Love

by Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci

My brother, Larry, and I had a shepherd dog named Buff. Our cousin Wayne had a mongrel, Lily, with brown eyes and floppy ears. Wayne was always going off with Lily and sitting with her, petting her long brown hair. Buff knew lots of tricks, but Lily didn’t know any.

“Go fetch!” yelled Larry. He threw a stick and Buff raced to bring it back.

“Fetch!” said Wayne to Lily, tossing a stick. She jumped up to lick his face.

Wayne lived with us because his folks were poor. We didn’t have much ourselves. Now and then Mama’d say, “We can’t afford two dogs,” but she didn’t do anything about it.

That winter was harder than usual. One night at suppertime Mama said, “Children, we can’t let these dogs starve. We’ve had Buff since he was pup. He’s part of the family. But Lily’s a stray Wayne picked up. If one dog goes, it has to be Lily. And one dog has got to go.”

Larry and I looked at Mama. Wayne stared at his plate.

Mama went on, “Don’t worry, children. We’re not going to just throw her out. Today I met some folks who are looking for a dog. With them she’d have a good home with plenty to eat.”

A week later Lily went away with the Stocktons, who lived 20 miles from us. Wayne waved until the car was out of sight then he ran to the barn.

The next evening, while Mama baked bread, we children played dominoes. Wind rattled the windows and threw snow against the glass. It roared around the house corners and whistled down the chimney.

“A blizzard,” said Mama as she came in the room with three slices of fresh, hot bread. “Here’s a treat.”

Buff emerged from behind the stove, tail wagging. Each of us broke off a hunk for him.

We’d almost finished eating when Wayne said, “I hear something.”

“It’s the wind,” said Larry.

“No, someone”s on the porch.” Wayne moved slowly toward the door. When he unlatched it the wind blew it open and a whirl of snow swept in. With it came something big and brown, all fuzzed up with snow.

“Lily!” cried Wayne, as she leaped up to put her paws on his shoulders. Her tail scattered snow.

“I can’t believe it,” said Mama. “Twenty miles in a storm like this!”

“Why’d she come back?“ said Larry. “She had plenty to eat there.”

Melted snow pooled around Lily’s feet, which had been cut by ice. Blood was mixed with the melt water.

Mama had tears in her eyes. “She can stay if you want, Wayne,” she said. “I guess she’d rather starve with us than go where there’s plenty. But think about it. Is it right to let her stay?“

Wayne knelt and hugged Lily. He put his last bite of bread into her mouth and pressed his face against her fur.

Larry and I said nothing.

After a long while Wayne straightened up. With one hand he smoothed Lily’s ears, and with the other dug into his eyes. “Tell them to come get her,” he said to Mama. “I know she won’t be hungry over there. Make sure they keep her in, so she won’t come back.”