More than likely, other freelance writers are like me and have files of material they wrote but never sold or for which they did not find a purpose. Occasionally, I peruse my files for ideas that might fit if repurposed. I pitched this short story to one publication but it was not pick-up and I eventually used it as a basis for a screenplay. It seems a shame to let it collect dust so I decided to share it.
Kevin, a True Story
by: Richard W Black
Earnest Hemingway is famously quoted as saying, “Madame, all stories, if continued far enough, end in death, and he is no true-story teller who would keep that from you.” In deference to that great American writer, he was almost right. All true stories do end in death yet that is but a beginning, not an end. My faith tells me that what is beyond is far better than anything previously experienced. Therefore, this is a true story of what was and might be.
I had always wanted to be a writer. It was the one sustaining hobby in my life. As I grew older, I determined that I would spend my retirement years writing full-time. Then in my mid-fifties, my job suddenly disappeared. The company was sold and it was moved to another state. My wife and I felt we were in a financial position where I could pursue my dream so I began a writing career and thought I was in heaven.
Quickly, I learned that one of my great joys as a freelance writer was sitting on the front porch in the cool of the summer mornings with my laptop and writing as my neighbors went off to work. It was there on one of those beautiful Tennessee days when I saw him trotting down the sidewalk and into my life.
A salt and pepper miniature schnauzer, he pranced in front of the house, turned into my driveway and stood at the base of the stairs leading up to the porch where I worked. He paced for a while in what I thought was shyness, but would later learn that it was something far worse. I ignored him, figuring he was an escapee from the neighborhood and someone would be along to claim him or he would go home on his own. Eventually though, he climbed the steps.
I was working on a story with a happy-go-lucky character called Kevin so that became his name. It seemed to fit. I talked, he listened and we waited all morning for his pet parents to come for him, they did not. At lunchtime, I bid him farewell and went inside thinking he would be gone by the time I returned. He was still there when I went back to my computer. Foolishly, I fed him a small piece of leftover chicken from my lunch; I felt sorry for him. As the afternoon wore on, I became concerned. I did not want to take a dog into my house that might have fleas or other related problems; he was a bit scraggly and had a touch of an odor. I called the local vet for assistance and they suggested I have him checked out. Actually, I thought they might keep him and solve my dilemma.
An hour before they closed, I packed Kevin into the car and drove over. The veterinary staff declared him free of fleas and other bugs but he did not have an identity chip. They searched through the ads of missing dogs on the internet sites to no avail. I had, by that time, become fond of Kevin and was pleased they would not keep him. Taking him home, I gave him a bath because of the slight smell. That evening, I introduced my wife to our new house guest. I took his picture but must confess to never posting it on telephone poles around the neighborhood or any missing dog website.
After a week, we were too attached to him and stopped pretending to look for his owners. Writers can have long periods of isolation from human contact when working and Kevin seemed God’s gift; a companion during the day who did not interrupt or try to carry on a conversation while I was writing.
I took him back to the veterinarian for a more thorough physical and discovered that he was far older than he appeared, had a limp in his back leg and his teeth were in a deplorable condition. Actually, the teeth were the source of the odor so, poor Kevin had another vet appointment where his teeth were cleaned and several very bad ones were removed. Given their state, the little guy probably had pain when eating, but that was rectified.
The limp bothered me so the vet x-rayed him while he was knocked out for his teeth cleaning. Although the doctor’s original diagnosis had been arthritis, she found a disturbing lump located in his hind quarter and neither the vet nor a local specialist who reviewed the x-rays and subsequent ultrasound images knew what it was. She researched it without finding a probable explanation. I had to make a choice, one I have had to live with ever since. At Kevin’s age, the vet feared that surgery was a 50/50 proposition. An operation might determine what it was and maybe she could remove it or treat it, but my puppy might not survive the surgical procedure or the recovery period. I opted to treat the symptoms with medication that made his life less painful and not risk the surgery.
Kevin became my writing buddy. He lay beside me all day as I wrote and provided the breaks I needed away from the keyboard when he wanted to walk.
Unfortunately, Kevin was not a fan of the rest of the world and that included my wife. So long as I was around, he was friendly and tolerant but when I was not, he had a real attitude toward other people. The groomers at two pet stores refused to take him after the initial visit but we were finally able to have the groomer at the vet clinic handle him with the help of a pill. When we left the house, we had to cage him or he would pee on the floor in rebellion. My wife mistakenly failed to keep an eye on him one evening when I was at a meeting and he left her a nice puddle, which I had to clean up. If we stayed out too late at our Euchre Club, he would urinate in the corner of his cage and I had to wash the blanket and sanitize the liner. It was difficult for my wife to walk him because he only allowed me to pick him up at the steps to the front porch when they returned.
Stairs were hard for Kevin. That first day was not so much about his bashfulness as it was about the pain he had climbing steps. He could descend them but I had to lift him up onto the porch after walks. The neighbor kids found that funny; they did not understand his medical problem and I did not bother to tell them. In the evenings, Kevin leaped off the couch to greet my wife when she returned from work in one of his few expressions of tolerance for her but then I would lift him back up beside me. Our evening ritual included picking him up and carrying him up the steps to bed. I have to admit that I liked doing it, holding him close. He was not a burden.
Seventeen months after Kevin entered our lives, the bad thing inside him did its evil work. For a month, we made several trips to the vet trying to defeat the lump but eventually it won. Eighteen months from his appearance on our front porch, I was forced to accept the inevitable. The doctor gently advised me that Kevin had given up the fight to live and all that was left for him in this world was suffering. I held him that terrible, terrible day as we gave him back to God and my heart broke. If these pages appear stained, it is from the tears of my soul for my little buddy.
We grieved for several months and my writing was a mirror of the pain I felt inside; filled with a sad darkness. I swore I would never allow my heart to become so attached again, but that was the sorrow speaking.
Eventually, I ventured onto websites of breeders of miniature schnauzers when faced with periods of writer’s block under the guise of research for some story or something. Gradually, I had to admit that there was a missing piece to our family and I began exploring the dog rescue sites. I filled out the adoption form and we had a nice visit from a volunteer to evaluate if we were suitable pet parents. Nevertheless, we continued to be hesitant at taking the risk until some very cruel rescue person sent us a photo.
The one-year-old puppy had been given the goofy name of a professional football quarterback when he was saved from the animal shelter on the day before he was scheduled to be terminated. In the picture, he was looking over at the photographer with his sad little eyes and droopy ears. No fair! How could anyone have resisted that face? Of course, the name would have to go, it was dreadful. We made a list and decided on Calvin from the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes.
So, on the day of our wedding anniversary, we filled the hole in our hearts when we picked up Calvin from the miniature schnauzer rescue folks. We immediately fell in love with him. He lies beside me as I write and provides walking breaks. He learned quickly who was in charge and runs the house under his rigid routine. Not long after he arrived, I realized that I was picking Calvin up and carrying him to bed each night even though he was capable of walking up the stairs on his own. I put him on the bed despite the fact that he could jump up by himself. Calvin does not seem to mind, in fact, he expects it every night.
I love Calvin and would not trade him for anything.
However, the older I am the more I think about heaven. Though I am not one to believe that animals have souls, I have to believe that the God who created all creatures will include them as part of the heavenly experience. My dream is that God will give me Kevin when I arrive at his celestial palace. I would give any and all of the jewels in the crown God has promised and even the crown itself to have my little Kevin race out of that house with many rooms to greet me. What great joy it would be to once again take him into my arms and carry him up the steps and into the mansion of God. That would truly be heaven.