This story is by Coleen Holley and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I woke up to the sound of snuffling, scratching and whining. The room smelled…different.
The door was white, not wood. There was no dresser, the desk was not the same. Where was I? There was food and water, and a nice place to sleep, but this wasn’t my room.
My sister was there. She hunched in a ball under the strange desk; she looked scared. I walked over to her, she was shaking, “Where are we, Lexi?” I asked. I gave her a quick nudge and looked over my shoulder at the noises coming from the closed door.
She cracked an eye open at me, “I don’t know Dusty, I remember mama putting me in the back of the car, the vibrations made me sick. I still don’t feel good. What happened? I heard you in the car, but I couldn’t see you. Why did mama take us away? Why is everything so different? What is that noise?”
I walked to the door, pushed on it, it didn’t budge. I looked under it. I could see shadows and the snuffling sound grew louder. A loud, high-pitched whimper assaulted my ears. The door rattled like someone was banging on it, but no one entered.
I screamed, “Let us out.”
The only response was a raucous howl followed by excited barking.
I couldn’t tell what time it was, but there was light coming in through the slats in the shuttered window. I checked the view outside; this wasn’t my home. All I could see was a large green bush in front of the window, too dense to make out details of the street, or where we were.
Lexi came out from under the desk. She was still shaking and made scared little noises in her throat, but she wasn’t crying.
I went back to the door and banged against it. The barking took on a feverish pitch, with a loud yowling that came from another source. Dogs. Two of them now.
Where were we? Why had mama abandoned us in this room? Poor Lexi, she didn’t deserve this. I didn’t think I did either. I thought back to the last day at our old home. We’d eaten dinner and were sitting around watching the big screen TV. Mama wasn’t home yet. She seldom was anymore, but grandmother and Auntie fed us and cared for us while mama was away.
I couldn’t remember doing anything to make my mama leave us. She would go to work every day, and when she got home, she would feed us and play with us, read to us, and tuck us in bed when she got tired.
Now, all I could see was this room. Four white walls, a closet, two bookcases, the new desk, a few toys, and it was colder than our old room. I checked the closet to see if there was any way to get through it into another room. Nothing. A shelf with movies on it. Lots and lots of movies. I supposed we would stay entertained if mama remembered to put a movie on for us, but there was no TV.
Mama might play some of those movies on her computer for us. I couldn’t read yet, but I was trying to see what the movies were. I looked at the covers, some videos looked old, some new; most were about war and sword fighting. I didn’t remember any of these videos from before. These weren’t my mama’s movies.
I waited for mama to come home on the first day. When she entered the room, I waited for her to pick me up. She did, then she sat in the chair in front of the strange desk. She cuddled me on her lap, “I’m sorry buddy, I know this is all new and scary, but you’ll get used to it soon.” She smoothed my hair and rocked me, “this is our new home now. I’ll let you out of this room as soon as we get the dog trained. You hear that scratching and whining?”
I listened. I could hear the scuffling at the door. The dog was barking again. Sometimes the dog settled down, but most of the time I could hear it outside the door, waiting. Maybe it was hungry, maybe it wanted to eat me. I didn’t know, and I didn’t want to find out. I looked up at mama and said, “Where are we? Why did we come here? Why does the dog want to eat me?”
She continued to soothe me, she hugged and whispered to me, “The doggie is Luna. We want her to get used to you before we let you out, so she won’t hurt you.” Mama encouraged Lexi to come out from underneath the desk. “It will be okay soon babies. It will all work out. It will take a little time, but soon we’ll all be one big happy family.”
A new family? I could hear other voices. If we would be part of the family, why couldn’t we come out? Was the dog that bad? Why did the dog hate me? I’d never met the dog. How could it hate me if it never met me? “Why do we have a new family mama? Why does the dog hate me?”
She didn’t answer me. She set me back on the chair beside her and picked up Lex. She soothed Lexi as she’d soothed me. She rocked her back and forth and whispered everything would be all right, our new daddy loved us too, but he wanted us to be safe.
The dog. Over the next few days, I grew to hate the dog. If I went near the door, the dog snuffled at the bottom, scratched at it and howled. I could hear mama and another voice scold the dog. “Down Luna” I heard a deep voice say. “Off Luna,” mama would say. Still, they didn’t open the door.
Mama didn’t let us out. She slipped in and out of the door through a narrow opening. I tried to see out while mama was coming in or going out, but all I saw was a black dog trying to stick its nose into my room. MY ROOM. If I was stuck in here, then this was “MY” Room.
After a week, mama came in and didn’t shut the door behind her. I looked, and, sure enough, the door was open. I tried to go out, but there was a screen there. The locked screen wouldn’t budge when I pushed against it. I rattled it, but as soon as I did, the big scary dog ran over and barked at me. The dog peered in the screen; I looked out. The dog was bigger than me. It was black and had white paws. She snuffled at me through the screen. When I tried to open it, she jumped on it, scratching and howling. I retreated. Lexi cowered behind the chair.
Another dog would sometimes come sniff at the door, but it didn’t scratch the door down. The other dog’s name was Dori. She seemed nice.
Mama brought the new man in “MY” Room, and introduced him, “Dusty, Lexi, this is your new Daddy, Wes.”
He ruffled my hair and patted Lexi on the head, “Nice to meet you, kids.”
He scolded the dog to stop scratching at my door, “Luna, no, you can’t go in there, you have to be nice.” Momma and Wes pushed her away but they never let us out.
We could see out the screen door, but if we got too close, Luna would run over and scratch at it. She whined and snuffled at the screen door every day. Mama and the man would shoo the dog away, they’d give her treats if she moved away from the door and calmed down. The other dog, Dori walked by and looked in, but she never tried to get in. I tried to make friends with her through the screen.
One day several weeks later, Wes put a harness on Luna and mama opened the screen door. I peeked out while our new daddy held Luna back. Dori came waddling over and slipped in the door. Lexi screamed. I stood my ground. Dori sniffed me and walked away. I went to the door.
Mama held it open. “You have a good hold on Luna?” she asked Wes.
“Yes, she won’t get Dusty, I won’t let her,” he replied.
I walked up to the dog – Luna. She blocked the exit to the room. The room that was my sanctuary. She sniffed me. She tried to lick me.
It scared me. I screamed and backed away.
“It’s okay Dusty,” I heard mama say from the doorway. She turned to the dog, “No Luna, you can’t eat the kitty. No kitty.” She turned back to me, “Come on Dusty, you can come out for a little while now. We’ll make sure the dog doesn’t get you.”