Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Spring (as in the season) (11/28/05)
TITLE: Come Next Spring
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Bill and his black lab, Queenie, came upon the youngster on the shore by the lake. The dog spotted him first and ran fast ahead, greeting Murph with all the energy that a large retriever could muster. Repressing a surge of fear, the boy jumped back from the dog while a small sunfish swung from the end of his fishing pole. Bill apologized for Queenie's eagerness while Murph grunted something and turned away, trying unsuccessfully to remove the fish from the hook.
"Here, let me help you with that.", Bill offered as he saw the young boy struggling. Murph gave in reluctantly and handed the pole to him without making eye contact. Quickly, Bill unhooked the half dead fish and threw it back into the lake.
Murph screamed and started yelling, "What's the matter with ya? Are ya nuts" Look what ya did! Ya threw my fish back in the lake."
Bill realized that he had made a drastic wrong assumption. The boy continued yelling, spurting out emotional words about the fish being the first one he ever caught and how he wanted to bring it back to the city to show the other guys. Bill was devastated by the problem he had created.
Queenie, mesmerized by the half dead fish floundering in the lake, watched it surface and submerge, time and again, and begged her master to give her permission to retrieve it. Without hesitation, Bill ran over to the dog and gave the command, "Go fetch!"
The spirited animal entered the lake with one thing on her mind and swam ahead looking for signs of the fish to resurface, when she saw her prey and captured it in her mouth. SLhe then came ashore and Bill gratefully took the fish from her while she shook her body vehemently, sending showers of cold water over both her master and the boy. Murph, caught up in the excitement, forgot all about the rules of the street as he dropped to lhis knees and threw his arms around the shoulders of the wet animal. She in turn licked his face clean, letting her saliva and dog breath fill him with a warm rush of unfamiliar emotion that completely knocked him off guard.
As Bill examined the fish to see how the retriever had mouthed it, he exclaimed disappointedly, "Oh, Queenie, you left teeth marks on it."
Murph, quickly grabbed the fish fearing that this new dilemma would cause Bill to throw it back into the lake. To correct the dog's mistake Murph muttered, "Ah gee, mista, it ain't nottin'. The fish ain't bleedin'!
Bill smiled and the boy stuffed the fish into his jacket and headed for the bus that was ready to make its return trip to the city. Upon entering it, Murph sought out the harried social worker and inquired, "Hey, when are we comin' back here again?"
"Why, Murph, I guess it'll be next spring!"
The boy turned and found a seat that faced a window where he could see the man and the black dog walking away, as he allowed only one tear to run down his face.
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