The Road Not Taken
The alarm clock began ringing, waking Danny from his dreams of singing and dancing. The light of dawn was just beginning to peek in the windows. He sat up in bed and stretched, smiling as he looked over at his wife who was waking as well.
“Good morning, my lovely,” Danny said.
The beautiful white-furred bunny put her arms around him and kissed him softly.
“Good morning, Danny,” Salli replied with a smile.
They got dressed and as they were leaving their room Danny came up behind his wife and put his arms around her gently, his hands coming to rest on the large bulge of her belly.
“How’s the little one doing?” Danny asked. “Not giving you too much trouble I hope.”
Salli put her hands on his. “Nope, the baby’s being very good to its mother. I just hope it stays that way.”
Walking through the small living room, Danny bubbled on. “Wow, just a few more months and we’ll be parents!”
Salli grabbed a few things she needed, then turned and kissed him again. “Ever since I was little I always dreamed of being your wife and being the mother of your children. It’s a dream come true.”
“Yes, a dream come true. Oh, we better hurry! Mom probably has breakfast waiting over at the main house and I need to help dad with the cows and chickens before I have to go to work!”
As Danny and Salli left their home, he stopped and turned back to look at it. The place was a small four room house built on part of his father’s farm, only a stone’s throw from his parents’ farmhouse. His own little place didn’t even have a kitchen, as his mother insisted on cooking for them.
Danny had at first been concerned about how his parents would feel about him marrying outside of his own kind, but to his relief they had accepted Salli into the family with open arms. His father had told him that he had expected Danny to marry Salli ever since their first meeting when they were three, their attachment was that strong. His parents loved Salli as a daughter, and to his sister Breezy she was like another sister. And the whole family was eagerly awaiting the arrival of the new baby.
Danny and Salli arrived at the main house and the breakfast smells welcomed them long before they got inside. The entire Cat family was there--his parents and brothers, his brother Ben’s wife and their children as well. Danny’s father said grace and the family got right to eating. Much of the talk this morning concerned Danny’s upcoming 21st birthday and the soon-coming new addition.
After breakfast, Danny, Ben and his father headed out to do the chores. The chickens needed to be fed, the eggs gathered, the cows milked, and the hogs slopped. This sort of work was engrained in them all, as familiar as the rain and as constant as the sunrise.
Danny entered the chicken coop and turned on the light. The next thing he did was turn on the radio that was in there. His father felt the music from the old Philco helped the chickens relax and lay better eggs, but that wasn’t Danny’s sole motive for turning it on. As he began gathering the eggs, his feet seemed to develop a life of their own as he began getting lost in the music.
He was brought back to reality by his sister Breezy’s giggling. “Sorry to interrupt you, Dances with Chickens, but dad needs your help in the barn. Josh has wandered off again, as usual.”
Danny was embarrassed as he handed the egg basket to his sister and headed out toward the barn. He and his brother Ben met up there to help their father with feeding the cows and getting started with the milking. None of this was new to Danny, of course. He and the others had done things this way as long as they could all remember, as had untold generations of their family before that.
Once those tasks were over they returned to the house where the ladies were already preparing dinner for that evening. Danny’s mother Etta Mae had prepared a lunch for him to take with him to work, and after kissing his wife and hugging his mother he left along with his brother Ben, who drove the family’s 20’s era Ford truck.
“You’re going to love being a father, Danny,” Ben said. Danny let his thoughts drift back to Salli and the baby. “I hope so, it seems like a really big responsibility.”
“It is, but it’s worth it. The rewards of parenthood are hard to describe until you’ve experienced it for yourself. So, are you hoping for a boy or girl?”
Danny learned back on the seat. “It doesn’t matter to me, Ben. As long as they’re born healthy, I’m happy.”
Ben let out a light chuckle. “You know, rabbits tend to have more than one at a time, so there might be a few more in there. It’s probably a little too early to tell yet.”
“More!” That got Danny sitting up straight. He’d never thought about that. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to deal with one, let alone a bunch.” Ben patted him on the back. “Don’t worry, Danny, we’ll all be there for you. You’ll never be alone or without help--well, except for Josh.”
“I resent that!” Josh said unexpected from the back of the truck, startling Danny and Ben. Josh leaned his head in from behind the missing window at the back of the cab.
“So that’s where you’ve been hiding, Josh. You know, we could’ve used your help back at the barn this morning,” Ben said, chiding his brother.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Josh said. “Same old story. The farmer’s work is never done. I can’t wait for the day when I just up and go. I’m going to shake off the dust of this hick town and see the world!”
Ben shook his head--he’d heard that one before. “So you keep saying, but here you are.” Josh turned his back on them, appearing to check the cleanliness of his claws. “I’m just waiting for the right time. Then the last thing you’ll see of me is my tail.”
“Why don’t you just settle down and start a family?” Ben asked. “That Annabelle Otissford has always carried a torch for you. She’d make a good wife for you, Josh.”
“Oh please!” Josh retorted, sticking his head back through. “She’d put a bell around my neck and it would be all, ‘Yes dear, right away dear, whatever you say, dear’. No thank you! And don’t even suggest May Meriwether--she’s the same way. As the blacksmith’s daughter she’d hammer me flat and wrap me around her little finger. Nope, this cat’s a lone wolf.”
Ben thumbed in Danny’s direction. “You should take Danny’s example. You didn’t see him running off after some silly dreams of being a movie star. He did the right thing; he got a good job, married his girl, and now he’s got a house and a child on the way. If that’s not everything a man can want, I don’t know what is.”
“Yeah, I know Danny’s so happy in his new life,” Josh said sarcastically.
“But I am, Josh!” Danny said, moving around to face him. “I love Salli and I’m thrilled that I’ll be a dad soon.”
Josh just laughed, which just annoyed Ben. “Josh, stop it. Ignore him, Danny. You did the right thing and we’re all proud of you. You’re taking your place in a long and honored family tradition.”
“Yeah, I know,” Danny said as he looked out the window, half-listening as his brothers kept arguing.
They arrived in town and Ben dropped Danny off outside the general store where Danny worked as a clerk. Ben then turned the truck around so he could see Danny face to face. “We might be in town again to do some shopping with mom. If not, I’ll be in to pick you up tonight after closing. See you later, little brother.”
Josh leaned over the back of the truck. “Yeah, have fun, Mr. Song and Dance cat,” Josh said as he hopped off. “I’ll be around sometime or other. See you later, boys!” He stopped to call again as he was running off, “Oh, Danny, thanks for the lunch!”
Danny looked in the back of the truck and saw to his annoyance that Josh had indeed eaten the lunch his mother had packed for him. Ben looked at him apologetically. “Sorry, about that, Danny,” he said, reaching into his pocket.
“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it, Ben,” Danny said. “Have a good day at the farm with dad.”
“I will. And Danny, you did do the right thing.”
“Yes, I know. Bye, Ben.”
Ben drove off, honking his horn a few times as he drove away.
Mr. McGuire was the general store manager and was always there first, no matter how early Danny tried to beat him to the store. The store was one of the most modern in town and even had a soda fountain and candy counter, both very popular. The customers that had gathered outside the door were chatting together, waiting for the manager to turn over the closed sign and let them in.
When he did they flooded in, eager for the fresh eggs and milk and other goods that had arrived that morning. Danny’s sunny disposition and infectious smile made him a natural salesman. Mr. McGuire did his best to keep Danny happy, as he had quickly come to realize that Danny was worth his weight in gold.
Danny handled the crowd with ease, always sharing a smile and a kind word. His charm left each customer with a warm smile of their own. The crowd faded away around ten in the morning, leaving Danny time to clean the store. He turned on the radio behind the counter and began sweeping the floor, again getting lost in the music and dancing along. This too was a regular practice for him and an accepted part of the day.
As he was sweeping and dancing, he was startled when he nearly crashed into an old human man. “Sorry to interrupt you and Broomhilda dancin’, boy, but I need my cup of coffee!”
“Yes, sir! Right away, sir!” Danny said with his trademark smile.
Danny knew this old man fairly well. Old Man Roth, or “Methuselah” as he was nicknamed, came in for a cup of coffee every morning. He’d earned the title due to his great age--one hundred and one years old and still as spry as a man of eighty. Methuselah was not terribly fond of animals, but Danny’s charm and warmth had won the old-timer over.
With a flair all his own, Danny rushed behind the counter and prepared a cup of coffee. Methuselah had a newspaper under his arm and began reading out loud, another daily ritual. Danny followed along, and from the way it sounded it was business as usual for good ‘ol Kokomo.
“Sounds like a slow news day for Kokomo,” Danny said as he placed the cup on the counter. Methuselah folded the paper, set it down, and pushed it over to Danny. “I should say so, sonny. I found that old newspaper in my shed the other day. It’s from 1894. There hasn’t been anything interestin’ in the paper since Lincoln was shot, and I like it that way. This here town’s the best of all worlds, and anyone that would change things should keep their noses out of Kokomo!”
Danny picked up the aged brown paper and quickly flipped through it. It was indeed news almost identical to any regular day of the current news paper. “Wow, I guess not much ever really changes around here.”
“Nope!” Methuselah said proudly. “I’ve lived a century now, boy, and I’ve never once set foot outside ‘a town. I don’t know what’s to the North, South, East or West of Kokomo, and you know what? I don’t care what’s there! I like this town. It’s quiet and peaceful--no surprises and no trouble. I can’t see any reason why anyone would want to leave.”
“Not even once?” Danny asked, starting to clean the top of the candy counter. “Haven’t you ever wondered what it’s like in other places or wondered what other people were like out there?”
Methuselah laughed long and loud. “Boy, when you reach my age, you realize that the grass is always greener over the fence. Where you were born is where you were meant to be. To do anything else is just ungrateful!”
Such talk was the usual foundation of the day for Danny and Methuselah--the old man loved to talk and the cat loved to humor him. The bell attached to the door rang as someone entered and Danny excused himself and rushed to help them, his mood slightly dampened by the cynical words of the old man.
Around lunchtime Danny had been prepared to go to the diner down the street when who should walk into the store but his mother Etta Mae and his wife, with Josh slinking behind. Danny rushed up to his wife and picked her up, spinning her around. Then he realized that it might be unwise to do that with an expectant mother and put her back down.
She hugged him laughingly and gave him a kiss. “Ben told us that Josh had eaten your lunch, so we brought something for you.” Etta Mae came up to him and hugged him. “Oh, Danny, you look so professional! You’ll probably be running this place in no time.”
“Well, it may be a while before that happens, mom,” Danny said.
“Oh, don’t talk like that Danny!” Salli chided. “You can do anything you put your mind to.”
Danny grinned, looking slightly sheepish. “Thanks, Salli.”
“Oh Danny, we’re here to do a little shopping, too,” his mother said, giving him her shopping list. Danny quickly filled the order and handed it to Josh. His mother promptly took Josh by the ear as they left the store, scolding him for eating his hard working brother’s lunch, while Josh tried to balance the groceries he was carrying.
Salli leaned over the candy counter. “Danny, since it’s lunch time, do you think your boss could spare you for a little while? We can eat outside.”
“Sure, Salli, not a problem.” Danny told his boss, and soon cat and bunny were walking arm in arm down the street to the nearby park. They parked themselves on a park bench and shared the huge meal that his mother had packed.
Salli took out some cheese-filled celery stalks. “So Danny, we still haven’t talked much about what we’re going to name the baby--no wait, I can guess. Clark, Humphrey, Jimmy, Cary?” she asked with a giggle.
Danny understood the game all too well. “How about Fred if it’s a boy and Ginger if it’s a girl?”
She giggled again. “You and your silly Hollywood things! Maybe we should name him after one of our grandfathers as that’s rather traditional.”
“That’s fine,” Danny said. “My grandfather on my mother’s side was named Garfield. My father’s father was named Sylvester.”
Salli rubbed her chin, considering it. “My grandfathers were named Peter and Lucius, though Lucius was better known for the nickname he got in the wild west, ‘Ricochet’.” Danny attacked a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. “Well, maybe we should wait to see what the baby looks like before we choose a name. Uh, Salli, I was talking to Ben and he said that rabbits tend to have, well, lots of babies at a time. I guess I should have asked about it before, but do you think there might be more than one in there?”
Salli smiled, looking down at her tummy as Danny pointed at it. “Well, it’s possible. I was one of a set of quadruplets. I didn’t really bring it up because I didn’t want to frighten you with the possibility. You seemed a little nervous just with the idea of having one child. I … I didn’t want to scare you away.”
“Oh, come now, Salli! That wouldn’t scare me away. My heart belongs to you; remember the words from the wedding? For better or for worse. I’ll always be there for you, no matter what. Whether it’s one baby or ten, you’ll always have me there with you.”
Salli hugged him tightly, then kissed him. “Danny, I’m the luckiest girl in the world.”
After they had finished eating they continued their walk, holding hands and content to be with each other. Danny’s pace suddenly quickened when they came in sight of the local movie theater.
“Salli, look! The new movie of the week!” he exclaimed.
A man was on a wooden ladder, changing the letters on the marquee, and new posters were now up outside the theater.
“Oh, a new Darla Dimple movie!” he said in excitement, running up to the posters.
“Lil’ Ark Angel,” Salli read, looking at the poster of an angelic Darla suspended over a pink ark filled with animals in sailor suits. “It looks a little silly if you ask me.”
“Her movies are great!” Danny retorted. “She’s got talent, and she’s a good singer. Maybe her movies are a bit predictable, but she always puts on a good show.” Danny began dancing and singing a part from the last Darla movie he had seen. “This one’s sure to be good too!”
Salli knew it was useless to argue the point. “Well, we can see it tonight after dinner with your parents. I know how you love to see movies the first night.”
“Thank you, Salli! You’re the best.”
She giggled again and hugged him as they headed back to the store. Inside they found Methuselah arguing with the radio. He stopped when he saw Danny and Salli, looking embarrassed. Slowly he got up out of his chair and hobbled over to them, studying the young couple.
“Sorry you had to see that, kids, but that FDR just gets under my skin! I didn’t vote for him. I learned my lesson that first time I voted, years ago.”
“Who’d you vote for, sir?” Salli asked.
“I voted for Abe Lincoln back in 1860, and what happened next? We had a war! Now that FDR fellow looks like he’s going to get us into another one.” Methuselah looked at the couple holding hands, then his old eyes slid toward Salli. “Oh, so this is the little lady you’ve been singin’ the praises of, is it boy?”
“Yes, sir,” Danny said, proud. “This is my wife, Salli.”
“Well, a cat married to a rabbit. In my day you animals didn’t do that sorta thing but I guess some things do change, even here in Kokomo. Well, it’s time this old-timer got going. You kids have a nice day.”
Danny waved goodbye. “Thank you, sir. See you tomorrow.”
“Yep, as long as the coffee stays that good you’ll see my old carcass here.” The old man gently patted Danny and Salli on the head as he made his way out the door.
Danny and Salli sat and talked for a little while longer before his mother and brother arrived to take her home. At closing time his brother arrived in the Ford to pick him up and Danny spent much of his time sharing his excitement about the new movie in town. As soon as his feet were inside the main house, his mouth continued right on.
Danny’s family had gotten used to his gushing enthusiasm over movies ever since he’d seen his first film at five years old. For a long time he had even talked of going to Hollywood and becoming a star. Fortunately, those that knew and loved him spared him the disappointment and heartache sure to follow had he tried to pursue his dreams. Knowing that, they good-naturedly tolerated his excitement and desire to go to the movies, sometimes several times a week.
Over dinner the family talked about many things, but Danny’s enthusiasm for the premiere night of the new movies always became the main topic of conversation. All during the meal he watched the clock, not wanting to risk missing starting time.
When the meal was done Ben immediately headed for the truck. He had been pressed into the role of Danny’s chauffeur on movie night, but he didn’t mind. Ben liked riding as much as anything, and while he didn’t care much about movies he did like to see a cat enjoy himself as much as Danny did. Danny and Salli quickly got ready and hustled into the truck Moments later they were underway.
Salli for her part enjoyed movies, but for Danny they were a passion. He even had old movie posters tacked on the walls of their little home. They made it to the theater with time to spare and Danny paid for the tickets for the three of them. Inside he loaded up on snacks for him and the others. Discreetly, Ben went to a seat further back, giving Danny and Salli cuddling privacy as they watched the movie.
Danny ate from a gigantic tub of popcorn in front of him as the movie began. Danny always felt a thrill at the sight of the Mammoth movie logo. The movie opened on Darla as an angel, wings and all, describing how she built an ark to save the animals as the world was flooded. He had a feeling the writers of the movie had taken a few liberties with Scripture on that one.
Danny was glad to see a large animal cast, but it quickly became apparent they didn’t have much to do. The pigs oinked, the cows mooed, the dogs barked and then the cats--that’s when he saw her.
The white cat in the sailor suit took his breath away. His cheeks flashed red suddenly as he remembered where he was and who he was with and he looked over to Salli to make sure she hadn’t noticed his reaction. The white cat’s only dialogue had been a single “meow”, but aside from her beauty Danny felt moved by her somehow. He was sure it was his imagination, as she couldn’t have been on screen more than three seconds. The movie was pretty standard as Darla Dimple movies went and the audience loved it that way.
The songs were catchy and the visuals were good. Danny was disappointed that the animals weren’t given anything to do but stand around and make animal noises. The cat he had seen earlier appeared in the throng of animals from time to time but never for more than a second or two, except for an ending reprise of the opening song where she again said her one line of dialogue.
There was something about her eyes that drew him in, and he couldn’t understand why. There seemed to be an emptiness in them. He had seen that look before, but try as he might he couldn’t recall where.
When the movie was over, Danny and Salli left the theater arm in arm. He was humming one of the songs from the movie and when they were outside he started dancing. He cavorted around, jumping onto a nearby bench.
“Danny, there are people watching…” Salli whispered through her clenched teeth, embarrassed by his display. Danny stopped and looked around--people were watching, but they seemed to appreciate his efforts. Still, he knew his wife didn’t like it.
“Sorry, Salli,” he said sheepishly as he stepped down. He took her arm again and with Ben at the wheel of the truck they returned home.
“What did you think of that one, Danny?” Ben asked. Danny’s face was lit up like Christmas. “It was great! I think musicals are one of civilization’s highest achievements.”
“Well, that might be overstating a bit,” Ben said. “I thought it was a bit silly, even for a Darla Dimple picture.”
Salli as always had her own set of opinions. “She should’ve given more time to the animal actors. They didn’t get to do anything.” Danny sighed, agreeing. “She’s just the actress, though. She doesn’t have any input in the movies. She’s just as helpless to affect things as those poor animals. I’m sure she’d do something about it if she could.”
“Yeah. Plus she’s just a little kid, so she wouldn’t have any clout,” Ben mused.
Salli had enjoyed the movie, but not as much as Danny had. Danny was always excited and animated after having seen a movie. Nothing in his life moved him as much, but this time the effect seemed doubled. He had seen many, many movies and many better ones than Lil’ Ark Angel, but this one had affected him somehow. He couldn’t get that movie out of his mind and he couldn’t understand why.
Danny dreamed of song and dance that night, and to his embarrassment he danced with the beautiful white cat from the movie. There was a sadness in her eyes that he kept asking her about, but she’d never say anything but “meow”.
Life returned to normal the next day, but Danny couldn’t shake the effects of the movie. His boss even let him take an extended lunch the following day so he could catch a matinee of the movie. Danny again sat enthralled and more particularly by the beautiful white cat with the sad eyes. He even managed to drag Salli along to see the movie twice more during its run and caught a few more matinees.
All during the nights of that week his dreams were filled with singing and dancing with the strange white cat. Even while watching the movie he would imagine himself dancing with the alluring feline. He found to his annoyance that the animals weren’t given any screen credits, so the mystery cat would remain forever nameless.
He knew that sadness in her eyes, but still hadn’t found a name for it. He left the theater after the film’s final matinee, his eighth time. By that evening a new movie would be ready, but he passed by the new poster without even looking at it. He walked over to the store, absentmindedly putting his apron on and began sweeping the floor, not even paying attention to the catchy tune playing on the radio.
Old man Roth noticed Danny working without his usual vim and vigor. “So, boy, you look lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut.”
“I’m just thinking about my life,” Danny said.
“From what I seen, your life looks pretty darn good. Got a good woman, a nice home, a steady job. What more could you want out of life than that?”
Danny stopped, placing his chin on top of the broom handle. “Well, I sort of wish I had followed my dreams at times.”
“Dreams?” the old man began laughing.
Danny shifted his eyes over to him, annoyed. “What’s wrong with having dreams?”
Methuselah folded the paper he had been reading. “Dreams are for children. Fools dream, smart people work hard.”
“You can work hard to live your dreams.”
“Ah, you young people today,” Methuselah said, looking off toward the distance. “I once dreamed of sailing on a riverboat down the Mississippi and flying on one of those aeroplanes.”
“Why didn’t you?”
“What good would it have done me if I had lived those dream? I’d still be an old man, sitting here and drinking coffee, talking to a cat. Living dreams still ends up at the same place, dead. So why not just stay where you are already? Life’s a whole lot easier.”
Danny put the broom aside. “Have you ever regretted that choice?”
Methuselah stroked his whiskered chin. “Well, now and then.”
Forgetting about cleaning the candy counter for the moment, Danny came over and set next to the old man. “Have you ever felt a strange sense that you should have been somewhere else or done something different? My dream was to be in the movies, and I think I just saw the movie I was meant to be in if I’d gone to Hollywood. And also I think the girl I was supposed to meet.”
The old man paused for a few moments. “As a matter of fact, yes, I did have an experience like that once, long ago. I’ve heard people describe it as the sensation that ‘Someone just walked across my grave’. I was a young man about your age--needless to say that was a long, long time ago. I was working at the Kokomo train station ticket counter early one morning and the place was deserted. Suddenly a familiar fellow comes to the window.”
“Who?” Danny asked.
Methuselah raised his eyebrows. “It was me.”
Danny’s tone reflected his confusion. “You?”
“Yes. There I stood looking through the window at me,” Methuselah said. His voice started to grow strange, as if he was so absorbed in a memory that it affected his thinking. “This other ‘me’ was dressed like a city slicker and even wore a top hat. He laid out a few gold coins before me and bought a ticket for New York. Imagine how strange I must have felt at that moment! I turned away to get his change and when I looked back a few moments later he was gone, but there lay that ticket to New York, bought and paid for. I went outside the booth and looked around but the place was deserted. The ticket sat there all day, even when the train it was for came and went. I still got it at home, along with his change. Still gives me the willies when I think about it. I did get to live one dream, though, without leaving Kokomo.”
“Which dream is that?”
The old-timer took on a sly grin. “When that dirty stinkin’ president Chester A. Arthur came to town back in the 1880’s, I called him a ‘no good, sod bustin’ horse’s patootie’ to his face. His guards proceeded to beat the living daylights out of me for it. If he was a real man, he would have fought me man-to-man!”
With that, Danny and the old man both began laughing and with the topic changed, Danny returning more to his normal routine.
That night, as Danny prepared for bed, he went into the bathroom to brush his teeth. He had been humming that song he’d sang from the movie, but when he looked into the mirror a hard chill fell over him and he went silent. He could finally name the look on the white cat’s face, for he wore the same face for the same reason--the sorrow of a dream that had died. He lowered his head and finished preparing for bed. Slipping under the covers, he lay beside his wife for a while, staring at the ceiling, his hands behind his head. He glanced around at the movie posters on the wall, illuminated by the moonlight, and pictured himself as the leading man in each one.
It was no use. He got up and put on a robe.
“Where are you going, Danny...” Salli asked sleepily.
“I’m just going to go for a walk. Can’t sleep.”
She mumbled a reply, drifting back off to sleep. Danny left his little house and walked to a small hill overlooking the farm. To his surprise he heard someone come up behind him. He turned to see a feline, the identity revealed by the light from a cigarette and the sloshing sound of a half empty bottle of beer.
“How’s it going, song and dance cat?” Josh asked as he nearly collapsed next to Danny.
“Josh, you’re drunk!”
The cat laughed. “As a skunk.”
“You’ve got to stop that. That smoking and drinking will kill you!” Danny said.
Josh found his old friend, the ground, and sat down. “Yeah, there’s so much waiting ahead of me to look forward to. Be a farmer, like our ancestors for a zillion generations. Get married so we can raise more farmers. I hate this town, I hate this farm, and I hate this life.”
“What are you talking about?” Danny asked. “We have a great life.”
“Shut up, you hypocrite.”
Danny hardly expected those words. “Now see here, Josh…”
Josh looked up at him, his face now visible in the moonlight. “Why did you stay here, Danny? Why didn’t you run when you had the chance?” Danny didn’t like having to defend himself. “I like it here. This is where I belong.”
“You’re a bigger fool than I am, Danny! You were made for greater things than this. You have talent and you’re good at something you love. You could have been in pictures. Why did you stay here to grow old as a dirt farmer?”
Danny looked down at his home. “I love my family and I love Salli.”
“If they love you so much, why didn’t they let you go, so you could find your own love?”
“You’re talking nonsense,” Danny said. “And who are you to talk? You’ve done nothing but ridicule my dreams all your life.”
“Of course I tried to discourage you!” Josh said. “I’m a pathetic loser and I’ll always be one and if there’s one thing a loser can’t stand it’s a winner. I like to talk about how I’m going to leave this town and make something of myself, but who am I kidding? I’m going to be just like Old Man Roth. I’m never going to leave this town; here I stay till the day I die, never amounting to anything.”
Josh pushed himself up, leaning on Danny’s shoulder, then pointed to the open, star-filled sky. “It’s not too late for you, Danny. Run! Run now. Leave all this behind.”
“Josh, I’m a married man with a child on the way. I can’t leave them.”
“I figured you’d say that,” Josh said. “Oh well. I’m sure you and Salli will be happy along with your kids. Forget everything I said, I’m just a stupid drunk. I’ll probably forget it all by tomorrow anyway. Goodnight, Danny.”
Danny continued looking over the farm, a farm that was now his destiny and that of his children. With that thought Danny got up and returned to his little house. Salli snuggled up to him as he stared at the ceiling.
“Sorry to wake you, Salli.”
Salli’s eyes found his. “I couldn’t sleep. I want to thank you, Danny.”
Danny wondered if this was a night for strange talk. “For what?”
“For helping me live my dream. I’ve seen how you’ve been acting this week. That movie had some sort of effect on you.”
Danny ducked his head. “I’m sorry about that. I don’t know what came over me, but don’t worry, a new movie’s already playing at the theater.”
Salli looked into his eyes, calm. “I know what came over you. You could see yourself on the screen. You dreamed it was your movie. I’m … I’m sorry I robbed you of your dream to make mine come true.”
“Salli, you didn’t rob me of my dream,” Danny said. “I’ve loved you almost as long as I’ve been alive. I knew since we were little that I wanted you to be my wife and I love the farm and want to follow in my father’s footsteps.”
The bunny nuzzled his nose with hers. “I love you, Danny. I know it hurts more than you’ll admit, but I promise I’ll do everything I can to make up for what you sacrificed for me.”
“Thank you, Salli,” he said and kissed her forehead.
She soon was asleep in his arms, while he continued staring at the ceiling.
“Meow,” he said softly.
“Danny, wake up!” a voice said with concern and he was shaken awake.
“Salli, what’s wrong?” Danny muttered.
“Salli!?” Sawyer said.
“Huh, what? Where am I?” Danny asked, alarmed. He quickly and nervously glanced all around the room and realized he was in the luxurious bedroom he shared with his wife. His wife? But he thought--no, it wasn’t Salli. He remembered now, and even grabbed Sawyer by the shoulders and gently shook her to make sure she was real.
“Sawyer!” he shouted in utter delight and hugged her tightly.
“That doesn’t explain why you just called me by the name of your old girlfr—”
Sawyer’s complaint was cut off by a kiss from Danny that was so intense that her fur and tail went poofy. When it broke off she was in a bit of a daze. “That was almost enough to make me not ask what you were dreaming about…or rather, who you were dreaming about.”
Danny sat up in bed, the feelings of it all still heavy upon him. “Sawyer, I just had the strangest and scariest dream of my life.”
“What, because it didn’t have me in it?” she asked with a smirk. He looked deeply into her eyes. “That’s exactly why.”
She suddenly blushed at the way he’d said it, and Danny continued on. “I dreamed that I’d stayed in Kokomo, that I’d played it safe and never followed my dreams and I went to see Lil’ Ark Angel and was captivated by a sad, beautiful cat whose only line of dialog was ‘meow.”
Sawyer never stopped being amazed at the lengths of Danny’s imagination. “And in your dream you married your old flame, Salli?” Danny laid back down again, crossing his arms under his head. “Yes, and the marriage was everything I had expected it to be—a job at the general store, helping dad with the farm, going to the movies several times a week.”
“Danny, people like you and I were meant for uncommon lives,” Sawyer said. “That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with common lives, but not everyone was cut out to be a carbon copy of their parents.”
Sawyer decided to change the topic. “So, what was with your repeating ‘meow’ during your dream? Having the Meow Mix dream again?”
Danny shook his head. “No. I was lying in bed, practicing the line from Lil’ Ark Angel, seeing what I would have done to add some pizzazz to it.” They both chuckled and Sawyer leaned on her elbow to look at Danny. “I’ve thought about things like that at times, and I realize how close I came to throwing it all away. I suppose it’s common for those that succeed and those that fail to ponder what might have been. I think I heard a poem about something like that once.”
Danny and Sawyer cuddled up in each others arms and began to drift off to sleep. Sawyer stirred, her memory coming to the rescue. “It was Robert Frost. It’s called ‘The Road Not Taken’,” she said sleepily. Danny nodded, yawning. “I’m glad I took the right one.”
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Old Man Roth/Methusaleh is copyright Chris Silva. Danny and Sawyer are copyright Warner Brothers and used without permission. Breezy, Etta Mae, Josh, Ben and Salli are original characters copyright Shelley Pleger and also used without permission, but in a sense of fun I think she'll appreciate. Robert Frost's poem 'The Road Not Taken' was quoted without permission, but he's fully walked his road already.