Welcome to the Spot Writers. Today’s post comes to us from Val Muller. She’s the author of the Corgi Capers mystery series (www.CorgiCapers.com) among other works.
The prompt: News these days contain a plethora of depressing stuff from floods and wildfires and other environmental problems, to mass shootings, to refuge problems and other political and social crises, to whatever you like as your favourite example. Write a story focused on one or more of these depressing occurrences and give it a happy ending.
by Val Muller
It was his grandfather’s legacy, something he built by hand with old-school craftsmanship, something they didn’t even really teach anymore. As a kid, grandfather’s cabin had always felt more like a bomb shelter to Ryan in that it seemed indestructible. Its worn wooden boards were solid as the Earth. Its door could take a battering from any kind of weather. Visiting the cabin was a perpetual camping trip, a constant game of fetch, an unending wilderness retreat.
As a teen, the cabin sheltered Ryan in a different way. It was impervious to bullying and breakups, to failed chemistry tests and college rejections. Like Walden, it promised a retreat from the monotony and fatigue of life. There was always a fishing trip to be taken, a stroll to be had in the woods, a fire to be built in its stout little potbelly stove. It had been a place for grandfather to bestow his ancient wisdom, and a place to remember the old man after he had passed.
But not even grandfather’s cabin could withstand the forest fire. Ryan was lucky he got out alive. He’d been there not twenty-four hours before the whole forest was put under mandatory evacuation. He left without a sight of fire, with only the faintest scent of smoke on the wind. He read later that a father and son on a mere two-hour hike had gotten stuck in the fire and perished just yards from a pond that might have saved their lives.
Yes, Ryan was lucky to have left alive. Now, he returned to a smoldering world, a post-apocalyptic one worse than the most painful breakup or the most misunderstood unit in chemistry. He followed the gravel trail there in his off-roader; the remains of the trail were the only sign that he was in the right place. The cabin, tiny in the dense forest, had been nothing for the fire to consume. A mere side dish for its insatiable appetite.
There, in the ashes, stood the stone steps grandfather had stacked himself, still mostly intact. And in the corner of what used to be the cabin, the potbelly stove, black as ever and the only thing that seemed remotely okay to have witnessed such flames, next to a charred chimney.
“I’m sorry, grandfather,” Ryan whispered. He remembered his grandfather’s words, the ones repeated in the will and testament. Take care of the cabin as I did and bequeath it to your children’s children.
Now, there was no cabin left to bequeath. How long did it take forests to recover from such fires? The trees stood around the razed cabin like charred matchsticks. A bit further away, green undergrowth peeked out of the ashes, and several lines of trees seemed untouched. The path of the fire hadn’t taken everything–but it had come straight for the cabin.
The undergrowth seemed to sway in the windless day. What was that? A draft?
No, something else.
Ryan stepped closer. Something brown peeked out of the growth. A coyote? Did those even live around here? A bear cub?
Whatever it was, it looked half dead. It approached on cautious, shaky legs.
Ryan blinked. For a moment, it almost looked like the ghost of Blue, grandfather’s favorite dog. Ryan remembered the German Shepherd Dog as a kid. Blue would always be the quintessential dog in Ryan’s mind. Fetch-loving, tail-wagging, bone-chewing Blue.
Yes, it was definitely a dog. Ryan reached into his pocket, pulling out the only thing he had to offer, a granola bar. He unwrapped it slowly, and the dog sniffed, its tail wagging between its legs.
“It’s okay, Boy,” Ryan said, offering the bar.
The dog’s tail raised, and it approached. It made eye contact briefly, then grabbed the granola bar and retreated a few feet to consume its prize. Finished, it looked at Ryan expectantly.
“I have water in the car,” he said.
The dog sat, tail wagging, clearly domesticated.
Ryan tipped the bottle of water into the dog’s mouth, and it lapped at the stream greedily. Ryan noticed it had no tags. No name. No home. He’d read about the animals displaced from the fires. People were setting their animals free in hopes they would save themselves–horses, livestock, dogs, cats… with only moderate chance of being reunited with loved ones. The scope of the fires was simply too much. This dog was one of its victims.
“One less victim,” Ryan whispered, looking at the cabin again and noticing its foundation easily traceable in the ashes.
“Come on, Blue,” he told the dog, jingling his car keys. “Let’s go home.”
The Spot Writers—Our Members:
Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/
Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/
Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com
Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.ca/