I rub my eyes, squint and then decide to roll over. Just then a smile crosses my face. It is Summer. School is out. All teachers have returned to whatever teachers do in the off season to regain strength for tormenting Second Graders. Best of all, Bucky Showalter will spend the prime days of the Summer in Summer-school and Patricia Kusnolski is well on her way to her Grandparent’s house at the coast. Peace and quiet shall rule the days of Summer — at least as long as it suites my pleasure.
As I lay there in a state of bliss that can only be one up’d by a bowl of Cap’n Crunch and hours upon hours of Bugs Bunny, I hear the soft thud, thud, thud coming down the hardwood floor of the hallway. Wow, Tuf is sure up early. Tuf is our Corgi; a sprite little herding dog that my Dad says is too big for his britches. He spends most nights laying between the cats and their food. I’m not sure what he feels he has to gain by maintaining such a watch, but each morning it is the same. Tuf is tired and the cats are hungry. I invite him to hop up.
Tuf has been around as long as I can remember. I think Mom said he is almost eight. That makes him about a year older than I, but I suspect he has really lived much more than a year longer than I. His eyes suggest wisdom and his poise and quick movements suggest a cunning nature that serves him well in a house that finds it acceptable to allows cats. With a quick rub of his ears we are up, I am changed and we begin our day — our Summer.
A bowl of cereal and an hour of cartoons later, I’m bored. Well not actually bored. More like uninspired. I think back over the plans I had made for the Summer. The adventures awaiting us in the hills behind our house. I think about the story Poppop told me about Clint. Clint is the name Poppop gave a black bear that has reportedly been seen wondering around in our hills. Poppop calls him Clint because he reminds him of a friend from years ago who was a very gentle man despite his huge stature and menacing sneer. Mommom says Clint is just a big old Teddy bear looking to live out his days undisturbed. Poppop says Mommom used to fancy Clint. They laugh and the subject changes. Some of the town people claim otherwise though. There is a story about Clint attacking Bucky Showalter’s Grandfather on his Mother’s side and mauling him to death. I have never confirmed the story with Bucky, but I have yet to meet Bucky’s Grandfather on his Mother’s or Father’s side. So, I suppose there could be some truth to the stories.
I had not shared with Mom about our plans when she asked what I wanted to do this Summer. And to be honest, I’m not so sure Tuf is onboard in the matter, but this very Summer we are going to find Clint. This is actually quite huge and I am immensly excited. This is bigger than Kevin Quigly chasing a skunk into his fathers shed in hopes of talking his Aunt Grace into turning it into one of those really cool hats he saw in her picture album.
While our plan is without many details — such as what we were going to do when we found him — in general it is a strategy of scoping out each hill from west to east. If the stories are true we should come upon our bear within the first couple of weeks since most of the reported sightings seen to point to the western third of the hills. Today is set aside for preparation.
I hear Mom call me down to the back porch. She sounds irratated. I quickly rewind the day as quickly as possible and realize I have done nothing yet this Summer to warrant such a summoning. “It must be your fault, Tuf.” When Tuf and I reach the back porch we see what has my Mom so upset. “Something got into the trash and it has all the signs as the work of that dog of yours”, suggests my Mom. “Get out here and clean this mess.”
“Aww, but Mom…”
I look at Tuf and ask him, “what could you possibly find so interesting in that trash?”
He tilts his head innocently as though to say, “if you have to ask…”
It’s about four-thirty and my Dad is parking his car in the driveway. As he gets out of the car, Tuf and I make our way over to see how his day was. He reaches down and with one smooth motion I am up on his shoulders. “So, you bored yet?”, he asks. I thought about fully explaining our plans to search out Clint, but decide better of it. While yes, my Dad was a kid once, he seems to have left most of those perspectives well in the past. Admittedly, it would be fun to have Dad come along for the adventure, but I’m just not very good at anticipating his reaction to my plans, so I will remain silent on this one. We head inside for dinner.
I am hungrier than I thought I would be. Everything went down so easily. Everything but the Lima beans. I think to myself, “so Tuf, would you dig through the trash for Lima beans?” I look down to toss a bean or two to Tuf, but he’s not there. Odd.
“I take it your Summer is off to a grand start?” my Dad asks.
“So far, so good.”
“Hey, where’s Tuf?” Dad pushes his chair back and looks under the table. I am thinking that Dad wanted to unload some beans as well. “Didn’t he come in with us?” Dad gets up and looks out onto the porch where he sees Tuf curled up in the corner. Tuf lifts his head at the suspicion he’s being watched and lays it back down. “Hmmm, he must not be feeling well.”
After dinner Dad turns on the TV and wrestles with the antennae for a whole inning and a helf trying to bring in the Orioles game. Finally he settles for the best he can do and sits down to enjoy the game. They are lossing four to one. Not in the mood for baseball for some reason I make my way out to the porch to check on Tuf. He’s no longer there but has made his way to the outside of the porch under some shrubs and out of easy sight. I bend down to have a closer look. “Hey boy, you don’t look too good.” “Get into some bad trash?” I chuckle at the thought of bad trash, but I quickly return to the condition of my friend. I settle all the way down and quietly talk to him.
It had long since grown dark when Dad comes outside to see what I am up to. “It’s time to get ready for bed,” he informs me. I don’t answer and from the look on my face Dad realizes my concern. He too bends down and rubs Tuf’s ears. “He probably just got into some bad trash.” Realizing what he said Dad gives a quick chuckle. “Let’s let him sleep it off.”
I get ready for bed and curl up in a similar position as when my day started. I lay there looking up at the ceiling. I don’t remember Tuf ever acting like this before. I was sure it was serious, but what was I to do. I lay there long enough for my parents to fallen asleep. When I heard my Dad’s snoring become steady and sure I figured it was safe to make my move. I slipped over to my closet and climed up onto my dresser. Now, if I could just reach far enough. Ahh, there it is. My sleeping bag. I move quietly through the house and out to the porch. I make my way around the porch to where Tuf had been laying. He was still there having adjusted his position only slightly. I kick around for rocks dislodging a couple and moving them from where I intended to lay.
I arrange my sleeping bag and get in undercover and reach for Tuf. His breathing seems a bit slower than earlier, but steady. I put my arm around him and pull him a bit closer. I still have no idea what to do. I close my eyes hard and feal my fists clench. I think that maybe I should pray. My eyes close tighter and my fists begin to shake slightly. My cheeks become damp and my lip quivers. “God?” “Help.”