The first time I threw a ball to a dog I was 11.
I had been shuffling through the surf scouting for stones or shells to put into my pail. An old tennis ball washed up into my shins. When I spun around, squinting against the field of water and sand, looking for the owner of that waterlogged fuzzy mass, there was a yellow dog waiting for me to throw it.
The Lab was crazy with excitement. Her entire body twitched and her eyes danced between the ball in my hand and what my eyes might give away. She was nervous for any sign that I was going to do something with that sandy and slobbery ball. I threw it and the dog brought it back and so I threw it again and then I threw it again and then I threw it again.
I could throw a ball to a dog for forever.
I threw the ball into the ocean and the dog dove in after it and no matter how many times I threw that ball, I could sense a moment of panic in the dog as that first wave crashed over her head. But then she would drop it at my feet and it was as if I had never thrown that ball before.
The dog’s owners, a large family on towels and under umbrellas, didn’t know or didn’t care that their dog had a new best friend.
I abandoned my shells in the pail.
The sun dropped low, which is the beach equivalent of the streetlights coming on. Eventually my father came looking for me.
I had never said goodbye to a dog before. I touched the dog on the head as I walked toward my father and the dog let the slimy ball fall on my foot. I kept walking and the dog somehow forgot about that ball for once and trotted behind me, following me toward where my father stood at the top of the steps that led up and over a large dune.
“That dog doesn’t want you to leave.” My father pointed, as if I didn’t know which dog he meant.
I didn’t want to, but I looked back. I didn’t want the dog to see the sadness on my face, but she wagged her tail the same as before. She didn’t understand that this wasn’t just a new game.
The dog’s owners were paying us no more attention than they had at any point that day. She was waiting for a sign from me. I knew if I started to run that the dog would follow me. And I knew that I could run for forever.
Motivation: I wrote the kernel of this story while on a beach vacation. I saw a dog there that had a tennis ball and momentarily wanted to play with that dog more than anything in the world.
BIO! Bob Montcalm is a relatively new fiction writer, living in Arlington, VA. He was trained at university as a mathematician and makes a living working as a cost data analyst. Beginning two years ago, however, he began taking fiction writing classes through Arlington County Adult Education program. He had finally found the creative outlet he had so been desperate to find.
Bob mostly writes fiction and recently completed (“won”) National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November of 2010. He has, in addition, presented two poems at a monthly open-mic poetry night at a local restaurant and bar. Until now, he was unpublished. Bob Montcalm is a husband to a recently licensed nurse, a hardcover book collector, a gardener and an avid Ultimate Frisbee player.