Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is based on a photo taken at a local zoo. There was a fence leading to a "no admittance" area, but about 12 inches at the bottom had been bent upward, allowing admission of... people? animals? And where does it lead? Write a story involving a fence that has been snuck through—as a major or minor plot point.
This month’s story comes to us from Val Muller. She is the author of the Corgi Capers kidlit mystery series (www.CorgiCapers.com) and the YA coming-of-age tales The Scarred Letter and The Girl Who Flew Away.
By Val Muller
“You shouldn’t have a dog if you’re just gonna leave it outside all the time.” The afternoon sun baked down on the earth. Victor could only imagine how hot the metal water dish had gotten. That water had to be soup by now.
“At least he’s got water,” Jenn said. “And food.” She wrinkled her nose at the swarm of flies gathering around the untouched food dish.
The two leaned against the white picket fence, watching the dog. The owners, if home, had never made an appearance, not in three years. The dog sat up, barked several times, and twirled in a circle. Then, panting with the effort in the July heat, he scratched at the earth a bit and plopped down in the filtered shade of the small tree growing nearby.
“But it’s such a floofy dog,” Victor said. “Those types are not meant for the outdoors. They’re the kind you pay a lot of money for so you can keep them indoors and bring them to restaurants in little carrier bags and put bows on them every time they are groomed. This one is just ignored.”
Jenn raised an eyebrow. “Since when have you become a dog person?”
Victor shrugged. “I’m not. I hate dogs.”
Jenn nodded. “Usually. But every time we walk past here, you start with the comments. You want a dog?”
“No. I mean, not in theory.”
Jenn hid a smile. “Because our new place has a back yard…”
Victor kept his poker face. “Dogs are a pain. I mean, they’re always there.”
“A fenced yard.”
“So no dog for us, then?”
He shrugged. “You know what they say. Dogs are the gateway drug to kids." He offered a mock shudder. “It’s just something about this dog…”
“It’s a Pomeranian. I looked them up last Christmas. You know, when I was trying to convince you to get me one.” She smirked. “Which you didn’t. They’re purebred, which means they are not affordable. Not for us, anyway.”
“All the more reason for these people to take better care of it. One day, someone’s just gonna come grab it.”
“It’s fenced in.”
“Yeah, behind a picket fence with no lock. The gate can easily be opened. Hell, I could jump the fence if I wanted to.” He took a peek at Jenn’s face, then leaned over the fence and clapped his hands. The Pomeranian ran over to him, nipping at his hands in a friendly way. Victor reached down and scratched behind its ears.
Jenn had turned her attention to the house, but there was no movement. No indication that anyone was home. There was never any indication that anyone was home, except that once in a while the beast got a haircut. Last time, during the spring, the dog was cut to look like a lion: short hair on its back and legs, hair left long on its head and chest like a lion’s mane. Victor had been especially drawn to the idea of having a miniature lion sitting there in a suburban yard.
“Are you saying you want to?”
Victor stepped back from the fence and continued his walk as if to answer Jenn’s question. What was it about this stupid little dog? Something about it pulled at him. He seriously hated dogs ever since his mom’s Rottweiler nipped him as a kid. But this little one…
“What do you think his name is?” Jenn asked.
She wouldn’t drop it. “Lion,” Victor said. He regretted his lack of hesitation. Would she know he’d already chosen a name? “Or maybe “Leon,” he said, trying to sound casual. “Or Leo.”
Jenn raised an eyebrow. Luckily, her phone beeped, and a minor fashion crisis on the part of her sister distracted her from the rest of the conversation. By the time she put her phone away, they were already at the drainage pond—it had been dry the entire month so far—and the conversation turned to the drought and their excitement about moving up north—where it was much cooler—at the end of August.
August kept its reputation, burning like an inferno that intensified on Moving Day. Two of the paid movers called out “sick,” though Victor and Jenn agreed the weather was to blame. The two of them picked up the extra work with the one brave hired hand, sweat drenching them in the first five minutes of the morning. It wasn’t until nearly 9 p.m. that the entire house was packed up, the very hot and tired hired man was paid, and the two of them were in the rented truck, air conditioner blasting.
They didn’t expect it to be so late, and they hesitated. “What do we do?” Jenn asked. “Spend a final night in our house?” They were required to be out by midnight, but there was little chance the landlord would come by until the next morning.
Victor shook his head. “Pillar of salt,” he muttered. “Best start toward our new lives.”
The air hung with silence. They had two new jobs, a closing on a home—their home—in 36 hours—and the rest of their lives, all waiting for their arrival.
Jenn switched the truck into “drive.”
“Nice bench seat up here,” Victor said. “Plenty of room…”
“You’re planning on sleeping in the car?” Jenn asked. “I assumed we’d drive straight through.” She pulled toward the exit of the housing development.
“No, not sleeping in the car. Something else,” Victor said.
"Do you see how sweaty I am?" Jenn asked. "I am not in the mood."
Victor rolled his eyes. "Not that. Pull over up here, will you?”
Jenn humored him.
“Keep it in drive, and be ready to go.”
But Victor was already out the door, running toward the white picket fence. The Pomeranian—Leon, or Lion, or Leo, or whatever its name was—was barking its head off as usual. Victor didn’t hesitate at all. He simply opened the gate, reached toward the dog, and with a deft swipe, had the orange fluff of a dog in his arms. He ran out the gate, not bothering to shut it.
The gate swung open in the summer dusk as Jenn pulled away, her new pet happily sitting in the middle of the front bench seat. Not wanting to turn into a pillar of salt, Victor did not glimpse back in the rear view mirror, but he guessed Leon’s owners did not bother to come out. He’d stake his future on it.
The Spot Writers:
Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/
Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/
Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com
Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/