Haunting Wails and the Seashell

Multi-coloured seashells lined the shelf in Sophie’s spare room. They had always fascinated her nine-year-old granddaughter, Emma. Each shell had its own special story. Today, Emma had asked to hear about the big shiny spotted one, which twisted and curled to a little holey point.

Emma carefully lifted the shell from the shelf and sat on the bed as Sophie entered from the kitchen, wiping her wet hands on her apron. She smiled down at her granddaughter holding the shell gently in her lap. ‘I suppose you want to know about this very special seashell.’

‘Where did you find it, Nanna? It’s so pretty.’

‘It is pretty—as pretty as the beach I found it on. But this shell has a sad story to tell. The memory will live forever in here.’ Sophie placed her hand over her heart before continuing.

‘Poppa and I were visiting a place far from here on the west coast for a holiday back in 1992. It was our holiday of a lifetime—just after your mother finished college. It was a summer. We were staying at a resort village and Poppa and I spent the evenings walking along the cooling sand. On the third evening there was a full moon and we were about to head back up the beach to our bungalow when we heard a pitiful moaning. It seemed like it was coming from the ocean. The sound lingered like a haunting wail that echoed. I have to admit, I was afraid. I’m not one to believe in ghosts, but that night I would have believed anything.’

‘Oh, Nanna, that must have been soooo scary. What did you and Poppa do? What was it?’

Sophie traced the contour of the twisted shell to the point, holding her finger in mid-air for a moment before continuing. ‘Well at first we just stood there trying to work out what it was. Some of the resort staff came running down onto the beach yelling, ‘Save them! Save them!’ It was then that we realized there were black mounds rolling in the surf. They looked like huge boulders. Some were closer to us on the wet sand; water lapping around them from the incoming tide. Some of the people started running into the waves. Poppa grabbed my hand. The boulders were actually whales. Some had already beached themselves—others splashed about a little offshore where waves crashed around them.’

Tears ran down her cheeks as she recalled the events. ‘People were trying to persuade them back by yelling at them. Others just stood, staring, as one by one they beached themselves. It was an awful sight.’

‘Did they go back into the water?’ Emma asked, her eyes reflecting her anguish.

‘Unfortunately, most of them didn’t. I guess its part of nature. We never did find out why those whales beached themselves. We tried to help by keeping the whales wet. We even tried to encourage them back into the water.’ Sophie shook her head. ‘Four days later the beach was covered in dead and dying whales—fifteen in all. I remember I sat in the shallow water beside a mother and her calf and wept for them. Poppa and I took turns taking short naps and taking time out for meals provided by the resort’s kitchen. We continued our vigil for four days—the remainder of our holiday. We’ve always considered it a small sacrifice. We managed to get three whales back out into deeper water—only three, but we were relieved we were able to help in a small way.’

‘Oh, Nanna, this is the saddest story of all. But, where did you find the shell?’

Sophie picked up the shell and blew into the small hole at the point. It made a howling sound, like the wind. She handed it back to Emma so she could have a blow, and continued her story.

‘About mid-morning on the last day, men with hoists came and loaded the dead whales onto the back of trucks to take them away—for burial. I suppose we were too exhausted to ask where. When they lifted the calf beside me, I noticed something lodged in the wet sand. Poppa used his hands to dig it out and held it up to look at it more closely. One of the helpers from the night before took it from Poppa’s hands and washed it in the seawater. He lifted it to his lips and blew it, long and loud. It sounded almost like the mournful cry we had heard the evening before. The man handed it to me and walked away, back up the beach to the resort where he worked. I’ll never forget those whales—or the beach.’

Emma blew into the shell. The haunting wail lingered like the memories on the shelf. Sophie sat beside her in silence for a few minutes.  Emma traced her finger around the shell before placing it into Sophie’s hand. She too, traced her finger to the point then placed it back in its place on the shelf.

© Chrissy Siggee

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Archived in
Children’s Corner at Riverside Peace

Faith’s Goes on a Holiday

1931032_36129957313_9434_n-impFaith was not her usual contented self. She wasn’t happy about anything. Food tasted bland and her tongue felt like she had been licking out the cats’ bowl. With every breath foul, she drooled away whatever had died between her teeth. Her hair was sooty too from the morning’s adventure and she badly needed her nails trimmed.

Ken brought fresh water. ‘What’s the matter, girl? I hope you’re not getting sick. You’re going on a little holiday this afternoon.’

Faith lifted her head and licked his chin. She liked holidays and wondered what excitement they would have. Last time they went on a holiday she romped for hours on a farming property and chased butterflies until she was dizzy.

‘Yeah, I think you will enjoy a few days at the training school. I found one just right or you.’

Faith couldn’t believe her ears. What are you saying? What have I done?  She whimpered.

‘It’s all right, Faith. Marnie will give you a shampoo and manicure while you’re there. You’ll like Marnie.’ He tickled her belly and scratched behind her ears. ‘You did great this morning finding that missing boy we thought had been caught in the fire. I don’t know how you found him but you did. Even the fire chief was surprised since you haven’t had any training for that sort of thing.’ He attached the lead to Faith’s collar and stood. ‘I’ll miss you, girl, but we both need a break. Come on, I’d better get you there before it gets too late.’

Faith sat in the front passenger seat beside Ken, her favorite place. He talked as he drove and tuned in to her favorite radio station. She had mixed feeling about the days ahead. I wonder if Marnie will clean my teeth. Maybe I’ll be able to taste my food again. She looked down at her toes where ash clung to her and nails. I’m surprised Ken let me sit on the seat the state I’m in. She looked out the side window. I guess if he’d hosed me off after work, I’d have been to wet for the cabin of the fire truck. Come to think of it, I’m glad he didn’t. There is no way I’d be dry enough now for Ken to let me travel in his new Twin Cab Ute. She sighed and tried to enjoy the passing view. She felt Ken’s hand rub her ear and listened to him sing along to the music.

After Faith had said her goodbyes, Marnie gave her a warm bubble bath, followed by a pedicure and a good brushing. Ah, this is the life. She closed her eyes while enjoying a good towel dry.

‘Have you ever seen one of these, Faith?’ Marnie held up a weird shaped gun.

Yikes!

‘It’s an electric dryer,’ Marnie continued. She aimed the gun at a nearby wall and flicked a switch before it began to purr. ‘See, if I point it at my hand, warm air blows out.’ She then lifted Faith’s paw to demonstrate.

Oh, this is sooo…good. She rolled onto her back to enjoy the rub and warmth. Mmm… I wonder if I get to take that gun home.

After she was totally dry, her favorite food of chicken and vegetables awaited her back at her kennel.

‘I think you deserve an early night. We have worked to do tomorrow. Good night, Faith. Sleep well.’

Faith yawned and turned in circles on the padded bed before settling down. She had just closed her eyes when they suddenly sprang open. Work? What Work? I thought this was supposed to be a holiday. Oh…that’s right. Ken said something about a training camp. 

It was after an enjoyable breakfast when Marnie came for Faith. ‘Let’s get you to the gym.’

Gym? You have got to be joking.’ She considered returning to her comfortable bed but that would be disobedience. She hung her head. Groan. OK, where’s this gym?

Marnie led Faith around the perimeter of a room before stopping by a haphazard pile of hessian sacks that smelt of dirt, potatoes and straw.

‘Faith, sit.’

Faith sat.

‘Good girl, now I want you to have a good smell of this jacket.’

Faith sniffed the jacket that Marnie held in front of her. Then waited.

Marnie then led her back across the room to where a man was polishing his shoes and sat beside him. ‘Jack, this is Faith. Faith, meet Jack.’

After the introductions Marnie showed Faith the jacket again. ‘Faith, help me find the person who owns this jacket.’

Um… well it don’t belong to your friend here. The shoe polish made her sneeze. She sniffed the jacket again before pushing her way behind Marnie. With her nose to the floor she walked in a wide circle.

‘That’s it, Faith. Keep going.’ Marnie stood and followed her; the lead suddenly tightened between them causing Marnie to lurch forward.

Oh come on, Marnie. Catch up. Faith headed back to the sacks, sniffed some more than went around them. Behind the sacks was a door that stood slightly ajar. Using her paw she opened the door wide enough to get through. There behind the door sat a little girl.

The girl giggled. ‘She found me, Mummy.’

Marnie bent down to pat Faith. ‘ Yes, she did, Sarah.’ She handed Faith a small doggy chew. ‘ Good girl.’

‘Can we do that again?’ Sarah stood and hugged Faith around the neck. ‘Please, Mummy.’

‘Yes, but remember Sarah, finding missing children…and grown ups, isn’t a game.’

‘I know, but it is a bit like hide and seek.’

‘I suppose it is but try and be serious.’

Sarah made a serious face. ‘Like this?’

Marnie laughed and Faith licked Sarah’s face making her giggle again.

‘OK, you two. Let’s get back to work.’

For the rest of the morning Marnie, Sarah and Jack took turns of hiding but Faith never knew who was next or where they were until she had sniffed them out.

‘You’re going to make a good tracker,’ Marnie told Faith while she filled a bowl with fresh water.

‘Will I make a good missing child, Mummy?’

‘I hope you will never go missing but just think of all the missing people Faith will help rescue in the bush or after a disaster.’

‘What if they get lost in the Mall?’

‘I’m sure Faith will find them. She’s one smart dog.’

Once Faith drank her fill she nudged Sarah with her nose and pawed gently at her shorts.

‘You know, Sarah, I think Faith would really enjoy chasing that tennis ball that you have in your pocket. Why don’t you take her out to play with her while I phone Ken to let him know how her training is progressing.’

Faith barked and danced in a circle.

‘She is smart, Mummy. I think she understands everything we say.’ Sarah carefully opened the gate that led to the grass area behind the row of dog enclosures. ‘Come on, Faith. It’s playtime. No more training until tomorrow.

© Chrissy Siggee – 2018

This is a work of fiction. Except for Ken and his dog Faith all other characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Archived in
Short Fiction by Chrissy at Riverside Peace

Faith Loses a Friend

Parents please note: Because this is a story about drug detection this particular fictional story about Ken and his dog Faith, may require parental guidance for your child or younger teen.

1931032_36129957313_9434_n-impThe day began with rain setting in just after dawn. The roof over the back porch where Faith slept leaked with a constant drip echoing through her dreams. Breakfast was unappetizing. She washed it down with mouthfuls of water from her bowl.

Ken met her at the gate and opened the front passenger door of his twin cab utility. His Australian Border Security uniform looked impressive as usual but it somehow saddened her this morning. She sighed heavily.

‘Come on girl, you’d better sit up front today, I left the back window open last night.’

Faith kept her opinions to herself during the fifteen-minute drive to work. She just stared out the front window oblivious of the usual excitement of the windscreen wipers swishing back and forth.

‘OK, let’s go.’

Faith and Ken’s responsibility was to track down drug couriers, find hidden narcotics sent through the mail and check newly arrived shipping containers at the wharf. Today was different somehow. Faith wondered why Ken held her back from the work truck parked behind the security police offices. Instead, they headed into the lunchroom where she greeted the other officers. They joked together and tossed a ball around when the telephone was quiet. Faith particularly liked Jonesy who always brought biscuits.

Ken knelt down and rubbed Faith behind her ears. ‘We’re not going out today, girl. Sorry’.

Chief Barrymore stuck his head around the door-frame.

‘Ken, Faith,’ he called out. ‘My office.’

Faith followed Ken obediently into the office before the chief closed the door.

‘Ken’, Barrymore began, ‘it’s a sad day when I have to keep you two from your work but this is important.’ He motioned to Ken to sit before handing him a file.

‘You are aware that we had stored those drugs from last night’s bust in our unused vault here for safekeeping.’

Ken nodded his reply but didn’t look up from the file opened in his hand.

‘Some vault. The stuff vanished overnight. It’s the last time I listen to Headquarters.’

Ken head jerked up. ‘ You’re kidding?’

‘No, I’m afraid it’s no joke but something’s strange about this whole thing.’ He paused… ‘Like there had to be a tip off. How would anyone know that it would be stored here until Headquarters could pick it up this morning?’

Ken closed the file. ‘What do you want us to do, Chief?’

‘I want you and Faith to track down the culprit. Our overnight visitor didn’t leave any clues that I can see. Come with me.’ He stood and led them out the door and down a long hallway to the vault.

After Barrymore open the safe Ken peered inside and examined the dark chasm.

‘There’s no damage to the front of the safe but there’s seems to be another room… or space behind it.’

‘Yes, that is odd. I thought the rear of the vault was the outside wall. Hard to tell in these old buildings.’

‘It’s too small a gap for me.’ He turned to Faith and clicked his fingers at the opening.

With the light of Barrymore’s torch, Faith moved forward and crouched down onto her belly to crawl the short distance. She started to whimper and paw at the rear wall. Suddenly, there was a thin strip of light.

‘Stay girl.’

Ken and the chief raced outside and around the building where they saw a couple of bricks laying on the ground between their building and the next.

As they approached, Faith’s pushed her nose up against another brick causing it to fall at their feet.

Ken rubbed his finger along the mortar line around the immediate area then pulled a few more bricks aside and helped Faith through.

‘Good girl, Faith.’ Ken said before giving her a hug.

‘Clever,’ the chief said. ‘They must have balanced the bricks after removing the mortar to give the appearance that it was still intact.’

Thunder rumbled overhead as Faith sniffed  the ground around them before heading back up the path. Barrymore diverted toward the rear door of the building where a few old umbrellas leaned against the wall before following Ken and his dog.

Alerted senses led Faith to the cracked concrete car parking area before circling a place where signs of fresh oil mingled with rainwater. The murky liquid dribbled on to an area where a car must have recently parked for some time. She continued to sniff around a small puddle of oily water.

Ken appeared behind her. ‘What did you find, Faith?’

Without waiting for his pat she continued on, her nose close to the concrete. It was still raining. In fact, it was becoming a heavy downpour.

Ken wiped his hand across the top of his head and followed.

Barrymore came up behind them with an umbrella held high and shrugged. ‘It’s got to be too wet for…’ he yelled.

In the next instant she had raced off towards a car that was parked opposite the police vehicles. It was Jonesy’s car. Faith was all over the old Ford V8 in seconds. Chief Barrymore and Ken hurried over to the rear of the car where faith was barking and scratching at the boot lid.

Ken twisted his penknife into the keyhole before kicking it with the heel of his work boot. Concealed inside were the missing bags of heroin. Chief Barrymore turned and raced as fast as he could against the driving rain toward the rear door of the offices. His umbrella turned inside out with a violent rip, flew from his hold, and lodged into the fence, narrowly missing Ken struggling with the duffle bag.

In the confusion, Faith noticed Jonesy creeping around the side of the building toward one of the police cars. She bounded after him, leaving Ken to deal with the now-soaked bag.

Faith dived onto Jonesy, bringing him down hard onto the concrete. Chief Barrymore and two other officers arrived as he hit the ground. Jonesy was handcuffed and taken back inside.

Ken called to Faith as he passed carrying the duffle bag over his shoulder.

Once inside, and the drugs guarded in Barrymore’s office awaiting armoured collection, Ken wiped his face with a towel then dried Faith.

‘You did great,’ he said.

Later, when they were finally home, Ken put in an extra handful of dried biscuits into her dish and gave her a pat before heading inside to get out of his wet uniform.

Faith ate her tea hungrily and wandered off to her bed where she dreamed of biscuits that she would no longer get at coffee breaks. She would miss them and her friend Jonesy.

© Chrissy Siggee – 2018
This is a work of fiction. Except for Ken and his dog Faith all other characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Archived in
Short Fiction by Chrissy at Riverside Peace