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Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: The Family Pet (05/15/08)

TITLE: Shadow in the Snow
By Ann Grover
05/22/08
~1st Place


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There was enough porridge for a few tablespoons to be daubed into each bowl. Disappointed eyes peered at the grey smears and then closed.

Be present at our table, Lord. Be here and everywhere adored.

The insistent wind buffeting the door interrupted the halfhearted prayer, and a flurry of snow snaked across the dirt floor of the sod house. The children watched, mesmerized, as some of the glittering crystals melted into the dirt while others winked and sparkled, incongruously, wickedly.

“Eat, while it’s hot.”

They scooped up cereal, already tepid, and too skimpy for their hollow bellies.

“I’m still hungry, Mama.” David whined, and Mama spooned the last of her own porridge into his bowl.

“When is Papa coming?” Little Katie licked the back of her spoon and ran her finger around the bowl.

“Soon.”

The single window was crusted over with frost, and Ben scraped carefully, revealing the white fury that was pummelling the little soddie and the shrieking, icy breath that battered the door again and again. The clear place froze over quickly, and Ben blew on it, trying to prolong his view of the whirling chaos.

“The dog is here again.”

“Let’s see!” David and Katie crowded next to Ben, trying to see through the tiny spot in the ice.

“See the shadow?” Ben was adamant the shifting shape was the dog that had been lurking about, and they took turns until the window froze again.

“May we keep the dog?”

What to answer? Yes? believing the dog would soon be dead, knowing there wasn’t the smallest of scraps to give the starving beast? Or no? killing their hopes, for God knew there was little enough hope, with John gone these many months to work, and now, no word, and scarcely enough food left for another meal or two. Coming west had been a mistake. What had they known of homesteading?

“Please, Mama?”

“We’ll see.”

They crawled into the rope bed together under the patchwork quilt to keep warm. Mama got a book and read until she was hoarse, and they slept, each praying the storm would abate, and dreaming of warm bread, butter, and soup in their aching stomachs. The sun was low when they awoke, still wearied by hunger and cold.

Ben melted the spot on the window and was surprised to see calm lightness, like an odd dawn. “It’s stopped snowing,” he announced.

Snow was drifted deep against the door; it was impossible to leave the soddie without pushing away the immense drift. Ben strained and heaved with Mama’s help, until he could crawl out, bundled in layers of clothing, only his eyes showing through a slit in the woolen scarf.

It wasn’t long until he returned, with firewood and a shovel.

“Drifts are twelve feet high. I crawled into the lean-to for the firewood.” And with that, he cleaned away more snow from the door in the fading light.

“Mama, look,” he called softly, unwinding the scarf from his tousled head. Together, they squinted into the deepening gloom from the doorway, and an answering gaze met theirs. The animal paced in the powdery snow, a restless shadow blending into the descending oblivion.

“Ben, I think...”

The light from the soddie shone directly on the animal’s face, so they could clearly see the yellow feral stare.

“I know.”

They moved into the soddie, pulling the door shut behind them.

“The dog’s back, isn’t it?” David clamoured. “Please, can we keep him?”

“Oh, David, I don’t know.”

An eerie howl penetrated the night, and the children shivered. Unshaken, Mama peeled the last of the withered potatoes.

The next morning, dawn was made exquisitely brilliant by the snow, but Mama eyes were dark with concern as the children sang,

And grant that we, may feast in fellowship with Thee.

Mama wondered how long it would be until they were feasting with the Lord. There was no more oats, potatoes, or flour. Where was John? Where was God?

“The dog!” The younger children were already melting the frosty window. “He’s got something.”

The wild animal was standing, waiting, something in his jaws. He dropped it, a flutter of fur, then turned and loped away.

Ben pulled on his boots and ran into the snow.

“Amazing. He brought us a rabbit.” Ben held it up, like a victory banner.

“Like Elijah and the ravens,” whispered Mama.

“May we keep him now?” begged the children.

“It looks like he’ll be keeping us.”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Teri Wilson05/22/08
Awwwwwwwwwwwwwww. I am so loving reading all these dog stories! This is very sweet. Blessings, Teri
Joanne Sher 05/23/08
Excellent sense of place and descriptions, and the emotion is so true and heartwrenching. Wonderful.
Laury Hubrich 05/24/08
Oh! I loved this story. Wonderful job!
Laury
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/25/08
Amazingly well told story. I loved it!
Chely Roach05/26/08
This was brilliant and beautiful. One of my favorites...LOVED it.
Joshua Janoski05/26/08
What an awesome story. One of my favorites that I have read so far. Your ending was the best! :)
Dee Yoder 05/27/08
I'm partial to prairie stories and this one does not disappoint me! Your descriptive setting and characterizations of the mother, children, and the dog put me right into the story. Another favorite.
Peter Stone05/27/08
I enjoyed the authentic historical details of this article, as a family out west waited for their father to return. For a moment I was concerned the dog was ill, with those feral eyes, but what a great touch to see him feeding the family.
Lynda Lee Schab 05/27/08
Nice job, Ann. I was also thinking at first that something was wrong with the dog. Well told story, as always. Well done!
Jan Ackerson 05/27/08
Gorgeous! I felt chilled just reading this, and anxious for the family and for the dog. Great atmosphere.
Debbie Wistrom05/27/08
Your words give us a snapshot in time. I'm so glad you hinted, I would have hated to have missed this entry.
Mariane Holbrook05/28/08
From one dog lover to another, I was so touched by this. Soooooo tender! Great writing!!
LaNaye Perkins05/28/08
This story is my favorite so far this week. You did a fantastic job on this piece. Well done my FaithWriter friend.
Lyn Churchyard05/28/08
Wonderful story. The conversations were just perfect, adding to the atmosphere. I could actually hear the wind howling. At first I a bit concerned that the dog might have been a wolf.
Great job on this historical piece. Well done.
Norma-Anne Hough05/29/08
Brilliant story. Loved it
Betsy Markman05/29/08
WOW...You are so GOOD! Congratulations on the 1st Place EC! Very, very well earned.
Dianne Janak05/29/08
Congrats on a well deserved win, and I LOVE that its about a feral dog. Absolutely beautiful story, great with dialogue and characters... Masterful
Karen Wilber 05/29/08
When I read the third paragraph, about the snow, I knew why this won EC. Not a word wasted in your descriptions or conversation. Masterful. Congrats on a well-deserved 1st.
Bonnie Shea05/29/08
Beautifully told story, and a well-deserved 1st place! Congratulations- great job!!
Sheri Gordon05/29/08
Congratulations on your first place. This is so well written. Amazing descriptions. I felt like I was watching this unfold on screen. Excellent job.
Sharlyn Guthrie05/29/08
Beautifully written story. Congratulations on your first place EC!
Joshua Janoski05/29/08
Yay Ann! A well deserving first place win.
Helen Dowd 05/30/08
Not much wonder you won first place with this story. Terrifffficc! It reminded me of days in my ancient past when my father (John) was away, trying to find work, and the mother and little ones scraped by on FAITH, and also, like the Elijah story, the meal and oil lasted--literally. (written in detail in my book). But, about your story, I could so picture the children crowding by the window, blowing peep holes to see out. We did that too. I could hear the howling wind...This was such a nostalgic story for me. I loved it. Congratulations! You certainly deserve it....Helen
Jason Swiney05/30/08
Congratulations! Very well deserved, this definitely captured me, and it appears to have done the same to many others.