P U P P Y   L O V E

 

 

 

~  4  ~

 

There was a note for Kerry on the kitchen table when he went to get his breakfast the next morning.  “Call Mr. Cavender,” it read.  Kerry smiled, then began whistling as he prepared himself a bowl of cereal. 

 

That note probably meant someone was looking for a private ski lesson.  Most of the ski instructions at the lodge were given in groups and given by the staff.  Kerry was available for private lessons, usually for kids or young people who didn’t want to embarrass themselves in a group setting, or wanted private instruction for any one of a number of other reasons.  Kerry enjoyed teaching people to ski.  He got on well with almost everyone, and about the best thing in the world was being out in the cold with skis on.  Here he could do that and get paid as well.  It was about perfect.

 

When Kerry sat down to eat, he was reminded that someone else was hungry, too. 

 

“Wait your turn!” he laughed as Lucky kept pestering him.  The pup was chewing on Kerry’s shoelaces, then tugging on them while doing her best imitation of a growl.

 

While he ate, Kerry stewed over his problem.  He’d known it would come, just not today.  But he’d be returning to school soon and had known from the start that that’s when the problem would need a solution.  He had to find somewhere to stash Lucky during the day.  He couldn’t leave her on her own.

 

He sighed.  He could only think of one possibility.

 

He called Mr. Cavender after feeding Lucky and heard of a prospective client.  He told Mr. Cavender he could come in at one that afternoon to talk to him.  So.  If he lined up a client, he’d have to make arrangements for Lucky sooner than he’d thought. 

 

He slipped into his outdoor clothing, then put Lucky in his backpack and was ready to go.  Lucky didn’t weigh enough to affect Kerry’s skiing at all.  She did, however, object to being locked into the backpack without being able to see and during the downhill run managed to poke her head out the top flap.  She seemed to like the sight of the trees rushing past and the wind in her face as they flew down the hill together.

 

Kerry went around to the animal hospital door and entered.  Doc was in his easy chair reading his paper, a cup of coffee on the stand next to him.

 

“Hey, Kid.  How’re you doing?”

 

Kerry walked over and sat down in the other chair after taking off his backpack and coat.  He opened the backpack and freed Lucky, then held the dog in his lap.  “Doing fine, Doc.  I got a problem, though.”

 

The doc smiled.  “Let’s see.  A young boy, a new puppy, and the first trying to hide the second from his mother.  I can’t imagine why you’d be having any problems!”  His laughter annoyed Kerry.  He wasn’t in a position to show it, however.

 

“Yeah,” he agreed, forcing himself to chuckle.  “What I need is a place to keep Lucky during the time I’m either at the lodge or at school.  And I wondered about leaving her here.”

 

He was watching the doc when he said this, and the wrinkling of the man’s eyebrows, the preamble to a frowning refusal, made him keep talking before Doc could utter any objections.  “She won’t be any bother.  She sleeps most of the time.  And if she did get under foot, you could always stick her in one of the cages you use for holding your patients.”

 

“Kerry…”

 

“Please, Doc?  I’ve got to have some place to leave her!  And it has to be this afternoon, too.”

 

The doc stood up and walked over to his desk.  He looked down and moved some papers on his desk, then moved to the window and looked out.  He was obviously considering what Kerry had asked.  Finally, he went back to his chair and sat, took a drink of coffee and made a face because it was cool, set the cup down and turned to Kerry.  “I’m not going to raise your puppy for you, Kerry.  I’m not going to take care of it, either.  This is just the first of many problems you’re going to have.  It’ll be up to you to solve them.  But, I’ll help talk you through this one, OK?  Because there is an answer to this.  Most problems are that way.  They seem impossible till you work at them a little.  Sometimes you don’t necessarily love the solution, but there’ll usually be one.”

 

“So what’s the solution to this one?”

 

“I said I’d talk you through it, not solve it for you.  So, OK.  What’s the problem?”

 

“You know what the problem is.”  Kerry felt huffy.  But he knew the doc.  This had to be done his way, and Kerry had to bury his objections.  He did, reluctantly.  “OK.  OK.  I need you to watch Lucky for me when I can’t.”  He couldn’t help himself; his expression became a pout.

 

Doc laughed, which didn’t help Kerry’s mood at all.

 

“That isn’t your problem and you know it.  Now, tell me what the problem is.  If you can’t enunciate it clearly, how can you solve it?”

 

Kerry couldn’t keep his annoyance out of his voice.  Sometimes, talking to this man was the height of frustration.  “But that is my problem.  I need to find someone I can trust to look after her when I can’t be with her!”

 

“Aha!  But that’s not what you said before.”  The doc saw Kerry was reaching the boiling point and eased off the throttle, explaining himself.  “Before you said you needed me to watch Lucky; now you’re saying you need someone.  That’s a lot different.  And that’s where I can help.  I can suggest someone.”

 

“Who?”

 

“Maryann.”

 

Kerry’s emotions were on a roller coaster ride.  “Maryann?  I don’t want Maryann to watch Lucky!  And she can’t watch her when I’m in school.  She’ll be there, too!”

 

“Why don’t you want her to watch him when she can?”  The doc kept himself from smiling and looked questioningly at Kerry as though he didn’t understand the boy’s reluctance.  He did understand.  He knew that to Kerry, girls, especially girly girls who didn’t ski like Maryann didn’t, were a nuisance, and he’d rather not have to deal with one.  Next year it might be different, but not now.  Still, he was amused and wanted to see how Kerry would answer, so he waited and watched.

 

“But…”  Kerry wasn’t sure how to say what he wanted to say.  Maryann was the doc’s daughter, so he couldn’t bad mouth her.  But the girl watched him all the time; it was creepy!

 

He studied Lucky, wiggling in his lap, trying to stand tall enough to lick his face, looked into her big, brown, happy eyes, and the decision was made.  He accepted the inevitable; he didn’t, however answer the question. 

 

“You think she’ll do it?”

 

“I think she will if you ask her.”

 

“But what about next week?  School?”

 

“Solve today’s problem now.  You still have time to work on next week.  Funny, but things have a way of working themselves out.  That’s what serendipity is all about.”

 

“Huh?”

 

So Doc explained about serendipity, but it didn’t help Kerry’s mood any.  It was just like the doc, helping and not helping at the same time.  It was the not helping part that had Kerry angry when he left to walk around the house and knock on the front door.  But mostly, he was wondering what the doc had meant, saying what he had about him asking Maryann, and emphasizing the him like that?


  ≈≈≈≈≈≈

 

Maryann answered his knock. 

 

“Hi,” he said.  “Can I talk to you?”

 

She smiled brightly at him and, looking very happy and somewhat excited, invited him in.  Maryann was actually a pretty girl, quite pretty in fact, with medium length blonde hair and a slim figure.  To him, however, she, like any girl, was a nuisance.

 

In the living room, he said, “I need to ask you a favor.”

 

She sat next to him on the couch, making him uncomfortable.  “Sure,” she said.

 

He frowned, but didn’t tell her she hadn’t heard what the favor was yet, not seeing how that would further his cause.  “I have an appointment at the lodge this afternoon and can’t take this dog with me.  I was wondering if maybe you’d be willing to look after her till I get back.”

 

“She’s adorable!  What’s her name?”

 

“Lucky Lucy.  I call her Lucky.”

 

“Come here, Lucy,” she said, and reached out for her.  The pup came to her without any reluctance, and Maryann cuddled her to her cheek, making Kerry very uncomfortable.  He wanted Maryann to tend to Lucky, not fall in love with her.  Or vice versa.

 

She cuddled Lucky for a few moments, then said, “Sure, I’ll take her whenever you need me to.”

 

He smiled.  “Thanks, Maryann.  That’s a big help.  I do appreciate it.”

 

“That’s OK.  Maybe you can do something for me sometime.  Do you want me to keep her now, till you get back from your appointment?”

 

Kerry checked the clock and said, “Yeah, that would be great.”

 

Climbing back up the hill to his house, he had mixed emotions about this.  But the real worry was, what to do on school days?

 

≈≈≈≈≈≈

 

He rode his bike to the lodge.  It took almost an hour, but the roads, while wet, had been salted and were clear of snow.  The road wound down the mountain, past the doc’s house, then led toward the town and the lodge.  Riding, he was thinking about what to do with the puppy.  The answer seemed to be that he had to find someone to leave the dog with for the few hours he’d be away from it.  He thought he could probably keep it OK at home when he was there, hidden from his mother; it was just school hours, and teaching-kids-to-ski hours, that would be the problem.

 

The next house he came to after passing the doc’s was where a kid his age lived.  They were about the same age, but didn’t know each other at all, even though where they lived was a small village with a small school.  Kerry was very much an outdoors, active sort of boy, while the boy who lived not that far away from him was very much the bookworm, computer-addicted, stay-at-home sort; he had to be because Kerry never saw him around anywhere.  Kerry and Luke were about as different as two boys could be, Kerry was sure.  Kerry was lucky to even know the boy’s name; he’d only learned it when Doc had spoken about the boy.  As he’d never seen Luke out skiing or in the village, and not ever at school, Kerry knew very little about him.

 

As he rode past Luke’s house, Kerry regretted for the first time that he didn’t know the kid.  Where Luke lived would be perfect.  It was a short walk from the doc’s house to where the boy lived, and so if the kid could take care of Lucky during the school day, collecting her from there after school would be easy.  But that was almost incidental.  The real selling point was, the doc had told him that Luke was home-schooled. 

 

Kerry was aware that the boy’s parents were very religious and wanted their son to grow up with their values; they didn’t want him rubbing shoulders with the other children who attended the public school, kids who’d give Luke ideas they didn’t want him thinking about.  Accordingly, they kept him home where he’d be safe from those sorts of influences.

 

Kerry knew the kid didn’t ski and was home-schooled; this meant to him the boy was wasting his life, especially those parts of it where he could be out skiing; the school part, not so much.  He knew the kid’s name and some incidental gossip but not a whole lot more.  That really wasn’t any basis for asking him to watch his dog for him every day.

 

He met Mr. Cavender at the lodge, and Mr. Cavender introduced him to the Tasleys, a man and woman and their son.

 

“I’ll let you talk,” Mr. Cavender said to the older Tasleys, smiling.  “As I told you, Kerry doesn’t work for the lodge, but we know him and recommend him for what you want.  If you’d like him to work with Ronald, you can work out the arrangements with him.”

 

Then Mr. Cavender shook hands all around and walked off.

 

Kerry had done this before often enough to feel comfortable taking charge, even though he was speaking to adults he’d never met before.  “Why don’t you guys come into my office?” he asked, then grinned and led them into the great room and proceeded to direct them to one of the many empty tables. 

 

“Now, I guess the lessons are for Ronald?”  When the adults nodded, Kerry asked, “And is it just for one day, or are you going to be here awhile and will want a series of lessons?”

 

Mr. Tasley answered.  Kerry was to learn that Mr. Tasley almost always answered.  “We’ll be here a week.  Then we have to get back because his school will be starting again.  I think skiing every day will be good for him.  He doesn’t get out much at home.  He needs the exercise.”

 

Kerry took a quick glance at Ronald.  The boy was looking out the big window, seemingly not even listening to what was being said.

 

“I’d be happy to give him an hour or two hour lesson every day.”  Kerry told them his hourly rate, and that for ten hours or more a week he’d reduce it 10%.  Mr. Tasley said that two hours a day would be fine, and if Kerry thought Ronald was getting anything from it, he’d even be happy to increase the time.

 

So they settled on two hours the next morning for the first lesson.  Then, when shaking hands after standing up, Kerry asked, “Could I spend a few minutes with Ronald now, just to get to know him a little before we get started tomorrow?  There’s a room set aside for teens here where we can go and get acquainted.”

 

Mr. Tasley said that would be fine, told Ronald they’d be in their room or in the great room when he was done and to come find them.  Then they walked off, leaving the two boys together.

 

Ronald looked at Kerry but didn’t say anything.  He appeared to  Kerry to be about his own age.  His hair was longish, longer than Kerry’s and just as dark, and he had the unfortunate habit of never allowing his eyes to focus on Kerry’s.  His pale skin looked like it rarely made acquaintance with the sun.  He was wearing a tee shirt, jeans and sneaks, and he seemed to fill all the available room in the tee shirt.  He wasn’t exactly fat, but certainly the term pudgy could have been applied without stretching the truth.

 

“Come on,” Kerry said.  “Let’s get a Coke.”

 

He led the quiescent boy into the teen’s lounge.  There was a soda bar on one side.  Drinks for lodge guests were free, and Kerry, a friend of management, never had to pay. 

 

“What do you want?” Kerry asked.

 

Ronald looked at him and said, “May I have a Coke?.”

 

Kerry almost shook his head, but forbore.  They took their drinks to a table.  Every now and then Ronald would look up at Kerry, then down quickly.

 

Kerry was quiet, waiting, wanting to see if Ronald ever would say anything if left to it.  After a few minutes of silence, Kerry sighed.  “Let me guess.  They dragged you here, dragged you away from where you were probably perfectly content.  Your dad wants you to get outside more, meet people, run around, maybe even get in trouble, and you want to stay home and read, or maybe enjoy yourself on your computer.  Am I close?”

 

For the first time, Ronald grinned.  “You a mind reader or something?”

 

Kerry laughed.  “No, but I know about battles with parents.  I’m barely speaking to my mother at the moment.  For a while now, really.  But that’s neither here nor there.  I guess since you’re here, you’re stuck.  But I don’t want to waste my time, or yours, showing you how to do something you’ll probably hate.  And I can’t take your dad’s money and then not teach you.  So, we have a problem, Ronald.”

 

“It’s Ron.  I hate Ronald.  But that’s all my parents will call me.  They don’t listen to me at all.”

 

“Tell me about it!”

 

They grinned at each other.  Then Kerry asked, “So you like computers?  Or reading?  Or both.”

 

“Both.  I’m not athletic and get teased and even criticized a lot when I try.  It’s so much easier to stay inside.  Dad thinks I’m a wimp.  He played football!”  Ron shuddered at the thought.

 

Kerry was thinking.  Ron didn’t seem to mind the silence.  There was a window in the room overseeing the closest ski slope and Ron was looking out at the skiers.

 

Eventually,  Kerry asked, “So if I give you a one- or two-hour lesson, then you’ll have the rest of the day.  What’ll you do then, spend it with them?  Or did you bring a laptop or something?”

 

“Hah!  Fat chance.  They made me leave it, and dad even went back inside when I was in the car to check it was still there.  I guess I’ll have to tag around with them, which they’ll resent as much as I will.” 

 

Kerry nodded, then said, “Tell me.  Do you have friends at home?”

 

“There are a couple of computer geeks at school I eat lunch with.  We don’t get together much after school, though.”

 

“So you’re pretty lonely, right?”
 

Ron looked down and didn’t answer.

 

Kerry waited a moment, then said, “I’ve got an idea.”

 

Ron looked up.  Kerry could see some redness in his eyes.  “I don’t know if it’ll work.  But, maybe.  I have to find out.  Look, it won’t hurt you to have one lesson tomorrow.  And if I’m real lucky, maybe I can work something out that’ll help you and me both.”

 

“What are you talking about?” Ron asked.

   

“I’ll tell you tomorrow if it works out.  I’ll have to be really lucky, but maybe, just maybe…  Where there’s a will there’s a way; Doc told me that once, he makes up a lot of great sayings like that, and Doc says don’t be surprised when serendipity slaps you in the face.  So you never know.”

 

Ron stared after Kerry as he walked away, completely in the dark about what he’d just said.