Death by Dog
When the cold rain stopped, the sun peeked through gray clouds and painted the horizon over Puget Sound in slashes of orange and red. Soda stepped out the door of the First Avenue bookstore as she brushed her thick chestnut hair away from her face. It fell in waves to the middle of her back. She dug a scrunchy out of the pocket of her faded jeans then fisted her hair and tied it so that it fell under the collar of her hoodie.
Mid-March in Seattle, Washington, breathed an early spring chill on the city. She flipped her hood up then zipped the sweatshirt and stuffed her hands in the pockets. Shoulders hunched, she walked briskly south. Before long, she left the restaurants and boutiques and shops that had pulled steel mesh across their entrances for the night and entered an industrial area that had seen better times. Warehouses and abandoned buildings with busted windows hulked in the darkening evening.
The sound of rough male voices drifted across the narrow street. Soda edged into the deeper shadow of a crumbling, brick building; its windows like blinded eyes stared blankly out on the littered street. Between the black jeans and the navy blue hoodie–pulled close around her pale face and with her white hands stuffed in her pockets–the shadows swallowed her form. Standing perfectly still, she listened as they drew closer. Eyes straining, she peered from her spot, trying to make out what swung between the two men.
A few street lamps–not yet vandalized–spilled watery yellow light on the dirty sidewalk and the green dumpster that squatted at the mouth of the alley across from where Soda hid. The men sauntered into the light. Soda squinted. Her heart pounded when she finally realized what they carried.
The body of a large dog hung between them as they made their way to the dumpster. They swung the body back and forth until enough momentum had built and then let go. The animal sailed over the edge of the dumpster and thumped into the trash. They pulled off their gloves and stuffed them in jacket pockets.
The hum of traffic from several streets away sang a muted song, but the men’s voices–harsh and loud–rode over the top of it. The shorter, thicker man dug under his jacket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. He lit one and the ember glowed as he inhaled. Grey smoke drifted up toward the circle of lamp light, but disintegrated when a slight breeze puffed off Puget Sound. The breeze smelled of dead fish. “Damn, that was some sick bitch. Shortest fight I’ve ever seen.” Admiration sounded clear in his gravelly voice.
The taller, thinner man accepted a cigarette from the other man and lit it. “Short for damn sure. Only thing that bitch,” he jerked a thumb over his shoulder and toward the dumpster, “good for was a trainin’ fight. Can’t believe that other’n; not even two years old, yet. Man, I want me one of them dawgs.” He snorted a laugh.
A shiver ran up Soda’s spine. She pushed against the brick; the cold that seeped through her hoodie felt reassuring.
The shorter man shook his head. “In your dreams.” He finished his smoke then flicked the butt out into the street.
A cramp seized Soda’s calf muscle. Afraid any movement would draw their attention she clamped her teeth and pressed her lips together, willing herself not to move.
“What you think one of them dawg’s worth?” In imitation of the other man, the taller man flicked his cigarette butt out into the street. For a moment, he seemed to be looking straight at her and Soda thought her heart might stop.
The other man shook his head. “Way outta your league. I heard some of them cost as much as fifty big ones.”
The taller man shifted his attention to his companion and Soda sucked in a silent breath. “If I had me a dawg like that…”
The shorter man guffawed. “You wouldn’t know what to do with it. Them things are the devil’s own dogs. One of them would eat you up, bro. Come on. I’ll buy you a beer.”
They sauntered away into the dark created by busted street lights. Snatches of their words faded until only the hum of the traffic from nearby streets filled the air. A couple of minutes later, a truck roared. Soda shuffled to the edge of the cracked sidewalk and watched as a block north a large, dark colored pick up pulled into the street. She waited until she could no longer see the red of the taillights before she hustled across the potholed asphalt.
Hand on the dumpster side she let her head drop back until she stared up at the faded sky. “Why am I doing this? It’s not going to change anything. She’s dead, or they wouldn’t have thrown her away.” A lump swelled in her throat. She swallowed hard. Taking a deep breath, she tried to steel herself for what she knew lay in the garbage. With an exhale, she clambered up the side of the dumpster. Balanced on the inches-wide lip of cold metal, she stared down as the odor of rotted food wafted up to her. Pale light glinted off black plastic bags of garbage.
The dog had landed on top of several black bags. “You poor dog,” she said as tears quickened in her eyes. She readied to hop off the metal container then stopped. Holding her breath, she leaned forward. A faint movement caught her eyes.
Without hesitation, she dropped into the garbage and waded to the animal. One dark eye blinked slowly up at her. “Poor baby.” She eased down close to the dog. Papers rustled and a puff of something rancid reached her nose. She ignored it. Gently lifting the dog’s head, she scooted her legs underneath and laid the big head on her lap. A whine whispered from the dog. With light fingers, she stroked the dog’s face between gaping wounds. At least, the bleeding had stopped. A pink tongue slowly snaked out and rasped along Soda’s hand.
Even in the faded light from the street lamps, she could tell that the dog’s coat had once been a sable color, a mix of light brown and black hairs. Now a spray of drying and dried blood matted the fur with dark splotches. One of the muscled forelegs had been gashed and the muscle ripped open. The jagged point of bloodied bone jutted out of the skin. The dog had once been a beautiful animal with a well-built body that looked bigger than most German Shepherds that Soda had seen, but it was definitely a German Shepherd. She’d always loved the regal look of German Shepherd dogs.
Another shuddering breath pushed the dog’s ribs up and down. Soda swallowed back her tears as she recalled a lullaby that her mom had sung to her when she was young and had awakened from a bad dream. She petted the dog’s big head and stroked her side as she sang in a quavering, soft voice. Before she’d finished the song, the dog licked her hand once more, looked into Soda’s eyes and breathed her last.
Tears coasted down her cheeks as she wiggled out from under the dog’s head and laid it on a pillow of garbage. She reached out and stroked the still side. “Maybe you’ll see my mom when you cross the Rainbow Bridge, girl.” Jaw clenched, she struggled to her feet. With the sleeve of her hoodie, she scrubbed the tears away.
She had always loved dogs. Had one that had died a month before her mother died; a little dog shelter mutt, but Soda had loved Cindy. After her mother passed, she was glad that Cindy had died of old age first. She couldn’t have taken care of Cindy while she lived on the streets and she wouldn’t have left her dog alone with her abusive stepfather.
Fists knotted at her sides, she vowed that even though she was only a street kid she’d do something! She didn’t know what, but she would do something to stop those assholes from slaughtering any more dogs.
Be the Light in the Dark this Holiday Season.
The Little #Angel Who Couldn’t Sing: A #Family Christmas Story
Written by Betty Matney Edited by Aya Walksfar
Little Angel huddled, shivering and sobbing, in the shadow of a large bank of dirty clouds outside of Heaven’s Gate. Gusts of cold north wind tugged at his mud-spattered robe and tangled the feathers of his wings, forcing him to burrow deeper into his hiding place. He knew he should get up and go home, but he couldn’t face his friends. If it didn’t get any colder, he’d sneak home after dark.
Suddenly, he stopped crying and raised his head to listen. Voices drifted across the clouds. He curled into a tighter ball and lay very still. He didn’t want any of the angels to find him.
A deep voice spoke briskly. “I tell you I heard someone crying.”
There was a mumbled response he couldn’t hear very well.
Even closer this time, the deep voice said, “I know how happy everyone is, but I also know crying when I hear it.”
Whoever it was they were nearly at his bank of clouds. He covered his head with his wings and held his breath.
Big feet shuffled to a stop. “What do we have here?”
Little Angel slowly raised his head and peeked over the edge of his wing. His blue eyes popped wide. God Himself stood looking down at him.
Holding his long, gray, wind-tossed hair out of His eyes with one hand, He bent over and held His other hand out to the little angel. “Come out of there, little one.”
He lowered his wing and God pulled him out of his hole. He stood there, robe wrinkled and dirty, gold halo tilted over his right ear, eyes cast down. God knelt on one knee. With a finger under his chin, He lifted his face. “How old are you, little one?”
Little Angel mumbled, “Seven years old, Sir.”
“On the day when joy is almost tearing this old place apart, why are you down here alone and crying?” Gently, He wiped the tears away with the end of the green sash wrapped around His waist.
Little Angel bit his trembling lower lip to keep from crying again.
God twisted His head around and looked up at the other adult angel. “Aren’t all the angels practicing their singing for the performance tonight?”
The other angel looked flustered. “Yes, Sir. They are supposed to be, Sir.”
God turned His kindly eyes on the little angel. “Does that have something to do with why you’re crying?”
Tears filled Little Angel’s eyes as he nodded. “I…I can’t…” He sniffled and wiped his nose with the sleeve of his robe. “I can’t sing!” Tears spilled down his cheeks. “The chorus master said I can’t carry a tune. I should just fly around and hum, but I shouldn’t hum too loud.” He threw his arm across his face and wailed into his sleeve. “I don’t want to just hum! I want to do something important like everyone else!”
God sighed and pushed to His feet. He patted the little angel on the head. “Of course, you do.”
He dropped his arm and stared up at God. God stood there stroking His thick, white beard. Finally, God smiled. He reached over and plucked a few pieces of dirty cloud from the little angel’s red curls. “You go get cleaned up and meet me at the Pearly Gates in an hour.”
As he took off running, God shouted, “And straighten up that halo!”
Little Angel skidded to a halt in front of God, jolting his halo into a tilt over his right ear.
God reached over and straightened it up. “You look much better, except you seemed to have missed a few spots on your face.” God ran a thumb over the little angel’s cheeks.
He giggled. “Those are freckles.”
God smiled. “Ah, so they are.”
Little Angel fidgeted.
God chuckled. “Anxious to find out what you’re doing. Frankly,” God’s Voice got very serious. “I don’t know how we overlooked this task. It is very important.”
He lifted his chin and drew his shoulders back.
“Do you have your sack of stardust?”
He nodded and lifted the small, red velvet sack hanging from the robe’s tie.
God leaned over and whispered in the little angel’s ear.
Little Angel’s wings drooped. “The donkey? That’s a dumb job.”
God frowned. “Remember who the donkey is carrying, but the donkey is small. It is important that he have some help with his burden. Will you help him?”
He looked up at God with wide eyes. “Yes, sir.” Little Angel took off running towards a hole in the clouds that would let him drop to earth quickly. Just as he was diving through, God yelled, “And straighten up that halo!”
Little Angel stood on the side of the road leading to Bethlehem. Overhead a zillion stars shone, but down here it was dark and cold. He shivered and pulled his wings around himself.
From around a curve in the road the sound of hooves clip-clopped along the frozen ground. The small donkey staggered a few steps before he caught himself. A woman, wrapped in a blue cape, rode the small creature while a man with a staff walked beside them. The man walked slowly, now and then patting the donkey’s short neck. “What a brave little beast you are.”
The donkey’s winter coat was long and fuzzy and very black. Patches of white hair that matched the hair on its belly filled its long ears. It was young, not much more than a baby, really. And so tired that sometimes its nose dragged the ground.
As the three drew alongside Little Angel, the donkey stopped. The man rubbed its ears and stood beside it.
Little Angel walked over and placed a hand on its halter. The donkey’s big dark eyes lifted to him and then it groaned. “I don’t know how much longer I can go on.”
“I will help you.” Little Angel took the red sack from his belt and knelt. He dipped his fingertips inside. When he took them out, they shone with silvery powder. He swiftly rubbed all four hooves with the silvery powder. “Take a few steps and see if that helps. Bethlehem is just over that hill.” He pointed towards a small hill in the distance.
The donkey nodded. “I’ll try.” As he stepped forward, he added, “Your halo is crooked.”
He straightened up his halo as the donkey took the first short, slow steps. He twitched his long ears then gave a joyful bray. “My feet don’t hurt!”
Little Angel jogged next to the trotting donkey as it nimbly skirted the frozen puddles along the road. Very soon they reached Bethlehem. Little Angel waited beside the donkey as the man inquired for a room at inn after inn. Every place was full until finally only one inn was left. The man sagged with fatigue as he walked to the last door.
The donkey sighed as the man stood talking to the landlord. “I need something to eat and some water and a place to rest pretty soon. My feet are hurting again.”
Little Angel hugged the donkey. “I’m sure this is the place we are to stop. There’s a stable out back.”
He turned and looked at the woman sitting quietly on the donkey. Body bent with tiredness, she sagged as if she could barely stay seated. He was really glad she hadn’t had to walk. Turning, he gave the donkey another hug. “You are so brave and good,” he whispered to the donkey.
The donkey raised its black nose to Little Angel’s ear. “The woman’s going to have a baby. I didn’t think she could walk very far, so I had to try to keep walking for her.” The donkey sighed. “Did you know about the baby?”
He scratched the donkey’s ear. “Yes, I knew about the baby.”
When the man returned, he led the donkey to the stable behind the inn. He helped the woman off and spread his own cloak over her as she lay down on a pile of straw. After she was settled, he took the donkey into another stall to feed and water the animal before returning to the woman, his wife.
Little Angel sat in the corner of the stall as the donkey ate and then tucked its legs under it and lay down. “Don’t sleep too soundly,” he cautioned. “The celebration will be starting soon.”
He had just finished speaking when a baby cried. He rushed to the wall and peeked through the space between two boards. Eyes wide, he watched as the man wrapped the baby in a warm blanket and laid it in the manger next to where the woman lay. The man stood between the manger and the woman, smiling first at one and then at the other. The woman’s face shone with happiness as she gazed at her husband and then at the Infant Boy.
The donkey stood next to Little Angel, staring through the crack. “She’s had her baby.”
From far away and above them, singing drifted on the air. The donkey looked up. “What’s that?”
A grin stretched Little Angel’s face as he, too, looked up. “Those are the angels singing to the shepherds out in the hills. They are telling them to come to the stable and behold the Child that was born.”
He dropped his eyes to the donkey. “I have to leave now.”
The donkey nodded. “Thank you. I don’t know if I could have made it all this way by myself.”
He gave the donkey a warm hug around its shaggy neck. “Everyone needs help sometimes.”
As he flew upwards, the donkey called, “Hey! Your halo is….”
He raised both hands and straightened his halo as he flew into the night. In the distance, he heard the final chorus and, all alone, Little Angel began to hum. As he flew higher, his humming grew louder until, unable to contain his joy, he burst into song. In a loud, happy voice, and slightly off-key, he added his own heavenly welcome to the Baby lying in the manger.
Though I am not Christian, I post this story every year to honor my friend and Elder Betty Matney who Journeyed to the Other Side years ago. I know she would want to share her story will all of you; and since she Gifted it to me, I will say the words she would say–
Share this story with anyone you choose to share it with; make copies and give them to others, but please give attribution to Betty Matney.
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IF ANY OF THESE LINKS DO NOT FUNCTION OR IF THE PRICES AT ANY OF THESE RETAILERS ARE DIFFERENT, PLEASE CONTACT ME WITH RETAILER, LINK USED, PRICE, OR OTHER PROBLEM EXPERIENCED. YOU CAN REACH ME AT email@example.com Thanks! Have a GREAT READ!
- Thanksgiving isn’t a day–it’s an attitude!
- Have you made your Gratitude List today?
- If I can choose between living in the dark of despair or stepping into the light of hope, why would I choose the dark? Each day we have that choice.
- If you’re having a really bad day and can’t think of anything to be grateful for, stop and hold your breath. When you take your next breath, inhale with gratitude. This was really brought home to me when our elder Betty’s emphysema got really bad. Sometimes, I felt like I struggled with her as she tried to catch that next breath.
- Dwell in beauty, so that beauty may dwell in you.
- Be the reason someone else is grateful!
- A dog’s love never fails. If you own a dog, you always have a reason to be grateful.
- Remembering to be grateful for the small things in life is good for your health. Gratitude reduces stress!
- Smiles are contagious!
- Why wait for Thanksgiving? Give thanks every day!
May you and yours find many things to be celebrate this Thanksgiving Day, and every day.
10 Ways to Tell if Someone is an Author
1. Do they often hear voices in their head?
2. Do they see things that don’t exist, like unicorns and dragons?
3. Do they sometimes suddenly laugh with no apparent reason?
4. Do they spend a lot of time thinking up ways to kill people?
5. Do they write pages about steamy love affairs?
6. Do they sometimes speak with different accents?
7. Do they always having their nose in a book?
8. Do they know more about alien worlds than they do about their own neighborhood?
9. Do they sometimes forget and invite their main character to dinner?
10. Do they frequently walk around with a faraway look in their eyes?
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After a busy summer of bike-tripping, I made one last five-day trip to Colorado. I’d never been to the state, except to pass through on my way to someplace else. One of the places I visited was Estes Park.
Eleven thousand plus feet took me from eighty degree weather to finger-numbing cold on the Colorado tundra!
The next day, my companions and I hiked up into the hills of a place call Red Feather.
My hiking companions: my daughter, Lyn, and my grand-dog, Raven.
Many of the rock formations looked like a giant had carved them.
And trees grew out of stone.
Though I loved seeing new places and wondrous things (to view more photos from Colorado, go to http://www.pinterest.com/ayawalksfar)it was good to return home and get back to writing! #AmWriting a literary novel to be released in early 2016: Beyond the Silence.
Barb Hensen always felt different. Trapped in an abusive marriage, she is slowly killing herself; and, the only hope she has is that her death won’t be long in coming. The day she meets Yona Long Runner Barb’s life is forever changed. At last, she understands her feelings of “differentness”. As she struggles to accept herself and her growing attraction to Yona, the abuse in her marriage escalates to an intolerable level. Now, she must choose between living and dying.
Meanwhile, the Vampire War is heating up! #AmWriting the second book of The Vampire Wars–The Return of Arundia (this is the working title only. The actual title may be different). Serena Longer, the First Councilwoman of the North American Region, faces deadly foes.
My readers are important to me. This short survey will help me decide on the content of this blog and the newsletter.
A SHORT SURVEY
What would you like to read on this blog and in the newsletter?
1. First chapter(s)of published books?
2. First chapter(s)of upcoming books?
3. Background stories of main characters?
4. Background stories of main and supporting characters?
5. Research that was done in the course of writing the books?
6. More background stories about the author?
7. Some of the reasons/motivations that moved the author to write certain books?
8. More image quotes?
9. Other:________________________________(please specify, or give an example)
PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW ON WHAT YOU WANT TO READ AND I WILL TRY TO INCLUDE IT! THANKS!
The Heart Dog
If you’re really lucky, once in a lifetime, a heart dog will come into your life. These are more than companions, more than pets, more than a loving animal–they are the dogs who connect to our souls; who enlarge our hearts and give us the strength to face whatever may come. They are the dogs who come to us in our times of greatest need; in our times of greatest change.
I’ve been fortunate. Three such dogs have come into my life. One, a Black Lab whom I thought I was rescuing from a shelter, rescued me many times during a troubled childhood. The second, a Pit Bull, came to me in my thirties as my life underwent major, drastic changes.
Si?ab, my Muse, came to me also during a time of great changes. Heart dogs teach us; they give us the strength to move forward in our lives. She is often in my office as I scribble out the stories within the pages of my books. Her beauty of soul has fueled many of my words. When I get discouraged, she makes me smile. She is unwavering in her love.
And tomorrow, she may leave me.
Thursday a tumor was discovered on Si?ab’s spleen. It measured six inches wide and six inches long on the xray. A blood test didn’t detect cancer, but the vet said it might not even if cancer is present. So, at six o’clock tomorrow morning Si?ab and I will get in the car and drive to the vet’s. There she will undergo abdominal surgery. If all goes well, if this tumor is benign her spleen will be removed and she will go home with me. If the tumor is clearly cancerous, she may never wake up. It is a difficult choice, but long ago I swore I would never extend the suffering of someone I loved in order to avoid my own suffering.
She is my heart dog, a dog whose soul is entwined with my own.
Regardless of how the surgery turns out tomorrow, I will be out of touch for at least a week, most likely two weeks. If it turns out well, I will post the results.
By Aya Walksfar
Sixty-eight-year old Marybelle Brown pushed the rattling grocery cart filled with plastic bags of aluminum cans through the square next to the #Seattle Aquarium. That summer vendors had hawked sparkling necklaces and handmade toys and flamboyant scarves. Now it lay beneath the full moon, deserted except for a few pigeons huddled on a low wall near the water. Moving slowly so she wouldn’t disturb their rest, she made her way over and leaned against the cold concrete. She’d always loved Puget Sound. The gentle lap of the waves soothed her.
After a few minutes, she turned her cart and headed across the empty space. In the center stood a twelve-foot tall #Christmas tree. Red and green lights twinkled amid the plastic ornaments and glittering tinsel. Marybelle gazed up at it, at the star blazing white on the top. At last, she sighed in contentment and moved on.
Today had been a wonderful Christmas Eve. She’d found three partially eaten cheeseburgers in one of McDonald’s trashcans. They were stashed in the ragged canvas shoulder bag along with French fries from a dumpster and two, whole pieces of cod from Ivar’s trash. A smile sat lightly on her cracked and chapped lips. Tonight she would feast! She patted the side of the shoulder bag and felt the bottle of Starbucks mocha and the bottle of Arrowhead water that a kind man had given to her with a smile and a Merry Christmas. Yes, tonight she would feast.
She bent her head back and gazed upward. Stars flung across the black heavens. Some people likened the stars to diamonds on black velvet, but she knew better. The stars were all the souls who had gone ahead, smiling down on those they’d left behind. Someday when it was time for her to leave this bent and painful body, she’d fly up there and be with them. Her momma and granny would be waiting. She wondered if the critters she had nursed would be there. Of course, they would! Her granny had told her that the souls of animals always went to the Bright Place because they lived as God intended.
She shuffled along. Time to get to her spot under the viaduct. Thick blackberry bushes hid the hole she’d dug out up against where the concrete met the earth. It had taken her a long time to make a roomy depression in that hard ground with a broken shovel. Hidden at the far back of the hole were all of her most precious belongings, safe from discovery by others, safe from the rain.
She crossed the quiet street and the cart jarred over the trolley tracks. Where cars parked during the day was mostly deserted now and filled with deeper shadows. The fat round concrete pillars that held up the overhead roadway too often hid bad things. She veered away, cornering her eye so she could keep watch while she passed.
As Marybelle came abreast of one spot of darkness a darker shadow moved within it. Her heart leaped into her throat. Her chest constricted with panic and squeezed the breath from her lungs. There! Who’s there? Her feet froze as her mind shouted, “Run!”
Just as her feet started to move, a whimper floated out of that darkness. The loneliness in that small sound dragged at her heart. “Leave, Marybelle. You can’t help whoever it is.”
In spite of herself, her hands left the cart and her feet shuffled toward the darkness. Her heart galloped like a crazed horse. “ Oh, Lord, I feel like my heart’s gonna bust.”
As she drew closer, a stray beam of moonlight shone against the pillar. Crumpled at the base of that cylinder of concrete lay a black dog. It lifted forlorn eyes to her face. The very tip of its tail tapped the ground twice then stopped like that was all the energy the poor thing had.
In her mind the years fell away and she once again saw her momma open the door of their tiny apartment. “Oh, Marybelle, you can’t help every critter you see,” her momma’s gentle hands tending to Marybelle’s latest rescue belied her words. Momma and granny had always tried to save the animals she dragged home–starved and beaten and broken.
She edged closer and the dog cringed, trying to melt into the ground. She knew the feeling. Carefully, she lowered herself to her achy knees. Never looking directly at the dog, she held out a hand. “It’s alright. I know just how you feel.” The dog’s body relaxed and it stretched its black nose toward her hand. “That’s it, little one. Come on over to Marybelle.”
She slid her shoulder bag to the ground then dug around until her hand touched the wrapping of one of the half-eaten burgers. Eyes still averted, she held a small bite on the palm of her outstretched hand. The dog sniffed the air and gave an anxious whine. “I know. It’s scary, but honestly, this is for you.”
The cold seeped through the three pairs of thin pants and chilled her arthritic knees. Still, she knelt there, hand out in offering. The dog stretched its neck toward the food. It crept one step, two steps. Now Marybelle could see the ribs jutting out under the patchy hide.
“Poor thing,” she crooned.
The dog trembled as it came close enough to snatch the food. It took the rest of the burger for the poor thing to creep close enough for Marybelle to put her arms around it. The dog was big, bigger than her German Shepherd had been. She felt the resistance of its stiff body, but kept humming and stroking one hand down its thin side. At last, the tension drained from it and it nestled against her chest.
After a while, she gave its sharp nose a kiss. “Gotta git up, little girl. My knees don’t like this kneeling.” She pulled a ragged wool scarf from around her neck and made the dog a soft collar and leash.
At her hideaway, Marybelle laid out the sleeping bag that a young, white girl had given her that past fall. She never carried this precious gift for fear of it being taken from her. But every night since early fall she’d blessed that child, and wished her well as she fell asleep. The dog immediately curled up on one side, the shivers wracking its body subsiding.
She sat next to the dog and lit the stub of a candle she’d found and saved for a special occasion. This surely was a most special occasion. “We’re safe here, Dog. With all the blackberry bushes around us and being way up under here, no one wants to crawl this far back.” She draped the two blankets she had scrounged from a Goodwill donation box around her shoulders and over Dog’s back.
From her handbag, she took the food and set it on the sleeping bag in front of them. She filled her dented quart pot with the bottled water and set it in front of Dog. She raised her head and drank deeply as Marybelle opened the bottle of Starbucks Mocha Coffee drink. She tapped the bottle against the pot rim. “Here’s to our friendship, Dog.”
Carefully, she divided the hamburgers, the fries, the fish: half for her, half for dog. Dog quickly ate her half, but sat politely, not begging for Marybelle’s food. She took all but one piece of the fish and laid it in front of the gray muzzle. “Merry Christmas, Dog.”
Dog cocked her head and fixed her clouded eyes on the old woman. “Go on, Dog. An old woman like me don’t need so much food. Probably would make me sick to eat all of that. This piece of fish’ll do me just fine.”
Feast over she stuffed the trash in the paper bag and set it to one side. She lay down and Dog cuddled against her chest. With the blankets spread over the two of them and the sleeping bag zipped she draped a sleep heavy arm over the old dog’s side. “This has been a lovely Christmas Eve, Dog. Thank you.”
Singing woke Marybelle. Beautiful singing that called to her. She opened her eyes and got to her feet. Dog leaned her head against Marybelle’s leg. A bridge lay before them. Dog looked up with cataract whitened eyes and whined. She took a step toward the bridge and twisted her gray muzzle over her shoulder as if to say, “Come on.”
The bridge shone like a golden light lit it from within. Marybelle shivered. Fear rose up and wrapped chains around her legs. Dog padded back to her side. She pushed her cold black nose against the palm of Marybelle’s hand and gazed up at her. “Oh, Dog, I know you wanna go that way, but I…I can’t.”
Dog sat next to Marybelle’s leg and sighed. She rubbed the old dog’s grizzled fur and knelt in front of her. Staring into the dog’s dimmed eyes, she cradled the gray muzzle between her knarled and arthritis twisted hands. “I know you want to go that way. And…and it’s probably a good place, Dog. But, I…” she inhaled a deep breath and let it ease from her. “I know it’s a good place, Dog. I can feel it; like I know you can, too. But, I don’t deserve to go there.”
Dog flicked out a warm wet tongue and licked the tears that traced the lines of Marybelle’s weathered face. She pressed her face against Dog’s then kissed her muzzle and stood up. She took a half step away from Dog.
Courage gathered like a tattered garment, she looked into Dog’s eyes. “I can’t go there, Dog. I haven’t been a good person. There’s things…” she glanced away and swallowed the lump in her throat. When she looked back, she blinked away the tears. “There’s things I’ve done; things I’ve said that were wrong. I’ve…I’ve hurt people. Over there,” she raised a thin arm and waved toward the shining bridge. “Over there is for good people, people like you, Dog. Go on. You deserve to be there.” She turned and moved away from the dog.
She’d only gone a few steps before she felt the cold nose against her dangling hand. She squatted next to the dog. “Oh, Dog.” She buried her face in the brittle black fur. When she lifted her face, she hugged the dog and stood. “Looks like you aren’t going to go, if I don’t.” Heart pounding, she gave a slight nod as if confirming her own decision. “I’ll go with you, Dog, because you deserve to be over there.”
Dog pressed tight against her leg as they walked onto the glowing bridge. The golden light enveloped them, warmed them.
Halfway across the bridge Marybelle stopped and gazed over the railing. Below, a broad, placid river flowed. As they drew nearer to the far side, a beautiful meadow ablaze with blue and yellow and orange flowers rolled out as far as she could see. Her eyes rounded.
When they reached the end of the bridge, a melodic voice spoke. “I see you’ve helped her to Cross, Dog. I knew you could. Well done.”
Marybelle raised her eyes and gazed into the milk chocolate face and dark chocolate eyes. “Momma?”
The woman spread her arms and Marybelle ran into them.
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PHOTO CREDITS: Old dog–Anne Lowe Christmas tree–Anna Langova (all-free-download.com)