Copyright 2006, Terry F. Phillips Sr.
All rights reserved
When Mark Wilkins fell asleep on the cold campground, he understood everything. When he awoke he remembered he hadn’t taken his medicine and he didn’t have any with him.
He got up quickly but quietly, not wanting to disturb his new friend who was asleep on the opposite side of the dying fire from him.
Mark got into the car, driving by memory, not wanting to turn on his headlights until he was sure they wouldn’t awake Kelly.
Finally, he made it to the county road and turned right toward home.
A few minutes later he was parked in his parents’ drive, but then things got really weird.
One instant he was sitting in the pickup and the next he was standing on the shores of Sugar Creek, as he had done, so many times before.
Only this time, things were different. Wow, were they different.
Instead of seeing old paper and plastic wrap, the banks were clean. Instead of the smell of dead and decaying fish one normally smelled on a hot day, the river smelled … well, it didn’t have an odor at all.
In fact, Mark could see fish swimming up to him where he stood on the bank, like they weren’t afraid at all. Then, a squirrel ran up to him and brushed against him, as if the squirrel were a family dog, wanting to be petted.
But, then, he felt a cold nose under his arm. Startled, he jumped away and turned at the Same time.
It was a deer that had evidently come to the water for a cool drink on a hot day. The doe was nuzzling under Mark’s arm as if it wanted to be petted and his human odor hadn’t caused a problem at all for the animals.
But then, on the other side of the creek, he heard a “woof” and looked in time to see Maverick looking at him and wagging his tail in greeting.
Quickly, the golden retriever jumped into the creek and paddled over to him.
The dog was excited as if he hadn’t seen his old master in years, which, in fact, was true.
Mark remembered the horrible day when he arrived home from school to see his old friend laying on the back steps of his house. The dog’s flank was caked with mud and dried blood, but his leg was twisted at a crazy angle.
The dog whined and licked Mark’s hand just before he had stopped breathing.
That was when Mark was 10 and he never forgot it.
His mother had been at church, in the Ladies Aid meeting. When she got home, she saw her son shoveling the last few inches of dirt into the grave when Maverick had been laid. The boy had managed to get the large dog into his dad’s wheel barrow and move it to a spot behind the garage.
He still remembered the sting of the hot tears on his face and how he seemed to smear as much dirt on his clothes as he shoveled in the hole that terrible day.
“We’ll never get to play by the creek again,” Mark had thought. But here was the Same dog, fit as could be, obviously happy, overjoyed to see his master again.
“Mav?” was all Mark could say.