"How come you're still in the house, Troy? It's such a beautiful day."
How can I tell mom I'm afraid of the new dog next door? His name is Ace and he's mean looking.
I watched him from my bedroom window this morning. When I saw him sitting on the porch showing off his teeth, I shivered.
I think he heard me whisper, "Ace is waiting for me." I wonder if he heard my heart pounding.
It was my job to walk to the store for milk, on Saturdays. "Mom, do I have to do it today?" I asked.
"Yes!" her voice thundered. "It's your job and we agreed."
"But," I stammered. No use. It was true. There was only mom and I since Dad died last year. So I have to help a lot more.
"What if I walked past Ace and he ate me up," I said. "Oops." Good thing mom didn't hear me complaining. I might have to go to bed a half hour early. I have to watch myself.
I put on my fastest running shoes, Nike Speedsters. I had to be ready, in case my feet had to zip away like Batman. Mom gave me her usual mushy hug.
But I liked it, even though my face scrunched up. "Thanks mom," my heart said as I nervously stepped outside.
Ace was still there on the sidewalk. His chain clanked on the concrete. Does he see me? I wondered.
My friends said he was a mean dog. They said he liked to bite little boys then chew their bones. Is it true? I worried. After all, I was new to the neighborhood and had to believe them.
My forehead was dripping as both hands squeezed tightly. My knees bumped together.
I got down on my hands and knees to check out the vicious dog. My body waited while my eyes looked around the back. That's it. I'll go behind our house, then behind Ace's house.
And I'll be home free.
My plan was working fine until my mother yelled. "Troy? Where are you?" Barking came from the front of the house.
"Here!" I had to yell back.
"You forgot the money for the milk," mom said, coming around the corner.
"Oh no." Ace actually did hear. There was more barking and growling. My feet did the Indy 500 back to our porch and skidded to a stop, landing on my mother's toes.
"Ouch," she said.
"Sorry," I answered.
"Then get off them."
"What's the matter with you?" she asked.
Could I lie to my mother? She looked like a fierce Ninja warrior standing before me. My mind made up instant video pictures. Maybe she could protect me. So I told her.
"Oh Troy, I'm glad you said something. Come on. You can hold onto my hand, if you want."
"No," I said. What if my new friends saw me?
"How about if I go first?"
"No. No." I knew I had to face Ace. It was my duty, in case I had to protect mom.
"Come on then, let's go," mom said.
We walked to the front of the house. This brought us very close to Ace. My feet almost did a 'scared-cat' dance to the back door. I looked back.
Mom was still coming. I had to go on.
"Hurry mom," my voice bravely said. "Please," my lips whispered.
Ace saw us and strolled to the end of his clanking chain. He groaned, then gave a long stretch and yawned. His mouthful of teeth made him look like an alligator.
I didn't dare get too close.
I just stood there, shaking. My feet were glued to the sidewalk.
"Well," mom said, "try petting him."
I stood still, as if I was a statue. My toes felt like 100 pounds each. My legs were like two towers placed in cement. Electricity seemed to fizzle out of my head.
Suddenly Ace came really close. I thought he was at the end of his chain, but he wasn't. There was at least two more feet of distance left. He sniffed my hands, then my legs.
Mom was watching and smiling. Smiling? Why?
I guess she must have known something I didn't. If she wasn't afraid, then I shouldn't be either.
My hand moved forward slowly, touching Ace on the cheek. His fuzzy face was warm and his nose felt like a wet sponge. After a while he even let me put my arm around his neck.
Ace looked up at me and closed his eyes.
Now it was my turn to smile.
* * *
Richard & Esther Provencher 2002
My wife, Esther and I really enjoy writing. It is an excellent salve, in addition to prayers, a great wife and family during my continuing recovery from a stroke/aneurysm. You can contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org re comments on our work. We live in Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada. Pray for others.