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M Stevens-David

The Dog
By Martha Stevens-David
Jun 1, 2014 - 12:15:10 AM

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Saturday was Jake's favorite day of the week and it was his favorite day for many reasons. First, it meant that he didn't have to report back to his job at Pinkham Lumber till Monday. Two, it meant that he could escape from Ella's beady eyes for a few hours by taking the trash to the dump. Three, it meant that he could sit on the tailgate of his pickup and down a few cold beers without anyone giving him the fish eye.

"A man should be able to drink a few brews in peace and quiet," he thought to himself. He knew that Ella would never understand his need of this weekly ritual and frankly, he didn't care. She should have learned long ago that she'd best keep her mouth shut because he wasn't going to change after all this time and that was that!

Sometimes, when she couldn't contain herself any longer, she'd have a real go at him. "Really Jake," she'd say with exasperation written all over her face, "I don't understand why anyone would want to stay around a filthy dump any longer than they have to! Why, there's got to be huge rats and God knows what other vermin is down there. You might even catch a disease of some kind jist by hanging around that God-awful place!"

Years ago, when they'd first been going out, Jake had brought her to this very dump on one of their dates. He'd opened the tailgate of his truck and they'd sat on it side by side staring out over the huge mounds of trash and shared their dreams of a long and happy life together. She hadn't objected to the dump back then! No sir she hadn't! In fact, she hadn't said a word about the smell or all them flies either!

It was only after they'd been married a while that she began to dig at him about his fondness for the dump. She'd begin by complaining that his clothes were really filthy after coming from the dump and she's make a big to-do about spraying them with every disinfectant she could find and then bleaching them all to hell and gone too! It had gotten to the point that Jake didn't own one piece of clothing that hadn't been all bleached to shit!

When that didn't work, she'd try another tact by telling him that it jist wasn't right for a man in his position to be digging through other people's garbage. Jake was a millwright and he didn't give a full flying shit about what the other men that he worked with thought about him. He'd given the company twelve and fifteen-hour days for the last thirty years and he figured that he didn't owe them nothin either!

Yes sir! He loved going to the dump! He jist loved it! Once in a while, someone would come by, slow down a little and toss a bag of trash out the window and drive off. Sometimes the guys at the local VFW would joke that he should be given the honorary title of "Keeper of the Dump" and he'd jist laughed and let it slide.

Sometimes, Ella, in her quest to circumvent this weekly ritual, would come up with suggestions that would have prevented him from having a reason to go to the dump at all. "Jake," she'd said one night as she was washing the dishes. "I've been thinking," and Jake sucked in his breath and waited. "What do you think about us gitting a burn barrel? I checked at the Ashland Town Office and they said that it wasn't illegal to burn trash outside as long as we used common sense in the dry seasons." She lifted her eyes from the dishpan and looked at Jake for his reaction. Jake grunted and that was that. He knew that wouldn't be the end of it and that Ella would try some other way to keep him from going to the dump. "Good Christ Almighty," he thought to himself, "you'd think I was meeting all kinds of wimmin at the dump by the way she's actin."

Jake heaved the last bag of garbage off the tail-end of his rusty, Ford pickup and hitched himself up on the tailgate. He reached inside his shirt, fished a crumpled package of Camels out of his pocket and withdrew his last, withered cigarette. He shifted his hips slightly and dug into his right pocket for his dad's old Zippo lighter. He caressed the dull silver finish with his thumb a couple of times jist the way his dad had. Somehow, jist holding this old lighter, made him feel close to his dad. Then, he flipped the top open, drug his cracked, yellowed thumbnail down the strike wheel and the lighter flared to life. He cupped his hand around the glowing, yellow flame and stuck his cigarette to it.

Jake took a deep, satisfying drag and let his eyes roam across the mounds of garbage. He'd been coming to this dump for as long as he could remember and he loved it jist as much now as he had back then. His dad had been the one who'd started the Saturday mornin ritual. He'd git up at the crack of the crack as his grandmother used to say and wait for Jake at the foot of the stairs. Jake, hearing his father start his vehicle, would scramble out of his warm bed and fly down the stairs to where his dad stood waiting. His father would bundle him up in his arms and hurry out to the warmed-up truck. They'd tear out the winding dirt drive in front of the house and in a cloud of dust, head up the Goding Road to the Masardis Road and on into town.

At the intersection of the Presque Isle Road and Main Street, dad would pull into Jimmo's grocery and with the motor still runnin, hurry into the store. In a few minutes, he'd be back with a styrofoam cup of hot coffee for himself and in another styrofoam cup, some hot chocolate for Jake. In a grease stained paper bag, Jake would find a delicious surprise. Sometimes it would be a chocolate cruller sprinkled with powdered sugar or fat, round doughnut holes still warm from the fryer.

Dad would take off his heavy jacket and lift Jake up and let him sit on it so that he could see out the windows. They'd sit there in the morning sun, gawkin, talkin and eatin. Every now and then someone would drive by and they'd toot and wave to dad and Jake. Sometimes, one of the men from the mill would drive-up to git gas and walk over to them and seein Jake sittin there beside his father, say, "How're they hangin Jake?" Jake never really knew what that meant, so he didn't answer but dad would shake his head and laugh, so Jake laughed too.

Then, when they were all through eating and drinking, dad would shift the old truck into low and drive real slow through town and down over the hill to the Sheridan dump. Every Saturday, year after year, was spent this way. Jake's mother used to complain that he was gitting to be jist like his father because he loved to go to the dump so much.

Sometimes, if nobody else was around, dad and Jake would walk all around the huge piles of trash and look at all the stuff piled here and there. Once, they found a kid's bicycle and dad let him bring it home. They never told mother about it though, because she'd ah had ah real shit-fit if she knew it had come from the dump. Dad had laid it down in the back of the pick-up and thrown an old blanket over it. When they got home, he'd carefully backed the truck into the garage and took the bike out. They'd spent many happy hours straightening the spokes and patching the inner tubes. Then, they'd taken a piece of fine sanding paper and rubbed the rusty frame until it was all shiny again and the rust was all gone.

Then, dad had shown Jake how to use a can of red spray paint and when they were finished, Jake had a new bike. His father had been dead a long time now and Jake still thought about him every day and especially when he came to the dump.

Jake took a final drag on his Camel and flicked the butt to the ground. He watched as the remainder of the cigarette burned itself out and then jist to be on the safe side, he walked over and ground it into the dirt with his heel. As he turned around to go, his eyes caught a slight movement in a pile of trash off to his right. He paused for a moment and watched and the bags of trash moved again. "Jaysus," Jake thought to himself. "Was it the wind or what?" He stood where he was and eyed the mound for a few seconds but nothing happened. Jake looked around and spotting a broken two by four lying on the ground, walked over and picked it up. Holding the stick out in front of him, he walked over to the pile of trash. He prodded the bags on the top of the pile until they fell off. Then he carefully pushed the remaining bags aside and it was then that he saw it!

The dog was laying all folded up, half in and half out of a torn, black plastic garbage bag. Jake swore to himself as he hurriedly pulled the rest of the piled up trash off him and the dog jist lay where he was. Jake knelt to git a closer look and felt his heart constrict with pity when he saw the condition of the animal. The dog was so thin that he could count all his ribs without any trouble at all. Jake put his hand out for the dog to smell and the dog jist looked at it and turned away. Jake reached over and ran his hand across the top of its head and the pitiful creature closed his eyes. "Jaysus," he thought, "I wonder how long this poor fella's been lying here in this friggin pile of trash?"

Jake tore away the rest of the bag that surrounded the dog and lifted him up out of the trash bag. He walked quickly over to his truck and laid the dog gently down on the tailgate. He ran his hands around and under the animal and besides being very thin, he seemed alright. "He doesn't appear to have any broken bones or nothin." Jake thought.

He pulled out his dad's pocket watch and looked at it. He'd been gone nearly two hours and Ella's jaw would be real tight by this time. "Hell," he thought to himself, "It will really be tight when she sees what I've brought home too."

Sometimes, over the years, he'd brought home finds from the dump before but he never told Ella. He'd done jist like his dad had. He'd shoved his treasure into the back of his truck, covered it with an old blanket, and backed it into the garage and she'd never been the wiser. But, hiding a dog was another thing. She'd have to know about it sooner than later. This dog was real sick and Jake didn't think he could leave him in the garage, it was still too cold outside.

Jake walked around to the passenger side of the truck and wrenched open the door. He smoothed out the blanket on the seat and walked back to git the dog. Then, he scooped him up and carried him around to the front seat and laid him down. The dog didn't move or make a sound and Jake watched for his chest to move up and down. The dog appeared to be full-grown and seemed to be a mixed breed as near as Jake could tell. He was all black except for a small white spot on the top of his head and at the very tip of his tail. "Cleaned up and fed, he might turn out to be a really beautiful dog," Jake thought to himself. He knew that Ella was going to have more than a shit-fit when she saw the dog, "But that's jist too bad!" Jake rationalized to himself. "It won't be her first and it certainly won't be her last!"

Jake drove quickly up the Sheridan Road towards home and every now and then, he glanced sideways at the dog. It lay where he'd placed it and aside from a low moan every now and then, it didn't open its eyes. The more Jake thought about it the angrier he became. "Some people ought to be shot!" he thought to himself. "How could anyone put a living creature in a trash bag and take it to the dump and jist leave it there?" He couldn't understand it. "What tha hell's the matter with people?" he asked himself over and over.

Jake pulled into his circular drive and stopped right in front of the porch. Ella, not used to seeing him park his pickup there, came to the kitchen door and looked out. She watched intently as Jake opened the passenger door and reached in. She saw him lift something out and turn to come inside and she couldn't believe it. Jake had a dog in his arms and he was bringing it into her nice, clean house!

She opened the door to protest and stopped when she saw the determined look on his face. Without a word, Jake walked past her and laid the dog down on the floor near the old, black Glenwood cook stove. He carefully covered the dog with the old blanket and then he went to the sink. He ran some water into a pan and took it back to the dog. He lifted the dog's' head but it was too sick to drink. Jake felt a draft on his back and he turned around and saw Ella still standing by the open door glaring at him. Jake knew it wouldn't be long before her tirade would begin. He turned to her and looked her right in the eye.

"Look," he said defiantly, "I found him at the dump. Someone's thrown him away in the trash and I couldn't jist leave him there to die." Jake's eyes barely skimmed his wife's shocked face and he turned his attention back to the dog. He reached down and lifted the edge of the blanket and slid his hand inside. Gently, he ran his hand over the dog's body until he reached his sunken rib cage. He felt carefully for the feeble heartbeat. "Ella, I know how you feel about animals in your house but, he's going to stay, at least for the time being." Having said that, Jake stood-up and walked over to the sink to wash his hands.

Ella, used to ruling her domain with an iron fist, sucked a mouthful of air deep into her lungs, puffed-up her chest and opened her mouth but Jake stopped her with a glare. "Ella, you've had your way around here for far too long and I think it's about time things changed!" Two bright red patches of anger stood out on Ella's high cheekbones at being stifled so abruptly by her usually meek and mild husband and she opened and closed her mouth several times but she never uttered a word.

Ella, seeing the determined set to his head, decided to let sleeping dogs lie, so to speak. She walked stiffly past Jake into the living room and on into their bedroom jist beyond. After all these years, Jake knew his wife and he knew that this wasn't the end of it. Ella, like all wives, had all kinds of ways of letting him know when she disapproved of something he'd said or done.

The afternoon passed slowly. Ella acted as though he wasn't even home and ironed everything in sight. Jake drug his dad's old, green rocking chair in off the porch and set it beside the stove, next to the sleeping animal. He rocked quietly, pausing every once in a while, to check on the dog. Every now and then, the dog uttered a low, soft moan and shuddered a little. Hearing this, Jake would reach down and stroke its head and say softly, "There, there, old boy, nobody's going to hurt you here." Ella, hearing this, knew that this fight jist might be the one she wouldn't win.

They ate their evening meal in silence and Jake kept hoping that the smell of food would entice the dog but he didn't show any interest at all. He lay where Jake had placed him. "I hope you know Jake, if that animal messes up my floor, you're going to be the one who cleans it!" Ella said. "You don't have to worry about that Ella," Jake replied. "I doubt very much if the poor thing is still alive by mornin."

Jake offered to help with the dishes but Ella brushed his offer aside and dumped the dishes into the dishwasher. As soon as she'd finished cleaning-up the kitchen, Ella made a beeline for the bedroom and shut the door with an "I won't be opening it till morning!" sound. Jake sighed and knew that it was going to be a long, lonely night. He settled himself more comfortably in the old rocker and let his left hand trail down so that every time he rocked, his fingers moved in a soft caress, back and forth, across the old dog's head.

Long into the night, Jake came awake with a start and it took a couple of seconds before he knew where he was. He reached down and felt the dog's ribcage and was surprised to find the heartbeat was a little stronger. He smiled to himself and talked to the still sleeping dog. "Well old boy, it looks like you have some fight left in you after all." He picked-up the bowl of water and walked over to the sink and dumped it out. He refilled the bowl with fresh water and put it down next to the dog. The dog lifted one eyelid and looked in Jake's direction. Jake was surprised and pleased when he saw the dog's tail wag slowly back and forth underneath the blanket.

Ella and Jake avoided each other all that day and when night finally came, Jake resumed his place in the rocker next to the wood stove. Ella, seeing that he wasn't going to capitulate so easily, marched off to her bedroom and this time, she really slammed the door!

Sometime during the night, Jake came to with a start. He didn't know how long he'd slept and he glanced around the kitchen. He looked down at the crumpled blanket and a shock ran through him. The dog was gone! Jake's heart gave a jump and he looked around the kitchen and then he saw him! The dog had crawled over to the door and was lying there on the floor. "What's wrong old boy?" he asked. The dog lifted his head and whined softly. "Are you hungry? Do you want a drink?" The dog jist lay where he was. "Oh, I've got it," Jake said half to the dog and half to himself. "You want to go out, don't you boy." Jake opened the door and then he knelt and picked-up the dog and with his right foot, kicked the screen door open. He walked across the porch, down the steps and set the dog down. The dog's body trembled with the effort of trying to stand. Jake knelt and slipped his arm under the animal's midsection to give him some support. The dog leaned against him and sent a small squirt of urine into the dirt at his feet. Jake laughed and said softly, "Good dog! Good dog! I'll tell you something Tippi. Jist between you and me, there's been a few times in my life that I needed somebody to help me piss too!"

Jake carried the tired dog back inside and laid him down on the rumpled blanket. The dog shifted himself slightly and closed his eyes. Jake drew the blanket up over the dog's shoulders and then he settled back in his rocker. "Tippi," Jake thought to himself, "I guess that'll be your name from now on." and he drifted off to sleep with a smile on his face.

As the first ray of light slid into the kitchen, Jake rose and walked over to the sink. He ran some water over his face and wiped it on the kitchen towel. He had to be at work by six and he had some things to clear-up with Ella before he left. Jist as he was thinking about what he was going to say to her, Ella appeared in the kitchen door. She looked him up and down in the critical way she had. "Hadn't you better git cleaned-up while I make us something to eat?" she said.

Jake, relieved that she was at least speaking to him, hurried into the bathroom. He showered and shaved as quickly as he could and then headed for the kitchen. He was shocked at the sight that awaited him. Ella had outdone herself this time. She'd prepared all his favorites. Pan fried hash brown potatoes, scrambled eggs and hot biscuits awaited him. "Jaysus!" Jake thought to himself. "I really ought to tell her off a little more often!"

Ella poured him a large mug of hot coffee and settled herself in the chair opposite Jake. She watched him carefully as he wolfed down the hot food and then she asked, "What are you goin to do about that dog?" Jake finished chewing and then he carefully laid down his fork. Ella fixed her bright blue eyes on him and waited for him to speak.

"Ella, you know that I ain't never been a cruel or heartless person and by now, you know how I feel about that dog." Ella simply looked at Jake and waited for him to continue. "I'm going to take Tippi over to Presque Isle to the vet jist as soon as I can git an appointment!" Ella sucked in her breath when she heard that he'd given the dog a name.

"Lets git one thing straight, Ella" Jake said, "I'm going to keep the dog and that's all there is to it!" Jake held his breath and waited. They were eyeball to eyeball for the longest moment and then Jake said, "I've been goin to that dump all my life and I ain't never found anything special that I could keep before and I'm goin to keep Tippi!"

This was the first time that Jake had ever spoken this way to his wife and it was more than she could take. She pushed herself up out of the chair so violently that her beloved Jenny Linde chair fell over backwards onto the kitchen floor. As she started past him, Jake reached out and grabbed her by the arm. "Ella, you've had your way around here about everything ever since we got married and I've never said a word. But now it's my turn to have things my way for once! Besides, there wasn't another living soul at the dump and it must have been meant for me to find him!"

Ella wrenched her arm free of Jake's grasp and walked unsteadily across the kitchen floor to the rocking chair by the stove. She had a strange look on her face as she slowly sat down in the chair. Jake walked past her and slapped his hat onto his bald head. "I'm goin to work but I'll be home to git Tippi jist as soon as I hear from the vet!" Jake was out the door and into his truck before Ella had a chance to reply.

A soft moan slid out from under the blanket and Ella turned slightly in the rocker and forced herself to look down at the dog. He'd lifted his head a little and was looking at her and again, he made a soft moan in his throat. "Good God-in-heaven! What am I supposed to do with you?" She asked him. She glared back at the sick dog and gathered her robe a little closer and prayed that the dog would lie down and leave her alone. The dog lifted its head a little higher and Ella felt the warm wash of its tongue across the back of her hand.

Shocked and repelled, she jumped up and rushed across the kitchen and thrust her hands under the hot water and scrubbed them with soap. "Horrible, nasty creature!" she exclaimed, "God knows what kind of germs he's got!" And she continued scrubbing until the skin on her hands glowed a bright red.

The morning drug by and Ella filled the long hours cleaning things that were already clean. A little before one, Jake came tearing up the drive. He skidded to a stop in front of the garage and jumped out of the still running truck and hurried into the house. He didn't even glance in Ella's direction as he rushed past her, over to where the dog lay. He knelt and pulled the blanket back and Tippi sensing that something was different, turned his head and tried to rise.

"There, there, old boy," Jake crooned softly to the dog. "It's okay. I'm goin to take you for a little ride over to the vets." With that, Jake carefully slid his hands under the dog and gently lifted him. He quickly carried the dog out to his truck and slid him onto the seat. Then he slammed the door shut and ran around to the driver's side. He jumped in and tore out the drive and down the road in a cloud of dust.

Ella watched as the truck disappeared from view down the Goding Road and her heart had constricted slightly with jealously when she'd heard the tender way Jake had spoken to the dog. "Its been a long time since he's talked to me that way." She thought to herself. "And it's all that damn dog's fault!" She turned and walked down the hall to her bedroom. She lay down on the carefully made bed and drew a comforter up around her neck. She lay where she was for a long time and for the first time in her life; she felt that everything in her life was out of her control.

Jake drove the twenty-four miles to Presque Isle in record time. He carried the dog into the vet's office and sat holding him until Dr. Wing came out and motioned for him to bring Tippi inside. The old vet helped Jake remove the blanket and then he began his examination. He carefully slid his hands from Tippi's head and down along his back and under his belly. He straightened the dog's legs and examined his feet and hind quarters. Then the vet checked his eyes, ears and mouth and listened to his heart and lungs. "Has he been drinking at all?" The vet asked. "He hasn't been drinking or eating but he did ask to go out this mornin." Jake answered. "All he's been doin, since I found him at the dump on Saturday, is sleepin."

Dr. Wing patted the old dog gently on the head and said, "It's really a good thing that they wrapped him in plastic bags because they helped keep his body temperature from falling too low. The trash bags probably helped save his life. He's very thin but I think that with a little tender love and care, he'll be jist fine." Hearing this, Jake's heart leapt in his chest and happy tears slid into his blue eyes. Dr. Wing turned and looked squarely at Jake and asked, "Are you going to keep him?" Jake didn't hesitate for a second, "You bet your sweet Christ I am!" he answered. Hearing this explosive answer, Dr. Wing burst out laughing.

"Well Jake," The vet said, "I don't think there's too much really wrong with him even though he's too thin. But, I'd like to keep him a couple of days and run some tests jist to be sure." Hearing this, Jake reached into his pocket for his wallet. The vet, seeing the money in Jake's hand, waved it aside and said. "Look, I became a vet because I love animals better than humans. It's obvious that you love animals too or you wouldn't have gone to all the trouble you have. So, if you'll agree to pay for the tests, I'll take care of him for free. Is that a deal?" Jake nodded his head and gratefully shook the vet's hand. "I'll be calling you in a couple of days, jist as soon as I have the results." As Jake turned to go, he kissed the old dog on the top of his head and said, "Be a good boy and I'll be back to git you as soon as Dr. Wing says that you can come home."

One day slid into another and Jake kept finding his feet leading him to the telephone. He'd lift the receiver to call Dr. Wing and then he'd remember the vet's words and he'd slowly put the receiver back.

Life at home seemed pretty much the same as before the dog had arrived but there was a chill in the air that hadn't been there before. Ella had never been really affectionate and after thirty-five years of marriage, Jake really didn't expect her to change but now she took on the role of a martyr with a vengeance! She marched around the house like general on a mission. Jake kept trying to help her and she'd brush his offers aside without even a look in his direction. If Jake filled the dishwasher, she march over to it and remove all the dishes. Then she'd replace them in the position she thought they belonged in, mumbling jist under her breath that "You'd think that a man ought to know how to load the dishwasher properly after thirty-odd years of marriage." Jake, seeing the way things were headed, did what any level headed man would do, he simply gave up.

Ella, feeling that she'd taken part of her power back, filled all of Jake's spare time with every odd job that she could think of. Every now and then, when she'd look up and see the fire in Jake's blue eyes, she'd back off a little but it didn't last very long. The more she pushed Jake, the more he dug his heels in.

Finally, the long awaited call came from the vet and Jake made it over to the veterinarian's office in record time. He heard Tippi barking long before he saw him and when he finally saw him, he was so surprised. Tippi was standing beside Dr. Wing and wagging his tail. He looked and acted like a new dog. Dr. Wing laughed when he saw the surprised expression on Jake's face and he said, "He's still a little thin but he's on the mend. He needs to eat as much as he wants; otherwise, all the tests came out fine. He's a really wonderful dog! I'd like to see him in about three months unless he has a problem." Jake thanked the vet, paid him and took Tippi's leash and led him out to the truck.

Tippi didn't need any help this time and he jumped up into the cab all by himself. Jake reached over and started to roll up the window but Tippi stuck his head out and Jake gave in. "Okay, okay, old boy, I guess that you're one of those mutts that likes to ride with his head out the window." There wasn't a happier pair than Jake and Tippi as they made their way down the State Road for home.

Things at home returned pretty much to normal. Ella, seeing that Jake was intent on keeping the dog, capitulated as much as her nature would allow her to. She sewed an old army blanket into a pad for the dog and begrudgingly allowed him to sleep in the kitchen next to the woodstove at night. But every morning, as soon as the sound of Jake's truck faded in the distance, she'd kick Tippi out on the porch where he'd spend the day, be it rain, hail, sleet or snow. She never tied him up and she kept hoping that he'd jist run away. But every time she passed the kitchen door, he was lying where she'd left him, on the doormat with his head in the sun and one eye cocked on the road, waitin for Jake's return.

Ella rode that dog jist as bad as she rode Jake. If Tippi ventured anywhere beyond the kitchen, Ella was after him in a second. If Jake wanted to spend time with Tippi, he could jist sit in the kitchen or take him outside. She didn't care which. That dog wasn't going to ruin her furniture and spread fleas all over her nice clean house! If she had her way, he'd spend the night in the shed. That's where a dog was supposed to stay.

The seasons pass quickly in Aroostook County and one merged into another without much notice and Jake began preparing for his annual huntin trip with his brother-in-law. They had found a beat up shack up to Moosehead Lake and they had been goin huntin there for years. Jake felt a little guilty that he would be leavin Tippi for three days. He had toyed with the idea of takin the dog along but decided that that wouldn't be a good idea. He'd jist have to leave him with Ella and hope for the best. In trying to make up to Ella for leavin the dog with her, he promised that when he got back, they'd take a little day trip down to Bangor so that she could do a little Christmas shoppin. He could tell by the look on Ella's face that this pleased her and he left without the usual guilty conscience with the exception of the dog.

It was a forty-five mile drive down the Masardis Road to where they had to park their truck and then it was a three mile trek through the woods to their old camp. As soon as they'd passed through Masardis, Steve whipped out two cold bottles of beer and made his usual comment, "Ain't this the life, bud. No wimmen, no work and no worries." Jake grunted in agreement and took a long pull of his beer. He might miss Ella a little but it was going to be a long three days without Tippi!

The day passed uneventfully and now that it was fall, night descended early in the county. Ella passed the time doing a little mending and she hated to admit it but sitting in the old rocker next to the blazing woodstove felt real good. She also noticed that it felt really good to have someone else in the house with her even if it was a dog. But she wasn't going to admit it to anyone, not even herself.

The next morning she rose early and hurried to let the dog out. She shivered as a gust of cold wind blew into the kitchen through the open door. "Hurry-up and do your business." She commanded, "I'm not goin to stand here all day waitin for you!" And she shut the door. It wasn't too long before she heard the familiar scratching on the kitchen door. She let Tippi in and he immediately went to his bed behind the stove and lay down. "Guess it's too cold outside for you too." She said to the dog. Ella ate her breakfast of black tea and toast and hurriedly slid the dishes into the dishwasher.

She had plans. She needed to go down to the cellar and git all her canning jars and git them ready in case Jake got his deer. "Most likely he'll jist lie around that old shack with my brother and drink himself silly." She thought to herself. She knew her brother and she also knew her husband. It had been years since either one of them had shot anything and to her way of thinkin, it was jist plain luck that they hadn't shot each other.

She glanced over at the dog as she made her way across the kitchen to the cellar door. "I hope he isn't going to be sick." She thought to herself. "Tippi," She called and the dog raised his head and looked at her. He wagged his tail on the rough blanket and this small gesture made her feel much better.

She opened the cellar door and searched along the wall with her left hand for the light switch. The musty smell of the cellar wafted up the stairs and she leaned a little further in to find the light switch. Still tryin to find the switch, she stepped forward slightly. Feeling the front part of her foot hanging in mid-air, Ella screamed as she felt herself falling and she scrabbled for the railing. The next thing she knew, she was lying at the bottom of the stairs. The dirt floor felt cold against her skin and she felt damp and clammy. She tried to move and became aware of the sharp pain in her right hip. She gasped and fell back against the floor.

When she finally came to, the next thing she felt was a sensation of warmth along her back. She reached out and felt along her body and then she realized what was lying next to her. It was Tippi! "Tippi!" She exclaimed. "What are you doin here?" Tippi, hearing the sound of her voice, turned and licked her in the face. "Oh Tippi." She moaned, "I don't know how long I've been lying here and I need some help."

The pain in her hip became a black living thing and the only other sensation that Ella could truly remember was the constant feeling of Tippi lying next to her. She'd come to for a little while and then lose consciousness again. In the unending blackness of the stone cellar, she couldn't tell if it was night or day. But, every now and then, she'd become aware of Tippi leaving her for a little while and then she'd feel him came back and settle down next to her. It was the only thing she could really be sure of.

The next thing she knew, Jake was bending over her and the smell of his beer sodden breath brought her to, as he asked her what had happened. After hearing the short version of her fall, he ran back up the stairs and called for her brother to come and help him carry her upstairs. In a haze of pain, they got her up the cellar stairs, laid her on the kitchen floor and waited for the ambulance. "God, I'm awful sorry that you had to lie there all that time in the dark and cold." Jake said to her. "That's alright. " She said. "It was my own damn fault. I reached in too far to find the light switch and lost my balance." "Well," Jake said, "It's a damn good thing I left Tippi home with you. You know Ella, he even drug the old blanket down the stairs for you. He probably saved your life!" "Yes." Said Ella, "I'm sure he did! He's really such a good dog, he stayed with me all the while" And she reached over and patted Tippi on the head.

Ella spent two weeks in the hospital and when she came home, things were decidedly different. Suddenly, there wasn't anything she wouldn't do for that dog. She threw out the rough woolen blanket that she had used to make him a bed and replaced it with a goose down one from L. L. Beans. Then, she bought him a nice new dog dish with his name on it. She didn't jist ship him outside like she used to anymore either. She'd throw on her old coat and go for a nice long walk with him through the back fields. She'd make special dishes for Tippi and sit in the old rocker by the stove and talk to him while he ate. She sent away for sprays and shampoos guaranteed to rid any dog of ticks and fleas. And she no longer made him stay in the kitchen or on the porch. He now ventured into the living room and bedroom and he slept where ever he wanted. There wasn't anything too good for Tippi now.

Jake, seein how his wife now catered to the dog, if the truth be known, was feeling a little bewildered and left out. As he took in all that was going on around him, he began to feel a little jealous too. Seeing his dog's growing attachment to his wife, he'd think to himself. "Wasn't I the one who saved his life? Wasn't he my dog to begin with? Who took him to the vet? Who stayed up all night and worried about him?" Jake knew all the answers but that didn't make any difference. Sometimes, the dog wouldn't even come when Jake called him. He'd jist stay where he was, next to Ella. Jake, desperate for company, would start the truck and then open the door, hopin against hope that the dog would come out for a ride. He'd call for Tippi but Tippi wouldn't come.

The final defection came about three months after Ella had fallen down the stairs. Jake come home one night to find Tippi regally ensconced in his leather recliner in the living room. Surprised to see the dog lying in his chair, Jake walked over to where he lay, snapped his fingers, pointed at the floor and said "Down!" Tippi raised his eyes and looked at Jake. "Down boy!" Jake commanded but the dog didn't move. Jake tried again. "Tippi, I said down!" Again the dog didn't move. Exasperated and jist a dite annoyed, Jake reached down and took hold of Tippi's collar. The dog drew his sleek head back and a long, low growl emanated from his throat. Startled, Jake drew his hand away and looked at the dog. Jist as Jake reached down to grab the collar again, Tippi sat-up and lifted his upper lip jist enough to show his large white canines and a definite growl came from his throat. The dog had turned! He had a new master now.

Martha Stevens-David
Email:
lmdmsd@megalink.net

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