A short story about a boy, his damned dog and a Catholic Nun
It was a beautiful fall morning in the small town of Cliffside Park NJ. Eddie and his damned dog Spike were enjoying the beautiful and chilly weather on the last day of summer vacation. Eddie reflected on the days ahead of him and his dog seemed to know what was on his mind. They were to enjoy their last day together before Eddie transformed into a frightened schoolboy donning a crested uniform as he succumbed to the horrors of Catholic School, and its reigning sisters of fury. It would be back to the homeroom where
Sister Cogan, who ruled via a ruler, would continuously remind Eddie and his classmates of the wrath of the loving God that will happily send him and his classmates to eternal damnation for such heinous crimes as: running in the hallways, missing morning mass and, of course returning late from recess.
Above a zephyr strummed the few remaining leaves of the chestnut trees and assured Eddy that the next day was an eternity away.
There was a whisper, whooshing and rattling sound as the leaves and chestnuts acquiesced to the season’s rules as they fell to the ground, succumbing to nature and enriching the soil and nourishing the insects so they too could enrich the soil.
Under a cloudless sky sunbeams began to warm Eddie’s innocuous face and Spike’s drooling tongue. Off in the distance revealed a brightening and sparse Manhattan skyline; which adorned the green landscape as if it were a painting rather then the backdrop to the small, rural village that hosted small pockets of civilization.
A brook’s flowing water, along with birds, sang a song of worship as if they were a choir praising a little boy’s last day of freedom. In the distance the ruffling of some dried leaves caught Spike’s attention. It was a rabbit having rabbit-ish fun. Dogs don’t like that. Spike, forgetting that he was a mutt, discovered beneath his furry exterior the spirit of a thoroughbred, and bolted towards the rabbit. Little boys like that. “Go get him spike” shouted Eddie with an inflection of pride. Spike gained distance on the rabbit as it scurried and searched for cover. Eddie, enjoying the high speed chase, noticed a dark spot in the distant hill. As Eddie ran full speed behind the two dashing creatures he noticed that the black spot introduced itself as a cave.
The rabbit ran inside with Spike following close behind “That damned dog” said Eddie as he stomped angrily towards that cave.
Indeed it was a wonderful afternoon for a boy, his dog, and spelunking.
In the dark cave, Eddie wished for the sunlight that was so friendly earlier in the day. The pungent mildew stench not only filled his nostrils but invaded his taste buds. Unfortunately, Eddie’s mental clock reminded him that he was wandering the underground labyrinth for several hours.
Nevertheless, his dog was still lost, and retreat was not an option when the stakes were his only friend lost in the intestines of a mountain. Eddie remembered hie curfew. His father insisted that he would be punished should he return home, again, after sundown. From experience, he knew that telling his father that his dog was playing hide and seek would be filed away with his other excuses, such as: the band of gypsies that kidnapped him and made him sneak into a movie theater. He envisioned his Father stomping towards him like the giant in jack and the beanstalk tightly grasping a belt that was meant for his butt. The fact remained. He did not deserve punishment. It was that Dog. That damned dog that Eddie followed into the cave.
Pressed for time, Eddie realized that spike would just have to find his own way home. When he turned to depart, Eddie discovered that there were multiple paths to choose from. Concentrating on Spike left Eddie devoid of all sense of direction. Choosing the wrong path would, possibly, take him to a dead end wasting more valuable time. Caves were like mazes, Eddie remembered hearing one of the bigger kids (or one of the Little Rascals) say when speaking in the movie short, while in the theater the “Gypsies forced him to enter illegally”.
Light found its way through crevices above him but the faintness reminded him the sun was setting. Here Eddie realized that his father’s belt was a minor problem compared to this situation. His heart started pounding as his blood turned to shards of ice, when he realized that he was lost underground.
In complete darkens his pounding heart and dizzy mind worked in harmony like two wolves converging upon a wounded lamb. He panicked and frantically ran about like a disillusioned bee that found a way into, ironically, a jar and lid of Eddie’s juxtaposed between a flower.
Pounding his body into walls for a few minutes left him demoralized, with little oxygen to support any conscious thought, he assumed a fetal position in a damp nook, used a large rock for a pillow and wept shortly to be followed by hyperventilation. Yet, his mouth managed to direct pleas towards heaven in a whisper.
“Please let me out of here God! I’ll be good this time. I didn’t mean to sin and make Jesus die.” Were the only words that managed to escape his quivering lips. Questions began to ricochet inside his head like bullets cutting through his brain. Were the Nuns right in telling him that God did not answer the prayers of sinners? Was this the punishment that the Sisters of Sacred Heart Catholic School had warned him about?. He was sure that the fire and Demons would manifest dark shadows on the semi-dark and ridged cave walls.
Reduced from a happy young boy to whining infant; Eddie fainted.
Eddie, semi-conciseness, momentarily forgot his predicament. When he reached for a pillow, his memory was refreshed when he only found soil in his tiny hand. His eyes were shut but the lids served only one purpose: preventing the dripping sweat from his forehead from stinging his eyes. His whimpering returned almost drowning out a faint sound of barking. Eddie found hope that his dog had discovered an exit and was calling to him. Harvesting all the energy remaining in his body, he managed to get to his knees and began to crawl. He inched his dehydrated body towards the sound until the sound, which was now more like growling, told him that he was very close to spike. Unfortunately, consciousness lost the battle to delirium. Eddie, this time not from panic but from dehydration fainted.
If he only had stayed conscious fifteen minutes longer he would have enjoyed the water that began to drip from the ceiling a few feet from his unconscious body.
In the world above it rained making it difficult to for the search party to find any tracks or for the basset hounds to pick up Eddie’s scent. A police helicopter above, which scoured the forest’s nooks between the trees proved fruitless. Three days had passed since Eddie was reported missing. Hopes of finding him were diminishing with every tick of the clock. Suddenly there was a growling in the distance. One of the hounds was at a standoff with another animal. It was Spike. Eddie’s dog was at the entrance of a cave.
Lanterns glowed on the walls and Eddie was found curled up in a fetal position no more than a hundred feet from the entrance. Paramedics converged upon him praying that they were not too late. Was he in heaven or hell? An angry god surly would punish him someday for his sins. And that time came sooner than Eddie ever imagined. The Day of Judgment had arrived, but alas, suddenly he heard a familiar voice. It was his father speaking. “The Devil got him too?”, Eddies mind barked out louder than Spike chasing an animal. The silhouettes that came from the direction of his father’s voice looked human but Eddie remembered the words of sister Cogan, who while carrying her favorite ruler, informed him that demons came in all forms, and would someday punish him for his sins. Eddie’s pupils adjusted to the light cast by lanterns.
Then the human forms looked more familiar. They were some of his neighbors, people in white shirts and people with cameras. He now realized that the nuns were, well… Full of shit, which he mentally noted during his revival.
Two weeks had passed since Eddie’s rescue. The sun shone brightly on that day, which seemed a celebration of life. Yet it was a reminder of the day he almost lost his life trapped in a cave. Flowers were blooming; birds were chirping and the Sun shone through a window. Sunbeams burned through that window as if engraving the images on the cover a tabloid that lied atop his night table. Looking at this paper became a morning ritual for Eddie, as well as an inspiration as he sat beaming with dimples on his proud little face. The image was of himself in the arms of his Dad. The headline read “Near death Young Eddie found in his last hour; father Rejoices.”
Unfortunately for his father a single hometown tabloid wanted a piece of Eddie’s fame. life was not that simple. His ordeal gained national attention and, so it seemed, every reporter in the country wanted to speak to the lucky boy. Eddies father subsequently protected his son from the jaws of the venomous media. “Son, you are ok now.” He heard his father’s words as he, with his vacant eyes, sat reflectively at the corner of his bed.
“Spikes barking lead us to that cave. You are safe now,” His dad said, with tears in his eyes, as he stood in the doorway, “Isn’t Spike a good dog?”
“ yes dad very good” Eddie said. “By the way, where is spike? Asked his dad Eddie explained what he learned in school. Sharing is divine. He is just visiting an old friend.
Indeed it was a wonderful day for a boy without his dog.
All the sisters were pleased by the little dog at their doorstep. All was fine at sacred heart’s convert until spike angered sister Cogan with his barking. She angrily approached. Spike jumped through an open window and headed towards the woods. “That Damn dog” said sister Cogan as she opened the door, and found beneath her blue and white exterior, the spirit of an Olympic sprinter. Unfortunately, nobody liked a nun with a ruler; Especially Spike, who panted as if he were an evil version of himself from a parallel universe. Panting as he waited by the entrance of the cave for sister Cogan.
Indeed a beautiful day for a nun, a dog and spelunking.