Chapter 28: Dog Day Afternoon

After the Fourth of July, the days seemed to drag by. The heat was unbearable, and the small farmhouse had no cooler or air conditioner. During the night, the house would cool down, but during the day, the heat was sweltering. Callie continued to cry a lot, mostly because she missed her job. She wanted to make amends with Cade for cheating, but she felt depressed and unmotivated to do anything.

Ashley read books. They went to the library about once a week, and Ashley brought stacks of books home with her. Jessica did too, and for her age, she could already read rather well. Callie sat in front of the old broken down television most of the time, and when she was not reading or playing, Jessica was usually right by Callie's side. They had a television ever since Angie had been generous enough to give them her old one. Cade purchased a digital converter box for it, and wired the house so they could get television reception. He didn't like the television to be on when he was home. He usually wanted the television turned off so he could relax.

Harley enjoyed playing outside, and didn't care much about the television. He would get up early in the morning and play with his friends Collin and Luke, and when they weren't around, he played by himself or with Jessica and Ashley. Harley made plans to build a tree house, and he gathered old planks of wood and made plans to fit them in the grove of trees behind the house. He was never inside, unless he had to be, and his skin was a deep brown color.

Cade worked long hours, and he wasn't sure why he had chosen this profession. He seemed to have a natural aptitude for plumbing, just as he was able to fix car engines, but the work seemed to be never ending. Someone always seemed to need a plumber.

One afternoon when Callie was feeling particularly ornery she sent the kids outside and told them not to come back inside the house until their dad got home. Callie was often frustrated because the kids often got on her nerves. She hardly ever let them leave the yard, so going to visit their friends was often out of the question. They had to wait for their friends to show up at their house, if they wanted to play, but the houses were far enough apart that it wasn't common for their friends to suddenly show up.

The children hated how miserable Callie was. All she did was threaten them, and they knew if Cade would allow her to, she would be whipping them all the time. Cade also had his farm to tend to, so after his exhausting days at work he would come home and water his crops. Many of the people chose to grow grain, and the upkeep was minimal, but Cade was attempting to harvest a variety of vegetables and other things, which made his task more difficult. Harley showed his sister's the wood he had gathered to make his tree house. "I wanna help," Jessie said eagerly.

"You're too little," Harley informed her.

"I don't know if dad will let you build a tree house out here," Ashley said dully. "If he knew you had this wood, he might whup you."

"Dad's never here. He won't even notice," Harley said bitterly. "Hey, do you want to see something cool?"

Both of the girls perked up. "What?"

Harley glanced up at the house, and then he motioned for them to follow him down the path. "It's sort of off of our property a little," he explained as they walked along.

"Maybe we better not go. I don't want to get a whipping for leaving our yard," Ashley said nervously.

"Aw c'mon," Harley said. He led them through the brush further away from the house.

"We better go back," Ashley said nervously as they continued walking along.

"It's just a little further," Harley insisted, so they pushed forward until they came to a shallow ravine. At first, Ashley thought it was the ravine that Harley wanted to show them. Then Jessica spotted a scraggly looking dog limping out from under the shade of a bush. "A dog," Jessie yelled. Harley rushed down to the dog that was wagging his tail in greeting. The dog limped and had difficulty moving. Harley threw his arms around the scruffy neck of the dog. The dog looked a bit like a golden retriever, but was probably not a pure bred.

"Wow Harley, when did you find him?" Ashley asked and she giggled as she reached out and the dog licked her hand.

"He's hurt," Harley said. "I've been sneaking him food for a couple of days." It was obvious that Harley had attempted to bandage the dog's leg by himself with an old filthy rag he had found in the garage.

Jessica squeezed the dog around his neck and he licked her face. "Let's take him home," she smiled.

"What if we can't keep him?" Harley said nervously. "Besides with his hurt leg, I can't get him out of this ravine. He's too heavy to lift."

Cade had been ornery lately and none of them could imagine asking him if they could keep the dog, and there was no reason to think Callie would approve. The kids petted the dog and tried to make him more comfortable, but the sun in the sky told them it was time to go home and eat dinner. They didn't want to risk being late.

Cade was tired of working so hard all the time. "I think we need another apprentice." He said to Lonnie in a tired voice, as they both finished their last job of the day, and climbed into the truck to go home.

Lonnie nodded, "Yeah, tell me about it, but I don't know who to get. I need someone reliable like you." Lonnie's cell phone rang at that moment, as it often did, and he quickly answered. Cade knew it was Angie because he could hear her yelling, even though Cade was unable to hear everything she was saying, he could tell it had something to do with billing.

"God damn that woman is relentless," Lonnie said in irritation as he hung up the phone.

Cade let out a heavy sigh, "What's the problem now?"

Lonnie shook his head, "Honestly, we have so many delinquent customers. We need to collect our debts and get organized, it's a real mess, and with Angie fighting this fight against the city council and working on those petitions, it's gotten worse."

Cade sighed. "I'm sorry Lonnie, if there's anything I can do."

Lonnie sighed, "You and I have all we can handle just keeping up on all the incoming work. I never thought owning my own business would be this tough," Lonnie was exhausted. "I slave away like crazy to put food on the table and pay for health insurance and all the other bills. It seems like I can't get ahead no matter how hard I try, but it would sure be nice if I could collect what some of these deadbeat customers owe me."

Cade understood how Lonnie felt, and he understood the problem. He was almost living the same life as Lonnie. He worked hard all day, and then went home to water his crops and take care of the kids and Callie. Lately Callie had been nothing but sullen and angry because she had to quit her job. Cade no longer qualified for Medicaid through the state because he earned too much money, so his children were without insurance again. He would have to look into private insurance, but he knew that Lonnie paid close to $600 a month for his family insurance plan, and it barely covered anything. With Cade and Callie both being smokers, he knew his rates would be even higher, and he never seemed to find the time. Callie flatly refused to help him find insurance, saying she didn't know anything about it, and in reality, it was not high on their list right now.

"Some days I really don't feel like going home," Lonnie sighed.

"I know what you mean," Cade said.

Cade was growing impatient with Callie because of the heat and the condition of the house. Callie had stopped cleaning or doing anything but the bare minimum, because she was depressed about her job. The house was filthy and in disarray. As they sat down to eat dinner, Cade felt exhausted. Callie had made minimal effort to make dinner. She cooked some fish sticks and vegetables, which Cade found unappetizing. He hated processed fish sticks.

Harley slowly began sneaking extra fish sticks into his pocket as they ate. If Jessica hadn't been trying to imitate him, he may have gotten away with it. Jessica was not good at being sneaky, so Cade discovered what she was doing right away. He thought she was putting the fish sticks in her lap so that she could later throw them in the garbage can and not have to eat them, he had no idea the kids were stealing food to feed the dog that Harley had found. "What are you doing?" Cade demanded.

"Nothin'," Jessica answered nervously.

Ashley's face flushed red. If Cade found out they were sneaking food so they could feed a wounded dog he would whip them for sure. Ashley wanted to fade away. She hated it when Cade was angry.

Cade grabbed Jessica's arm and discovered a couple of uneaten fish sticks in her lap. "Harley did it first," Jessica said, and pointed to her brother.

Harley went crimson, "Shut up Jess," he said.

Cade looked at all three of them. "Don't you like the food?" Cade asked. "Stand up Harley and show me that you don't have any hidden fish sticks."

Harley's hands began to shake and he stood up and took the fish sticks he had hidden out of his pocket. They were in pieces. Cade looked at Ashley next, and discovered she had a small piece of bread in her lap. Cade became enraged. "Go get the strap," Cade said to Harley.

Callie didn't like this. "It's OK Cade," she said softly.

Cade glared at her, "Maybe if you would make a decent dinner for a change, they would eat it." As soon as the words left his mouth, he regretted them, but he couldn't help it. Harley scrambled to get the strap. He didn't dare do otherwise. He carried the strap back to his father.

"No daddy!" Jessica screamed. "The food is for the dog."

"What dog?" Cade asked, and he was certain she was lying to him to avoid a whipping.

"The one by the stream," Jessica said. "He's hurt."

Cade took the strap from Harley's hand and looked at him, "What is she talking about?"

Harley swallowed. He knew he had broken the rules by leaving the property to go so far away in the first place, so he was hesitant to say anything.

"Speak up boy," Cade said sternly. "Is there a dog somewhere?"

Harley nodded, "Yes sir. There's a dog in the ravine behind our property and he's hurt." That was all he could manage to say because his mouth felt like cotton.

Callie tightened her jaw, "That ravine is not on our property Harley David. What have you been up to?"

Ashley wondered why Callie even cared. All she did was sit around all day in front of the television.

"It's just barely off the property," Harley said, "Well I didn't know it wasn't the property," he lied, "I mean, I didn't mean to leave the property," his eyes brimmed with tears. He didn't know what else to say.

Cade didn't know what to say either. "This family is falling apart," he said through clenched teeth, glaring at Callie. They were almost finished eating. "Finish your dinner and then take me to this dog. There better be a dog when we get there."

The children quickly ate their food, looking at the strap that was lying on the table next to Cade. He smoked a cigarette in an attempt to calm down as they finished eating. Finally, when the children were done with their food, Cade stood up and looked at them. "Go outside and wait for me. I want a word with your mother alone."

The kids scrambled out the back door away from the house. "He's gonna' whup us for sure when he sees how far away this dog is," Ashley said in a worried voice. "No he won't," Harley said, though he didn't believe his own words.

Inside the house, Cade looked at Callie. "I didn't want to say anything in front of the kids, but if I come home tomorrow and find the house in this condition again, there will be consequences, do you understand me?"

Callie looked up at him bitterly. "Yes sir, master sir," she said with disdain.

Cade didn't like her sassiness. "I'm going to see about this dog. We'll talk more about this later."

Callie didn't care about the dog. She began clearing up the dishes and the tears stung her eyes. She didn't even try to stop the tears as they flowed down her face, and she threw the dishes in the sink haphazardly and began washing them.

Ashley thought she might wet her pants when her father finally came back outside. His anger made her nervous. It was beginning to get dark. Harley hurried down the path and all of them followed. When they reached the shallow ravine, it was dusk. The dog was still there, too weak to move. The dog lay there under the bush with his head down. Cade hiked down into the ravine to see the dog. He was hoping the dog didn't have rabies, but as near as he could tell, the dog was not wild. He appeared gentle and docile.

The dog tried to lift his head and wag his tail, but he was too weak. Cade noticed there was no collar on the dog. He would have expected the dog to be hostile from his wounds, but that was not the case. Cade lifted the dog. "It's OK boy," Cade said as the dog yelped in pain. He was heavy, but Cade managed to carry him out of the ravine and all the way back to the house.

"Can we keep him?" Jessica asked as she followed.

"He belongs to someone else I'm sure," Cade said in a tired voice.

Harley got a lump in his throat, "Then where is his family, they should be taking care of him?"

"I don't know Harley," Cade said in a tired voice. He could see that the dog was very weak and would not live much longer without treatment. He set the dog down on the back porch and the kids knelt down and petted him. Callie came out on the porch to look at him. "Oh my God the poor thing," she said. Part of her thought the kids had made up the story up about there being a dog in order to avoid a whipping. That's what she would have done at their age. She knelt down to pet the dog. "What a good boy he is," she said softly. Her heart always melted when it came to animals.

Cade phoned Lonnie to find out where a veterinarian clinic was. It was just after eight o'clock in the evening. Cade phoned ahead and the veterinarian agreed to meet him at the office and wait for him. Cade picked up the dog, and placed him in the back of the truck on a blanket and all of them got in front of the truck with Cade to go to the veterinary clinic.

The veterinarian's name was Shawn Teagle, an old man who had great sympathy for animals. He immediately asked Cade to bring him inside the back and put him on a table. "Are you willing to pay for me to treat him?" Teagle asked, looking up at Cade.

Cade wasn't sure what to say. "He's not my dog. The kids found him near the house." The truth was that Shawn Teagle would have treated the dog no matter what, because that was how he was.

"Yes daddy pay for him," Jessica coaxed.

Cade wondered how much this was going to cost. He had never owned an animal in his life. "Sure," Cade said quietly, "I'll pay what I can, but I'm not the owner of the dog. My son found him in a ravine near our house, but I'm sure he belongs to someone."

Teagle took off the crude bandage that Harley had put on the dog, "He's weak, and I can't guarantee I can save him, but I'll do what I can," Teagle said, "We'll talk about the money later."

Cade and his children watched the veterinarian treat the dog. Finally, Teagle sent them out so the dog could rest. They waited a few minutes in the lobby for Mr. Teagle to finish. "Let's think of a name for him," Jessica suggested.

"We're not keeping him," Callie said. "He belongs to someone else, he's not ours."

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