This story is by Lilian Gardner and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I checked my watch for the umpteenth and drew aside the chintz curtain of the kitchen window to access the footpath bordered by pine trees that led to the garage.
As I watched the taxi pull up, I knew Glenda was desperate. From our last phone chat, she said she had a month’s time to resolve her problem, and that Russ preferred her to be alone with Kevin, so he wasn’t coming She was sorry that Kevin and his stepfather were antagonists.
I donned my heavy garden coat and ran to greet them. The driver adjusted the meter, walked to the boot and unloaded two robust travelling bags. I picked them up while Glenda paid him, and then turned to embrace me.
“Hi Pam,” she said, hugging me.
“Hello, dear,” I said, the two travel bags hindering my ability to hug her back.
After complimenting each other of how good we looked, she squatted beside her son, brushed back the thick, blond fringe from his forehead, and said, “Look lovey. This is Aunty Pam. She visited us last year. She’s my best friend and we’ll stay with her for a month.” Pause. “Won’t you say hello?” she encouraged.
In his furtive glance at me, I saw recognition. Then he turned his attention back to kicking a cone lying on the path. I considered it best to make the first move.
“Hi, Kevin. I’m happy to see you and your mom. Here, gimme five,” I said, putting out my hand, which he ignored. Glenda was ready to scold him, but I made a gesture to let it slide. “Comm’n, let me show you the house,” I said, marching towards the cottage before them.
I put the bags down on the kitchen steps, unlocked the door, and stood aside to let them through. “This way,” I said, leading through the kitchen and to the lounge.
“A lovely, spacious room,” Glenda said with an appraisal, allowing her eyes to access the lounge. “I love those panoramic windows.” She looked at the ceiling, then at the wall hangings and ran her finger over the antique writing desk. “It’s cozy in here,” she commented, walked to the hearth and stretched her hands towards the flaming logs.
I thanked her. Meanwhile, Kevin drew a chair to the window, climbed on and stood, looking out.
I decided not to worry because his mother was present and if it was okay for her, it was for me, too. Glenda accepted my offer of tea. When I put the cups and cake on the center table I expected Kevin to join us, but he did not move.
“What yer looking at, lovey?” Glenda asked, and stopped mixing her tea.
“I want to go outside. Can I go out, please?” His imploring blue eyes could melt the hardest heart.
Glenda turned to me. “I think we should ask Aunty Pam,” she said.
“Tell you what,” I said, thinking rapidly. “Let’s finish our tea. Then we’ll put the bags in your bedroom. After that, we can jog on the beach. What do you say, Kevin?”
His eyes lit up and a smile parted his lips to reveal a set of pearly, milk teeth.
“Do you mind if I stay home and rest?” Glenda asked. “My feet are sore. But before you go off, I need a word with you, Pam. Kevin, go sit in the lounge for five minutes, lovey.”
He looked at her, jutted out his chin said, “And don’t say all those things ’bout me.”
“No, ‘course I won’t,” she replied.
When Kevin left the room, she stepped to the door, softly closed it, returned to relax on the bed and patted a spot for me to sit.
“You remember about Kevin’s problems?” she asked. “Well, he’s worse now. The social authorities have threatened to take him from me. I’ve given up my job but they he needs skilled care to avoid him growing up into a violent, bullying youth. I begged them to give me time and that I’d ask for your help. They know you worked a miracle with the Harvey twins. We have a month to make a change in Kevin.” She sighed and looked at me with a resigned expression. “He gets upset over something, sulks, and is very aggressive when he’s in that mood. It might happen on your walk together. Do you want to risk it? You’re expert and know how to react, but my advice is, don’t try to soothe him if you see him scowl and fold his arms across his chest. It only makes him worse and he might bite, kick or hit you. Just jog back home and he’ll follow. At times, ignoring him seems to wear off his grumpy mood much quicker.”
I felt uneasy but before I could speak, Kevin burst into the room.
“Okay. Let’s go now,” he said, snatching my hand and shaking my arm with vigor.
“You’ll need to put on a pair of waterproof shoes, or boots,” I said.
Glenda unzipped a bag, fished around and handed him a pair of shiny, black rubber boots.
He sat on the floor, plucked off his shoes, threw them under the bed and zipped on the boots. “Hurrah! Let’s go,” he yelled, dashing out of the room.
“Careful,” Glenda warned. I smiled back to reassure her and dashed out after Kevin.
He loped up the footpath by which he came. “No, Kevin,” I yelled, “this way.” I pointed in the opposite direction and waited for him to join me before unlatching the side gate, which opened onto a grassy field.
We jogged on the grass and Kevin hollered ‘yippee’ each time he hurtled over a puddle. He stopped suddenly and inhaled deeply. The light of joy in his eyes illuminated his face and I thought he resembled cherubim.
“There’s the sea,” he said in awe and watched the waves rolling shoreward.
“Come on, let’s jog to the edge of the beach so you can see the sea up close,” I suggested.
We jogged in silence, watching the squatting gulls take wing as we approached them.
We kept up this practice for a whole week and Glenda often joined us. One day he began to sulk, so I suggested collecting shells, and the mood passed. He enjoyed drawing in the sand with a pointed stick or chasing his mother. His moods improved by the outdoor exercise.
On the eight day, towards the end of our jog, we came upon a black, furry heap.
“I think it’s a dog,” I said. “Don’t go near. I’ll whistle and see if it moves.”
Kevin crept near and took my hand. “Hey, doggie,” I cooed. “Are you lost, my darling?”
The animal raised its head, whined softly, and slunk towards us, with belly lowered and tail wagging. It was sizing us up before making friends.
“Poor darling,” I said, patting its head, at which it gained courage and frolicked around us with pure, doggie joy.
“Can I touch him?” Kevin asked.
“Sure. Be gentle. He might run away if we scare him. I think it belongs to a fisherman and was left behind when the man went away on his boat,” I explained.
“I can’t see any boats and the doggie is alone,” Kevin said, looking out to sea. “Will he stay here all night if his daddy doesn’t come to get him?”
“I suppose so. Well, let’s jog home and see if he follows us,” I suggested.
We began jogging, with Kevin looking back often to tell me that the doggie was following.
When we reached home, I poured warm milk into a bowl and asked Kevin to put it near the steps for the doggie. “We’ll have to give him a name, you know. We can’t always call him doggie,” I said.
“I know. I know,” the child chorused, jumping up and down. “Let’s call him Blackie.”
“An excellent name,” I agreed.
We took Blackie back to the beach next day and the next, for the following week, but no one came to claim him.
Kevin sat on a mound of sand, looking out to sea. “Supposing somebody comes to take him back?” he asked a sad look in his eyes.
“He’s your doggie now,” I said to Kevin. “Call him.”
“Blackie, Blackie,” the child called.
The dog frolicked around, put his paws on Kevin’s knees and licked his face.
As time went by, they became inseparable friends. Kevin tended to the animal‘s needs with dedication and loving care. His sullen moods were less frequent and finally vanished. Each day he brushed Blackie’s thick, long coat until it shone.
“I know Blackie loves me and I love him. I think Daddy will like him, too.”
Glenda and I exchanged looks. Kevin had not mentioned Russ until now. It meant acceptance of his parent.
“Pam, I can’t thank you enough,” she said.”
“Love is the cure,” I replied, and embraced her warmly.