Monday, March 31, 2014

The Key, Chapter 31

The Key
by Eloise Hawking

Chapter 31
     I was completely exhausted, yet continuously awakened, making it for an odd night of sleep.  I slept fitfully from the noises of the night which kept bringing me out of my slumber.  Moments of utter confusion would give way to knowledge of where I was—safe in my own room.  Then I would quickly plummet back into another deep, dark dream. 

     I dreamed of Fangs howling, only to be awakened by the wind.  Sam would thrash and kick me, and in my dream Jack would be jabbing me with the whittled end of his stick.  I would dream that I was running hard and fast through the mud and driving rain only to be going nowhere, as if I were running on a treadmill.  I awakened to find myself covered in sweat with the blankets tangled tight around my legs.  I dreamed many of times of the smelly mud, or that I had stepped in dog poop with my new sneaker.  Then I’d awaken to the smell of my little brother, who continued to blow boofers all night long.

     When I opened my eyes for good the next morning everything was still.  Very still.  No more rain.  No more wind.  The storm had passed.  I heard the gentle breathing of Sam lying next to me with his arms wrapped around mine.  He looked warm and snug and very cute.  So cute in fact I leaned over and gave him a little kiss on the nose.  Sam inhaled hard and flopped over to face the wall, releasing his grasp on me.

     As I slid quietly out of bed not to disturb Sam, something felt strange in the house.  A hollowness of sorts.  I stood still in the center of my bedroom with a growing awareness that something was wrong.  I looked at the clock to see that it was still blinking, showing that we were still out of power.  There were footsteps beneath me—quick footsteps though accompanied by hushed whispers of my parents.  I had to go investigate.

     I used the bathroom and remembered that our pump doesn’t work when we have no electricity, so I couldn’t flush.  Gross. 

     I creeped down the  steps slowly.  I heard my father’s deep voice say to my mother, “She’s up.”  My mother didn’t respond with words.  That meant that she used a non verbal response which I have always interpreted to mean the next thing coming is not going to be good. 

     I walked into the kitchen and both were standing side by side, fully dressed.  I could see by their shoes that they had been outside.  Neither said anything to me, but I could see in their eyes that something was wrong.

     “It stormed all through the night.  Did any of it wake you, Ellen?” said Mom.

     “Once in awhile I heard the wind,” I lied, “but I was really tired so I slept pretty well.”

     “How did your brother do?” asked Dad.

     “Fine except for the fact he was blowing boofers all night,” I said rolling my eyes for extra effect. 
Mom and Dad laughed simultaneously, breaking a tension I could sense was hanging over our house but didn’t know why.

     Mom walked over to me, took me in her arms, and held me tight.  “Oh, Ellen.  You are such a good kid,” she whispered into my hair.  Her breath felt warm on the top of my head and gave me good shivers down my spine.
     She held me for a little longer than usual it seemed, then pushed me back by my shoulders to square me up to look her in the eyes.  “I’ve got some upsetting news, for you, Honey.”

      It was one of those moments in that you wish you could run away from.  Your mind knew something was coming that was big and you had to know, but your gut was telling you to run.  Run fast and far away so that you wouldn’t have to hear what was being said.  Fight or flight.  I wanted to flee but Mother wouldn’t let go.

     She  twisted my shoulders and eased me around to face the window.  “We lost a couple of trees in that storm last night.  One of them got your tree house.”

     I couldn’t really make sense of what I was seeing.  There were branches and leaves all over the yard.  The tree house tree had snapped at the top and was bent at an odd angle.  What used to be the east wall now looked like the floor.  The tree was uprooted and the big hairy chunks of earth stuck up from the ground.  My garden gnome that greeted guests on the at the top of the staircase was lying on the ground with a crushed red hat. 

     Tears sprung to my eyes and I could not think of a single word to say.  My hideout was destroyed.  I looked to my dad, my eyes pleading with him silently asking if he could fix it.  

     “It’s going to have to come down, Ellen.  There’s no way to save it.  Grandpa and I went out and looked at it together this morning.”

     That sealed it.  If Grandpa said the tree house could not be salvaged, then it was really over.  My tree house!  My space.  The one thing I called my very own.

     I opened the glass sliding door, zombie like and walked into the yard, stepping over branches and leaves in my socks.  For the second time in less than twenty four hours I felt the mud seep into them.  I looked down to find my guestbook had blown way into the yard near our house.  It was bent and watermarked and looked just like my mother’s paperback books did after she dropped them in the bathtub during one of her bubble bath reads.  I bent to pick it up and leafed through pages stained with the tears of rain.
     I noticed Mom and Dad were oddly quiet and following along behind me letting me  make sense of things.  

     “I know you are sad, Sweetie,” said Mom, “but we’ll figure something out.”  She paused, as if to say something else but didn’t.  She held back.  She was waiting for something.

     “How did it happen?” I asked.  “Was it a tornado?  Did it hit our house?”

     “It is doubtful it was a tornado.  It was probably something they call a micro burst---a very powerful gust of wind that is similar to a tornado,” said Dad.  “I’m guessing the gust must have been over 60 miles per hour.  That’s a pretty strong wind.”

     I walked down through the debris a little further, deeper into the yard.  I found the string to the tin can phone.  The string was snapped and it was tangled around a branch.  I reached up and put the can to my ear to listen one last time.  It was then, when I turned in the direction of Emily’s yard that I saw it.  Another tree had fallen, too.  Oh God, NO!   Please NO!

     I turned to look at Mom and Dad and sucked in air so hard that nothing would come out.  My cry was inside.  A wrenching silent scream that came up from the depths of my gut.  Fight or flight.   I did fly this time, in the direction of more devastation.  

     Another tree uprooted and had fallen, crushing Rocky’s house.  My feet carried me as fast as they could to the corner of my yard that met with Rocky’s.  I jumped the fence, the sharp point of the triangular post poking into the bottom of my muddy socked foot. 

     I ran around the tree to where the doorway of the doghouse used to be.  The house was completely crushed.  The roof bent and the wooden sides pointing upwards like hideous spears.  

     “Rocky?” I whispered.  “Rocky!” I yelled.
     I looked up to the edge of the fence where my parents now stood.  Mom had tears in her eyes.  I turned to face my mother and said,  “Rocky?”  

    This time I said his name with an inflection at the end, hoping my mother would give me the answer that I wanted to hear, not the one that I felt to be true.

     Mom shook her head no, and the motion shook loose a tear.  I watched it roll down her cheek and underneath her chin.   She didn’t even try to wipe it away.

     “Rocky was killed last night, Ellen.  Grandpa and I found him this morning.   We told the Thompsons.  They buried him about and hour ago underneath their dogwood tree on their side of the creek.  You can go see him  if you want to go say goodbye,” said Dad.

     The dogwood tree.  I looked up to see it on the west end of our yard.  Underneath it was a mound of brown dirt.  The shovel was still resting against its trunk.  I found the dogwood tree and now my favorite dog was buried beneath it.

     Say goodbye?  Say goodbye!  I am not supposed to be saying goodbye to Rocky today.  I don’t want to.  I don’t want any of this.  I want to run away get and have this be all a bad dream. 

     So that I did.  I started to run.  Run in which direction, I really didn’t know so I ran in circles for a minute.  I couldn’t go to my tree house and my brother was sleeping in my bedroom.  I had to go somewhere so I just took off in the direction of Grandma and Grandpa’s yard with tears burning in my eyes. 
     How could an innocent, sweet, lovable animal die like that out of sheer neglect on the part of the owners?   Didn’t they listen to the weather man say to bring pets inside?  Why didn’t I just go get Rocky last night when I thought about it?  I was too lazy, too thirsty and too plain old afraid of that storm to do anything about it.  My kind and loyal friend Rocky died all because of me!  How could I ever forgive myself!
What kind of God lets that happen?  What kind of God lets the innocent die?  

     Not my God.  My God can do anything.  He made Lazarus alive after he was dead.  He made the blind see.  Maybe if I prayed real hard to him he would raise up Rocky and I would ask the Thompsons if he could be my dog since they didn’t pay a lick of attention to him anyway.  

     I believed that God could do that if I asked him to.  All you need  is to believe. That would sure change the world, wouldn’t it?  Some ten year old girl prays for a dead dog that isn’t even hers and he comes back to life.

     I ran out to the woodpile out of the sight of everyone and ducked behind the garbage cans.  I dropped immediately to my knees and began to pray from the bottom of my heart. 

     Dear Lord, Please don’t take Rocky from us just yet. I didn’t have enough time to love him like I should have.  If you brought him back to us, I’d love him more and ask for him to be my dog.  I’d give him a good home and give him baths and feed him good food.  Please God Please bring Rocky back.  I believe you can, God.  Please hear my prayer.  Please, oh please.  I am so sorry I didn’t listen to my heart.  I am selfish and stupid.  Punish me, not Rocky.  Please God, please make it not be true.

     Believing in something is important.  Maybe that was the key to all things.  Belief.  And if I believed hard enough and strong enough, God would hear me and answer my prayers. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Key, Chapter 30

The Key
by Eloise Hawking

Chapter 30

     Mom still had her arm around me as we walked into the kitchen,  when we were greeted by the rest of our family. 

     “ONION!  You’re back!” exclaimed Sam.  “Oh, you made my heart so happy!”  Sam bum rushed me and squeezed my legs tight.  “Ewwww, you’re all wet!”

     Dad and Hope had also walked over and put their arms around me as well.  We all hugged each other.  We were  one big wet, relieved heap of people.  

     The lights flickered again and this time, they went out.

     “Ohhh!  What’s happening?” Sam whined.

     “Looks like we lost power,” said Dad.  “Could be out for awhile with this storm.  There’s only a little daylight left.  We better gather up what we need.”

     “Scoot,” said Mother pointing in the direction of my bedroom.  “Go change now while you have light enough to see.  Bring any flashlights you can find when you come back down.”

     I obediently went to put on some warm, dry clothes.  On the way past the refrigerator I was reminded again of my excessive thirst.  I reached my arm out to grab the handle to open it up.

      Mom took notice and said, “No, Honey, don’t open the refrigerator.  We don’t know how long the power is going to be out, and we have to keep everything cold.  Opening the refrigerator door will only let the warm air in.  Leave it shut for now.  I’ll fix you something to eat in a little bit.”

     Ugh!  I would have cried, but I knew that by shedding tears, the last remaining bits of moisture in my body would be lost.  I felt as if I had to conserve every drop.  At the mere mention of the word eat, my stomach growled.  We were supposed to be eating dinner together right now and heading out to the football game.  My, how plans can change! 

     I climbed the fourteen steps to my bedroom and listened to the scrambling around below me, the clinking of candles, the opening and closing of drawers in search of batteries, hurried footsteps in collecting needed items for the night.  

    Most kids would be scared, but tonight I wasn’t.  I felt safe.  I’ve already weathered the worst of it, and outside all alone for that matter.  I could certainly ride out the storm inside a big warm, safe house with my family by my side.

     I gathered up an armload of dry clothes and took them into the bathroom to change.  I found two flashlights, both with dead batteries.  Sam is famous for playing with them and forgetting to turn them off. 

     I grabbed Sam’s favorite claw machine toy he sleeps with—a stuffed orange Chihuahua with sparkly green ears, as well as his blanket.  The end was still wet from where he must have sucked it during his nap today.  Yuck.

     In the diminishing light, my eyes focused on the bathroom water faucet, an oasis in the desert.  I didn’t even waste time grabbing a little paper cup we used for tooth brushing.  I bent right over the sink at my waist, leaned my body forward and put my mouth right around the faucet.  I lifted the spigot handle upwards to release the flow of cool water into my very dry mouth.  

     The faucet hissed and spit and I jumped at the noise.  Oh mercy, NO!  I had forgotten that when we lose electricity, the water pump to our well does not work.  

     Unlike the city folk who get their water from municipal water sources, we country folk get our water from wells deep in the earth near our houses.  Days of buckets and strings and fetching have given way to electrical pumps, giving kids a huge break from their toils.  Electric water pumps saved kids from many an aching back, but they aren’t too helpful when you lose power.

     Now that I was alone in a locked bathroom, I let it go.  The tears came.  There was more water in me than I had originally thought.  The tears flowed from the frustrations of the day, from the fear of the storm, and from plain old wanting something desperately that you can’t have, like a drink.  I silently sobbed into the mirror, looking at my own tired, miserable face.  I was so thirsty I even tried to lick up my tears just to add a bit of moisture to my dry, cracked mouth.

     Mom always said crying doesn’t solve anything.   She was right.  My moment of weakness was brief.  Standing here crying into the mirror wasn’t going to do a thing for my most immediate concerns—my thirst and the dissolving daylight.  I needed to move. 

     I got dressed as quickly as I could, stepping out of my wet shorts and leaving them right on the floor where I was standing.  As I bent over to put them into the wash basket, I felt something come over me.  A wave of warmth perhaps.  Something reminded me how lucky I was to be safe and sound, even if I was a bit parched.  I should pray, I thought.

     I was already in the down position from intending to pick up my shorts, so I just lowered myself onto my knees.  I folded my hands and rested them on the counter of the sink, and bowed my head to pray.
    God, it’s me Ellen. Ellen from Harborcreek.  God forgive me for being so stupid about the weather.  I couldn’t see in the woods that it was as bad as it was out.  I am sorry for not charging my cell phone when my mother told me to.  I am sorry that Fangs got hit and I am sorry for always wishing he would get hit someday so I could finally ride my bike past his house.  I am sorry if I scared Grandma.  Please don’t let Fangs die God.  He’s a nice dog.  Please let Skippy, I mean Mr. Nebauer’s leg grow back.  I am sure he doesn’t want to walk around on a metal leg for the rest of his life.  Please keep us safe from the storm God.  And God, if you have time and you aren’t too busy saving dogs’ lives and people from this storm, can you find some way to get me something to drink?

     I lifted my head and opened my eyes to realize that it was now very dark in the bathroom with the door closed.  The wind was beating against the house and driving the clickety rain onto the panes of window glass.  I got the overwhelming urge to be with my family and couldn’t get there soon enough.  I grabbed the dead flashlights, Sam’s blanket, and claw machine Chihuahua and ran downstairs.

     They were all gathered in the living room.  Dad had a fire blazing in the fireplace.  Although it was damp and chilly, it was not quite cold enough for a fire ordinarily.  Tonight the fire would serve as a source of light for us.  There is something comforting about sitting next to the warm orange glow of a fire.  The warmth envelops you and soaks into your soul.  

     As I came down the stairs, I could see that Mom had everyone sitting in a circle cross legged just as Kindergartners do when they are called to the carpet for circle time. 

     “Sit by me, Onion!  Sit by me!,” Sam requested, patting the carpet next to him.  I made my way over to him and squished in between him and Hope. 

     In the center of the circle Mom had a TV tray with a jar of peanut butter, a loaf of bread, and 5 tall Cokes in glass bottles.  They are the drinks that mom only brings out for special occasions.  We have them on our birthdays, on Christmas Day, and sometimes if my softball team has a big win.  I never see her buy them, and I have tried many times to find her hidden stash.  The bottles are never cold, so I am guessing she hides them in the basement somewhere.  When the Coke comes out of a tall glass bottle like that, it doesn’t matter if it’s cold or not.  It tastes really good any temperature.

     Oh, thank you God!  I said silently to the Heavens when I saw the Cokes.  You not only sent me a drink, but my favorite drink, too!

     “Are those pops for us?” asked Sam.

     “Yes, they are,” said Mom.  “It looks like it will be a long stormy night, so a little extra caffeine isn’t going to hurt anybody.  “We don’t have any power to cook anything else,” Mom went on, “but we can make do with this for the time being.”

     “Or we can go next door……” said my father with his voice trailing off.  He was looking out of the living room window in the direction of my grandparent’s house.  It was lit up like the New York City sky line at night.

     “They are running the generator?” mom said incredulously.
     My Grandpa had rigged up some kind of generator to use when the power went  out.  They usually only needed it in the winter, like if we had an ice storm or something. 

     “Good, God,” my mother said to no one in particular.

     As if on cue, the cell phone buzzed signaling a text message had been sent.  My mom left the living room to retrieve her purse.  After a moment of digging she found it and pushed a button.  She read the text from Grandma aloud:
Generator on here, come over, dump your milk it will be spoiled in morning

     My mom typed something back in and I assumed that it was we were staying put because she didn’t ask us to get up to leave. 

     That evening while the storm raged, I played the piano by candle light and my family sang.  I’m ten, and I don’t know that many songs, but I’m good at Amazing Grace and Happy Birthday, so we sang those quite a few times.  We also played a few hands of cards.  Mom read to us by the light of a flickering candle while we lay on the floor, sprawled out on pillows and throw blankets.  My eyelids were drooping as were those of my siblings.

     “Time to call it a night, kids,” said Mom.  “To bed with you three.  You can sleep the remainder of this storm away.”

     “I don’t wanna go to bed!” whined Sam.  “I’m scared!  I want to sleep down here!”

     “Oh, Sam.  You won’t sleep well on the floor and you are a tired boy from putting that fresh coat of paint on our house this afternoon.  You need to rest in a nice soft bed,” said Mom.

     “But I’m afraid!” said Sam in a rare moment of weakness.  He was rubbing his eyes with his fists as he stood there looking so young and helpless.

     “I bet Ellen would sleep with you if you asked her nicely,” said my mother.

     What? Sleep with Sam!   Didn’t I already have enough stress in one day. 

     “MOM!  He pees the bed!” I said exasperated.

     “I do not!  I do not pee the bed.  Pee just leaks out of my wiener at night when I don’t know it,” he screamed.

     Mom crouched down and hugged Sam to soothe him.  “It’s OK, buddy.  That sometimes happens to little guys.  You can put on a pull up just to be safe if you want,” said Mother.

     This was not in my plan.  I just wanted to fall into a deep, hard sleep and get the night and this storm over with.  I sensed things would be better in the morning and I wanted this day X’ed off my calendar forever. 

     We all walked up the stairs in single file led by the beam of a flashlight.  Mom and Sam went into the bathroom for a moment and Sam emerged wearing a Twinkle Princess pink pull up with hearts and flowers.  He looked miserable.  Mom was holding the wash basket full of my wet clothes.  I could see my stolen apple sitting on the top.  She must have taken it out of my pocket.  I held my breath for a minute wondering if she would mention it, but she didn’t.

     “I’m sorry, Sam,” apologized Mother, “but that is how it has to be.  If you sleep in the bed with Ellen, you must wear a pull up.”  

     In an effort to rid Sam of his need for nighttime training pants, my mother told him that they no longer made the Cowboy pull ups for boys in his size.  If he still needed to wear them at night, then he had to wear the girls style---the pink ones with hearts and flowers.  As you can imagine, Sam was not a fan.

     “I love you, Onion,” Sam said as he quickly pulled his pajama bottoms over top of his Nighty Nights.  The need to sleep safely beside me obviously outweighed the humiliation of wearing a little girl’s pull up.

     I pretended like I didn’t see because I remembered what it was like to be scared of storms.  For me, that was like, yesterday.  I weathered this one and I emerged from it stronger than I was before.  My pink pull up wearing little brother could sleep with me tonight.  No problem.

     Sam was already all snuggled into my bed with my best pillow under his head.  He was making swirls on the wall with the beam of his flashlight.  I crawled in bed next to him.  His little body hogged lots of space and it left me clinging to the edge.  

     While mom tucked Hope safely into her bed, I showed Sam how to make shadow animals on the wall.  He just mastered the bunny when mom reentered my bedroom.

     “You’ve had quite a day, Magellan.  I’d say you should be very tired.  I think you should be able to sleep through this little intrusion,” said Mom gently.  Sam was cackling to himself trying to make a wolf with his hand.
     “Did you hear anything about Fangs?” I asked.  I had been wondering on and off about him the rest of the evening.

     “I checked my phone and there was no text message or a missed call,” Mom replied.  “You know what they say, “no news is good news.  We’ll check on him in the morning.”

     Mom picked up the wash basket of dirty clothes and balanced it on her hip.  She shined the beam around the room once and reminded me that my alarm wouldn’t work if we still had no power in the morning.  She promised to wake me up in time for me to get ready for church.  I hated to be hurried in the morning.  I knew she would because my mother never overslept.

     “Oh, Mom, I forgot.  I’m supposed to have a Bible story read and ready for Sunday school tomorrow.  I better read it over.  Can you hand me my Bible?” I asked.

     “You know, honey, it’s very late and you had a huge day.  Let’s say our prayers and call it a night. I’ll review it with you in the morning,” said Mom. 

     We said our prayers and voiced an extra special one for Fangs’ healing.  I couldn’t believe I was praying for the very dog I feared my entire life.

      “Mom!” I exclaimed suddenly, “ I almost forgot about The Quest!  I guess we never found that little red house.  I’m sorry.  Another fruitless search.”

     Mom stopped in the doorway and shined the flashlight onto my face.  She held the beam there for quite a long time without saying anything, and I had to squint and shield my eyes.  

     “Really?”  said Mother pausing for a moment.  “I think you did find it.  Your search was fruitful, you just haven’t realized it yet.”  

     Even though her face was in the shadow, I could almost see the sideways smile.  I heard it in her voice.
     Mom gently closed the door and padded down the steps.  The rain still pounded against my window pane and the wind howled.  I wondered how much longer this storm would last.  Hopefully it would be finished in the morning and the power would be out just long enough to cancel Sunday School.  Now how lucky could one girl get?

     “Are we safe, Onion?”   Sam interrupted my thoughts in a soft, sleepy voice.

     “Yes, Sam.  We’re together in a nice warm bed.  You’re safe with me, Buddy,” I threw my arm around my little brother and squeezed him tight, kissing his forehead.  

     Mom was right, there was safety in numbers, even if the number was only two, and the other person in my pair was a three year old.  Maybe companionship was the key to all things.  It certainly felt like it right at this moment. 

     “Were you worried about us, Sam?” I asked.

     “Yes,” he said.  “I was scared.  I even used my spy glasses to watch for you.”

     “That was nice of you, Sam,” I said.  “That is what families do—they watch out for each other.”

     Then a thought occurred to me that I had not thought of before.  “Hey, Sam.  Why didn’t Mom come out and look for me in her car?” not really expecting an answer back.

     “Cuz she lost her keys,” he replied.

      Suddenly fatigue overcame me and I snuggled down into the warm covers, closed my eyes and inhaled a nice long breath, and then held very still…..what in the world was that? 

     Sam was shaking from a giggle he was holding back.  “Sam….what…….is……that  smell?” I stammered.

     “I blew a boofer, Onion, and it stinks!”

     Lord help me.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Key, Chapter 29

The Key
by Eloise Hawking

Chapter 29

     The air horn blast lasted five seconds longer than normal.  It surprised me how  I could hear it over the thunder and the sound of Grandpa’s ATV motor.  Clinging to Grandpa, I felt the warmth of his body seep into mine.  Jack’s knees were pressed hard against my thighs, because he was too cool to hang on to me with his hands.  I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to push the thirst from my consciousness.  I whispered a thank you to God, when I probably should have shouted it.  I felt unworthy of the rescue due to all the mistakes I made.

    I was about to pay for some of them.  As we approached the driveway through the driving rainstorm, Grandma was standing at the end of it, waiting for our return.

     Grandma was wearing Grandpa’s flame orange hunting coat which hung past her knees and a pair of his old , black galoshes.  The boots were unbuckled and the flaps were sticking out.  With the way the rain was coming down, Sam would be floating his ducks in them in no time.

     Grandma frantically waved her arms in the direction of the kitchen door, urging Grandpa to drop Jack and I off as close to it as possible.  She held her air horn in one hand and a large stick in the other.

     “Hurry.  Get inside!” Grandma shrieked.  I could see even beneath her hood that her eyes were wild with fear.  “Run like you stole something!”

     The apple in my pocket felt heavy against my thigh as Jack and I hopped off of Grandpa’s ATV.  We  bolted for the door to Grandma’s kitchen without looking back.

     The kitchen was warm and bright.   I felt safe, even with the weather channel blaring and a map of our area lit up in red and orange.  The weatherman said, “……..areas are experiencing heavy rain, dangerous lightning, and damaging winds.  People should seek shelter immediately.  If you have outdoor pets, make sure they are in a safe location.”

     Pets.  That made me think of Fangs and how much pain he must be in.  Would Fangs live or die?  He seemed like he was ok, but Skippy said that dogs can have heart attacks like people can, so maybe he wasn’t out of the woods yet.

     And what about Rocky?  Would the Thompsons bring him inside?  If they wouldn’t, maybe tonight would be the night I would ask them if Rocky could have a sleepover.  Ellen The Great Dog Rescuer. 

    We found Emily sitting on top of Grandma’s wooden kitchen table.  She was sitting crossed legged in center of it, holding a stick like Grandma.  I realized Emily must have run to Grandma’s house first, instead of mine, as it was closest to where we were.
     “What happened to Fangs?  Did he live?  Did he die?  Did Farmer Richter come to get him?”  Those were the first of my friend’s rapid fire questions that she gave me no time to answer.

     “He’s alive and  on his way to the vet right now,” I said, moving toward her to give her a hug.

     After our embrace I pushed back away from Emily and said, “Wood is a poor electrical conductor, right?”

    Em nodded as Grandma entered the kitchen with Grandpa.  She ran in the door panting while taking down the hood of her raincoat, slopping water all over the floor and never giving a second thought of it.  She flew directly to the TV set and stood in front of it with her back to us.

     “This is a bad cell, and it’s about blown past, but there’s more coming…look!”

     Grandma pointed to the TV and Jack, Emily, Grandpa, and I all watched as the jerky blobs of green and orange moved across the radar.  It looked like the whole area would be getting drenched for most of the night.

     “Where are my parents?” I asked, suddenly aware that none of my immediate family was here waiting for me.

     “Your dad is out driving the park roads looking for you.  Your mom is waiting next door with Mrs. Anderson.”

     No sooner than were the words out of Grandma’s mouth than I saw headlights pull into the driveway.

     “Mom!” yelled Emily, jumping down from the wooden table to wait by the door.  A flash of lightning lit up the outside enough to see both of our mothers exiting the Anderson’s car and making a dash for Grandma’s kitchen door.

     “My Lord!  What a storm!” Mom said breathlessly as she entered the kitchen first, stepping quickly to my direction.   She grabbed me with her right arm and Jack with her left and pulled us tight to her.

     Emily jumped into her mother’s arms and hugged her tight.  “You’ve got quite a story to tell, Young Lady,”  Mrs. Anderson said sternly, while never taking her chin off the top of her daughter’s wet head.  “You can tell me all about it later.  Let’s get home!”

    “Bye, Jack.  Bye, Ellen,” said Emily softly, sensing she may be in a bit of hot water with the Young Lady that her mother used.  “Call you tomorrow.”

     My mother stood with her long arms still encircling Jack and I and refused to let go.  I had no choice to face my family.  However, my thirst had become almost unbearable.   I was just opening my mouth to ask for a drink when Jack interjected. 

     “Fangs got hit, Grandma.  We watched it happen and went to get help.”

     “I know,” said Grandma, an animal lover herself, “Emily told me the whole story in all of about thirty seconds.  That girl should be an auctioneer someday,” Grandma mused aloud.  

     “What terrible timing.  Are you sure it was Justice who hit Bandit?”   Only a hurt animal had the power to snap Grandma out of her storm terror.

     “Yeah, we’re sure,” Jack said.   “We all saw him do it.”

     A flash of lightning reminded us that this storm was far from over.  We paused a moment and our thoughts were interrupted by the ringing of the phone.  Grandma quickly looked to her caller ID box on top of her TV to see that it was someone calling from next door.  It was probably Dad.

     “Darn it,” said Grandma.  “I’ve told you people once,  I’ve told you  a million times not to use the phone in a electrical storm!”

     My mother who happened to be standing right next to the phone stared at my grandma.  She slowly reached out and picked the phone up, pressing it to her rain soaked ear, never breaking eye contact with her mother in a silent battle of wills.
     “…….Yes, they are here……………..”No, we’re fine………………We’ll be right there………….We’ll run across the yard.

      “Come on, guys,” said Mother to Jack and I,  “let’s get home—we’ll hear the story later.  Jack, your mother is over at my house waiting for you in the driveway.”

     Grandma, who had been glaring at my mother for answering the phone, now had transferred her annoyance to her other daughter.

     “What?” Grandma yelled.  “That fool drove in this?  Didn’t I teach you girls anything?”

     We gathered at the back door and waited for the next flash of lightning and the three of us made a run for it.  I made it across the yard first, followed by Jack who dived into the front seat as Aunt Karen pushed the door open for him from the inside.  I wonder if she noticed he wasn't wearing his raincoat.

     My mother was last because she walked.  I watched her look up to the sky.  Mother Eloise raised her hands up in the air, tipped her face skyward and spun in circles.  The lightning flashed at an opportune moment and I could have sworn that she was smiling. 

     WAHHHHHHHH!  The air horn.

     “Get your butt moving you fool!” yelled Grandma. 

     Mom never looked back, but just started up again and walked the rest of the way calmly into the garage.  She moved slowly as the lightning lit up the space around her.  If she had wings, she’d look like an angel the way she was moving through that rain, floating fearlessly. 

     “Boooowwwww,  boooowwww”  Rocky yelped.

     I guess that answered the question about him weathering the storm.  The flashes of lightning allowed me to see that Rocky was still out there.  He was sitting on top of his dog house trying to bark the storm away, loyally protecting the family whom gave him absolutely no mind. 

     “Take cover, Rocky,” I whispered.  “I’m afraid this storm isn’t over yet.”

     Mom entered the garage and walked right to me.  She stopped in front of me and stood completely still.  Her clothes were drenched.  The flyaway curls that I’d grown to love were now hanging in ringlets that stretched past her shoulders.
     Suddenly I was ashamed of my failings.  I let the time get away from me and I didn’t charge my cell phone before I left.  I didn’t speakup when I needed to and I took too long making decisions.  My eyes focused on the garage floor, which blurred before me as tears filled my eyes.  One tear let go and rolled down my cheek.
     My mother reached out and lifted my chin with her pointer finger.  Our eyes met and I could see warmth in hers.  “I’m proud of you, Ellen.  You were very brave.”  She pulled me towards her and the pressed me tight against her.

      “I’m glad you are safe,” she said sighing and began to swing me from side to side in a soothing way just like she did to me when I was a baby.

     Mom whispered softly, “Sometimes you have to know when to seek shelter from the storm and when to stand and dance in the rain.”


      “Get in the basement you two horse’s peanuts!” Grandma yelled from across the yard. 

     I felt my mother stiffen at the sound and for a second she squeezed me even tighter.  I managed to squeak out a muffled, “Mom?” as my head was pressed to her soaking wet abdomen.

     Mom pushed me back and looked down into my questioning eyes.  “What’s the difference between a horse’s potato and a horse’s’ peanut?” I asked.

     “Beats me,” she said, “But we’d better get inside before Grandma comes over here and beats us with that stick of hers.”

   I was bewildered that I wasn’t in more trouble.  I knew I’d get a talking to by Grandma tomorrow.    For now though, I savored the safety of my mother’s loving arm draped over my shoulder as we walked into the kitchen.   A storm raged around me but I felt safe and secure, enough to go outside and dance in the rain.   A mother’s love.  Perhaps that was the key to all things.  And so the thunder rolled.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Lesson 294: Seven Gratitudes

It's a busy evening at the Lamp Post.
Sam turns lucky seven and we're having a little celebration.

Sam is among all his favorite people tonight.

Isn't that how we all would like to end our week?

 The pretty lady in the photo with Sam is Grandma.  She plays a leading role in my story The Key, and the character of Grandma in the story is based on her.  

For those of you coming late to the party, I've been publishing my children's novel, chapter by chapter, on the Lamp Post every day in March, through the story's completion in April. If you are a careful reader of the Lamp Post and like to put things together, you should already know how many chapters are in the story. There will be that many, plus an Epilogue.  

Mid April I will comment more about The Key, to give you slower readers a chance to catch up.  I've been asked many questions about the plot of the story, the characters, and my reasons for writing the book. I am keeping running record of your inquiries and promise to create a FAQ page in April.  

I encourage you to stick with the story if you started it, even if you've fallen behind.  The beginning isn't very good, but it does get better.  When you finish the story, I have prizes for your accomplishment.  The Key is similar in word count to the first Harry Potter!

Eloise promised herself not to write about the weather anymore.
You've had enough of reading about Erie's tough winter.
Just a quick update--snow this week did pull us ahead of Syracuse, NY.
You can read the full story here:


We had another snowy workout on Tuesday.

Doc gave us an important reminder.

I'm forwarding it on to all of the Lamp Post readers, too.
In honor of my son's seven years, I thought of seven things I am grateful for.

I've been grateful that the long, colorless winter has motivated me all the more to search for pretty.

 #1--Ice really is beautiful.

#2--So is Erie's bay front.

#3--Watching the sun come up is always something to be grateful for.

#4--I am grateful to have a camera with the capability to capture it all.  Many of you have inquired about the exact make and model of my camera.  I have a Canon SX50.  It is not the big, expensive DSLR, nor does it have extra lenses.  It is a really great value if you like photography, don't want to mess with lenses, and have a decent eye.  It is weaker with indoor lighting or moving sports shots.

This is the shot I took of the moon one morning this week.

I zoomed in on it through the trees,

while standing in my living room!

I never moved an inch on the three shots above, and used no photo editing.
That's some lens!

#5--I am grateful to have friends that like to do the same things I do.

We ran for pancakes last Sunday.

I got the miles in, but passed on the pancake part.
I went to church instead, but in truth, those runs are my church too.
God leaves his fingerprint everywhere.

#5--I am grateful my eyes have been opened to it all.

#6--I'm grateful for schools that support wellness and family activities.
Family kickball night at Clark School:

#7--I am grateful for friends who continue to push me beyond my comfort zone.

Look where Eloise is headed!
I'm flying solo!
I can't wait for Handsome and some Southern hospitality!

This next gratitude doesn't have a number, but it does have the number symbol # , known as the hashtag.  Eloise is grateful for friends who post selfies.  I did a little facebook thievery this week.  You are all very good sports--thank you.

Enjoy the fun video and this catchy but annoying song, #SELFIE by The Chainsmokers.  You may need a cigarette after you listen to it a few times.  It's as annoying to me as a person who can't get their plurals right.

Enjoy your week!

The Key, Chapter 28

The Key
by Eloise Hawking

Chapter 28

     Skippy stood at the top of the ditch glancing down the road in both directions as if trying to decide for himself what to do next.  I sensed he was an animal lover too.  Now that Mr. Nebauer was closer to me, I saw the concern in his eyes.  He crouched down and lowered himself into the ditch with me and crouched next to Fangs. 

     Grrrrrrrrrrr….  Fangs growled, true to form.
     “It’s ok, old boy.  We’ll getcha some help here soon,” Mr. Nebauer soothed.  “Ellen, did you see him get hit or did you find him lying here?” he yelled into the wind and rain.

     “I saw him get hit.  He bounced off a tire of a truck and rolled into the ditch.  I saw his leg was bleeding so I dumped some water on it.”  

     I didn’t bother telling him about the Bactine because I didn’t think he’d understand.

     Water.  That reminded me again of how thirsty I was.  I noticed that when I talked, my mouth made an odd clicky sound.   I gazed at the water in the ditch and even considered lapping up some just to get some wetness back in my mouth once again.
     “Smart girl, Ellen.  I could always tell that about you in class---you’re a thinker. That’s good.  Now let’s see here….”  Skippy went on with his thoughts out loud just like he does at school.  “…………. front leg is bent, appears to be broken, no blood coming out of the ears or snout—that’s a promising sign all right….” Skippy assessed.

      While Skippy was lost in the dog evaluation,  I stood up and stretched my legs on the lookout for Jack or Emily.  No sign of them yet, but they had to be coming soon. 

     “Did you get a look at the other side of him, Ellen?” Skippy asked.  “The side that he’s laying on?”

      I pulled my attention from the road back to Fangs.  I shook my head no simply because my mouth was too dry to speak.
     “Maybe we better move him up a smidge.  Look at this water.  It’s rising fast and he’s starting to shake.  Could be shock, or could be hypothermia setting in.”

     Hypothermia?  What was that?  Where was Jack when I needed him.  I think that is when you get very cold, like from water or something.   Didn’t people die from hypothermia?  I wonder if a dry mouth was a sign.

     “Here Ellen, you slide your hands under his haunches real gentle like, and I’ll get him up top.  He’s a hurtin’ so he may snap at ya.  Do you know if he has his shots, by chance?”

    “I know his owners and they take good care of their animals, so I imagine so,” I yelled over the rain.  “His name is Bandit.”

     “Bandit.  Now that’s a good name for a dog that lives his life chasing cars.  A real Bandit you are, now aren’t ya boy?  We’ll getcha back chasing cars here real soon.”  

     Skippy slid his hands around Fangs’s upper body and I could hear him growl a little bit.  “Now on three, Ellen---one, two, three….”

     I looked over to Skippy’s direction to watch for when he lifted.  I always hated that “on three” thing.  I never knew if it meant you were supposed to do something ON three, like when you said the number, or AFTER you said it.  One second makes a big difference when you are doing something like lifting a ferocious farm dog with a broken leg.  

     I kept my eye on Skippy and I guess he meant lift when you say three, because that was what we did.  The dog was much lighter than I expected and we slid him about six inches up the side of the ditch, out of the rising water.  Fangs yelped a little.  I think we were right in our assumption that his leg was broken. 

     It was then that I saw it.  I saw something that no other kid ever in the whole Clark School world would ever see.  I had to blink a few times to make sure my eyes had really seen what I thought I did.  I stole another quick glance just to be sure, and I was positive.  In an instant it all made sense.  I knew why Skippy walked like he did.  Skippy had a fake leg. 

     When he was on his hands and knees ready to slide Fangs up the bank, the leg of his pants slid up a bit.  He had on his weird blue sneakers that he wore all of the time.  They were now soaked with brown mud and stained with water.  The sneaker closest to me was attached to a metal pole that looked like the handle of Grandpa’s Polly Picker Upper.   It went right down into the shoe that was filled with something that looked like white foam.  His leg looked like a potted plant.

     “………….someone you know, Ellen,” said Skippy.  The end of his sentence brought me out of my shock. 

     “Huh?” I said, blinking away the rain as well as my freight train thoughts of fake legs.

     Skippy pointed in the direction of the road and I could see a figure approaching on a four wheeler.  It was Grandpa!  Emily must have gotten home.  I got a rush of relief that ran through my body—a warm feeling that makes you feel so good that you might cry. 

     At the same time I heard the rattle and hum of another vehicle approaching fast from the other direction.  It was Farmer Richter on his tractor with his apple cart still attached to the back.  I could see Jack kneeling in the middle of it, on top of the unloaded apples, with his arm outstretched pointing to where we were.

     “Uh, yeah.  That’s my Grandpa,” I said pointing in his direction,  “and that’s Farmer Richter.  My cousin Jack is riding on the back.  He must have found him out in the barn.”

    Grandpa came upon us first.  The hum of the ATV engine was very loud and it stopped abruptly when he got off of it.  “You ok, Ellen?” Grandpa inquired of me first.

     I nodded my head yes.
     Grandpa then turned his attention to the ditch and said, “I figured that dog would get hit one of these days.  Did you see it happen, Honey?”

     Again, I nodded my head yes.  I was afraid to speak because I feared crying in front of everyone.  I was scared to death of getting in trouble and now humiliated in front of my teacher.  Grandpa seemed more concerned than mad though.

     Farmer Richter and Jack jumped off the big wheeled tractor in tandem.  Farmer Richter trotted up to the ditch and fell immediately to Bandit’s side.  Bandit even flapped his tail twice in response to Farmer Richter’s presence. 

     “Oh, Bandit.  Now what did you go and do?”

     “I did a quick assessment of your animal here, and he seems to have a broken leg, but appears to have no internal injuries.  Douglas Nebauer, by the way,” said Skippy extending his arm.

     “Glad to meet you,” said Farmer Richter quickly shaking his hand. 

     “We got to get this dog to the vet pretty fast though.  He’s starting to shake.  The heart can stop if a dog goes into shock.”

     “Yeah,” said Farmer Richter looking concerned.  “Let’s load him onto my apple cart.  I’ll get him back to the barn and get him dried off and warmed up.”

     “I don’t mean to interject my unsolicited opinion here Sir, but I do believe that time is of the essence.  Perhaps we should just put him in my car and I’ll drive you to over to the vet around the corner.  That way he can lay on a soft seat and be out of the rain right away."

     Farmer Richter paused, considering this a minute.  After all, it was his dog and you could tell that he wanted to be in control of how Bandit was cared for.  He scratched his wet head a minute with his dirt covered and calloused hand.   

     He said, “Well, if you don’t mind your car smellin’ like wet dog, then I may take you up on your offer.”

     Skippy and Farmer Richter squatted down to see about how they were going to grab Fangs to move him into the car.  Even though Fangs was light, it was not going to be a simple task due to the slippery, wet bank of the ditch and moving a dog in pain.  One that bites, at that.

     “Now hang on a minute,” spoke up Grandpa.  “I think I have just the thing we need.”

     Grandpa walked back to his ATV and flipped open the box he had mounted on the front by the handle bars.  The box was an old wooden Coca Cola case from years ago when pop came in glass bottles and cases were made of wood.  I noticed the lid was made from the left over aluminum roofing from my tree house and the hinges looked like the ones from my old toy box that broke when Mom stood on it to paint the bathroom ceiling.  

     Grandpa reached in and pulled out some sort of material folded neatly into a square. 

     “Here,” Grandpa said extending his arm to Skippy, “use this to lay him on.  Slide it right underneath him and he’ll be easier to carry because his weight will be distributed.  It will be easier on his broken leg, too.”

     Skippy grabbed a corner and let the rest of it unfurl like a flag in the wind.  I had almost forgotten how bad it was storming around me.  Even being right in the middle of it like I was, the storm was secondary to me helping Fangs.  The storm was raging, but I had my mind fixed on something else more important, so I didn’t really notice or feel fear.

     Farmer Richter grabbed the billowing end and they stretched out the material like a bed sheet.  It was then that I recognized it.  It was cut from the side of my old pup tent, the one the cat peed on a few years ago.  My mother could not scrub the cat pee smell out and she has a nose like a bloodhound.  Even after we thought the stench had faded enough, she told my father there was no way she was letting me sleep in a stinky tent, and marched it out to the garbage can, crunching the lid on top.  

     “And don’t tell your Grandfather this is in here, Ellen, or your next book bag will be made out of it or something.  That man can’t throw a thing away,” said my mother with annoyance.

     I got a new tent, a bigger one with little rooms that extend out from the sides and a little canopy you can sit and eat under if it rains when you are camping.   After my experience today, I promise you, I will never go camping in the rain.  Looks like Grandpa found it in spite of my mother’s efforts to hide it.  Grandpa is like that.  Stealth.  That’s what Grandma calls him, among other things.

     They stretched the tent material out flat and slid Fangs onto it, again on the count of three.  The pair then lifted fangs up like a sling and carried him to Skippy’s car, gently laying him in the back seat.  The men jumped in the front, stuck their hands in the air to signal a wave goodbye, and quickly drove off in the direction of the local veterinarian’s office.

     “Come on, kids.  Let’s get home,” said Grandpa striding back to his ATV.  “We can all fit.”

     It was then I remembered Jack’s presence.  I looked over at him to see that he was as wet and dirty as I was, soaked through clear to the skin.  Jack was skinny and his shirt was sticking to him and I could see his ribs and also that he was shivering.  He looked like a thin, wet spaghetti noodle, except for the shorts pockets which were bulging with apples. 

     I looked down to see that my right pocket was, too hiding contraband.  I wonder if Farmer Richter noticed and I felt very guilty. 

     I jumped on the ATV behind Grandpa.  Jack got on behind me.  There I was again sandwiched in the middle.  If we were a hoagie, I’d be the salami.  

     For once, I didn’t mind being in the middle.  The heat of the bodies in front of and behind me warmed my core and it felt good.  I put my arms around Grandpa’s belly and Jack put his hands on my shoulders.  We lurched to a start in a jerky movement and Grandpa took off.  I opened my cotton-dry mouth and let the raindrops fly in.  The rain and wind stung my face and I was the one who was the most protected.  I felt sorry for Grandpa and Jack.  

     The closer we got to home, I began to worry about what I was going to say to explain all of this.  There just didn’t seem to be any simple way to tell the whole story.  As I was thinking about all of it a bolt of lightning to the south broke my thoughts, followed quickly by the sound of thunder.  

     In the natural order of things, lightning comes first and is always followed by thunder.  Order.  Perhaps that was the key to all things.  Except in my life, I needed to add one more thing:   first comes lightning, then follows thunder, wait and few seconds and listen for the air horn.  And that is exactly what happened next.  WWWAAAAHHHHHH! 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Lesson 293: Lucky 7

 Happy birthday, Sam!
My son turns 7 years old today.

My big boy with an even more sizable personality will be awake in a few minutes--singing.
That's how he wakes up every day.

How does a mother find words to describe a human tornado of emotion?
To carefully select words and photos to make manners unrefined seem comical?

Today I won't.
Instead I'll steal the words of another:
his counselor,
his nurse,
his teacher,
his protector,
his confidant--
his sister Ellen.

Here is the link to Ellen's blog about her little brother:

Ellen posts every now and again of happenings at the Lamp Post
with the wit and wisdom of a thirteen year old.

Ellen speaks for her sister Natalie,

and for all of us here at the Lamp Post.

She got Sam's summary just right.

Happy birthday, Sam!
We love you!

Enjoy some snapshots of our resident seven year old!


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.