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I would give you my years . . .

"You have wished, I am told," the old man continued. "I had the same wish, a long, many years ago."

"I do not understand," he said.

"You have a dog?" the old man said.

"Sally . . ." he said hesitantly.

"She is old. You wish to return to her your years."

He understood now. "I have wished it were possible," he said softly.

"Did you mean it?" the old man said.

The thought was incredulous, yet the old man did not quaver. For a moment he saw Sally, looking up at him like the spaniel at the old man's feet.

"Yes," he said, "I meant it."

"Then I have been sent to grant it," the old man replied.

"But that cannot be?" he told the old man directly.

"Do you wish to quibble," the old man replied. "I will be about my way."

He was dumbfounded, knew nothing to say.

"The years of your life," the old man offered, "how many do you wish to give her?"

He stared at the old man, disbelieving. But again, the old man did not waver.

"This is Molly," the old man said, nodding to the spaniel at his feet. "I gave her ten years, in the Year of Our Lord, 1857. She was sixteen, I was thirty-six. She lived and hunted with me in flesh for eleven more years. I died unexpectantly, I am told, at forty-nine. My father had lived to seventy.

"But I am very old now. Time is of no meaning here. But age travels on. That is a portion of the price. Only the dogs are ageless, so that they are ever with us. Here, they live forever, doing the things we love most."

"This place, this beautiful place," he said.

"It meanders on forever," the old man said. "There are many of us here. Many of us as yourself, who had the wish.

"But only those who were willing to accept the sacrifice," the old man cautioned.

"You must decide, now or never," the old man said again, "the years you will give."

. . .

Excerpt, "The Wish," from Turning For Home, Homecomings from a Sportsman's Heart, Mike Gaddis, Copyright 2013, Mike Gaddis

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