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.”


“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?”


“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.

Chapter eleven -Sniff, sniff, sniff

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When Mom woke me up for church on Sunday I didn’t complain like I usually did.

I had never noticed all the angels before. At the very back of the church, the sun shone through a big stained glass window sending colours streaming through the air. They landed on some of the empty benches and onto peoples’ faces and shoulders.

Along the top of the window frame was an angel with wings spread. Its white robe and long blond hair seemed alive in the light.

There were statues of angels with hands pressed together, eyes closed and wings folded, guiding shepherds and looking down over babies.  These smooth bluish white stone carvings held tiny details; eyelashes curled and fingernails and toenails peeking out from sandaled feet.  I could feel the warmth of Gabe’s body against me and the thump of his heart.

Even Tara behaved herself; mainly because she spent most of her time sitting on the floor petting Gabe.

Leslie was waiting for me outside when we left.  I was used to seeing her in faded Levi’s with her hair pulled back, but today her hair fell in soft curls to her shoulders and her skin was shiny and pink.

“Hi Leslie” I said boldly.

“Hi Trevor,” she said, gazing at the ground.  “We’re all going to meet at the empty lot today and figure out something to do.  Do you want to come?  It’s only half a block down from your house.  And…maybe we can even go for a swim later.”

“Sure, there’s nothing else to do today.” I said.

I had to ask her something that had been bugging me for a couple of days.  “Leslie, I was wondering, what was in that note you were trying to pass me the other day?”

“O ya, it was a good thing you kicked it out of sight.”

“Uh ya, ya, that’s what I did. Was it anything important?”

“Well, it just kind of said,” she stopped, “well, that I, that I’m glad you moved here and I hoped that we could be friends, something like that.”

“Oh,” I smiled, “Ya sure, great.  Well I better go; I’ll see you after lunch.”

I could see Mom watching us with a big grin.

When I got to the empty lot kids were standing around talking.  I heard one of them say, “Oh great, here’s Trevor.”

Did they say “great”, and were they waiting for me?  Yes!  We decided to play kick the can.  I thought that game had gone the way of the dinosaurs, but I didn’t say anything.

They said the youngest person had to be “it” first, which seemed unfair because it was John and he was only six.  Bruce’s sister was there and I’m sure she was younger, but no one said anything.

Leslie motioned me to follow her and we found a super hiding spot up in one of the big oak trees.  We were the first ones to race over and kick the can. We couldn’t hide together after that because everyone complained.

When it was my turn to find everyone, it was easy.  I whispered to Gabe “go find,” and he sniffed everyone out before they had a chance to break free.  Bruce especially didn’t like being found and the next time we hid Bruce followed me and sat on me.

“What are you’re some kind of show off?” he said.

“First you’re a superstar at soccer and now you’re winning at everything.  Maybe I won’t be your friend anymore, I can’t stand show offs.”

That was it; I couldn’t take it anymore.

“What are you talking about?” I shouted.  “Friends? You think we’re friends?  You don’t even know what a friend is.  All you ever do is push me around and make fun of me.  It may be fun for you, but it’s not for me.  I can’t stand it, and I can’t stand you!”

I had finally said it, but I felt worse instead of better. I ran all the way home.

I went right up to my room mumbling and shaking my head.  I turned my stereo up loud and blocked out the world.  That is until Mom came in.  I guess she had been knocking on my door for a while but I didn’t hear her.

“Trevor?  Can you turn that down a bit please?  Wow, is your room tidy.  I couldn’t help but notice how good you’ve been lately?  I appreciate all your help, and you’ve been very nice to your sister. Is everything okay?”  She laughed.  “I mean it’s really great, but I was wondering if something was on your mind.  It’s like you’re off talking to yourself all the time.”

“Everything’s okay I guess.  I don’t have a lot of friends though, well there’s Leslie, but she’s a girl.  That’s different.  I don’t seem to fit in like I did at home.”

“It’s going to take some time Trevor.  You can’t expect things to be exactly the same as they were in Burnsmead.  Don’t worry; you’ll soon have lots of friends.”

I doubt it.

“And can you keep that music down a little?” she asked.

“Okay,” I groaned and turned it down.

When she left I turned it up again, and lost myself in the music for a couple of hours, and when I turned it off and heard sirens. They were close, real close.

I ran downstairs and asked Mom what was going on, but she said she didn’t know.  I had to get to the empty lot and see what happened.  I thought about Leslie.

When I got there Bruce’s face was puffy and red.  His dad and mom were there too talking to a policeman.  Bruce’s Dad kept shaking Bruce by the shoulders and telling him to stop being such a crybaby.  Bruce was trying hard not to make a sound but tears were rolling down his cheeks.

I looked around and saw all the kids clumped into little groups not saying a word.   I spotted Leslie and ran over to her.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“It’s Bruce’s little sister Nancy.  Remember she was here when we were playing kick the can.  By the way, you left in an awful hurry.  Anyway, we kept playing for a while after you left, then we went down to the lake, the next thing you know she was gone.  She never leaves Bruce’s side and it’s been over two hours since anyone has seen her.  We looked everywhere before we called Bruce’s parents.  Poor Bruce turned white as a ghost when we told him he had better go get them.  That policeman is Bruce’s uncle.  Usually you have to wait something like 24 hours to report a missing person, but he’s going to get everyone to start looking now.  She has to be close by.  We’re afraid that she might be hurt.”

I thought about how I would feel if Tara was lost and hurt. The crowd grew bigger with more kids and lots of adults joining in.  The policeman tried to quiet everyone down.  He explained that they were looking for a little girl; five years old named Nancy, and he showed us her picture. It seemed like everyone in the neighborhood was out looking; moms pushing baby carriages, kids on bikes, even a couple of police cars cruised the streets.

I tried to think where I would go if I was five and the big kids wouldn’t let me play with them, but I didn’t know the area well enough.  I looked in all the trees, and all the hiding spots we had used that day.  The adults concentrated on the lake.

If only I could help.  And then I remembered how I had found everyone when I was “it.”  I had the best sniffer and tracker in the city.  If I could get something of Nancy’s that Gabe could smell, I knew he could find her.

I looked for Bruce hoping he would have something I could use.  When I found him he was hanging onto his Moms hand.  His eyes were red and he was holding onto some kind of rag doll.  It had to be his sisters.

“Bruce,” I called and waved.  I felt badly for what I had said.

“Go away, remember, you’re not my friend,” he said in a shaky voice.

“No, Bruce wait, I think I can find her.  I need a piece of her clothing or maybe that doll.  Is it hers?”

“What are you going to do, sniff her out?” he asked.

“Well ya, sort of.  Come on I want to help. Trust me I can find her.”

Bruce shrugged his shoulders and handed me the doll.  It must have looked real strange because I held it up to Gabe and whispered “go find.”


Chapter 12 – With the Help of an Angel

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Gabe took off like a shot with me running behind. I had thrown the doll back at Bruce and he caught it giving me a funny look. Gabe kept his nose to the ground, stopping every now and then to look around.

We raced by my house, and ran down the street for two blocks, until we came to a place that the kids called the “Morrison” house.  I always passed it on the way to the school but never gave it a second thought.  It had been vacant since we moved here. The “For Sale,” sign was still pounded into the ground in front of it.

Gabe began jumping up on me and whining and I knew Nancy was close by. The police had checked here but they hadn’t found anything.  The house was old and needed lots of repairs.  A big porch went all the way around the building. Two huge windows with peeling paint stood on each side of a cracked and broken door.  The grass in the front yard was as tall as the overgrown weeds in the back.  I thought maybe I might find her hiding in there, but Gabe was over by the porch.

It was boarded up underneath, all the way around, so I didn’t see how she could have gotten in.  Besides she would have answered when someone called.

Gabe went over to one side and started digging.  Dirt, rocks, and weeds flew through the air. When Bruce came up behind me I jumped.

“Is she here do you think?” asked Bruce.

“Ya I think she is. Help me find a hole or a loose board or something.”

I patted Gabe on the head and pointed for him to move out of the way.  We found a board that was still nailed to the outside of the deck but could be moved back and forth.  We couldn’t possibly fit through, but a five-year-old could.

“Nancy are you there?”

“Gabe is she here?”

I asked him not caring if Bruce heard me.  He got all exited and started digging again.  Bruce saw dirt flying mysteriously through the air and looked at me in amazement, but didn’t say anything.

I dug in the same spot with my bare hands, and Bruce joined in.  Our fingers were cracked and bleeding when we stopped. The hole was big enough for my small frame to fit inside so I began to wiggle my body in as far as it could go.

Underneath the rotting porch was a large metal container buried deep in the ground.  It was old cistern used to catch rain a long time ago when the house was first built. I prayed that it wasn’t full of water, because this is where she had to be.

“Nancy!” I shouted as loud as I could.   I waited and then I heard a little whimper.

It was all I needed. I carefully squeezed myself back through the boards. When I told Bruce I had found her, his eyes filled up again and a few tears leaked out.

I patted him on the back and told him to stay put while I went for help.  He didn’t say anything. He nodded and wiped his dirty hands across his face leaving brown streaks of dirt.  I motioned to Gabe to stay with Bruce.

I ran as fast as I could, faster than at any soccer game, and faster than when I had tried to beat Bruce.  The first vehicle I came across was a cruising police car and when I saw it, I jumped up and down, waving my arms. As I told my story in between deep breaths, they radioed Bruce’s uncle.

The car beat me back to the house and when I arrived I could hear the scrunching and squeaking of the old boards as they pulled them off one by one.  The opening they created was still too small for an adult to fit through, and even Bruce was too husky to fit, so I volunteered.

Bruce hugged me and said, “Go to it buddy.”

They tied a thick yellow rope around my waist, handed me a flashlight and lowered me down slowly.  I shone the flashlight down into the narrow opening and saw Nancy squatting in six inches of water. I shouted back that I could see her.

It was cold and smelled of rust and mold. My knees scraped the metal sides and tears escaped down my cheeks. All I could see was the top of her head.  I called down to her several times but she wouldn’t look up.

After a few more bumps back and forth my feet hit the water and I sank in past my ankles.  A shiver ran through me and I felt like I had to pee.

She was all cut up from the fall. Her wet hair was wrapped around her cheeks and she was squatting down holding onto her right ankle. Her body was trembling and I could hear her teeth rattling.

“It’s okay Nancy, we’re going to get you out. All you have to do is hold onto me.”

But she wouldn’t move.  She stayed hunched over hugging her knees.

“Nancy, it’s me, Trevor, you know Bruce’s friend.  I’m here to help you.  Your Mom and Dad are up there waiting for you.”

I didn’t know what else to say. I reached over and touched her shoulder, then I squatted down and whispered, “let’s go home Nancy.”

She turned around and fell into my arms and hugged me with what little strength she had left.  Slowly I stood up bringing her with me.  The air was thick and damp and smelled like sour milk. My stomach shuddered as I held the flashlight between my teeth and tied the rope around my waist and then hers. The sides of the well seemed to be closing in around us.

“Okay, I got her!” I yelled as I wrapped my arms around her middle.

Slowly we began to leave the ground, swaying back and forth. Her knees bumped against the side of the walls and she cried out. Her sobs got louder and her body started to shake.

I knew we didn’t have much time before she lost it.  Or before I lost it too.  The rope squeezed us tightly together and it pinched my skin.  I wanted to yell hurry, but I was scared that if I spoke, I would start screaming.

Three quarters of the way to the top I could see some light and I could feel some cool fresh air from above. I patted her back and told her we were almost there, when we felt a sudden jolt downward. My head hit the wall and I dropped the flashlight. It shone back at us through the slimy water, with one white eye.

When I looked down at the yellow rope around us, I saw that my knot was slipping.  A few more twists and it would be completely undone.

I yelled and started to claw at the walls.  My nails broke and my fingertips screamed out in pain. If we fell back down from this height we would surely break some bones.  My feet began to move, trying to jog us upward.  I could hear muffled, excited voices but I couldn’t make out what any one was saying.

Nancy was crying loudly, and calling out for her Mom.   Again I prayed.      “Please God, help us out of this mess.”  My head seemed as though it was floating on my shoulders and I closed my eyes. Reaching down I held onto what remained of the knot.

And then we were out.  People were cheering, and clapping. Someone undid the rope and we were free. Someone else was hugging me and crying.  When I looked up I buried my face in my sister’s familiar brown curls.

“Well done Trevor” Mom said proudly.

“Doggy, doggy” said Tara as I picked her up and kissed her on the cheek.

“Yes Tara, that is a goggy,” I said, and she smiled at me as if to say “finally someone notices him too.”

When I put her down, Bruce’s Mom was standing beside me.  “Next!” she said and gave me a big bear hug with Nancy still snuggled tightly into her arms. “Thanks Trevor.  I don’t know how you did it but you’re an angel.”I looked over at Gabe and winked, and he seemed to wink back. “Let’s go home,” I said.

Chapter 13 – A Time and Purpose for Everything

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Bruce wasn’t at school the next day and I hoped he was all right, that his dad hadn’t come down too hard on him.  All the kids were coming up to me and patting me on the back, calling me a hero.  Even Mrs. Mitchell said congratulations and gave me a whole week of happy faces.  She also said I could take the rabbit home if I wanted.

Walking by Bruce’s house on the way home from school I saw him playing hopscotch with his sister.  I couldn’t believe he was playing such “a sissy game.” I didn’t say anything though.  I crept by as quietly as I could.

Mom made my favorite supper, Sloppy Joes.  She told me how proud she was of me again and started asking a whole bunch of questions, like how did I know where Nancy was. I told her, “something led me there,” and changed the subject.

I happily ate three Sloppy Joe burgers and was wiping my face and loosening my pants when the doorbell rang. I opened the door and was surprised to find Bruce, holding a video game still in the wrapper.

“I wanted to say thanks and give you this,” he said handing me the game.

“Wow, Speed City. Thanks” I said, looking at the ground and anywhere but Bruce’s face.

“Do you want to hang out for a bit?” Bruce asked.

“Uh sure, Mom, is it okay if I go out?”

Mom said it was okay, she would look after dishes tonight, so Bruce and I walked out toward the field in behind my house; the same one where we had raced a few days ago.

Bruce was quiet and he kept looking at me. “Trevor, I’ve been thinking about what you said. And I’m sorry,”

“Oh forget it,” I said, kicking at a rock on the path.  “I’m sorry I said all those things.”

“No, really.  I didn’t realize you felt that way and that I was acting like that.  Sometimes when I want someone to be my friend I kind of overdo it.  Because you were new I thought I had a chance.  I don’t have any friends, not someone I can hang out with.  I guess I push too hard.  I don’t know any other way.”

“Let’s start over,” I said. “Just no more shoving or pushing.”

“Sounds like a deal,” Bruce grinned widely.  “By the way… I was also wondering how in the heck you knew where my sister was?  Remember, we’re friends now, you can tell me.”

“Okay, but you’re going to think I’m crazy.”  It felt good to tell someone.  I explained what happened that day he “accidentally knocked me in the lake.”  I told him how Gabe saved me and how he has been with me ever since.

When I finished my story Bruce laughed “Come on, you expect me to believe that?” He dropped his eyes to the ground.  “I mean, that does sound nuts.  Where is he, how come I can’t see him?”

I looked around and Gabe was right beside us.  How could I prove it? “You can’t,” I said, “only I can see him.”

“Fine, okay,” said Bruce shaking his head, “It doesn’t matter I guess.  You saved her life and that’s all that counts.”

He bent over and picked up a stick off the ground and threw it.  Too bad he couldn’t see Gabe fetching it, he would believe. But wait a minute Bruce could see the stick!

I picked up another stick and told Bruce to watch the stick.

“Go fetch, Gabe” I called to him.

Bruce raised his eyebrows at me and shook his head again.  “Trevor, I said it was okay.”

“No, no, wait, really, he can do it.  Gabe, I said go fetch.”

But for some reason Gabe didn’t move, he looked up at me sideways.  What was he doing?  He knew what I was saying.

“Come on Gabe, please.”

Bruce turned and walked away.  I felt like I had let him down and I couldn’t understand what was happening to Gabe.

As Bruce reached the end of our yard Gabe ran in front of him and dropped a stick.  From where I was sitting I saw Bruce stop, reach down and pick up the stick, and look at Gabe.  He was petting him, and jumping up and down.  He could see Gabe. He could see him.  I stood up and ran over to them.  Bruce’s face was pink and grinning, as he patted Gabe and stroked his fine wings.

“Trevor, this is awesome!” Bruce said.

“Good boy Gabe” I smiled back at Bruce, I wanted to say I told you so, but I didn’t.

We stayed and both of us played with Gabe until it got dark.  It was so good to have someone else who could see Gabe.  Gabe and I walked Bruce home and all Bruce could say when he left was “awesome!”

That night though, Gabe didn’t sleep on my bed like he normally did.  He curled up in a ball on the floor, but he couldn’t seem to get comfortable.  He paced back and forth by the window stretching out his enormous wings. From time to time he would walk over to the edge of my bed and place his head down and stare up at me.  He panted loudly and it made me nervous.  Maybe he was sick.

“What is it boy? What’s the matter? Come here boy.” I called to him.

He came over and licked my hand and nuzzled his nose under my blankets.  He let out a whimper and walked back to the window.  He looked at the window and whimpered again and my heart sank. I knew what he wanted.

I got out of bed and hugged him as tears rolled down my cheeks and onto his velvety wings.

“No Gabe, no” I said firmly.  “You come and lay down.”

But he looked at me and whined.  When his eyes met mine they looked dull and dark, and inside my head I heard him saying, “my job is done, I must go.”

“No Gabe, I still need you.  What am I going to do without you?”

But I knew it was no use. Sadly I walked over the window and opened it.  I hugged him again for a long time.

Gabe hopped up onto the window ledge, easily balancing himself.  He bowed his head for a long time.  He looked at me and barked, then he turned and flew off disappearing into the night.  A single white feather floated in the air. A little breeze pushed it through my open window and I watched it land on the floor.  I picked it up and stood looking out at the night and the stars for a long time. How could I possibly get along without him?

Final Chapter 14 – Friends

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I didn’t remember going back to bed, but that’s where I woke up.  My head was pounding and my eyes felt like they had grains of sand in them.  I couldn’t eat breakfast and when Tara tried to grab me as I walked by, I pushed her away.  I ignored everyone on the bus and sat by myself at the very front.  Nothing was ever going to be the same again.  I had lost my best friend in the whole world.

I hid from everyone at recess and lunch and when I was walking home, Bruce ran up to me and asked me what was wrong.

“You, your what’s wrong” I shouted at Bruce and dug my finger into his chest.

He looked at me with surprise.

“He’s gone, and it’s all your fault.  If I didn’t have to save your stupid sister, he would probably still be here to help me.  He thought I didn’t need him anymore, but he was wrong!”

I was yelling, but I didn’t care.  It felt as though I had been punched in the gut.

“Leave me alone” I blurted out, and ran all the way home.

I was glad Mom wasn’t around when I burst through the door and went up to my room; I didn’t want to answer any more questions.  I threw the covers off my bed, dumped all the toys out of the storage box, and tipped over my bookshelf.

After calling me three times for supper, Mom knocked on my door and came in.  She tripped over a football and looked around my room in surprise.

“Trevor? What’s happened?  Why’d you do this?” she asked.  She didn’t sound angry, just scared.

“Mom please,” I said “I don’t want to talk about it.  Leave me alone.  I don’t want supper, I’m not hungry.”

She came back two hours later and I hadn’t moved from my bed.  This time I could hear a little anger in her voice.  “Trevor you have to come down, there’s someone here to see you.”

“Tell whoever it is to go away,” I said, “I don’t have any friends and I don’t want any!”

Mom’s voice didn’t sound soft and understanding now.  She spoke louder than usual, “I don’t know what happened today and you don’t want to tell me, but I do know you’re being rude.  You come downstairs this instant.  It’s Bruce and he says he has something of yours.  Now move it.”

When Mom said “move it” I knew I had gone a little too far.  I slowly got up and walked down the stairs, taking as much time as I could.  I didn’t want to look at Bruce’s face.  I knew what I had said to him was a lie, it wasn’t his fault.

Bruce was grinning when I saw him and that made me madder.  He was holding a medium sized cardboard box and before I could say anything to him he placed it at my feet.

“Well,” said Mom, “go ahead and open it.”

I reached down opening the flaps slowly, one at a time.  Before I could open the last one, it sprang open by itself and out popped a little black and white furry head.  I jumped back, not knowing what it was, and fell on my rear.  A little body followed by a wagging tail, jumped out of the box, ran at me and plopped into my lap. It looked up at me and started barking ferociously.

We all started laughing. I picked up the pup and held him in my arms. I walked over to Bruce and said sorry, hugging him quickly, then turned to my Mom.  “Can I keep him?”

“I guess so,” she said smiling. “We’ll have to make a house for him outside so that he doesn’t bother Dad.”

We took him out into the yard and wrestled with him.  He was a hyper little guy and we laughed until our sides hurt.

“I guess you know what his name is,” I said to Bruce.

“Yep” he said, and threw the ball.  “Come on Gabe, go fetch.”

In school the next day it was my turn to read my essay about summer vacation.  I hadn’t quite finished it yet so I faked it.  My story had changed over the last couple of days, and of course I couldn’t tell them everything.

“Two incredible things happened to me over the summer,” I started, “I found two new friends, their names are Gabe and Bruce.”

At the end of my report everyone clapped, even Mrs. Mitchell.

“And don’t forget Trevor,” she said to me as I walked back to my desk, “You get to take the rabbit home this weekend.”

I nodded, and laughed to myself, wondering how Gabe and Mr. Hoppity were going to get along.

Oh the Places You’ll Go

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talkingGood dialogue seems natural, but in fact it is not.  In natural speech, nearly all people repeat themselves, start over, stutter, etc.  If you do this on the written page the character will sound boring or scatterbrained.  Unless you want him that way you must change the speech slightly.

But don’t go to the other extreme!  Too much editing can make a character sound phony.

Each author has his own style of writing dialogue.  It may be mostly uninterrupted dialogue with large chunks of story telling.

The best way to find your dialogue style:  writing1.  When writing your first draft, write down everything that comes to mind.  2.  Read your work out loud.  Does it sound like something your character would say?  Is it too wordy or too choppy? 3.  Edit – Experiment – Practice!

Use quotation marks at the beginning and end of each persons words and a new paragraph every time a different character speaks.  If two characters are talking back and forth and it is clear who is talking you don’t have to use – he said – she said after each line.

Avoid using too many descriptive speech words, example:  she blurted, bubbled, pouted, pleaded, etc.  Your characters actions, words, and descriptive story telling should be enough to inform the reader how he feels.