Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Key, Chapter 27

The Key
by Eloise Hawking

Chapter 27

     There are moments in your life that come to this—where you abandon all laws of logic and the adrenaline coursing through you takes over.   Your body and mind are no longer in unison.  

      My physical body was in motion, running faster than it ever had in its life.  I sprinted ahead of both Jack and Emily, both far superior to me in athletic ability.  My brain that was worrying about what could happen was still ten steps behind me.

     “Ellen!  Wait!”  I could hear Jack calling to me, but my brain would not allow me to listen.  A living thing was hurt and it needed my help, no matter how ferocious a beast it was.

     My feet came to a screeching halt as I stopped at the edge of the two foot ditch that ran between the orchards and the road.  There in the depths of it, lie Fangs on his side.  I braced myself to see the blood, which is not my favorite thing to look at, but I didn’t see any.  Fangs’ body was lying very still, bent at an odd angle. 

     “Is he dead?” Emily screamed as she reached the edge of the ditch.

     “I don’t know,” I yelled back over the force of the rain and the wind. 

     Jack crouched down at the top of the ditch and peered down inside.  “I think he’s breathing,” he said, “look!”

     The three of us got down onto our hands and knees, instinctively placing our backs against the wind.  We could not see Fangs face or tell if his eyes were open or shut.  His snout was faced downward into the ground.  My clothes were soaked through and I could feel the tip of my pony tail sticking to the back of my neck. 

     “We need to turn his head so we can see his face!” I shouted.

     “I don’t think we should move him,” Jack yelled back.  “You aren’t supposed to move the neck if it’s been injured.”

     “Hey, Doc!  That’s the rule for PEOPLE and this is a DOG!,” yapped Emily.  “It’s not like we can call an ambulance or something.”

     “What are we going to do?  We just can’t leave him here,” I cried.  Tears of exasperation blended in with the raindrops that ran down my cheeks.
     Our trio huddled together and was quiet for a moment contemplating our next move.  I knew we wouldn’t have time for brainstorming ideas and “votes” this time, because it was time that was of the essence.  We needed to help Fangs, needed to get out of this storm, and needed to let someone know where we were. 

   “MOM!  I thought.  I envisioned my mother’s face and knew that we needed to call her.  “Emily, where’s my phone!”

     “Be careful when you dial that, Ellen,” cautioned Jack.  “If the phone gets wet, it will be ruined.”

     We  pushed our bodies tightly together with me sandwiched in the middle.  Jack and Emily made a bit of a wind break so I could dial.  I punched in the number to home and the phone beeped three times, flashed, and went dead.  My God.  Emily killed the last of the battery playing pinball!

     “It’s dead!”  I screamed.

     “No, he’s still breathing!  I can see him!” Jack corrected once again.

     “Not FANGS!” I yelled back, “THE PHONE!”

     I dropped my arms limply to my sides in defeat.  I pushed my body into a crouch position, giving no mind as to whether my phone got wet or not.  My voice was shrill when I looked at my companions and said, “Now what?!”

     Jack, the fastest thinker of the three of us came up with the plan first.   We had to act on it simply because there was no time for discussion.  We had to split up in order to get help.  

     From the start, I didn’t like the sound of this because it was 100% against what my mother just cautioned me about hours earlier.  I heard her voice in my head.  “Stick together.  You know what happened to Miss Riding Hood when she didn’t listen to her mother.  Bad things happened to her out in the woods.”

     Jack  the general, took the leadership role giving everyone orders and began pointing his fingers every which way, shouting into the wind and rain.  “I’ll go try to find Farmer Richter.  He must be putting his tractor away in the barn right now.  Emily, you take the road and run back to Ellen’s house to get help.  Run as fast as you can and don’t stop.  Ellen, you stay here with Fangs.”

     I wasn’t quite sure if I liked this plan.  This totally went against the my mother’s warning .  I opened my mouth to say something, but because we didn’t have a vote, the other two were up and running before I had any time to even protest.  

     I glanced down the road hoping I’d see a car coming.  I’d even flag down Justice if he happened to be making a return trip, but no boom of the bass was to be heard.  What I did hear was the annoying, repeated blasts of the air horn.

     I instantly felt guilty and upset about Grandma.  She was more afraid of storms than anyone I knew and here she was probably terrified, wondering where we were.  I was going to catch it big time for this one when I got home.

     “Hang on, Grandma,” I thought to myself.  

     I looked to the west and I could see Emily’s retreating figure getting smaller and smaller.  Her athletic body powered by fear and adrenaline was pumping her legs up the hill to home.  She’d be back to my house in just a few minutes and my family would soon have the peace of mind that we were okay.

     I looked back to Fangs and the water that was beginning to pool, at the base of the ditch.   It was starting to run around the outline of Fangs’ body, out around his haunches and down through his midsection.  I peered closely at his scruffy neck and saw it moving up and down very rapidly.  Jack was right, the dog was still alive but I couldn’t tell how badly he was hurt until I got a closer look.

     As much as I feared this, I knew I had to go down and approach Fangs’ snout.  His nose was pointed down and I feared that if the water got much deeper, he would drown unless I moved his head.  I jumped down into the ditch and crouched by Fangs’ head.  

     “Fangs…… Fangs…..” I said very softly, trying to keep the dog calm and myself as well.

    It suddenly occurred to me that Fangs was not the dog’s real name.  It was our nickname for him given to him out of our fear.  I made the mental correction and spoke his real name. 

     “Bandit………Bandit……….It’s Ellen……….I’m here to help you……..” I reached across his neck and touched the top of his head ever so gently, just to give him a soft pat to let him know that he wasn’t alone in his time of greatest need.


     Fangs turned his head from his nose down position and tried to take a snap at my forearm.  I screamed and jumped , losing my balance.  I fell right on my butt into the wet ditch, soaking the last of the dry places on my body.  My heart was pounding out of my chest but at least I knew that Fangs was ok.  He had enough gumption left in him to bite me, then he just may pull through.

     “Bandit!” I yelled, with a lilt in my voice.  I laughed and cried at the same time.  “Bandit!  It’s ok.  It’s Ellen.  I am here to help you.  Let me see you.”

     Fangs put his head down in a better position with his snout up and out of the way of the rising ditch water.  His eyes remained open in a fixed stare.  They looked glazed and I figured he must have been in shock.   I surveyed the area again for someone, anyone to come to our assistance, but it was just me and Fangs.  There had to be something I could do.

   All of a sudden it hit me.  I saw the glow of the soft light of my bedroom and heard my mother’s words echoing through me .  “You are never alone Ellen.  God is always with youPray, Ellen and God will hear you.”

      Pray.  I could pray for Fangs.

     When we prayed for the sick, we placed our hands upon the sick person like the disciples did.  Jesus instructed them to follow his example and go out among the people and lay hands upon them for healing.  Did that count for dogs, too?  Could I be like a disciple?  Was I even old enough to do that by myself without an adult?  

     I had nothing to lose, so I moved to place my hands on Fangs to say a prayer.  I extended my hands to touch Fangs in spite of my fear.  Fangs body jumped at my touch and he turned his head slightly and weakly bared his teeth.  He let out a weak little growl. 

     “It’s ok, Fan…Bandit,” I said.  “It’s ok.” 

     I let my hands rest a little more heavily on him now.  My right hand was touching his side near his rib cage.  My left hand rested on the top of his head between his ears.  I was surprised how soft and dog-like his fur felt.  I expected it to be prickly.
    The position I found myself in was similar to one my mother held for me many years ago when I was dreadfully sick with a  fever.  Mom sat at my bedside with a wash cloth, dipping it into a basin of cool water and folding it into a long, neat rectangle.  She would place it gently on my forehead and sometimes the back of my neck to keep me cool.  Mom would place one hand on the tippy top of my head and the other on my side while she prayed for me.  

     In movies you always see people who say whisper-prayers—pleads to the Lord in hushed tones so that no one but the Good Lord himself could hear them.  But my mother was different.  She prayed loud and clear for anyone in the room to hear.  She prayed for me with confidence.  From the recesses of my mind, I remembered:

Dear Lord,
Hear my prayer for healing Ellen in the name of, Jesus Christ.  Even in the face of sickness and adversity, when all hope seems lost,  my faith does not waiver and I am strengthened by your guiding hand.  I make this request in Jesus’ name and believe you will hear my prayer and answer it in your time.  It is with this faith, firm and secure, that anchors my soul to you, O Lord.  Amen.

     Would God hear a prayer for a dog?  How about one sent up from a disobedient ten year old who didn’t listen to her mother?   I questioned this in my mind for a moment, but figured it wouldn’t hurt to try.  If God really did see everything, then at least he would see me trying to help a hurt animal. 

     I bowed my head and closed my eyes as my mother does, and began to speak from my heart. 

Dear Lord,
Please help Bandit.  He got hit by a car just now and is really hurting.  He is scared like me.  Please help us Lord.  Send somebody to help us.  Amen.

     I opened my eyes half expecting to see Emily or Jack or Farmer Richter or a neighbor or somebody, but no one was there.  The thunder boomed and the lightning flashed.  I was no longer cold because I was numb.  

     My eyes moved down to Fangs side.   I went to brush the mud from his legs, when I realized the dark brown that was clumped at the top of his front leg was not mud; it was blood. 

     “Oh, Bandit!  You’re bleeding!”  I cried.  And to no one in particular I said out loud, “Oh please hurry!  Please, oh please!”

     Suddenly I remembered the bottle of water I brought along.  I was no longer thinking of my own dire thirst, but that I could use the water to rinse the wound.  If Jack was concerned about the bacteria on a fallen apple, Lord only knew what kind of diseases would be carried on the tire tread of Justice’s truck.
     I swung my pack off of my back, feeling the last spot of dry on my body soak through with the driving rain in seconds.  I unscrewed the cap from the half empty water bottle and gently began pouring it over Fangs' front left leg.  Again Fangs flinched, but his breathing steadied after I paused, and I began pouring it slowly again. 

     Also in my pack, I had a bottle of Bactine.  Grandma made me carry it everywhere.  It was part of the requirements in our storm kit.  Bactine was designed for killing bacteria, so I figured it may just work for dogs, too.  I squirted a couple of pumps onto the bleeding wound, which was now running red with blood now that the mud was wiped away.  This time Fangs didn’t even flinch.

     I remembered again the time when I was sick, and although it hurt, it felt good to have someone with me, touching me, and murmuring over and over that I would be ok.  Mom made me believe that I would heal from my fever, so it was my turn to make Fangs believe that he could hang on, too.

     I opened my palm to the flat position and pressed it onto the wet fur between his ears.  “It’s ok, Bandit,” I said softly and calmly, “you’re going to be just fine.  I'm here to help you.”  

     I kept repeating that over and over and over again until I almost forgot where I was.  The whir of car wheels brought me out of my mantra, and into where I actually was:  in the middle of a storm, calming a ferocious beast.

   A vehicle that seemed vaguely familiar slowed and pulled to the side of the road just up ahead of me.  It was a little silver car with four doors that I had seen somewhere before, but couldn’t quite place.
     “Ellen!  Ellen, is that you?” I heard a voice call from the driver’s side out through the opened passenger’s side window. 

     I could not make out who the voice belonged to, but could tell it was a male.  I stood, shielding my eyes from the driving rain, attempting to see who it was.
     The car jolted into the park position and the door opened and closed.  The man that emerged was short because just his hooded head was visible above the car roof.  As he rounded the front of the car, an umbrella popped open.   The man crossed the road in a hurried gait with a skip-like motion.

      Where had I seen this person before?  He knew my name and I got the sense he was coming to offer me some help.  Still fear rose from the bottom of my belly as the man’s identity was disguised by the hood of his raincoat.

     “Ellen!  What in God’s name are you doing out here?”

     This time there was no mistaking who it was.  He wouldn’t have had to say another single word because the walk gave it all away.  It was Skippy, Mr. Nebauer, my teacher. 

     I was so dumbfounded that Mr. Nebauer was the first one to come to my aid that I didn’t have a response to his question.  He skip-stepped up beside me and looked down into this ditch.

     “Is this your dog, Ellen?” he yelled through the stinging rain.

     “No,” I said, “it’s Bandit, my neighbor’s dog.  He got hit by a car.  My cousin and Emily went to get help.”

     They say God works in mysterious ways, but it was no mystery to me that Mr. Nebauer was an answer to my prayer.  I knew just because I knew.  I felt it.  It felt good and right for him to be here at this moment.  I felt safe and relieved that my predicament would be soon solved and was happy to have Mr. Nebauer wait it out with me.
     Mom says when you receive peace like that, it definitely comes from the Lord.  That’s how I know God sent Skippy.  The mystery part of it was why God chose to send Mr. Nebauer to my rescue in my moment of greatest need, and not Farmer Richter himself or my parents.  I always wondered if prayers did work sometimes, but today, in the driving rain I didn’t doubt that anymore.
    Maybe I found the key.  After all, the key to a test held all of the answers.  May I was being tested.  It’s strange how the one who showed up with the answer key was a nerdy substitute teacher named Skippy. 

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