“For it is by muteness that a dog becomes for one so utterly beyond value; with him one is at peace, where words play no torturing tricks.”  John Galsworthy, English 1867-1933

NOTES FROM THE BLOG…it’s been a difficult time for dog-lovers…Nike has awarded Michael Vick a great big bone of an endorsement deal and James Lovell, the man who dragged the sweet “Little Brown Dog” showed up in court this week in Tennessee only to find he gets another seven months to roam free until a new court date in February despite the best efforts of some hardworking advocates… Let’s carry on anyway…

The 83rd Observance of National Dog Week will be honored the week of September 19th.  Use it as a time to make a difference.  For more information, please see ABOUT.

As promised, I am publishing the seventh story of my short story collection, SOMETHING’S LOST AND MUST BE FOUND.  It is still only available as a Kindle version, but as requested, it will be available in softcover by August.  http://www.amazon.com/Somethings-Lost-Must-Found-ebook/dp/B0051ZMYG2/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1310822775&sr=1-1Please remember that a portion of all proceeds will go to help some deserving animals (I’ve already chosen the first recipient and will share soon). Next time someones asks what book they should download …please keep this in mind!

 I thank those who have been able to read it. Currently, it has received 26 Five-Star Reviews!  Below, is Part One of STILL LIFE WITH DOG IN RED COLLAR, an updated version of a short story that was awarded an Honorable Mention in the 75th Annual Writer’s Digest Competition.  I will print its conclusion in the next post. 


Still Life with Dog in Red Collar

 “What exactly have you been learning in that art room anyway, Kevin?” My father talked at me from across the breakfast table on this warm mid-September morning. 

I chose not to answer.

“You have to start focusing on your S. A. T.s.  In case you’ve forgotten you’ll be retaking them soon.  Your last scores weren’t exactly spectacular.”

Exactly was a meaningful word for my father, a Certified Public Accountant.  In his world, exactly was a word that fit.  And as to his question, I couldn’t exactly explain what I was learning in that art room. But I was well aware that I wasn’t the conventional college-bound A-plus son he desired.

Despite my silence, he persisted.  “By the way, how are we doing in our S. A. T. prep classes?” 

We? Our? I wanted to say. But I just managed an “Okay.”

Lately, it seemed the inhabitants of my universe were so hung up on S. A. T. scores, grades and choosing the right colleges. It all seemed pointless to me because most of my classmates didn’t even have a clue as to what they wanted to do with their lives. At least I did.

I knew the real purpose of this conversation was to further discourage my career choice of becoming a fine artist. A fine lawyer or even a fine investment banker was more to his liking, something he deemed safe and sound. I knew he was only thinking of my welfare, but the subject was getting old.

“My art teacher, Mrs. Turner, said I have a good chance at an art scholarship if I turn in a strong senior project for my portfolio,” I said.  “Or I can enlist in the military and go to Afghanistan.”

This strategy worked. My father stood up so fast he knocked over his chair. He slammed down his coffee mug, breaking off its handle. 

“Damn hand-made pottery,” he muttered for my benefit. It had been purchased by me last June as a Father’s Day gift at a local arts and crafts fair. 

He stormed out of the room, but hurried back to the kitchen, groping through a messy stack of papers and junk mail for his car keys.  He seemed eager to escape to the sanctuary of his orderly office several safe miles away. “And since you brought it up, how are you doing on that senior art project of yours anyway?” He spoke to me over his shoulder, just before making his final exit.

“Good,” I answered, a little too quickly.

Mrs. Turner’s encouragement and praise throughout the past three years had fueled my desire to seriously pursue a career in art. But the truth was I had not found much creative inspiration during the long summer break. How could I, in this environment?

Later that day it became apparent that I was dealing with a serious creative block. The conversation begun earlier with my father had now followed me to the school’s art room. “Kevin, what’s going on with your scholarship project?” Mrs. Turner asked, sneaking up on me as silently as a cat.

I said nothing. How could I tell her I hadn’t even chosen a medium or subject yet?

“Focus on your strengths.  You’re a talented painter,” she said as if reading my thoughts.  “Just get started and stop hiding your light under a barrel.” 

But what would I paint? I had grown tired of meaningless still life compositions, bowls brimming with boring green and red apples and pale yellow roses. 

I poked half-heartedly at a glob of cerulean blue paint on a clean palette with a stiff new brush, staring at a white canvas.  A rap at the window startled me. I looked up to see the face of my good friend, Tommy.

“Hi Kev,” he shouted.  His blond head was partially concealed by a faded mural painted on the windowpane; a sappy mountain scene I had helped to create during my freshman year. 

“Me and John are headed to the marina after school,” he spoke quickly.  “Meet us there at three.  We’re going fishing.” 

From across the room, Mrs. Turner cleared her throat, continuing to advise me. “Guard against outside distractions,” she warned.  But Tommy had already ducked out of sight and I returned to staring at my blank canvas.

After school, I wandered toward the marina. I knew I should have been heading for home to look at the college brochures my father had collected for me. But it was one of those late summer afternoons, just before the leaves began to turn. I knew these days were numbered.

I entered the park next to the marina and stood at the edge of the river, its murky brown water flowed like a stream of spilled flat cola. Pausing to admire the scene of a brilliant blue sky dotted with huge white clouds rimmed in gray, my eye caught the movement of a black dog darting among a wooded area.  He looked like some kind of lab-mix.

“Hey Kev, over here,” Tommy yelled, distracting me.  He was on board his father’s boat handing a fishing rod and bucket to John. Further down the dock, a group of young kids squealed with laughter. They struggled with a heavy crab trap, trying to yank it free from the shallow river bottom. Two tiny blue-clawed crabs had escaped and scattered off the dock. They plopped back into the river to temporary safety.

I started to walk over to the dock, but something else now had my full attention; in the center of a circular rock garden, just a few yards from where I stood, appeared the image of an angel. I recalled that this statue had been erected sometime during the summer, but I had never even taken the time to notice.

The angel was on her knees, hunched over a pedestal engraved with the names of local people who had perished a year earlier on September eleventh.  The skilled hand of the sculptor had convincingly conveyed the angel’s pain through her slumped posture and folded wings. She had been caught off guard. Her head hung in sorrow over the etched image of the World Trade Center. 

“Yo man, what are you doing? C’mon!” Tommy’s voice carried over to me from the dock. But inspiration had struck. I recalled Mrs. Turner’s warning about outside distractions. There was no time to explain to my friend; somehow I knew he wouldn’t understand.

“Got to go,” I answered, waving and running away from the dock and out of the park.

At home I gathered up my sketch pad, a handful of charcoal pencils and a tin of watercolors. I almost escaped out the back door unnoticed.

“Kevin, what about those applications?” my mom called from upstairs.  “You promised your father.”

“I’ll look at them tonight. Gotta go, can’t lose the light.”

Back at the park, the dock was quiet; Tommy and John had gone fishing. I sketched quickly, using the watercolors to make color notes. 

It was then that I again noticed the big black dog. This time, he came out of the woods and stood just yards away from where I worked, watching my every move. He wore no collar.

“Here, boy,” I spoke to him.  But the skittish dog kept its distance, circling me a few times before disappearing into a stand of pine and pin oak. I wondered if he had a home…To be continued

Copyright © 2011 by Lisa Begin-Kruysman

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