Over the coming weeks I will be sharing some of the stories from my collections new and old… and I hope you will enjoy them.
Today a story from Life’s Rich Tapestry, about second chances..
Charlie was a junkyard dog and had the scars to prove it. He was head of security of this fenced off mass of scrap metal, dotted with mounds of old tyres he called home, and he took his job very seriously. During the day, he was chained up next to the beat-up old trailer, where his human would shout loudly at other humans; sometimes throwing things at the thin metal walls. In bad weather Charlie would retreat into a rough scrap wood shelter; resting his bony body on a ragged old corn sack on the hard concrete floor as the water dripped in through the roof.
His human would unshackle Charlie as night fell; throwing a few handfuls of dried dog food into a bowl, kicking it toward the dog.
‘Gotta keep him lean and mean,’ he would laugh as he got into his truck to head down to the bar on Main Street. The junkyard was now Charlie’s responsibility, and he would prowl in and out of the wrecks through the darkness; barking and growling at any real or imagined intruder.
The feral cats kept their distance, building nests for themselves in the precarious metal heaps and hunting for rats and mice at night; keeping one eye open for the mangy dog.
Many a lad had climbed the fence, looking for a spare part for their hot-rod, or to find some forgotten treasure in a glove compartment. All had gone back over the wire at speed, with one or two new rips in their jeans and sometimes even missing a sneaker. Charlie would swagger back to his kennel, taking a drink from a puddle along the way, pleased that he had done his job as demanded of him.
Rarely did the dog feel the kindness of a human hand, despite the men who worked in the yard throwing him the odd bit of sandwich, or even a left over piece of hamburger. None were keen to find out if he was as handy with his teeth as some of his victims had claimed after lucky escapes. The boss told them not to coddle the dog, and despite some of them pitying their half-starved workmate, they were too afraid of losing their jobs to push the matter.
Then a thin, lanky lad called Jimmy turned up one day looking for a job. The boss thought he was too scrawny for the kind of hard labour that was needed, but he knew the boy would work for a lot less than he had to pay a grown man, and gave him a week to prove himself. He had to give it to the boy; Jimmy did not mess about, arriving early and leaving long after the others had left for a beer.
He pulled his weight and earned the respect of the other men who took him under their wings. Although Jimmy didn’t say much they sensed the boy didn’t have a great place to go home to. Over a mug of coffee after lunch, he finally shared that he had been living on the streets for some months but was now in a hostel. It sounded a bit grim, but it was clean and he had a room, dinner and a change of clothes. With the money he was now earning, he planned to save up and find a small place of his own.
Like his workmates, Jimmy began keeping some of his lunch for Charlie. They warned him to throw the food and not to get too close in case the dog ripped his arm off. They were amazed when he calmly knelt down, holding out his hand with the piece of sandwich in his cupped palm. After a couple of days, hunger overcame his fear and Charlie edged closer and closer until he snatched the food, racing back to the other end of his chain.
They also advised Jimmy not to let the boss see him petting the dog, and the lad was careful to only do so when the man was out in his truck, or on the other side of the yard. He didn’t want to lose his job, but he also couldn’t bear to see this neglected dog and the way he was living. It brought home memories of his time on the streets, and he knew only too well how desperate it was.
Through the summer months, Jimmy began to climb over the fence after the gates had been locked, rather than return to the stifling room in the hostel, until the evening cooled. Charlie by now accepted the boy and eagerly nuzzled his pockets to see if there were any treats for him. He would snuffle delightedly as he came upon a piece of cheese or sausage, dispensing a slobbery kiss in gratitude.
The two of them would wander the yard enjoying the evening sunshine and then sit side by side watching the sun go down; Jimmy’s arm around his buddy’s neck. Both of them had filled out over the recent months of better food and the boy had also been to the vets and stocked up on medicine for parasites and fleas. Charlie’s improved condition was becoming a problem. The boss had noticed that Charlie was calmer and less aggressive and that he could no longer see his ribs. Somebody was feeding him and he decided to keep a closer eye on who was around him during the day.
It didn’t take long to find out who the culprit was, and he was furious. He left the trailer and walked off into the lot telling his men, who were eating their sandwiches around the wooden table by the gate, he would be back in ten minutes. Instead he went around the back of the shack and peered around the side towards Charlie’s kennel. He saw Jimmy gather up the scraps from the other men, and walk quickly over to Charlie who sat waiting eagerly. His anger grew as he saw the dog calmly take the food from the boy’s hand and the way he accepted the ear scratching and petting.
He raced to the front of the trailer and shouted at the top of his voice, making the men stand up in concern and Jimmy leap back guiltily from the dog.
‘I warned you what would happen if I caught any of you messing with that dog.’ He strode towards Jimmy and grabbed him by the arm; causing Charlie to growl and leap to the end of his chain. ‘You’re fired boy! Get your stuff and leave now.’ He pushed the lad towards the gate and kicked him in the backside. ‘And don’t think you are getting your last week’s pay either.’
The men looked at each other, and as one they walked towards their enraged boss and Jimmy. In the background Charlie was pulling at his chain and barking madly, foaming at the mouth, desperate to get free.
‘Hey boss, leave the lad alone,’ Jack the foreman held up his hand to try and calm the situation down.
‘Get out of my way! You knew the rules and you let that boy ruin the dog.’ The boss snarled at the men.
‘Take one more step and it won’t be just the boy who gets canned.’ He grabbed Jimmy’s rucksack from the table and threw it at him before grabbing his arm in a vice-like hold.
Suddenly a massive snapping sound erupted from behind them, and everyone, including the boss, turned towards the trailer. All they could see was an enraged dog, virtually flying through the air with the remnants of a chain trailing noisily behind him. The men scattered and the boss let go of Jimmy’s arm. He turned to run for the gate only to be yanked off his feet as a jaw clamped onto the back of his jeans and shook him like a rag doll. The denim ripped and, freed from the gnashing teeth, the boss was off like a rocket, clambering up the side of a precarious mound of wrecked cars. The dog took up station at the bottom of the pile as the sobbing man scrambled to get a foothold on the slippery metal.
‘Charlie, Charlie, it’s okay boy, come here, come here.’ Somehow Jimmy’s voice managed to get through to the enraged dog as he paced back and forth growling in frustration.
He turned and stood head down and shivering as the boy walked towards him and knelt down. ‘Okay Charlie, you and me are going to leave, come on let’s get out of here.’
The foreman stood in front of the boy and placed a hand on his shoulder. ‘Hang on a minute lad; we need to sort something out first.’
He stepped over to the pile of cars and looked up at his boss perched on a rusty bonnet.
‘Boss, I’m going to the trailer and get the lad his pay for the last week, and I am also going to write him a receipt for a dollar, which is the cost of the dog.’
He turned around and walked to the trailer as Jimmy and Charlie waited by the gate, the boy kneeling with his arms around the quivering dog; finally calming down and licking the boy’s face. The man reappeared with a leash in one hand and an envelope in the other.
‘There you are boy, and there is a bit extra in there, plus I’ve scribbled a reference for you, with my telephone number.’ He smiled at Jimmy. ‘I think you boys better leave town and leave us to sort this out.’
He winked and nodded in the boss’s direction. ‘He can’t afford to lose all of us or for us to tell this story down the bar, he would never live it down.’
The other men clapped Jimmy on the back and a few of them slipped a few more dollars into his pocket. The foreman leant down and offered Charlie the back of his hand and felt a long rough tongue as it glided over the skin. He stroked the dog’s head and stood up to open the gate.
‘Take care of each other you two, and don’t worry, there won’t be another dog in this place, I’ll make him buy surveillance cameras instead.’
Jimmy stood for a moment looking at the men who had befriended him and now offered them both this second chance. He glanced down at the dog waiting eagerly to see what was outside the gate that had held him prisoner for so long.
The boy wiped his hand across his face embarrassed by the tears. Then he smiled and lifted a hand in farewell and the men watched the boy and dog head off down the street to the highway and freedom.
Jack shut and padlocked the gate before turning towards his boss now clambering down the metal mountain. When he reached the ground and turned prepared to give them one of his tirades, he found ten men with their arms folded waiting for him.
©Sally Cronin 2019.
I hope you have enjoyed the story.. thanks for dropping in… Sally.
About Life’s Rich Tapestry
Life’s Rich Tapestry is a collection of verse, microfiction and short stories that explore many aspects of our human nature and the wonders of the natural world. Reflections on our earliest beginnings and what is yet to come, with characters as diverse as a French speaking elephant and a cyborg warrior.
Finding the right number of syllables for a Haiku, Tanka, Etheree or Cinquain focuses the mind; as does 99 word microfiction, bringing a different level of intensity to storytelling. You will find stories about the past, the present and the future told in 17 syllables to 2,000 words, all celebrating life.
This book is also recognition of the value to a writer, of being part of a generous and inspiring blogging community, where writing challenges encourage us to explore new styles and genres.
One of the recent reviews for Life’s Rich Tapestry on Bookbub by Marina Osipova December 1st 2020
Engaging. Moving. Amazing.
As always, Sally Cronin’s writing (be it verse, micro fiction, or short stories) awoke in me a fountain of emotions. Some manifested themselves in goosebumps (Life’s Greatest Gift, Musical Interlude, Reunion, An Ugly Mutt, A Moment of Alignment-just to name a few), others brought a smile to my face, (My Mouse, Splashing Good Time, The Witch’s Handbook, etc.). The Enhancement Project was frightening in its futurological likelihood. You’ll find the tales grim or sad, yet most promise hope at the end. While reading all these beautifully written stories, I shook my head in disbelief: how is it possible to tell a life story in such a short piece of literature? Take my word, you won’t be unaffected by these poignant snippets of life, and after turning the last page, you will crave more from this remarkable writer. Can’t help but recommend Sally Cronin’s books to readers who seek tales that deeply move soul and heart.
My other books and recent reviews can be found on my Books and Reviews Page 2021