Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Soul (07/13/06)
TITLE: Hushpuppies for Annie
By Teri Wilson
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Pa’s words rose up from somewhere beneath the swishing fans. LuAnn heard him talking about how man was made in God’s image. Then she thought he said man was the only living creature with a soul. She wondered about that, but quickly became distracted by the tickling of perspiration crawling down her neck.
At Sunday supper LuAnn finally got her sweet tea. She drank half a glass of the sugary concoction before she noticed the big basket of hushpuppies in the center of the table.
“Yum, hushpuppies!” LuAnn’s dog, Annie, watched the basket closely as it made its way around the table.
“Pa, can I give Annie a hushpuppy?” Annie heard her name and licked her chops with anticipation.
“Sure. Have I ever told you how hushpuppies got their name?”
“No.” LuAnn popped one of the yummy treats into the Golden Retriever’s mouth.
“Well, southern fishermen carried hushpuppies in their pockets when they went out fishing with their dogs. If the dogs became noisy, the fishermen gave them these treats to keep their barking from scaring the fish away. That’s why they’re called hushpuppies.”
Annie let out a pitiful whine. “Hush, puppy!” LuAnn said and gave her another. The golden dog happily gobbled it up.
“See, it works!” Pa laughed.
“Pa, at church you said man was the only creature with a soul. What about Annie? Does she have one?”
“No, she’s an animal.”
“Then how will she get to heaven when she dies?”
“Well, honey, she won’t. Only people go to heaven.”
LuAnn decided she did not like Pa’s answer at all. “I think you’re wrong.”
For a brief moment she saw the vein throbbing in her father’s temple again. “Don’t worry your pretty head about it. Nine-year-olds have much more important things to worry about, like grassy fields and tire swings. Now git.”
LuAnn knew this meant the discussion was over, so she ran outside with Annie following closely behind. They headed toward the pond at the far corner of the field behind the house.
“Let’s catch some fish, Annie.” The Golden cocked her head to one side and LuAnn plunked her fishing line in the murky water.
“Don’t scare the fish. Hush, puppy,” she whispered and pulled a left-over hushpuppy from her pocket. Annie grabbed the treat eagerly.
LuAnn waded into the pond up to her shins. The cool water was a welcome relief from the heat. She was wiggling her toes on the bottom of the fishpond when a growl started from deep inside Annie’s chest.
“Hush, puppy!” LuAnn offered her another treat. But Annie refused to even look at the hushpuppy. Her growl grew into a ferocious snarl.
“Annie, what’s wrong?” LuAnn followed the Retriever’s gaze into the water and suddenly began to shake from head to toe. A water moccasin slithered in the water around her legs. LuAnn was so frightened she couldn’t move. So she screamed instead.
“Help me, heeeelp!” At the sound of the scream, the serpent lunged at the little girl with deadly fangs bared.
The Bible dropped from Pa’s lap onto the porch with a thud as he jumped in response to the scream. He heard loud barks and terrible shrieks as he ran faster and faster toward the pond. When he reached the water’s edge, an eerie hush had fallen over the field.
There sat his daughter, rocking back and forth, cradling her beloved dog’s head in her lap. Then the preacher saw the mangled body of the water moccasin floating in the pond.
“She saved me, Pa.” LuAnn’s face was streaked with tears.
The preacher put his hand on Annie’s head and looked into her eyes. He watched the life slip away from the sweet dog’s face.
“’Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friend.’” Pa whispered. Then he made the sign of the cross on Annie’s golden head.
“Pa, she’ll go to heaven won’t she?”
“Yes, honey. I do believe she will.”
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