By Robert Taylor
“It’s almost bedtime,” says ten-year-old Sandy, plopping down onto the sofa beside her friend, Erica, “and I’m not even a little bit sleepy.”
“Me either,” ten-year-old Erica replies, “and I know why. Something’s missing. Do you know what it is?
“Tell me what it is. I’m not in the mood for guessing.”
“Every other night I’ve spent with you, your grandpa has told us a story before we went to bed.”
“Yeah, and tonight he’s already gone to bed. He said he wasn’t feeling well.”
Erica yawns, and looks over at Sandy’s twelve-year-old brother, Jeff, laid back in Mildred’s recliner, reading a comic book. “Hey, Jeff, I’ve never heard you tell a story. I bet you know some.”
“Don’t even think about it. I’m not doing it.”
“No problem there,” says Sandy, “Jeff always tells scary stories that give me nightmares.”
Erica looks quizzically at her friend. “Your grandpa has told us scary stories lots of times and you didn’t have nightmares.”
“That’s true, but Jeff’s stories are more scarier than Grandpa’s. And anyway, I’m just not in the mood to be scared tonight.”
“Actually,” Jeff says, “I am in the mood to tell a story, and it’s not scary at all. I promise it won’t give you nightmares. But before I begin, Sandy, you need to go pour the three of us a glass of lemonade.”
“Oh yeah,” Sandy says, standing and heading for the kitchen, “I’ll be the servant, why not?”
Returning from the kitchen, Sandy hands Jeff and Erica their lemonade, and after plopping down beside Erica, they both turn their attention toward Jeff. “Okay, we’re ready for the story. And it better not be a scary one.”
“This story,” Jeff begins, “is about a little girl who received a puppy from her parents for her birthday. It was a real cute puppy, white with brown spots. And it had short hair that didn’t get all tangled and matted like Stranger’s does.”
“Leave my dog out of this, if you don’t mind,” Sandy pipes up. “And by the way, his hair hardly ever gets matted up because I brush him a lot.”
“Well, anyway,” Jeff continues, “The little girl named the puppy Sparky, and she grew to love that puppy with all her heart.”
“What was the little girl’s name?” Erica shifts her weight on the sofa.
“Does it matter?” Jeff asks impatiently?
“It does matter, ‘cause we don’t want to hear you calling her the little girl through the whole story.”
Shrugging his shoulders, Jeff continues. “This little girl, whose name was Penny, enjoyed the puppy for like three months, then one day she came home from school, and her mother met her at the door with some bad news. Sparky had disappeared. ‘I searched the whole neighborhood for him,’ her mother explained, ‘but never found him.’
“Of course, Penny started crying her eyes out, but her mother told her that somebody probably took him home with them, so he would have a good home with people who loved him. She also told Penny that if after a couple of weeks Sparky didn’t show back up, they would get her another puppy. This made Penny feel a little better, but not much.”
“This story isn’t scary,” Sandy says, “but it sure is sad.”
“You want to know what’s really sad, Sandy?” Jeff replies. “You interrupting me, just like you do when Grandpa tells stories.”
“Sorry, I won’t do it again.”
“Yeah, right. I’ve heard that before. Anyway, two weeks went by, and Sparky never showed up. It was the saddest two weeks of Penny’s life. She missed the puppy so much. Then one day Penny’s dad told her it was time to get her another puppy. To his surprise, she said ‘no thanks. I’m not ready to give up yet. Sparky could still show up.’
“To make her feel better, her dad told her he was going to take her fishing. She loved going fishing more than anything. They got all the rods and gear together and walked down to the creek behind their property. They were sitting on the bank waiting for the fish to bite, when guess who walked up?”
“I don’t know,” Sandy replies, “the game warden, maybe?”
“No, Twerp, it wasn’t the game warden. It was Sparky. He was all dirty, and he smelled awful, but he seemed to be okay otherwise. He was still wearing the red collar Penny had put on him. Penny picked him up, her dad reeled in the fishing lines, and they headed home to show Sparky to her mother, and to give him a bath.
‘You guys sure are home early,’ Penny’s mother yelled from the kitchen, when she heard them come through the door.
‘Come in here, Mom,’ Penny cried out, ‘and see who came home with us!’
“At that moment, Sparky barked, but it didn’t sound like he sounded before, so Penny’s mother, thinking Penny’s dad had gotten her another dog, hurried into the living room. When she saw Sparky there in Penny’s arms, her face turned pale as a ghost.
‘Mommy,’ Penny said, ‘it’s Sparky, he was down by the creek where we went to fish. He smells awful but he’s okay.’
‘Get him out of here!” Her mother screamed, ‘get him out of here now!’
“Penny’s dad, seeing that her mother was about to fall over in a faint, grabbed her and saved her from hitting the floor. ‘Mommy, what’s wrong?’ Penny asked. ‘I thought you’d be happy to see Sparky.’
“Her mother, her face still pale, and her whole body trembling, told them what was wrong. ‘Sparky never ran away,’ she explained. ‘I ran over him when I was backing out of the drive. He was dead! I just couldn’t bring myself to telling you and your dad that I killed him, so I carried his dead body down to the creek and buried him!’
“I knew it!” Sandy says, jumping up from the sofa. “I knew I couldn’t trust you to keep your word. That’s the scariest ending I’ve ever heard in a story. Well, Jeff, don’t complain when we wake up from nightmares tonight and climb in bed with you.”
Writers’ workshop and writing group