Rated: ASR · Short Story · Contest Entry · #1711905
A dog, a dream, and a discovery.
|“That one! That’s the puppy I want!” |
The little boy wove his fingers through the chain link fence, trying to pet the cinnamon coat of a small puppy curled up on a dirty bed in the back corner of his crate. The dog lifted its head slightly and gave the boy’s fingers a half-hearted sniff.
“Well, he’s a pretty puppy,” the boy’s mother conceded, “but he doesn’t seem very lively.” Her eyes traveled down the line of crates where dozens of puppies bounced, begging for attention, love, a new home. “Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer one of those puppies, Billy?” She pointed a manicured finger towards a litter of perfectly playful Golden Retrievers.
The boy shook his head back and forth so fast that his mother thought it might fly right off his neck. “No way,” Billy cried. “He’s the one I want.”
The woman who worked at the shelter bent down on one knee until she was eye level with Billy. “That’s a very special puppy. His name is Augie and he’s a Vizsla, a special breed of dog. He was found all alone, and ever since he got here, he’s been acting very sad. He has nightmares at night, and sometimes he wakes up crying.”
What the woman didn’t tell the boy was that the bodies of Augie’s brothers and sisters had been found too. The puppies had been tied to a tree with rough rope, and left to die. Only Augie had managed to wiggle free and find water. Animal Services had found him lying asleep next to the tree, where his dead brothers and sisters remained.
As the little boy’s eyes danced over the shiny coat of the sorrowful puppy, he saw only his new best friend.
“Can I hold him?”
* * *
Billy snuggled under his plaid comforter and hugged Augie’s soft warmth into the crook of his arm. The puppy rested his chin on the boy’s elbow and let out a small sigh. The dog’s eyes were spread wide, scanning every corner of the room as if he was waiting for something to spring from the shadows.
“It’s okay Augie,” Billy whispered to the puppy. “It’s safe here. You don’t have to be afraid anymore.” He pressed his face into the warmth of Augie’s neck and fell asleep.
Billy dreamed of a green meadow glowing silver in the moonlight. Fingers of grass spread from the edge of a highway to the edge of the forest. A piercing yelp split through the silence, and Billy turned to see a small cinnamon puppy standing on the fringe of the forest. The puppy barked and whined, continually looking back over his shoulder.
“Augie?” Billy whispered, his voice shaky with confusion. The puppy stopped barking and stood perfectly still, his eyes drilling holes into the boy’s chest. Then he sprinted off into the forest.
Billy knew instantly that he had to follow. He took off through the woods, peering through the darkness, leaping over roots and brush until he stumbled to a stop in front of a large tree. The tree was wrapped with thick fraying rope that had been cut in several places. He almost choked on his own tongue when he realized the dark reddish-brown stains on the ropes were smears of dried blood.
Another bark ripped through the silence of the forest, bringing Billy out of his horrified reverie. He followed the sound of Augie’s voice until he found his puppy sitting next to a large fallen tree trunk encrusted with emerald moss. In a small hollow at the base of the trunk lay a second cinnamon puppy, asleep, its chest barely rising and falling with each shallow breath.
He heard Augie bark again as everything blurred to blackness.
Billy’s eyes sprung open, his heart pounding like a snare drum in his throat. He struggled to swallow it back into his chest. Augie was spinning circles on his bed and barking, his tail wagging back and forth. Billy added his voice to that of his dog, and their yells reverberated through the house.
* * *
“Come on, Mom! Quick! She’s this way!”
Billy stepped out of the car and set Augie on the ground. The puppy tore off into the woods, and Billy’s legs seemed to follow of their own accord. He raced between two tall trees and into the blackness of the forest, tripping over roots and brush with every step.
He could hear his mother’s terrified voice calling through the woods as she tried to keep up. “Billy! Wait! Slow down!” Billy ran even faster. His pulse quickened as he saw the haunted tree bathed in moonlight, but he kept running.
Augie sat at the base of the tree trunk exactly where Billy knew he would be. He fell to his knees, not caring as his jeans soaked up the nighttime dew. The second cinnamon puppy lay curled in the hollow exactly as she had been in his dream, chest barely rising with each shallow breath. Her eyes opened and peered blearily up at Billy. Ignoring her exhaustion, the puppy tried to wag her tail as she looked past him and recognized Augie.
Billy could hear his mother crashing through the woods and screeching to a halt behind him. She stood perfectly still as she watched her son reach out to the small puppy. She had been certain Billy’s plea was nothing but a dream, but he had cried and screamed and dragged her to the car until it became more work to refuse than it was to go.
She stared at her son, her chest aching with eerie wonder and disbelief. She could barely find her voice to ask, “Billy, how on earth did you know?”
Billy swept his hands over the smooth coats of his new puppies.
“Augie told me.”
* * *
9/28/10 Winner of:
Prompt: Write a STORY or POEM about adopting a Vizsla puppy from a local shelter -- his name is Augie, and he's had a rough start to his life until now, when you take him to his forever home with you. The title of your item MUST be "Augie"
Word Count: 965
Published in the March 2011 edition of The Victorian Press .
Featured in: "Action/Adventure Newsletter (April 27, 2011)"