Author: BT Dulin
BT. Dulin is a Fiction Writer who lives in Kuwait and has always loved to travel, to see new places and people. His first short story was published in The Story Pub, and he has an ever-growing short story collection that is seeking a home. He is going to retire in Morocco.
It was a beautiful day. Little white clouds drifted lazily across a perfect blue sky. Emily could smell the summer grass as the breeze blew through the open window. She sat in the back of her parent’s car and was bored already. Pouting with her arms folded across her chest, she let out a petulant sigh.
“Where are we going?”
Her mother turned around with a smile and said, “I told you, it’s a surprise.”
Emily frowned, “I don’t want a surprise. Why couldn’t you just go get the surprise and leave me at home? My friends are online and waiting for me. We’re doing something special today. Ugh, you just don’t understand.”
“C’mon, Em,” said her father, “Let’s make today special. A memory day, OK?”
Emily stared out the window. Under her breath, she mumbled, “Memory day, memory day. Rot.”
They drove on for a bit longer, passing restaurants and ice cream stores. Emily watched out the back window as they wound through city traffic. ‘Ooo, that looks good,’ she thought.
“Can we stop and get ice cream, pleeeese? It’s hot back here,” she begged.
Her dad looked at her through the rearview mirror and gave her a wink, “Just be patient a little longer Em. We’re almost there.”
“Ughhh,” Em complained. “I’m missing a big match with my friends online. I should be there right now.”
“C’mon, Em, it’s good to get out in the real sun once in a while,” her mom said.
The sun coming through the window made the seat hot, so Emily slid over to the other side, out of the sun. ‘hmph, the real sun’s hot and makes my legs stick to the seat,’ she thought.
“Are we there yet?” she asked, bored beyond words.
“Here we are,” said her mom. She turned and gave Em a big smile as they pulled over and parked at the curb in front of some shops.
“I don’t see any ice cream shops here,” Em said, looking up and down the street as they got out of the car.
“Come on, Em, here’s the place,” said her father, “there’s someone who wants to meet you.”
“Oh, no,” Emily thought, “I don’t want to meet anybody, I got plenty of friends online, and they’re waiting for me right now.”
They got out of the car and walked into a small shop. It was a pet shop, and there was noise everywhere. Birds were chattering and squawking, dogs yipping and yapping. There were even monkeys making their oop oops, and howls.
“Hi, Jim,” her father said to the man behind the counter.
“Hello there, Mr. Reynolds. I’ve got him all ready to go. He’s in the back. Let me go get him.”
“What are we doing here?” asked Emily, slightly annoyed by all the noise and the smells.
“Just wait,” said her mother with a mischievous smile, “you’ll see in a minute.”
Jim came out from the back of the pet shop carrying a small black and white puppy that was all wiggles and sniffing and walked up to Emily. He bent down and set the little pup on the ground in front of her.
“Emily, this here’s Jiffer. I hope you like him.”
The little pup ran right up to Emily and started jumping and wiggling around between her feet. Yipping and jumping. Emily jumped back, “Eeee, he’s gonna bite me.”
The adults all laughed. Her father laughed, “He’s just a puppy, he won’t bite. He wants to get to know you. After all, he’s yours, sweetheart.”
“What?” Emily said, “I don’t want an old smelly dog.”
“Well, I bet after you spend a little time with him, he’ll get to be a great friend. He’s got a cute little collar and leash. You can take him for walks and play with him. C’mon, let’s take him to the park so you can get to know him a little bit. This will be a day you remember for the rest of your life. You just wait and see.”
Emily was not in the least bit excited about going to the park with this silly little dog, but he was kind of cute. They loaded back into the car, and the puppy was all over the back seat. He wouldn’t sit still.
“Ewww, he peed,” squealed Emily. “Give me some tissues.
“He’s just really excited about getting a wonderful new friend,” said her mother. Her mom and dad both laughed. Emily was glad they weren’t mad about him peeing.
“Just pet him and talk to him to calm him down. He’ll settle down,” said her dad.
“ugh...” thought Emily, “Come here, you,” and she pulled Jiffer over to sit beside her. She stroked his head, and he seemed to calm down a little.
They drove to Old Oak Park. A big sprawling wooded park on the outskirts of town. It was big enough for Jiffer to run but not too crowded with people or other dogs. A good place for Emily to get to know him.
They got out of the car, and Jiffer wanted to run and sniff everything. Emily was holding his leash, and when he wasn’t wiggling around under her feet, he was pulling her in one direction and, a second later, the next.
“He’s so full of energy. He just wants to explore everything,” Emily said as she tried to sit down on the bench next to her mom and dad. Jiffer was having none of this sitting-down nonsense. There were too many things to smell and discover.
“Go ahead and take him for a walk by the woods, but don’t go too far.”
“OK,” said Emily, “C’mon, you let’s go look at the woods, but you behave.”
Emily ran with Jiffer towards the woods. They stopped at the drinking fountain, and Emily got a drink and bent down to give Jiffer a drink from the faucet at the bottom. He got his whole head wet in the water and lapped it up. Then he jumped up, licked her in the face, and shook water all over her in a sparkling spray. Emily squealed and fell on her butt, wiping the water off her face and laughing. She dropped the leash, and Jiffer took off like a flash towards the woods.
“Jiffer, Jiffer, come back here, you,” Emily called, running as fast as she could to catch him. The quick little pup had a good lead on her and thought this was great fun. Running fast and dragging the leash behind him, he ran straight for the woods and disappeared down a narrow path.
“Oh, great,” she thought, frustrated, “now I’m gonna lose him, and I haven’t even had him for an hour. Mom and Dad are gonna kill me.” “Jiffer, here boy, Jiffer,” she called and cautiously walked into the woods. She stood at the opening of the woods. It looked kind of dark.
Emily went deeper into the woods. She looked everywhere for little Jiffer. “Here boy, here boy,” she called. She whistled and called, but Jiffer was nowhere to be found. She heard him bark ahead of her and ran after him, following the sound deeper into the woods.
Looking everywhere for Jiffer, Emily lost track of time and suddenly noticed that it appeared to be later than she realized. She was exhausted from chasing after that stupid puppy. She sat down under a big tree, mad and scared, and felt like she was going to cry. Then she heard Jiffer bark again, this time not too far away, and she got up and ran down the path, trying to catch up to him.
She came out of the woods into a small clearing, and, to her surprise, it seemed like it was full night. There was a small cabin with a lantern burning bright on the porch in the clearing. Someone was sitting on the porch in a rocking chair. It looked like an old woman. She was humming quietly, a tune strangely familiar to Emily, and rocking slowly. An old dog lay curled next to her, fast asleep. Emily decided to talk to her and ask if she might have seen Jiffer running around.
Emily approached the porch cautiously. When she was close enough, she could see the woman’s face. It was a kind face. Emily thought she had seen her somewhere before. She had been warned about not talking to strangers, especially one on the porch of a creepy old cabin deep in some dark woods. But she had to find Jiffer, so she plucked up her courage and asked, “Excuse me, ma’am, have you seen a little black and white pup running around here? He has a red collar and is dragging a leash.”
The old woman smiled, “Oh, there you are. Yes, you lost your pup, didn’t you? Come here on the porch so I can see you.” Emily looked at the old dog sleeping next to her. “Don’t you worry none about him. He’s a gentle old thing. He won’t bother you none.” The old dog raised his head a bit, gave Emily a sleepy, friendly look, wagged his tail a little, then laid his head back down.
“I got his great-granddaddy when he was just a pup. A long, long time ago. Ain’t that right, buddy,” the old woman reached down and scratched him behind the ears. “They loves it when you scratch ‘em there. It lets ‘em know you love ‘em. A good dog is the best friend you’ll ever have. You love ‘em, and they’ll love you like nothin’ else in this world.” The old dog thumped his tail against the porch as the woman talked.
“I just got Jiffer today, and he’s already run off,” Emily said, a little perturbed at the puppy for making her chase him. “I didn’t even ask for him. My mom and dad just got him for me. I already got a lot of friends online. I don’t need a puppy dragging me outside all the time.”
Oh, I see,” said the old woman, “like imaginary friends.”
“They’re not imaginary. They’re real,” Emily said, a little irritated at the old woman for saying her friends weren’t real.
The old woman gave her a curious look, “So, are they here with you? I mean, can you shake their hand or give them a hug? Can you go to the beach with them or to the park? Can you see the look on their face when you’re happy or sad or surprised?”
“Well…no…but…but,” Emily didn’t quite know what to say.
“Yeah, well, kind of, I guess so,” Emily said.
“You know, dear, life is a gift meant to be shared. It’s kind of like eating a birthday cake all by yourself. It’s so much better if there are friends to share it with.”
Emily looked at her. There was something so familiar about her, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it.
The old woman continued, “Each day should be a precious gem, a small priceless moment shared with those you love, those who are special to you. When you’re young, you hold in your hand a wonder jar. It is empty when you begin, but each day, you drop in a moment, a special memory that is yours alone. Each day, you drop one irreplaceable gem after the next into that jar. That well of eternity. But then, one day, when you are quite old, you hold up that jar and look at what’s inside, only to find empty bits of glass where there should be precious diamonds. You realize that all the moments you have dropped into the wonder jar have been empty moments with nothing shared, nothing given, nothing learned. No friends around that truly loved you, no memories of times spent with true companions in the warmth of the sun or the beauty of the moonlight. Too late, you realize that life is a gift meant to be shared, and each moment should be spent making priceless memories with friends and those who love you.”
Emily sat quietly, thinking about what the woman had said. She felt terrible about being such a brat when her mom and dad had only tried to give her something wonderful. Just then, she heard a yip and a bark. It was Jiffer. He was very close by in the woods, but the woods seemed so dark and scary.
“Emily jumped up, “That’s Jiffer, I…I gotta go find him.” She started to go, then hesitated at the thought of going into the dark woods alone. “I want to go, but…but I’m scared. It’s so dark.”
“Oh now, sweetheart, I know, I know. It’s scary in the woods alone, but I have something that will help.” The old woman removed a bracelet from her wrist and motioned Emily to come closer. “Here now, this is a very powerful good luck bracelet. I’ve had it for a long time, and it’s always brought me good luck. I was given it many years ago when I…well, when I was a young girl just about your age.” The old woman fastened it on her wrist with a kind smile. “There now. OH, look!” she said with a twinkle in her eye, “is that your little Jiffer?”
Emily turned, and sure enough, Jiffer was standing at the opening of the trail. Yipping and skittering, wagging his tail. Then with a quick turn, he ran away down the path, barking for Emily to catch him.
“That little scamp, Jiffer, you come back here,” Emily shouted after him and ran towards the trail. She turned back again quickly, “Thank you, Ma’am. Thank you so much. I feel luckier already. Bye.” Then she waved and took off after Jiffer.
She could hear him barking. She could tell she was getting closer. Then suddenly, she came around a bend in the trail, and there was Jiffer, standing at the base of a big tree, wagging his tail. He yipped and barked till Emily came running to him. She sat down next to him, and he jumped into her lap and began licking her face, his little tail wagging a hundred miles an hour.
“Oh, you little scamp, you gave me such a scare,” she said between laughs. Jiffer curled up in her lap, then rolled over on his back, and Emily began rubbing his little soft tummy. She leaned back against the tree and rested her head, thinking about what the old woman had said. The woods didn’t seem so scary now, even though it was still dark. “Mom and Dad are going to be so worried about us. We gotta get back as soon as we can. They’re probably looking for us everywhere. I’m just so tired, Jiffer. Let’s sit here a minute, then we’ll go find them.” She yawned and closed her eyes for what she thought was only a moment. The next thing she knew, her mom and dad were gently shaking her awake. “Emily, wake up, honey, wake up.”
“Huh? What?” she muttered, rubbing her eyes and looking around, surprised at the beautiful sunny afternoon. “What? What happened? I thought it was nighttime. It was dark.”
Her mom smiled and gently brushed a wisp of hair out of her face. “You must have been tired from chasing Jiffer around. You fell asleep under the tree with Jiffer on your lap.”
“No, I’ve been gone all night. It’s been hours. I’m sorry if I scared you. I didn’t mean….”
“No, it hasn’t, sweetie,” her dad said with a kind laugh, “it’s only been about an hour since you ran off with Jiffer to explore. We were walking at the edge of the woods and saw you asleep under the tree with Jiffer on your lap.” He smiled and ruffled Jiffer’s head, “I guess you got a new friend, huh?”
Emily picked up Jiffer and gave him a hug. Jiffer licked her face. “I sure do.”
Then she remembered, “Oh, but what about the old woman and…and.” Emily looked down at her wrist, and there was the lucky bracelet. She had not noticed it before, but it was made of different colored carved stone beads and tiny silver dogs running between the beads. She loved it and knew she would never take it off. That is until one day when she would pass it on to another young girl who was lost in the woods looking for that special friend.