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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Adolescence/Teen Years (07/16/09)

TITLE: It's Me or the Dog
By Amy Stanbury


Pepper cast a lazy eye over his garden. With a long, drawn-out snapping yawn, he stretched. Sniffing something amiss, he raised his head but chose to stay put. Had he the inclination, Pepper would have discovered something unusual in his garden that morning.
“Pepper! Here Peps. Breakfast!”
Dad emerged from the house. Hair shot with grey, and carrying a silver bowl he placed it before the dog.
“How’s my boy, Pepsi?”
White butterflies played amongst the cauliflower plants. Pepper only raised an eyebrow.

Adam had stood here only two nights before. Dad rubbed his forehead, remembering his own hateful words. Adam’s face at the police station had been that of a frightened child. Where had things gone wrong?
“Let’s get you some fresh water Peps.”

Dad looked out across the garden. In neat raised beds, red runner bean flowers curled up their canes, juicy tomatoes bloomed and spinach flourished. The sun had shone, the nighttime skies had rained and it was good. Dad’s eyes stopped on the shed; the door was ajar. “Strange. Must have forgotten to lock up last night,” he said to the dog. Having had his morning feast, Pepper rolled on his side to have his belly rubbed, enjoying the morning ritual. The man got up and headed for the shed but was interrupted by the phone ringing.
“Back in a minute. You keep an eye on things.”
Lying down, Pepper returned to his dog dreams, contented.

Much later, when the shepherd’s delight sky had dissolved into blue-black, there was a rumble in the shed. Adam emerged from his ramshackle hotel squinting at the sky as if it was High Noon. Lit up inside the house, Dad held a letter from school.

Adam spied from the window. In his reading chair, Dad had never looked more tired. The practiced muscles of pleasant platitude held those dark circles at bay. He read on, bringing the pages closer. Adam turned away, disappointment, and bitterness at being misunderstood. Dad folded the pages of the lengthy letter. Adam’s mother came and stood behind the leather armchair, touching the back of Dad’s head gently. Pepper roused himself. “Come on then, Pepsi boy. Walkies.”

Adam’s mouth was dry and tasted sour. He had an empty stomach, a furry tongue and a pounding head. He looked down at the evening light reflected in the water dish, picked it up and drank. He walked back to the darkness of his hideaway.

Another warm day dawned, but this morning Pepper’s sleep was disturbed by the ripping, whirring grind of a lawnmower. Like a chainsaw tearing the sleepy neighborhood’s silence, Adam cut the grass; up and down, in neat rows. He made an awkward shape against the sunrise. Hunched over the mower, his too long body, his limbs overgrown and his black thatched hair like a scarecrow. He was lanky, unwieldy, an in- between boy-man, zig-zagging the lawn.
“Adam? What are you doing? Turn that thing off! What the… Look. Just turn it off, will you? Adam!” Dad’s voice came in a hushed shout from the bedroom window.

Adam, hair covering his face, leant even closer to the machine; dead-set on his course, up and down. “Right. That’s it!” Lights came on. Pepper barked, half-heartedly. Dad appeared in his pyjamas.
“Adam! What are you doing?”
“I’m cutting the grass Dad.” Adam’s voice cracked as he raised it over the sound of the mower.
“Well, stop!”
They began to fight over the handle of the mower. The tussle for the off switch led Dad’s hand to Adam’s arm. It stayed there. The lawnmower chugged off. Dad’s other arm moved to grab again. Adam turned as if expecting a strike. Dad took hold of his son’s other arm, shaking lightly, but not in anger. He was laughing. Adam peered through his hair and saw a smile cracking the mask around Dad’s eyes. “Adam.”
Adam stayed. They looked at one another.
“I’m cutting the grass.”
Dad puffed a laugh, “I can see that.”
“I’m sorry, Dad.”
The father looked at his suburban prodigal. “Come on.”
Dad took the mower’s handle, as did Adam. The switch clicked on. They were laughing, pushing the mower haphazardly over the lawn, weaving in and out, crop-circling and making drunken patterns. They stayed outside long after the sun was up, surveying their garden and looking for the message in the grass.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Allen Stark07/27/09
Joanne Sher 07/27/09
Very vivid descriptions. I could picture the scene very well.