Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My dear, little friend...


Goodbye Otis. Rest well my friend.

               The world washes about me. I roll onto my side, hear a beeping. That has to be the most annoying sound I’ve ever heard. My alarm clock. I stumble out of bed, switching off the alarm. I search the room for the things I’ll need today and pack them in my shoulder bag as I come across them. Then I notice my dog isn’t anywhere in my room. I search in all his usual haunts, not just in my room, but all throughout the house. Nonetheless, he can be found in none of them. Knowing I’ll be late to work if I don’t hurry, I take a quick shower, throw the last things I’ll need into my bag, and toss it into my car before deciding to do one quick search around the house. It all comes back to me in a rush – I let Otis out last night. Had he not been let back in? Had he spent the night in the rain? I hurry to each of the doors, checking to see if he’s there. As I near the back door, I see his small form curled up near the wall of the house. “Otis?” He doesn’t stir. I crouch down beside him, afraid to believe what seems to have happened. No heave of his sides, no sound of breath. I reach out – touch his furry coat. He’s stiff. I prod him, stroke him. No response. I make to lay my ear against him, but notice the glossy sheen, the milky film that covers what I can see of his eyes. I’ve seen enough dead animals to know. My Otis, my beloved pug-nosed-pup, is dead.

Tears well at my eyes; I don’t bother holding them back. They stream down my cheeks, collect in my beard. I can’t help but to cry. This dog was my friend. Yes, an animal, but nonetheless my friend. I still remember those nine years ago when he picked me as the boy to take him home. I still remember the shy puppy that crept out of the pet-crate to my arms, unsure of his new surroundings which would be his home. I still remember the morning I woke up to find his head on the pillow beside me, so natural, as if he had slept there all his life. From then on, he’d never willingly sleep anywhere else. I cry. Not just the hot tears, but the broken breathing. I break down and sob. I loved that dog, and now he was gone. He’d never do the many things he used to do. The many things that would bring a smile to my face, cause me to laugh out loud. He’d been such a good dog. Never been crabby when babies pulled his ears, twisted his tail, sat on him. He’d been patient with me, even when I forgot to feed him, even when I paid him no attention when he needed it, badly. He was a good dog, and I loved him. But now…

My crying wakes my parents. They come to find what’s wrong. I tell them, hardly believing the words that fly from my mouth. “Otis… Otis is dead.”

My brother tells me he was up late doing homework, but that Otis never came back to the door. Never asked to be let back in. They give me time. I call my boss, tell him I need the day off, I can’t come in. He sounds peeved. “It’s an animal, Caleb. You’re shirking your responsibility for a dead pet?” I hear it in his voice. He doesn’t say it, but I can hear it. I don’t care. I’m not going to make it in today. He tells me to call it in, make it official. So, I do.

I wrap my pet, my friend, in a towel; carry him in my arms out to a spot where I think a grave would be out of the way. It’s too wet. I think of another, carrying my puppy’s lifeless body and setting it down gently. The tears. My nose runs. The tears don’t stop. It’s raining, rain running down my face. Washing the pain from my face. I can do this. It’ll be alright, Caleb. Yes, he was your friend. He was your companion, your pet. The one creature on this earth that loved you undividedly… but he’s only an animal.

The rain drips from my chin, my nose. It runs down my neck as I dig. I’m no stranger to digging. I know how to handle a shovel. I’ve dug graves before. But not for my own dog. My shadow, cast by the flashlight I set on a rock, looks eerie as it slams the shovel into the ground again and again. I dig the grave, one shovelful at a time. I look at the towel where my dog is wrapped. I guess I didn’t do a very good job, his tail sticks out one end. The tears pour out again. That tail. The tail that curled. The tail that would instantly curl and wag the minute I said Otis’ name out loud. The tail that would straighten when the dog thought he was a puppy and ran around in circles, chasing, playing. That tail. I dig. The grave is finished. I unwrap Otis from the towel, lay him more straight, tuck everything in, roll him up. I lower him into the hole, into the ground. So stiff, so lifeless. A corpse. My puppy-dog is a corpse. With my bare hands I cover the small body with the dirt one handful, two, three, four. Then I just pull it all. I realize this signifies that I believe he is dead. I mound the dirt on the grave; it is only a small mound. He was a small dog. I stand and retrieve the flashlight, the shovel. Look down at the grave. Is this a dream? Do I have to live this? Can’t I just wake up? No. No. No! Not this! Not now! I knew I’d have to bury him someday, but why must it be today? What sign is this! What am I being taught? Why do I look for a hidden meaning? Why would there be a hidden meaning? Death is natural. It comes to every living, breathing creature at some time. It was just his time. Why? Why! The tears stream again. They mingle with the rain on my face. I can do nothing. It is finished. Before I go, I kneel by the grave. Place a hand on the mound of earth. Goodbye, Otis. Rest well, my friend. And then I’m walking back to the house, the rain still falling on me.

I miss him already. I go inside. Talk with my parents. “Get some sleep.” My dad says. But I can’t sleep. How can I? I sit up, reading. A diversion – it’s what I need. I want to cry more, but crying won’t help. I’ve cried enough. There’s a time to linger on the past, and there’s a time to move on. Jesus Christ, give me the strength to move on. You gave me that loving pet, and now you’ve taken him back. What would you have me do? As I look back, I feel I’m in shock or something. I still have trouble believing he’s gone. I think: what must it be like to lose a close friend, who’s human? Flesh and blood of man? I wonder if I’d survive that. Somehow I doubt I could without supernatural assistance. I guess I’m just protective of the people I love.

But now that this day is nearly at its end, I have to prepare for tomorrow. I’m expecting work to be awful like it always is. It will probably be worse. I’ll expect no sympathy. Before I accept this day as done and over, though, I feel I need to do one thing. I pray. Father in Heaven! I call. Lord God, Creator of Heaven, Earth, and all Creation. You giveth… and you taketh away. Take what you will, Lord. It is yours. All is yours. I am only the steward for the time you have me to be. And when that time is up. Lord, take what is yours. All is yours. Jesus Christ, Savior of man, halleluiah! Praise be to you and your grand will. I am your servant, Father. Do as you will, not as I will. Thank you, Lord, for Your gift; Your generous gift. Thank you for those nine years with Otis. Praise be for your glorious will. Amen.

I look to tomorrow in a new light. I’ll miss my dog. I’m sure the scars will take some time to heal. But this, yes even this, is part of a glorious plan that is not my own, but the Lord God Almighty’s. And that gives me comfort. I have the strength – I can move on.
Goodbye Otis. Rest well my friend. And… Thank you, Lord.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

And so... It begins...

One of the reasons I blog, is because I absolutely love to write. About anything, really. I have certain projects I'm working on, stories and whatnot. Also, several of my friends love writing as well. It's been good-fun being able to criticize each others' works and encourage one another in our literary endeavors. We usually pass our projects to each other through USB thumb-drives, marking each others’ MS Word documents in assorted colors of text. Personally, I’ve always found this to be exceptionally encouraging as well as very inspirational. But...

Well... in this day of technological advancement, quite often I find life to be so impersonal. We scurry here, we scurry there - never speaking in person, only texting a hello, or emailing it. People seem to rarely call each other anymore, or even sit down in person to talk over a steaming cup of coffee. I always preferred the 'in-person' conversations to any alternative. So I told one of my closest friends it was high-time he and I started a writing club. My idea was that we would meet somewhere where we could sit down and edit each others' manuscripts in person. As we spoke more seriously on the matter, we set out a general plan of action. Last Thursday, we put that plan to action, and all went remarkably smoothly.

            We met in a small coffee and crĂªpe shop in his hometown. He brought some of his work, and after a bit of general chattering, we got right to work. I had a good time of tearing into his work, and he took my criticism and teasing quite graciously. It was so much more enjoyable than our usual ‘social network’ style editing sessions because we were able to speak together. My questions were answered as I read the manuscript, and I could edit it verbally, which was a pleasurable experience.
            We worked through everything he brought to the table fairly quickly. Actually, I was surprised at how much ground we covered in a short bit of time. We’ll be meeting again next week, where I will have the opportunity to have a bit of my work edited. I’ll be sure to bring a good-sized stack of writings, so that we need not worry about running out of material to go through. I’m really excited to seeing how this idea pans out. If it continues to be the incredibly encouraging and inspiring time it has proved to be thus far, we’ll have to branch out and begin accepting new members to our little club. It’s definitely been a beneficial thing for the both of us and our writing.
            I’m looking forward to the next meeting!

Monday, October 22, 2012


            Well, fall is in full bloom. The harvest before the long winter. (Though I have a feeling that winter isn't too far off, as the distant mountains are already snow-topped.) What deciduous trees do lie in eyesight; have let loose their leaves to transform into that of bright oranges, yellows, and ambers. This is undoubtedly my favorite time of year. I love the colors and the moods that the short days take on during this time of the year. I love the festivity. The smell of the air before a downpour of rain. The need for sweaters, scarves, and hats to keep warm. And I certainly love the many, tasty things that are associated with the fall. Things like Pumpkin Spice Lattes, Pumpkin Pie, Apple Cider, and Candy Corn. This also happens to be open season for deer hunting. My dad is a hunter, and he passed the intrigue of the hunt down to me. For me, hunting is more about the company I get to keep and the time I get to spend out in creation than really actually bringing down an animal. 
            It’s been raining a lot more as of recently. So on Saturday, when my brother and I, along with several friends, hiked off for a few hours to hunt wild game, we ended up kind of wet. Half the party returned to their homes to warm up, while the other half of us spent the more dry part of the morning hiking around. No deer were spotted by a single one of us, nonetheless it was an enjoyable enough morning.

After our hike was concluded, my dear brother and I hitched a ride with our friend back to where our other hunting companions had returned to. We chatted with their family a bit, had some coffee, began to warm up…

… And then one of their numbers decided, since she had three extra strong sets of hands, that it was high-time they got around to that cider-pressing chore they had been putting off for a week or so. Of course, my brother and I were more than delighted to help out. (I love me some cider… it’s an unhealthy yearning for that golden liquid of deliciousness.) We got right to work, and in a couple hours, all the apples had been sliced, mashed, and pressed into fresh cider. I was the one graced with the job of turning the press, perhaps the most strenuous job.  Of course, like a donkey pulling a cart while its master dangles a carrot before its nose, I was coaxed on to the final product. (Did I mention that I love me some cider? ‘Cause… well, I like totally, do.)

Oh… and… oh… The final product? Not can compare. We speak of a liquid gold, which was no less than absolutely divine. It was like sipping at sunshine on a chilly day. Fantastic stuff.
Roll out the barrel of fun, Chaps! Good-O!

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Stone of Destiny

I adore good books. Since I first learned to read those many years ago I’ve always been an avid reader. Sure, I’ve had my share of literature famines, in which I don’t read for some length of time, but it isn’t often that I haven’t at least one book that I’m reading through at a time. I just recently read through another book, actually. It was titled The Stone of Destiny, by Ian Hamilton, and I certainly found it to be a ‘page-turner’. It’s actually a non-fiction piece, written by the gentleman involved in the very circumstances the volume is written about.

Basically, the Stone of Destiny is a Scottish relic. Said to have been brought up from the Holy Lands, supposedly it is the stone which Jacob lay his head on while he dreamt of Angels ascending and descending ladders into heaven. Farfetched or not, the legend remains and is exactly what makes the Stone so special. Scottish kings were crowned over it for years and years, until an English king invaded Scotland and forcefully took possession of the stone. He had it brought back to England, where it sat in Westminster Abbey for a very long time.

Ian Hamilton was a Scottish youth, who wanted nothing more than to give Scotland back her pride and excite her people. He wanted the Scottish to realize how very special it was to be… well… Scottish. But what could a college student, barely scraping by with expenses and everyday living, do about all that? His people needed an icon to rally them. A symbol to boost their moral. The Stone of Destiny was just sitting in Westminster Abby gathering dust, when instead it could be exciting a people who had forgotten what it was to be who they were. So, with the help of a few friends, he constructed a fairly simple plan to regain the Stone. He would retake the Stone of Destiny, and return it to its rightful owners. The Scottish people deserved their icon, and he would give it to them.

And thus he and his companions attempted, on Christmas 1950, to break into Westminster Abby, bundle away the Stone, and somehow lug it all the way back to Scotland with them. It’s really an incredibly delightful tale, about youthful impulse and fearless patriotism. Ian Hamilton’s way of telling the story is wonderfully rich with a charming sense of humor and plenty of intrigue. I’ve found that often non-fiction work can be dry and dreary-some, but The Stone of Destiny is, instead, quite alluring and amusing. Personally, I found the entire thing enthralling. Not a bit of it did I consider dull or plodding. On several occasions I laughed out loud, either because of Mr. Hamilton’s clever wit, or the pure preposterousness of the tale. But as unbelievable as the story may prove, the factual evidences remain.

Personally, I found the book to be riveting, and certainly would recommend it to any who might like a humorous ‘fact is more unbelievable than fiction’ read. It really is an extraordinary tale, and why not hear it from the fellow who orchestrated and undertook these very happenings?