The thing sat and stared at her, unmoving. Mara held her ground. There was more stomping as the light approached and then she saw him… a boy, about her age, out of breath, his flashlight swinging wildly as he ran to catch up.
“Charlotte, come!” the boy commanded, breathlessly; but the thing, whom Mara now assumed was named Charlotte, did not move. It simply sat, and stared, and waited. And when the boy finally arrived with his flashlight, Mara saw that Charlotte was a dog; more precisely, a bloodhound.
“Sorry, she doesn’t listen too good but she won’t hurt you,” said the boy. Mara hadn’t considered that the dog might hurt her. Looking more closely at Charlotte in the glow of the flashlight, she thought she looked more sad than fierce.
“Can I pet her?” Mara asked.
Mara held out a hand for the dog to sniff and then gently stroked her, running her hands along the loose skin of Charlotte’s face and lightly scratching behind her ears. “Why didn’t she bark when she saw me?”
“She can’t. We got her from a rescue and they told us that the man that owned her before used a choke chain and it damaged her. Now she can’t bark and she just kinda whispers and she wheezes a lot when she runs.” Mara wondered if that’s why she looked so sad. It must be hard to be a dog and not be able to bark.
“I’m Ryan,” said the boy.
“I’m Mara. That’s my house,” she said, pointing behind her. “Where do you live?”
“The other side of the river. Well, I don’t actually live there…I’m staying with my grandparents for the summer while my mom and dad work on our new house. They said it would be boring for me to be there while they fixed it up and I’d have more fun with my grandparents.”
“Is it more fun?” Mara asked. She couldn’t imagine spending the summer with her grandparents. They were nice enough, and they sometimes let her do things that her parents wouldn’t (like eat ice cream for breakfast), but they lived in a condo in the city and Mara would miss the river and the woods and the pier at night.
“I guess so. I can go swimming whenever I want. And Gran makes really good chocolate chip cookies.”
Somehow the oddness of meeting a boy and his dog at the edge of the woods in the middle of the night did not strike Mara as peculiar. She had learned that the night was full of surprises, most of them good if you didn’t let the darkness scare you off.
“Wanna come sit on the pier with me? We can watch for shooting stars.”
Mara turned and headed back toward the pier, Ryan and Charlotte following quietly behind her.
“Do your parents know you’re out here?”
“No,” said Mara, glancing back toward the house. “They probably wouldn’t like it very much, either. So you have to be quiet, ok?”
“Ok. I don’t think my grandparents would like it if they knew either. Have you done this before, snuck out I mean?”
“Mmhmm. I come out here most nights, except when it’s raining and not during the winter of course. Just during the summer when there’s no school and I don’t have to get up as early. Hey look! There’s one…did you see it?”
“No. Missed it. Do you think there’ll be another?”
“Maybe. Some nights I see three or four. One night I saw ten! It was a meteor shower or something like that…I read about it on the internet.”
“I wish there was a meteor shower tonight.”
“No, I don’t think so. But keep watching. There might be another before you have to go back.”
Ryan didn’t want to think about going back. He lay down on the pier and stared up at the stars, hoping to see just one shoot across the sky. Mara lay next to him and together they watched and waited and compared notes about the river. There were minnows on Ryan’s side too, and he sometimes scooped them up with a net and hooked them on his fishing pole and used them to catch bigger fish. Mara thought that was mean. She liked fishing too, but she used a plastic worm and she always let the fish go after she caught them. Mara told Ryan about the snapping turtle that lived in the river and hunted for minnows around the pilings. Ryan didn’t know about the snapping turtle and he worried a little about it being in there the next time he went swimming.
“There! Did you see it that time?”
“Yes!” said Ryan, trying to keep his excitement contained to a whisper. “That was so cool.”
“Make a wish,” she told him. “You get a wish for every shooting star you see. It doesn’t always work, but sometimes it does.”
Ryan closed his eyes. He didn’t know why, it just seemed like that was what you were supposed to do when you made a wish. Mara did the same.
“What did you wish?” he asked.
“I can’t tell you or it definitely won’t come true,” she said with all the authority of a practiced shooting star wisher.
“But if you come back tomorrow night, I’ll tell you if it came true.”
“Ok,” he said, excitedly. That was fast, he thought to himself…and just like that his wish had been granted.
© Kelly Rainey and 500wordsandcounting.wordpress.com, 2015.
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