Monday, September 1, 2008


Dedicated to all of those affected by Hurricane Gustav. My thoughts and best wishes are with you all.

Josephine sat calmly in her favorite chair, scratching Rusty's ears and watching a television that had long lost its reception and was just a blizzard of snow. Josephine was aware that something was about to happen, but couldn't completely process the information. So she scratched Rusty's ears and gently cooed to him.

Rusty was terrified. The nine-year-old mutt that Josephine had saved from the streets sensed that something extremely bad was coming and every molecule of his being screamed for him to flee. But he stayed next to Josephine. She was his family, his pack. She loved and cared for him. Sure, sometimes Josephine would go days without putting food out for him, or feed him repeatedly throughout the day, but that's how life worked for Rusty and he had been through much worse in his day. So he would stay by Josephine's side regardless of what terror was coming. They were in this together.

Forgetting the fresh cup of tea she had just made herself, Josephine got up to make herself another cup, and Rusty followed her to the kitchen as he followed her everywhere. He held out hope that she was leaving, but that was not his main concern. He just liked being around her. Rusty would follow Josephine anywhere.

Getting to the kitchen, Josephine went and sat at the kitchen table as she intended. She looked down with loving eyes at her loyal dog that was returning the favor. "We've been through a lot, haven't we, Princess." With perfect recall, Josephine remembered how she and Princess would play for hours on end on her parents' farm. They had such delicious adventures together, often roaming for hours and hours to see what things they could find, Princess always leading the way, thrilled with the life she was living with the little girl.

Josephine's eyes welled up slightly as she looked down at Princess. She recalled the time she had pneumonia and how Princess sat with her the entire time. How her mother came in and sat on the bed next to her, stroking her hair and telling her that everything was going to be all right soon. "I'm here, Jo," said her mom in a soothing voice. "And so is Princess. This is just one of God's tests, is all, and we'll never ever leave you."

Two hours after sitting at the kitchen table, the wind rattling her tiny home rattled her awake. Josephine looked around, her mind almost completely blank. A thought came to her that something was happening. Something bad. As she started to get upset over her inability to remember things these days, she looked down and saw Rexie. The upset and worry that were building in her stomach quickly dissipated. Rexie. My little hero.

When Robert would come home from the bar drunk and angry, he would often beat or berate her. She shuddered at the thought that he'd be home soon. But Rexie would always be there afterward to console her. Rexie who spent most of her time hidden in the basement to avoid the boots of Robert. Rexie who would lovingly lick her hands and feet when Josephine would hide in the basement, as well. Rexie who kept her from tumbling into a place where she could never return, who kept her convinced that love really existed. Little Rexie.

Josephine was jolted out back to reality by the sound of the wind slamming into her home and blowing through the open window in the kitchen. "The basement," said Josephine aloud as if the words had been placed in her mouth. What about the basement? Josephine stood up on shaky and sore legs and walked over and closed the window. This wind just wasn't normal, Josephine thought. The basement. She had to use the bathroom. Rusty followed her in and then followed her as she slowly made her way back to her living room chair.

"It's windy out there, isn't it Puff?" Josephine asked the little Shi-Tzu that Bobby had gotten her after Robert had passed on. "I found this little guy, Mom," Bobby said. "I think he needs a home." Josephine smiled and then laughed out loud looking down at the little dog at her feet. "Puffy, you fat little thing." Oh how that little dog loved his food. Rusty looked up at Josephine, still gripped with fear, but sensing that he might be getting something to eat soon. His mouth started to water. Rusty liked food quite a bit himself.

"Bobby," said Josephine to no one in particular. Her little boy. With the howling of the wind growing, she had a moment of worry. "I wish he'd come home already," Josephine thought. She looked back down at Puff and marveled at how much he had helped her. She had a job because of Puff. Taking care of him helped her take care of herself. The strength and independence that was buried deep inside her from years of living with an abusive husband had resurfaced because Puff believed in her and loved her. She had become the woman she had always wanted to be, in no small part to this little dog with the crazy fur. The moment then passed and Josephine again dozed off.

She awoke to water at her feet and rain drenching her and her dog on her lap. She slowly petted Rusty and realized that she'd have to call Charlie, her father's best friend who was "the best plumber on the planet," as her father used to say. Josephine looked up at the sky and saw the storm. She briefly wondered how she had gotten outside. Then clarity came. The Hurricane was here. But even as the rain pelted her and the wind screamed, a calm had taken over her. No one was coming. Not Robert, not Bobby, not Princess, Rexie or Puff. But they were all here with her in the form of a frightened little dog.

Josephine looked down at the little mutt on her lap. Her eyes welled with tears of love for the little dog. "You're such a good dog, Rusty," she said through her tears. "You are such a good boy." The final clear thought of Josephine's long life came to her. She was staying. This was her home, her life, her memories. She would stay no matter what came. She continued petting Rusty as the thought left her tired mind.

The tenseness of his body was being somewhat relaxed by being rubbed and loved. Rusty knew what was coming but had already decided to ignore his instincts. He could never, ever leave this wonderful woman. They were in this together.


About the Work: The main impetus for this story was having to hear those that have who are not evacuating from New Orleans being called "foolish" among other things. We are all allowed our own choices, regardless of opinions of others, and I am sure those that stayed have their own reasoning, and that's to be respected. The central theme is based on my love of dogs, as well as the recent story where a dog stayed in the woods with his dead owner for three weeks, fending off coyotes. And also to my wife, who once had a terrible relationship and had dogs that helped her stay sane and strong. The dogs named throughout the story are dogs that have been in my life, while Josephine was my grandmother. Rusty is the name my grandfather bequeathed to several different dogs he had and loved. Finally, this story is also a tribute to those in my life who have suffered from Alzheimers.

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