Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: The Family Pet (05/15/08)
TITLE: Mutt the Mute
By Kenneth Bridge
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I was picking through some scrap at the yard one cold day, looking for something useful. As I contemplated possible uses for an old washing machine agitator, I heard something that wavered between a wheezy whimper and a whine coming from under a pile of scrap lumber.
Curiosity overcame the willies, and I pushed aside some rotting wood. Underneath, curled up in a shivering ball of rank, wet fur, was the sorriest looking excuse for a pup that ever haunted a dog breeder’s nightmares. I swear, if you were to look up mangy mongrel in the dictionary, this one was too ugly to have his picture shown. Somehow this mutt, abandoned and alone in a scrap yard, stole my heart with one pitiable look.
Leaving the agitator for another adventure in restoration, I scooped up this pile of fur and bones and deposited him in the cab of my pickup, guessing he wouldn’t survive the ride home in the back.
The wife wrinkled her nose, and even the kids, who’d been clamoring for a pet, seemed dubious. An hour of scrubbing and rinsing, and the pooch looked suitable for scavenging with jackals, but still a long way from respectability.
“At least he don’t howl,” my wife conceded.
“Hasn’t made a sound since I first noticed him, and he wasn’t too loud then,” I answered her, starting to wonder a bit. “His usefulness as a watchdog is having thieves trip over him in the dark.”
We fed him table scraps that first night. We laid an old blanket on the kitchen floor for him and went to bed. When I got up in the morning he wasn’t there. I checked on the kids and found him with little Nellie, our youngest. She hadn’t smiled or talked for three years, since her older brother Tom took sick and died. Her eyes were closed tight, but I saw a smile on her sleepy face as one hand had reached out and come to rest on Mutt’s head.
Days stretched into months. We fed Mutt real dog food and he did all the dog things, but still never made a sound. Our house was noisy now, though, with Nellie’s’ laughter joining her brothers and sisters.
We were roused one night by a howling and barking. We all jumped from our beds to find the house on fire. Outside we hugged each other, then watched as a magnificent hound disappeared over the hill. We never saw Mutt again.
“It’s ok, Daddy,” Nellie consoled me. “God sent him to us for just a little while. We were entertaining an angel unawares.”
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