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Life in Dog Years (standard:adventure, 877 words)
Author: Andrew DaytonAdded: Jan 28 2011Views/Reads: 3371/0Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
From a short story contest. First sentence was given. The rest is my take on it.

Life in Dog Years 

The feet of her pajamas offered no protection as she trudged through the
deep drifts. She was crying when she glimpsed a light off in the 
distance that swam in her tears. She ran in that direction. 

Behind her, voices called,” Josette! Josette!”  Flashlights crisscrossed
in the dark, looking for her trail. 

Josette scanned the ground before her for a sign that Sammy had run in
this direction.  Her feet, aching only minutes before, felt like wooden 
stumps as she kept plunging through the snow.  She never once thought 
of turning back, not yet.  The allure of the fireplace at the academy 
was enough to make her 7 year old's will falter but the memory of 
Madame Bickleman's harsh cries as she threw little Sammy out into the 
cold steeled her resolve.  Sammy was only 1 year old, a wriggling 
bundle of puppy that her mama had given her as a gift just weeks 
before.  In her parents' absence she loved him with the might only a 7 
year old could possess.  Madame Bickleman, Mistress of L'academie de 
Saint Jeanne D'arc, was pleasant to her parents when they dropped  her 
off, but Josette could see that she wasn't the kind of person that 
liked dogs. 

Ahead, the train whistled, the midnight train from Rouen to La
Vaupaliere.  She guessed that Sammy would see the depot light and head 
there.  Out in the open fields now, with the forest behind her the wind 
bit her with teeth, but she put her hands over her face and ran on.  
Ahead of her, Sammy found a patch clear of snow and sat, frightened and 
whining. Josette saw him sitting on the tracks and ran the last 50 
yards to him through the swirling snow. 

The headlamp of the train leaving the station shone its light full upon
Sammy, casting him in a frozen nimbus.  Josette was filled with horror 
at the sight, a scream choking in her throat.  She stumbled forward, 
fear energizing her numbed legs.  She faltered as she ran up the slope 
to the tracks, not feeling the stones that thrust up at her feet. 

The roar of the train filled the night as she gained the top of the
slope and grabbed at Sammy, clutching him even as she tripped over the 
tracks, carrying him to safety. 

Cold, so cold.  Suddenly, faces were surrounding her, strong hands
carrying her.  Someone tried to take the puppy from her but she clung 
to him, even as consciousness faded. 

She dreamed then, that her papa returned from the coal ship he drove
from Cardiff and Mama had returned from Strasbourg where she tended the 
wounded in what was being called the Great War. 

For several days she dreamed thus until she awoke, feeling Mama touching
her face, and the sun's warmth on her body. “Mama?” ”Shh,  ma 
bichette.” Her mama smiled at her, though tears shone in her eyes.  
“You must rest.  Would you like something to eat?” Josette was hungry.  
“Oui, mama.  Sammy....” “Is fine.  Papa took him outside and the nurses 
are letting the other children play with him.” 

Nurses! Josette looked around the strange room.  She was in a hospital? 
She looked around the room, at Mama, at her bed. “Oh Mama!  Oh 
Mama....”    She broke into tears and Mama held her tight.  She rocked 
her little girl as the sobs escalated. 

Papa walked into this tableau and stopped at the door.  He pulled the
cap from his head and twisted it between calloused hands.  The moment 
stretched out accompanied only by the sound of Josette's sobs and 
Mama's gentle murmers. 

A soft scratch at the door and suddenly Sammy was in the bed with her
licking the tears from her face and chuffing his happiness to be back 
with her.  Josette held him until finally, she sank back to her pillow 
and fell asleep. 

Mama and Papa walked quietly through the door and sat on a bench in the
hall. “Audric, what are we going to do?”  Mama asked. “Doctor says she 
will be fine” he soothed “and when she is home, you can work at Base 
Hospital 21 here in Rouen. I will be transferred to Le Havre and can 
come home every two weeks.” Silence fell and they held each other 
tightly, encompassed in a bubble of grief and love. 

The years spun out slowly, lit by the warmth and happiness of a close,
loving family.  But even love cannot keep time at bay, and eventually 
Josette was a mother herself.  Her parents, though gone these long 
years, still taught her how to love a child, and to keep uppermost the 
important things in life. 

One sunny spring afternoon Josette sat on the patio watching her 5 year
old daughter, Maude, playing in the garden with her new puppy.  Maude 
skipped over to her and climbed up on the wheelchair.  She was tired 
and lay her head against Josette's chest.  She looked down where Mama's 
legs used to be and asked, “Mama, why did Grand-mere and Grand-pere 
have to die in that war?” Josette stroked Maude's black curls. “Ah, ma 
bichette, they loved France very much.  When you love something very 
much it is right to risk everything.” 

Andrew Dayton 


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