Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Prompt: Sharing the little you have

Kylie curled her knees tight against her chest and tucked the hem of her ragged dress under her toes for the little warmth it held. She huddled in the warehouse window frame, wide enough for her to lie down and sleep, high enough that the grownups didn’t bother to chase her away from its scant shelter. The guards would make her leave when people started coming in. Some of them brought her little treats when they made their rounds.

She tucked her dirty, matted blond hair under the knit cap she’d found on a park bench last fall, trying to remember the last time she’d had a shower. Or a bath. She remembered Gramma’s big round bathtub, big enough to swim in. Big enough to sink all the way under the water to wash the shampoo out of her hair. She used to hold her breath and count under water as long as she could, staring up at Gramma’s smiling face above the wavery water.

Brushing a tear from her eye, she pulled her satchel around and dug inside for a half-eaten sandwich a suit gave her on the platform tonight. She opened it up and considered the contents. The bread was still soft, and there was ham and the round cheese that she liked better than Swiss. Lettuce and tomato. She didn’t like the red gooey tomatoes much, but she would eat every scrap. She pinched up some lettuce shreds and sucked them into her mouth.

A noise made her hide the sandwich and look up in alarm. She leaned over the edge carefully, ready to jump and run if there was trouble. It was a dog. A big reddish brown one, sitting real pretty like, with its front paws tucked under its tail, and looking up at her like it was waiting for an invitation. “Go ‘way, dog. Shoo. I got nothing for you. Sorry. You gots to find your own place to sleep. Go on, now.”

Kylie leaned back and looked away, hoping the dog would move on. Of course, it jumped up on opposite end of the ledge from her, easy as you please. Kylie eyed it suspiciously, but it sat again, tucking its tail over its front paws, watching her calmly.  After a bit, Kylie snuck a bite of cheese, and the dog dropped its gaze to the sandwich in her hand, then back up to her face. Its tail twitched once. Twice.

“What you got to trade, dog?” Kylie asked it. That was the way it worked out here. You had something, you wanted something, you had to trade for it. She took a bite of tomato and scrunched up her face against the bitter slimy taste. She followed it with a bite of ham as a reward. The dog sat still, except for its twitching tail.

“You got nothing to trade, dog,” Kylie said, and felt mean. She liked dogs. She remembered Gramma had a little white dog that jumped high in the air for treats. She couldn’t remember its name. “Well,” Kylie drawled out, thinking. “Maybe you could keep my toes warm with that tail of yourn. What do you think?”

The dog sat quietly, watching. Waiting for Kylie to invite her over. Kylie picked out a bit of ham and held it out between her fingers. The dog leaned over as far as it could without moving its body, but it could not reach the ham. It sat back up stood, taking slow steps towards Kylie, eyes locked with hers. She held the ham out patiently. Finally the dog reached out and gently plucked it from her fingers with its teeth and a quick slurp of its tongue.

It sat down, and Kylie held out a piece of bread. That disappeared more quickly, and the dog was sitting close enough to swish its fluffy tail over her feet. It brushed its tail against her legs and let it lie there. Kylie felt the soft hairs tickle her bare legs through the dress and gave a little smile.

She took turns, pulling off a bite for her and a bite for the dog. She tried to keep it fair, and when she was tempted to keep the last bit of ham for herself, she finally bit it in half and gave that to the dog, too. When they had finished the sandwich, Kylie let her hands fall in her lap. Her fingers practically twitched, she wanted to pet the dog so much, but she was afraid it would jump down and leave her. It never took its eyes from her, settling down next to her with its tail still covering her feet, as if it had really understood her bargain.

She moved a hand to rest on her shoe, and the dog sniffed, then gave her another little slurp. She reached her fingers up and tickled lightly under its chin. She thought its eyes almost crossed with pleasure as it stretched its chin lower for her to reach more easily. Soon, she was petting and scratching it all over. Such soft, long, rust-brown fur. She plowed her fingers into it. So warm. She ran her hands all over the dog’s body, and it even leaned against the window so she could rub its belly. Her.

“You’re a girl, and you’ve had pups, haven’t you?” Kylie whispered in the falling dark, tracing her fingers around the dogs teats. She pushed her satchel against the corner for a pillow and wedged her body along the window ledge, stroking the space next to her, inviting the dog to lie down next to her. Once they were settled, she buried her arms deep in the dog’s fur and fell asleep, warmer and happier than she had been in longer than she could remember.

Around midnight, the night guard made his rounds all over the warehouse property. He knew where the homeless all slept. As long as they kept quiet and didn’t harm nothin, he didn’t see as it was any concern to management. He’d move them on their way by sunup.

He knew Kylie would be up on the ledge. He didn’t expect her companion. While he peered up at them, the new guard dog lifted her head and bared her teeth in a silent warning. He held his hands out and took a step back so she would know he meant no harm. He eyed them for a moment, sleeping wrapped up together up on the ledge. “I think you’re a mite confused about what you’re supposed to be guarding there, dog.” He scratched his forehead under the itchy cap. He smiled and walked away, adding over his shoulder, “I reckon you might have it right after all, missy. You take good care of her.”

The dog lay her chin on Kylie’s chest and watched the man walk away. She closed her eyes and fell asleep, warmer and happier than she had been in longer than she could remember.

Dogs in house:
Houdini, Brindle
Classical mix on YouTube
Time writing:
42 minutes
May word count:


  1. Prompt: Sharing the little you have

    "Billy?" said Sandra.

    I added my fruit bar and two caffeine balls to the pile. It was less than any of the other kids, and I felt smaller as Sandra frowned at our meagre collection.

    "I also got these," I said, quickly, shoving forward two worn patches: round, with actual embroidery that frayed around the edges, they showed a stylized sun with seven rays shining from behind a silver oval, which I thought might have been meant to be a ship.

    Sandra snatched up the patches and stared intently. Sandra was the oldest of the four of us, the only one who remembered a time before the wars. She said that the station used to be a crossroads, where ambassadors from lots of different species gathered, and presidents visited, and troops marched in shiny unison. Well, some things were the same. Although the troops were considerably less than shiny, now.

    "Where?" Sandra asked, sharp and clipped, still staring at the patches. Jane met my eyes, and Craig leaned toward Sandra, trying to get a look.

    "I d-d-don’t know," I said, my stutter returning in the sudden stress. Someone had handed them to me...or I had found them in the service well...? Or someone in the service well had handed them to me? Why would someone have been in the service well?

    "How could you not know?" Sandra looked up.


    "Leave him be," Jane said, as ever my defender.

    Sandra sighed. "Billy, take a breath. I want you to think back. These patches--how long have you had them?"

    Time writing: 20 minutes

    1. Very nice! I can see the world-building here, with the service well. I like the kids sharing stuff, the past/present comparison. Reminded me a little of Matthew Kirby's Clockwork Three, which Emily loved and I'm currently reading.