The back yard was wide and flat with what appeared to be a large garden at one end. It was cold now, but spring would soon come and James knew his mother would be pleased to find there was a place ready and waiting for her to grow tomatoes and beans and squash and pumpkins. Pumpkins. James hoped for pumpkins because they took a long time to grow and if they planted pumpkins it would mean they were planning to stay at least until fall. Carving a pumpkin that had grown in his very own back yard would be fun, James imagined. Although living in a house that stood alone in the middle of the woods didn’t seem to offer much hope for trick-or-treating. Too far off to worry about, James thought, walking past the garden and toward the small, glass building up ahead.
James had never seen a greenhouse before, be he had heard of them. This one seemed very old. It had a sturdy metal frame with thick glass panes that held out the cold and magnified the power of the sun. There was a small door in the back; James slipped inside and the dog followed. It was warmer inside, and still. Very still. There were waist-high tables set with planting boxes filled with the brown and shriveled remains of what appeared to be flowers. Hearing a slow “bloop…bloop…bloop”, James searched the greenhouse until he found a leaking spigot. As he bent to tighten it, James noticed a rather large river stone in the spot where the spigot was leaking. It was smooth and worn and seemed quite at home embedded in the earthen floor and surrounded by green moss. It looked as if it had been there for a very long time. James turned the handle as hard as he could but the spigot continued to drip, “bloop…bloop…bloop,” each drop landing in the center of the stone before rolling off to quench the moss.
The dog nudged James gently out of the way and lowered his head to lick the rock. It was then that James wondered how long the dog had been there without people. Had he belonged to the last family that had lived here or had he only recently arrived from someplace else? He had no tags, no collar – but upon closer inspection James discovered at least that he was a he and not a she.
“Do you have a name, boy?” James asked, not really expecting an answer. The dog just looked at him, or perhaps past him, and headed toward the door. Pushing it open, he turned to look at James and waited. James considered this an invitation and followed him out of the greenhouse to the edge of the yard where the tall trees stood as if guarding the perimeter. The late afternoon sun was waning and reached only a short distance past the yard and into the woods. Despite the darkness beyond, James found the forest oddly inviting.
Stepping onto the soft bed of pine needles, he found himself drawn to the one place his mother had asked him to avoid. The dog howled. It was a long, deep, moaning howl that startled James and brought his mother out on to the back porch to see what was the matter.
“James Evermore! Seriously? There’ll be plenty of time for exploring tomorrow. Come on now. Come in and see your new bedroom. ” James could tell by her tone that she wasn’t mad. Unlike most of the other mothers James had met, his mother seemed to remember what it was like to be a young. She liked to imagine and laugh and even play sometimes. And when they talked she listened, really listened, to him. He loved his father, of course, but his mother made him feel like he mattered and he hoped he made her feel the same way.
The dog followed James across the yard and onto the porch.
“This one’s a keeper,” said Jane, smiling and reaching out to scratch his ears.
Keeper, thought James. It seemed fitting, although he was unsure of who was keeping who. “That’s what we’ll call him then, Mom…Keeper. That way he’ll know he’s supposed to stay.”
Jane looked at the dog looking at James. “Oh I think he knows,” she said. “But Keeper it is.” And together they went inside.
©Kelly Rainey and 500wordsandcounting.wordpress.com, 2015.
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