Silky’s Halloween

by Karen Wills

This is an excerpt of a revised version of my very first ever story, written when I was in third grade.

Silky shrank behind the vat of black, bubbling brew. She watched Witch Gertrude put on her best black dress, her pointed hat, and then rub baby oil on the wart on her nose.
Silky hated Halloween for one big reason. She feared riding on skinny old broomsticks. She’d have to dig her claws deep into the handle or the wind might blow her off.
“Silky!” yelled Witch Gertrude, lifting a torch. “Where are you, my beastly beast? Let’s go!”
Shadows wavered on the walls like bats. Silky scrunched in her corner. Witch Gertrude looked behind rows of pickled wasp wings, under the table where bottles of beetle dust sat, behind the case of snakeskins, just everywhere.
Finally, she dunked her torch in a kettle of water. She peered into the shadows until she saw – two eyes, shining like candle flames.
“Aha, there you are,” she cackled. Grabbing Silky by the scruff of the neck, Witch Gertrude plopped her on the broomstick.
Silky hung on tight. They swished through the door and up into the starry sky. Under the orange moon, Witch Gertrude shrieked like a banshee, scaring owls, skunks, bats, and sweethearts.
Silky tried not to look down.
They sailed into a dark cloud. Wet mist plastered Silky’s fur flat to her skin.
They crashed!
“Witch Brunhilde! Watch where you’re going!” screamed Witch Gertrude, lying flat on her back.
Witch Brunhilde got up and started picking thorns out of her black dress. “I think I had the right-of-way,” she said. “Anyway, I was just out for a little Halloween fun.”
Silky had landed on her feet as cats usually do. She stretched and looked around. Suddenly, her back arched. Her black fur stood on end and she spit and hissed.
“What are you afraid of now?” snapped Witch Gertrude, rubbing all the places where she ached.
“Well, cast a spell on me,” said Witch Brunhilde. “It’s a jack-o-lantern. Humans make them, you know. They’re supposed to scare us witches away.”
“I’m sure we can do something about that,” Witch Gertrude said.
Silky could now see that the jack-o-lantern had a big, friendly grin. She tiptoed behind the witches.

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Confessions of an Critteraholic

I am crazy about animals. I’ve had cats, rabbits, horses, cows, a snake, a baby armadillo, dogs, and more dogs. I’ve had pedigreed dogs, rescued dogs, mutts, curs, big dogs, bigger dogs, and 100+ pound dogs.  Of all the dogs I’ve been blessed to know, it has been two golden retrievers whose paws captured the biggest pieces of my heart.

The first golden girl of my heart came to me when I was twelve and stayed by my side until cancer took her thirteen years later. Some folks may tell you goldens are not good watch dogs. They would be wrong! Mae was just ten months old the first time she came to my rescue. She and I were sitting on the porch of an old, closed feed store when a tall, lanky fellow in his forties came up and tried to talk me into going with him. I said no and started to leave. That’s when he grabbed me, and that’s when Mae went from being a big tail-wagging pup to Cujo. She jumped off the porch and landed on his back and held on. When she finally let go of him, he took off in one direction and Mae and I ran the other way.

The local sheriff told my parents that the man had been in the state mental hospital twice for molesting children. Now my momma didn’t believe in letting any animal except a goldfish live in her house. But from that night on, Mae slept next to my bed. My mother dubbed her my protector, and Mae rose to that role numerous times. Through high school, college, marriage, and divorce, Mae was always by my side.

 The golden girl lying next to my chair tonight came to me as a puppy in 2004. In 2009, Jasmine and I decided to become a Pet Partner Therapy team (okay, I decided, but she liked the idea). After training for six months, we went to Billings to be tested. Jasmine made 100% on her tests and received the highest rating given to registered therapy dogs. We can go into mental hospitals and rehab centers, as well as hospitals, nursing homes, and schools. Jasmine loves getting her service vest on and heading out to bring comfort and cheer to those who need a little unconditional love. An added bonus for us is that our bond is stronger than ever. To be a good therapy dog, the dog must trust her human partner so much that she will obey her partner’s commands even when her animal instincts tell her to do something else. To have a friend that trusts you and loves you so unconditional is a rare and precious thing.

I’ve always lamented the fact that humans outlive our dogs. I read a great explanation from a six-year-old boy, Shane, who’d lost his dog to cancer. He said, “People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life—like loving everybody all the time and being nice. Right?” He continued, “Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”

Sounds about right to me, Shane.

Thanks for stopping by,

Deborah

Breaking TWIG

Breaking TWIG

What’s in a Heart?

Family Photo

“How do you know if a guy has a good heart?” This was the question my daughter asked me the February she was seventeen. The boy she liked and her date for the upcoming Valentine’s dance had done “something” (she wouldn’t go into more detail) that was causing her to have second thoughts about her Mr. Wonderful. Summoning all the restraint I could muster, I didn’t push her to reveal what the “something” was, as I knew that would send her fleeing in fear of a pending inquisition.

Many thoughts jumped into my brain. Make sure he respects you. (I’d preached that one for years). Does he listen to his mother? (More important to me, no doubt, than to her). But I sensed she didn’t want to hear a rehash of the platitudes and pearls of wisdom I’d tried to instill in her since birth. I didn’t want to screw this up. Her coming to Mom for advice instead of to her teenage peers was more and more a rare event.

She wanted something new, something simple and concrete that she could use as a yardstick in an attempt to measure the true nature of a human heart. Years before, I’d read a quote from Immanuel Kant, a famous 18th century German philosopher and ethics professor. It had stuck in my mind, probably because I love animals so much. My daughter does too. The quote seemed to fit our situation. I considered it a pretty good yardstick. So did my daughter, who eventually found and married a man with a good heart, a man that adores her and shares her love for animals.

“We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” Immanuel Kant.

Thanks for stopping by,

Deborah Epperson

Deborah Epperson