Archive for January, 2016

The lost dogs…#5

Friends: The following weeks I will be posting some of the chapters of my new short story entitled, The Lost Dogs of Mercy Trap. This is the first of 6-8 stories to be published in 2016. I hope you enjoy. John
(Chapter five)

Tuesday morning of Christmas week Joseph and Jimmy talked about their adventure of the day before.

“How about we drive by mom’s memorial each day after school. It’s only a couple blocks out of the way. In fact, on my therapy days we go right by it.”

“It’s close enough,” Jimmy, “that we can drive in that direction any time we want.”
Jimmy ate quietly, gathering his thoughts. “Isn’t the city council meeting tonight?”
Joseph was surprised. “Now how in tarnation did you remember that?”

“I think King reminded me.”

“Well, I’ve raised enough stink that if I don’t show up I’ll be tar and feathered by my fellow employees.”

“Good for you dad, King would be proud of you,” the boy said with a smile.
It was the first time in two years that Joseph had heard the dog’s name and seen a smile on his son’s face at the same time.

* * * * *

     Amy Pierson knocked and opened the front door at the same time. “Babysitter on-board,” she yelled.

“I hate it when she says that,” Jimmy said.

His dad laughed. “That’s why she does it, son.”

Joseph headed for the main post office where he loaded his truck with mail and headed for his route. He had been delivering mail for 12 years, knew most of his patrons by name, and received enough homemade cakes and candies during Christmas week to feed a ravenous pack of dogs.

He parked on Manger Avenue and Seventh Street, packed his bag, locked the truck and began stuffing mail in boxes. His load was double the norm with the onset of Christmas and he wondered from whence the cards came…from friends and families separated all over the world? And he thought about Mary and the cards that would be sent no more.

“See you at City Council tonight, Joseph?”

The question came from Katy Shepherd as she and her Doberman Pinscher fought the winter wind and headed toward her mail box. He waited at the fence line…her mail in one hand and a dog biscuit for Starman in the other.

Katy and Joseph’s wife, Mary, had been friends for many years, a friendship formed through the animal rescue organization they supported.

“My son has already reminded me,” he said.

Katy laughed. Then said, “After what he encountered with King, it just might be therapy for his wounds.”

“It’s probably not good for my continued employment to make enemies…and I’ll sure make ‘em tonight.”

“Do I detect indecision?”

“No, not really. But, my boss isn’t too happy about it.”

“Take heart, Joseph. It’ll be standing room only, mostly supporting you. And I’ll be there to tell the rest of the community about what’s happening on Manger Avenue.”

“Thanks, Katy.” He handed a second Milk Bone to Starman.

Moments later she yelled at him, “Don’t forget the pictures!”

He waved at her.

Katy was a beat writer for the community newspaper. He had talked to her about what was happening on Manger Avenue. He had shown her the pictures and she had spent two days walking the route with him while gathering names and addresses.

He had stood before City Council last month and told them about the abuse and mistreatment of five dogs on his mail route. Further, he had requested that City Council direct the Animal Control Shelter to inspect each home and demand changes.\

Members of City council were uneasy about getting involved with a sensitive issue that might upset constituents, cause complaints about the rights of the animals, and ultimately cost votes at election time. So they were agreeable to turning the problem over to the director of the Animal Control Shelter with instructions to investigate and report back at the next council meeting.

Katy, however, was not so agreeable in relieving council members of their moral responsibility…and her article the following morning raised the ire of council members as well as the citizens of Mercy Trap. Letters to the editor poured in: each and everyone demanding that dogs be treated as humanly as what council members expected in their own households.

Over the next month as Joseph continued to deliver mail, he noted that no changes had been made in the conditions of each dog. All five dogs remained on chains, all were malnourished to the point of death, two had not received shelter from the wind and snow, one had no feed bowl, and the fifth supported a chain so thick that it cut into his neck.

At dinnertime on Tuesday he told Jimmy that no changes had been made.

Jimmy was thinking about King. “There’s got to be something we can do, Dad. Just think about how hard it’s been without King.”

Joseph bolted up in his chair. “That’s it, Jimmy. You’re a genius.” He kissed his son on the forehead, grabbed his hat and coat, and headed for the door just as Amy entered.

“I’ll explain when I get back. Keep your fingers crossed. I love you guys.”

Out the door his dad ran while Jimmy tried to discern what he had said that had gotten his dad so excited.

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The lost dogs…#4

Friends: The following weeks I will be posting some of the chapters of my new short story entitled, The Lost Dogs of Mercy Trap. This is the first of 6-8 stories to be published in 2016. I hope you enjoy. John
The Lost Dogs of Mercy Trap
A short story (Chapter four)

Later that day Joseph parked at Blessed Heart Community hospital, unloaded Jimmy’s wheel chair, and carefully placed his son into it. It was one mile from the hospital to Gunner Rill road, the same route home that Mary had taken every day. In her honor they were going to walk to the place of her death, erect a small sign, and place a bouquet of flowers in the ground.

“Mom hated plastic flowers,” Jimmy said.

His dad laughed. “We’ll come back in the spring and plant…”

“A small rose bush.”

Joseph placed a hand on his son’s shoulder. “Yeah, she’d like that.” He then removed a small sign from a pouch in the back of the wheelchair and handed it to his son. “What do you think?”

It was simple in design. At the top of a black metal staff was a plaque in florescent letters, reading: Please Drive Carefully! The nameplate read: In memory of Mary Christian.
Jimmy didn’t say anything, but he held the sign against his chest as his dad pushed the chair against the lightly falling snow.

By the time they reached the intersection of Gunner Hill Road and found the spot for the makeshift memorial the winter sun was casting lengthy shadows. But they were in no rush. Both father and son were thinking about their earlier conversation when Joseph had said, “It’s time for you and I to let your mom go.”

Sensing his son’s thought, as only a parent can, Joseph said, “I think I said that wrong, Jimmy. We are not letting your mom go. She’s part of us. We are going to hold on to her until we die. Her goodness, her morals, her companionship, her spirituality, her care for others will bolster us through the difficulties of life that lay ahead. Every decision we make in the future will be influenced by what she taught us. So, no, we are not letting her go.”

“She’s letting us go, isn’t she dad,” Jimmy said.

Joseph knelt beside his son and they hugged. “Yep, she’s not only letting us go, but she’s probably saying ‘it’s about time you guys get moving before you freeze to death’.”

Together, they laughed.

“Oh, yeah. One more thing,” Joseph said. He pulled a box from under the chair and handed it to his son.

“What’s this?”

“Let’s just call it the first gift of Christmas.”

The square box weighted about two pounds, and the wrapping glowed with the colors of the season. Jimmy could barely restrain himself from tearing into the gift with all the fervor that Christmas demands.

Red and white tissue paper caressed a twelve by twelve inch slab of stone that was four inches thick. Etched into the stone was the figure of a Labrador Retriever and the name, King.

To this day, two years from the accident, Jimmy and his dad had not talked about their dog. Jimmy had always believed that his beloved pet had died. Joseph had never told his son that the dog, nor his body, had ever been found.

“I hope they are together,” Jimmy said.

His dad did not respond.

Jimmy handed the stone to his dad who placed it at the base of the memorial.

“Ready to go home or do you want to stay here and freeze?” Joseph asked his son.

Jimmy laughed. “I’m hungry.”

“Me too. How about hamburgers, fries, and a chocolate milkshake?”

“How about strawberry?” his son joked.

“Let’s do it.”

The trip back to their car, though the snow and wind had increased, was the best time they had spent together in the past two years.

The lost dogs…#3

Friends: The following weeks I will be posting some of the chapters of my new short story entitled, The Lost Dogs of Mercy Trap. This is the first of 6-8 stories to be published in 2016. I hope you enjoy. John

The Lost Dogs of Mercy Trap
A short story (Chapter three)
John Preston Smith

It had been two years since Mary had died, since Jimmy had been paralyzed, and since King had disappeared.

It was Sunday and Christmas was one week away.

It had been a difficult time for both Joseph and his son. The ups and downs of hope and despair regarding Jimmy’s paralysis demanded more love and acceptance than Joseph thought he was capable of handling. It had been a life-changing experience for both.

Besides his mother, Jimmy had lost his freedom and his dog. He could no longer play sports, hang with his friends, climb stairs, ride a bike, run, dance, swim…the list was endless. Instead, he was learning to face life while tethered to a wheeled chair.

Joseph was facing a future without the love of his life.
For two years, two dreadfully long and difficult years, Joseph and Jimmy had maintained the best possible relationship.

Joseph decided it was time for he and his son to accept what had happened, embrace it as best they could, and to move forward as Mary would have wanted. It was time to find out how his son would react.

On Monday morning the snows of winter were coming and schools were closed for Christmas. Joseph and Jimmy were having breakfast. “I’d like to place a memorial on the side of the road where your mom died.”

Jimmy studied his plate as if an answer were somewhere in his scrambled eggs. Without looking up, he said. “I don’t understand.”
“I’d like for you and I to put a sign on Gunner Hill close to where the accident occurred.”

Jimmy look at his dad, confused. “Why?”

“For three reasons. One, it tells people who we lost. Many, many people knew your mom. I don’t want them to forget her. Secondly, it might alert folks to the danger of Gunner Hill and maybe they will drive more cautious. Who knows, our sign might save a life.”

Joseph removed a handkerchief from his pocket, blew his nose, and whipped his eyes.

“What’s the third reason, Dad?”

Joseph reached across the table and took his son’s hand. “It’s time, Jimmy.”

“Time?”

“Time for you and I to let your mom go. It’s time for you and I to be thankful that we have each other. And it’s time for you and I to look to the future.”

It took ten seconds…ten of the longest seconds in Joseph’s life. But in the end, Jimmy squeezed his dad’s hand and cried.

The lost dogs…#2

Friends: The following weeks I will be posting some of the chapters of my new short story entitled, The Lost Dogs of Mercy Trap. This is the first of 6-8 stories to be published in 2016. I hope you enjoy. John

The Lost Dogs of Mercy Trap
A short story (Chapter Two)
John Preston Smith
Christmas 2015

Two

There are advantages to living in a small town. One of which is how people respond to tragedy.

The sheriff’s deputy who first arrived at the crash immediately called for emergency vehicles. It was not difficult to assess what had occurred. One car had T-boned another at the intersection. The body in the road had propelled through the windshield of the car that had come down Gunner Hill. He knew the man was dead. Still he checked his pulse. He gently opened his mouth, and smelt his breath.

He ran to the second car. “Jesus,” he whispered.

He knew it was Mary Christian and he knew she was dead.
He checked for her pulse. None. He opened her purse. The license confirmed her identity. As the wail of oncoming sirens grew, he noticed movement on the back seat.

“Aw Jesus. No, no, no!”

With incredible strength he forced open the crumpled door and climbed in beside the boy. He thumbed open his cell phone and called Sheriff Bobby Stanley

* * * * *

Joseph’s Dad had taught him that policemen served to protect their community. Therefore, when Sheriff Stanley stood at the front door of Joseph’s home, his stomach churned with pangs of alarm and fear.
The Stanley’s and the Christian’s had formed a friendship during soccer games when their boys played on the same team.

It was a classic scene from all the great movies where the delivery of news is devastating. Bobby Stanley stood in the doorway, his uniform neatly pressed, his head bowed. He slid his hands along the brim of his Smokey Bear hat as he held it in front of his belt buckle

“Bobby, what is it?”

“I’m afraid I’ve got bad news, Joseph,” he stammered.

Joseph tried to speak, but could not.

“You’d better sit down.”

“Is it Mary? Is it Jimmy?”

Bobby’s voice cracked. “It’s both.”

The curtain came down in Joseph’s life.