Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: The Family Pet (05/15/08)
TITLE: Sara's Sack
By Aaron Morrow
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Sack seemed to be measuring our distance as I retreated deeper into the lake. His doe brown eyes lingered on Sara, shivering in my arms, and he let out a short whimper. Then he slowly turned to face the menacing cloud coming out of the tree line.
“No…” Sara cried as I pulled us both under. I watched in horror as Sack launched himself upward and disappeared into the thick swarm.
Beneath the lake’s surface, memories of three summers ago flooded my mind.
“Sack this cull and drown ‘im.” Pa handed me the wiggling newborn. His warm little body stretched and squirmed as he nosed around my hand looking for a teat. Pa was giving me a man’s job, but even at nine, I still trembled at the thought of killing.
“Yessir.” I looked at the disfigured whelp in my hand. He must have been squashed inside Molly because his back hips were all splayed like a frog.
I turned around to find Sara standing there with tears in full bloom. Her yellow hair ribbon bounced as she shook. Sara was just five, so she didn’t understand Pa’s first rule of raising coonhounds: “If they can’t hunt, they can’t eat.”
Quick as fox, she snatched the pup and ran to the house. A few minutes later, Ma came marching in. Ma and Pa had words, and the next thing I knew, Sara Carver owned the homeliest coonhound in Jefferson County.
Pa and I took to calling him “Sack” and giving his hanging backside a kick to remind him of his place with the real hunters, which always made Sara stomping mad.
She named him “John”, after the man in the Jesus story that never seemed to get out of the water. The name was a good fit because, even though that dog couldn’t hunt a lick, and walked around hunched down like he was dragging a stump, with those frog legs he was the swimminest hound I ever saw.
Seems like every day, spring to fall, they were at the lake. Sara couldn’t swim, so Sack was always fishing her out. Sara never said anything about it, but lots of times her yellow hair ribbon would be drooping wet as she trudged home with the cull waddling beside her.
Sometimes, after chores, Sara would tell Sack all the stories she could remember. Sack would look at her like he was soaking in every single word; he even cocked his head at the exciting parts. And every night, Sack snuggled close to Sara and so that he could bury his muzzle in her long brown hair.
Even from under the water we could hear Sack’s muted howls of pain. Once every few minutes, I would lift Sara out of the water for a quick gulp of air. We didn’t open our eyes for fear of getting stung, but the sickly drone of buzzing from the shore told us that the ‘jackets were feasting on poor Sack.
This morning started like most, Sara followed me to the fishing hole. I remember getting so mad at Sack for scaring the fish with all his paddling about, that I threw every sharp rock that I could find at him. He finally got out of the water when Sara started crying because she was so mad.
That set me off even more, and I started throwing rocks in the trees. I must have hit a whopper of a nest because I heard the ‘jackets before I saw them. I figured it was time to make myself scarce, so I started galloping for the water.
Sarah was still moping and tending Sack. I grabbed her so hard that her hair ribbon flew right off. But, Sack didn’t move, he just watched us go.
The next morning, I went back to the spot where it happened. There were dead ‘jackets carpeting the ground. Near where Sack musta landed was a trail, but not to the water’s edge.
My eyes traced the trail to the twisted remains of Sack, his frog legs still splaying out from his battered body.
I choked back tears as I realized that Sack never even thought to escape, instead he had been saving us from my foolishness. And when the end was near, he spent his last breath to be near his only love.
There, beneath Sack’s tattered muzzle, was Sara’s yellow hair ribbon.
He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him. He was despised and rejected by men. A man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not…we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted. Isaiah 53:2-3,4 NIV
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