A Boy and his Dog

“Heeeelp,” he screamed. He felt self-conscious. Every part of his body ached. Bud’s head was silhouetted against the sky — his whining filled the space, comforted the boy, and annoyed him all at once. “Go, boy. Get help.” Bud was torn.  He clearly could not come down but he could not bring himself to leave. The boy insisted: “Go!” Bud’s ears pricked up and he barked a single decided bark, loud and clear. It reverberated inside the well and overwhelmed the boy, a thunderous explosion that drilled into his skull as he fell unconscious.

 

Bud was barking outside the kitchen door, where he could clearly see and hear Mama going about her business. She was paying him no mind. The barking, shuffling of feet and whining continued uninterrupted. Dad said later he looked up from his work to see what the commotion was about. Bud was behaving oddly, even for Bud. He called to Ma. “Ma, open the door.” The door opened but Bud did not come in. He was doing some kind of stationary dance, like the bees do to indicate a potential source of food. The humans stood fascinated. Finally, Dad said, “Where’s the boy?” At that, Bud jumped in the air and ran to him, stopping in front of him and repeating his dance. Dad started walking and Bud running, turning his head again and again to make sure Dad was following. Dad hurried his steps.

Ma stood looking, hands on her hips, a rag clutched in one hand. Her wiry figure was taunt with expectation. She did not understand what was going on but knew it was momentous. The youngest stood at her side, one arm around her calf, her thumb stuck in her mouth. She pointed, “Da!” as the man all but disappeared in his haste. A big smile crossed her face which changed into a frown when she looked up at her mom. Mom was frowning, dark clouds upon her forehead. The baby started fretting. Nothing good would come from that brow.

 

The man and the dog arrived at the broken pieces of wood in the ground. The man kicked himself for being negligent. He should have filled the hole years ago, should have replaced the rotten planks years ago, should have built a wall around it with danger signs and pirate skulls. He should have seen it coming, and kept his boy safe. “Hullo?” He felt foolish. “Anybody there?” he joked. Why did he say that? He was a shy man, not prone to showing affection. Bud barked loudly. Something stirred in the hole. He heard crying and his heart did the rest. How he got the boy out, he himself did not remember. When he came home, all dirty, the boy asleep in his arms, licked clean by an overjoyed Buddy, the dog got a double helping of food with tasty scraps and much petting. The boy was black and blue, bruised and chastened. No harm done, no harm done.

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