Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Spring (the season) (07/23/09)
- TITLE: A Change of Plans
By Pat Sipperly
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It had been a very hard year. Everything important, everything that offered life to the aging man had either been taken, or was being taken away from him. He'd watched his adorable wife Gina wither in the painfully unmerciful grip of cancer until she could fight no more. The same day he buried her, he received a registered letter from the county explaining in lengthy legalese that his property was being seized through eminent domain. In return, he would be compensated with pennies on the actual dollar value. The quiet man of meager assets would never be able to compete against the well financed, crooked county officials. And Charlie had no more fight left either. Instead, since life had left him, he would return the favor.
The tired, half-ton truck ambled up toward the heavily treed hills north of town to an abandoned cabin he remembered from many years ago. The way ahead looked more like two paths fighting each other for direction than a road for motorized vehicles. But an hour later Charlie made it to his secluded destination.
He planned his earthly departure for a cloudy day since that was what things were like when his Gina had left him. Bitter cold and gray. He packed enough food and water to last about a week figuring the clouds would certainly move in sometime soon.
By sunset, he was comfortably situated within the rustic cabin. A small fire in the pot-bellied stove warmed him against the chill of the late-April evening. The shadows and light dancing across the rough-cut ceiling entertained his eyes while the whiskey numbed his mind into a welcomed sleep. Sleep was the only time he wasn't hurting. The only time he might see his Gina again.
The next morning, Charlie was awakened by the sounds of something moving outside the cabin. He could hear panting, like that of a dog, perhaps a wolf. His eyes adjusted to his primitive surroundings and to the sunlight forcing it's way along the dirt floor through the square window. He slipped his boots on and looked out the opening. Staring back at him from the distance was a stray dog, a Labrador-mix of sorts, looking tired; it's sides heaving as it labored for breath.
Charlie opened the cabin door slowly and looked around. He watched the dark, furry canine stop and stand against the backdrop of tall aspens. The two out of place characters studied each other for a moment. The dog appeared to have been eating well. Perhaps it's home was close by, Charlie thought. Eating well sounded good, so Charlie went back inside and prepared breakfast. While cooking bacon in the heavy cast iron skillet, he glanced out the window, through the trees and to the clear blue sky. He would not be going today.
Later, Charlie returned to the cabin from an afternoon hike and noticed the furry stray just outside the door. The dog got up and moved a short distance away as the man approached. Charlie smiled and went inside. After rummaging around in his ice chest, he took a handful of food and set it on a stump for the dog. Then he went back in to prepare something for himself.
The day ended in much the same way as the evening before. Fire light and shadows, whiskey and sleep.
In the morning, Charlie saw the gray skies he'd been waiting for. Soon he'd be with his Gina, though he knew she wouldn't approve of his plans. He wondered if he should bathe in the river first. It seemed like the right thing to do.
But he stopped in his tracks when he opened the door. Looking at him with hopeful eyes and a waging tail was the dark stray with a small puppy in her mouth. Charlie stared at the mother who sought permission to enter the cabin. He held the door open allowing her into the wooden shelter, and was awestruck at her carefulness as she rested with her newborn in the corner.
Charlie forgot about bathing and putting his rifle to use that day. Instead, he began to welcome life back into his world while caring for the two furry strangers who wouldn't make it long in the hills without him.
Gina would've liked that.
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