The Story Teller

Holly Penta

    One day my German Shepard started barking like mad at a bush in the back yard. Fearing it might be a raccoon or something that might hurt him, I ushered him inside and went to have a look for myself. A scratch on his beautiful face would be terrible, he was a truly beautiful dog, but one on mine would make no difference. I told him to wait inside, so he would know that I was coming back.
    I found no rabid raccoon, nor a possum, or some other wild creature, but a little mewing kitten. I called "kitty, kitty, kitty" and made kissy noises in search of his mother, but she did not come. I decided the kitten was meant to be mine.
    The little abandoned angel must have been no more than 2 weeks old! His eyes were closed, and he was shivering from the echoes of My Dog's loud bark. How loud that must have been to his tiny ears!
   I brought the baby inside and poured some milk into a medicine syringe. There were no bottles around. I set him down on my lap, he snuggled up, but I feared he wouldn't be able to sleep without his mother's purr. Now, I'd do anything in the world for him if I could, but I simply couldn't purr, so instead I told him a bed time story.
    I had no children or grandchildren, not like the other old, decaying ladies, but I sure had a lot of stories to tell. So on the first night upon his arrival I told him:
    "There are enough true stories in the world. Enough unhappy endings and unmarked graves. Enough success stories, ones that seem happy, until everyone dies in the end. So I'll tell you an untrue one, would you like that, baby?"
    He mewed, so I continued–I could tell he was happily anticipating my story.
    "A girl, what should I call her? Maybe Dorey, yes, that's a promising name. Dorey lived in a city called Averly.
    One day her mom said she needed some perspective, so she went to the roof of the hospital. It was the second highest place in the town, it was three stories high and the temple ruins was four. It was a town law that no building could be taller than the old temple.
     She'd tried letting her feet dangle off park benches to watch the blue beetles and red worms, but quickly lost interest. She had tried sitting at the top of her and her sister's bunk bed and looking down at her most expensive shoes, but shoes from any perspective are still just shoes.
    No one would let her sit on the roof of the old temple. It would be sacrilegious, the people said. And dangerous too.
    When she went up to the hospital roof, it was usually one of those days where it wasn't raining, but the bones in her body could tell that it was coming or maybe the wind whispered that it would be raining soon. It was like that a lot in the little town. If it wasn't raining, it would be soon.
     She didn't forget who she was standing above. The mourners, the dying, and the already dead. There! There. Not somewhere.
    People there, in the hospital, were watching family die, singing the old healing tribal tunes. No one really believed they would work anymore, but it was tradition and people in Averly valued tradition over belief.
    There, people were dying and humming with their last breath, there a beautiful baby boy was being born. And poor Dorey just there. She was always just there. Or just somewhere else."
    I seemed to run out of words at that point, and I wondered how long the kitten had been asleep. I hadn't noticed his breath slowing into a peaceful sleep. Guess my story did work after all. I decided then that I would tell him one every single night.
    The next week, I still had not named him, but referred to him as Baby for the time being. My Dog had become acquainted with him, and no longer seemed to wish that I would return him to the bush in the back yard. It was a good thing too, because I had too many stories to tell Baby. See, I would have told them to My Dog years ago, but he was just too big to sit in my lap, even when he was a puppy. I told him that he could sit by the fireplace and listen if he pleased. He sighed, walked over to the fireplace, and walked in a circle three times before laying down. He wanted to make sure that Baby didn't get any more attention than he did. I assured him that I loved them both too much to pick favorites. He seemed happy and eager to hear my story.
    I realized that neither My Dog, nor Baby had been well traveled. I thought they might like to hear about some places. My memory was failing, but fortunately, they would not know if the cities were real or not. And I knew the little angels would forgive me if I invented some. They were very forgiving of my forgetfulness;I was very thankful. So I began:
    "Now, there are too many stories about the real world. Even if the characters and their actions are made up, they are still bound by gravity and logic. So I'll tell you about a pretend place tonight.
    There are too many stories about average, bus stop towns, but this town is an interesting one. The roads leading up to it are normal with white and yellow dividing lines and stoplights and all, people drive on the right side of the road, and listen to music, and talk on the phone. Until they hit city limits, that is. This city is on a plateau, just the plateau. The land all around it is claimed by other, bigger, cities, but this one definitely has the best view.
    To get to city hall, cars must drive up 90 degree angle road. At this point, stop signs and dividers mean nothing. To get up it, drivers must be very brave and very dumb to try. Most want to cross their fingers, but need both hands on the wheel. Some say a silent prayer and just hope for the best.
    The town is not on any maps and is the 21st century's fountain of youth. Modern pirates drive pickup trucks and explorers use GPS. Most never find it, but still everyone looks.
    The town is a utopia founded by a woman named Sissy. She refused to sell her land to the government to make getting up the plateau easier. They got mad, but let her keep her land, assuming she'd live a boring lonely life alone on the plateau, but she wouldn't have that. She was a stubborn woman.
    According to Sissy, the angle gets rid of the unworthy. Cowards and bullies can't make it up, only those who believe in an afterlife or those who truly feel closure make it to the top, and that makes them better people. Only the true adventures and believers make it there. Once they get there, Sissy offers them a drink and they, along with the rest of the citizens, feast and live in luxury as siblings, friends, or lovers."
    I sighed, realizing that Baby and My Dog were asleep. I bet they'd live longer than me if I kept staying up past longer than them.
    I carefully got  up and placed Baby on my pillow and went into the kitchen to make sure My Dog's bowl was full. I put a treat on the top like a cake topper, and prepared Baby's milk, just to make sure he wouldn't go hungry at night.
    Baby had grown a lot since I'd told them of Averly, he was drinking two full syringes of milk a few times a day, and his eyes were open and a beautiful shade of blue. My Dog had come to like him because he knew that when Baby was hungry, he would get a treat. More often than not I found myself on the rocking chair with Baby on my lap and My Dog by the fireplace intently listening for Baby's meow and to my stories.
    With that, I kissed My Dog goodnight, I kissed Baby goodnight and noted that pretty soon he'd be too big to sit on my lap. Baby was drinking four syringes of milk at a time now. I dreaded the day when My Dog would have to make room by the fireplace so that they could both hear my stories. My Dog liked the spot to himself and Baby had grown attached to sitting with me all the time. And I liked to be able to smooth his fur even more with every sentence.
     I told My Dog: "I love you,  I love you, I love you" kissed his forehead again and went to bed.
     The next morning I woke up sick and the bed time stories had to be put on hold until my voice came back to me. Every night, My Dog sat by the fire place and Baby sat alone on the rocking chair and awaited my stories, but I was too sick to tell them any. I told them "I'm sorry, I'm sorry" but feared they wouldn't get enough sleep, be haunted by nightmares, or that my coughs would keep them up. But I made sure to mumble goodnights and I love yous to them both before I drifted into sleep.
    By the time I got better, I had lost track of the time. It could have been a week, a month, or three. All I knew is that My Dog had already started growing his winter coat and that Baby was too big to fit in my lap anymore.
    He slid if he tried to lay down, time after time, until I resorted to using all my remaining strength to hold him on. I didn't mind though, I liked the company.
    "Now, this town will be your favorite of all. I'm sure of it. It would be any loving person's favorite really.
    In this town, all dogs and cats live longer than humans and they adopt the people. Could you imagine, Baby? Imagine if you had picked me out at a pound because you liked my blue eyes. Imagine if  you had named me some silly name like Cutie, Brownie, or Baby. That would be so silly.
    Anyway, the dogs and the cats got to name the people whatever they liked. They made them sit, roll over, and gave them treats. They made collars with jewels and sparkles. But in this city, there were no pounds with people! The dogs and the cats made sure that every little human was adopted into a loving home. The animals were all very good owners, no people were ever hungry, or abandoned on the streets. The cats always meowed goodnight songs and the dogs gave warm, slobbery good night kisses."
    With that, I kissed them both goodnight and told them how much I loved them. I planned to tell them a story tomorrow of a city where no one ever died. What would I call it? A city that grand deserved a name, but nothing came to me. The whole concept seemed too far fetched, even for a bedtime story. I didn't want to get my angels' hopes up. Poor babies, I knew they were going to die, too, poor babies, like me one day. It's a nice thought, though, for people to live forever.
    Imagine all the stories we would know and tell. But if humans were ever going to be able to live forever, the pets would have to, too. I don't know how it could ever happen, but if anyone deserves eternal life, it's My Dog and Baby.