This story is by Frank Caudle and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Circumstances may have you cooped up in a cage. Confined to limited surroundings. No chance for exploration.
Let me explain my life. I desire and beg for freedom but have little of it. I have dreams of what it would like to be free to do as I wish. What would it be like to come and go as I please, I ask myself? I don’t know, but I can dream.
One day, I’ll understand, there is freedom outside my restrictions. But for now, I enjoy my temporary release from confinement. It feels so good to stretch my legs. Hey, they still work. Ah yes. They do move. A little stiff, but they work.
Now, where do I go? I have the freedom, at least for the moment, to choose. I must decide before some voice limits my rights and confines me again. Greener pastures here I come. Free me from the asphalt and the concrete of humanity. Breathe the fresh air of the outdoors, feel the breeze, as it whispers through the trees. Watch the squirrels run and play. Maybe even hear the birds chirp and sing.
I’ll give my legs some exercise. No need to do the warmup, I’ll just run. Then run some more. OK, how about walking for a minute—time’s up. Let’s jump. How high can I go? No, it’s not about the height or distance. It’s about the release of energy. Hey, the legs still have a spring in them, at least for my age.
Umm, what else can I find to do? As I look around, what new thing can I do to expand my horizons? What tweaks my curiosity? That appears unusual. Let’s take a closer look. No, that one’s not for me. What else is interesting around here? That seems different. Yay, this will do. What makes this thing work? I know I can figure this one out. Wrong again, it’s too complicated for my brain.
That’s enough exploring for now. I’m gonna chill for a moment. Let me find a cool spot and relax. The big Oak tree over there has plenty of shade. There’s a breeze now. I’ll lay back and enjoy the fresh air. It’s soothing to watch the limbs sway as the leaves catch the wind—my, what a subtle work of nature. Even the puffy clouds drift by.
That was neat to enjoy for a while—enough of this alone time. I’ve relished the quiet and the peace of Mother Nature. Oh well, it’s time to move on. Where and what to do is the question of the moment?
Maybe it’s time for some companionship. Oh, there’s Amber. I’ll hang out with her. She can carry on a conversation with anybody. I should prepare myself, though, Amber’s a talker. All I can do is listen. I can do that for a while. I settle in and get comfortable, as the conversation begins, or should I say dialogue? No, that doesn’t describe the situation. Amber does all the talking. Oh well, listening for a while won’t hurt. When my ears get tired, I’ll excuse myself and venture off. But for now, I’ll enjoy the moment and give my ears some exercise. Increase my vocabulary. It’s always good to learn new words and to find out how people think.
My ears are getting tired now. My brain can’t take anymore, although the conversation was interesting. It’s too much for me. I think I’ll go over there; that looks fascinating.
I get up, stretch my legs, and shake off the stiffness in my bones. Start to inspect my new interest. ZAP. Ouch, my neck jerks. I must have moved the wrong way, my neck hurts. What did I do wrong? I won’t do that again, at least not for a moment or two.
Maybe rethinking the situation will help. Let’s settle back in and do some more of this one-way conversation. Perhaps another lesson in listening won’t hurt. It’s always good to be all ears. My listening ability must need some improvement. At least that’s what my neck says.
Now to make the impression that I want to listen. When I don’t want to. Yeah, I know I’m not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition, but that’s life sometimes. We do what we want to do occasionally, and not what we’re supposed to do. After all, why can’t I do what I want to do? Why does it always have to be about someone else? I have rights. Pleasing everybody else all the time is not what I want to—they think so, but I don’t. I would like to have it my way sometimes. You would think they can give in occasionally; it won’t kill them to let me do what I want to do.
Yeh! I’ve heard it a thousand times before, “I’m trying to help you. I’m looking out for your safety. I’m doing this for your good.” It doesn’t seem like it to me. I want to do it anyway, and you won’t let me. Is that fair, why can’t I do it? Who is it going to hurt? Not you. I give in all the time. Not because I want to, but to make you happy and keep some peace in the family. But I still don’t like it. I’m doing it to please you and not me. Now I have the problem of getting over my hurt feelings, and that will take a while. They always hurt my feelings. They do it time and time again. It takes some getting used to, but I’ll get over it.
So, when I give in, let me have some downtime. Please don’t throw it up in my face at least for a little while. Can you do that? I know your answer is no. You always want me to comply. There’s no wiggle room is there? OK, I’ll do it. I’ll do it just for you.
Let me explain I’m Chase, the family dog confined to a dog pen. I’m only allowed out when someone else can be with me. I’m a good dog. I’m fed and protected. Most of all, I’m loved. Like everyone else, I like freedom, and I want my own rules, not everybody else’s. After all, that’s the way humans are. Why can’t we dogs have this same boundless privilege? I ask myself that question repeatedly. But I still haven’t come up with the answer. So, I give in and be obedient. I’ll just comply. It brings peace to the family, and it gives me a sweet home. I’m only six months old. But this one thing I’ve learned. Some things are not worth fighting for. Even ending a sentence with a preposition. Right or wrong, I got the last word. That’s the dog in me.