This is my second go at Writers Island this week and I've used both prompts - Fantasy and Faithful
Sean was a bit of a loner. He found it difficult to make friends. When he was very small his mother disappeared. He wasn’t sure why. All he remembers was being herded up to his room then pressing his ear to the door and hearing his parents yelling at each other. And then a sound that would ring around his head for the rest of his life. The deafening sound of a single shot being fired.
It was several hours before he ventured down. He found his father sitting in the dark with his head in his hands gently weeping. From that day on, his Dad retreated within himself, seldom speaking.
When Sean begged his father to tell him what had happened, his pathetic pleas were met with a stony silence.
During the long lonely summers, he spent all day every day wandering around the countryside with his dog doing nothing in particular. Shep was the nearest thing he had to friend. To a family even. He could talk to Shep. He could tell him about his innermost thoughts and it would go no further.
For Sean lived in a fantasy world. A world in which he had friends, a world where people listened to him. A world where he was loved. He could tell Shep about all the adventures that went on inside his mind. Shep would listen, ears pricked, head on one side. Things he couldn’t tell anyone else – he knew that if he did, they would only laugh at him.
Sean often thought about the day at the fishing lake when he lost his footing and fell into deep water. His faithful friend was right there, swam out into the icy water and dragged him back to safety. He owed his life to Shep that day.
His father eventually died of a broken heart and it was left to Sean and Shep to look after the modest farm on which generations his family had worked for all of their lives. Apart from speaking to the corn merchants and traders that came to buy the fruits of his labours, he rarely had any contact with the outside world.
Years went by, and Shep began to age, and eventually his alert eyes and bushy tail took on a weary look. One day he couldn’t even raise himself to his legs. Sean new that he couldn’t handle it alone, and called for the vet. The prognosis wasn’t good. Shep was so ill that there was nothing that could be done to cure him. The vet said that the kindest thing would be for Shep to be put to sleep, and offered to take him away to save Sean the agony of witnessing it a home
But Sean needed to carry out the final act himself. Shep was in pain and was ready go to next life. It was to be an act of faith toward the only friend he’d ever had.
He got his gun from the cabinet, and with hands that were trembling, he aimed it at Shep. A million memories flooded his head. Shep raised his half closed eyes and looked straight at Sean. But he knew he had to do it even though he felt like running away and turning the gun on himself.
That night Sean sat on the chair where his father had sat on that dreadful day when his mother had disappeared. He held his head in his hands and wept as a second gunshot echoed around his head. He always imagined that his mother had gone to heaven. In his fantasy world he had once visited her. She smiled at him and for a few moments everything was right again. And now he felt sure that Shep had gone to heaven too. A place where once again he would see Sheps tail wagging, and those big brown eyes sparkling the way they did all those years ago.
You have probably realised that I got my inspiration for this tale from the song Old Shep. Many years ago – when I was seventeen in fact – I won a talent competition singing it. Fortunately no–one realised how inappropriate my choice of song was given that the event was a fundraiser for a dog rescue centre! Since then it has plagued me, and I have found myself singing it time and time again, usually after a beer or three!