by Pony Tale
What Mr. Johnson did will make you cry.
"Buddy, Buddy!!" I screamed.
No matter how hard I tried, my voice would not penetrate the wind that was blowing across the Johnson's field. I tried again, over and over.
Gobs of tumbleweed bounced over the prairie grass, appearing as if from out of nowhere as they blew over the rolling hills. I was choking back the tears that were burning in my eyes, and my throat was tight from the dust and fear.
Where could that dog be? Why wouldn't he come? Buddy, a black and silver German Shepherd, had been my closest friend from the time my dad had first brought him home to me as a pup. That was five years ago, when I was ten. I was the one who had named him. I fed him, groomed him, and exercised him daily. We were inseparable. Friends and family always said you couldn't find Ben without Buddy at his heels.
I knew better than to venture past the Johnson's farm. I knew I should have taken Buddy home the other way, past the cornfields. I just knew there'd be trouble. Now I was sorry for not listening to my better judgement.
The Johnson's have a black and tan German Shepherd named Scowler. As his name suggests, the animal is mean. There is only one other living being who is meaner, and that is Mr Johnson, himself.
I leaned forward, against the wind, and put my hand up to keep the icy blasts off my forehead. I could barely walk, let alone talk, but I kept yelling for Buddy anyway.
Suddenly, I thought I heard a noise. I couldn't be sure, for it was hard to decipher any real sound from the scrambling wind against my ears, and the frantic rustling of the leaves in the cottonwoods. I stopped walking and turned, putting the wind to my back.
Sure enough, there it was again. I couldn't quite make it out, but as I listened, I thought I heard the sound of someone, or something, approaching. There was a slight crunching sound, and a flicking of something moving against the grass. Could it be Buddy?
"Buddy? Is that you, old pal?" I asked, hopefully.
I heard the sound again, only this time it was closer and I could swear it was the sound of paws on the dry ground.
"Buddy?" Oh please, God, I prayed, let it be Buddy!! I'll do anything, please, let it be Buddy!
I heard a snarl break through the buffeting winds like a flame in the darkness and for one fleeting moment I felt the hairs rise on the back of my neck. Then panic swept through me like a flood.
I looked toward the guttural sound that had caught my attention, but I could hardly open my eyes against the wind. Dust wafted up from the agitated ground and blew into my eyes.
Something big and heavy lunged at me.
"Bud . . . “ My voice trailed off as I felt the clenching of sharp teeth on my forearm. I suddenly felt sick from the pain that tore through me. I screamed. As I fell to the ground, I heard another noise. I tried to squint through the dust and wind. The teeth that had been holding me by the arm, let go, and I heard growling just above my ear.
All around me the trees were tossing and shaking, their shadows, moving mosaics, writhing on the ground, and in the middle of the chaos I could just make out a pair of shapes. One was unmistakably Buddy. The other, to my horror, was Scowler.
"Buddy!" I screamed, knowing it would go unheard, for the wind carried my voice across the field and over the hills.
Then I heard another sound. It was the shout of a human voice which stood out unmistakably against nature's chaotic diatribe.
As the sound ricocheted against the trees, the hills, and the ground, I was suddenly given a clear view of the scuffling dogs before me. Scowler had just pulled back on his powerful haunches, mouth open, greedily, as Buddy started to lunge towards him.
With dust flying in every direction, and visibility coming in snatches, I caught a glimpse of, first, tail, then, shoulder, as fur flew everywhere, accompanied by specks of blood, and flashing fangs, and as the wind continued in its complete disorderly fashion, I suddenly felt very weak and exhausted.
Then, suddenly, Buddy gave one final effort which caught Scowler by the throat, and with one powerful snap of his jaws, Buddy took the shepherd down for the final count.
As if nature called for her subjects to lend a moment of reprieve for the death of the dog, for one brief moment there was silence.
Then the winds picked up again and the dust began to blow and the trees began to carry on as before.
Tears that had been welling up inside my eyes began to flow freely down my dust-covered face. My arm was aching and I could barely move.
“Hey, you!” Mr Johnson stood before me, towering over me with his head in the sun. “Your mongrel just killed my dog!”
I tried to lift my hand to my eyes to protect them from the wind, but it was no use. Even trying to muster a reply was difficult.
The trees behind the large man were bending and twisting in the wind, and as they continued to pummel, Mr Johnson began to move. He raised his shotgun and looking down the barrel, and aimed the thing at Buddy.
“No!” I cried.
Suddenly, I found the strength I had been lacking.
“He saved my life! Look at my arm! Your dog tried to kill me! Buddy saved my life!”
I heard the gun cock as the unlistening man drew back the hammer.
I reached for Buddy, but he was gone.
Suddenly fearing for my own life, I staggered to my feet. Slowly I headed for home. I wanted to call for my dog, but still fearful of the man who lurked behind me, I didn’t dare. My only hope was that Buddy was already on his way back home.
Tumbleweed was trembling against the wire fencing all along the property as I continued down the road, past the fields of prairie grass where cattle grazed interspersed in its brittle fingers.
I had adopted the same posture I had taken earlier, bending against the wind with my hand over my forehead. I passed a cottonwood and glanced up for a moment. Something moving far off across the field caught my attention.
It was an animal, and as I watched, I could slowly make out the color and shape of Buddy. His head was low to the ground, and he was limping.
My heart, wrenching, tore at my throat, and I ached to call out to him. Yet I feared the man with the gun was still stalking my dog, and I didn’t dare raise my voice against the relentless wind.
Oh, please, please, let him just go home! Please, don’t let Mr Johnson see him! I silently pleaded to God.
The dog was moving in the same direction with me, and as I went, I kept watching his progress through the wind and the wild cottonwoods that shook in the distance between us.
Suddenly, the dog changed direction. He must have caught sign of me, for he began to pick up speed. I watched to be certain, and before long I could see that he was surely heading in my direction.
The man with the gun, as I had feared, was not far behind. He, too, watched as the dog limped ever closer to me. For the second time that day, Mr Johnson raised his gun to his eye.
The shot came like a scream in the night.
The dog never knew what hit him.
Broadsided, he sprawled out on the dry ground. The wind howled in his lifeless ears.