Faith and Friendship

Faith and Friendship

A Story by SarcasticBlack
"

This was my entry into a writing challenge over on LegendFire. The challenge was to write a short story involving animals.

"

Faith and Friendship

 

Distressed cries in-between clattering footsteps spoiled the peace of the dank, clammy hallway of a countryside cottage. Brownie, a young farmer, laboriously panted alongside the repeated instructions from the opposite side of the chamber door. The petrified man tugged at his sweaty, muddy brown hair as his wife wailed miserably, defying every instinct in his quaking body to run to her aid. In any event, his sister-in-law was assisting his most beloved. Without doubt, his wife would be well-cared for. Albeit, it had been an agonising twelve hours since the ordeal began and he had made that anticipated call. Promptly, three blubbering women scurried into the chamber alongside his beloved, locking him out without as much as giving an update as to her condition.

            On the opposite side of the murkily lit room, cowering beneath a rickety, weather-beaten table, lay a young border collie. An austere breeze forced its way past the damask curtains and the young dog sniffed the air. He, in turn, released a piercing, doubtful whine prior to resting his discouraged head upon the crook of his arm.       

“Scout?” said Arrow as he dawdled over to his companion. The aged English springer spaniel wagged his tail lightly. “Are ye well?”

“I dunna like this,” Scout replied with a disenchanted expression. His stomach flopped apprehensively. “Mylove is hurtin'.”

“Indeed,” the spaniel nodded. “But Haybag is with her, so she must be safe.”    

Scout rubbed his cracked, dry nose on the sheepskin rug and huffed. He never trusted Mylove's sister, nor did Brownie. Too often did the 'haybag' cast them out into the cold, wet night or fail to provide them with their fair share of scraps. Haybag was not partial to dogs and she voiced such regularly. Scout ended a whine with a small yip.     

“I canna help Mylove!” he cried. “She is hurtin' and I canna assist 'er!”

“Easy, lad. Have some faith,” Arrow said. He glanced at the anxious farmer and nosed the reluctant border collie. “Well, if you aren't going to do your job, then I must.”

Brownie, who by now was scarcely holding himself upright, jerked at the cold sensation of Arrow's nose pressed against his callused hand. The farmer rested on a wooden stool and gave the dog a modest pat before massaging his throbbing temples. He spewed a pot-pourri of moans and grumbles as his wife bawled in anguish. Arrow wagged scantly and laid his head on his masters' knee, but his sunken, brown eyes did not provide comfort and Brownie brushed him aside.

“Not now, Arrow,” he sighed. The spaniel understood and rested himself at Brownie's feet. Intense shrills dotted with vulgarities sounded from the other side of the chamber door. Scout sat upright and cast out another bitter whine.

“I dunna like this. Not at all.”

 

                        An eerie atmosphere overtook the English cottage as evening came to a close. By now, the sun had leisurely dipped behind the hazy hills of Durham, leaving its final rays to reflect off the dark clouds at the horizon. The only meager light in the room was cast by a dim gas lamp and the last remaining embers in the hearth. The air turned cool and the once austere breeze now grew restless. The screaming had stopped for a short period of time and only the sounds of the grandfather clock in the entranceway and the strenuous panting of Mylove could be heard. Sporadically, the tap-tip-tapping of Brownie's anxious foot echoed in the parlour, usually accompanied with long, drawn-out whines from Scout. Though, just as Brownie began to relax the tense muscles in his neck, a strenuous scream pierced the evening air. Oh, and what a brilliant, jubilant cry it was. Brownie jumped up forthwith, nearly toppling over an excited, barking Arrow and sprinted out the parlour door.

            “My love! My love!” he chanted, though his sing-song was short-lived.

            “Not now, Brownie! Go, git!” shouted his sister-in-law.

            “Haybag didn't let him in!” Scout growled, though Brownie did not oblige and pushed his way past her with a mighty heave.

            “Come, Scout! Let us see!” Arrow bayed heartily, though his tail tucked between his legs as he saw the insistent expression writ across his masters' face.

            “Go, ye cur! Not now!” the order was shouted as Brownie shut the chamber door. Arrow paced and whimpered.

            “... I don't under...” he could not even finish his thought before Haybag yanked him by his tender ears. The spaniel wriggled for his freedom, though his efforts proved to cause more pain. Scout uttered a low growl at Haybag, who responded by gifting the border collie with a swift kick in the ribs.

            “Git! Git! Git!” she wailed and pointed the cowering dogs out the door.

            “I dunna like this,” Scout repeated. The long, silky fur on his cheeks whipped in the curt wind of the slamming door. He hung his head. “Not at all.” 

            “Come, dog,” ordered Arrow. “I have an idea.”

                       

                        The chamber window was awkwardly high for two dogs to see inside, though Arrow was determined to know what lay on the other side. Never before had he heard such a cry and insisted on knowing what sort of creature could make such a noise. Certainly that intriguing sound did not come from Mylove. He sniffed about for a moment or two, pawing at his face as a gnat tickled the inside of his nose, and decided upon a stack of splintered old crates that had stood in the rain for far too long. They faltered in the restless summer breeze, though for the most part, they lay secure alongside the stone wall of the cottage.

            “I dunna like this,” Scout examined the wobbly crates. Arrow groaned as he pulled himself onto the first.

            “If the terrier down th'way can climb up a tree, I can climb a few ol' boxes!” he said.     

            “The terrier is barmy!” the border collie sat hard upon the ground. He pawed at a random patch of fescue growing in the trodden, hoof-beaten dirt. Arrow, unwilling to admit that he was having difficulty, attempted to keep his balance as the crates shifted underneath his weight. Consequently, a cracking sound was replaced by a loud snap and Arrow lost his balance as the planks splintered beneath him. The spaniel tumbled to the bottom of the heap and landed with a thud on the dusty earth. He shook off the dust and embarrassment and checked himself over. He was not injured; however, two cats cackled vociferously at such a sight and heedlessly approached the dogs.          

            “Ye igit,” said Flea, a plump, gray British shorthair. “Dogs canna climb.”

            “That is not true. The terrier down th'way can climb trees,” Arrow snuffed with an adamant nod.

            “The terrier is barmy,” reiterated Tick, Flea's mangier orange brother. Flea and Scout nodded.  

            “If ye wanna know what is happenin' inside, we'd be happy to assist ye.”

            Arrow cocked his head in doubt.         

            “For a price, of course,” Flea added.

            “Of course,” the spaniel squinted his eyes and nodded. “What price, barn cat?”

            “Yer breakfast scraps,” Flea started.

            “Fer a week!” Tick interrupted, though Flea agreed wholeheartedly. Scout shook his head.

            “No, we can find out ourselves,” Arrow nosed Scout. The cats mrowled and laughed.  

            “Not with Haybag inside, ye can't,” Flea said. He peered at Scout. “Unless ye want yer ears tugged on, too.”

            “I dunna want that, Arrow,” Scout whispered. The spaniel thought for a moment and thumped his tail upon the ground. Scout whimpered in turn.

            “Very well!” Arrow growled in aggravation. “Go look, cats! Git!”         

            “Patience, mongrel,” Flea sang, though he shimmied up the rickety crates the moment Arrow bared his fangs. Tick clumsily followed behind. The two felines sat upon the ledge murmuring to one another, occasionally glimpsing at the inquisitive dogs and sniggering.

            “Well?” said Scout impatiently. “What is it?”     

            “It is a kitten,” said Flea. “… five of them!”

            “Six!” Tick added for extra measure.

            “Kittens?”

            “Yes, man-kittens,” nodded Flea.

            “What does a man-kitten do?” Scout peered.

            “Nothin' too much, truly,” Flea slipped down the crates and strutted a circle around the dogs. “They eat, mostly, and poop even more ‘n that. They sleep when they aren’t eating or pooping. Brownie won’t have time for ye.”

            “They get worse when they get older,” Tick sneered.

            “Aye, then they beat up on ya, tug on yer ears, eat all o'yer scraps,” Flea added.

            “Pests, truly,” Tick nodded.

            “I dunna like this.”

            “It will be fine, Scout,” Arrow said. “Brownie would never let such a thing happen to us.”

            “Ha!” Tick shrilled. “Wait until yer sleepin' in the cold barn with us! Brownie won't be havin' no mutts at his hearth. Not with man-kittens around.”

            “That is not true!” Arrow barked.

            “See fer yerselves,” Flea rubbed on Scout. “You'll see how special ye truly are to that master o'yers. You'll see when yer frozen and starvin' in the dead o’ winter. You'll see if we help ye or not.”

            “We were once housecats,” Tick said. “Until Mylove came along and shooed us out the door.”

            “Allergies,” added Flea.

            “That canna be true, can it, Arrow?” Scout shuddered, but Arrow only sighed and curled into a freckled ball of uncertainty. It was true that the cats had been cast out of the home, and worse, it was true that Brownie did not defend them; though, it seemed like a good thing at the time. Furthermore, Arrow had heard rumours of this sort of thing happening from the wise wolfhound in town, though he prayed it was not happening to them.

 

                        The crickets chirped erratically as night had long arrived. Flea and Tick stalked field mice throughout the tall ryegrass, albeit unsuccessfully, and the restless wind yet again settled into a lingering, grim breeze. An hour or so prior, Haybag had scrambled into a hansom and hurried off to town. Scout hoped she was heading home with no intention of returning, though he knew she would be back in the morning. For a long while, Scout had made himself as comfortable as possible beneath a knotty oak and watched the felines attempt to catch their dinner; however, his attention was soon focused on Arrow, who sulked ahead nearly fifty paces and gazed pensively at a half moon. Perhaps he was gazing at nothing at all. At one point, Scout had cautiously skulked toward his teacher to see if he could be of assistance, but he retreated at the sight of the spaniel's despondent eyes. Scout had seen that expression before; the first time being when Arrow's favourite runt from the spring litter was sold, and the second time being when the spaniel overheard that the Christmas goose had been burnt to a crisp.

 

                        The border collie turned a circle or two and clawed at the fescue. He prepared to retire for the night when Arrow abruptly perked at a noise only a dog of his wisdom could hear. Before long, the front door opened with a long, drawn-out screech and the heavenly sound of Brownie's whistle echoed in the distance. Both dogs, praying that they heard correctly, waited for a second call.

            “Arrow! Scout! Come!” The dogs wagged their tails in exhilaration as relief washed over their bodies. Scout waited for Arrow's move, though the spaniel simply stood with his tail thrashing from side to side. A few moments passed and another whistle reverberated through the field. Scout, who was ever-curious about Arrow's peculiar behaviour, watched as the old dog now wagged with his entire body. A third, more enthusiastic whistle echoed and the spaniel bayed exuberantly and sprung high into the air. Arrow ran as swiftly as possible toward the most glorious sound he had ever heard; a sound that he heard every day and would never take for granted again. His joyful heart hammered in his chest as he bounded towards his master, his very best friend. Brownie laughed fervently as he watched his faithful friend bounce ever-higher above the tall grasses, barking in what sounded like a blissful cadence. Arrow leapt into his masters’ arms, expressing both relief and love with every sloppy lick to the face.

            “Arrow! Down now!” Brownie could only laugh. He squished the spaniel's face in his hands and tussled it from side to side. Arrow growled playfully, and as Scout joined the energetic duo, Arrow jumped over his pupil and tugged on his ear. Scout, more bemused than anything, shook his teacher off and watched in bewilderment. “Come, you two. I have somethin' to show ye!”

 

                        Inside the chamber, the atmosphere was serene and sweet. No longer was the little cottage occupied with distressing cries pleading for relief. The air had the scent of something new and wonderful, and Arrow felt his heart thumping with anticipation of what lay inside. Naturally, the spaniel had seen kittens before; although, he had a hunch that these kittens were special. Mylove, who was in a deep slumber, wore a smile upon her lips. Brownie tip-toed over to the bassinet and peeked inside. A proud beam writ across his sun-beaten, leathery face as he carefully caressed whatever was inside. Scout whimpered inquiringly.

            “Hush, Scout, my love is sleeping.” Brownie reached inside the bassinet and scooped out a bundle of blue blankets. “And so is my son.”

                        Arrow and Scout, tails wagging, cautiously slinked up to the odd bundle and sniffed the air about it. The bundle abruptly squirmed and squealed in its fathers’ warm arms.

            “This is your new master, Scout,” Brownie whispered as to not wake Mylove. “You'd best be lookin' after him.”

                        Scout perked his ears and propped himself on Brownie's knee. He balanced on his hind legs to get a better look, and as soon as his cold nose tapped the infant, it cooed loudly. Brownie rested his son in the bassinet and tucked him in taut. Scout backed away hastily, though he noticed that his tail was instinctively wagging. He whimpered naively.

            “I dunna think I like it, Arrow,” he said. The spaniel shook his head and grinned as Brownie kissed his wife on the forehead and lay beside her.

            “Haven't ye learned anythin’, pup?” Arrow rested alongside Brownie's side of the bed. “Have a little faith.”

 

                        Scout, refusing to abandon the bassinet, after a hearty stretch and a sizeable yawn, accepted his new orders and rested on the floor. He exhaled and allowed the tension to drain from his body. The sweet, wonderful summer breeze streamed through the lace sheers and stirred up fantastic scents of a new life. Scout inhaled deeply and smiled clandestinely; though before long, the newborn shrilled and the chamber was once more alight with the flickering, muted glow of the gas lamp. Brownie, grinning at his fatigued wife, scooped up his son and rocked him consolingly, yet the baby refused to settle down easily. Scout, resting a tired paw over the bridge of his muzzle, chuckled to himself.

            “I dunna think I like it at all.”

© 2011 SarcasticBlack


Author's Note

SarcasticBlack
I'd love to hear anything you have to say! Comments very welcomed!

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Featured Review

OMGosh this made me laugh so hard, my stomach hurts! I love these characters and their names are so fitting. Your language is wonderful and the flow of the story is great. I wish I could tell you something constructive, but I found the story to be too perfectly told to find any fault with it. Excellent job!

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

OMGosh this made me laugh so hard, my stomach hurts! I love these characters and their names are so fitting. Your language is wonderful and the flow of the story is great. I wish I could tell you something constructive, but I found the story to be too perfectly told to find any fault with it. Excellent job!

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on May 1, 2011
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SarcasticBlack
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I am a 29-year-old artist of all trades who loves to illustrate fantasy, science fiction and anthropomorphic art, as well as real life studies and landscapes. I am also interested in surrealism and ab.. more..

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