Archive for the Novels Category

My Guardian- Chapter One- City Boy

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It looked safe enough. Mom would’ve had a fit if she knew I was this close to the water, but there was nothing to do in this dumb little town.

Gray weathered boards creaked as I walked down the center of the wooden dock. When I was halfway out I stood, feet wide apart. I leaned to one side and then the other, and watched as the water splashed higher and higher. I stopped moving and let myself be slowly rocked to a stop.

Not a sound, not a car honking, not a kid yelling, nothing. Even the air smelled different here; like trees and wet stuff.

Lying on my back I closed my eyes. Sharp slivers pierced my shirt and jabbed into my skin. I pretended I was floating on an inner tube, somewhere else, anywhere else.

I missed my friends and my old neighborhood.

We didn’t live by a lake, or have a whole lot of trees, but we could skateboard. We rolled every inch of pavement on our block and went to all the skate parks we could get to by bus. We even made a couple of awesome ramps.

John, Riley and I had spent afternoons screaming up the sides of those jumps and flying through the air.

We could have become professionals if Riley hadn’t broken his arm. After that, all the moms banded together and made us get rid of the ramps, but we still found things to jump off.

Just as I was starting to feel relaxed a hard stomp to my gut put an end to my daydreaming.

Gasping and curling into a ball I looked up and saw Bruce Danville smiling down at me.

I met Bruce the first day we came here. His mom was all, “so happy to have new neighbors.”

Bruce squeezed my hand hard when she told him to “be nice and welcome your new friend.” Right then I knew we weren’t going to be friends.

“Whatcha doing city boy, sun tannin?” Bruce kicked my feet.

I tried to think of an insult to spit back at him but I couldn’t breathe. He motioned to some kids on the beach to come and join him.

Great, I thought, one I could handle… maybe.

I recognized a few of them from around town, two girls and three boys. They looked like normal kids; bathing suits, bare feet.

I stood hunched over hugging my stomach

The smallest boy came forward and said “hi” all friendly like.

Bruce turned and stared at him. The kid’s smile disappeared and he stopped in his tracks.

“Hey guys, do you think city boy would like to go for a ride?”

No one answered.

Bruce started rocking the dock, like I had been doing.

Everyone fell to one side and then the other. The girls squealed and hung on to each other.

My stomach sloshed with every dip, but I kept perfect balance, moving my weight at the right time, like I was back home on my skateboard.

Bruce grunted as he leaned his large body down with each drop. The others screamed and yelled at him to stop, and one by one they fell off. The small boy was the first to go.

It was down to Bruce and me.

“That’s enough Bruce,” one of the girls spoke up. Her long brown hair was in a braid. The skin on her face glowed pink beneath a summer tan.

“What’s the matter, can’t ya swim city boy? Are you getting scared?” Bruce leaned forward and gave me a hard push.

I fell back, but put my arms out and got my balance. “Oh I can swim alright.” I hoped he didn’t notice my shaking legs.

Well I could swim, a little. I had taken lessons. I just never seemed to be able to get past the second level. Back home we had a wave pool, but all I ever did was mess around on the inner tubes, so I guess you could say my swimming skills were a little weak.

“Oh ya, well why don’t you give us a demonstration?” He shoved me again and I stumbled closer to the edge.

“Leave him alone Bruce.”

“What’s the matter Leslie? You got the hots for city boy?”

Leslie’s face turned pinker.

I looked at Bruce, and standing right next to him like that I realized something. He had to look up, to stare me in the eyes, and for a second I felt a little brave. But he wasn’t skinny like me. The muscles in his arms went hard when he lifted his hands to his head. He laughed and ran fat fingers through black bristled hair.

“Okay, okay,” he said smiling, “I’m just kidding around.”

He stopped moving and we waited for the dock to level. I never took my eyes off him. I tried desperately to think of something to say back at him, but in my trembling body, my brain was empty.

He walked towards me with his hand out.

Did he think I wanted to shake his hand? My heart pounded. I put out my hand.

That’s when he grabbed me, and started to push.

I leaned against him but he was strong. I shoved and felt him slip back a bit. I smiled. But that only made him madder and more determined.

“Knock…..it……off!” I grunted.

“Look out everyone city boy’s going for a swim.”

As I fell off the dock I reached out to grab his shirt, but it tore in my hand and my head smacked the edge.

I felt the cool water, held my breath, and when I closed my eyes I saw flashes of light. I told my legs to kick but they wouldn’t listen. My lungs grew hot and my stomach rolled.

Dear God, please help me.

I thought about mom and dad, and my baby sister Tara; the new house, the move. Was this it? Surely someone was going to help me.

Please somebody, help. Help me out of this, I don’t want to die. I’ll do what ever it takes. I won’t complain anymore.

I opened my eyes. The water was swirling and murky. I squinted and saw something move. Somebody was coming to help. Yes, I knew it.

It was a big bulky shape. Even if it was Bruce I didn’t care.

Arms and legs moved above me in a blur as it got closer. But something wasn’t right, the shape, it wasn’t human. It wasn’t a fish, it was partially above the water, but it seemed to have black seaweed flowing from it.

I back-pedaled and pushed away with my arms.

I went nowhere.

It dove towards me.

A long snout, strange large ears, claws scratched my skin. A large jaw opened and jagged white teeth clamped down.

My Guardian – Chapter two – It’s in my room!

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I waved my arms in front of me to hold off the attack and let out my breath.

Air. I gulped air!

I shivered but I felt warm. Was I ..?

“No,” I shouted, but it only came out as a hoarse whisper.

My hands shook as I felt my way up both arms, patted my legs, my chest. I felt my face, my eyes, and my head. Pain jolted through my body.

A blur of movement circled my head. I blinked and wiped my eyes.

The airplane mobile I had made in Grade 4 floated above me. Again I felt around with my hands. I had my pajamas on and there was a puffy quilt under me. I carefully lifted my head and saw my baseball card collection spread out on the floor, my Classic Car posters on the wall. I heard the country station Mom always listened to on the radio.

Then I realized I was still in hell; a small town called Sheridan Springs, population 408, with a bully named Bruce.

I banged my fist into the mattress and regretted it as my head exploded.

I turned my face into the pillow and lay quiet till the banging stopped.

I started to remember something about the lake. I was on the dock dreaming, minding my own business when Bruce came by playing the big tough guy. The other kids were scared and laughing at the same time. Something wasn’t right. Bruce and I wrestled around, I fell in, then I saw…. the creature!

I must have passed out again because the next thing I saw was mom and dad. Mom’s eyes were watery and red. I counted four wrinkles across her forehead.

“How ya doing Sport?” Dad hadn’t called me Sport for a couple of years. His whiskered face seemed a little darker.dad-doctor

“Trevor, look me directly in the eyes,” His doctor voice took over as he flashed a small pen-like flashlight in my eyes. I couldn’t tell what he saw, but he gave me a quick grin, so I figured it wasn’t anything too serious. “Maybe we’d better sign you up for more swimming lessons,” He scrunched up his nose and closed his eyes as three sneezes blasted from behind his hand. “Whew, I hope I haven’t caught anything.”

Mom frowned at him then turned to me. “How’s that bump on your head?” She pushed an ice bag onto the swelling lump.

I cringed.

“Keep that on there for a while Trevor. You sure gave us a scare. What happened, what were you kids thinking?”

“Mom, no one was thinking! Just shoving! I can’t stand this place. Why did we have to move anyway?”

“Oh Trevor, don’t start that again. Accidents can happen anywhere.”

“Mom, it wasn’t an accident!”

She wasn’t listening. “Things will get better, just wait. Let’s not argue, okay? What can I get you? Are you hungry?”

The chime of the doorbell interrupted her fussing.

“Oh dear. Hang on a sec Trevor, I’d better get that.”

Mom ran out the door, like she wanted to go off and cry some more. She accidentally kicked a CD I had left on the floor, but she didn’t stop.

Dad went over and picked it up, along with my backpack and a car magazine, and put them on top of my dresser without saying a word about the mess.

He sat on the edge of my bed, lifted the ice pack, and poked at the lump that was becoming my second forehead. I wanted to scream at him again and blame him for everything.

He leaned towards me and took a deep breath. He was going to say something. Maybe tell me he had made a mistake, and was sorry, we would move back.

“Well, Trevor,” he said, “I’ve checked you over and everything seems to be in the right spot.” He chuckled. “I think what you need is some rest and, when you’re feeling a bit better, maybe some fuel in that body of yours.”

I nodded. Ya sure, what did he care?

“Let your mom know if you feel any nausea or dizziness. Get some rest, but we don’t want you sleeping for long stretches at a time. I’ll check in on you when I get home from work. Okay sport?” He was caught by another series of sneezes.sneeze

I gave him a weak smile and pointed to the tissues on my dresser. He nodded and grabbed a handful.

Mom came back and he put a hand on my shoulder and gave it a hard squeeze. “See you later.”

“Thanks for coming,” mom whispered to him. Giving Dad a hug on his way out she added, “And don’t you go getting sick on me too.”

And like nothing had ever happened; like it was another wonderful day in the good old country, she looked at me and said, “oh, Trevor dear, one of your friends is at the door. He’s wondering how you are. He seems to be concerned about you, but it’s up to you. If you’re not feeling up to it I can tell him to come back.”

What was she talking about?

” Um, what did he say his name was again? Oh yes, I remember. He said it was Bruce.”

“Ahhhh, no! Just leave me alone, I don’t want to see anyone.” I turned away.

Mom didn’t say a word, but I heard her sigh. She tapped the bag, gave me one last smile, then left my door open a crack.

When she was gone I threw the ice pack on the floor. My whole life sucked. My head screamed, and my stomach gurgled. I felt like I was back on the dock. A bitter taste filled my mouth.

I closed my eyes. I wanted to just block everything out and go back to dreamland, maybe hang with my old buddies again, but I had a feeling that someone was in the room. Oh it had better not be Bruce. If mom let him in, that’s it, I was going to freak out.

“Mom, is that you?”

I looked around trying not to move too much.

A black shape crouched in the corner by my desk. I sat up, but immediately fell back down holding my head.

As I fought to keep my eyes open I got a good look at it. Black fur covered its body. I saw a head and ears; a tail twitched, a long black snout sniffed the air.

I could hear it panting. I remembered the teeth.

It was a dog! A big black, wet dog?

My Guardian – Chapter Three – Gabe

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I decided not make any quick movements or loud noises.  Where did he come from?  The window was open but I was on the second floor!window

And could a dog get past mom and dad?  I always wanted a dog, but dad was allergic. Wait a minute, dad was sneezing! Was the dog here the whole time?  Maybe it was a rescue dog.  It had a strange white pack on its back.

In a scratchy voice I whispered, “Hello fella, are you a nice boy?”

Its big tail swished back and forth, spraying a mist of water. I patted the top of my quilt.

He came right away and stood at the edge of my bed.  He was as tall as the top of my mattress. He seemed friendly, and I didn’t feel scared at all.

“Come on fella, its okay,” I patted the bed again and he sprang up in a single easy leap.

His fur was kinky and damp, and he smelled like stinky old pond water.  I reached out to touch him and a pink tongue escaped from his mouth.  I jerked back.  He panted and looked at me.

I took a deep breath and scratched at the black fur on his head and under his chin.  I didn’t realize I was holding my breath until I began to feel light-headed.

I exhaled and reached for his back. My hand passed over his head, down his neck and onto his shoulders.  When I touched one of the white lumps I knew right away it wasn’t any kind of pack or life jacket.  My head pounded as I moved to get a closer look. My eyes blurred, as my brain said no way. Thousands of tiny feathers!

I glided my fingers over each rounded wing hump and down to the very tip. He didn’t move.  The wings were folded under like a bird.  I felt dizzy.
“Hey fella, where did you come from?”  I thought back to the dock again and tried to relive everything that had happened.  I don’t remember seeing a dog anywhere.  I had seen some white birds. I remembered the kids, and the fall.  My head hit the dock and the murky water.    But in the water, I had seen something.  Maybe it was a hallucination, and this is a continuation of it.  Whatever it was, I knew that this strange creature, real or unreal, had saved me.

You were the black thing in the water.  You saved me. Good boy, good fella.”  But how?  “You must have helped pull me out with the others.  They must have seen you too. They told mom they had saved me, hey boy, but it was you, wasn’t it.  You are a boy aren’t you?”

He wagged his tail in agreement.

I remembered my prayer, my promise. Maybe he was an angel. Maybe he was my guardian angel.

I scratched him behind his ear and he rolled over on his back wriggling and whining.  I laughed so hard my head began to ache again.

“Trevor?”  It was Mom, and by the thumping I could tell she was taking the stairs two at a time.  What was she going to say about all this?  Dad would never let me keep a dog, even if it had saved my life.

“Trevor, what is it? I heard you cry. What’s the matter?” She sent my bedroom door flying into the wall.

In a second she was at my bed feeling my forehead.   She picked up the soggy ice bag from the floor and I cringed as she placed it on my throbbing goose egg.

I waited for her to say something about the dog, but she just went on mumbling, and pulling at my blankets, trying to make me lay down. She never screamed, or jumped back, or said anything about having a dog up on my bed.

“Mom, do you notice anything… different?”

She looked at me scrunching her eyebrows together, “well, that bump is turning kind of blue, but you don’t have a fever or anything.  Does something else hurt?  Should I call your dad back in to have a look at you?”

“No Mom,” She didn’t see him at all, yet he was big as life on my bed.

“I know what you need,” she said, “some food in that belly.   “How about a sandwich?”

I wondered if my guardian needed something to eat too. “Uh, okay sure.” I hoped I wasn’t smiling too much, because she would think that knock on my head had made me crazy.  “Oh and mom, can you put lots of meat on it?”

When Mom came back I had the dog sit next to the table by my bed, where mom would be sure to see him.

sandwich plateShe came in and put the plate down with a glass of milk. “Here you go sweetie.” She patted my arm and that was it.

I reached over and lifted the top piece of bread. The smell of turkey, ham, and Swiss cheese made my mouth water, and she had made it just how I like; with tons of mayonnaise and a pickle cut up beside it.

“You try that out Trevor, and holler if you need anything else.”

She didn’t say anything else, just kind of backed out of my room with a weird worried grin.

This was some kind of dream, but it was cool. I wanted to jump around at the thoughts of my very own secret private dog! But when I sat up, I was reminded of what had really happened. The dizziness came back. Maybe I had bonked my brain so hard I was ready for the loony bin.  My stomach flip-flopped and a sour taste filled my mouth.

Whatever was truth or made up, I decided to go with the flow.  “Come here fella, would you like a bite?  Come on its okay.”  I tore a chunk of sandwich, and he moved closer.  He snapped clumsily at each piece until it was gone, and then he licked at the mayo around his mouth. He looked at me as if to say, “what’s next?” So I gave him the pickle and he made that disappear too just like a real dog.

“What’s your name boy?” I asked, wondering if maybe he wasn’t also a talking dog.  But he just tilted his head to one side.

“Okay, I guess I’ll have to give you a name myself.  Let’s see, what’s a good name for an angel dog, an angel name?”

The only angel I could think of was Angel Gabriel. Gabriel, hmm, that sounded heroic, or Gabe for short?

“Come Gabe.   Attaboy, come here.”

Gabe came over and licked my face with his rough tongue.  “Good boy, thanks for saving me.”  I desperately wanted to wrestle with him but I knew my body couldn’t take it.  “Maybe we can play later, Gabe.”

I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Gabe whinedtired

“No boy it’s okay.  Don’t go yet.  Is your time up?  But I still need you.  Please stay.  Please stay.”

My eyes grew heavier and heavier and the last thing I saw was Gabe sitting by my open window, his amazing white wings spread from tip to tip.

Chapter Four – My Furry Friend

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sunSunlight blasted into my room and birds chirped like mad.

My head felt okay, and when I sat up I didn’t feel dizzy. But man I was tired. Every time I fell asleep mom had woken me up.   And that dream. Was it a dream?  It all felt so real.

“Gabe, come on boy, are you still here?”  My eyes searched every inch of my room.

“Rats,” I said, banging my fist into the bed. The one good thing about this town and I imagined it all.

I swung my feet around onto the floor and into my slippers. Walking over to my dresser to grab some jeans I heard a thump on the closet door.  I pressed my ear up against it.

BANG, BANG, BANG!

I slowly reached for the doorknob.

Out came Gabe with a half-chewed sock in his mouth, blue threads caught in his teeth.socks

“Wa ha! So you are here, and you’re like every other dog.”  Inside the closet, socks lay tattered and torn into rags.

The mess didn’t matter.  Of course mom might think differently, so I stuffed everything under my mattress until I could sneak it all out.

Mom wanted me resting in my room one more day and I thought it was a great idea.  It gave me lots of time with Gabe.   I wasn’t sure how long he would be here.

“Let’s see Gabe, what’re we going to do all day?” I stared at him for a while and still could not believe my eyes.  Had he really saved me?  That reminded me that I had made some promises; to be a better person, and to stop complaining.  If I didn’t keep those promises it might be reason for Gabe to leave me.  He was the only friend I had in this town.

Gabe pushed at my hand with his nose.

I looked around and sighed.  I guess I could get started by cleaning this room.  Gabe could help.

I turned on my CD player and slowly increased the volume until it was loud, but didn’t hurt my head. I got out a big yellow plastic crate,  picked up my video game controllers and tossed them in.music

Pulling my new found furry friend close I said, “see Gabe, in the basket.  Put this stuff in the basket.” I spread my arms and turned around.

Gabe sat and watched.  Next I picked up some video games and chucked them in.

“See Gabe.”  But he gave me that sideways look again.

When I spotted the baseball I knew I had struck gold.  I walked over to him and gently forced his mouth open.  I placed the ball inside and when he had a good hold of it, I pointed towards the basket.

He sat and looked up to me and I pointed to the crate. To my amazement, he walked over to the basket and dropped it in.

“Yes, good boy.” I gave him a rub and we wrestled on the floor for a while.

Once I got him started there was no stopping him. He would see something and pounce on it, his rear end up in the air, and tail wagging.

My football was tricky but he managed to bite the very end.  But he couldn’t get a hold of the basketball.  Every time it rolled away from him he would let out a little whine.  He tried snagging it with one of his paws and pulling it to his mouth, but once he got it there he couldn’t get his mouth on it.  He put his nose to the ground and rolled it over to the basket. I picked it up and slam-dunked it for him.  Some of my stuff got a little dog drool on it, but I figured it was a small price to pay.basketball

When the floor was clear I walked over to my closet.  That was always the worst place.  Most of my stuff seemed drawn there as if there was a big dirt magnet inside. Things were piled so high I didn’t know where to start and I didn’t want Gabe slobbering on everything.  Mom would wonder why all my clothes were in the laundry hamper. I gave Gabe the first command that came into my head.

“Go Gabe, go dig.”  As soon as I said that, Gabe walked into the closet and began to scratch his paws on the floor.  A pair of jeans, and a mustard stained T-shirt flew through the air and hit me in the chest. Jackets, pajamas, socks, gray moldy towels and crumpled food wrappers shot out like they had been blown from a cannon. Some things landed on the other side of my room.   underwear A pair of underwear soared like a bird and flopped on top of my head.  I bent over holding my side and laughed into my hand.  I didn’t want mom bounding up the stairs again.

“Awesome job Gabe.” Too bad Gabe couldn’t fold.

After sorting my clothes into two piles; clean and dirty, the next task was a stack of dirty dishes.  I could see why Mom always said, “rinse your plates right away when you’re done.”  Bits of melted cheese and ketchup stuck to bottom, and the glasses had cloudy rings.

Then I got another totally brilliant idea.

I held a dish up to Gabe’s face and he licked it.  He couldn’t get everything off, but he made a great effort.  His pink tongue danced and slid into every corner reaching for the smallest of crumbs.  He even tried to lick everything inside the glass, reaching his tongue further and further.

We spent the rest of the day snoozing and learning new tricks. It was nice to be able to relax and not have to worry about being the new kid, fitting in, or pretending that I was cool.

I taught him to fall to the floor, and play dead, when I shot him with my finger.  I even got him to crawl on his belly when I told him he was only wounded.   Later I took the clean dishes downstairs and filled up the dishwasher.

Mom was ironing.  “Well, so you’re up and around. How’re you feeling?  You can come out of your room if you want; you look a whole lot better.  Well except for that big purple egg on your forehead.”

“Actually Mom, I’m feeling a little tired again.  I think I’ll read or have a nap.

“Read?” asked mom.  “Gee, maybe that bump on your head did you some good.”

“Ya right mom.” I rolled my eyes.

“Sorry buddy, just teasing.”

I hated being called “buddy,” as much as “sport.”

I was a little tired. In my room I called Gabe up on the bed.  He spun around and around, pushing the covers with his paws; first one way then the other.  After finding the perfect spot, he flopped down.

I put my head on the pillow.

I thought about tomorrow when I could take him outside and wondered if any one else would be able to see him.

I slept till supper.   I wasn’t hungry so I pushed the peas and meatloaf around on my plate until Mom began to clear the table.  I helped her load the dishes even though I was dying to go back and see Gabe.

Gabe dive-bombed me when I opened the door.

In the morning I was a little scared that maybe he wouldn’t be able to leave my room, but when I stepped into the hall and called him, he bolted ahead of me.

My stomach growled when the smell of bacon and toast hit me.

Mom had her back to me as she flipped pancakes at the stove. Sitting in her yellow flowered high chair eating bananas was my three-year-old sister Tara.  She squeezed them through her fingers and rubbed it into her fuzzy brown hair. She smiled at me as I came in and held out her goo-covered hands.

I froze when she looked at Gabe and said, “doggy, doggy.”

Oh no, she could see him.  I had forgotten about my baby sister.  She started giggling and saying “doggy” over and over, and she tried to get out of her chair.

“What the heck has gotten into her?  Tara, what are you saying? Trevor, help me, you always seem to be able to understand her. Why is she saying doggy?”

“I don’t know Mom; she must have seen one on TV.”   I lied, hoping it wouldn’t make Gabe mad, seeing as he was an angel and all.

“Well, Trevor what do you want to do today?  We can go to the mall, or the zoo, or maybe the arcade.  It can be your day, whatever you want.”

I knew Mom was trying to be nice, but I didn’t want to do anything today except stay with Gabe.

“Well, Mom, I just feel like hanging out.”

Mom got that worried look on her face. “Well okay, I did say it was your choice, just… don’t go near the lake, okay? Maybe your friend Bruce will come by, he said he would come back later.”

“Oh sure, great.”  He was the last person I wanted to see.

Gabe stayed under the table as I smothered my pancakes with syrup and wolfed them down.  They were warm and sweet.  I ate five of them.

Mom looked and me and shook her head.  “Guess you are on the mend.”

When I was finished, I lowered my plate to Gabe and he licked off the rest of the syrup. He kept slapping his sticky lips and tongue together, even when I took it away. I put the plate back up on the table as mom turned around.

“Trevor, gee, what’d you do, lick your plate clean?   I don’t know what’s happened to you since that accident, but it seems to have knocked some goodness into you.  I peeked into your room after you were in bed and I couldn’t believe my eyes.  It looks great.”

“Aahhh, no problem mom.”

I left the table in a flash and raced upstairs with Gabe at my feet.  I dressed as fast as I could and ran out the door before mom could change her mind, or decide she had better come with me.  This was the last day before school started and I wanted to stay away from everyone.  And I wanted to find out how special Gabe was.

Chapter Five – A Little Behind

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Our house was not only within walking distance of a lake but we also had a huge forest in behind it.  There were walking paths all through it, and I found one that led to an old fort some kid had made into a clubhouse. cabin The boards were soft and moldy, and some were missing and there were rusty nails sticking out everywhere, but I figured I could fix it up; get some new lumber; maybe find a piece of rug, and a lock for the door.  I could do it and it would be great, I knew that.  But I also knew I would need some friends for it to be a real clubhouse. I pushed that thought away and concentrated on Gabe.

Gabe followed me as we snooped around the fort and explored the forest.  When we came to a clearing I found a stick.  I waved it above his nose and he went crazy barking and jumping around.  He brought it back every time I threw it, getting just as excited as the first time.

My arm was getting sore so I decided to chuck it as far as I could to keep him occupied for a while as I caught my breath.  I brought it back and flung it forward with a grunt.   It flew high into the air and landed right in between two branches.

“Sorry boy, I guess that’s it for today.”

I sat down and expected Gabe to come and nudge me for more, but he didn’t.  He started to run toward the tree and that’s when it happened.

My mouth dropped to the ground as I saw him leap.  Huge white wings spread out from his shoulders and he flapped once, twice, and on the third he reached the branch, grabbed the stick and floated gently to the ground.

“Whoo hoo, Gabe.  That was awesome!”  I touched his wings folded tightly to his side, and I felt my eyes trying to leak.  It was weird.  I wasn’t sad; I guess it just hit me.  That he was no ordinary dog.

“Awesome,” I whispered as he dropped the stick at my side and lay down beside me.   I reached down and ran my fingers through his thick fur. He turned on his back and showed off his soft pink-skinned tummy.  It was warm and smooth.

I lay down beside him and gave and gave him a playful push and he rolled back over.  Before I knew what was happening he placed his front paws on my chest and was soaking my face with his tongue. We wrestled around for a while until I was laughing so hard I couldn’t catch my breath. I had to tell him “enough.”

I lay back down and Gabe rested his head on my stomach. Every time I took a breath his head moved up and down, his eyes always watching me. I think we both let out a sigh at the same time.

“You are some kind of dog, you know that.”

“Hey goofy, who ya talking to?  That bump on your head must have really screwed up that little pea brain of yours.”

That deep rough voice, that mean way of making someone feel small; I knew it was Bruce.  Where did he come from? Did he have some kind of radar on me?

Gabe sat up, and moved back, his ears flat against his head.

“Don’t worry Gabe, I won’t let him hurt you,” I whispered.

“Get away from me Bruce.  You could have killed me you know, you jerk.” I shouted at him as I stood up.

“It wasn’t my fault,” Bruce snorted, “as a matter of fact you should be thanking me for helping you to learn how to swim.”

“Ya, right. I sure learned how to swim. If it hadn’t have been for…” I glanced at Gabe, but Bruce didn’t follow my gaze.

I realized that Bruce could not see Gabe. What could I say, “a dog with wings dragged me out of the water?”

“Hadn’t been for what, that snotty little girlfriend of yours?  I was running home to tell my Dad. He would have come to save you.  He’s a top athlete you know.  I’m in training too; he kind of helps me out. I bet I could beat you at anything.”

Doesn’t this guy ever give up?

“Let’s have a race,” he said and gave me a shove.sjneaker

“Who cares about some dumb stupid race?  I got better things to do with my time.”  I didn’t, but doing anything that involved Bruce, win or loose, seemed like a waste of time.

“Come on you wussy, you gonna let one little bump on the head stop you?” He shoved me again.

Gabe growled, but Bruce heard nothing.   I knew the only way to get rid of Bruce was to do the race.  I didn’t even care if I won. I just wanted him to leave us alone.

“Okay, Bruuucie, let’s do it.”

“To that tree at the end of the clearing and back” he said.

“Whatever.”

At the count of three I took off.   However, Bruce took off at the count of two and a half.  He had a head start and I knew this race was all over before it began. My heart was pumping loudly in my chest and my breathing was short and quick, but after a few minutes it evened out.

As I rounded the tree, I caught up to him. He gave a loud grunt and tried to pull away, but his foot slipped on the grass.  Gabe was with us all the way, and he was so close to my heels I was scared I was going to step on him.

 

We had fifty feet to go when Bruce turned around and yelled. “Told ya, you wussy, you don’t have what it takes.”

I saw his eyes widen. The smile melted from his face when he saw how close I was.

Gabe pulled out in front of me and headed straight for Bruce. With a soaring dive Gabe’s teeth caught a piece of Bruce’s back pocket. I saw Bruce jerk back and look behind him, his eyebrows scrunched low.  He pumped his arms harder as Gabe put on the brakes.

“What’s going on?”  Again he turned.pocket

With a loud rip his pants and his pocket said good-bye to one another and he somersaulted to the ground.

“Yes!” I ran all the way to the finish and pumped my arm.

Bruce got to one knee and looked behind him to the right, to the left.  He stood up and spun around.  Staggering towards me he shook his head and frowned and for once didn’t have a smart thing to say.

I could see a huge hole down the back seat of his pants, where his pocket had been.

“Who’s the baby now? Better go fix your pants baby; I think you soiled your underwear.  I pointed and laughed so hard I cried.

“Good boy Gabe, good boy” I said as we stood and watched Bruce run for home, trying to hold his pants together.

As the day wore on I felt bad about what happened until I thought about the next day.  It was the first day of school.  School was Bruce.

school b

Chapter Six – A dose of medicine

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When I woke up I noticed Mom had laid out my new school clothes. My stomach was doing flips, everything was wrong.

My brand new jeans should have been washed first. They had too much of a crease down the front.  The blue and white striped shirt beside them had a yellow collar.  I hate collars, especially yellow ones!

My knapsack hung from the back of my chair, looking clean and flat. At least she didn’t get me some dumb cartoon bag.  A pack of pencils, and a pack of pens, and new colored notebooks were stacked beside them. One thing I did like was the look and feel of a notebook when it was new. No scribbles or smudges, and no work piled into it.

Mom wanted to walk me to the bus stop, but I talked her out of it.  I have been walking to school on my own for years, and besides I had Gabe.

I walked slowly kicking at stones, and talking to Gabe every now and then. I was careful. I only talked to him when no one was around.  Bruce had caught me once and I didn’t want that to happen again.

The air was a little cooler and though I hated to say good-bye to summer, I loved the feeling of fall.

A strong breeze messed with my hair. Yellow leaves hit my face as they twirled in the wind.  I tried to catch some of them. Gabe did the same.  Chomping and jumping at any that floated by his mouth.

There was no one my age at the bus stop.  Some moms were holding onto their children’s hands. kidsSome were busy buttoning coats and zipping up jackets. The little kids compared knapsacks, and ran circles around their moms.  I leaned on a nearby bench and tried to look cool.  Gabe sat beside me sniffing the air.

The big yellow bus, half a block away, chugged down the street, ugly black smoke spilled from behind.  The children jumped up and down pointing at it, as they shoved to be the first in line.

One of the moms found her way to the front of the line and made sure that the kids stayed safely back.  At the sound of the screeching brakes everyone became quiet.  Some of them looked at their mothers with big scared eyes. The mothers’ smiled and patted little hands, bending down to talk with them eye to eye.

I went to the end of the line, with Gabe behind me. I placed my foot up onto the first step, and Gabe backed up. All the kids and the bus driver looked at me.  I couldn’t call out his name or anything, so I just got on.  As I walked down the narrow aisle I could see him through the back window, sitting on the curb.school bus

The bus was packed, and with familiar faces, but not necessarily friendly ones.  It boiled down to sitting by Bruce or Leslie. I picked Leslie.  She kept trying to talk to me but I kept looking behind me out the window.  I saw Gabe following but he was going to have to run the whole way to make it to school at the same time I did.

“I’m glad you’re okay, Trevor.  I was so scared when you fell in.  I don’t know what it is with Bruce, but he always has to have someone to pick on” Leslie rambled on.

“You see that boy two seats down with the red hair and glasses.  Well that’s Grant McCabe, and he was Bruce’s last victim before you.”

“Well, I must be Grant McCabe’s best friend.”  I tried to joke, not knowing what else to say.

“I can’t wait to start Grade Seven,” she said.  “So what teacher do you want?  I know who I don’t want; the worst teacher in the school.  Oh ya, I guess you wouldn’t know about her, being new and all,”

I wished she would stop talking. I started to get sweaty. I twisted the strap to my knapsack so tightly around my fingers that they tingled. The smell of leather and mothballs from inside the bus made my stomach roll.

“I guess it doesn’t matter to me. I’m just glad we only have three days to start with.” I said peering out the window. There was Gabe, running his heart out.

“Oh it will matter all right, especially if you get Mrs. Mitchell.  She’s so strict you can’t even sneeze in her class without permission.  And she gives out a ton of homework.  And don’t ever come to school without it or she will have a total fit.  Boy I hope I don’t get her.”

“Ya, me too” I replied. Like I said, I wasn’t brilliant at conversation.

When we arrived at school I was anxious to see how Gabe was doing but he was nowhere in sight.  Bruce came right up behind me and slid my knapsack strap off my shoulder. It fell to the ground before I could catch it and some of my pencils rolled out.

“That Bruce is such a jerk!” Leslie said as she picked them up for me.

My face felt as red as Grant McCabe’s hair, who happened to be passing by when Bruce spooked me.  Grant had a huge smile on his face.

We lined up at the Grade Seven doors and waited for the teachers to come out and call our names.  Still no Gabe in sight.

When the teachers finally arrived everyone stopped talking..  The last teacher out was Mrs. Mitchell and sure enough, I was in the final group of kids.  When she called my name, the only good thing I could think of was that Bruce was not in my class.  But Leslie was and funny thing but she didn’t seem to mind getting Mrs. Mitchell after all.

Mrs. Mitchell was a short wide woman. I would guess about 100 years old give or take a few years.  She wasn’t smiling and she reminded me of my Grandma the way she wore her sweater over her shoulders. A little chain was attached to two clasps, which was pinched to each side of her sweater. Her hair was half-brown and half-gray and very curly. It looked as though she had stuck her finger in an electric socket, and her lipstick was definitely too bright.

Once inside the classroom she said, ” okay class settle down and take a seat, anywhere.”classroom

Everyone scrambled like ants after a crumb.  The back seats were filled up first and those who weren’t quick enough, had to sit in the front.  Luckily I remembered this routine from my old school and managed to get a desk third from the front, in the last row by the door.  I smiled to myself and turned to see Leslie in the row beside me.  She was fast for a girl.

Mrs. Mitchell got down to the rules right off the bat.  No chewing gum.  No talking without raising your hand. No bathroom breaks until the bell.  No note passing. No, No, No!  She expected us all to act like little ladies and gentlemen.  She handed out workbooks and gave us our first assignment.  We had to write a two-page essay on the most extraordinary thing that happened to us this summer.

As I was wondering what in the heck I was going to write, I saw Gabe standing outside our classroom window.  His tongue was hanging out and slobber fell off the end of it like slimy string.  How on earth could I write about a guardian angel dog?

When the recess bell rang I raced out into the schoolyard. I couldn’t wait to see Gabe and tell him all about Mrs. Mitchell. I searched everywhere but I couldn’t find him. Maybe the bell scared him away.  My heart bounced around in my chest thinking that perhaps he was gone for good.

playgroundI climbed the ladder to the top of the wooden fort with the slide, hoping the view from the top would help.  The only thing I could see was Bruce and he was coming this way. I squatted down and peeked out of one of the window openings. I guess his radar was turned on again because he came straight at me. As Bruce started to climb up, I saw Gabe come around the corner.

“Gabe, you’re here!” I said forgetting about Bruce.

“Hey squirt, my name isn’t Gabe and you know it.  Are you trying to make fun of me or something?  I think I will come up there and show you how to FLY this time,” Bruce put one foot up on the first rung.

I swallowed hard; pretty sure I was going to end up with a few broken bones this time.  I could have run, or tried to get away, but for some reason I froze.

Gabe circled the ladder, and looked up.   He came close to Bruce and sniffed him and let out a low rumbling growl.  He lunged as Bruce’s other foot left the ground.  He didn’t catch his foot, but he did manage to lock on to a piece of loose thread on Bruce’s sweater.

Bruce climbed up slowly, threatening me and laughing all the way, not noticing that his sweater had begun to unravel.  The higher he climbed the shorter his sweater got.

When Bruce finally looked down Gabe decided to take this game one step further. He ran towards the fence with that piece of thread in his mouth, shrinking Bruce’s sweater smaller and smaller.

Bruce’s screamed and everyone gathered around us.

When Gabe stopped, Bruce’s sweater was up to his armpits, and even worse, he had a T-shirt on underneath with teddy bears.

Bruce began to yell at everyone, not making any sense. He got down and threw the rest of his sweater over his head, onto the ground, and ran for school.

The bell rang and there was Bruce in the line up for his class, wearing his shirt inside out.

Gabe walked beside me and came right into the school.  When I got to my desk he sat underneath it and placed his head on the floor.  It was turned out to be a good day after all dog wag

Chapter Seven – A little help from my friend

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Mrs. Mitchell even gave us a nice surprise.  She said that tomorrow Cathy would be allowed to bring her rabbit to class for the whole month and students who received happy faces on their weekly performance sheets would be allowed to take it home for the weekend, if their parents approved.

Mrs. Mitchell explained that each day of the week we would receive either a smiley face or a frowning face, depending on how we behaved in class that day.  It turned out harder than I thought NOT to get a frowning face.

Happy faces?  Didn’t we get those in Grade 2?  I think Mrs. Mitchell was living in the dark ages.  Oh well, I decided the best thing to do was nod and pretend like everything was wonderful.

Lucy got one for giggling during science and Mark got one for coughing too loud while Mrs. Mitchell was reading to us.  I didn’t think anyone would end up with five smiling faces by the end of the week.

Mrs. Mitchell went on to tell us all about rabbits. Rabbits are herbivores.  That means they only eat plants.  They like hay and dried grass and they especially like carrots, celery, lettuce and apples.  They also need something to chew on like a piece of log, so they can keep their teeth trimmed down.

The cage had to be cleaned out everyday and we were supposed to wear rubber gloves.  All the soiled paper and hay had to be removed and then we would spray disinfectant in the cage and wipe it down.  It didn’t sound all that fun after all.  But at least we would be able to hold the rabbit when we took it out.

“Always wash your hands after petting, holding, or cleaning” Mrs. Mitchell went on.  “Don’t ever kiss the rabbit, or tease him and never ever hit him”

All I could think about was Gabe and how easy it was probably going to be to look after an angel dog. So far it was more like he was looking after me.  I guess that was his job.

If I had a real dog, of course I never would, but if I did, I would have to brush him and feed him, take him for walks and clean up after him, but I could also wrestle with him and teach him tricks that I could show other people.

I guess I was smiling too much, thinking about Gabe, because all of a sudden I heard my name.

“And what is so funny Trevor?  Am I boring you?   Do you know everything there is to know on rabbits?  Do you think cleaning out a rabbit cage is funny?”

“No Ma’am” I blurted out in surprise. “I was just…” But how could I tell her what I was thinking.

“Well I guess you have just volunteered to be the first one to clean out the cage.  Now, everyone get out your Math.  We will have a pop quiz!”

Some kids groaned and got frowning faces.

The rest of the day was quiet, until last period, Language Learning.  Mrs. Mitchell was reading us a book called “The Indian In the Cupboard,” finally something good.  I had read the book, and seen the movie.

As she read to us she walked up and down each aisle. When she got near my desk, I noticed that Gabe’s tail was sticking out from underneath.  I wasn’t sure if she would be able to feel his tail when she walked by, or if her foot would slide through it. I didn’t want to take any chances.  But the more I tried to grab it, and move it, the more he wagged it up and down.

When she reached my desk she stopped and read a couple of sentences. She started to walk again.  I closed my eyes and scrunched up my shoulders.

Well I guess Gabe can only be invisible in certain ways. She stepped forward and her foot caught his tail. Mrs. Mitchell screamed in surprise as she lost her balance and began hopping forward.

She flung her book across the room and it hit the whiteboard with a thunk.  She started to fall to the right and then leaned to the left, placing her foot in the paper-recycling basket.  Mrs. Mitchell then pulled the basket off her foot and landed on her bottom. The basket flew over our heads and papers snowed down around us.

A few kids snorted behind their hands, but most of us kept quiet.

Groaning she slowly stood, smoothed out her skirt, and ran her hands over her head, patting down the stray hairs.  As the room started to hum with exited whispers the final bell rang.

“Class dismissed,” her voice cracked as she flopped into her chair like a limp rag.

At supper Dad told us all about his new job and how great it was to be working in a small town.  I have to admit, it was good to have Dad home for supper.  He hardly ever made it home on time in the city, and we usually ended up eating without him.

“So Trevor, how was your first day?” he asked, as he tickled Tara in her high chair.

Tara squirmed and giggled.  She looked down, pointed and said “doggy” and threw some bread at Gabe.

“What the heck has gotten into her?  Why is she saying doggy?” Dad looked at mom, raising his eyebrows.

“I don’t know John, it’s a new word she has learned and I guess she likes it.  Maybe she heard it on TV or something”

“Dad,” I said.  I had to interrupt him; he WAS talking to me first.

“You won’t believe this, but school was great.  Well sort of great, well, not if you count Mrs. Mitchell.”

“Who?”

“Mrs. Mitchell, my new teacher.  She’s really old and she’s real mean.”

I wanted to tell Dad how awful she was, but he looked so happy that I skipped it.  When I offered to do the dishes after supper Mom and Dad both felt my head to see if I was still sick.

It felt good to be helping out, and after all I had made a promise to be better. Besides Gabe did most of the work, licking off the plates before I put them in the dishwasher.  He even dragged the garbage bag outside after I bundled it all up for him.

The next morning Gabe ran behind the school bus again.  I think it was for the best now that I knew how much trouble his tail could cause.  He didn’t make it to school in time for the bell, but I wasn’t worried.

Cathy brought her rabbit and everyone gathered around. It was in a wire cage, with a high, blue plastic floor. Paper and wood shavings were scattered on the bottom, and a long glass water bottle, with a spout, hung upside down attached to one of the wire sides.

Beside a chewed and bumpy log sat the rabbit munching on a piece of apple.  He didn’t look scared at all, even though everyone was peering in on him.  He was white with long black ears.  Tiny thin whiskers poked out from beside a little twitching nose and black spots were splattered all over his body.

When Mrs. Mitchell came in we all ran back to our desks so we wouldn’t get any frowning faces.  It would be cool to take him home.

I took my lunch out of my knapsack and crammed it into my desk. I put away my spelling notebook, and shoved my summer essay way to the back.

But where was my Math homework?  My hands started to shake.  This was definitely going to earn me a frowning face and who knows what else.  Leslie said Mrs. Mitchell went crazy when someone forgot their homework.

I must have looked pretty scared because when I glanced over at Leslie, she shrugged her shoulders and mouthed “what?”

“I forgot my homework.”

Math wasn’t until third period so I was going to have to sweat it out for the next hour and a half.

Leslie was still staring at me with that, “Oh no, poor you,” kind of look, when I saw Gabe over her shoulder.  He was standing a few feet from the window.  Then I got the most brilliant idea.

I could get Gabe to go back home and get my homework.  The problem was how to tell him.

Mrs. Mitchell would never let me go out to the washroom.   I thought about it for a while.  Maybe if I coughed loud enough she would let me go get a drink.  Then I could run outside and talk to Gabe.

Coughing was not such an easy thing to fake.  I covered my mouth and let out a little annoying “a-hemm”.   I put my heart into it.  By the time Mrs. Mitchell spoke to me, I really did have a sore throat and needed a drink.

“I’m sorry Trevor,” was her response when I asked her, “but we just got into the classroom.  You may however, open a window and get some fresh air.”

I coughed my way over to the window realizing this was my chance.  If Gabe was right there I could whisper to him.

“Get homework,” was all I said as quietly as possible, hoping that he understood and that the window would still be open when he got back.  Otherwise how was he going to get it inside?  Come to think of it, how was he going to get in our house?

Chapter Eight – You can have your cake and eat it too!

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The clock seemed to tick at double speed as I waited for Gabe to come back. Jonathan finished reading his summer essay, and Melissa was next.  They had finished their assignments early and had earned not only smiley faces, but double stars as well. I think I had finished one whole sentence.clock

Melissa droned on about her trip to Disneyland. I didn’t care how many rides she went on or what she had for breakfast, blah, blah, blah.

Everyone was clapping for Melissa, when I saw him at the end of the playground, and sure enough he had my math workbook in between his teeth.

Unable to think of anything else I started to cough again, and this time it hurt.  Mrs. Mitchell looked over at me and frowned.   I was going to raise my hand when what I saw stopped me dead in my tracks.  I had seen it before, but I don’t think I would ever get used to it.

His wings were spread wide and he was four feet off the ground.  When he got closer to the open window I realized there was no way those wings were going to fit, and if they did, everyone was going to see my notebook floating through the air all by itself.

But Gabe didn’t have to come inside at all.  As he bounced towards the window a huge gust of wind burst into the classroom. Pages in open books came to life. Hanging plants began to twirl. The notes on Mrs. Mitchell’s desk stood up and danced onto the floor and around the room.

As the breeze grew stronger, all the kids screamed. No one noticed my math book when it sailed through the window and landed on the floor.  All I had to do was help pick up and grab my book at the same time.

As soon as I touched it the wind stopped.

“Okay, class, no more windows!”

I quickly looked down and opened my math book, using everything in me to keep from smiling.

When lunch arrived I went to the front doors and let Gabe in.  I found a table away from everyone and he settled in underneath my chair.

Mom had made my favorite sandwich, roast beef.  I took a big bite and looked down at Gabe, who had saved the day again. I handed him the other half of my sandwich and he munched it down in two bites.

I was gathering together my empty juice box and wrappers, and was getting ready to leave when Leslie slipped into the metal chair beside me, and dragged it a little closer. Feeling my face grow hot, I sipped at my empty juice box and tried to act casual.

“Hi Trevor, can I sit here?”

“Sure”

“Can you believe what happened this morning?  Wasn’t that freaky?  I was a little surprised to see you helping the teacher pick up her stuff. I suppose you were trying to get on her good side seeing as you forgot your homework.  At least I thought you said you forgot your homework.”

“Well…I guess I didn’t forget it, it.  It was kind of lost.”

“Lucky for you.  What’re you going to write for your essay, or have you already written it, like John and Melissa?”

“Are you kidding,” I said, “I’ve barely started.   I don’t even know what I’m going to write. How about you?”

“Well, I guess I’m going to write about making it to the Regional Swim Meet. We got to go to Clifton and set up tents in the park.  It was great. At night when all the adults fell asleep, we snuck out and visited with everyone.   Our team even came in first.  You know,” she said, looking down and talking a little quieter, “I can teach you how to swim if you’d like.” This time she blushed. “There’s still lots of summer left, maybe we could go down to the lake on the weekend.”

“Ahh, sure, ahh, I gotta go to the bathroom, bye,” was my great response.

What a dummy, I thought, but I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face as I left.

Our first class after lunch was library, which I love second to Gym.  I thought maybe I could find a good dog book and maybe one on angels.  I was pretty sure that there wasn’t one on angel dogs.  Mrs. Mitchell left us at the library door and headed for the staff room. I watched her scurry down the hallway. She kept looking back and forth and she jumped in the air when the janitor dropped a bucket.

It turned out to be a special day in the Library. All the Clifford books were on display.  I remembered reading those in grade one, and I even remembered the author, his name was Norman Bridwell.  The librarian announced that there was going to be a special visitor and I thought maybe that’s who it was going to be.

It turned out to be Clifford himself.  Well, actually it was the principal dressed up as Clifford.  He had on a big red dog outfit with long floppy ears and a big black collar, but we all knew it was Mr. Groenwald because we could see his bushy black mustache.

Gabe kept sniffing at Mr. Groenwald’s feet trying to figure out what he was, and Mr. Groenwald kept hopping around from one foot to the next and slapping at his ankles.

The kids were laughing, but the principal wasn’t smiling so much any more, so I patted my leg for Gabe to come.    I found one book titled “The Encyclopedia of Dogs,” and another called “Angels.”

Gabe and I waited until everyone had left before we headed back to the classroom.  On our way we could smell something sweet drifting down the halls.  The home economics room was baking something delicious and we had to walk right by it on our way.  I knew Gabe could smell it too because his nose was twitching and his head was raised.

Unfortunately Gabe’s nose took over his body, and before I could stop him he walked right into the Home Ec class. Entering the room behind him I saw the teacher swirling pink icing onto a cake as all the students watched.  That wonderful smell was coming from six ovens all baking the same kind of cake.cake

I tried to get Gabe’s attention without disturbing the class.      “Gabe, come on, Gabe!  We gotta get out of here.”

All the grade eight girls turned around and giggled. The teacher frowned.

“Can I help you young man?” she asked, waving a spatula with pink icing on it.

“Oh, um, I’m looking for my sister, uh, Gabriella, I have to give her something” I said, totally embarrassed.

“You must have the wrong class, there is no Gabriella here and we are in the middle of a demonstration.  You had better go check at the office,” she replied pointing towards the door.

I quickly escaped into the hall assuming Gabe had followed.  The next thing I heard was an ear-splitting scream

I don’t know what it looked like in the home ec room, but watching Gabe saunter out licking pink icing from his mouth and nose, I had a pretty good idea of what happened.  We ran down the hall smack dab right into Mrs. Mitchell who had just stepped out of the staff room.

“Trevor, what is going on?  You should be back in class.”

“I’m on my way Mrs. Mitchell,” and I turned and ran.

“No running Trevor!” she shouted.

I patted at my leg and walked quickly down the hall.  What a day!  Gabe certainly made things interesting.  I couldn’t wait til tomorrow.

Chapter Nine – Mr. Hoppity

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The next morning I waited at the front doors of the school for Gabe so he could come in right away. I wanted him close by in case I needed him for anything.  He seemed to be good at getting me out of jams, however, he also seemed to be able to get me into a few.

After morning Social Studies current events, Mrs. Mitchell announced that it was time to clean the rabbit cage. She pointed her finger at me and said, “Trevor has volunteered to be the first person to clean the cage.  So Trevor let’s get to it.”

Everyone gathered around the cage at the back of the room as I carefully took the rabbit out.  I wanted to hold it for a while but Mrs. Mitchell reached out her hands. The girls all “cooed and awed”, and everyone wanted to pet it.  Gabe sat at my feet watching, his nose in that smelling position again.  As I passed the rabbit over to her, Gabe moved closer and sniffed.

The rabbit twitched and started to squirm in my hands.

Gabe moved directly beneath the rabbit.

The rabbit went crazy. He could see Gabe! Before I could get a tight grip on him he jumped onto the top of the bookshelf.  That was all Gabe needed, the chase was on.

Gabe lept up onto his hind legs, his front paws landing on the bookcase, sending all of our class paperbacks crashing to the floor.  The rabbit, seeing Gabe’s gaping, drooling mouth, scurried from the top of the bookshelf down onto the art table.  Two potted plants toppled over and blasted onto the floor.

Mrs. Mitchell yelled for everyone to sit down and remain calm, but no one listened. The kids all howled with laughter as they watched the rabbit hop through the open paint dishes set up for art class. Paw-shaped prints dotted the table as the frightened rabbit ran from Gabe.

“No Gabe, sit Gabe, sit.  Come here fella!”

I tried frantically to stop him, but he ignored me.  Cathy, who was also racing around trying to catch her poor rabbit, kept telling me “his name is not Gabe, its Mr. Hoppity!”

We chased him around the room as he hopped from desk to desk, barely hanging on as he slid across each top and skidded to the edge. Gabe followed waiting for him to hit the floor. When the rabbit made a final jump onto Mrs. Mitchell’s desk Gabe saw no reason why he shouldn’t be there too.  Soon the teacher’s desk looked like a mini tornado was buzzing over it.  Gabe’s large paws sent assignments and record sheets spinning off in all directions.  Pencils and pens became flying weapons and a big pot of glue sailed through the air and landed on the floor beside the desk with a plop.

Mr. Hoppitity, who had grown quite tired, saw Mrs. Mitchell and decided she was a much safer place to be. He flipped off the desk and into her arms.  Startled, she fell back into her chair with the rabbit clinging nervously to her sweater.  Gabe sat beside them panting with a big toothy grin.

Seeing the game was over he casually walked over to my desk and lay underneath panting.

“Well now,” puffed Mrs. Mitchell, “maybe a rabbit is more than we can handle.”

With shaking hands, she walked back to the cage and put the rabbit inside, closing the door with a click.  She stood at her desk and adjusted her sweater, which had twisted around her shoulders.

“Everyone sit down please.”

She took a step forward from her desk and raised her hand to say something else. She didn’t see the puddle of glue. glue Her right foot landed dead center in the white slippery mess. When she took her next step forward Mrs. Mitchell didn’t loose her footing, but she did loose her shoe.

She wobbled, and balanced herself with one shoe on and one shoe off.  When she picked up her shoe glue dripped off in a stringy glob. A few kids giggled.  She stood that way for a long time. Only when the period bell rang and the music teacher stuck her head in, did Mrs. Mitchell seem to come back to life.

“Oh my goodness, what happened?” said the music teacher, looking around at the messy room.

“Don’t ask” replied Mrs. Mitchell. “Class, please follow Miss Silverstone out for music.”

As we walked out the door I felt sorry for Mrs. Mitchell, sitting at her desk wiping her shoe with a paper towel and muttering to herself.   I wondered what Gabe was going to think about music.

* * *

The rest of the day was very quiet, except for one time, in the afternoon, when Leslie got caught passing me a note.  She threw it across to my desktop but it bounced onto the floor.  Mrs. Mitchell’s x-ray vision must have kicked in because she was on my case right away.

“What is that Trevor, on the floor beside you, is that a note?”  She moved over to my desk.  “Let me see it.”paper

Reaching down toward the note, it disappeared.  At least I’m sure that’s what it looked like to everyone else.  What I saw was different.

Gabe lunged forward, snatched the note between his teeth and munched it down.

“Uh, there’s nothing Mrs. Mitchell.” I replied looking at Leslie and shrugging my shoulders.

Mrs. Mitchell stared at the floor and rubbed her eyes, “but… what happened… I’m sure I…”

I shrugged.

Mrs. Mitchell stayed as far away from my desk as possible for the rest of the day.

bookshelvI felt a little guilty for all the trouble Gabe and I had caused so I offered to put the novels back onto the bookshelf.

Mrs. Mitchell nodded and said. “yes, thank you, that would be nice.”

I had to walk home because I missed the bus, but I didn’t mind because Gabe kept me company. I took my library book on angels out of my knapsack, and read out loud to Gabe as we walked.

“It says that Gabriel means, God is my strength, and that the Angel Gabriel was known as God’s messenger of mercy and promise.  He was the angel that informed Mary she would give birth, and he also protected Moses when he was afloat in the basket on the River Nile, like the way you protected me from drowning.”

Gabe tilted his head.

After supper I went up to my room and looked at my dog book.  Gabe climbed up on the bed with me and put his head on my lap.  It showed all the different breeds of dogs and I searched to find one like Gabe.  The closest I came was a dog called the Australian Shepherd.

They were both medium height, with a flat broad nose like a St. Bernard.  Both had a white flowing mane of fur on their chest, and short pointy ears, but the Shepherd had a cropped tail.  Gabe had a huge furry one.

aussieAustralian Shepherds came in many colors, brown, gray, red, and the ones that looked like Gabe were black and white. The picture that looked most like Gabe was the black dog with a white stripe that ran down the middle of his face, starting at his nose and running up past his eyebrows.  He even had the two little brown spots above each eye like Gabe.  These dogs were sheep herding dogs, very smart and loyal.  Then I read something interesting.

“Gabe, listen to this” I said to him and his ears shot right up like he understood.

“These dogs are extremely protective, placing themselves between children and dangerous situations.  There is one story about how a young girl was saved from a rattlesnake by her dog.  The snake had bitten her on the leg, and the dog lunged at the snake and tore it off. The dog got bit six times on the top of the head.  The child was taken to the hospital where they said that if she had been five minutes later she would have died.  The dog was okay too because it got bit on the bony part of his head where the poison couldn’t travel.

“Gabe are you a hero?  Is that why you’re with me?” I rubbed the fir above his nose and he stared at me.

But as I thought about it I felt a little scared.  If Gabe was sent to save me, his job was done and he probably had to go soon.   Or maybe that was the start of it.  Maybe Gabe had more saving to do.  Was it for me, or was it for someone else.

Chapter Ten-One good kick deserves another

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Mrs. Mitchell was back to her usual self the next day, and I was surprised when she said we could still look after the rabbit for one month.  She started a list of children who could take the rabbit home for a weekend if their parents agreed.  My name was on that list, but I didn’t think it would be a great idea to have him and Gabe in the same house.

At lunch I noticed a sheet on the bulletin board for soccer tryouts.  I loved soccer but I wasn’t very good at it.  It would be held on the school field Saturday at 1:00.  As I was reading it and trying to decide if I should go, someone shoved me from behind and I hit my head on the board.  I was about to say, “what’s the big deal, stop shoving,” when I saw who it was.

“Going to try out?” asked Bruce and he pushed me again.  “I didn’t think they let chickens play soccer.”

“I’ll be there,” I said trying to sound brave, “and I bet I’ll be better than you!”

I almost believed myself. It felt good to stand up to Bruce.  It didn’t last long though.  When he was gone all I could think was what have I done?

When I got home the smell of chocolate hit my nose. Bursting through the door I saw Mom was putting the eggbeaters in the dishwasher.

“Wait!” I shouted, and she almost dropped them on the floor.

“Sorry,” I said, “I want to lick those before you put them away.”  That was one of my favorite parts to homemade chocolate pudding.

“I see you’re feeling better,” she laughed.

I talked to Mom about soccer as my tongue slipped in and out of the metal grooves. She thought it was a great idea, that it didn’t matter how good I was, as long as I tried hard and had fun.  She didn’t realize how embarrassing it would be if I didn’t make it.

Mom lifted Tara up out of her high chair. She had been eating and licking her own bowl of pudding. She sat her on the floor and went to get a rag to clean her up.

Her face was covered in a crisscross of chocolate swipes and her hair, which was covered in the thick brown sauce, stood in spikes. Gabe quickly spotted an easy target and began to lick

“Gee, I thought her face was a lot messier than that.”  Mom said as she wiped the remaining smudges of chocolate from Tara’s face and searched the floor and walls for a mess.

I thought about soccer tryouts from the moment I got home until I woke up in the morning. I didn’t make up my mind until 12:30 the afternoon of the tryouts. I had to do it.  I couldn’t hide from Bruce forever, and I loved soccer.

Gabe and I arrived at the field at 12:55, and we watched the other kids being dropped off by their parents.  I recognized Scott who sits behind me in class, I liked him a lot.  He always whispers funny things to me when the teacher isn’t looking.  And I saw Murray, a quiet kid with blond hair and glasses from my computer class. Most of the others I had seen around the school and they nodded to me or said hi.

Then I saw him.  He had on a bright orange and black goalie shirt, goalie gloves and white soccer socks over his shin pads. I couldn’t believe what I saw next.   Two of him, except one was a bigger version. He had a crew cut like Bruce and dark eyes, and he was wearing a white T-shirt that was one size to small.       I could see every bulging muscle on his body. I shivered and my stomach ached.

But something was different about Bruce that day.  When his dad saw the coach he shook hands with him and started joking about something, always keeping one hand top of Bruce’s shoulder. Bruce turned around, looked and me and waved.

Our coach was a slim man with dark hair and small round glasses.  He called us over and told us his name was Mr. Freedmont, but we could call him Coach.  He explained some of the drills we would do, and told us not to worry, but to go out and have some fun.

My first partner was a boy named Rockerfeller, Rocky for short. Our drill was to run down the field passing the ball back and forth. Then we had to take it to the net and shoot.

Rocky and I passed the ball carefully back and forth. We looked pretty good together.  I felt like nothing could stop me. I clapped and cheered Rocky on.  He made a perfect pass to me as I waited to shoot it at the net.

“Decided to show up city boy.  Come on, show me what you got.”

Looking at Bruce, my heart thumped in my chest.  I ran forward but I lost my timing, and took too much of a wind up. I missed the ball completely and landed on my rear with a painful thump.  I got up right away and wiped the grass off my shorts.  I looked around.  Rocky had seen me and unfortunately, so had Bruce.

Rocky was pretty good.  He told me not to sweat it; we would get the big boy next time.  So we passed it back down the field ignoring Bruce’s laughter and rude comments. I watched Bruce as he fended off every shot on net.  He was good!

His dad stood beside him the whole time, talking and coaching him along, and after a while Bruce wasn’t smiling anymore. When Bruce missed one his dad started yelling and waving his arms and telling Bruce what he did wrong. Bruce didn’t look like a bully anymore.

Our next chance at net I was ready for Bruce.  I felt bad for him, for the way his dad was treating him, but I was determined to make the goal.  When we reached the end I took the ball from Rocky. I quickly glanced up to see where Bruce was standing and then I kicked it as hard as I could. The minute it left my foot I knew I had made it too easy. It was heading straight for him.

For most of the practice Gabe had been doing his own thing; sometimes watching, and sometimes sniffing at the ground, or rolling over on his back, twisting and turning to scratch an itch. So it surprised me to see him running behind the ball I had just kicked.

Keeping his nose to the ground, he guided the ball to the right.  When Bruce made his move, Gabe shoved it past him on the other side. Everyone cheered, except for Bruce, and his dad.

Gabe stayed beside me for the next drill.  I had to dribble the ball down the field in and out of orange cones. Every time the ball inched away from me too far, Gabe nosed it back to me. I looked over my shoulder and saw that the coach was watching and smiling. I was going to make the team, I knew it.

“Okay boys,” he said,  “one more time and we will have a scrimmage”

I felt unbeatable.  I raced down the field again in between the cones. pushing the ball right and left, timing it perfectly.  When I came to the end and turned to go back I saw Gabe off in the distance chasing a bee.  He hadn’t helped me at all that time. I did it on my own.

After the scrimmage I walked home. My T-shirt was damp and sweat was pouring down the sides of my face. Coach said he would post the names of those who made it on the sports board at school on Monday.  I hadn’t gone very far when a voice called out “Hey wait up Trevor”

Oh great, I thought, just when I was feeling good about myself.  But I wasn’t going to let Bruce bring me down.  I kept walking pretending not to hear him. He ran and caught up with me anyway.

“Great practice” he said, “Where did you learn to play like that.  You must have played a lot in the city.  I didn’t even think the city would have soccer teams.  We’re going to be the best team around this year.”

Bruce kept on and on, talking like a normal regular kid.  No put downs, no bragging, and no threats, all the way home.  I left thinking there was hope for a friendship after all.

“I’ll see ya Monday, Trev,” Bruce punched me in the arm and took off down the street.  Things were turning around.  Things were going to be different.  I knew it.