Thanks to Alysa for taking over the task of the Fiction entries each week. It has been changed from Friday to Wednesday. I chose the prompt of taking a "first line" (in italics) from a book and going from there.
I will link it to the new page as soon as Alysa posts it. I will not be around tomorrow, thus the early start. Thanks, Alysa!!
There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.
Tina sighed and took another sip of steaming tea. It wasn’t sweet enough. It never was.
The rain had been falling for hours. The gutters could no longer handle the flood, and the failed drainage forced a river of debris into the streets. Tina held back her own tiny river- the tear that rolled down her cheek.
Riley had loved his walks.
With her commitment to the daily walk temporarily suspended, Tina allowed herself to remember the day Riley came into her life. It had been a day much like today. Newly divorced, alone in a new city, and at odds with everything about her, Tina was busying herself with mundane tasks. She had never felt so alone, so useless, so purposeless. Gathering up the loose trash and stuffing it into the sack, she struggled with the ties. The wind rushed through the front door as she opened it, pushing her and her bulky burden sideways against the railing. Righting herself, Tina braced against the slanting rain and made it the few steps to the trash bin. As she turned to hurry back, something brushed her leg. Recoiling at the slimy sensation against her calf, Tina almost landed an intuitive kick. Then she recognized her adversary. A forlorn, pathetic pair of eyes stared up at her from a face made seemingly only of hair. Drenched, plastered hair. A midsized dog-body wagged a hopeful stubby tail.
It was only the wagging tail that distinguished the creature as a dog, rather than a large cat. All possibility of remaining dry gone, Tina bent to touch the bedraggled puppy. It seemed friendly enough. She was certainly not going to leave it out here in weather like this, so picking it up carefully and tucking it under her coat, Tina stumbled back to the door, this time with a “tail wind”. The wind pushed her through the entry, and she slammed the door against its hostile force.
The “puppy” turned out to be a male dog with no collar and a voracious appetite. Tina bathed him in the kitchen sink, sudsing him with warm soapy water and talking to him in a soothing voice. He didn’t seem to need soothing. Once clean and relatively dry, he made himself quite at home as he methodically explored every corner of the apartment. He then settled contentedly into the meal Tina prepared from leftover hamburger and vegetables and rice. It was the best she could do. She was NOT going shopping in this weather.
Over the next few days, Tina made efforts to find the owner of the lost dog. She called local veterinary offices and posted his picture in the city shelter. She put up signs on the street once the weather cleared and the signs were sure to remain in place. No one called.
Tina checked with her landlord and found she would be allowed to have a dog there. She wasn’t certain if that was good news. It seemed to sanction the attachment she was beginning to feel for the mutt. She bought dog food in small amounts, not willing to commit to a larger amount or a longer term of feeding. She held off on calling him anything but “good boy.” That seemed way too permanent. You name something, it’s yours.
Apparently the dog felt no such hesitation. He took over the house, adopted the corner chair, and proved himself trained and trustworthy to do his “business” outside. He rarely left her side. Someone had trained him.
Eventually “good boy” became Riley, and Tina and Riley became an item. One thing he insisted on was his daily walk. He did consent to stay home when it rained, but any other day found him standing under the hook his leash was hanging from, staring meaningfully at the door.
As it turned out, the rescued Riley in turn rescued Tina. She got out of the house, she got out of herself. She began enjoying life again, and she and Riley made many friends in the new neighborhood. Tina found a job, eventually started her own business, and grew comfortable in her new life. That was twelve years ago.
There is something wrong with a system where one best friend only has a life span about a sixth the length of the other’s. Riley had a long and joyful life, but dogs don’t last forever. When Tina had found him curled in his favorite chair one morning, still and unresponsive, she knew there would be no walk that day.
When she was finally able to do so, Tina resumed the walks. She did it in memory and in honor of Riley, and she never missed a day, walking their usual route, greeting the usual friends. That was four months ago. She hadn’t missed a day. Until today.
Tina stared out the window, unable to really see anything. The rain pelted the patio. No longer in the small apartment, Tina looked around the now empty house. She and Riley had moved in here about three years ago. Riley needed a yard, after all! She spotted her opened book on the table; page marked and re-read at least a dozen times. She had trouble concentrating lately. The walks really helped.
She and Riley had kept to a routine. Tina glanced at the clock. Right now they would be somewhere near the post office. Then they would pass the bank, and then the corner Starbuck’s. On a nice day, Tina would stop for tea; Riley curled under her chair on the outdoor patio. The owner always saw her coming, always had her tea ready. She hoped he didn’t expect her today.
Tina picked up her book and tried once again to get into the story. She had been reading for about ten minutes when she heard something outside. Trying to make anything out through the fogged window was useless. She couldn’t see anything clearly. Tina heard it again.
Opening the door, she scanned the patio. Not seeing anything, she began to close the door when suddenly the porch rocker moved. Then it moved again. Cautiously, Tina walked over to the chair. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Curled up, drenched, pathetic and tangled, a small dog peered up at her from under the chair cushion.
It wasn’t Riley. It wasn’t as big as Riley, it wasn’t the same color. It wasn’t even male, as it turned out. But it was a rainy day, and Tina was lost and once more at odds with everything around her. She chose to believe that Riley had seen that she was once again in need of rescuing..and had sent a friend who would be up to the task.