the drive. Then we set off on our dining excursion, rattling off and smoking cigarettes along the way. His cold seemed to be improving as he told me of his wife at home and daughter saying papa for the first time before he left. We chatted on and on – becoming more acquainted by the time we reached the tavern, only to find them not serving at that hour. Since we had driven the way I proposed we go in and have a couple of drinks to fight off the chill of the night. He reminded me that he still needed to find a bed for the evening. I felt I owed him a brandy at the least and did everything short of dragging him inside to show my good nature.

We drank and laughed as if we had known each other since childhood. The time flew, bringing us to last call and I stood quite inebriated and in no shape to drive, so he poured me into the passenger seat and strapped me in. He remembered the way back to my place and we came to that familiar thicket at the end of my drive. Upon stopping behind my car I suggested he stay the night in my guest room and opened the door expecting him to do the same. He told me that it would be intruding and he had taken up enough of my evening. I was insistent though he politely declined each offer. I leaned over the seat, shook his hand and headed up the walk, fumbling through my pockets in search of my key along the way. When I found the key I arthritically inserted it in the lock, opened the door, stepped in and waved. My guest blew his horn and I unwillingly closed the door. I felt as though I were closing the door on a brother who had gone to war… A stranger… Just another soul in this world making his way… A stranger in the October night that lasted mere moments… A stranger – Not a stranger?

“Knock-knock-knock,” came from the front door. Still beside it I turned the knob and was greeted by a traveler clad in dark trousers, overcoat and black lace-ups. At his pointy red nose was a white handkerchief… It was a friend.

The End