Helen Gallegos Evans

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Helen Gallegos Evans has taught Los Angeles students for almost 20 years. Her works have appeared in Gingerbread House Literary, The Amaranth Review, Bards and Sages Quarterly, and elsewhere. 

Spikey’s Tail

         A lonely cloud peered into the empty yard. At least it looked empty, despite its green grass and blossoming apricot tree. Near a red brick wall sat a brown doghouse. It was empty, too. A chain hooked to the doghouse lay idly on the grass. Yesterday, the lonely cloud remembered, a white shaggy mutt named Spikey jumped at a yellow butterfly. Spikey’s strong legs took him high in the air, but he still missed the butterfly. To make matters worse, Spikey landed in the stinky manure the gardener had spread for new grass to grow. Embarrassed by laughing crows, Spikey barked at those who dared to swoop down for fat worms. He chased his fluffy tail for a minute or two and then sat down looking toward a certain window. He hoped Lucas, the boy he loved the most, would appear. He barked two times and Lucas came to the window, opened it up, and shouted, “Hey, little guy! I’ll be out in a bit, just have to finish some homework.” Spikey wagged his tail and lay down, his paws facing the window. He knew Lucas would bring a special treat, which made him lick his lips. But remember, that was yesterday. Today, Spikey was gone.

         The cloud’s eyes closed and four raindrops fell. The cloud drifted above the street where it all had happened. It remembered something else: the tires screeching, the driver apologizing, and Lucas crying while wiping his nose on his orange t-shirt. Right before yesterday’s accident, Spikey had leaped at a fly and snapped at nothing. Worse, two flies buzzed at his ears, taunting him. Spikey ignored them and went to his secret hiding place to check his stash. He felt rich as he counted fifteen bones. Actually one was only a half bone. He wondered whether he had fourteen-and-a-half bones or fifteen. He decided fifteen.  He wanted to move his bones to a more secure place and started digging in Lucas’s mother’s rose garden. He dug and dug until he had a large hole. He grabbed one bone and moved it to the new place. Plop! It went into the hole, and Spikey stood on his hind legs and took a bow.

         As he grabbed another bone, those pesky flies bothered him again. He dashed after them. That’s when he saw the back gate propped wide open with a brick.  The gardener was at his pick-up truck struggling to lift a big bag of potting soil. When those two flies flittered out the open gate, Spikey chased them but stopped up short. The neighbor’s calico cat, Jessie, sat on the sidewalk. She hissed and arched her back. Her fur stood straight up.  Spikey darted after her as she dashed across the street.  A yellow car was speeding, you see, and… The cloud refused to remember anymore, and thirty-two raindrops fell.

         Instead, the lonely cloud floated over the yard, staring at the empty doghouse. The same yellow butterfly from yesterday hovered above the water bowl and landed on its tip. Those same two flies rushed in the doghouse and left hurriedly. Five crows landed on the grass and munched on fat worms. Indignant, the cloud darkened and drifted until it was exactly over the doghouse. It looked at the limp dog chain and made a bold wish. It wanted with all its heart to be a dog like Spikey.

         Now some of you know many wishes do not come true, but this one did.

         That night, a shooting star raced by the cloud. No, that’s not exactly right. As Spikey’s spirit headed toward heaven, he went right through the cloud. The lonely cloud felt a tingle spreading from its wispy top to its round bottom. It sneezed fifteen times and rain poured only in Spikey’s yard. The air around the little cloud became warmer and swirled, and then – puff – the lonely cloud disappeared. Seventeen more raindrops fell, smearing a bit of dust on Spikey’s rooftop. I know! I was surprised, too! Now, don’t get worried, the lonely cloud wasn’t hurt and neither was Spikey’s spirit.

         Earlier in the day, Lucas sat for hours next to the doghouse holding Spikey’s favorite treat. The little boy wept and swiped at those two pesky flies. He let the yellow butterfly land on his knee, but it left to dine on purple heliotrope. Lucas yelled at those five crows. They jeered and landed on a neighbor’s roof. Tears dripped down his face and made his nose very red. He kept dabbing it with a well-used tissue. He closed his eyes and saw Spikey chasing those five crows.

         Two weeks ago, Lucas had taken Spikey to the park. When Lucas tossed a blue ball, Spikey had caught it in his mouth before running to an open wicker picnic basket and dropping it in.  “Two points,” Lucas shouted as Spikey jumped and barked. His white tail straightened and curled.  Someone yelled, “Get away, you naughty dog.” Of course, Lucas apologized and whistled for Spikey to come. When he did, Lucas whispered, “You’re the best dog ever. Don’t forget it.” He spit in his hands and rubbed Spikey’s head to make his fur stand up. He laughed and Spikey’s red tongue splashed his face. “Just like me,” said Lucas. Today, however, Lucas did not use any gel on his hair. It was flat as if he had slept on top of his head with his legs sticking out. Flat like his heart. He sighed and looked up. No clouds were in the sky. Lucas thought about Spikey chasing his tail and sleeping in his lap. He placed his elbows on his knees and covered his face with his hands.

         While he thought about Spikey, Lucas also made a bold wish. Maybe, some of you would see it as a foolish wish, but it wasn’t. He wished Spikey would come back.

         You may think nothing wonderful happened to that far-fetched wish. That’s okay, because if I had not heard this story from an honest person who saw what had happened, I would have laughed also.

         But, I did hear it from a very honest person – Lucas himself. That night, Lucas lay in bed and caressed Spikey’s brown leather collar. He had a new tissue now and often dabbed at his nose. As he turned to the window, he heard something. It sounded like a gentle breeze but a whimper, too. Puzzled, he rushed to the window and peeped at Spikey’s house.

         In the moonlight, Lucas saw a cream-colored dog. His heart thumped. He thought maybe he was dreaming, so he pinched his arm. That hurt!  He wiped his eyes and the tissue dropped on the floor. He pressed his face against the window. He heard another whimper. He almost pinched himself again but remembered it had hurt. Shaking his head and squeezing his eyes, Lucas counted to four. He leaned his face on the glass and gasped. Near the doghouse, a white mutt licked its paws and used them to make the fur on the top of its head spikey. Lucas’s heart raced, and he had to catch his breath.

         At just that moment, Lucas saw the dog grinning at him. Well, it was a dog grin, not a people one. The dog came nearer to the window and stood on its hind legs and reached its paws up as if it wanted to hug Lucas. The dog was the spitting image of Spikey. “Can it really be Spikey?” whispered Lucas. The dog nodded and its head and twirled two times around. That’s when Lucas noticed its tail. It looked like a fluffy over-filled cream puff – actually, Lucas told me – it looked like a cumulus cloud with marshmallow softness. The tail switched back and forth like a windshield wiper, and Lucas thinks a few raindrops fell from the sky.

         However, he also said his eyes were too full of tears to see clearly.

©The Acentos Review 2017