Palo Alto Weekly 24th Annual Short Story
THE CHOSEN ONE
Why me??? Of all the twelve-year-old girls in Orleans, Massachusetts, why did this dog have to pick on me? It started one day in early December when I was biking to school: once I reached the old Methodist cemetery on Main Street, that huge German Shepherd came out of nowhere, chasing me and barking ferociously. He’d race after me -- barking all the way -- until I peddled like crazy past the cemetery, then he’d disappear just as suddenly as he appeared. On the way back home from school the same thing happened – in reverse. Every school day, like clockwork. Scary.
Let me back up a bit. I live in a small town on Cape Cod with my Mom and Dad. When 7th grade classes started in September I decided to make it easier for my parents by riding my bike to school, 3 miles each way from our little cottage in Nauset Heights to Orleans Middle School. I was proud of the fact that I’d ride to school regardless of the weather, rain or shine. So far the weather that fall had been good and I figured it didn’t snow much on the Cape anyway. How bad could it get?
The weather was the least of my problems, anyway. I was scared to death of this crazy German Shepherd. What if one day I just couldn’t pedal fast enough? What if I got so scared that I crashed my bike? Too proud to ask my parents for help, I decided to ask Kyle, the toughest boy in my class who also happened to live a block away from me. He usually got a ride to school but I swore him to secrecy and promised him a free ice cream at the Sundae School on Main Street if he would ride his bike to school with me.
As we set off for school the next day I didn’t mind the biting cold morning air and the snow flurries. I felt safe riding next to the toughest kid in the neighborhood. I braced myself when we reached the cemetery and warned Kyle to get ready for the German Shepherd. But we heard nothing but silence. As we made it past the cemetery Kyle started laughing and calling me the “girl who cried wolf.” I didn’t care though – I was just happy that the dog was gone. After another quiet trip back from school with Kyle, I felt like my long dog nightmare was over. I slept like a log that night.
I was in for a surprise when I woke up. Yesterday’s snow flurries had turned into a major snowstorm. The snow wasn’t sticking to the roads yet, but it was coming down in giant wet flakes. This day would be the test of my promise to bike in “rain, sleet or snow.” I decided to be a “big girl” and ride my bike. Besides, I didn’t need to worry about that crazy dog anymore. And snowstorms never last on Cape Cod. So off I went, on my bike with those big wet flakes sticking to my jacket and blowing into my face and hair.
It was kind of fun until I reached the cemetery. Then, like a bad dream, that crazy German Shepherd came out of nowhere, charging through the falling snow, barking up a storm. I couldn’t believe it, but pedaled like mad, furious at my bad luck. After I safely passed the cemetery I realized that no one at school would believe me now.
By the time I got to school, it was clear that this wasn’t just any old snowstorm. Teachers and administrators were running around, making announcements, and putting emergency plans in place. They told us that the Cape Cod area would be hit by a record-breaking snowstorm in the next 36 hours. They declared a snow day, and ordered all the kids to wait at school for their parents to take them home. Since my parents both worked in Hyannis, 20 miles away, I knew that it would be a long wait for me, and I decided to slip out and ride my bike home.
As soon as I got to Tonset Road I realized that I’d made a mistake. The snow was sticking to the roads now, and my bike was slipping and sliding all over the place. My only hope was that the heavy snow would keep that crazy dog away long enough for me to make my getaway. Despite the slippery conditions I decided to peddle as fast as I could past the cemetery, letting my speed carry me past the danger. Just as I reached the cemetery peddling full blast, the dog jumped out of nowhere. His barking startled me, causing me to swerve. The bike’s wheels slipped underneath me, and I felt myself falling, and then tumbling down a long hill into the trees. Then I hit something and blacked out.
I woke up in the hospital. My mom and dad were both there, and were so relieved when I opened my eyes. One of the doctors came up to me and said, “You’ve got plenty of scrapes and bruises, as well as a nasty bump on your head but you’re going to be fine. You were very lucky that your dog was with you. He used up most of his body heat to keep you from freezing to death.” My parents and I were confused. “What?” I said, “ We don’t have a dog.” Now, the doctor looked confused. “There was a German Shepherd huddled right next to you when the snowplow found you. Here is his collar.” The doctor handed me his collar, and I examined it. It said “Yello,” and had a local phone number.
I couldn’t believe it. The crazy German Shepherd had a name, Yello, and an owner, and he actually saved my life! “Can I go see him?” I asked. “Sure,” said the doctor, “if you’re feeling up to it, your parents can take you to the animal hospital.”
I spotted Yello as soon as we entered the vet’s emergency room. He had a heating blanket around him but still looked very cold and tired. I wasn’t scared of him anymore; I ran up to him and hugged him softly. He licked me on the nose as a “thank you.” I giggled and cuddled up with him.
Later that day I called the number on Yello’s collar. A man answered the phone. He said Yello had belonged to his mother, who passed away earlier that month. Yello had disappeared right after her burial in the Methodist cemetery, and hadn’t been seen for a few weeks. They were all very worried about him. The man was so relieved that Yello had been found. He said that because he was terribly allergic to dogs his mother had made him promise to find Yello a good home in Orleans. He asked if I knew of any good families looking for a loyal German Shepherd. At that moment I realized that Yello didn’t need to find an owner. He had picked me. I was the chosen one.
A heartwarming story, simply told. This is a great story with lots of surprises.
Short story writers wanted!
The 31st Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest is now accepting entries for Adult, Young Adult (15-17) and Teen (12-14) categories. Send us your short story (2,500 words or less) and entry form by April 13, 2017. First, Second and Third Place prizes awarded in each category.