Friday, April 4, 2014
Rob breezed through the front door, hung his coat on its hook, and grabbed the mail from his slot. No one else was home so he headed to his room. He was a little surprised to find the house so quiet. Usually it was alive with his four younger siblings and all the little neighborhood children. And Spot. Where was Spot? Rob looked around for the exuberant puppy and whistled, but no sound of scampering paws met his ears and no adoring eyes appeared to watch his every move. Strange.
No doubt they were all outside somewhere doing childish things. Rob squared his shoulders, feeling very proud of his new job at the pharmacy. He was a man now, with all of his 16 years, and too old to romp with the neighborhood children as he had last summer.
He flopped across his bed, sorting through the mail. There wasn't much of interest. He read the title of a magazine and then let his eyes wander across the room. They focused on a pill bottle, capsized on the floor. What was that doing there?
He rolled off the bed and sauntered across the floor, picking up the bottle and reading the label. Shoot! It belonged to old Mr. Saunders. Rob looked at his pair of pants hanging upside-down over the back of his chair and remembered stuffing the bottle in his pants pocket the day before. Mr. Saunders had said there was no hurry to deliver them, and Rob had forgotten all about them.
The lid was off and Rob saw the pills scattered around the floor. Well, that was no good. Rob hurriedly scooped them up and stuffed them back into the bottle. He tucked the bottle back into his pants pocket. He would have to tell his manager tomorrow. Rob grimaced. He didn't imagine that would be a very fun conversation.
Rob climbed back on his bed. With a hopeful face, he whistled again. With the difficult conversation looming for the morrow, Rob decided he could sure use a consoling lick from Spot. The puppy had found his way into Rob's heart on his first day, and Spot could comfort Rob better than anyone else these days. But no Spot appeared in the doorway. Rob sighed and picked up the magazine again.
Soon he heard the back door open. Somebody was home.
But something was wrong. Somebody was sobbing.
Rob jumped to his feet and hurried into the hallway to find out what was the matter.
Eight-year-old Mariah looked startled to see her older brother home. He stared into her tear-streaked face, red eyes, and snotty nose. She held up both arms to him like a toddler. Rob picked her up and let her cry against him.
"He's dead," she wailed, with hiccuping sobs. Her breath came in wretched little gasps, showing how deeply her heart had been broken.
"Who's dead?" Rob queried.
"S...ss...Spot!" the girl cried.
Rob felt his heart stand still. Spot? His Spot? Dead?
"Are you sure?" Rob asked, incredulous. Spot was only a puppy. What could have happened? Images of cars and wild animals and sharp objects flashed through his mind. Spot had a knack for getting into trouble, but Rob still couldn't believe that his little companion was...dead. Tears squeezed at the corners of his eyes.
"How did it happen?" he asked, his voice catching slightly.
"I don't know," Mariah whimpered. "We came in and he was just laying there. And he wouldn't move. We tried and tried to wake him." Her tears started flowing again in full force. "Poor Spotty..."
The image of the pill bottle flashed into Rob's head. He set Mariah down abruptly and ran to rummage in his pants pocket. He pulled out the bottle and scanned the label. "May cause sedation," it said. And farther down, it said, "14 pills." Rob wrenched the lid off, counting the pills inside, hardly listening to his little sister's woes.
"I couldn't watch them bury him," she cried. "I just couldn't. I ran back."
Twelve! There were only 12 pills! Rob's heart sped up with hope.
"Where is Spot now?" he asked, breathless.
"They are burying him," Mariah moaned, reaching for a tissue.
"They are what?!?" Rob gasped, his head snapping around to stare at his sister. "Where!?!"
"On the big hill -- where he loved to play fetch every day," Mariah said, her eyes filling up with tears again.
"Burying him!" Rob exploded. He leapt to the door, grabbing his jacket on the way out. His heart was filling with dread. If those kids were out there burying a live puppy...
"Where are you going, Rob?" Mariah called, bewildered by this sudden change in energy.
"To stop them!" Rob shouted, leaping off the back porch and running toward the big hill.
It was nearly a half mile to the hill. Rob's breath came in ragged gasps as his legs pounded across the field. "Oh, God, let me be in time," was his prayer.
At the bottom of the big hill, he met the funeral recession. The rest of his siblings and the band of neighborhood children trudged mournfully down the path. The girls had all been crying and the boys walked with sorrowful dejection.
Rob slowed as he reached them. "Where's Spot?" he panted.
"Buried," answered one of the neighbor boys in a dull, lifeless tone. His shoulders drooped, and his eyelashes were suspiciously damp, though he never would have admitted it. Spot had brought a lot of life and happiness into the little neighborhood.
"Oh, God, no," cried Rob, doubling his speed as he raced up the hill.
There, under a rhododendron bush was a fresh mound of dirt. Rob flung himself to the ground, digging frantically with his bare hands. Barely a foot down, he reached the top of a large cardboard box. Brushing the last little bit of dirt from the top, Rob pulled it open, praying that he wasn't too late.
The puppy had been wrapped in a favorite blanket and surrounded with toys. Rob lifted the blanket to the side and vigorously rubbed the puppy's chest. "Please, God," he whispered. Behind him, he could hear the approach of the funeral procession, returning to see what was going on.
"Spot!" Rob called. "Here, boy! Here, Spot!"
Slowly, the puppy's eyes peeled open. His lids drooped heavily with sedation, but he managed the tiniest thump of his tail at the sight of his beloved master.
Cheers erupted behind Rob. "He did it! He's alive! Rob brought Spot back to life!" the children cried, overjoyed.
Rob just kept petting Spot. "Good boy, good boy," he murmured hoarsely. Tears came then for Rob, flooding down his face like a dam that has been released. "Good boy. You're okay. Good boy," he said, his voice cracking with emotion. He wiped his eyes with his sleeve, and his heart lurched at the thought of what might have been. "Thank you, God."
Rob carried the sleepy puppy home, amid great rejoicing of the children. As the sedation wore off, Spot recovered to his usual bouncy self. From then on, Rob made a point to carefully check his pockets before leaving work. And the children were strictly instructed to get an adult to help them in future diagnoses of unresponsive pets.
There were many other exciting adventures that summer. You can hardly have a family of 5 children without having adventures. But, even now, this many years later, you can ask Rob or the children and they will tell you: none of them were more memorable than Spot's resurrection.