Sunday, April 30, 2017

Reckless - The Dog from Hell


Reckless
The Dog from Hell 

by
Linda Wells


I have blocked out my life the best I could until I was dumped along a busy highway, a scared pup of 6 months. Scared and alone I looked for a place to hide. When I could go no farther, I stopped by a building and rested by the front door and drifted off to sleep.

Suddenly I woke surrounded by a group of men. I growled, they laughed and said, “You are a feisty little thing, aren't you?” They opened the door and called me inside. They went to work, but left me in the hall. Later a woman came in the door and spoke to me. “Good morning, Pup. Where did you come from?” All day she kept up a running conversation with me and in time I lay at her feet. Laying there I felt the need to protect her come over me. A feeling I had never had before. When someone would come into her room, I would automatically go to full alert mode. The guys would laugh and tell her, "Boy, you got a watch dog there.”

Late in the day she asked me if I was ready to go home, picked me up, and put me in the front seat of her pickup. I didn't know what “home” was, but it had a good ring to it. After a long drive she pulled into a driveway and stopped. A big white dog, Blanco she called him, came to the fence barking. I was scared and ran under the pickup. She called and called to me...but I wouldn't come out. She reached under the pickup, taking my legs in her hands and dragged me out. I bit her, bringing blood. She didn't turn me loose, but put me in Blanco's fence. He mostly ignored me. When he did come close I showed him “I'm a baby and I don't want to fight stance.”

The woman went into the house leaving us alone. After a while she came out, telling us she had to go feed and calling Blanco to the fence for a treat. She had one for me. I took mine so aggressively I brought the blood from her hand, I didn't mean to hurt her, but I had never had anything that smelled or tasted so good. She shook her hand and told me I had better be more careful next time.

After an hour or so she came back to the house, talked to us for a minute and went in the house. About dark she came out with our dinner. She put down Blanco's pan and walked across the yard to put mine down. She stepped back, giving me room to eat. When Blanco finished his meal, he didn't come and take mine. It was the first time I remember not having to fight for my food.

The next morning she came out, gave us another treat and said she was going to work and left. Late afternoon, she came home and the evening was the same as the one before.

Soon the weekend came. In the afternoon she came out with a leash and collar. Blanco knew what was going to happen. He reared on the fence, the collar was slipped over his head, leash attached, gate opened and he was taken into the house. She came back for me. I really wanted to go with her, but I couldn't go to her and let the collar be put around my neck. I would go to her, but when she would start to catch me, I would run. This went on for 15 minutes or so. She got tired of trying to catch me, so she went into the house with Blanco. Later she came out and tried to catch me again. This time I mustered my courage, stood and let her put the collar around my neck. I had no idea what to expect when I went through the door. With great anticipation, I entered. Blanco met me at the door, wiggling with joy.

What is that smell - cats? I started after one as I had been taught and was told in a stern voice, “Pup, leave the cats alone.” Which was easy, they were gone in a flash.
She took the collar off and I had my freedom. Upon the couch, cushions flying, cleared the dining room table in a flash, kitchen cabinets came next. This was fun. I heard, “Pup, you need to settle down,” bringing my attention back to her. I ran back to her, jumping on her, licking her in the face, mouthing her arm, I was completely out of control. After a battle, she got me under semi control. She petted me for a long time. Finally I lay down.

I saw the cats peeking out from behind a couch. I had to investigate. The cats had no fear of Blanco, but they were afraid of me. The woman watched me and the cats and kept telling me, “Now don't hurt the cats. Be gentle with them." I would try to catch them, but I couldn't get behind the couch. By the time it was time for us to go back outside, I was getting used to the cats. I was told, "Pup, you are driving me crazy,” and both of us were put back outside. I had a good time in the house...I hoped I would get to come back.

What was Blanco doing? He had been fed a treat, petted and was laying on the rug. He wasn't having any fun. The next day was Sunday, it was like Saturday, I was still out of control but she seemed to think I was a bit better than the day before. Time in the house became a weekend ritual. We would spend all afternoon in the house, sometimes even coming back in after she fed the horses. She would tell me, "Pup, you are driving me crazy.” I would try, but couldn't settle down. After one visit in the house I got my name, Reckless, or Her Dog From Hell.

Time went by and she got her back yard fenced. Now we could come inside anytime we wanted. She was happy telling people how much better she would sleep with us in the house at night. She hadn't counted on how excited I would get being on the bed with her. When she would start to get into bed, I would jump on the bed and start running back and forth on the bed, licking her face, grabbing her arm in my mouth...completely out of control once more. To get into the bed, she had to throw the bedspread over me and even after she was in she had to keep her head under the cover. I would be frantic to lick her. I would claw at the cover over her head. When I gave up and laid down, she would softly rub my ears. In time I learned, when I settled down I would be petted, but not before. The grabbing her arm in the mouth was the next thing I learned not to do. Over and over I would hear, "Don't bite me.” When I didn't bite, I got more petting. The hardest to hear was, “Don't lick me.” I'm better, but still try to sneak in a lick when I can.

I have been a house dog for months and learned a lot. I take treats gently, I don't mouth her arm, I only sneak a lick in from time to time. I have learned that Blanco can be petted and her loving him takes nothing from me. If I stand by him without growling, she will pet us both. The cats are fun to play with. If I move over on the bed at night, she will pet Blanco then pet me until she falls asleep. My feeling of protectiveness grows with each passing day.

I was introduced to tennis balls. How I love them. I have something I can bite to my heart's content. I lay on the couch or bed, throw them off, sneak up on them over and over. Sometime they roll under the the bed or couch and I'm too big to get them out. The first time she come into the room with the broom, I couldn't help myself, old fears die hard. I cringed running from the room. As I ran down the hall she called after me, "Hey Pup, I will never hurt you.” I stopped my flight, turned and peeked in the door to see what she was going to do with the broom. She was bending over with the broom under the bed. Out came my ball.

Soon I learned the broom meant the ball would run out from under the bed or couch. The ball had to be afraid of the broom, not me. Some nights I wake up, fearing danger, a different kind of danger than in my old life. I instinctively stand guard over her sleeping form, watching and listening, on high alert.

She never wakes, feeling no danger. I get off the bed, stand in the doorway, seeing or hearing nothing, I go back to bed. The danger is there, I know something is in the house. My resolve grows stronger, I will protect her.

Being awakened to an unknown danger begins to happen a couple times a week. Each time the feeling of danger is stronger. Now as I lay in the doorway guarding her room, I sometimes see a vague shadow. My first instinct is to run, but I can't leave her. Why doesn't she feel the danger?

One morning she is petting under my neck and puts one hand on my rump and pushes down slightly and tells me to sit. Hey, I know what she wants, so I sit. Twice more she asks me to sit and I do. I get a lot of “good dog, good boy” and “good Reckless, you are so smart.”

The next morning she asked me to sit. I sat for her, but a low growl came from my throat intended for the dark form, The Thing, just behind her. I promise I wasn't growling at her, but at the form. She asks, “Did you just growl at me?” with disbelief in her voice. She asked me to sit again. I did, but the growl came louder as The Thing's hand joined hers as she reached to touch my rump.

“Reck, don't growl at me,” she said. And I was put outside. I could feel her fear of me, but not The Thing. Why me? I would never hurt her. When The Thing is near, I growl as she pets me. Each time I growl I feel her fear of me grow.

Now most of the time when I come inside The Thing is in the house. When it is close my fear of it makes my hackles rise and I cringe in fear, but my need to protect her keeps me from running. 

Her nephew came to do some work on the well. He is laying new pipe from the well to the house. He had to get in the back yard with me and Blanco. We had fun rough housing. I got too excited and growled. He thumped me on the nose, telling me, "Dog you don't growl at me." Then he started to rough house with me again as if nothing happened. He left and I was called inside. I came through the door and The Thing was overpowering. My hackles came up, I cringed and my eyes filled with fear. I started to her as I came inside, but one look at me and she backed up, face showing fear. I ran into the living room, with The Thing all around me. As I started back though the house, she got a ball and threw to me. That broke the spell and The Thing moved away. I played with the ball, she came to me and put her arms around my neck....all was right in my world.

Blanco
Poor Reckless, he is so afraid of The Thing. It takes all his courage to go into the house. Me, I'm more laid back. I'm not afraid until I need to be. I watched the Thing and saw no signs of aggression. I do like to know where it is when I'm going out or coming in. She gets so aggravated at me when I stand in the door checking out the utility room before I come inside or when I stand in the doorway and check out each room as I come though them on my way out.

I'm sure Reckless wasn't born with his fear. It was instilled in him by his treatment before he came here to live. Me, I was lucky. I never knew pain or fear. When I was dumped out, the first house I went to fed me. A few days later the woman came by and was asked if she needed a dog. She said yes and loaded me in the pickup for the drive home.

For some reason I was born timid. When company comes I try to get out of sight. Maybe my timidness was the reason I was dumped. They thought I was too timid for guard duty for a herd of sheep. It doesn't matter, I'm happy in my new home. Reckless and I will both protect the woman with our last breath. We just show it in different ways. I try to stay out of the way and he puts on this mean front.

My dog from Hell
When I came into my office, there he was, a Pit-Rhodesian Ridgeback cross. Just a half grown pup. He was scared but calm. After talking to him, he came and laid with his head on my feet. I have a soft spot for strays, so knew I would be taking him home with me. My other reject, Blanco, a German Shepherd – Giant Pyrenees cross, needed company. Blanco was lonesome since the death of his old running buddies. It had been a long time since I had only one dog living at my place.

I put the pup in the pickup and he laid watching me all the way home. I let him out of the pickup and instead of following me inside, he crawled under the pick up all hackled up. I thought he was just afraid of Blanco standing at the fence barking. I reached for him and darn, he bit me and brought the blood. What have I got myself into here I thought? I went ahead and pulled him from under the pick up and put him in with Blanco. The pup made the signs of “don't hurt me, I'm a baby” and Blanco ignored him. Blanco is a very laid back dog and I was sure he wouldn't start a fight. I went into the house to let them get acquainted.

Later I went to feed the horses, he and Blanco were halfway playing. I called Blanco to the fence and gave him his evening treat. The pup wanted one too and about took my hand with it. “Oh, he is just scared and hungry,” I thought, making excuses for him.
After feeding, I fixed their evening meal and the pup didn't seem aggressive while he ate. The rest of the week went about the same. The pup never brought blood when I fed him his treat again, but he came close. He was always so hyper and excited when it came feeding time. Or anytime I paid attention to him.

I wanted Blanco in the house at night, but my yard fence wasn't around the back of my house. Living in the country, I had let Blanco out at night a few times and instead of going out and doing his business, he had to patrol the place looking for predators, his Giant Pyrenees guard dog breeding coming to the surface. He had a perimeter he checked out anytime I let him out, taking about 10 minutes. In time I knew he would see a coyote, wild hog, bobcat or fox and give chase. I had decided it was best for him to be only let out in a yard, so I couldn't keep him inside at night. The yard gate was too far from the house to be going to it in the middle of the night to let him in or put him out. Remember snakes crawl at night. So I brought them inside on weekends and evenings in the summertime.

The first time I brought the pup inside was a disaster. He hit the house in high gear. He was so hyper. In the blink of an eye the cushions flew off the couch, everything but him from the dining room table. When the table was clear, it was onto the cabinets. I watched in amazement. I finally had the smarts to tell him to settle down. That brought his attention back to me. He jumped on me, almost knocking me down. I put my hand on his head forcing him to the floor. In time I got him settled down by petting his ears and under his neck. As he laid by the chair, I was afraid to move, knowing if I got his attention, he would be all over me again.

Before I brought him home I knew he had issues. He didn't like to be touched on his back, sides, underbelly, or legs. He would jerk away if I touched him there or sling his mouth toward my hand. He never snapped, but I got his message. I had picked up many strays and felt in time I would gain his trust and I could handle him. Talking to our dogs had always worked, but from the beginning I could tell he was going to be the hardest dog to bring under control. There was fear in his eyes most of the time.
Soon, I called him Reckless, or My Dog From Hell. Poor Reckless. He was everything I didn't like about a pup, hyper, mouthy, and oh so needy for my attention. Oh, did I mention he was also a licker. He couldn't get enough attention. He would growl and push Blanco away if he even came close.

When I would really get aggravated at him I would always fall back on: He doesn't bother the cats. Of course they stayed hid most of the time he was inside. Each time he came inside I could see a bit of improvement.

I had never had a dog act like him before, so I started asking everyone I knew about to handle him. Most of the answers involved carrying a stick and hitting him when he did wrong. I didn't think punishment was the right answer for Reckless. I could see the fear in his eyes and the way he cringed when I raised my voice to him. Rescue dogs had filled our home as long as I could remember, some very abused, and never did I have a problem with control until Reckless.

One can find all kinds of information online so I started Googling dog training sites. The SPCA site came up. I started reading about hyper dogs. I found I was re-enforcing him being hyper when I petted him to calm him down. The site said to ignore the dog until he settled down then reward him with attention. The site said it would be hard and I thought...yeah...you don't know how hard it will be to ignore Reckless.

The next time I brought the dogs in, I put on my heavy winter feeding clothes. I brought the dogs in and covered my face and head. Reckless went more crazy then usual, trying to get to bare skin. Amazingly in 10 minutes or so he laid by by the chair. I reached down and petted him. That started his motor running again. Once more I ignored him. This went on all afternoon. Each calm spell lasting a few seconds longer. The bravest of my cats came of hiding. She made sure she had an escape route, slowly she would stick out a paw from behind the couch to see what would happen. Reckless was in heaven, he had something to try to lick. I was grateful Reck's attention was on her not me. The weekend ended and I could see progress, I was happy.

I got the back yard fence and the dogs became inside dogs. Now I figured Reckless would forget his abuse, settle down and not be so needy. A lot of progress had been made in his behavior on weekends, but he was far from being under control.
Winter came and something happened that made me see Reckless for the dog he had hidden under his fear. It was very cold, I was sick and went to feed. I made it to the barn, fed the first batch of horses and was so cold and tired I had to rest, leaning against the fence before I could get back to the pickup. I debated whether to go back to the house and ask for help in feeding the last of the horses. Finishing feeding by myself won and I drove to the second pen. After feeding them, once more I had to lean on the gate to gather strength to make it back to the pickup. At this point I thought I was going to have to call for help to get back in the pickup. My pride told me to just rest and I could make it to the pickup and though the gate. I made it to the pickup and rested again. At the gate I got it opened and drove though. 

I sat and rested once more until I could get the gate shut and by leaning on the pickup bed I made it to the cab. The trip home was short and at the house I sat dreading the short walk to the door. Slowly I started to the house, had a hard time getting the door unlocked, got inside and collapsed on the couch. As I lay there I thought...that Dog From Hell will be all over me. Instead later I was awakened by a paw being laid gently on my face and a small lick on my cheek. I said, "I'm okay, Reckless, just go away.” I opened my eyes and saw him laying on the rug by the couch, watching me. I slept until 10:00 pm with him waking me a couple more times always so gently. I got up and went to bed and he laid down on the bed beside me with his head on my back. I didn't know he had it in him to be so gentle and have that compassion for me. I had dreaded getting into bed. Most of the time he would bounce up and down the length of the bed trying to lick my face and grab my arm in his mouth. This time he just watched me get into bed. So no matter how aggravating Reckless is, I now knew he could be a great dog.

Weeks go by and I'm so proud of Reckless' progress. Everyday I see better and better behavior. All this progress with never a hand laid on him in anger. He still has issues, but with time they are becoming less noticeable.

Then he growled at me. I was shocked. All the stories of pits turning on their owners came to mind. I tell myself over and over Reckless would never attack me unless I pushed him into a corner, but the growls brought up the fear.

My first source of information was the SPCA site. I read and reread all their information on aggressive dogs. The more I read the more confused I got. Watching Reckless for signs of aggression made me see aggression in everything he did. After all this time I became very afraid of him.

When one lives in the country something always needs repair. This time it was my well. My nephew came up to help me....well, to do the work while I watched. My nephew needed to work in the back yard. I was going to put the dogs in the house, but he jumped the back yard fence and started to work. Soon him and Reckless started to rough house. I watched them play and Reckless growled at my nephew and got a thump on the nose with, “Don't growl at me.” I watch them continue to rough house with Reckless not growling again.

My nephew got water to my house and I worked in the yard for a bit longer. Later I went into the house to rest, calling the dogs in with me. Reckless came though the door cringing and slightly shaking. He had the wildest look in his eyes as he checked out the house. The cats took one look at him and hid. I was afraid to touch or speak to him. I went to the pantry and got a ball and bounced it to him. He grabbed the ball, started to play with it. The cats came out of hiding and my Reckless was back.
I admit, I'm afraid of Reckless and getting more afraid of him with each passing day.

My niece called and I thought I would ask her if she had any ideas about Reckless. Her first thought was my ghost was back and he wasn't growling at me, but the ghost. That was something I never thought about.

My Ghost
Several years ago my husband became very depressed because of bad health. He committed suicide. His little dog Skeeter almost died from grief. I often thought I should have taken her to the funeral home so she would have known he was dead, but at the time I didn't think of it.

Not long after his death strange things started to happen. I would come home to find typing paper in the floor, a book in an unexpected place and loose change by the outside door or laying in the living room. I always brushed these occurrences aside. The cats were playing with the typing paper, even with no teeth or claw marks on them. The misplaced books were just me forgetting where I had laid them when I finished reading. The change dropped from my pocket while I was pulling out my car keys, even though I never carried any cash. A ghost was the farthest thing from my mind. Later things started to happen I couldn't explain away.

One evening as I loaded hay in the back of the truck, I felt it shift as if someone sat down in it. My first thought was, “Boy, Skeet, you sure jumped in heavy.” I went to the cab and nothing was inside. Skeeter was coming though the gate, nowhere close to the pickup. I called her and she came running, jumped in the cab with me. Instead of looking out the window as usual, she lay down in the seat. At the barn instead of going with me to feed she stayed in the cab. She didn't leave the pickup for her evening swim. Strange I thought. When I got back to the house Skeeter was very reluctant to leave the pick-up. I finally got tired of waiting for her and picked her up and carried her inside. She lay by the front door, ears pricked watching or waiting until bedtime.

One night Skeeter woke me jumping off the couch. I thought she needed out. Instead of going to the door, she started for the other couch. She had her head down the same way as when she saw something on our walks she didn't know what it was. Just before she got to the couch, her ears came up and tail started to wag. She was so excited as she jumped on the couch. She made a couple of passes leaning against the back of the couch. She gave a big sigh and laid down still wagging her tail. She laid there for 30 minutes or so, happy. Then slowly she got down and came back to my couch and laid back at my feet. She watched the other couch for a bit and went back to sleep.

One evening I saw an apparition as I was getting hay. As I parked I saw a wisp of gray coming from in front of the pickup. At first I thought my pickup was on fire. Looking closer I could tell the wisp was in front of the hood. It was light gray, transparent, about a foot wide and extending about 4 foot above the hood. I just sit, looking at it. I wanted to see if I could walk to it and see if I could touch it but something held me back, fear of the unknown maybe. In time it became fainter and fainter until I could no longer see it. All the time I sat there Skeeter was watching it with pricked ears and wagging her tail. When I could no longer see it, I got out to see if it was really smoke and something was smoldering. I looked and looked but found no evidence of fire.

Meanwhile I was still finding items out of place in the house and the change laying in the floor. Overtime I decided my husband's ghost was at the house. From time to time I would tell someone about my ghost. People who didn't believe in ghosts would think I had gone crazy. People who believed in ghost loved hearing about everything out of the ordinary. Two questions I was asked over and over were, could I feel the ghost presence and was I afraid. I would have to tell them no on both accounts. No way could I be afraid of my husband's ghost. He would never hurt me in life or death.
Skeeter was old and one evening she collapsed at the barn. By the time I got her back to the house she was dead. Her death was very hard on me. She was my last connection to my husband except for his little yellow mare.

A few days later I was feeding and missing Skeeter not being with me. As I carried an arm load of hay, I was thinking what a nice warm spring day. On days like this I enjoyed feeding. Then I walked into a fast air current of very cold air, colder than air from an air conditioner on a hot day.

I dropped my hay, back tracked, running in the direction the current was moving. I was never able to find it. For the first time I was afraid.

There were no more signs from the ghost. In my mind he had came back for Skeeter and they went to the light together.

Could he really be back?
Blanco had started going into the living room and barking for no apparent reason. At


times he would not come though certain rooms unless I put him on a leash. He would bark at the door wanting in, but before he would come in he would stand and look around, down the hall, check out the washer and dryer, but mostly he would look up. Finally he would come on in. He would do the same when he went outside. Blanco no longer sleeps in the living room. He now lays on the rug by the bed. He would wake me wanting to be petted, very unusual for him.

Thinking back it was about the same time Reckless would wake me standing guard over me, watching the door, finally jumping from the bed and guarding the door. The same time he started to growl from time to time.

After talking to my niece, I decided to talk to the ghost. I told him they didn't know him like Skeeter and they were afraid of him. So would he back off? I felt pretty stupid talking to him, but I did for the dogs sake. By the dogs' actions he must have realized what he was doing and kept his distance. Reckless was more relaxed and no longer waking me up by standing guard over me. He no longer laid in the doorway on full alert looking down the hall. But best of all, he hasn't growled at him since I talked to the ghost. Blanco also began to come inside and go out much better.

Life is good on the farm once more. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

StoryTime!

Dear Readers,
Today, I'm adding a new component to the blog. Story Time! That's right. I'm going to invite other authors to publish their short fiction and poetry on the blog from time to time. If you are an author or poet (wait, aren't they the same thing?), and you would like to have your work featured, just shoot me an email, message me on FB, or leave me a comment here. Now, without further adieu, check out this moving little story by my real-life friend, Jerry Rogers a/k/a Dal Hart. 


                                                                                                  Tall Grass 

a short story
by 
Jerry T. Rogers
For no good reason, other than we lived in Texas, our December weather was misbehaving like a petulant child: bringing rain we didn’t need and yet none when we needed it the most. Still little hampered us kids from spending afternoons on an acre of land behind our rural house. A patch of land where the tall grass grew unchecked year-round. We made it a place that provided an ideal hideaway for my little sister, best friend Wesley, and me. My uncle Cecil always took delight in describing the nearly 6-foot Johnson grass as, “Higher than an elephant’s eye.” 
Inside our grassy haven, our young imaginations kept us busy with games of hide and seek, war, and jungle safari. On the other hand, the tall grass had a menacing side during a full moon. It was there our parents prohibited us from playing in the field after sundown.
Saturdays, Wesley and I spent lazy days lying on the trampled grass. In our white tee shirts, jeans and bare feet, we spent hours talking about school, sports, friends and the latest double feature matinee. One afternoon, it was near lunch when our attention was attracted by a slow-moving cluster of black clouds. When the wind shifted, we began to be pelted with drops of cold rain.
Mama’s voice boomed across the sound of the slapping grass. “JAKE… SEND WESLEY HOME… GET YOUR SISTER IN THE HOUSE… NOW!”
She yanked the damp clothes off the line, scattering wooden clothes pins in all directions. Then she grabbed the laundry basket under one arm and with the other, herded my sister and I inside. There we stuffed towels around the window sills and door frames to keep out the advancing hail and rain. After an hour or so the winds and rains ceased, leaving the air eerily still, except for claps of distant thunder and remnants of pea sized hail.
Through the kitchen window we watched the storm head east, just as Daddy pulled his truck up the gravel drive and parked under our frame carport. Crawling out of the cab, he cupped his hands and hollered, “Everybody safe?”
“We are now." Mama shouted, as she pushed open the back-screen door.
Daddy walked around the house inspecting the windows, trees, and roof for any damage. Pushing back his cap, he said, “There’s nothing major, just a lot of cleaning up ahead.” However, Mama distracted by the storm’s destination, watched as a funnel cloud dropped from the clouds, and head toward the Dallas skyline.
Headed to the house, we were stopped in our tracks by the sound of a yapping puppy. We turned to see a rain-drenched white puppy with large brown spots and muddy paws emerge from the tall grass.
Daddy picked him up. Then we crowded around, giggling and stroking our new arrival.
“Can we keep him…huh?” We pleaded.

He handed the pup to Mama. Lifting him high in the air, she remarked, “He has no collar.”
Daddy smiled and shrugged his approval.
“What’d we call him?” Daddy asked. We called out our favorite names, until Daddy held up his hand. “Since he survived the storm, what say we call him Stormy.” We clapped our hands in total agreement.
Us kids played with Stormy, until Mama bathed him on the back porch. Daddy lit the gas heater in the living room, to knock the chill off inside. Soon, we enjoyed a supper of hot homemade soup and cornbread. Mama poured a bowl of milk for our new puppy, while I made him a bed from a cardboard box. Sis covered him with a thick worn-out bath towel. After bedding him down, sis and I took turns bathing in a galvanized tub, that was heated on the kitchen stove. Squeaky clean, we slipped on our pajamas and raced for our cozy beds.
The next morning, I was awakened by the warm breath and wet nose of our new boarder.  Stormy and I wrestled in bed, until we heard Wesley’s whistle. I dressed in a hurry and ran, with Stormy in tow, to meet him at the bar ditch.
After breakfast, we helped Daddy load the pick-up with debris, roofing shingles, broken tree limbs and the like. By mid-afternoon the sun had dried the tall grass enough to hide two high-spirited boys and a frisky pup.  Before supper, I made a place for Stormy under our pier and beam house. The floor sat off the ground enough for his bed on the sandy ground. Sis brought him a tin plate filled with table scraps and slid it under the floor. We laughed watching him devour everything on his plate. That pup could and would eat anything.  
In the Spring, I slept with my bedroom windows open, to catch a cool cross breeze, cooler than our window swamp cooler and less noisy. One uncomfortable night, I dreamed Stormy had wandered in the tall grass alone and was in danger. I awoke with a strong sense of foreboding.   peering through my window. I called to Stormy, pacing near the tall grass, in the light of a full moon. He growled at me. When I called him a second time, he fell silent and trotted to my window. He whimpered gazing at the full moon. Sounding a full-throated howl, he crawled under the house.   
When summer arrived, the tall grass had already reached its full height of six feet. Tall enough for us to hide from our parents and giggling neighbor girls. Stormy loved the carefree adventures of the tall grass, where he joined us every day. The only event that could move him was the sound of Daddy’s pick-up pulling into our drive. Stormy would sprint to the carport and dance about until Daddy slid out of the truck and joined us for a while, before supper.
Stormy became Daddy’s shadow, until Labor Day, when Daddy, known for cooking the best steak in this area, was prepared to grill. His process was to slather the meat with his homemade sauce, until the smoke billowing from the grill, turned grey. At that point, a pungent bar-b-que aroma filled the backyard, hanging in the air like a morning fog.
Mama was busy in the kitchen, making potato salad and banana pudding. Sis brewed the sweet tea, that would be poured over ice chips into plastic patriotic cups. Outside I was busy setting up the portable table under the chinaberry tree, while keeping insects at bay.
Our anticipation peaked, when Daddy head to the kitchen for a large serving plate and tongs. Gathering his tools, he glanced out the window and released a painful howl. Outside, we watched in horror as Stormy pulled our last steak from the grill and disappeared under the house. Daddy grabbed, the first weapon in the kitchen, a broom. He bolted outside, yelling like a crazed-man, waving the broom in the air. He even tried to crawl partially under the house, attempting to snatch the beef from the jaws of this hungry mongrel. Fortunately, he failed in his unsanitary attempt. Dejected, he returned to the kitchen, where Mama was busy cooking hot dogs, pork n’ beans, and potato salad. We ate our supper in joyless silence and saved our pudding for later.  
Things returned to normal, as Daddy mended his relationship with Stormy. On the other hand, my penitence was to stand watch, whenever we grilled outdoors.    
September brought the first day of school. Stormy walked us to the bar ditch, a trench dividing our yard, from the asphalt street and sat with his head cocked to one side. He was watching us leave for the day. Late in the afternoon, we found Stormy sitting close to where we left him that morning.  Following us to the house, he waited at the kitchen door, as we grabbed a handful of warm peanut butter cookies, on our way to the tall grass. Today, at our special spot in the bent grass, Wesley and I were busy making plans for junior high, next year. Little did we know, the impact tomorrow morning would make, in shaping our plans.
The next morning about dawn, I was awakened by the sounds of a whimpering, growling Stormy. I crawled out of bed and hurried to the kitchen window that faced the garage. I watched Daddy pull a torn and bleeding Stormy from the tall grass. He tied him to the corner of the carport, and hurried to his pick-up. He reached under the seat and pullout his hunting rifle. I pushed against the window and whimpered, “No, Daddy… please don’t.”
Stormy tried to stand, but collapsed. Daddy knelt beside him and spoke in a calm, low voice as he loaded a round in the rifle chamber. Then Daddy stood, and took two steps back, as he released the safety. Raising the rifle to his shoulder, he aimed and squeezed the trigger. The shot shattered the quiet morning, and a numbness coursed, like electricity through my body. Daddy engaged the safety and slid the rifle back into the truck. He doubled over with his hands on his knees, as if his breath had been knocked out of him. Then he lifted the lifeless body of Stormy and carried him back to where he had entered our lives… the tall grass.
My ears were still ringing when I struggled to my room and sat on the edge of the bed. My little sister eased beside me and whispered, “I heard a rifle-shot.” 
"Daddy fired at a noise in the tall grass, that’s all," I mumbled. "Now get back to bed."
I joined Mama in the kitchen and watched as she fixed our lunches for school. My mind kept replaying the horror of what I had just seen as I sat at the chrome kitchen table trying to work up the nerve to ask Mama, “Why?”
Mama closed the door to the fridge and sat next to me, where she held my hands.
Tell me, it was all just a nightmare.” I pleaded.     
            “About dawn, Stormy heard or smelled something or someone in the tall grass. We believe he charged in the grass to protect us.”
“But, what made Daddy shoot him?”
“In the attack, Stormy had his flesh ripped to the bone, exposing him to heavy blood loss and possible exposure to rabies. Stormy, was near death and in horrible pain from his wounds, when your Dad put him down.” 
“Couldn’t he call a vet or somebody first?” 
            “Your Dad did the only thing, the humane thing. Jake you’re young and can’t possibly understand such a terrible thing. But, with God’s help, someday you will.”
“I don’t want to understand, someday or any day!”
“Jake, let me fix you some breakfast.”
“No thank-you,” I growled, slamming the backscreen.  
I left for school early, hoping to avoid anyone that would ask about Stormy. Without answers to what happened, school made less sense. Lunch and recess became a random activity. Even the final bell reminded me that I would return to a home without Stormy.        
I crossed the bar ditch and walked to the backyard, passing the blood-speckled carport.  I entered the tall grass, totally exhausted. I rolled up my jacket and made a pillow to rest my head, while I napped restlessly, near the grave Daddy had dug for Stormy.
            When Daddy pulled into the drive, I listened as he and Mama talked on the grass line. I heard Mama say, “Jake’s in the back corner of the tall grass, near the grave.”
Finding me at the far corner of the tall grass. Daddy said, “Son, I wish things could have been different.”                                                                                                          
“Yes, sir” I muttered, without looking up. “And Daddy, thanks for burying him.”

He knelt next to me and said, “Jake, when you’re a man, you’ll encounter other heart-breaking moments. But, it’s circumstances such as this, that make us stronger, if we exercise our faith and strength of character.”
“How can I be sure, I have what it takes?”
Detecting the resolve in his eyes, I watched him pick up a clump of dirt, “Tonight, I’ll call Mr. Kilgore to bring his tractor to plow under these bitter weeds.”
 Gripping his hand filled with dirt, he tossed it down. “Here we can plant a garden full of life-giving vegetables.”
            JAKE...DINNER’S READY… TELL YOUR DAD!
“That’s sounds like your Mama.” Daddy joked, “you coming?”
 “In a little bit.” 
 He smiled and then nodded. Shoving his hands into his khakis pockets, he headed to the house.                                                                  

A swirling breeze shook the tall grass, creating a sound of approaching footsteps. I began walking in the grass, until I lost my bearings. I began to zig-zag across the field and stopped at the sound of a distant whistle. When the sky crackled with lightning, I hit the ground in a rain filled shoe print. When I stood, a hand reached in and grabbed my arm and yanked me to the clearing. The hand belonged to none other than my mud-covered friend, Wesley. Laughing, we began to wrestle on the damp grass, stopping only to catch our breaths.  
“Tomorrow, Mr. Kilgore’s plowing under the tall grass.” I said.
 Wesley beamed, “Hey, that means we’ll have enough dirt clods, to throw for weeks.”
“You bet. I’ll tell the boys at school. Our battle begins after school…tomorrow.” 
                                                                     
The plans of young boys are as random as the spring weather and today was no exception. Sitting cross legged in the clearing, our attention was drawn to the stars overhead, which was soon overcome by a vivid source of light, a full moon. A brilliance created to cast one final long shadow…over the tall grass.

  

Monday, April 24, 2017

Where Writers Work their Magic


Does it matter where you write?

Think about J.K. Rowling sitting in the back room of The Elephant House looking out over Edinburgh Castle writing Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I don't know about you, but I think looking at that magnificent castle everytime she sat down to write must have been like turning on the creativity spigot.

And what about D.H. Lawrence? I've read that his favorite writing spot was outdoors in nature, leaned up against a pine tree in New Mexico or a great fir in Nottingham forest. He said trees made the best writing companions because they were alive but didn't interrupt his thinking with a lot of chatter. (I may have paraphrased that just a bit.)

And of course there was the eccentric British poet Dame Edith Sitwell who wrote while lying in a white coffin. Pretty sure it was an open casket . . .

Whether it's on a train like thriller author John le Carré or walking to the office like poet Wallace Stevens, or even in a revolving writing shed like George Bernard Shaw (or one of my faves, Roald Dahl--whose shed remained stationary), it seems we like whatever it is that gets our creativity flowing. For me, it's my desk beside the fireplace early morning or late at night.

What is it that gets your creative juices flowing? Post a picture if you have one. I'd love to see you!





Thursday, April 6, 2017

3rd Annual Brain to Books Blog Hop


Welcome to the 3rd Annual Brain to Books Blog Hop



http://amazon.com/author/annswann
Below is an excerpt from the first book in my bestselling Stutter Creek trilogy:



from 5 Prince Publishing

Beth went in search of an old flame, but she found a serial killer instead.

Mandy was on her way to work the evening shift at the Waterhouse Bar & Grill when she spied a small boy standing beside the road, alone. She immediately decided to pull over and check on him.

This is what happened next:

            The setting sun made the trees appear as black-paper cutouts in a landscape collage.
            After checking her mirrors to make sure no one was behind her, Mandy pressed the button to lower the passenger-side window. It was almost all the way down when a man yanked open the door and exploded into her world like a tornado into a trailer park.  Her hand flew to the gearshift, but she couldn’t engage it.  Even as her flight instinct kicked in, part of her mind was telling her this was almost certainly the same strange guy who had requested her section at the restaurant the night before.  His eyes had seemed to follow her all around the crowded dining room, and his oily stench had made him stand out like a spot of mold on white linen. 
            Mandy drew in breath to scream, her hand scrambling across the console for her phone or the gearshift, whichever came first, but he was too fast.  With lightning speed, he dove across the seat and slapped a rectangle of duct tape across her mouth.
            He buried his free hand knuckle deep in the thick blonde braid at the base of her skull even as his other hand slid down to her windpipe and began to squeeze.
            Mandy’s fight instinct kicked in then, and she whipped her head back and forth in an effort to dislodge his hands. His stench, and the oily filth of his unkempt hair, was sickening. She clawed at his eyes, ripped at his skin, but it was no use.  The psycho laughed and simply leaned his head back out of her reach.
            That’s when Mandy began to claw at her own face, attempting to scratch the silver tape off her mouth. It didn’t matter. There was no one around to hear her scream even if she could have gotten it off.
            Mandy wasn’t a quitter.  She did her best to get her feet out from under the steering column to try and kick him off. But he was pressing down on her with his entire weight. 
            She was trapped. 
            Calmly, the psycho took one hand off her throat, doubled up his fist, and hit her so hard the back of her skull struck the driver’s side window with an audible whap!
            Then he went back to her throat. Mandy’s grip on reality began to loosen.  Tiny strobes flashed inside her skull.

            He squeezed even harder, the tips of his fingers disappearing into her flesh.


To continue the hop, click the link below