Rabbo and Merwyn sat on a bench just to one side of the center of the village just outside the local guild hall and the local public house called the castle hotel.
The moon was up and people were coming to the castle hotel to get together to drink and talk. At the back of the castle hotel was a large long room that was going to be hosting a dance later in the night and Rabbo was hoping that he and Merwyn would be able to go.
As some of the people walked by they nodded to Merwyn and Rabbo but none stopped to talk to Merwyn as they were in a hurry to get out of the cold.
From down the road Rabbo could hear faint singing coming from the local church that was half way down the hill and street. He sat and listened to the bright cheery voices of the choir as they sang cheerful Christmas corals.
Across the street at one of the local shop Rabbo saw the owner turn the sign from open to closed.
“Do you think she will come” Rabbo asked on Merwyn’s private telepathic mode.
“As always I hope she does” answered Merwyn on the same mode. “But as always I think it’s unlikely that Athena will come. As like you and me she is very old”.
Rabbo looked around and snuggled into Merwyn’s long coat more for comfort than warmth.
“I wish our abilities were not fading” Rabbo said.
“It’s the way of things. Remember you Athena and I are very old. I am well over four thousand nine hundred years old even for a Sirian that’s old. Soon it will be time and I will gladly fade” Merwyn said without any tone of sadness in his telepathic voice. “I would like to see my oldest daughter one last time before I fade. But well if I do I do. If not oh well it can’t be helped”.
Rabbo nodded and wriggled even closer as he was starting to feel the bite of the cold winter night.
Just then a man in his late thirties walked over and sat down next to Merwyn and Rabbo.
“How are you tonight Mr. Merlin”?
“I am well tonight. But these old bones are feeling the bite of this cold winters night. And my rabbit here is cold as well” Merwyn said. “How are Mary and Benjamin”?
“Mary is good and Ben should be at home. Today was his last day at school before the Christmas break” said the man smiling with pride.
“How are your step sons, in particular Mark” said Merwyn.
“Mary heard from Mark yesterday. I think he is enjoying himself in America”.
“Can we go into the pub I am cold” said Rabbo on Merwyn’s private telepathic mode.
Merwyn laughed softly and looked at the man “I think my rabbit is cold. Let’s go into the castle hotel Peter and I will buy you a pint” said Merwyn.
“Go ahead Mr. Merlin and I will join you. Mary should be here soon as she said she would be back from Exeter at about 6pm” said Pete.
Merwyn picked up Rabbo and gently put him into a large pocket in his jacket and reached for his walking stick.
Slowly Merwyn walked from the bench towards the castle hotel being careful not to trip on the pot holes in the parking lot.
Once at the door to the castle hotel Merwyn looked around to make sure no one was near and opened the door just ahead of him using his psychokinesis to do so. Once inside Merwyn walked slowly up to the bar and waited for the bartender to come over and pour him a pint of Whitbread’s best bitter.
“Your usual” said the bartender already pouring Merwyn a pint.
Merwyn nodded and reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet and put down three pounds on the bar.
As Merwyn put the money down on the bar the bartender turned and picked up a small silver dish and poured about a quarter of a pint into the dish.
“Mr. Merlin I will bring yours and your rabbit's drinks over. Would you like a snack or something to eat? I think Liz has carrots in the kitchen for your rabbit”?
“Thank you that would be so kind of you. I am ok as I had lunch but I think my rabbit would like a small carrot. Maybe one that’s soft as his teeth are not what they use to be” said Merwyn smiling.
Merwyn walked over to his normal spot by the fireplace and the couple who was sitting at his table stood up and moved to the next table.
“You did not have to move” said Merwyn smiling at the pretty young woman.
“That’s alright” said the young woman smiling back. “That is your normal spot and I would never take your chair”.
Merwyn sat down and as he did so his knees creaked loudly making the young woman turn and look at Merwyn with a worried look.
“If you need a ride home let me know and I will drive you back to Bowley meadows” said the young man next to the young lady.
“Thank you” said Merwyn smiling.
Just then the bartender walked over with Merwyn’s pint and the silver bowl with beer in it for Rabbo. The bartender had a small plate with a carrot on it and fresh carrot tops.
Merwyn reached into his jacket and gently pulled Rabbo out of the pocket and placed him on the table next to the plate and silver bowl.
Rabbo looked at the silver bowl and then the plate. “Do I have to act like a rabbit and lap up the beer and munch on the carrot while it’s still on the plate” said Rabbo again on Merwyn’s private telepathic mode.
“Yes” said Merwyn “as I have told you many times over the last few hundred years. People would take you away and dissect you because of your paws and the fact you can talk. We have to let them think you are just a normal rabbit”.
Rabbo looked around and saw that the Christmas tree was up and that the last of the decorations had been hung giving the whole pub a very Christmas like feeling. On the jukebox very Christmas like music was being played while at the bar its self stood a group of young people drinking and talking loudly.
Just as Rabbo finished looking around he saw Mary and Pete walking in followed by their young son who about thirteen years old.
Mary looked over to the fireplace and walked over to Merwyn and Rabbo. “How many times have I told you Mr. Merlin that if you wanted to come up here I would drive you up here”?
“I needed the walk” said Merwyn moving slightly so that Mary could sit down next to him.
The young lad pulled up a chair and sat down across from Merwyn and close to Rabbo.
Pete came walking over with a half pint of beer for Mary and a half pint of shandy for Ben and a pint for himself.
“Oh leave him alone Mary. I think if Mr. Merlin felt he needed a ride he would ask” Pete said winking at Merwyn.
While Merwyn, Pete and Mary talked Ben reached over and held part of the carrot top for Rabbo to eat.
Rabbo sat up on his hind legs and gentle and very rabbit like started to nibble on the carrot tops that Ben was holding.
“I wonder how old he is” said Ben looking at Pete.
“I have no idea. But he has to be very old for a rabbit. Do you remember when you first met him”?
“That was like ten years ago” said Ben.
“So he has to be at lest ten years old right” said Pete smiling at his son.
“Yes only he has to be older as he was old them” said Ben rubbing Rabbo’s ear.
“How old is your rabbit” asked Pete.
“Oh very old” said Merwyn smiling.
“Yes but how old is very old” said Ben.
“Older than you young man” said Merwyn smiling.
“So he is like fourteen or fifteen” said Ben.
“About that I think” said Merwyn sounding like he was thinking hard about it.
Rabbo reached up with his paws and turned Bens hand so that he could nibble better at the last little bits of carrot top that Ben was holding.
“You are having Christmas dinner with us” said Pete looking at Merwyn.
“Oh that’s very kind of you Pete but I will have to decline” said Merwyn.
“No you are having Christmas dinner with us and if you are worried about your daughter showing up we can leave a note on your door and she can join us” said Mary.
“I still have to decline” said Merwyn looking at Rabbo.
“We will put Moon in Ben’s room so that you can bring your rabbit” said Pete.
“Moon would not hurt your rabbit” said Ben “beside I want to ask you things as I have a school project. We have just started doing the war”.
“Oh which war” Merwyn asked.
“Were you in the war” asked Ben.
“I’ve been in a few wars” said Merwyn thoughtfully.
“Oh which wars have you been in” asked Ben suddenly lighting up.
“Too many” said Merwyn looking sad.
“Darling maybe it would not be a good idea to ask Mr. Merlin about the war” said Mary looking at her son.
Pete, Mary and Ben sat with Merwyn until he started to doze slightly.
“I will drive Mr. Merlin home” said Mary to Pete. “Plus it’s getting late for Ben too”.
“I think it's time we all left” said Pete looking around at the young people who were getting loud and drunk.
About fifteen minutes later Mary pulled up in front of Merwyn house. She helped Merwyn out of the car while Ben carried the sleeping Rabbo gentle in his arms.
“You are coming for Christmas dinner and that's final” said Mary smiling at Merwyn. “I don’t want you spending Christmas alone like you have done for the last five years since we took over running the retirement village”.
“I guess I better be there then” Merwyn turned to Ben and looked at him. “So you want to hear all about the war? I take it you are studying the Great War”?
“Um no world war two. But I will listen to you talk about world war one if you would like. Where you in that war” said Ben smiling.
“Among others yes” said Merwyn turning and looking at Mary “Can Ben coming in for a while and I will answer his questions”.
Mary nodded and Merwyn and Ben walked to the door of Merwyn’s home.
It was Christmas Eve and for the first time in many years Merwyn had but up a Christmas tree and gone shopping to buy Christmas presents for Pete Mary and Ben.
“I think you look better than you have in years” said Rabbo sitting under the Christmas tree sniffing it. “It’s dropping it's needles already”.
“Thank you silly rabbit” said Merwyn sitting down to rest his knees. “You look better than you have in years too”.
“Maybe she will come this year. I hope she will come home finally” said Rabbo with a hint of sadness in his voice.
Rabbo turned to look at Merwyn and was not surprised to see Merwyn with his head thrown back sleeping in his chair.
Rabbo hopped over and gentle hopped up into Merwyn’s lap and soon he joined Merwyn in sleep.
Rabbo woke up to soft Christmas classical music playing on the radio.
“Sorry I did not mean to wake you Rabbo” said Merwyn. “But you were so deep a sleep when I woke up”.
“We seem to fall asleep a lot lately don’t we” said Rabbo.
“It’s a sign of how old we are” answered Merwyn.
“I feel every inch of my three thousand years. I hurt all over and I will be glad when I fade too” said Rabbo. “But not yet as if I faded at Christmas that would be sad. Beside I want to see at least one more summer”.
“I know what you mean. But I don’t think you will fade away like I will” said Merwyn. “Beside I can’t go until you do as who would take care of you anyway”.
Just then there was a soft knock at the door and Merwyn slipped Rabbo out of his lap and walked to the front door with his walking stick to steady him.
Standing at the door with a tape recorder in his hand was Ben.
“Afternoon Mr. Merlin” said Ben. “I brought my tape recorder so that we can tape what you tell me about world war one”.
Merwyn looked at Ben and smiled “sit down and let me put the kettle on and we can have tea and talk”.
Ben walked over to the chair that Rabbo was sitting in and gentle picked up Rabbo and put him in his lap. He put his tape recorder down on the side table and started to gently stroke Rabbo’s ears.
“I bet you could tell me a thing or two” said Ben to Rabbo.
Rabbo made a sound that almost sounded like laughter and then stuck out his tongue at Ben before blowing a raspberry.
“Mr. Merlin I always thought that rabbits were kind of shy. But your rabbit seems very friendly” Ben said raising his voice so that Merwyn could hear him from the kitchen.
“Rabbo is a very smart rabbit and very old” said Merwyn standing in the kitchen door way and leaning on his walking stick.
“Oh really is that why he laughed at me” asked Ben.
“Maybe? As I said he is very smart and very old” Merwyn answered thoughtfully.
Merwyn turned back to the kitchen and got busy putting a very large tea pot up on a tray with two tea cups on saucers plus two side plates with angle cake and some rich tea biscuits. Once the kettle had boiled Merwyn poured a little hot water into the tea pot and swilled it around before pouring the hot water out and putting three tea bags into the tea pot and filling it with hot water. Lastly he put a small jug with milk in it next to the tea pot. He then slowly carried the tray into the living room and put the tray down on a low table that was between the two chairs.
“It might be a good idea to put your recorder onto the table between us and turn it on” said Merwyn.
Ben placed his tape recorder on the low table and looked at Merwyn who was leaning back in his chair clearly deep in thought.
“You might want to turn it on. I hope you have brought plenty of tape and have strong batteries”.
Ben nodded and reached down and pressed the play and record buttons on the tape deck.
“Mr. Merlin talking about world war one recorded on December 24th 1990. So could you tell me about what you remember of the start of the First World War” Ben said smiling.
“Well in July of 1914 I was in San Francisco in America” Merwyn said.
“Oh you are American” asked Ben.
“No I was there to help rebuild San Francisco after the great earthquake in 1906 and I had stayed on”.
“You ever heard of a place called St Helena” asked Ben.
“Yes they make wine there” said Merwyn.
“My brother lives there”
“Really” said Merwyn chuckling. “It’s a small world”.
“So you were in San Francisco when war broke out” said Ben.
Merwyn leaned forward looked at the tray and smiled at Ben “you might want to switch that thing off for a moment as I forgot something in the kitchen and Rabbo would never forgive me for forgetting his afternoon tea”.
Merwyn stood up and slowly walked to the kitchen and returned with another tea cup and saucer. He then poured milk into the three cups and added tea. He handed one to Ben and then handed one to Rabbo.
Rabbo slipped off Ben's lap and sat down on his hind legs and took hold of the saucer “Thanks” said Rabbo.
Ben looked at Rabbo with his mouth wide open.
“Please close your mouth young man” said Rabbo. “If this was summer you would catch flies”.
“He talks” said Ben in total amazement.
“Yes I talk” said Rabbo.
“Please don’t tell anyone that Rabbo talks” said Merwyn with the tone of panic filling his voice.
“Who would I tell” asked Ben. “Besides if I told someone they would never believe me that your rabbit talks. They would think that I was making it up so who would I tell”?
“Yes good point. But still please don’t tell anyone” Merwyn said regaining control of his voice.
For the next three hours Merwyn told Ben about what he had done in world war one and where he had been and what he had witnessed.
At the end of the three hours Ben sat very quiet gently rubbing Rabbo’s fur.
“Where is the bathroom” asked Ben
Merwyn pointed down a short hallway “it’s on the left”.
When Ben returned from using the bathroom Rabbo was curled up in Merwyn’s lap sleeping.
Merwyn nodded to Ben and quietly said “You will have to pardon me young man but I am feeling kind of sleepy as well”.
“Thank you for telling all about what you did in world war one” said Ben.
“You will have to let yourself out but don’t worry about locking the door” said Merwyn as he closed his eyes.
It was about six in the evening when there was a knock at the door. So Merwyn walked over leaning on his walking stick.
Standing in the door way was Mary with a plate in one hand and a small bottle of whiskey in the other.
“Merry Christmas” said Mary smiling.
“Oh come in” said Merwyn smiling. “I just had dinner”
Mary walked in and Merwyn walked her over to the chair next to the heater while he took the plate to the kitchen.
On the plate was a slice of chocolate cake.
Merwyn walked back into the living room with two glasses and sat down.
Mary opened the bottle of whiskey and pour a little into each glass.
“I want to thank you for having Ben over today and talking to him about the great war” Mary said smiling.
“It was my pleasure” answered Merwyn as he sipped his glass.
Rabbo came hopping into the living room from the bathroom and hopped over to Merwyn and sat at his feet and looked up.
“I am not going to make the same mistake I did this afternoon” said Rabbo on Merwyn’s private telepathic mode. “Could you pick me up?”
Merwyn reached down and picked Rabbo up and put him in his lap and gentle started to rub Rabbo just behind the ears.
“I understand that he is called Rabbo” Mary said.
Merwyn nodded and Rabbo turned and looked at Mary.
“Oh he answers to his name” Mary said reaching over and gentle sliding her fingers along both ears. “I understand that you have been to America”?
“Yes a few time” answered Merwyn nodding.
“Ben said that you where there just after the 1906 earthquake”?
“Yes that was the first time I was there. Last time I was there was in 1988 looking for my daughter Morgan” Merwyn said after a long pause.
“Is she still alive” asked Mary.
“I think so” said Merwyn sadly.
“Do you have any other children” Mary asked carefully.
“I did” Merwyn answered sadly. “But well it’s just me and Morgan left now”.
“What about grand children or great grand children” Mary asked carefully.
Merwyn laughed softly and looked carefully at Mary before he answered. “Yes I have grand children and great grand children and I think even great great grand children. But other than Morgan I have never been close to family since my wife passed. But that was a long time ago”.
“Do you know where your grand children, great grand children are now” Mary asked leaning in.
Merwyn smiled and looked thoughtfully at Mary. “It’s very kind of you to ask after them but I don’t wish them to see me like this. You are very sweet and kind. But you understand how people can be. I am old very old and well I don’t want to bother them as my end comes nearer. Soon I will be gone and I really don’t want them to see me like this”.
“I know” said Mary sadly. “Just I thought you would like to have family at hand when it's time”.
Merwyn raised his glass and took a sip. “When death comes for me it will come as a friend. I don’t fear death. In fact I am kind of looking forward to it”.
“Lets not talk about death on Christmas eve” said Mary sipping her glass of whiskey.
“Yes let's not. Just that Christmas can be a depressing time of year” said Merwyn nodding.
“That’s why you are spending Christmas with Pete Ben and me” said Mary smiling.
Rabbo stood up in Merwyn’s lap and hopped down gentle. He hopped over to Mary and stood on his hind legs and placed his forepaws on her knees.
Mary reached down and picked Rabbo up gently and placed him in her lap and started to gentle stroke his fur. She moved her hand up and started to gently massage the base of his ears so that Rabbo closed his eyes and let out a soft moan of pleasure.
Rabbo suddenly opened his eyes stood up on his hind legs and looked towards the front door.
There was a knock at the door and Merwyn reached for his walking stick and stood up walking to the door.
Outside was a group of people who started to sing Christmas carols.
Mary walked over still holding Rabbo and she joined Merwyn at the door listening to the singers.
Merwyn reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet and took out a twenty pound note and placed it in the donation jar that one of the singers was holding.
“Merry Christmas” Merwyn said as the singers started to move on to the building next door to sing.
Rabbo looked up the street towards Mary’s house and saw Ben and Pete walking down the street towards them.
Soon Mary, Pete and Ben sat in Merwyn’s living room talking while Rabbo hopped from person to person who each made a fuss of him.
But time passed too quickly and soon Mary, Pete and Ben left Rabbo and Merwyn as it had become late.
“They are very nice people” said Rabbo once he and Merwyn were alone.
“Yes very nice. I like them. So kind and nice” said Merwyn sitting back down and pouring himself a glass of whiskey.
“Can I have a glass” said Rabbo looking over from the chair that Mary had been sitting in.
Merwyn poured Rabbo a small glass of whiskey and then sat back in his chair.
“It’s been over two hundred years since Athena or Morgan or whatever name she is using these days has been around for Christmas” Merwyn said sadly.
“Yes but only one hundred and fifty years since we last saw here. Next to how long we have lived that’s nothing” said Rabbo as he took a sip on his whiskey.
Rabbo started to cough a little and Merwyn laughed.
“It’s been so long since I tasted whiskey” Rabbo said still coughing a little.
Rabbo and Merwyn sat talking until Rabbo started yawning. So they both headed to the bedroom together to sleep.
Rabbo woke up to the faint sound of the church bells ring in the far distances. As he lay on the bed in the dark he listened to them make peal after peal calling people to the early morning church services.
It was still dark outside and Merwyn was snoring softly so Rabbo walked across the bed to the ramp and slowly hopped down the ramp and headed into the bathroom.
After he had brushed his few remaining teeth he took care of his morning needs and hopped slowly into the kitchen.
Hopping up the steps that were at the side of the kitchen counter that Merwyn had placed there so he could get up onto the counter top Rabbo picked up the kettle and filled it with water to make tea for himself and for Merwyn.
Rabbo then hopped back down the steps and went to a little box that he had in the living room. He opened the box and looked at the items in there.
In the box was a small picture frame with a hand drawn picture of Merwyn and Athena, a lock of Athena’s hair, a small bronze sword that Merwyn had given him thousands of years before and a book of poetry that Rabbo had written so long ago.
Rabbo took the picture out and looked around for wrapping paper. Once he spotted wrapping paper Rabbo got busy and wrapped the picture and then placed it under the Christmas tree next to the three other Christmas present that Merwyn had got for Mary Pete and Ben.
About an hour later Merwyn was sitting in his chair listening to the radio while drinking his third cup of tea of the morning.
Rabbo sat in the chair opposite him munching on a fresh carrot top for his breakfast.
“It’s a cold chilly morning out there” said Rabbo.
“It’s that time of year. I used to like winters” said Merwyn looking out at the overcast sky.
“I think we might get snow later” Rabbo mused as he followed Merwyn’s line of sight.
About two hours later there was a knock at the door and when Merwyn answered the door Ben was standing there smiling.
“I have come to get you” said Ben.
“Did you go to church this morning” asked Merwyn.
Ben just laughed and smiled. “It’s almost time to open the Christmas presents”.
Rabbo hopped over to the tree with a large bag in his paws and put the four presents into the bag before dragging it over to Merwyn.
But Ben reached down and picked up the large bag and smiled down at Rabbo.
“How are you this morning” Ben said looking down at Rabbo.
Rabbo looked up at Ben and smiled before he answered “Good I think. Other than my normal pains I feel good”.
Once at Mary, Pete and Ben’s house Merwyn was handed a glass of cognac and Rabbo was given a bowl of beer.
The bag with the Christmas presents were placed under the tree and they all sat talking but soon it became clear that Ben was getting impatient to open the Christmas presents so Pete moved over to the Christmas tree and pulled the first present out.
“This one is from Mary and me to you, Mr. Merlin. Merry Christmas”.
Merwyn took the present and tears started to well up in his eyes but after a few seconds he regained control of his emotions and with shaking hands he opened it.
It was a hand knitted sweater with bright colors.
“I hope it’s the right size” said Mary smiling.
More presents were given out until only the bag was left.
Pete reached into the bag and pulled out the first present that was inside the bag.
“To Benjamin from Merwyn” Pete read.
Mary looked at Merwyn. “Is that your real name”?
“Yes” answered Merwyn.
Ben opened the present and inside was a brand new top of the line CD player.
The next present was to Mary and when she opened it, it was a gold and silver picture frame that felt very heavy.
Mary looked at it carefully with a look of amazement on her face. “It’s real gold and silver”?
Merwyn smiled and nodded. “I wish I had a picture of all your boys to put in it but sadly I don’t”.
The next present was for Pete and when he opened it there was a large book bound in leather with gold and silver inlay.
Pete reached into the bag one last time and pulled out the last present and looked at it carefully.
“This one is for you Merwyn” said Pete looking a little puzzled.
Pete hand it over and Merwyn who looked just as puzzled and held the present carefully turning it over until he saw the label. The label read “Merry Christmas from Rabbo”.
Merwyn looked at Rabbo and slowly opened the present.
Once Merwyn saw the picture tears started to stream down his cheeks without control.
Mary rushed over to Merwyn and wrapped her arms around him to comfort him. As she did so she noticed the picture.
Softly Mary asked “who is that with you in the picture? Is that Morgan”?
“That’s my daughter” Merwyn said trying hard to regain his composure.
It took about fifteen minutes and a cup of tea for Merwyn to regain his composure and when he had he was once again cheerful.
It was about three hours later and Merwyn had helped Mary and Pete get Christmas dinner ready by peeling potatoes and carrots as they all sat in the kitchen talking there was a knock on the door. Pete looked at Mary “Do we have any guests coming”?
“Not that I am aware of” Mary answered looking a little confused.
Rabbo suddenly sat bolt upright and started to bang his hind leg hard on the ground.
From the front door a woman’s voice was heard and suddenly all the color drained from Merwyn’s face.
Rabbo bolted for the front door at such high speed that he almost tripped Pete over.
Standing at the front door was a woman who looked like she was in her mid to late sixties wearing a long black cloak with a red hood that was up covering her face.
“I am looking for Merwyn” said the woman from under the cloak.
“Hi I am Peter” said Pete trying to see the face that was hidden from view under the hood.
“Oh hello Rabbo” said the cloaked woman who knelt down and reached out to pick Rabbo up. “If you are here then Dad is here too”.
Rabbo wriggled into her arms.
“You better come in” said Pete “May I take your cloak”.
“Thank you Peter” said the woman.
Together Pete, Ben and the woman walked into the kitchen.
“Hello Dad” said the woman.
Merwyn just sat with his mouth wide open and looked at his daughter.“Merry Christmas, Dad”.
Click on Mark Crocker for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.