Only twenty more miles, he tells himself. Twenty more miles.
He takes a deep breath – really more of a yawn – and gives his head a shake, before reaching down for a coffee cup he knows is empty, hoping for one more sip. Tired, his finger instead thumps the cup’s side, sending it tumbling to the floor. As he leans trying to scoop it up, the blood-curdling call of an air horn and the screech of tires straightens him as if he were pulled by a rope, and he finds himself staring into the headlights of an oncoming semi.
He’s drifted across the road’s center.
In slow motion, or so it seems, he yanks the wheel, a vain effort to return to his lane. But the sickening smack of metal to metal, a sharp moment of pain, and then darkness, tell him he’s far too late.
He awakens with a start, the bright sun shining down upon him, a cool but welcoming breeze brushing across his face. He’s sitting on a bench in what appears to be a park of some sort, the soothing gurgle of a nearby stream playing in harmony to the rustle of the wind through the trees.
It was a dream. It was all a dream. Smiling, he stands, his attention drawn to a trail that leads toward a tall row of hedges just ahead. He follows the path, eventually coming to a point where the shrubs arch up, forming a wide, rounded opening. Stretched across it, a wrought-iron gate blocks his entrance. Just above, at the peak of the arch, large gold letters spell out, “DOG.”
He stops, his thoughts adrift, but can’t recall a dog park in his hometown.
A bit of movement pulls his gaze to a short lectern standing on one side of the opening, a golden retriever and a spotted dog with long, floppy ears peeking out from behind. The golden cocks her head then smiles, which strikes him as odd.
“Raymond Willows?” she asks.
“Wonderful.” Rising up to the lectern, she places her paw on a large book. “We’ve been expecting you.”
“You have? Where is this? And how is it that you’re talking? Am I still dreaming?”
The spotted dog steps closer to Raymond and shakes his head. “It’s normal to be confused, Ray. Transition is a hard thing.”
“Remember the truck, Raymond?”
A shiver races down his spine. “Ugh...”
“You didn’t make it, Ray. But, the good news is—“ the dog points to the arch—“you made it to Heaven!”
Raymond looks up at the gold letters. “Dog?”
“Oh, yeah. That. Sorry. It seems that some of your ancestors had dyslexia. Where you’re from they have the spelling all twisted around."