From the Archives: Faith’s Adventure – All 8 Stories
Partly true, partly fictional. 8 very short stories about Ken and his dog faith. Suitable for all ages. Please note: story “Faith Loses a Friend” may need parental guidance for younger children.
From the Archives: Faith’s Adventure – All 8 Stories
Partly true, partly fictional. 8 very short stories about Ken and his dog faith. Suitable for all ages. Please note: story “Faith Loses a Friend” may need parental guidance for younger children.
‘This is the Police. Come out with your hands in the air!’
Three police cars parked strategically around the front of the gas station. The alarm had been activated and the police were called in. There had been a spate of break-ins and they had finally caught the culprit in the act. Firearms used in the previous two robberies made the police nervous. They guarded themselves behind their cars where the faint smell of body odour and heated engine oil mingled. Neighbours awakened by the early dawn invasion, gathered cautiously outside their homes to observe the commotion.
‘Do you hear me? This is Police Officer Brody. Come out with your hands up!’
The door opened slowly, revealing a small laced-up boot. The officers dropped down behind their vehicles, guns cocked.
‘Please don’t shoot’, a quiet trembling voice responded.
The door opened a little further and an elderly woman hobbled out. She was stooped low and walked with a cane.
‘What the…? Please step out into the open and put down your—cane.’
She dropped the cane and raised her hands as far as her skinny arms would allow.
Officer Brody stepped forward to access the situation. He motioned Police Officer Mandy Walters to carry out a search. Brody steadied the shaken old lady with his powerful hand under her elbow. Officer Walters placed the crooked walking stick back into an arthritic hand. She obviously didn’t want to embarrass the startled petite woman any further by searching her.
With an indignant expression, the woman faced the officer in charge. ‘I think there has been a mistake. You see, I left my keys in the bathroom and when I went back in, I noticed I had grease on my clothes.’ She rubbed at the spot on her weathered skirt.
‘I tried to wash it, but I had to take it off because the skirt wouldn’t reach the faucet. I locked myself in so no one would disturb me. Unfortunately, I think the nice man at the counter must have closed up for the night and didn’t realize I was still there.’
‘Where is your car?’
‘Sir! I don’t own a car. That’s my motorcycle.’ She lifted her cane and pointed with her bent fingers past the police cars and confused police officers. A Harley Davison that sheltered under an ancient oak tree glistened in the morning sunlight.
‘I find this all hard to believe. Tell me how you were in there all night without triggering the alarm?’
‘Well, you see…. I sat on the toilet seat to adjust my tights and I slipped off into the corner. I was stuck and didn’t have the energy to get up until this morning. When I left the bathroom, I was aware that I couldn’t get out so I shook the door. That pesky alarm just kept screaming at me.’
Brody scratched his head, completely mesmerized while she shuffled towards the Harley across the road. She mounted the motorcycle with a little difficulty, but unwavering. She placed an opened-face helmet over her greying, outdated hairstyle.
Using her key, the engine started up with a roar. Poking the cane into a side pouch, she flipped the kickstand up and drove off in one smooth movement. Officer Brody glanced at a smug-faced Walters before replacing his gun into its holster.
‘What are you looking at? You can do the report when we get back.’
© Chrissy Siggee
Connie searched the playground the neighbours and the sand pile behind the back shed. Her hand went to her throat to ease the pain that seemed to creep up from her hammering heart. Moisture blurred her vision.
‘ETHAN!’ Connie’s throat grew tight. She had no choice but to call the social worker that had assigned Ethan to Connie and her husband Carl, a few weeks earlier.
She grabbed the phone and dialled. ‘Ethan is missing!’ She blurted out before Rebecca could finish her greeting. ‘I’ve looked everywhere.’ Connie found herself pacing.
‘Calm down Connie. He’s probably run away.’
Connie stood still. ‘Why would he do that?’
‘I don’t know. We get a lot of foster kids who run away. Ethan has been in the system a long time, and with numerous foster families. He’s run away before.’ She sighed. ‘I admit, I thought he was happy with you and Carl, but it’s hard to tell with these kids.’
Thinking more clearly, Connie contemplated the past few weeks. ‘He’s a bright little boy. I thought he was settling in.’ She paused. ‘Carl offered to take Ethan fishing when he returns from the office. He needed a file to work on over the weekend.’
‘Okay, I’ll call the local police and then come around. Just stay calm.’
Carl came in just as Connie hung up the phone. ‘Look who I found in the car under a blanket.’
‘Ethan, you scared me half to death.’ She placed her hand over her mouth and sat down at the table.
Ethan hung his head. ‘I was going to run away when Carl got to town but I fell asleep.’
‘Why would you want to run away?’ Connie dared to ask.
‘I got scared. When the Baker’s took me fishing, they got mad at me because I broke their new rod. They beat me with it and told me I was selfish.’
Carl sat beside Connie and drew Ethan close. ‘You’ll never be beaten here, I promise.’
‘Even if I wet my bed? Mrs Beasley wiped my face with the sheets and then made me wash them.’
Connie gasped. ‘There’s no excuse for bad behaviour by any adult.’ She thought for a moment before continuing. ‘You haven’t wet your bed since you’ve been here. Do you think there’s a reason for that?’
‘I don’t know,’ Ethan shrugged. ‘I’m not scared here.’
‘What kind of things do you like to do?’
Ethan tilted his head and bit his lower lip. He shrugged again.
‘Do you like going to the movies?’
‘I don’t know. I’ve never been. I watched cartoons sometimes at the Webster’s. The other families didn’t let me watch TV.’
‘Football?’ Carl asked.
‘The beach?’ Connie added.
Ethan began to whimper. ‘I haven’t been anywhere much—just school and the playground.’ A lone tear rolled down his face. ‘I like the playground.’ He wiped the tear away. ‘Can I go there again?’
Connie looked at Carl for a long moment. She pulled Ethan onto her lap. He was short for a seven-year-old but it was his frail body and lightness that had surprised her.
Ethan stiffened but soon relaxed in Connie’s arms.
She kissed his cheek. ‘We can go to the park together. How about a picnic of burgers and soda?’ She released her embrace. A tear stained face looked back at her.
‘What’s a pick nick?’
Carl sighed deeply. His sad eyes met Connie’s. ‘There’s a lot we can do. I think a picnic lunch at the playground is the perfect place to begin.’
A knock sounded at the front door. ‘Rebecca. I forgot all about her.’
Carl let Rebecca in and explained the situation.
Ethan’s lip trembled. He looked up at Connie. ‘Will I have to go to another foster family?’
‘No sweetie’, Rebecca answered for Connie. ‘But you need to talk to Carl and Connie in the future if you’re unsure of anything.’
‘Connie and Carl won’t beat me.’ It was a statement rather than a question.
Rebecca knelt down beside Ethan as he slid off Connie’s lap. ‘No, Ethan. This family is…different.’
Ethan looked up at Carl then to Connie, then back to Rebecca. ‘Why are they different?’
‘Well firstly,’ Carl began. ‘We really want you to be our son—to adopt you as soon as you feel ready. If that’s okay’, he added.’
The corners of Ethan’s mouth turned upwards.
‘Really? Yes, please!’
© Chrissy Siggee
Jessie stared wide-eyed at the freckled face of the checkout operator whose hair was as green as a florescent frog on high beam. She took a deep breath, reloaded her shopping trolley and headed to the back of the store where she plonked down the leaking carton of milk and retrieved a replacement before wandering along aisle after aisle until she felt ready to face another checkout operator.
The older woman wore a badge with the name Heidi printed in bold lettering. She was pleasant and the process went more smoothly than her earlier encounter. ‘How was your shopping experience today?’
‘It went OK,’ Jessie lied. ‘Thank you for asking.’ She tapped her credit card, loaded the grocery bags into the trolley and returned to the basement parking area.
After loading the boot of her SUV, she sat in the driver seat before bursting into tears. ‘I didn’t need that. I didn’t deserve that.’
It wasn’t until a car full of teenagers pulled in beside her that Jessie started the engine and reversed out of the car space. Taking a deep breath, she drove home.
‘Colin?’ Jessie asked that over their evening meal, ‘am I grumpy?’
Her husband of four years looked up; a surprised look on his face. ‘You mean in general or this evening?’
‘Well…either, I suppose.’
‘Not to my knowledge. You seem quieter than usual but I didn’t think you were grumpy. Why do you ask?’
‘Today was a trying day at work and I left late. I still needed to get the groceries on the way home. I must have caught every traffic light red and I had to drive around the car parking station for twenty minutes looking for a parking space. It really didn’t take long to collect the items I needed but I hadn’t realised until I unload the groceries at the checkout that the carton of milk was leaking and dumped a third of it’s contents on the conveyor belt.’
‘That would make me grumpy,’ Colin chuckled.
‘I did groan a little. I asked the cashier if someone could bring another carton and perhaps something to clean up the mess.’
‘What did she say?’
‘Now that’s the part when I almost lost the plot. She said, I quote: “I’m the checkout operator, not your maid and don’t get grumpy with me or I’ll call security”. I found myself just staring at her bright slimy green hair that looked like it hadn’t been washed in a month. I just put everything back into the trolley, including the milk and went back to the dairy section.’
Jessie continued the story while Colin sat opposite and listened quietly. He reached across the table and took her hand. ‘That was just plain rude. You should have reported her.’
‘What good would that do.’ She sighed and a tear ran down her cheek. ‘I won’t be going through her checkout again, that’s for sure. The worst of it is, I think I convinced myself that I must have been grumpy.’
‘I don’t think so Jessie, you shouldn’t either.’
She poked at her food for a few minutes before speaking again. ‘I feel like I’ve been stabbed through the heart. I hear her words in my head over and over.’
‘Well, let’s change them.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Jessie, you are too sweet a person to be called grumpy. I think you should stand up to those nasty statements.’
‘How? Do I go back and tell her she’s a freckled face, slimy green frog? That’s not me either.’ She paused. ‘That would get security onto me,’ she added with a chuckle.
They both laughed at that.
‘I could tell her, and my head, that I’m not grumpy.’
‘How about: Don’t call me grumpy. I’m not grumpy.’
‘OK. Don’t call me grumpy!’
They smiled at each other before finishing their meal.
© Chrissy Siggee – January 2020
– a fictional short read based on a true incident.
Snaking up the mountain road was miserable, and not just because great droplets of rain were exploding on the windscreen before the wipers could whisk them away. Susan’s eyes were strained from weeping most of the night since her brother, Ron, phoned her. After picking up her friend Annie, just after 6am, they began the long drive.
‘How could she get out?’ Susan cried. She squeezed the steering wheel tighter. ‘How could they let this happen?’
‘Susan please, you need to stay focused; otherwise Ron will need to send out a search party for us too.’ Annie sighed. ‘Hopefully, she’ll be found before we arrive. Those new GPS tracking shoes for Dementia and Alzheimer patients are well worth the expense in situations like this. You’ll see.’ She sent up a silent prayer as Susan drove into the storm.
Ron met the two women at the car with an umbrella. He shouted updates as they scrambled across the parking lot and into the foyer of the nursing home. Inside, a young aide that Susan had recognized from her visit the previous week, greeted them with mugs of steaming coffee. Annie accepted hers with enthusiasm, but felt a twinge of guilt when she heard Susan decline.
‘What happened? Who’s responsible?’ Susan demanded.
‘Please’, Ron soothed. ‘It doesn’t matter now who’s to blame. The important thing is that everyone is doing their best to find her.’
‘You’re right.’ Susan reached for the coffee that the aide was still holding out to her. She held the mug of steaming coffee between her hands but didn’t drink.
A man wearing a search and rescue uniform stepped toward the siblings. ‘Ms Cummings, I’m O’Malley. I’m in charge of the team. I’ve been here with your brother since late last night.’ He offered his hand.
Susan shook O’Malley’s hand and took a quick sip of coffee before speaking. ‘Call me Susan, please. Ron tells me you have people out looking for our mother. How far could she possibly get in this weather?’
‘We don’t know. It wasn’t until almost midnight that the situation had been fully realized.’
The space between Susan’s eyebrows creased. ‘What do you mean—”situation”?’
Ron replied for O’Malley. ‘Mum had evidently dressed in a hurry. Her slippers aren’t here and her GPS shoes are still under the bed. We think she may have followed someone else’s visitor or a member of staff out the front door around 9pm. With the rain, they would have been concentrating on getting to their vehicle. Being so late well…Who would think?’ He paused to wipe rainwater from his face.
‘Ms Cummings…Susan’, O’Malley spoke above the sudden clap of thunder. ‘We are almost certain she couldn’t have gotten very far but this constant rain has slowed us down’.
‘Ron called me at 11:15pm last night.’ She looked at her wristwatch. ‘It’s almost eight thirty. If she’s exposed to this weather much longer, she…’ Her words faded with the reality hitting Susan with a jolt. She handed the coffee to Annie with shaking hands. ‘Okay… O’Malley, what can we do? Where do we go from here?’
There was still no sign of their missing mother by the time the rain eased at midday when the siblings and Annie returned to swallow down coffee and sandwiches. While O’Malley was updating the family and his search team, a small bus loaded with local volunteers arrived. After quick handshakes all-round the meeting continued. Annie, Susan and Ron had searched south along the main street questioning storeowners and shoppers. The search team had walked a few metres apart through an adjoining cornfield to the west and the vacant overgrown paddocks beyond, while O’Malley had conducted a search of out buildings, laundry and kitchen facilities at the nursing home. The night staff had been requested to report in with any information that may or not be related to the missing patient. O’Malley and a staff member also conducted interviews with a few patients who were with her shortly after seven last night. No clues or explanations were discovered. With directions for the original team to take a short break, eat and get dry, the new team were given maps for the north and east of the nursing home.
Susan and Ron took off on foot to cover the area between the car park and where they started their search that morning. Annie stayed behind to help serve coffee to the morning’s search team.
An hour later Susan and Ron returned chilled and wet from another soaking downpour with no news that would help with the search. Other searchers returned in groups of two and three’s over the next few hours—all quietly murmuring their disappointments but at least the rain had completely stopped.
Finally, Ron suggested to Susan that they drove around up and down every street and lane. He looked at his watch then up at the clearing clouds. ‘She has to be somewhere. It’s been too long and you know how Mum doesn’t like standing for too long. Perhaps we’ll have more success now.’ His face suddenly paled. ‘There’s also the railway station.’ He grabbed Susan’s arm and led her to the parking lot with Annie close behind.
Just as they were putting on their seatbelts, the nurse’s aide approached the driver’s side window of the SUV with O’Malley. Ron press the down arrow switch to hear her better. ‘I think I found something that may help.’ She handed him a book opened at a page with a recent date at the top and stepped back.
Ron read from his mother’s diary. ‘I have to know for certain if my Harold went AWOL. If he has, I know where he could be. We often met at our secret place before he went to war.’
‘Why would Mum think Dad had gone AWOL?’ Susan asked.
‘I don’t remember Dad ever going AWOL, Susan. Obviously, she’s confused.’
Annie, who had been relatively quiet in the back seat, spoke up. ‘Isn’t there an old army storage unit around here?’
‘Well yes, but it’s almost three kilometres from here.’ O’Malley looked in the direction of the army base. ‘It sounds a long way for an old woman to walk.’
‘When I was here a few months ago with Susan,’ Annie continued, ‘I remember their mother had an old newspaper clipping about the unit.’
‘You’re right.’ Susan gasped. ‘I wondered at the time why Mum had kept the article.’
‘Okay’. Ron took charge. ‘We’ll check the railway station on the way. If we can’t find her there, we’ll continue on to this army place.’ Ron swapped the diary with a folded map with O’Malley who had quickly circled a crossroad to the east.
O’Malley nodded. ‘I’ll grab some first aid gear and blankets and meet you at the Army storage unit.’
Ron thanked him and drove off.
At the railway station Ron and Susan raced in opposite directions down the platform. It was silent and empty. ‘Let’s go! This is a waste of time’, Susan shouted to Ron who stood with his hands on his hips at the far end and gawking down the tracks that disappeared in the distance.
A clear starry sky abruptly brought the long day to a close when the three entered the old army storage unit with O’Malley and two military personnel. Within minutes they had found, huddled in a skeleton of a storage shed, their mother. She was cold and wet but uninjured. With her dirt-smeared face looking up at Susan, she apologized for ruining her slippers.
Susan knelt beside her mother. ‘That’s okay Mum, we know of the perfect pair to replace them with. Let’s go home.’
© Chrissy Siggee
The smell of fresh coffee teased my nostrils. I entered Daisy’s Café below the row of offices that overlooked a noisy intersection on Charter Row.
Daisy’s beaming smile greeted me. ‘Morning, Dave. The usual?’
‘Yes, please. Any doughnuts?’
Daisy handed me the coffee then bagged the doughnuts while I guzzled down a few mouthfuls of the piping hot brew. ‘Ah… Just the way I like it. See you later Daisy.’
I stepped back out into the commotion of the busy street and headed up the flight of stairs a few feet away. There, blocking my way, sat a vagabond. A middle-aged man, down on his luck and known to every tenant on Charter Row as Tom.
‘Tom.’ I paused to calm my tone. ‘I really need to get to my office.’
‘Can I-I-I come up? I-I-I need to t-t-talk,’ he stuttered.
‘Come on then.’ I sighed. I knew the only way to pass was to allow him to accompany me. I shook the bag of doughnuts. ‘I’ve got your favourite.’
Tom grinned. He followed me up the stairs and I handed him the bag so I could unlock the door. I stepped aside to let him enter. Closing the door behind me, I placed the coffee on my desk and opened a window.
‘Now, what can I do for you Tom?’ I watched him gulp down the last doughnut.
He choked and sprayed crumbs over my desk. I handed him my coffee. I would go without. Tom stuttered his thanks and drank before he explained his request.
He began by telling me his name was actually Thomas not Tom. His problem was a simple one. Thomas needed bus fare to a canning factory where his friend John worked as a packer. Thomas needed to go today, preferably before ten o’clock, because the cannery was employing staff this morning. He needed me to go along to speak for him. It was true enough, I understood his stuttering and asking for a position would be difficult for both Thomas and the employer.
‘Okay, you can’t go like that.’ I pointed him to the tiny bathroom and told him to strip and have a sponge bath using the sink while I checked the phone messages.
There was only one message. ‘Lord Bellamy here; I need you to find someone. If you return my call before midday the job is yours.’ I looked at my watch. ‘Ouch!’
I could hear Thomas complaining about the cold water. I gave Thomas some spare clothes I kept at the office in case I slept at the office during investigations. The trousers were definitely too long but they would have to do.
The wash, the change of clothes and a comb through his hair, made Tom respectable enough. Thankfully his thread bare shoes were hidden by his trousers. I sprayed Thomas with cologne until we both choked.
Thomas’s eyes widened. He seemed excited to be out of Charter Row. He obviously hadn’t been on a bus for a long time; maybe not at all. There was a lot I didn’t know about Thomas.
‘Thomas,’ I asked, as the bus neared the factory. ‘Where will you live if you get this job?’
‘M-m-my friend, J-J-John, h-he let me stay for a-a bit,’ he answered, his eyes still fixed on the view beyond the window.
We arrived at the cannery a little before ten thirty. The manager was sympathetic and understanding.
‘John would like me to give you a go’, he told Thomas. ‘I’ll give you a month’s trial. John’s a good teacher. I’m sure you’ll be fine.’
After handshakes all around, I left Thomas with the manager and returned to my office where Old Spice cologne still lingered in the stuffy air. I pressed the replay button on the answering machine and dialed the recorded number. I was pleased Thomas had the opportunity for a fresh start. I wondered now if I had a job.
‘Lord Bellamy’s residence, may I help you?’
‘Yes, this is Dave Strong, Private Investigator. Lord Bellamy left a message on my answering machine.’
‘Yes, Mr. Strong, he’s been waiting for your call. I’ll put you through.’
There was only a brief silence before the voice on the phone matched that of the recording on my machine. He came straight to the point of his request.
‘Hello Mr. Strong. I need someone to find my brother.’ Lord Bellamy’s voice sounded stately but urgent. ‘My brother and my father, Lawrence Bellamy, had a disagreement over twenty years ago. My brother left and we haven’t heard from him since.’
He paused before continuing. ‘Our father passed away a few weeks ago and regardless of their differences, Father left my brother half the estate. I need to find him. It’s time to bring him home. Can you help?’
This was right up my alley. I needed a good investigation and I loved finding long lost souls. ‘Yes, I can help you Lord Bellamy. Might I have some details to help start my search?’
‘His birth name is Thomas Alfred Bellamy, born 40 years ago in Sheffield. He has one significant characteristic trait that stands out. He stutters.’
© Chrissy Siggee
(Perhaps the shortest investigation in history)
Historian Albert Winslow sat at his desk in a sparsely furnished London office. Using two large wooden tweezers, he gently unrolled the manuscript. Faded calligraphy on tea coloured paper revealed its age and fragility. With a magnifying glass he studied the almost illegible signature confirming the author, John Keats.
Winslow peered over the top of his wire-framed spectacles. He studied the gentleman sitting opposite, who repeatedly wiped his balding head with a handkerchief. ‘Sir, where did you say you found this manuscript?’
‘I didn’t exactly find it. It’s part of my inheritance.’
Removing his spectacles, the historian studied the gentleman sitting on the other side of his desk fidgeting in his chair. ‘What did you say your name was?’
‘Kent. Michael Kent.’
‘Mr Kent, this signature doesn’t appear to resemble a Kent.’
‘It was handed down on my mother’s side. My mother changed my surname when she remarried.’
‘I see. Leave it with me, Mr Kent. I’ll have it valued for you by tomorrow. Leave your details with my secretary on the way out.’ He rose and shook his client’s hand.
Winslow’s secretary entered his office the following morning. He looked up as she reached his desk.
‘Miss Harwich, could you please place a call to a Lord David Keats of Hampstead? Give him my name and switch him through to my office. Give me a few minutes though, I need to talk to Scotland Yard.’
‘Yes, Mr Winslow.’
It took just moments for Lord Keats’s voice to be heard.
‘Yes, this is he.’
‘I believe I have in my possession your great grandfather’s missing manuscript, ‘Endymion’.’
The line was quiet for so long that Winslow thought he had been disconnected when suddenly Lord Keats continued.
‘How can that be? It disappeared after he died, in 1821? It’s been almost a century?’
‘Yes, I know. I also know that your father, Lord Alfred Keats, passed away last week, my condolences.’
‘Thank you, but how do you know and what does his death have to do with my great grandfather’s manuscript?’
‘Your father paid me to know. You see I’m a historian and a private investigator. Your father visited me here in London on December sixth last year. The manuscript had apparently resurfaced and he hired me to investigate its location. I sent him a wire last Monday about my findings before his heart attack. Did he mention it to you?’
‘No, and I’m not sure why he would hire anyone. Until Christmas my father and I had been investigating the mystery disappearance together for almost a decade.’
Winslow carefully chose his words before proceeding. ‘Perhaps, Lord Keats, your father discovered he hadn’t been told when someone had found it. That someone decided to use it for his own financial gain.’
‘What are you implying, Mr Winslow?’
‘Let me refresh your memory. Two years ago, your cousin, Michael Kent, inherited a meagre bequest. While clearing out his mother’s writing bureau, Kent discovered a key to a safe deposit box that contained a letter from his grandfather—your grandfather’s younger brother. With that letter was your great grandfather’s manuscript. The letter described in detail how your grandfather cheated him out of his share or their father’s estate. Your great uncle stole the manuscript after your great grandfather’s death in 1821— before he could have it published. Are you following me Lord Keats?’
‘Continue, Mr Winslow. I find your hypothesis intriguing.’
‘Late last year, your cousin decided it was time to show his hand by attempting to blackmail your father. Because your father didn’t want his conniving nephew to get his hands on his money, he came directly to me. We thought it was an open and shut case until I discovered that Michael Kent had an accomplice—someone who wanted revenge for an unrelated incident years before. Unfortunately, that piece of information inadvertently killed your father. The accomplice was you. Am I right Lord Keats?’
‘You’re very clever, Mr Winslow. There’s one thing you haven’t explained. How did you get your hands on the manuscript?’
‘That was the easy part. After your father’s death, you and your cousin-initiated plan B: to sell the manuscript to a publisher and split the profit. However, your cousin decided to have it valued first. Unfortunately for you both, he came to me. I advertise my professions separately and I only display my name on the door.’
There was another notable silence followed by a murmur of voices at Lord Keats’ end of the line. ‘You’ll have to excuse me, Mr Winslow. Apparently, I have visitors.’
‘Ah yes, my friends from Scotland Yard. Blackmail is a serious crime. Good day to you, Lord Keats.’
© Chrissy Siggee
English poet John Keats, born October 1795 in Moorgate, London, died in February 1821 at the age of 26 from tuberculosis. His works had been the target of much abuse including his last epic poem ‘Endymion’. John Keats never married, which should indicate that the contents of: ‘The Mystery of Keats’ Missing ‘Endymion’ – Solved’ set in the early twentieth century, is completely fictional.
‘Don’t just sit there Cindy, talk to me’. Steve pouted.
‘Don’t you think you are being just a wee bit selfish? I mean this place has a lot of potential. It has everything you need. Look at it. Your old place is gone Cindy. This is your new home.’
Cindy looked around. Her arms remained folded; her head held aloft. She puckered her lips and blew raspberries at no one in particular.
‘You’re not being polite. A lot of thought went into your new environment.’
‘Please, Cindy. Look at me. Talk to me. I’m supposed to be your best friend. What kind of conversation can we have if you won’t even look at me?’
She turned to face Steve and tapped on his watch with her long fingers.
‘It’s almost noon. Are you hungry?’
Her reply was instant – and loud.
Steve was laughing now. ‘With all the dozens of words you understand, you must know every one relating to food.’ He stood. ‘Why don’t we see what’s to eat?’
They walked hand-in-hand to where Cindy’s siblings sat sniffing and feeling fruit.
‘See Cindy’, Steve pointed out. ‘That’s the way I’ve been showing you how to choose the best fruit. Only, I don’t kiss mangoes before I eat them’, he teased.
Steve moved toward Oliver and Tracy but Cindy pulled back.
‘Hi you two’, Steve said with a smile. He patted the top of Cindy’s head. ‘It’s okay. I promise.’
The pair didn’t look up from their meal.
With a flick of her free hand Cindy turned and marched away pulling on Steve’s arm to follow. She lowered her head to face the floor. Hands faced up and wiped her eyes and nose on Steve’s trousers.
He crouched down and spoke quietly. ‘I know this is all new to you…and you haven’t seen your family for a while, but you will settle in. Things can only improve but this conversation has got to stop being one way.’ He paused and cupped Cindy’s face in his hand. ‘Look at me and tell me what makes you so sad.’
In one huge lunge Cindy wrapped her arms around him and kissed his face, then danced around on the spot. She stopped suddenly and grabbed Steve’s shirt and tugged hard.
Taking the tiny wrists in his hands, Steve began to whisper. ‘I wish you could talk, Cindy girl. This is no sign I’ve ever taught you. What is it?’
She fell limp in his arms.
‘Oh, I get it. You don’t want me to leave.’
The reply was the slowest of nods with a bottom lip that would trip up a python.
‘Cindy girl, you have been the best chimpanzee I have ever had the pleasure to work with.’
He gently lifted his little friend’s chin with two fingers. He looked into her misty eyes. ‘But, it’s time to be just that—a chimpanzee. You’re the best. You deserve the best. No more bananas for a trick. No more peeled grapes for signing a new word. You’re free.’ He paused. ‘Well, as free as the government will let you.’ He smiled and kissed his girl.
With that, Cindy strode in her cute swaying way to the table. She grabbed a banana and took it back to Steve, planted a kiss on his cheek and headed back to her family.
Oliver and Tracy looked up at Cindy shaking their heads and puckered their lips. They squealed in unison.
Cindy blew raspberries at her siblings and kissed a mango.
© Chrissy Siggee
Prickly wind struck his face repeatedly like razors and sweat stung his eyes as his horse zigzagged down the steep mountain. With every frightening turn he clutched the reins that were wrapped tightly round his raw and bleeding fists. His partly bare knees ached as they gripped firmly against the saddle, still his horse hurtled on further with sweat dripping from every inch of its petrified body.
The rider hung on frantically. With no power of control, they careered toward the valley below. He forced his head to turn to see the blazing inferno that threatened to overtake them and felt the searing heat insulting their already over heated bodies. The air was thick with blinding smoke but his horse continued to pursue an unknown trail heaving deep wheezing breaths as they went.
Rocks skidded from under foot causing the horse to lurch sideways and slide forward for a number of stomach-churning seconds. With stability regained the horse veered sharply left but the terrifying ordeal of the incline was not over.
Just as they plunged into the openness of the green valley a stampede of wild horses threatened their safety. The rider’s horse swerved to avoid collision. Regaining control, the rider eased his horse to a slow trot to allow its heartbeat to ease gently. But with the rapidly descending flames still raging toward the valley he needed to act fast.
Immediately the stampede had past, the rider steered his sweating horse toward a shallow stream. Without wanting to stress his faithful horse further he gently steered the horse with the reins toward a rugged landscape located on the opposite side of the valley. Once there he dismounted and led the horse through a maze of rocky crevices.
Above them a cloud of thickening smoke rapidly blocked out the sky. The ground beneath them altered from the luscious valley grass to a rocky path leading into a partially hidden opening in the side of the valley wall. The cave-like passageway was dark and damp as they edged forward to the echo of his horses’ hooves on the rocky surface. The horse’s wheezy breath gradually eased closer to a regular breathing pattern.
A gentle breeze carried a fresh earthy fragrance as they made their way through a tunnel that seemed to have no end. The man touched the wall and the ceiling above to find their way. Following a bend slightly leftward a faint light filtered in. Within moments they stepped out once again into the valley now blackened – burnt to ashes. A hundred yards further on, the stench of burnt flesh insulted their nostrils. The horse tried to push the man away from the scene but they couldn’t avoid the hundreds of carcasses of wild horses that were scattered across the valley floor.
The rider’s horse reared and snorted. In awe and wonder the rider mounted and rode away from the valley of death.
© Chrissy Siggee
Due to their age and health… Reflect on their life.
From the Archives: Faith’s Adventure – All 8 Stories
Faith to the Rescue
Faith Loses a Friend
Faith Goes on a Holiday
Faith’s Christmas Surprise
Faith’s Close Encounter
Faith Becomes a Mother
Faith – That’s my Blue Eye
No one, especially not 44, would expect what followed after the invention of the ‘Super Entertainment Network Systematic Active Technological Interactive On-track Node’, which was eventually shortened to SENSATION for obvious reasons.
Eugene Gilbert Dwight, creator of SENSATION, sat smugly at his dusty computer watching the latest advertising video that would draw in millions of dollars to the company. It would also make a tidy increase in his personal bank balance over the next few months. Eugene pushed his thick glasses further up the bridge of his nose, clicked the end video link and sat back in his desk chair that had seen better days. He grinned until his face hurt.
’44’, the overhead intercom announced. ‘Please report to Mr Preston’s office.’
Carl Preston’s an okay boss I suppose but he only climbed the ladder of success with out-dated software games. He rose and put on his jacket still smiling. With his hands shoved deep into bulging pockets of his baggy trousers, Eugene left cubicle 44. He strolled with his head held high between endless rows of doorless cubicles. Each cubicle was numbered and accommodating an unknown geek working monotonously in their narrow workspaces. At the far end of the long building he knocked on the door of Preston’s eight-by-eight square air-conditioned office.
‘You wanted to see me, Mr Preston?’
‘Yes, sit down 44.’
Eugene sat but he left his hands in his pockets. He fidgeted with an iPod in one pocket and his mobile phone in the other. He preferred multiple gadgets; not like these new all-in-one inventions they had been selling in this dump lately. He relaxed. It was a good feeling to know that SENSATION is too perfect for a delayed unveiling.
‘We have a media release tomorrow for SENSATION’, Preston was saying while continuing at his computer. ‘We’ll be using the video I emailed to you this morning.’ He sat back in his chair. ‘However, after considerable negotiations with both the Executive Management of this company and the media, it’s been agreed unanimously that I will represent SENSATION at the press conference.’
With hands suddenly still within his pockets, Eugene stared at his supervisor in disbelief. ‘But it’s my invention. You know how hard I worked on this project. I worked unpaid overtime for six months to develop SENSATION to perfection before I revealed it to you.’
Preston sighed and raised his hand, palm forward. ‘I know, I know.’ His voice more relaxed and sincere. ‘This is business Eugene. Your place is working on your next invention. You’ll be rewarded financially for your design and efforts, but you have known from the beginning, whatever is invented in our workshop belongs to Super Techno Entertainment. Plain and simple.’
‘But that’s not fair.’
Preston returned to his business tone. ‘Life’s not fair 44, but a contract is a contract. I’ll send a copy of the paperwork you signed when you joined the company eight years ago if you want.’ He paused to lean forward. ‘I’ll tell you what. I’ll ask if your name can be mentioned as part of the team for the invention. It’s the best I can do. I have also informed 3 to swap with your cubicle after work tonight. I need a good man nearby. What do you think? It’s a huge promotion from 44.
Eugene was still absorbing the team part. ‘Team? What team?’
Preston offered a little further expansion on his offer, which Eugene considered reluctantly, but he was still annoyed over his lost chance to make Eugene Gilbert Dwight known in the technology circles via this press conference.
‘It was a one-man team—Eugene’s one-man team,’ he mumbled.
Preston’s tone became serious. ‘It’s a take it or leave it offer.’
I guess that $10,000 bonus will help me out.’ A little self-esteem returned as he shook Preston’s hand.
‘I’ll see you again after we complete the press conference and media release,’ Preston said as he stood. ‘You’ll be the first to see it.’
Eugene stood and forced a smile then left.
‘Oh, and Eugene’, he added apologetically. ‘Don’t forget to empty all the rubbish bins in the workshop every day. It’s part of cubicle 3’s allocated duties.’
© Chrissy Siggee
Stella’s arms had rested and the soreness from holding her baby gave way to the need to hold her again.
Teresa gave up the precious bundle into the arms of her mother not wanting to admit her arms were getting tired too.
Stella continued her narrative. ‘When Kath found me, I was in the maternity ward at the Women’s Hospital in Sydney.’ ‘I had gone into false labour a few times since I was admitted with my fluid retention problem so they decided to keep me there until I delivered. I almost didn’t recognise her. Kath’s face had a green tinge about it and there were black and blue bruises around the white tape across her nose. Her right arm was in a sling. I just held her in my arms until she needed to sit. She was still weak from the ordeal. Her story was frightening.’ Stella cleared her throat. ‘After David had found the bull dead in his paddock, he had stormed inside yelling that he was going to get revenge on Ryan. Kath try to calm him down but he was too angry. She said he went on like that for days after he buried the animal. One night he swore to Kath that he would make me pay and he would take me to court for the property that should never had been given to Ryan in the first place. Kath tried to reason with him but that just made him angrier and turned on her. After he beat her, he took his horse and rode off leaving her on the floor. It was their housekeeper who found her. Her son is the stable boy and the two of them helped her to Doc Stone’s house using David’s utility. Doc’s wife took her in until she was able to catch a train to a women’s shelter in Sydney.’
‘Oh my. That poor woman’, Teresa whispered as she retrieved a tissue from her dress sleeve. Doesn’t she have family?’
‘Yes, but she was afraid he might hurt them too.’
‘He went somewhere to cool off, or so everyone thought. Probably did the lap of their 92,000 acres. It usually takes a few days when he goes out to check on the fences and livestock.’
‘Why would he want your property if he had so much?’
‘Greed’, was Stella’s short reply. ‘Ryan was given just over 300 acres from his Uncle Rick. Rick had bought it from a neighbour who wanted to retire and live in Bourke with his daughter. It was just a rundown hobby farm really.’
‘Hungry again’, she whispered. ‘Can you take her while I warm her bottle?’
‘Why would I not’, she chuckled as Stella opened the door of the cabin behind them.’
After Stella had returned and repositioned herself in the seat, she focused on feeding Sarah. ‘She has Ryan’s eyes’, she said smiling through her sudden sadness. ‘I don’t think I will ever forget him.’
‘I should hope not.’
Stella found it hard not to like Teresa. They had made an unusual connection in a very short time. ‘We should be in Dubbo by mid-afternoon. Are you getting off there?’
Teresa looked thoughtful. ‘I don’t know.’
Stella was confused. ‘What do you mean? Surely you know where you’re going.’
‘Well it’s like this, I have a ticket to Bourke but I can get off at any station before there.’
Stella was quiet and a hint of fear returned. ‘I’m not sure I understand.’
‘Don’t worry yourself. I’m just a free spirit. I can stay with you through to Bourke to keep you company and return to Nyngan later tonight. I’m retiring and Nyngan is the only home I know.’
‘That’s sweet of you but won’t there be someone expecting you?’
‘Sadly, no. My father’s house is there but he and all my family are gone now. The last of my siblings passed away last June.’
‘I’m sorry to hear that.’ Stella waited for Sarah to finish her bottle before speaking again. ‘I hope David doesn’t come to the back of the train again. Oh, I didn’t think. What will I do when I get to Bourke? He’s bound to be getting off there.’
‘Let’s just wait and see. Don’t stress. Tell me more about your story.’
‘Well, Kath stayed close until after Sarah was born.’ She smiled at the thought. ‘It was nice to have her there with me. Anyway, Kath was visiting me a few days later when David came into the ward. I freaked and Kath screamed. Nurses came running and security was called. David was escorted from the ward and the police came to take him away. He was charged for the attack on Kath and a restraining order was set in place.’
‘Where’s Kath now?’ Teresa was eager to know.
‘She’s caught a train a few days ago to stay with her mother in Dubbo. Kath promised to keep in touch. The police suggested she find a lawyer in Dubbo and see what her options are. I don’t expect she’ll go back to Bourke or David.’
‘Surely not! So, what will you do? What do you think he would do to you?’
‘The day after he was escorted from the hospital he returned. One of the nurses recognised him. He was in the nursery and standing over Sarah. She ran to call security but David had already taken Sarah out of her crib and sneaking toward the elevator. When the elevator door opened, there were two security guards. I haven’t let her out of my sight since and I honestly thought he would be in jail. This morning while I was signing my discharge papers a policewoman came up to me and explained that David had been released after he was charged. I was so scared I think she thought I would faint. We sat in a small sitting area near the entry while we talked. David had claimed he was just visiting his new niece and wasn’t intending to take her anywhere. I don’t know what to believe or what he’s up to.’ Stella paused. ‘He wouldn’t have hurt her. Would he?’
Teresa shook her head. ‘He sounds very angry still and he has already been charged with violence but why would he take Sarah? He may just want to hurt you. Maybe it’s a way to get his property back. I’m not sure but I think you should be careful and get some legal advice.’
‘I know but…’
Before she could continue the train was slowing to a stop at Nyngan. ‘Are you sure you want to come with me to Bourke?’
‘I’m sure and look.’ Stella leaned forward to see what Teresa had seen.
There were two police officers standing on the platform.
‘Why do you think they are here?’ Teresa asked and Stella shrugged.
As the train came to a stop, the police officers walked along the platform looking through windows and doors. There was a curve in the railway at the front of the train so they could see clearly the front carriages and engine. After the police officers had past the first two carriages, David jumped from the first and ran towards the exit sign where two other police officers stepped out and grabbed him. The two walking down the platform continued looking until they came to the last carriage where one of them stepped inside.
He removed his hat. ‘Stella Wilson?’
Stella raised her free arm slowly. ‘I’m Stella Wilson.’
‘Don’t be alarmed Ma’am. We received a call from David Wilson’s wife. He’s being arrested for breaking his restraining order by calling her from Sydney and threatening her and her family.’ He shook his head.
Stella gasped and covered her mouth. ‘What are you saying?’
‘Everything is going to be all right, Mrs Wilson. He’s going away for a very long time.’ He turned to leave but spun around again. ‘Do you have anyone who can stay with you at your property? At least until Kath Wilson returns home.’
Stella felt numb. She looked at Teresa who blinked once and turned to the police officer.
‘Will I do? I’m just an old retired nun but I have a mean kick if anyone comes near her.’
The officer chuckled. ‘I meant for company but yeah, you’ll do.’ He replaced his hat and left the train.
The other passengers applauded.
Stella sat dazed.
Theresa just smiled and took Sarah in her arms. ‘I always wanted to live on a big property. I also wanted to help busy young mothers with their babies.’
Stella just stared at her.
‘Well, do you mind? I can’t leave you alone. Now can I?’
Stella swayed a little with the movement of the train as it left the station. ‘I don’t know what to say. You hardly know me.’
‘I think I know enough about you that we can be friends.’ She looked down at the wee baby. ‘What do you think, Sarah?’
Sarah made a squeaking kind of noise and closed her eyes.
As the train rolled out of Nyngan, both Stella and Theresa watched the two police cars that had stopped at the rail crossing to let their train through.
Suddenly Stella burst into tears. ‘It’s over. It’s really over.’
© Chrissy Siggee – 2019
‘It didn’t take long for the coroner’s report to come through. Ryan died from a burst aneurysm in the brain. His funeral was held a week later and he was buried beside his Uncle Rick. The uncle who left him the property.’ Stella added for Teresa’s benefit. ‘The next day I was called to our solicitor’s office for the reading of Ryan’s latest Will. It was straightforward enough. The property and house were to be left to me. Everything except for the few head of cattle he had been breeding. Apparently, they were on loan from Uncle David so Ryan could breed and start his own herd. Unfortunately, there had been only four calves born at the time of his death. Once they were old enough to be separated from their mothers the loaned cattle had to be returned.’
‘Why wouldn’t this uncle David leave them a little longer so you could have an income?’
Stella was about to answer when she noticed a man through the window of the doors leading to the next carriage. He was leaning slightly forward speaking to one passenger after another.
‘I think Sarah needs her nappy changed.’ Stella stood to retrieve the bag she had put in the overhead storage earlier.
At the same moment the guard came through the rear door. ‘There’s a small table in the guardroom if you would like to use it and a microwave. I won’t be using the cabin for a while.’
‘Thank you’, she smiled and let him pass before reaching for the baby.
She had only just closed the door of the guard cabin when the man entered her carriage from the other end. She stepped aside and peered through the stripped security screen that allowed the guard to see out but no one could see much if they looked in. Muffled voices kept her alert. Sarah stirred. Stella rocked her gently. ‘Ssshhh…little one.’
Stella risked a glanced through the window. She drew in a sharp breath. David?
Finally, David moved out of the carriage and Stella could see him move from the next carriage through the door at the other end.
‘Let’s get you cleaned up’, Stella cooed at Sarah her big blue eyes gazing back.
Minutes later she returned to her seat. ‘I should have bought a baby carrier before I left Sydney.’
Theresa stretched out her arms. ‘That would only make things more difficult for you.’
Once settled back into her seat, Stella looked up to see Teresa looking straight at her.
‘What was that about?’ Teresa asked directly.
‘What was what about?’ Stella replied before looking away. ‘Sorry. That man was Ryan’s Uncle David.’ She turned in her seat slightly to face Teresa. ‘I was about to tell you what happened after David came for the cows.’
Stella kept her voice low even though there were only two other passengers at the front of the carriage since the train stopped to embark and disembark passengers at Katoomba. ‘The bull Ryan bought was lame after stepping into a hole in his enclosure. I had only been filling the food and water troughs through the fence since Ryan died. I was no way going to go in there, pregnant or not. I was about seven months along by then and Ryan’s only income was from the land he leased out to another property owner. David said he would pay to have the bull treated by a vet and then buy it from me at a fair price that included the vet fees. That was fine until the bull up and died. David demand his money back after I had already spent it on feed for the calves.’
‘That doesn’t seem fair’, Teresa interrupted.
‘Well, I don’t know much about what’s fair but Kath, David’s wife, was upset over his treatment of me. She had come to stay with me after Ryan’s death until after the funeral. She’s a real sweetie. Anyway, from what I heard over the radio gossip line and in town that David beat her and she up and left him. I didn’t see her again until I came to Sydney a month ago. I was having problems with fluid around my ankles and Doc Stone insisted I go to Sydney until after the birth. Friends from another property offered to look after the place until I returned.’
Stella was tired. She hadn’t slept properly since Sarah was born and the gently movement of the train made her sleepy. She almost dozed off when Teresa spoke.
‘How did you find Kath, or did she find you?’
Stella squeezed her eyes closed before blinking repeatedly. ‘Kath found me.’ Her voice cracked. Doc Stone told her where I was. She asked him not to tell anyone else, not even David, because she thought I was in danger. I guess he believed her because of what happened to her.’ She turned to Teresa; tears streaming down her cheeks. ‘He broke her arm and her nose for standing up to him – for me.’
Teresa sat quietly and looked out the window for a few minutes. Her heart broke for Stel and her baby. She lifted Sarah and kissed her forehead then turned to Stella. ‘That man just now, your Ryan’s uncle, he asked if I had seen a woman with a baby. I’m sorry…’ Her voice drifted off.
Stella sat up straight and looked down the carriage through the door. ‘What did you say? I don’t understand. Why didn’t he stay or go into the guard’s cabin?’
Teresa turned back to Stella and gazed into her eyes. ‘I knew something wasn’t right. I answered him in German, my second language. I knew it would come in handy one day.’ She winked. ‘I didn’t lie. I couldn’t lie. I won’t, but he had no idea what I said and he just left.’
Stella stared at this beautiful woman that had befriended her. She didn’t know whether she should laugh or cry. After a few moments, she smiled. ‘Thank you.’
‘So, tell me what happened in Sydney.’
After a long sigh Stella continued.
To be continued….
© Chrissy Siggee – 2019
Stella began her story from the day her life changed forever. She had awoken early New Year’s Day with a dry mouth and covered in sweat. Nothing unusual for this part of the world but what was different was that Ryan wasn’t in bed and there was no evidence that he had. A wonderful husband of three years and a baby on the way, Stella’s only longing was for a relief from the heatwave and yet another drought.
Peeling back the damp top sheet Stella sat up on the side of the bed; her head groggy from a restless night.
Making her way down stairs she headed to the refrigerator for the jug of water she had place there the evening before. She peered out the kitchen window and noticed the door of the tractor shed was open. ‘That’s strange. It wasn’t open before I went to bed. Maybe Ryan’s tinkering with the engine’, she spoke into the empty room.
Stella looked around the kitchen for a sign that Ryan had eaten breakfast early. Nothing. Heading to the back door she pushed opened the fly screen door. Ryan often left the back door open to allow any breeze that might stir in the sweltering night air.
It wasn’t until she reached the tractor shed that she realised how quiet it was. ‘Ryan, where are you?’
Flo, Ryan’s Blue Cattle Dog began to bark. Stella turned to see that Flo was still in her fenced off area near the house. Since a recent pack of wild dogs had been seen roaming the surrounding properties at night, Ryan had made sure Flo didn’t wander and so the dogs couldn’t ambush her. No way would he leave Flo in there if he were here.
A sudden chill rushed through her. She stood in the wide doorway. ‘Ryan!’ There was no reply except for Flo’s constant bark. She approached the tractor and looked around. Where are you? It was then she noticed a dull glow of light coming from the small doorless room at the rear of the shed where Ryan used as an office of sorts and to clean small tractor parts.
Stella felt like she was walking in a dream only for the constant barking from Flo. There sitting on a stool slumped over a newspaper that lay open on the wooden bench was Ryan. A moment of relief that Ryan must have dozed off while working past through her. The lantern was struggling to keep alight. With no power to the shed, Ryan had kept an old kerosene lamp ready in case of an emergency.
Placing her hand gently on his shoulder she jerked it back. It was cold, an impossibility in this heat. She moved to where she could see one side of his face. His left eye looked back at her. ‘Ryan!’ She gently shook his shoulder but he remained silent and cold.
Stella heart pounded as she ran back to the house. Letting the screen door slam behind her she rushed straight to the radio in the front room. She forced herself to concentrate on the user instructions. Even though Stella used the radio on occasions, it was Ryan who usually operated it.
Almost immediately the operator came over the line. ‘You’re on air early, Ryan. How can I assist you? Over.’
‘Maggie it’s Stella,’ she sobbed in relief. ‘Over,’ she finally remembered and released the button.
‘What is it, Stel? You sound panicked. Over.’
‘It’s Ryan. I think he’s dead’, she blurted out and released the button without the ‘over’.
‘Calm down, Stel. Doc Stone is over at David’s place visiting Ryan’s grandmother. I’ll contact him there. Stay calm. Over.’
Stella gulped down air. ‘I’ll try. Tell him to hurry, please.’ She sat staring at the radio and took long deep breaths until she heard Maggie’s voice again.
‘Stel, Dr Stone will be there in about twenty minutes. David is driving him over in his off-road utility. Over.’
‘Thanks Maggie. Over.’
‘I’ll call you later,’ Maggie signed off.
Flo’s yapping was beginning to annoy her so she went back out to the shed and closed the door but not before looking in the direction of back room where she could barely see Ryan through her tears. Then she let Flo loose, giving her a long hard hug.
‘Oh Flo…what will we do without him?’
It took less than twenty minutes for Doc Stone to arrive but to Stella if felt like hours. She had managed to change into a cotton house dress that had seen better days but she didn’t seem to notice.
David, who was also Ryan’s Uncle, raced ahead of the doctor. ‘Where is he? What happened?’
He was full of questions but Stella could only point. She was shaking and her eyes hurt from rubbing away the constant tears.
‘He’s in the tractor shed,’ she finally blurted.
David put his arm around her shoulder and tried to soothe her. ‘I’m sure he’s fine. Let’s go with Doc and see what he says.’
By the time David and Stella had reach the shed, Doc Stone had already squeezed through the door so Flo wouldn’t follow.
‘David, I can’t go back in there.’
‘OK, stay here and hold Flo. I’ll see what Doc has to say.’
Moments later David and the doctor returned to where Stella waited. They both looked sad and pale.
‘I think he’s been here since possibly late last night. What time did you find him, Stel?’ The doctor asked gently.
‘It was just after five this morning. I woke on Ryan’s alarm and headed to the kitchen for a drink. I guess it was only five minutes later when I noticed the shed door was open.’ She finished in a sob. ‘What happened to him, Doc?’ she pleaded.
The doctor gently turned Stella back toward the kitchen. ‘You’re in shock.’’
‘She’s shivering,’ David added running ahead to open the door before heading into the front room for a throw rug.
After the doctor gave Stella a mild sedative, he sat beside her at the kitchen table while David brought glasses of cold water.
‘Stel,’ Doc began quietly. ‘From what I can ascertain without an autopsy,’ he coughed apologetically. ‘It appears to be a natural death.’
‘But he’s only thirty-four,’ Stella gasped.
‘We have to wait on the coroner’s report.’ He sipped from the glass that David had placed in front of him. ‘I need to use your radio.’
David pointed to the front room and the two watched the doctor leave the kitchen. ‘Stel, I’ll get Kath to come over. She can stay as long as you need.’
‘Oh David, she has too much to do to bother with me.’
‘You forget I make enough money to pay for a housekeeper to help my wife.’ He sighed heavily. ‘Look, I know I haven’t been close to Ryan since…. since my brother left the property to him instead of leaving it in my father’s family. To me…I’m mean, I’m sorry.’
Stella looked up as if she didn’t hear him correctly.
Only hearing bits of what Doctor Stone was saying in the other room, she waited. Her shaking had eased but she couldn’t stop the tears.
Another few minutes passed before Doc came back into the kitchen. ‘The authorities will be here as soon as they can. They’ll question you. It’s routine but I’ll stay until they take Ryan away.’
David rose from his chair and gulped down the rest of his water. ‘I’ll head back and send Kath over in the Jeep. You can use the Jeep Doc until I can get to town to collect it. I need to get those antibiotics you prescribed for mother anyway.’
The doctor nodded and sipped at his water.
The train lurched as it rounded a curve in the rails. Stella sighed. ‘I can remember that morning like it was yesterday,’ she said looking over at her baby asleep in the arms of Teresa. Teresa had become a comforting traveling companion. ‘You know, I didn’t even ask how David’s mother was. She died a few months later from complications after a long illness…’ Her voice trailed off.
‘I’m so sorry to hear that you went through that. So, the little one is fatherless?’
Stella nodded sadly. ‘That’s only half of it,’ she whispered before continuing her story….
To be continued….
© Chrissy Siggee – 2019
Stella’s thick black hair momentarily obscured the unpaved footpath. Another April gusty breeze sent the fringe in the other direction but not in time to avoid the muddy puddle. Conscious now of a stain that would ruin her best pantsuit she avoided looking down. She wouldn’t have been able to see much past the bundle in one arm and the heavy khaki carry bag over the other anyway. ‘Can my day get any worse?’ she mumbled.
Oblivious of the people bustling around her, Stella again focused on one thing…to get onto that train; her only escape.
Entering a short, almost empty tunnel the clicking of her heels on the concrete floor motivated her to walk faster. She dared a quick glance over her shoulder. Feeling only slightly easier, she turned a sharp right onto a crowded platform. Side stepping suitcases and groups of passengers that chatted and laughed, she kept going until she found an empty bench seat at the far end of the platform where she would be able to embark closest to the guard’s carriage.
The bundle stirred as Stella sat and eased the heavy bag from her sore shoulder. ‘Not long now, little one.’ She reached into the bag for a pacifier. Sucking was instant. Stella’s attention returned to her surroundings.
In a few short minutes, everyone had hushed and turned to face the approaching train. Returning the bag to her shoulder she stood carefully so not to lose grip of her precious bundle. Once the train had stopped completely, she stepped forward to board the carriage. Someone touched her elbow. Panic filled her until she realised that it was a short, pump woman dressed in very plain old fashion clothing. Around her neck hung a chunky cross on a simple chain.
‘Let me help with that.’ The woman took the bag without waiting for an answer.
‘Thank you, ‘Stella answered as calmly as she could before she stepped across the gap and followed the woman to a seat at the rear of the carriage. ‘Thank you,’ she said again before sitting beside her.
Stella moved the baby to the other arm to relieve the ache that had reached the point of stiffness and also to let the kind woman see her baby. ‘Thank you,’ she said, knowing she had repeated herself again.
The warm smile made Stella feel more relaxed than she had been since the day before but still kept alert of what was happening around them.
‘I’m Sister Anna Teresa, but you can call me Teresa. It’s actually what my father called me.’
‘It’s good to meet you Teresa. I’m Stella… or Stel for short,’ she added with a smile.
‘Such a sweet baby.’ The words were tender.
‘Would you like to hold her,’ Stella asked.
‘Oh, could I?’ Teresa handed Stella the bag and reached over to accept the baby. ‘She’s so tiny. Must be a newborn.’
Stella searched the bag for the items she needed to prepare a bottle. ‘Yes…Sarah is a week-old today.’
A whistle blew and the train began to move.
Teresa watched as Stella mixed the powder. ‘Such a shame…’ she said. ‘I mean…’
‘That’s all right. I’m fine about not being able to feed her myself,’ was Stella’s simple reply. ‘Would you like to give her the bottle?’
Teresa’s huge grin was all Stella needed to hand over the little bottle and remove the pacifier. She watched as Sarah sucked furiously bringing laughs from both women.
Looking up, Stella saw the guard making his way through the carriage. She closed her eyes and sighed heavily.
‘Do you have to travel far? Teresa asked carefully.
‘As far as the train goes,’ Stella answered without thinking. ‘I mean…I’m heading back to Bourke.’
‘Such a long trip on your own with one so little.’ Her eyes now fixed on Stella’s.
In that awkward moment she leaned forward and looked down at the blotchy brown marks at the hem of her slacks. She cringed slightly and studied the other passengers in their carriage. Some were involved in conversations, reading or preparing for a snooze. Stella took a deep breath and released it slowly before making an effort to respond. ‘I am alone,’ she whispered. ‘It’s a long story.’
‘We have plenty of time and I’m a good listener…if you want to share.’
With a sense of relief, Stella slowly began her story.
To be continued….
© Chrissy Siggee – 2019
‘WOW this little guy has one blue eye,’ Ken exclaimed.
Luke took the pup from Ken. ‘”Heterochromia Iridis.” It’s rare. It occurs as a result of too much or too little melanin in one eye. Can happen in humans too.’ He studied the pup further before reviewing the eyes again; a torch in hand.
‘So what does that mean?’
‘Well, nothing we can hope. It’s certainly striking. You may have problems selling him but I wouldn’t worry about that just now.’
Ken reach for the pup. ‘What do you think, Faith? Shall we call this little one Blue Eye?’
Faith licked her pup.
‘Thanks for coming around, Luke. Much appreciated.’
I see you built two new kennel yards. Great size.’
Ken led the vet through the rear door. ‘Yes, it seems to be working well. I bring Faith out onto the verandah with two or three pups at a time before bringing Shield out. He’s certainly clumsy. He almost squashed one on of them trying to play with it.’
As if on cue, Shield barked and jumped at the fence.
‘It’s sounds like a plan. Faith’s area is large enough for the next few months if you don’t sell them all by then but let Faith and Shield out together for an hour or two every day. Just watch his behaviour though.’ He looked beyond the enclosed area to the rest of the small acreage and chuckled. ‘A good place to wear them out as they grow, and believe me, they’ll grow.’
The two laughed and shook hands.
‘Call the clinic when their ready for their vaccinations. If its easier, bring Faith in at a different time.’ Luke left by the side gate.
Ken released the catch on the Shield’s cage. ‘Hey, Boof! How about a sprint around the acreage?’ He started the three-wheeled farm buggy and sped off.
Shield leapt out of the enclosure and chased after Ken while Faith and the pups looked on.
On a sunny day five weeks later while the pups were exploring the back yard beyond their enclosure, Ken released Shield for the first time with his whole family.
Ken mounted the buggy and turned the key. The buggy rumbled to life. ‘Let’s go! Shield, Faith.’
Faith turned to her pups and barked a couple of times before chasing after Shield who had already bolted after the buggy.
It wasn’t until Ken sped past the litter on his first lap that the three bigger pups joined the chase. On the second and third laps all but one pup had joined the game.
Faith slowed and plodded over to the little one that just sat staring out at the paddock. Aw…come on little Blue Eye. She nudged the little one but he remained staring. She woofed gently before she turned and ran to follow the last of the slower pups.
Blue Eye leaned forward. His eyes focused only on the buggy.
Again Ken sped past. ‘COME ON BLUE EYE! YOUR’E MISSING ALL THE FUN!’ By the time Ken had passed Blue Eye the pups were spread around the full lap of the paddock.
Still Blue Eye sat and focused on Ken and his buggy. Then…One, two, RUN! With an awkward leap forward, Blue Eye raced directly out across the worn track almost colliding with his youngest sister. With eyes focused straight ahead he ran faster than he thought his little paws could carry him. He crossed the centre of the paddock just as Ken made the bend to take the back straight.
Blue Eye yapped and slid sideways into the dust cloud that had formed behind the buggy. He was now leading the pack ahead of his father. Yap Yap Yap
Ken glanced behind. ‘How’d you do that?’
Ken steered into the final bend toward the start place with Blue Eye yapping close behind. He glanced over his shoulder as he approached the turn to begin a new lap. Blue Eye had slowed and returning to the same spot to sit and stare as he had before.
Ken watched Blue Eye in amazement. ‘You must be kidding me,’ he said out loud to himself when Blue Eye again dived out to cross the paddock. ‘He’s figured this out.’ He laughed. ‘Go Blue Eye!’
Again Blue Eye skidded in behind the buggy and yapped loudly. This time however, the others were slowing, including his father. Ken slowed to let Blue Eye pass but to his surprise the pup came up beside him and slowed to match the speed of the buggy.
The two continued side by side until Ken stopped and turned the engine off. ‘Well I’ll be…we have one smart pup here, Faith.’
The proud mother didn’t need to be told. She was all ready smothering him with licks. Shield however was not so pleased and bared is fangs.
‘Shield! That’s enough!’
At Ken’s pointed finger, Shield returned to his enclosure.
‘Well, Faith,’ Ken said. ‘I think we had better get these pups cleaned and fed.’
While Blue Eye enjoyed a few moments praise from his mother, the rest of the pups headed to the back porch. Ken approached Shield where he had waited at the entry of his enclosure. ‘Ah… Shield. Don’t be jealous. You should be proud of Blue Eye…all of them. You have a great family. Try to get on and don’t be so rough.’ He patted Shield before filling his food and water bowls. Leaving the gate ajar, Ken headed over to feed the rest of the family.
© Chrissy Siggee – 2019
The aroma of fresh coffee brewing and the sound of country music playing announced the new day before Faith even opened her eyes. Squinting against the brightness that burst through the kitchen window to the laundry, where she had slept the past week, she stretched out her front legs.
Ken came over with her breakfast bowl. ‘Hey, Girl. How’d you sleep? You were restless last night. Uncomfortable?’ He returned to the kitchen and poured a coffee.
Faith ate her breakfast hungrily without rising, lapped some water and rested her head on her paws. She woofed but it sounded more like a grunt.
‘I’ll be here all day; in fact I have a few weeks off. It’s going to get busy for all of us. Shield will be back later today. He’s at yet another training session.’ He paused to take a sip of his steamy brew. ‘I’ve missed you the past few months. Don’t get me wrong. Shield’s been a good help on patrols but he’s not my Faith.’
Turning awkwardly in a circle on the bed she settled back into the same position. If only I could get comfortable. I hope the doctor is right. This time tomorrow I’ll be quite a few kilos lighter. Well, except near feed times.
‘You know, I called him “Boof” at the end of last night’s shift.’ Ken chuckled when Faith lifted her head. ‘Yeah, I know. He’s OK and he’ll make a great dad. I’m just not sure he’ll ever be a great security dog.’
With her head resting again on her paws she closed her eyes. Maybe you’re right…on both accounts and yes, I think Boof suits him.
It was just after she had eaten a few nibbles of lunch when the first puppy arrived, quickly followed by six siblings.
‘Well done,’ Ken exclaimed while checking the last puppy for signs of stress. I’ve called Luke – your favourite vet. He’ll drop by on his way home from the clinic. I can’t believe you’re a mother of seven.’ He watched the puppies feed and noticed that she had eight nipples. ‘Well, at least there’s plenty to spare.’ He patted Faith before leaving her to nurse her family.
Shield was delivered safely home shortly before the vet arrived. He danced around the kitchen just outside the laundry door until the knock on the door.
‘All right Shield’ Ken warned. ‘That’s enough.’ He grabbed his collar and led him out the glass sliding door that led to the rear verandah and closed it before Shield could push his way back in.
‘Ah,’ Luke sighed as he entered the kitchen. ‘The over-protective father. He’s a bit clumsy too if I recall correctly. You may have to be here when he’s around Faith and the pups.’
‘I will. No problems about that.’
Luke checked Faith first then each pup one at a time making sure they had good suction. ‘A nice litter you have here. Don’t forget I have first choice,’ he said with a grin and a wink. He stood to wash his hands in the laundry tub. ‘OK. That’s about it.’
‘When do you want to see them again?’
‘I’ll drop by in a few weeks to check when their eyes are open. Bring them into the clinic say in eight week after that for their vaccinations. Call me any time if Faith has any issues with her health or feeding.’
It was when Luke moved past the back door to head up the hallway that Shield barked and jumped at the glass.
‘That’s enough, Shield!’ Ken pointed and directed him to sit. ‘I’ll limit his visiting times or he’ll be stressing Faith out.’
‘It’s probably a good idea and if he get’s rough with them, you may have to ban him from any close contact.’ Luke paused before opening the front door. ‘You will need a bigger area for the pups anyway. Perhaps a divided area where Shield can oversee without you having to watch him every minute.‘
‘Sounds like a good idea. It will give me something to do while I’m off work. Thanks again for stopping by.’
Back in the kitchen Ken stood watching Faith and the pups to his left and then Shield licking the glass to his right. ‘Ah Boof, what an interesting few weeks we have ahead.’
© Chrissy Siggee – 2019
Ash threatened to gag her with each breath she took but Faith continued to sniff the charred ground around her. The smell of burnt flesh occasionally assaulted her nostrils and smouldering debris quickened her steps. Small puffs of smoke drifted upward here and there. It was a dismal aftermath.
‘Mind your paws, Faith,’ Ken’s voiced in a raspy whisper. He cleared his throat before continuing. ‘I don’t think there’s anything out here but death,’ he added and knelt on one knee beside the burnt carcass of a small wallaby.
Faith nuzzled Ken’s elbow. He lifted his arm and drew her near. There’s always life after a fire. We just have to keep looking. With her head held low she continued her search.
Ken’s radio crackled to life. ‘Hey you guys. Did you find anything?’
‘Not yet, Chief. Mandy and Steve are searching along the creek then up to Wattle Road. Faith and I are moving in the same direct along the top of the ridge. Hopefully, we can cover more ground this way without walking right past any life. The air is still thick in places. Oh, and there’s been a few spot fires we had to extinguish too. I’ll check in when we meet up with the other two.’
‘OK, Ken. I know it’s not the best job but someone has to do it. Later.’
‘Come on, Faith. Let’s get moving.’
Faith thought about the conversation Ken had with his fire fighter friend Joe earlier today. Poor Joe. He found that old man in that burnt-out shed this morning. Not much left of him. Faith shuddered. Counselling, Chief had told him. I think I would need it too. A high-pitched whistle broke into her dismal thoughts.
Looking around, Ken whistled back. Faith’s ears pricked up and shifted back and forth. The whistle came again and they both turned toward the sound in a hurried walk.
‘What’s up,’ Ken shouted as they approached two figures slumped over a mound on the ash covered ground.
‘Looks like a backpack but there’s no one around here,’ Steve said. ‘At least not in the ten-metre circle we’ve searched.’
‘It could have been here for months,’ Mandy added poking at the pack with her fire fighter’s axe. ‘We can take it back for further investigation.’
The guys nodded in agreement and continue toward the road that was just within their hazy vision. Faith led the way with her head close to the ground. No one spoke until they stopped in the middle of the deserted street. They all walked slowly in a small circle just staring. Three burnt-out cars smouldered on the side of the road. They appeared to have been heading north out of harm’s way. Ken approached the closest vehicle and peered inside before moving to the other two. Faith stayed by his side.
‘Well, at least the occupants seemed to have escaped,’ Ken said to no one in particular. He removed his hat and wiped his sweating brow with the sleeve of his filthy jacket.
‘This has been a day of deaths and sadness,’ Steve said quietly. ‘Down right depressing it is.’
Steve and Mandy dowsed what flames they could. Dark puffs of dark clouds formed and died above the cars.
Faith began to walk in circles sniffing the ground.
Ken crouched on the warped bitumen. ‘What is it, Girl?’
She barked and headed up the road with Mandy, Steve and Ken following close behind.
Most of the houses on both sides of the road were burnt out; some still burning.
‘Anyone here?’ Ken shouted.
‘Hello’, Mandy and Steve called in unison.
Silence. Except for the crackling of nearby flames and the shifting of rubble, it was eerily quiet.
‘We’ll split up. Faith and I will check out these two houses. Mandy, Steve, take those two,’ Ken pointed across the road opposite the burnt-out cars. ‘Don’t go in unless you see someone…but call for us first.’ He removed Faith’s lead. ‘I’ll call for you if we find anything.’
Steve nodded. ‘All right. Be careful, Ken.’
Faith looked up from the steps she had been sniffing to see Ken jog through the charred remains of the front gate. Nothing here….or is there? With ears twitching back and forth she listened.
‘Hear anything.’ He stood beside her and waited.
She wagged her tail and proceeded to circle the entire house before returning to Ken and looked up. Nothing. Let’s go. She bolted through the side fence while Ken took the long way around.
The second house revealed nothing as well. They returned to find Mandy and Steve putting out spot fires near an outdoor BBQ and gas bottle. ‘Nothing?’ Ken asked.
‘Nope,’ Steve sighed.
Faith’s ears snapped to attention. There it is again. Something…
She looked over her shoulder at Ken and woofed.
The three followed her around to the rear of the house to what appeared to be a workshop or garden shed. As they neared the opened door they heard a faint cry. Faith was nudging a shelf that had collapsed.
‘Let’s see what we have here,’ Ken said quietly. Faith moved out of his way and sat beside Mandy who patted her gently.
‘Oh my. How did you get stuck in there? Steve, give me your rake.’
Steve obliged and placed his fireman’s rescue rake into Ken’s hand.
A few minutes later Ken stood up with something in his hand.
‘A flower pot?’ Mandy gasped.
Ken turned the pot around to reveal a little bundle of fur. A kitten, to be exact.
Faith whimpered and Ken placed the kitten, still in the pot, under Faith’s nose.
She gently licked the ball of fluff. Hi cutie. I’m sure glad Shield is spending the day in training. He’d eat you alive.
‘Smart dog,’ Steve finally reacted and moved outside with the others close behind.
The three fire fighters laughed. Faith barked. The Kitten meowed. Their depressing mood had suddenly been lifted. Mandy took out her water bottle and removed her glove. The kitten lapped from her opened hand.
Just above the commotion the chief’s voice was heard. ‘Hey, what’s happening out there? We haven’t heard anything for some time. What’s happening, Ken?’
Ken handed the kitten over to a jubilant Mandy. ‘We’re fine Chief,’ he yelled. ‘You won’t believe this.’
The cheering rose and Faith jumped up and down barking excitedly.
‘Everything’s OK, Chief. We found a kitten. He’s alive!’ Again, cheers went up.
The chief responded with a chuckle. ‘I’m glad for you guys. It’s been a depressing day. Oh, and another search and rescue team found a backpacker. He’s all right. He was dazed and wondering around. Says he lost his backpack in the fire somewhere by the river.’ He paused. ‘Return to headquarters. I think you all need a break.’
‘See you soon, Chief. We’re bringing in the kitten. Mandy’s already named it.’ He laughed. ‘Lucky, I think. We also have the backpack. Hope that makes the owner’s day. Over and out.’
Faith bounded over to Ken at his call. Let’s go home.
© Chrissy Siggee – 2019
With his gloved right hand still holding Faith’s lead, Ken pulled his overcoat tightly around him. His brush with death a year earlier had left him somewhat thinner. ‘It’s a cold night for security, hey Faith.’
Faith looked up in response and Shield shook himself causing Ken to drop his lead.
Just as Ken picked up the lead and twisted it around his bulky glove they heard a faint thud in the darkness beyond the path that led to the administration block of the high school they were patrolling. There had been a number of recent school break-ins and Ken and his dog team had been called in for an extra night’s security shift.
The thud came again and the murmurings of voices carried in the chilly air.
A quick directive from Ken silenced an anxious Shield. ‘Let’s get closer. Quietly,’ he added for the benefit of the newly trained canine. Shield was a quick learner but he had the tendency of being impatient.
Deep masculine voices sent chills through Faith’s body. Cold is right and these guys sound dangerous and I can’t even see them yet. Where are they? She stifled a whimper.
Ken stopped to point his torch at the ground and switched it on. Slowly directing the light in a sweeping circle around him, he found his bearings. He flicked the torch off again before continuing toward the voices.
‘Ah… they must be between the Administration Block and the Science Building. Thankfully they mustn’t have seen the glow of the torch.’
Before taking the path between the two two-storey buildings, Ken knelt and drew his team close to whisper. ‘I need to call for back-up but if something goes wrong before they arrive Shield, follow Faith, she knows the drill.’
They took a few steps back and hid behind a retaining wall that lined the garden on one side of the path. Here Ken touch his radio that had been surprisingly quiet tonight. ‘Bluelight, this is Canine Security over.’
‘This is Bluelight. What’s up, Ken. Over.’
‘I hope you’re in the vicinity of High and Green. Over.’
The radio crackled again startling Shield. ‘The high school? Over.’
‘That’s a big ten-four. Trespassers. Over,’ he said quietly listening for any changes in the distant voices.
‘On our way. Be careful.’
Ken turned the radio volume dial down. Peering around the retaining wall, he listened and watched for a few minutes before leading Faith and Shield toward the corner of the Administration building.
Faith stood close to Ken’s right side and followed his gaze down the path where she could just make out the tall broad silhouette of a man with his hands reaching above his head. A ladder leaned against the Science building. There are at least two of them. If there are three, we still should be ok but they sure are big.
Ken took a moment to glance at his watch then estimated the distance between them and the trespassers to be at least twenty metres. If he could get closer he could see exactly how many and what they were up to.
Faith resisted against the lead a little but trusted Ken. They moved soundlessly toward the men whose voices became clearer as they approached.
‘Hurry up,’ one of them shouted in a whisper. ‘We have enough computers. Grab some cables or something to tie them to the trolley or they’ll fall off.’
‘OK, OK,’ someone from the first floor window called back. ‘Pasco’s gone to look.’
Faith’s hair stood on end. Shield made the quietest of whimpers but it was enough.
The dogs froze before Ken could stop causing the leads to become taut.
‘WHO ARE YOU?’
Ken looked up at the huge dark figure that seemed to have stepped out of the wall just a few steps in front of him.
Oops! This must be the lookout. How did we miss seeing him? Faith stood her ground.
‘I asked you a question, Weed’.
Ken kept his voice clear and steady. ‘Well, I’m Ken and this is my Faith and my Shield.’
Another huge figure appeared and the two looked down at the dogs in surprise.
‘RUN!’, Ken yelled and turned before the men realised what was happening.
Faith and Shield bolted.
Ken’s feet hardly touched the ground as they raced around the corner and back up the path. ‘The oval,’ he panted. He gripped the leads tighter hoping they wouldn’t slip through his gloves.
‘COME BACK HERE, WEED.’
Faith made a sudden turn to the right causing Shield to gasp as he was jerked along. Ouch! Where do you get you strength, Girl?
The three kept running until the voices faded.
Faith slowed and panted to a stop. They all collapsed on the damp grass in the middle of the sports oval just as a distant siren broke the midnight darkness.
Ken turned the volume up on his radio and panted a brief update… ‘I think there’s three, maybe four. They have computers on a trolley of some sort. Over.’
‘Ok, Ken. Take it easy. We have called in another Bluelight. We’ll get them to cover the south of the Science block. Stay where you are until we have them in custody. Over.’
‘No worries about that.’ He signed off and hugged his team.
Shield nuzzled Faith. That was so cool. Can we do that again?
Faith gave a quiet woof and pushed in closer to Ken. Her Ken…the weed.
© Chrissy Siggee – 2019
Christmas carols played while Ken wrapped the last of the gifts that were to be distributed at the children’s hospital later that afternoon. This was Faith’s favourite time of year and best of all she was allowed to visit the children again with Ken.
It had been a busy year with many visits to hospitals where children needed a distraction from their pain, recovery or just the plain old boredom of their every day routine. Faith always looked forward to seeing them. It was their smiles and squeals of glee that made it all worthwhile.
Ken had made a silly elf hat for Faith to match his. She shook her head. Nope it’s not going to come off. Oh well, I guess the children will like it. At least it’s better than last year’s reindeer antlers.
‘Almost done, Faith,’ Ken said clutching a red ribbon between his teeth as he talked.
Faith tilted her head to one side and ruffed. It’s about time. Curiosity had set in so she wandered over to the Christmas tree and sniffed a sack of gifts.
‘You’re not going to find anything under there for you this Christmas, Faith girl.’
Faith whimpered and hung her head.
‘It’s not like that,’ Ken laughed. He knelt on one knee as he often did and hugged her. ‘Your gift will arrive sometime later tonight. ‘Actually, it will be our gift. We’ll be sharing this one. Those gifts under the tree are for my parents who are coming for Christmas lunch tomorrow.’
Faith wagged her tail. She loved Ken’s mum and dad. I wonder if our gift will arrive by sleigh or maybe it’s being delivered in a fire truck. She nudged Ken’s elbow with her nose knocking him off balance. Come on! It’s time to go.
Less than an hour later, Ken was busy handing out gifts to the children in the burns unit while Faith nuzzled the hands of any child, parent or nurse reaching out to her. The ward was noisy with excitement—oh what fun it is! One child was almost totally covered in bandages; blue eyes, a little nose, hands and feet protruding. Faith looked up at a male nurse standing nearby.
‘Go on. Mandy will be thrilled’ he said nodding at the patient.
Faith cautiously stepped toward the child and licked a dangling hand before carefully lifting both paws onto the side of the bed. She was within inches of the little girl’s nose.
Mandy lifted her hand slowly and placed it on Faith’s head. There they remained for what seemed a very long time. But, Faith didn’t mind.
The afternoon visit included ice cream for everyone except Faith, as usual, but Ken had a few doggy surprises in his pocket for her to enjoy. It had been a great visit.
It wasn’t until later that evening when she curled up on the mat near the back door that Faith thought about Mandy again. She whimpered a moment before resting her head on her paws. And, I wonder what our surprise will be…yawn.
It was just after dawn when Faith was aroused from a deep sleep by a faint scratching noise. She opened her eyes slowly anticipating a possum trying to steal the remaining few biscuits from her bowl. To her surprise, another pair of doggy eyes met hers across the porch. Faith blinked, not just to clear her eyes but in response to the handsome canine who lay opposite.
Both dogs lifted their heads in unison. Oh my, Faith thought. Her tongue slipped over the side of her jaw. A slobbery drool slipped down to the tip of her tongue before she could prevent it dripping to the floor. Fortunately, those amber eyes before her didn’t seem to notice. Time seemed to stand still.
The glass door gliding along its track brought Faith out of her daze. Ken stepped out and knelt to stroke Faith’s ears. ‘I see you two have met.’
‘Well, sort of.’ She shook her head throwing drool over Ken’s clean shirt.
‘Faith, meet Shield. Shield this is Faith.’
Shield rose to his feet in what seemed to Faith as a graceful bow. Faith followed suit and approached the longhaired Border Collie before she shyly turned her head and nudged Ken instead.
With a chuckle, Ken picked himself up of the floor. ‘Ok you two, how about breakfast?’
Both dogs wagged their tails eagerly and waited in anticipation.
The two dogs spent most of the day playing and walking in the back garden. They soon became the best of friends. Ken’s parents had been and gone. Lunch was fabulous. There had been plenty of gifts to go around and the doggy treats were extra special on such a wonderful day of the year.
Merry Christmas from Faith and Shield… Oh, and Ken too of course.
© Chrissy Siggee – 2019