This story is by Jacob Compton and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Sophia sat up in bed, her baby blue nightie clinging to her body with sweat despite the cool chill of the fall air. She had another nightmare last night. Sophia been having them since her grandmother, a pillar in her life for thirty years had passed away at the ripe old age of ninety. That fact that grandma Mable had died on her motorcycle while on vacation at Bike Week in Daytona Beach, Florida did not help with the loss. Mable had died of a regular heart attack while on her bike pausing to take a picture. At her funeral, the American Motorcycle Association members of the local chapter had ridden as an honor guard for her. Mable Anderson had influenced her granddaughter in taking on the field of nursing as her profession. She had also instructed Sophia in many other ways, from sowing and cooking to skateboarding, Mable had been sixty-five, Sophia twelve, to embracing life. They had gone to get their noses pierced together. And to embrace different ideas, such as shag carpeting being a decorating option for your walls. The funeral and aftermath had been difficult for Sophia.
Her grandmother had left Sophia some money, clothes, jewelry, and of course Buddy. She hated Buddy. Buddy was now sitting at the foot of her bed, his tail wagging at her waiting for her to get up. Buddy needed food, water, and of course to go pottie, Sophia was sure. Sophia rolled her eyes and got out of bed. It was Friday which meant no courses at the university where she taught classes on nursing. She stuffed her pale white toes into a pair of ratty old slippers that she just could not bear to throw away. They had nothing to do sentimental value, but everything to do with comfort.
“Coffee first,” she yawned stretching her arms over her head then pointing at Buddy “then you.” Buddy let out a whine but followed her into the kitchen. Sophia got the pot of coffee brewing and looked out at the at the freshly fallen leaves when the cold wet nose of a German Shepard went some place it should not. Sophia screamed aloud and turned around and the saw the look of shame on Buddy’s face. It did nothing to cool her rage, it only made her angrier at the offending hound. “Don’t do that,” she roared. Sophia but a hand over her sternum while she tried to calm down. With a shake of her head she quickly got dressed for the weather in jeans, a flannel shirt, black wool coat and knitted cap. She attached Buddy to a leash and the two of them went out in the cold morning air.
Sophia stood on the sidewalk in front of her white rambler. To the left was old Mrs. Karkinnen grabbing her paper and mail in nothing but a pink and white house coat over her nightgown and hiking boots.
“Morning Mrs. Karkinnen,” she called.
“Morning dear,” replied the old woman “nice dog that.” She had told Sophia that every day since Buddy came.
“You want him?” Sophia asked as she always did.
“No thanks,” said the old woman “I got Alfred already, at this age I can only handle one man!” Mrs. Karkinnen burst out laughing at her own joke and started to walk into her house. Before she did she turned towards Sophia and warned “Be careful now,” she pointed down the street “Ernie Gorst is out and about.”
Sophia looked down the street to where she pointed. Ernie Gorst was maybe in his early twenties. Sophia didn’t know if the young man was mentally handicapped, insane or just plain weird. He stood there with the body of an eggplant and flame red hair mumbling to himself and watching her. Sophia tucked a lock of brown hair back behind her ear and looked at Buddy who looked back at her. “Come on stupid, let’s get your business over with, I still got a social life.” Buddy whined in replied and they walked along. Buddy made three pit stops and out came a plastic bag from Sophia’s pocket to collect the offending mess. “You are disgusting,” she told the dog as she bent over to pick up the last one. Buddy chose that moment to lick Sophia’s cheek. “Ugh!” she cried as she flew back and fell on her butt. “Gross!” she eyed Buddy “Stupid mutt.” Buddy just smiled at her.
Sophia got Buddy back to the house, fed and watered. She took a shower, brushed her hair and teeth then dressed in the same clothes and headed to her friend Maddy’s house for an afternoon of finger food, wine and black and grey romantic movies. Maddy greeted her at the door “Hey, Soph,” she looked down at Sophia’s feet “no Buddy?” she gave a questioning eye brow.
“I left the big loser at home,” mumbled Sophia.
“Ok, but you should be nice to him,” shrugged Maddy. Sophia shook her head and followed her friend into the living room where they drank bottles of white wine, ate an assortment of cheese, fruit, and bread, while watching movies that had them swooning over bygone eras.
In one movie the female lead, Audrey Hepburn, was saved from a drunken lout as the movie put it by the dashing Rex Harrison. With a shake of the lout’s coat and the raised fist, Rex sent the drunk running and scrambling away from the beautiful Audrey who grabbed her champion’s arm and professed how brave he was. “I think that’s what every woman wants,” said Sophia.
“What?” asked Maddy a piece of apple in her mouth.
“A guy who stands up for her,” sighed Sophia. Maddy mumbled her agreement. After another movie and another bottle of wine Sophia bid her goodbyes to Maddy and began the trek back to her own home. Maddy’s house was only a few snow laden streets from her own so Sophia had walked there and was going to walk back as well.
Night had descended on their town while she was at Maddy’s house but Sophia paid it no attention as she was thinking about the movies she had watched and her next week of classes when girls in their sorority hoodies and pajama pants would crowed into her classroom to learn how to give care to the sick and aid to the doctors.
As she stepped up on to the sidewalk in front of her own home she heard the mumblings of a madman “Pretty, pretty!” Sophia turned to see Ernie Gorst before he knocked her down. He was mumbling and drooling. Ernie was bending over hands stretched out. The fall had dazed Sophia, her mind was screaming suggestions at her like run, kick him in the nuts, but she froze up.
From the corner of her eye she saw her front door bang open and a brown and black blur knocked Ernie back. With teeth flashing and a growl emanating from his throat Buddy had Ernie on the ground, the madman’s arm between his teeth. Sophia looked between the two surprised. “Did I forget to lock the door again?” she mumbled to herself.
“What is goin on out here!” Sophia looked over her shoulder to see Alfred Karkinnen standing there in blue and white striped boxers, a white undershirt and slippers on his feet. He was brandishing his shotgun in his hands.
Ernie saw Alfred and a made a sound that could only be registered as fear. Somehow Ernie got his arm out from Buddy’s jaw and hobbled down the road. Buddy made to give chase barking as he did. “Buddy!” cried Sophia. The dog turned and came back to her making whimpering sounds, Sophia wrapped her arms around the dog’s neck and pulled him closer to herself.
“Have to call the police about him,” said Alfred standing next to her watching Ernie run down the road. The old man looked down at Sophia and Buddy. “That’s some dog ya got there.”
“Yeah, he is,” said Sophia with a smile.