Kristen calls down from the bedroom, where she's finishing a scarf she's been knitting for Melinda.
"Walt! It's freezing up here! Will you turn up the heat, please?"
Walt has been wrapped up in a blanket, watching TV, but mostly, really, snoozing on the couch. He is nice and warm, and he really doesn't feel like getting up, but the thermostat is just across the room, and he knows how busy Kristen is.
He gets up, stretches and walks to the thermostat. He turns the dial and waits for the click. No click.
He turns it back, and then up again. No click. Uh-oh.
It is the afternoon of Christmas Eve, and while it's not as cold as it's been, it's sure not warm. And now there's something wrong with the furnace. Christmas Eve. That means tomorrow is Christmas. There is no way on earth anyone is coming tomorrow to fix the furnace.
Walt feels the panic building in him. And then he remembers: It's not my house. We're renting.
That doesn't get the furnace fixed any more quickly, but whatever is wrong, he's not going to have to pay to get it fixed. One of the few benefits of renting.
Walt calls the landlord, who says he'll see if he can get someone to come over.
"You're sure you have oil?" he asks. Walt is sure. They just got a delivery last week. They had to pay for it with a credit card. That's something Walt never wanted to do, but without a job, it was the only way.
He goes up to tell Kristen and Melinda, and to set up the little heater in Melinda's room, which is on the front corner of the house and always seems chilly.
An hour passes, and nothing happens, except that the house gets colder.
Walt calls the landlord again. He's trying, he says, but so far, no luck.
"Look," he says, "if I can't find anyone by 3, I'll come over and see what I can do. I can close the office. No one's coming in today anyways."
By 3, there is no furnace guy. The house is really cold by now. Walt and Kristen and Melinda all are wearing layers of clothes, but that doesn't help. If the furnace can't be fixed, they're going to have to stay in a hotel, and the last thing they need is to be spending money on a hotel room.
But it is Christmas Eve, and Walt believes that this will all work out. He thinks of the shepherds, watching their flocks by night, and seeing the bright star in the sky. He thinks of Mary and Joseph having no place to sleep. All of my problems, he thinks, they are nothing. I have my family, I have my health, I have a clean conscience. I have my faith. We will be all right, he thinks. We will be all right.
Just then, the doorbell rings. Walt gets up to answer.
On the doorstep is his landlord, Bill Lefkewicz. Bill has two dogs with him, a black and white dog on a leash and, cradled close to his chest, the little blind dog, Zoe, whom Melinda and Kristen rescued so many weeks ago.