And now, for the part two we’ve all been waiting for, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you…
The Forgotten Charger, Part Two–
–but wait, did you read the first half? Oh my! Go back and find it, immediately, otherwise, you can’t possibly enjoy this half.
Well then, now that you’ve got yourself updated, here’s what we’ve all been waiting for! And as always, don’t hesitate to give me lotsa feedback!
Christian shut his mouth tightly. Neither of them said a word while he set his bed up by the fire, but he noticed that Gresham seemed unsteady as he cleaned up the kitchen. Abruptly he stumbled into the kitchen table and leaned there, catching his breath.
“Are–are you okay?” ventured Christian.
“Mind your own business!” barked Gresham. The air seemed tense. All the ice that Fiona had melted seemed to freeze back up again. Christian noticed beads of sweat lining Gresham’s face as he strode to the bedroom, apparently to get ready for bed. He’s not okay.
All at once Christian heard a loud thump from the other room. He rushed in and saw Gresham lying on the floor, clutching his chest.
The Forgotten Charger, Part Two
“Quick, kid, look in the medicine cabinet for some aspirin,” Gresham rasped.
“What, what’s wrong?”
“Are you blind? I’m having a heart attack,” choked Gresham. His skin was deathly white and glistened with sweat. “Aspirin!”
Christian rummaged in the cupboard behind the mirror and found an ancient bottle of aspirin. Gresham had sat up against the bed and chewed a pill. “What are you standing there for?” he snapped. “Get the medics!”
Without asking questions, Christian rushed out of the house, then stopped. The storm still poured down on the dark forest. Then he looked back at the house. Every minute counted. He bounded into the woods.
Where’s the creek? Gotta find it. He could hardly see. Suddenly he pitched over the edge and skidded onto the gravelly bank on the other side. He gritted his teeth against the pain of bloody knees and arms and blindly stumbled up the slope. Found the creek, he thought wryly. Abruptly he crashed into a pile of—what, sticks? The fort he had made! That meant—there was the trail! The moon let a crack of light between the drizzling clouds and cast eerie shadows over the path. He plunged down it at a breakneck speed, thinking of Gresham in the cabin, perhaps unconscious—or worse.
As he jumped down from bend to bend, he gathered more speed. Then at one point he felt that he was losing control, and as he bounded from a slope, he felt himself flying through the air. He landed hard on the ground beside the trail—stunned; the breath knocked out of him.
Catching his breath, he finally saw the home lights gleaming between the trees. He half slid, half ran the rest of the way and burst inside.
“Christian! What in the world!” Mom rushed towards him.
“Son, we’ve been looking everywhere—” Dad began.
“Call the medics! Now! There’s—”
“The medics! Are you hurt?” Mom reached for him, but he shook her off.
“There’s a man up there—”
“Whoa, slow down—”
“No, I can’t slow down! Look, we haven’t got much time. There’s a man that lives in a cabin up there with his dogs. At first he told me to stay away, but I got caught in the storm and he let me stay tonight. He had a heart attack, Dad! He needs help!”
Mom was already on the phone. “Tell me where he is, Christian. They need to know where to take the helicopter.”
Christian froze. “Uh, all I know is that his name is Gresham Percy. Really. Up the trail a way and across the creek.”
“Don’t worry, Christian, people know that name around here. They’ve taken a helicopter up there before.”
Christian remembered Gresham telling how he’d fallen from the roof and his dog Fiona had ran for help. He sighed with relief. “Can we go back up and see if he’s okay, Dad?”
Dad was at the door. “Even though I deliver babies and don’t treat heart attacks, we ought to stay with him. Let’s go.”
The hike back up seemed painfully slow. They stumbled through the dark and across the creek, and finally found the cabin. Gresham was still breathing but hardly moving. Dad propped him over his shoulder and Christian took the gnarly, strong arm over his neck and together they got him outside. The clouds were clearing.
After a few minutes a small helicopter lowered gently onto the grass, purring like a gigantic kitten, and several Scottish medics situated Gresham inside. In a few seconds the vehicle shot up and disappeared.
Dad laid his arm heavily over Christian’s shoulders. “Well done,” was all he said.
They stood quietly for a minute. Then Christian jumped. “Fiona! Is she alright?”
She was anxiously pawing at her blankets, trying to maneuver them to her liking. “Mr. Percy said she’s gonna have puppies any day now,” explained Christian.
“I don’t think so,” Dad said thoughtfully.
“What?” exclaimed Christian. “But—”
Dad’s eyes twinkled. “I don’t think she’s going to have them any day, because I think she’s having them tonight.”
Christian stared at him.
Dad started chuckling. “I don’t treat heart attacks, but I do deliver babies!”
Christian grinned at himself. “That’s enough embarrassment for one day!” he protested. Then he had to tell Dad about the “bear” in the woods, and they laughed together.
“Well, I guess we’re staying the night!” said Dad, looking sideways at Christian. His son grinned again, and after Dad fed the fire, they settled down with Fiona. Christian watched the flames sleepily. Fiona kept pacing the room restlessly, then finally eased back onto her bed.
Christian continued nodding off and jerking awake. He slid to the floor once and scrambled up. But it was no use; he was too tired. He heard Dad’s voice say, “She’ll be alright, kiddo; she’s done this before. Don’t you worry. Get some sleep.”
He curled up by the fire and drowsed for a while. But he must have slept soundly after that, because Dad shook him awake early the next morning. A crack of light filtered through the wet trees. Christian groggily unwound himself and stretched the cramps from sleeping in such a position. Then he turned, surprised, as he heard a whimpering sound from a few feet away.
Six German Shepherd puppies, their eyes shut tight, stumbled around Fiona’s legs and blundered over the wrinkles in the blankets as if they were scaling mountains. Christian was immediately awake as he sat slowly beside them and watched them intently. The pups stayed close to Fiona, but one by one, Christian and Dad scooped them up gently and fondled them. Christian finally roused with a sudden thought. “Dad! We have to feed the other dogs!”
Somehow they managed to let them out and dish food out to each one without causing a riot. Later they visited Gresham in the hospital.
He was furious when he realized that American tourists would be taking care of his dogs while he was bedridden. When Dad got him to calm down, he gave them a list of things to do and to remember.
“And don’t let the husky brown dog—Angus—throw his weight around. The black one—Rogan—is head of my dogs and shouldn’t be challenged like that. You’ll want to keep Fiona exercised and give her fresh air every day, but keep the pups in the bedroom, quiet and comfortable. And don’t go messing with any of’em! You’re mostly strangers around here. On Saturdays you’ll need to change the straw in the barn where the others sleep.”
“Got it,” said Christian. “Can I name some of the puppies?”
“Certainly not!” said Gresham. “There’s a system to it. You Americans just like to name them anything—Spot, Rover, Tramp, Blackie—it’s not how it’s done!”
The next several weeks flew by as a happy dream for Christian. He commonly stayed at the cabin overnight, and got to know each of the dogs. The puppies grew immensely every day. After four weeks they were already rough-and-tumble balls of black and tan fluff. There were three boys and three girls in the bunch, and one of the girls was silky white. But one of the boy pups caught Christian’s eye especially. He was the spittin’ image of Fiona and the most open dog of them all; not shy, and not aggressive.
Gresham was back by now, and filled out the official pedigrees for the litter. They had their immunizations later that summer. “Now Christian,” said Gresham one day. “Look here.” They had become friendlier to each other over the weeks. “One thing to do when you’re naming pups is to look at their pedigrees for their ancestors. Now the girl pup that’s all white reminds me of her grand-mum, Sydney. We’ll call her something close, like—Sadie.”
He scooped up one of the curious pups. “Now here we’ve got a strong fellow, the biggest of the litter. We’ll call him Finn, after the Scottish giant Finn McCool.”
They went through the process till Christian handed him the last pup—the one he liked best. “Hmm,” said Gresham. “I’m flummoxed. I’ve got no more ideas.” He held up the dog to the morning sunlight and looked critically at him. The pup gazed around wondering at them.
“Perhaps name him Flummox?” said Christian tentatively.
“Absolutely not!” exclaimed Gresham. “I’ll look through the pedigree to find something there.” He thumbed through the file cabinet till he found the pedigree he was looking for. He scanned up it. “Ah, here we go. See here, his great grandsire, called Alpheus, was a strong, intelligent dog with an iron-will. A good namesake. We’ll call this little chap… Alfie. A solid Scottish name.”
Christian ached. He wished with all his might he could bring that pup home. Gresham handed him Alfie and wiped his hands on his overalls. “Well, that’s the lot of’em. Which one would you like?”
He froze. “What?”
“Pick one out. I’m not so hard-hearted as to not notice you took a liking to my dogs, and I don’t keep all of them every time a batch comes around. Go ahead.”
Christian looked down at the wriggling pup in his arms. “May I take Alfie?”
“Of course you may,” said Gresham.
“I’m—I’m gob smacked!” stammered Christian.
Gresham gave him a hint of a smile. “That’s the way, kid. Leave him here for now and pick him up in a couple weeks when you’re ready to go. Don’t hesitate to visit—him, I mean. Gotta keep the bond strong.” He turned quickly.
Christian set Alfie down and started out, but the pup followed him. At the door he sat and cocked his head at the boy. Christian winked at him and bounded down the trail.
“A dog?” Lauren screeched with horror. “You can’t get a dog!” Mom and Dad laughed aloud.
“Puppies and kittens can get along just fine, Lauren,” said Mom. “I think Christian deserves it. Let’s enjoy the rest of the vacation, and then we can worry about the flight. Alfie will fly in style; first class with us!”
Christian emerged from the jet way beaming. Annapolis: how good to be home! However, he’d miss Scotland, and the cabin in the woods. But then again, the little chap alongside him would always be a piece of Scotland to remind him of Gresham Percy and this eventful summer.
Alfie bounced along on the end of his leash, his ears perked up and his stubby tail wagging. His body vibrated with suppressed yips at the exciting things they passed. His paws clicked smartly on the tile and his legs whirred in an effort to keep up. For a moment Christian tried to shake himself awake, but no; Alfie was really there. Remembering Fiona, Christian made a mental note to cut a small hole in the wall of the doghouse that Alfie could squeeze under to rescue him if Christian ever fell unconscious.