Bear sat under the table dropping the red fire hydrant in Cody's lap, whining periodically for attention as he nuzzled it. Cody sat forlornly watching the large man heat the soup, noting how his movements were barely controlled. For whatever numbness still damaged Cody's perceptions of the world---that Nathaniel Berringer was one pissed off fellow, he had little doubt.
The damaged psyche could barely hold onto one thought after another, yet the memory of that kiss, the massive expanse of chest and the hot passion returned and given, stuck to his frontal lobe like gum to a shoe. Wrapping himself tightly in the red robe, he tried to melt into its folds, lest the raging river break the dam and come crashing down on him.
He pushed the hydrant away with a swipe of his hand, hoping his heated cheeks went unnoticed.
Bear, happy to have game, rushed out from under the table catching the top with his massive shoulders, it raised enough for Cody to grab hold hoping to keep the items on it safe and sound.
"BEAR! Sit down!" Nate yelled angrily. The pup's ears drooped, sad eyes looked up at Berringer. As soon as Nate turned back towards the heating soup, Bear picked up the hydrant, all transgressions forgiven, and squeaking noisily brought it back to Cody for a game of toss and retrieve.
Thirsting for love in the seemingly indifferent room, the young man grabbed the huge head and nuzzled his cheek against the warm fur. Bear, in full loving mode, put his front paws on Cody's shoulders, allowing the boy to wrap his arms around the massive dog and feel properly hugged back.
"Bear, get down!" Nate scolded as he set two bowls on the table. Grabbing the dog's collar he pulled him down, catching the hurt look in the green eyes. Cody shivered and hugged himself, painfully aware of the absence of love.
Softening his tone, in deference to the pained expression, Nate said, "You need to get some hot soup in you. He's all wound up now---after that little adventure---and he won't give anybody any rest if you keep encouraging him."
Pulling Bear gently across the room, he pointed his finger down, the command for Bear to lie down. The dog dropped down with the scratching sound of claws on wood and sadly put his huge head on his paws.
Nate tousled the big head. "Good, boy."
Bear sighed heavily, acknowledging that being good was no fun at all.
Walking towards the stove, Nate grabbed a hot pad and brought the heated, metal tureen to the table. Still standing, he spooned several portions into the huge soup bowl and placed it in front of Cody. "Eat it while it's hot, that river was cold. We'll both be lucky we don't get pneumonia."
Cody picked up his spoon, not daring to give Nate any lip. The large man finished spooning soup into his own bowl and set a plate of saltines in the middle of the table. Cody sipped the tomato soup delicately. Nate crumbled several crackers into the bowl and began chowing down.
Relaxing a bit, the kid reached out a hand and mimicked Nate's gesture of crumbling crackers, raising his fingers high as though performing a religious ceremony. He pushed the small pieces around and looked warily at Nate. "Why'd he save me?"
"It's a trait of his breed. Next time he puts his paws on you, look at the webbing. Newfoundlands are great swimmers and they have a natural instinct to save drowning victims." Nate turned to look at the dog, whose soft eyes wandered from Nate to Cody, as the brows peaked and curved with each movement of the great, sad eyes.
Nate laughed, "Took me by surprise, didn't think the pup was good for much but eating, sleeping, and slobbering all over me."
Cody knew the statement was anything but derogatory. When Nathaniel Berringer spoke of Bear, he spoke with love, admiration, and a binding loyalty. If only I could warrant such caring, Cody thought to himself, suddenly jealous of the huge dog.
"If we're doing questions and answers, I have some of my own," the large man said as he ladled another helping of soup and added more crumbled crackers to the mix. Looking up, the blue eyes were direct, and Cody had a feeling little evasion would be tolerated this evening. "Why are you so intent on dying?"
"Why are you so intent on keeping me alive?" Cody shot back angrily. "You know, nobody asked you, mister, nobody called you or that damn mutt of yours to come save me." Cody dropped his spoon sharply against the side of the bowl. He was hurting here. He didn't want to die, no one WANTED to die, sometimes there just wasn't anything else you could do---sometimes it was the only answer. Always tired, no fun, no joy, no wants or desires, he just wanted peace. He was so damn tired all the time.
All these emotions splayed across the young man's face as Nate watched him warring with himself. Berringer knew that the kid was answering the question in his head, feeling all the despair and weariness of a sickness that needed to be cured and cured soon.
"Finish your soup," was all Nate said, "Go on, no more talk, let's just eat."
Looking down at the red liquid, Cody's stomach turned once. There was hardly any taste to food lately, but the warm liquid had stopped some of the chill and he reluctantly picked up his spoon and lost himself in the confines of his bowl.
Finishing off the last of his soup, Nate watched as Cody spooned the last of the nourishing meal into his mouth. Pleased with the empty bowl, Nate sat back giving the boy a moment or two to settle the meal on his stomach.
Bear was sound asleep on his side. The huge paws twitched in unison to the thick lips as they pulled up and down in some doggy dialect of the dreaming. Poor guy was plum tucked out from the performance of such heroic service, Nate thought to himself and smiled. Turning his head back to Cody, he saw the green eyes watching him.
There was a longing look that Cody couldn't disguise, even with the grimace that now pulled his face downward. "Never had a dog. Wanted one, though."
"Why not?" Nate asked, already knowing the answer, but feeling the boy was opening up to him finally.
"Grandfather." Cody said it like it was a law, ancient, irrevocable, and unquestionable.
"A man who can't love a dog, can't love much of anything, the way I see it," the Viking said, folding his arms over his chest as he relaxed back further in his seat.
"I love animals," Cody said eagerly, lest he be considered in the ranks of his grandfather, "but there was only one way to things at High Ground, Grandfather's way."
"High Ground his estate near Portland?"
"Yeah, but it's not his only home. He has several all over the world. High Ground's the only one I know, though," Cody said, hanging his head. Suddenly he took an intense interest in the fabric of the red, terry-cloth robe.
Nate wasn't sure if he should pursue this avenue, the boy seemed unnerved by whatever sacred grounds they had skidded onto.
"Well, I'll tell you what, Cody. You and I have some things to settle between us. I'm not a happy man with this evening's events." Nate rose to his full six-foot-four height. Reaching down he grabbed the young man by his upper arms and pulled him up. Turning him slightly, he pushed him forward a few feet into the kitchen corner that was formed by the short archway that separated kitchen from living room.
"You stand here, with your nose pressed into this corner, and think about what you did this evening, why, and how we can work to keep this from happening again. I have dishes to clean and I need to get some of my own thoughts in order. Then you and I will talk properly."
The young man turned slightly looking at Nate as though he were speaking
"NO!" he shouted, demanding his rights as an adult.
"This is time for you to do some serious thinking, for me to calm down some, and for both of us to proceed rationally and with direction." Nate gave the itinerary with a calmness he far from felt. Placing his hand on the back of Cody's neck he gently turned the face back towards the corner of enlightenment.
Frustrated, yet totally uncertain of the situation, Cody stamped his bare foot and grumbled to himself.
Crossing his arms over his chest, Nate stood nearby assessing the situation,
waiting for a fight or the obstinacy that would surely set his own short
temper off. Several more choice words reached his ear, quietly tallied
on his roster of retribution, but the nose remained in the corner.
Nate spent the next fifteen minutes thinking things through. Each time his memory stopped on the complacent figure, mere driftwood, relaxing into the throws of the river as the huge dog pulled him towards safety. Remembering his own research into the dark foray of depression, he knew he would have to proceed cautiously, but quickly as well.
He needed to pull the drowning boy up and out into the fresh air. Give his mind more thoughts to occupy the dead space and fill him with cause and purpose to greet the golden morn. First he needed to put the fear of God in the young man, the cautious need to guard his own life, if not for fear of dying, then for fear of pain and Nate's own wrath and retribution.
Nodding his head in the determination that this was right and just, he wiped his hands on the towel and looked at Bear. A problem existed. The huge heart had attached itself in some natural bonding of boy and dog, and, although Nate knew the dog was loyal in heart and soul to him, he didn't doubt that should the boy be in danger, Bear would respond with a bold determination.
An idea occurred to him, not full proof, but at least it would free his hand to deal long and hard with the boy and not compromise his relationship with the Newf. Opening the door, Nate grabbed the keys for the Cherokee. Parked just out front, not more than ten yards from the porch, the dog would be comfortable, pretty much removed from events, and safe and sound. The chill night air wafted lilac scent through the countryside.
Nate stood by the open door, watching the young man, who shifted nervously.
"You stay put, Cody."
The operation took a little longer than Nate expected. Hardly with the dog long enough to truly understand the small peccadilloes that each creature slowly unveils amongst their human comrades, it finally dawned on the writer that the red fire hydrant was a bedtime necessity when Nate was removed. Once the squeaky toy was thrown into the back seat, Bear happily settled himself, tail wagging, steadily playing his own melody of joy.
Re-entering the cabin, Nate made sure his young charge was keeping his post. A quick trip to the bedroom to pick up the one item required to take this relationship one wrung higher on the "Nate Berringer means business" end of things and the evening was starting to heat up.
Am I taking you where you want to go? Am I getting things right? Let
me know..it's your story, too. firstname.lastname@example.org
It is so easy sometimes to just let go. Relax and depart from the main.
Who does not dream of sleep on clouds with no more stress and pain.
The tragic figure, noble and proud, slams out the open door,
And songs and ballads idealize the flight to Nevermore.
What rage for which he spoke against the coming night need he explain,
When sliding down and giving up will let us some rest gain?
But think on this you fleers from the fight,
What right have you to take away another's love, another's light?
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