~ This short story is suitable for all ages and has fantasy elements. ~
Ever since I was a young pup
I could always count on that one person who always had ‘my back’. If one of my litter mates was about to jump on me to nip an ear, I always knew beforehand. If I ever felt a bit sad, I knew I was not alone. And, if someone jumped up and messed with the vertical blinds in the apartment – I could blame someone else. *Roll of the eyes to the left or right*
The Jernee’s Sideway’s Look.
My human mother never paid much attention to my shadow-friend though. Except there have been days when it is golden bright and the leaves are on the ground and not in the trees, and the scents are different to the ones from the hotter days. Those times my shadow friend walks visibly beside – or, behind, or in front of me – darker and bolder than before, and she exclaims that we are two dogs. But, we’re not: I am Jernee and that is Jernee’s Shadow. We are one dog because we will never be truly separated.
She named me Jernee because of the life journey we were about to em-bark on together. This is what happened in the very beginning, from Day One: She saw me and I wagged my little tail furiously. Her searching eyes wandered over my litter mates and my tail drooped. Then, her eyes returned to me – settled on me; settled on me some more – and my tail began awagging anew. Much more furiously than before.
A smile crept on her face, eventually making her eyes sparkle and crinkle at the same time.
I told her, >Yes! Pick me!<; and, of course, she did.
Where do shadows go?
It was one of those golden days when my shadow friend’s presence is more prominent, that I had the feeling that all was not quite right. The day was pleasant enough, with the golden light slanting through the filigree of bare tree branches and me walking through piles of soft and crunchy leaves up to my belly. A hundred smells this way and that. Some soft with age; others stark because of newness. Criss-crossing, layers upon layers – that only a discerning nose can seek out and separate. The north-easterly wind blowing a little on the sharp side. The black and white cat outside No. 5, mooning me from under a hedge.
It was an uneasy feeling that had sown itself in the pit of my belly. After checking about me – sniffing then looking – for any outward signs of danger and noticing none, my thoughts turned to my walking harness – comfortable as it should be – and then, my human mother. She, agitated, was scowling and waving an arm at a car-driver who had run through a puddle causing the rain water to splash up her legs – all very normal. So, what was wrong?
And, then, the emptiness hit me. I fearfully turned this way then that. Curling my body up like the prawn crackers She eats every Friday evening.
She tugged on the string that connects to my walking harness, calling me to walk properly. We were to continue onwards, until the edge of the park where the street ended. I went just a few steps – tail drooped to my hairy ankles – and ended up sitting, dismally, in a fat pile of fallen leaves. Covering my whole body and leaving just my furry face peeking out.
>Jernee?<, she said, quite baffled. However, finally in tune with me and my distressing situation.
She bent down and gently stroked my head and ears. She looked into my eyes. >What Jernee?<
Now, if only dogs could properly talk to humans – instead of the yap! yap! yap! they hear – I could have informed her of the uncanny and disturbing circumstances: The plight of my vanished shadow.
It was most unusual. As surreal as if finding myself born anew as a cat – even as one not as confronting and rude as the black-and-white-one at no. 5. It was terrifying: where was Jernee’s Shadow?
I was half the dog I used to be.
If I were, to be honest, I would even say that she was my better half; she would never blame me for having messed about in the vertical blinds of the living room, that gets our human mother so annoyed.
Only moments before had my shadow been faithfully trotting by my side. Silent and affable as life-long friends are.
Had I lost her, along the way, in the piles of leaves that covered the pavements?
I told my human mother that I had to go back, now, the way we had come. In no uncertain terms. I sprang out of the pyramid of leaves – filling her boots with them in the process – and pointed myself in the right direction. Thankfully, she seemed to have understood the urgency of returning home, the exact way we had come.
On the way back, I looked in every crack of the pavement, down every gutter, and in every pile of leaves for Jernee’s Shadow. But, she had well and truly gone.
When we got to the apartment we call home, I peered inside the plant pots that house the climbing Jasmine either side of the front door; however, no such luck. Inside the apartment, I searched behind the cushions on the settee, under the bed where the dust-bunnies and tennis-balls gather, under the warm bathroom mat and inside the cold fridge. All being the favourite haunts of my shadow. (Also, the very same places I like to frequent). Just in case Jernee’s Shadow had managed to come home all by herself. Alone. Frightened. A shadow of her former self – without her dog.
Not a whisper of a shadow-dog’s hair.
Night fell and with the subdued amber lighting inside the apartment I couldn’t see whether my shadow had returned – except, I knew she hadn’t; I felt she was still missing.
The last thought I had before sleeping as I lay curled up like a donut in my basket was: Where are you, Jernee’s Shadow?
Come morning and through the gap in the curtains, the sun streamed through the bedroom window – its rays hitting across the bed and the sleeping body of my human mother. She lay still and oblivious to the fact that my shadow was missing.
All was still the same in her world.
From my now lonely basket, I told her to awake. Yap, yap yap!
I was invigorated with Purpose: Today was the day I would find Jernee’s Shadow. How did I know that? Well, she is my shadow and is never far away.
We took our usual morning stroll, down the long street – and back along the long street – right after breakfast. Past No. 5 with the mooning cat, grinning and waving his backside from under the hedge; and onwards, forwards to where the street ends and where the park begins.
We stopped our walk where the edges of the park meet the edges of the street. The trees there stand taller and thicker, I sense their oldness. The park was developed way before the street and its houses and its trees and mooning cat. It holds a certain allure to dogs; a billion scents pertaining to memories. However, my human mother rarely takes me there.
Was it really because of our special link that we did find one another again? I believe so. The link like elastic that had just stretched too far, out of sight but not altogether snapping apart. For I felt you were near before I sniffed you – and, all the while knowing we would be rejoined as one.
You were resting in the shadows of the much older filigree trees, their outstretched naked branches criss-crossing their shadows over you. You, the only shadow without a friend.
Of course, your shadow – our shadow – stood out to me before all others.
You said: >I had always wondered about them who are like me. I would see the gathering of many shadows and I knew I had to look. But, by the time I had turned around you were so far gone, it had caused us to separate.<
>That is quite alright, Jernee’s Shadow. I understand. What is done is done. We are together again: one dog, not two. Though you unintentionally hurt me with what you did, we will draw a line in the soft and crunchy leaves and go on from here.
>And, Jernee’s Shadow…?<
>I’m sorry for blaming you about messing with the vertical blinds.<
Writing prompt: N/A
Writing inspiration: Jernee and her shadow, a photograph her human mother took of her whilst out for a September walk. You can find their blog *Here*.
Thank you Tre, for kindly letting me base this story on Jernee and use your photograph.
Characters are fictitious. This short story is a work of fiction.
What’s a Chi Tale?: A short story or verse (under a 1,000 words) with doggy references. This one turned out a little longer!
Copyright Faith McCord 2016
Story and artwork belongs to Faith McCord who is the author and artist holding the copyright. This is not a public domain work. Worldwide rights.