Barkley the dog was as smart and loyal a canine as the world had ever seen. And when, Braden, the rascal child who always seemed to find trouble, fell into the old well-shaft on the abandoned farm, Barkley went dashing off to fetch help. He made straight for the nearest property which was owned by Farmer John who, Barkley hoped, could save the boy.
Farmer John was in his front yard hefting an axe, splitting logs for firewood. Barkley raced up to him and began to hop up and down, barking anxiously. “What is it, boy?” Farmer John asked, putting down his axe and confronting the dog. Barkley woofed twice, growled a little, then let out a piteous whine. “Oh, is that it? Braden’s in trouble again. That rascal child! What’s he done now?” Barkley ruffed three times then panted briefly. “The old well-shaft? On the abandoned farm?” Farmer John rubbed his chin in consternation. “That can’t be right.” Barkley whined his disagreement. “No. I don’t believe you. Even he couldn’t be that much of a rascal.” Barkley woofed with perturbation. “Liar!” Farmer John accused, “Bad doggy! Bad, bad doggy!” Farmer John went back to splitting logs.
Barkley sat nervously, his gaze fixed on the stubborn farmer, hoping that soon the man would listen to reason. Farmer John ignored the dog as long as he could, but the pleading stare of Barkley wore him down. “Stop that! Go away! Shoo!” His words had no effect on one so loyal. “Do you think I’m going to change my mind? I’m resolute. Resolved. Sticking to my guns. Just give it up and go home!” Barkley would not move or avert his gaze for all the bones in the world. “Damn you!” Farmer John burst out, “Damn you all! Damn this whole crazy world! Damn the diggers of wells! Damn the force of gravity! Damn it all!” Barkley began to get excited. He was ready to race off, lead the way to rescue. But alas, Farmer John crumpled to the ground in a spasm of tears.
“Why, oh, why? Braden, why?” Farmer John wailed. He could never wish something so cruel on a little child, even a rascal one. He bemoaned reality in all its random cruelty. “Life is a sham! Oh, cruel birth! Why? Why this heartless fate?” Barkley was not one for melancholy musings, but he knew how this would play out. The loyal and compassionate dog padded over to Farmer John, layed himself down, and put his head upon the farmer’s lap. Farmer John stroked the dog’s head. “I was a boy once. I sprained my ankle and broken an arm. I ate a bad apple and was sick for a day. I even nearly fell from high a tall tree and broke my little neck. But to be trapped in a well! A cold, dark, wet enclosure with hope so far out of reach! I never faced that.” Barkley gave out an empathetic whimper. “Yes. I’ve hurt. I know what pain is.” Barkley sat up just as Farmer John burst up to his feet. “I know what pain is!” Barkley began to run and Farmer John followed as swiftly as he could.
As the two hurried to the abandoned farm, Farmer John said a quiet prayer: “Oh, I beseech Thee to let that rascal child be saved. Please, be it so. If You allow this, I promise that I will never eat taco shells straight from the box ever, ever again. Thou art in Heaven. Amen. Et cetera, etc.”
Barkley arrived half a minute before Farmer John. He thrust his front paws onto the edge of the well, looked into the dark, and woofed a greeting. There was no reply. Barkley woofed and ruffed and, as a last-ditch effort, arfed. Farmer John came up behind, breathing heavily. Barkley whimpered. “What? He’s not answering?” Farmer John bent over the well. “Braden! …Braden! …Answer me!” The silence from below remained unbroken. “Braden! …Stop fooling around!” Finally there was a weak, echoing reply from far below. “Huh,” said Farmer John scratching his head, “The boy says he’s not coming out until he gets an Xbox.” Barkley woofed twice then ruffed. “No, I most certainly will not! I do not negotiate with rascal children. He’ll just have to stay down there until he appreciates what most of us take for granted: not being stuck in a well!” Then, Farmer John turned and walked back toward home. Barkley watched him go, appalled. The loyal and honorable canine considered what next to do on behalf of the rascal child fallen down the well, and after a few long minutes headed for the nearest electronics retailer.
Next time: Barkley vs. the Harlem Globetrotters!
Copyright 2007, 2008 by Michael Marsters.
All rights reserved.