Friday, December 14, 2007

Rover's Gift--Christmas Story for 2007

Rover's Gift

The wind howled out of the north driving the whirling snow in a stinging blizzard across the prairie. In the tumbledown barn, twelve-year old Aaron shivered as the cold drafts streamed through the cracks where the old wooden slats gapped apart. He had been waiting in the ramshackle building for two endless days since his Pa had sent him there with the shouted command to stay there until he came for Aaron.
A long time later, far into that fateful night, Aaron heard the distinctive boom, boom of the shot gun, but he didn’t dare disobey his father. Somewhere in his heart, he knew that his father would never come for him, but an unnamed fear and dread kept him from returning to the small house across the farm yard.
Abruptly, Rover the shepherd mix lifted his head, uttering a sharp bark. His ears swiveled as he strained to capture the faint noise in the distance. Patty, the gray tiger-striped barn cat slinked from the shadows in the corner with a tiny mouse clutched in her mouth. She slithered under the rough, ratty blanket Aaron clung to, depositing the mouse in his lap.
With a little shriek, the small brown mouse dived into the straw pile where Aaron was sitting. The mouse’s antics dragged an unexpected rusty chuckle from Aaron. “Silly cat. What did ya expect?”
Patty sat with her tail curled around her paws and plaintively meowed.
“Look, I ‘preciate the offer, but you should have eaten the mouse while you had it.” Aaron tugged the dusty blanket closer, wishing he had his coat or even another blanket. His stomach growled and rumbled.
Rover’s ears perked up again and he barked. Suddenly he rose and went to the door, barking with increasing urgency. Aaron wrapped the blanket more tightly around him and clambered awkwardly to his cold feet. Reluctantly, he stumbled over to the door and opened it just far enough for Rover to wriggle through the crack.
He peeked out at the heavy, curtain of snow that swirled so thickly the farm house was invisible. With a deep, shuddering sigh, he faced the truth that he had been avoiding for the last two day. The pain had been so bad the last week that Ma had cried and begged Pa to put her out of her misery. Slow tears rolled down his cold cheeks as he admitted that Pa probably finally did just that.
As he stood there weeping, the thought came to him that Rover was taking far too long to return. His voice trembled as he called out, “Rover! Come on, boy! It’s too cold to stay out there!”
The dog didn’t return or even bark in reply. Finally, his thin body shaking with cold, Aaron closed the door and returned to his nest in the straw, overcome with deep hard sobs at the final desertion by his dog.
A little while later, something banged into the barn wall, followed by a frenzy of barking. Aaron struggled to his feet and stomped over to the door, cautiously easing it open to peek outside. A huge man covered in snow, leaned wearily against the barn wall. Tail wagging furiously, Rover squeezed through the door and shook vigorously. Snow flew everywhere.
After a moment the man straightened up and entered, closing the door carefully behind him. Aaron’s eyes widened when he took in the shotgun the man carried in one gloved hand. Then he saw the handcuffs dangling a bit below the heavy coat the man wore.
The man’s sharp blue eyes took in the dim barn and with one comprehensive glance had most of the story. “Want to tell me why you’re out here in a cold barn, son?” His tone, though gruff, wasn’t judgmental.
Aaron swallowed hard. Then, haltingly he told the man what he thought had happened. The man listened with patient compassion. After Aaron was finished, the man considered his options for a few moments. Then he asked, “Y’all have an enclosed porch at the house?”
“You s’pose that fine dog of yours could lead us to the house?”
Aaron wiped his face with his sleeve. “Yessir. He’s a good dog.”
“Yes, he is. Without him, I would have frozen to death.” The man stalked over to the hook where a coil of rope hung. “Will he work with a leash?”
“Yessir?” With puzzled eyes Aaron watched him fashion a harness with the rough rope. “What are you gonna do?”
“We’ll harness your dog and then tie the rope to us so we don’t get lost.”
Aaron frowned at him. “Mister, who are you and why’re you out in this storm?”
The man opened his coat and displayed his badge. “I’m Deputy Harriman from the next county over. Our men are out searching for an escaped prisoner. My truck broke down and when I tried to walk for help, I got lost.” He smiled down at Aaron. “Thought I was a goner for sure until your dog showed up.”
He tied a loop around Aaron while he talked and then tied the end of the rope around his wrist. “Ready?”
“Wrap that blanket around you real tight, son. When you’re ready, you tell your dog what to do.”
With a nod, Aaron pulled the blanket around him and took a deep breath. He opened the door and said, “Home, Rover.”
Like a shot, Rover was out the door. With Rover straining at the end of the rope, they blindly stumbled across the rough snow covered yard until suddenly they were tripping at the base of the steps. Deputy Harriman hauled Aaron up the steps and tried the door. With relief, he found it unlocked. They tumbled inside, out of the wind. “You and the dog stay here. I’ll go check on your folks.”
He saw a heavy jacket hanging on a hook next to the door. “Here wrap this around you.”
Aaron huddled in his father’s icy jacket while the Deputy went inside. It seemed like a long time later that the Deputy returned and motioned for him to enter. In the fireplace, a fire flickered briskly. On the hearth, his father lay bundled in blankets. “Your father is gonna be fine, son. I’m sorry it took so long, but I had to see to your Pa first.”
“Momma?” Aaron asked bravely.
“As near as I can tell she died in her sleep, son. I need you to stay here with your Pa. Coffee is brewing. As soon as it’s done, I’ll bring you a cup. Until then, I’m asking you to stay here next to the fire. Okay?”
After a moment, Aaron looked him in the eye. “Sir, what happened to my Pa?”
“You remember how I told you about that escaped prisoner? It looks like he broke in here and shot your Pa. But not before your Pa got him, too.”
“He’s dead?” Aaron’s stark question told the deputy a lot about the strong, tough youngster.
“Yes,” he replied honestly, waiting to see how that would set with Aaron.
“All right.” Aaron sat down next to his Pa and gently patted him on the shoulder. “You’re gonna be okay, Pa. You’re gonna be okay.”

After the storm, the news spread across the country like wildfire. It was a Christmas Eve miracle they whispered. The story of Rover’s run through the storm to rescue the Deputy was marveled over. The Deputy arrived just in time to save Aaron’s Pa. Just in time for a true Christmas Eve miracle.
Later when Pa was better, they proudly attended the ceremony where Rover was made an honorary deputy. Deputy Harriman fastened the small metal shield on Rover’s brand new collar and then stood up and solemnly saluted.
Rover sat down then, looked at the small group, and then with a wide doggie grin, gave one sharp bark. A miracle.
On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Five Faithful Companions
Do you want to win some fantastic holiday reading? If so come celebrate the Twelve days of Romance with 12 authors from Ellora's Cave, Wild Rose Press, Total-E-Bound and Cerridwen Press. Each day beginning December 8th and running through December 19th one of the twelve authors will tell what their "True love gave to them" on either their blog or website.

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Anny Cook Winter Hearts
Sandra Cox Boji Stones
Bronwyn Green Ronan’s Grail
Heather Hiestand Cards Never Lie
Barbara Huffert Deal of a Lifetime
Amarinda Jones Mad About Mirabelle
Kelly Kirch Time for Love
Cindy Spencer Pape Cowboy’s Christmas Bride
Brynn Paulin Fallen
JacquƩline Roth Access Denied
KZ Snow Mrs. Claws
Lacey Thorn Earth Moves
Don't forget to stop by Amarinda's Report at where she has the latest version of the Saga. Then pop over to see what Kelly's up to at and then? Blessings on your day!


  1. Are you sure you're not one of The Waltons?

  2. That's rather bittersweet, isn't it? I mean, a happy story with some horrible stuff in it. At this point I'm thinking you can take ANY event and make it sound like a happy miracle.

    Excellent imagery, Annycoo.