On a Street Lamp
'One day you will be old enough to read fairy tales again.'
- C.S. Lewis, To Lucy, in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
Photo by Gabriele Diwald on Unsplash
Charles Street, in Boston’s historic Beacon Hill, was named after King Charles, by himself. He did, after all, command – remotely – and finance the Great English Colonization. The street, and the river it lines with Federal Style carriage houses in deep red brick, was originally called the Quinobequin by the native Americans.
The word means: ‘meandering.’ Meander we do then, in the middle of a weekday.
Past plaques, signs, and statues commemorating important events and names; famous politicians, architects, businessmen, clergymen, martyrs, and poets. People rush by us with obvious purpose, toward their own destinies. To their meetings, conferences, yoga and spin classes, silk-and-pearl fundraisers, TVs.
They walk briskly on the brick pavement. Split second stop. Then cross the street. We remain kings and queens of the blue sky, the afternoon, the soft breeze. The cafés, art galleries, boutiques, wine bar or two, antique shops. The gaslight street lamps that, at dusk, will imbue the whole street gold.
One of those stops us in our tracks. A handwritten flyer on it says:
One white dog with black spots and loose stitching on the right ear.
Belongs to Michael.
Please return: Need to guard sleep.
A phone number, home and email addresses, and photocopied photograph… of a stuffed animal, barely bigger than its owner’s two-year-old hand.
We look around Charles Street. On it, the hurried walkers, anxious drivers, joggers, bikers, yoga mommies. Chatting coffee drinkers who once were children and must have preferred chocolate milk. Life, and they, oblivious to the fact that someone’s Lucky is missing. How silly the statues and plaques suddenly seem. We have stopped meandering.
It does not take long, or a conversation, to decide what to do next. We embark on Charles Street and on a mission to find Michael’s companion. We spend the afternoon checking every mail box, crawling under every doorstep, wiggling every brick that will let us, peeking into trash bins and flower beds.
We inquire at the ice cream store. Then the toy store. Then the little parks. ‘Have you seen a dog called Lucky?’ Perhaps at the top of a slide? On a swing or seesaw? Have you seen a tail wagging left and right in a sand box?
Some ignore us. Some empathize. Some join; I am glad the world still has those. Still, the sun sets, as it does and must, and we do not find the boy’s dog.
The street lamps light up Charles Street beautifully, but not enough for our blues. We seek solace at the ice cream store, the only place that makes sense.
A crowd has gathered; others must think like us. The queue spills onto the pavement. Our turn comes:
‘Two ice cream cones please, topped with sprinkles. The rainbow-coloured ones.’
Every grownup knows that rainbow sprinkles add no taste to ice cream. A few will request them nonetheless because they know they are important. Just as they will take the time to read handwritten flyers on street lamps, in the middle of a weekday, and spend a few hours searching for a stuffed animal.
There will be no gold plaque with their name on it, hammered onto a brick wall. No street named after these storybook readers and nightmare banishers. But that does not matter. What does is that tonight, someone finds and brings Lucky home. And if not, that someone guards the little boy’s bed until morning. I hope so.