Playing Stories — Chapter 1: Dog and Butterfly

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Chapter 1: Dog and Butterfly
from the 1978 album “Dog and Butterfly” by Heart
posted 23:27, 7 January 2019

Dog and butterfly, below she had to try
She roll back down to the warm soft ground, laughing to the sky

There was a thud as the branch snapped and Cynthia fell to the ground. Pain shot through her leg, and the world was suddenly tinged with red and white.

She lay face-down in the grass, the soft earth pushing her way into her eyes, her nose, her mouth. Her arm had grazed against the tree trunk as she fell and when she moved her hands — thank God they were still movable — Cynthia felt the ruddy wetness of the blood drip past her and into the ground. She rubbed her fingers together and gasped. A few splinters had found their way into her fingertips, and now they stung with the slightest touch.

Being only nine, she did what all children do at that age: her tears fell into the ground, seeping into the cracks in the soil. After a while, though, she realized that crying simply wasn’t worth it. Nobody could hear her anyway — not her parents, idly talking away with friends in the house; not the other children, frolicking away in the garden. She was alone in the woods, and far off the beaten track, in fact far away from any human being in the area. It was what drew her over the garden wall in the first place: that dark, haunted feeling that for her invited rather than threatened, a leafy paradise of a thousand tales. Yet she’d forgot in her haste to explore that she was no longer the light little girl who could shimmy up a tree without ruffling a single branch. At least, not this particular tree.

The blades of grass were tickling Cynthia’s nostrils, so she slowly flopped onto her back and looked down at her ankle. It was growing by the second, looking angrier and stormier, and bore an uncanny resemblance to her mother when she discovered that Cynthia had been out playing by the waterways again. She dragged herself upright — it seemed interminably long, a hellish time — and eventually managed to pull herself so that she was leaning against the tree.

“OI! HELP! ANYONE OUT THERE! HEEEEEEEELLLLLLLP!” She shouted at the top of her lungs for minutes, but when she finally allowed herself to rest, the only sound she heard was of the wind, rustling through the trees. A soft rustling, rhythmically blowing through the leaves, sounding like footsteps, coming from behind —

She spun around. Something — it was too small to be a human — was coming her way. Momentary panic in her heart. There was still a couple of hours of daylight, but the woods were dim and it was impossible to see who was coming towards her. Tigers weren’t possible out here in the forest… were they? It looked too slow to be dangerous, so she relaxed a bit. But she was lying on the forest floor. Her ankle was useless. What would she do if it happened to pounce —

Then she saw the advancing dog, and she relaxed. Not the monster she was expecting: a giant of a beast, yes, but covered everywhere with hair — so much hair, in fact, that it covered its eyes and reached to the ground, sweeping the floor behind it like a bridal train. It slowly made its way towards her, sniffing the air eagerly, stopping in front of her. The dog stared at her, and Cynthia stared back at it — or rather, where she thought its eyes would be.

And for a long time, neither of them made a sound. They just looked at the other, at each other’s eyes, trying to read into the other’s soul.

Children have this extraordinary ability that adults find harder and harder to have as they mature: they can trust someone instinctively. Cynthia was a perfect example of this, and after about two seconds she decided that she liked the animal standing in front of her. She reached out her hand to pet the dog.

There was a yelp, and both of them started backwards. Cynthia felt a stab of pain shoot up her fingers — she’d forgotten the splinters in her haste. The dog shivered, and a few stray strands of fur fell away from its eyes. It looked hurt, accusing, even.

“Oh I’m sorry! I’m sorry…” Cynthia cried, hastily plucking away the scraps of wood. The dog whimpered, and Cynthia thought she heard it sniff. “Are you crying?” she asked. Should she try again? Would the dog resist with something even stronger? Hesitantly she reached out, patted it gently on the back. This time, it did not flinch.

And for a long time they did nothing else but stare into each other’s eyes. Cynthia rubbed its back, and after a while she felt its stiff back relax. It cuddled to her just that tiny bit closer. “You okay? I’m sorry about that just now… why are you out here by yourself?” She stopped, waiting for a signal from her friend that… that all was well, and that she hadn’t hurt it.

“Are you from the farm next door? I’ve seen a lot of dogs like you when I’m coming here… you’re a really big dog though. Do you have an owner?” The dog shook its furry mane, and Cynthia pursed her lips. “Maybe you’re part of the Ellises… are you? Have you escaped from their farm then? Did you go under that huge fence at the bottom of the yard… OOH, did you dig a hole? Like those prisoners escaping?” Cynthia was fascinated by escape stories. Something about the planning and thought that went into those daring adventures. She longed to have one herself sometimes, even if her life didn’t particularly need it.

The dog just stared at her, its eyes innocent and questioning. “But there MUST be so much you need to do when you’re running away from somebody,” said Cynthia. “You need to be so secret; people can’t even know about your plans. Then you need some people who do know your plans, but they’re like so careful, and you trust them, and they’re great at planning how to escape.” She ruffled the dog on the head. “And you’ve already escaped once! You’d make a great friend to escape with. They call them fugitives on the telly. You’d be a perfect fugitive. You could help me escape, and we could go on the run!” She sighed. “At least, you would be a pretty good friend if I could take you home. But Dad and Mum don’t even let me keep insects at home. Mum’s thrown out all those of my pets… I mean, what’s wrong with cockroaches and ants? You get used to them after a while. Like people think that they’re so dirty but they really don’t bother you. They’re more scared of you than you’re scared of them!”

And as the afternoon wore on and Cynthia’s ankle continued to throb and change into a variety of colours, she slowly told the dog her hobbies, her life with her parents, how they weren’t fun people and always prevented off from going on her own, and how her friends laughed when she said she was off to explore. She waited a bit from time to time, hoping that the dog to show that it understood. Cynthia liked how it would lick her face when she got particularly sad: she always took them as a yes.

“And I can’t take my friends with me when I’m exploring the rivers, cause they get scared of the dark. I don’t get scared of the dark… do you?” Suddenly Cynthia sat straight up. The answer presented itself to her, clear as day. “Do you want to come home with me?” It lifted its head. “Well come on then! I don’t care what my parents say, I’m going to take you home and tell them all about you and they are going to accept you, so there! I’ll need to give you a name though, I’ll call you… Snoopy? Is that okay? No hang on, that’s so normal… Scotty! How about that? Do you like that name? Can I call you that?” The dog whimpered, and Cynthia grinned. “Come on, let’s go home!”

She struggled to her feet. The swelling, however, was still there, and she yelped in pain. As her ankle screamed, she collapsed silently onto the ground, her face forced into the earth once more.

She must have lay there for quite some time: when she woke up and looked around, the sky was noticeably darker. And perhaps it was blood loss, or perhaps it was just all the talking, but there was a mist stealing round her head, and she had to fight to keep herself awake. All she could feel was a gentle nudging at her forearm: Scotty trying to push her awake.

“Sorry,” she said weakly, her voice muffled. She shook her head, trying to clear the sleepiness from her brain. “I’m just so tired… do you think you can take me back to the house?” She  with her arms, still fresh with scrape marks. Scotty merely came in and sniffed her ear. “No? Well… we can work it out. I’m sure we will.” They huddled closer to each other, and the last thing Cynthia remembered before she fell asleep was the fuzzy silhouette of Scotty’s face — a shaggy mane, framed by the leaves against the bright yellows of the deepening sky.

Later, when the other children had returned to the house, her parents would notice that Cynthia was not among them. They would comb the small forest at the back of the house, following the small path that she had created on her way through the forest. Within hours, she would be headed to hospital, and her furry companion would be following at a distance — at least, until it was shooed away and it went back to the Ellises’ farm. But Cynthia healed quickly, and it wouldn’t be long before she was back at the forest again. She didn’t know where Scotty was now, but she had hope that he would be there, waiting for her.


— I trust you haven’t forgotten our pact! It’s been a busy time over here in the café — New Year’s brought over so many customers! I haven’t written for some time, and it’s a very literal take on the lyrics, but I just like the idea of a girl making friends with a dog, there’s something so innocent about it. Hope you’re settling into the lighthouse and learning the ropes! Write soon — Quentin

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