That Big Dog
Grandma primed the kitchen-sink hand pump, and then began filling the teakettle. The afternoon sun was high in the sky, and she wanted a cup of tea before settling down for her afternoon nap. As the water sputtered into the kettle, four-year-old Teacher sat quietly at the kitchen table and colored pictures in her coloring book while her older sister Surfer took her pencils and paper, drew pictures of animals, pictures of ballerinas, just scribbled with abandoned imagination. Surfer had become bored with coloring within the lines and wanted to go beyond the restriction of someone else’s drawings.
Grandma carried the teakettle across the room with her small quiet steps, settled it on the iron stove and added a few pieces of wood to the embers inside. She knew the girls were tired after playing all morning, but wanted them to relax before lying down. Having a child lie down while the adrenalin was still flowing full force was not conducive to afternoon naps.
Surfer loved this old house. The kitchen was heated with the wood-burning stove during the cold weather. On this hot summer day, however, the oilcloth on the pink painted table was cold beneath her arms and felt good. The sink pump was fun to get flowing by pumping the long handle that she could barely reach. The room was filled with sunlight from the afternoon sun and the thick smell of lilacs from the yard. Even the scary cold ice cellar next to the cupboard was fun to enter as long as you didn’t step on a spider or walk into a spider web. She never saw the ice man back home, but he pulled up to the farmhouse regularly with his horse-drawn wagon. He would then take the large prongs, grab the huge ice block, carry it over his shoulder into the cellar and put it into the old white icebox. Surfer always wondered where the ice went because every time he came, the old ice block was no longer there. It was a mystery to this five-year-old.
The high-pitched scream from the teakettle brought Surfer back to her drawing. As Grandma fixed and drank her tea, they talked about their adventures this morning. Surfer and Teacher had been near the water pump by the barnyard. The cobble stone pathway leading to the barnyard was just the right width for one pair of little feet to run along, so the girls always walked single file as they crossed the yard still wet from the morning dew. They were picking currants from the bushes near the old water pump when, from around the barn, came a tall gangly woman who walked with a purpose.
As Surfer looked up at the approaching figure, a cold chill swept over her thin body. It wasn’t the breeze coming from up the hill nor the cold stones beneath her bare feet. The chill came from the terror seizing her body as she saw the biggest dog in the world bounding along side the lady. This dog was as big as a horse…no, bigger than a horse. It was as big as a house! As Surfer quickly stood up, Teacher turned, saw the dog and was seized by the same terror. The girls dropped the currants they had so delicately picked and ran screaming towards the house. To their horror, the dog picked up speed and was coming right behind them. They just knew that the dog was going to eat them alive, and their feet moved faster and faster across the wet grass until they were finally able to get in the kitchen door…screaming all the way.
Peering out the kitchen window next to the sink, the girls watched as their tormentor ran around in circles, jumping up next to the tall lady, but not harming her. The dog must have known that the lady was too much of a mouthful and, therefore, left her alone…only threatening her with the circles and jumps. To their horror, Grandma went outside to greet her visitor. Now Grandma was little, though not as little as Surfer and Teacher, and they expected the worst…she would be eaten alive! Oh, no!!! But the dog didn’t eat her up or jump on her or anything. It was amazing.
Grandma knew the girls had been afraid, so later she explained over tea that the tall lady was Mrs. Johnston, a neighbor of theirs, and her dog simply wanted to play. That provided little comfort to them. They were content for the rest of the day to stay in the house, play quietly and even take a nap without a protest.