|free photo © Ichtor | Dreamstime.com|
I watch the door as men come and go, the sun soon high overhead but not very hot. Too soon to be hot outside, the grass and weeds were still brown and brittle. But I’m thirsty and panting, my tongue hanging out one side, because it’s been ages since I had a drink from that mud puddle. One of the noisy men had placed a tin pan nearby with water in it, but he put it on the concrete. I wouldn’t have any cover. Too exposed. I tried to be patient. I had learned a lot about patience back at the farm. Wolfie said that someone in that building was my purpose, and Wolfie hadn’t guided me wrong yet. We had learned a lot together. And so I watched the door.
Click. That got my attention. The door cracked open and I heard voices whispering. They probably thought I couldn’t hear them but my ears pricked forward--I had big ears for my size--and the words were clear.
“Where is it?”
I trembled. Such a soft, sweet voice. The voice of a female.
“There. See. By the edge of the concrete along the back, near the yellow parking stop. Near the open space. Pup is in the weeds. Black face.”
“Oh, I see it. Poor thing.”
“Won’t come to any of us. But we stopped parking the trucks there hoping not to scare it away.”
I kept my gaze steady. Could I catch the woman’s glance? So far, the two females I’d met were better than the men.
Big Man lived with Wild Hair. My names for them. They never seemed to call each other by just one name so I wasn’t sure who they were. But Wild Hair never tried to hit or kick me. And sometimes, when Big Man had driven away in his truck and left me at the farm, Wild Hair would come out to where I was chained and give me a bit of sale bread soaked in bacon grease. Oh my. I thought life was good then. She didn’t ever say much, but once in a while ... I sighed at the fond memory ... Wild Hair would squat down and gently rub my ears and scritch me under the chin. I would wiggle and wine and, once, she almost smiled through the dirty lines on her splotchy face. But a noise, I think once of the chickens must have pecked at a rusty tin can, that noise startled Wild Hair and she jumped to her feet and scurried back to the house.
The other female I’d met was a small one and more fun, but she could hurt me sometimes, too. I don’t think she meant to, but she did. This other female was little, only as tall as Big Man’s waist, and he laughed often when she was visiting. A black, clunky car that was very loud would stop at the mailbox, a back door would open, and she would sort of slide off the back seat, then slam the door shut and stare as the car sped off in a cloud of dust. Her shoulders would slump and she would trudge down the dirty driveway.
Her first visit--I wasn’t much of a dog yet, and was still stupid, that’s what Big Man said--Girl was very kind and we had a lot of fun. She would toss a stick and I would race to get it and jump on her when I brought it back. Oh, she laughed and it sounded like sunshine on a spring day. But, after a while, Big Man came out of the house and saw us.
Uh, oh. Big Man’s face was way redder than usual and his eyebrows were in one frazzled line across the top of his head. My ears flattened and I tucked my tail and waited. Running was worse than waiting, because I couldn’t run very far for long. At least I’d learned that much even if I was still stupid.
“That one’s a working dog, girl. Don’t play with her. Make her behave. Like this.”
Big Man yanked me by my tattered collar until I was sitting.
I was very still. But then Girl giggled and began petting me and I got all wiggly and tried to lick her hands that tasted of cookies and sour milk.
What came next was bad. I try not to think about it. Girl still would visit sometimes, but she did what Big Man told her to. I don’t think she liked it when he put on angry face either. We didn’t have fun anymore. But she never hit me. So women might be okay.
While I’d been remembering, but also watching, the woman from the big building had been quietly walking toward me. Her voice was soft like the kind of rain that only dampened the ground and would pitter-patter on my dog house roof, lulling me to sleep some nights. When I was first at the farm, I would pretend that the rain was my Mom singing to me in the scary dark where I was all alone. I quivered but let the woman--I named her Rain--get closer.
“It’s okay, sweetie. I won’t hurt you.”
Rain crooned to me in a sweet, sing-song voice, then sat down in the grass a bit away and continued every once in a while with a comment, her arms relaxed at her sides. She didn’t seem scary at all. In fact, she was kind of sad inside. I could tell. Even though her mouth was smiling at me, there was a deep tension in her.
“Pretty baby ... don’t you have a lovely black mask ... isn’t it a nice day ... quiet now that the surveyors are all out on jobs ... .”
I began to relax, letting my muscles soften. Rain was no threat. Yes, I think this is her. My purpose. She needed me to help her with the sadness.
I crawled closer, paw by paw. Soon, I was sidled up next to her. She smelled like the wildflowers where the cows once wandered after they pushed down a flimsy fence. I was little back then, but I still remember their sweetness tickling my nose. We sat for a while, Rain and me, easy like. Me watchful. Her talking softly, then quiet. And then it happened. I felt her hand, ever so light, begin to stroke my back, then move to the base of my ears in a gentle pressure that was ever so relaxing. I held very still.
“It’s okay. I won’t ever hurt you.”
I couldn’t help myself. I trusted her. I crawled into her lap and sighed. And she sighed, too. Like we were one breath. We stayed like that for a long while, me and Rain as one creature. Wolfie was right. Rain was my purpose. I wondered what came next?
~ to be continued ~
P.S. For you writers out there, I know that I need to get my 'tense' consistent, but right now, the story is fresh, first draft, off-the-cuff without editing. Maybe later on I'll pull it all together with proper editing... :-)