Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Cat and Dog (09/04/14)
- TITLE: Puss and Boots
By Fiona Stevenson
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Boots was a small dog of undefined terrier ancestry; a tube of cream coloured curls hung between inquisitive ears and exclamatory tail, and the curls covering feet to knees were chocolate hued – hence his name. Age had not dimmed the terrier personality: his nose constantly investigated everyone else’s business, and he kept the farmyard a-buzz with activity.
Puss was not a family member. She blew in late one stormy cold afternoon when Edgar and Bryan took their turn to refill the wood box. Ignoring the two-legged beasts she headed straight for Boots and despite his menacing growl and snarling lip she planted her back in his warm midriff. Boots dropped his head back to his paws and pretended she wasn’t there while she started an extensive grooming session. We watched in amusement. When she was through she sat straight, rolled her shoulders and looked about her. Although she was fluffy rather than sleek she was a beautiful Siamese princess.
She stayed for the better part of two weeks, sharing Boot’s water bowl and accepting the plate of food as her due, but she did not acknowledge or consort with the family. Then she left as suddenly as she had come, returning again some weeks later. This became the pattern of the next two or three years.
“Remind me of Bob and Paula, they do.”
Dad was right. Bob was an elderly church member, widowed and retired. He pottered around the church garden, helped with the maintenance and the cleaning. He visited the hospital, and shopped for the shut-ins. He never missed a church meeting. But he usually sat alone. Until the day that Paula came. She headed right for Bob and plopped into the seat beside him. He gave her a startled look and turned back to his hymn book.
At first we thought they were acquainted but we were wrong. Paula did not speak to anyone – not even Bob – but for three Sundays, morning and evening, she came in after the start of the service and headed straight for Bob. Then she disappeared and it was three months before we saw her again. This became her pattern too: at indeterminate intervals she appeared and disappeared, until we took her presence or absence for granted.
Bob and Boots died in the same unusually prolonged heatwave.
We returned to the kitchen after burying Boots to find Puss sniffing at his empty blanket. She had been away for several weeks. Bryan turned away with a sudden burst of tears but Edgar scooped her into his arms and held her close, murmuring, “He’s gone, Puss, he’s gone. You should have stayed ...”
For Puss, from that time Edgar took Boots’ place and she stayed to become a family member.
On the Sunday following Bob’s interment Paula returned from a moderate absence. She stopped in the aisle and looked from the empty seat to the surrounding pews. Dad saw her and stepped across. He took her elbow and spoke quietly into her ear before leading her to our pew and seating her between Mom and himself. I noticed that he kept a firm hold of her hand.
After the service Mom made sure that Paula joined us for lunch. She sat quietly while we bustled about getting the meal onto the table. No-one noticed Puss leave her blanket and cross to Paula; we only saw her curled on Paula’s lap. Mom saw the tears on Paula’s cheeks. We learned her story in broken sentences while we shared our lunch.
Paula didn’t know Bob: she sensed the peace flowing from the devout old man; a peace she needed and absorbed while sitting beside him, listening to him worship in song and prayer. We learned of the strength that Bob imparted through a life devoted to the Lord God. Paula became a family member too.
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