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A Boyís Best Friend

Carla Stochl


 

 

Big yellow school buses lined the street on a sunny September afternoon and excited children burst through the front doors of Pineapple Elementary School. Cale and his buddy, Kip, were standing by the schoolhouse steps waiting for Caleís mom to pick them up.

"Hey, Cale guess what?" Kip asked with an ornery grin.

"Huh?" Cale asked.

"Today we were working on our penmanship for the letter C, and I folded the piece of paper up into the coolest paper airplane in the whole world, and then when Mrs. Blueberry wasnít looking I made it fly!" Kip exclaimed.

"Cool Kip," Cale said. Kip was always bursting with stories for Cale after the school day, and Cale found his mischievous friend quite entertaining.

"Yeah I know, and it went across the room and hit Brandi in the back of the head!" Kip exploded into laughter remembering this adventure.

"Geez Kip," Cale replied. "I canít believe you would throw a paper airplane at your girlfriend," he teased.

"Shut up sheís not my girlfriend," Kip argued back. A moment later, Caleís mom pulled up to the curb and the boys raced to the family minivan.

"Hey mom!" Cale greeted her as he climbed in the van.

"Hi boys, how were things in the 2nd grade today?" Lucy McKenzie asked with a smile.

"Good. Kip is in love with Brandi!" Cale giggled as he watched Kipís freckled face turn rosy red.

"Mom, I wish Murphy could talk to me," Cale announced with a mouthful of brownie, interrupting his parents conversation at the dinner table that evening. Murphy was the handsome golden retriever snoozing at Caleís feet.

"Well that would be fun to hear what Murph had to say, now wouldnít it?" Lucy said warmly, touched by the imagination of her son.

"Yeah, we are best buddies," Cale announced. After a year of begging his parents, Cale had been thrilled to find an adorable golden puppy with big brown eyes sitting under the Christmas tree a few years ago. Since then, Cale and Murphy had developed a special bond. The pair could always be found together; playing fetch, exploring the neighborhood, camping, and fishing. Every night Murphy slept at the foot of Caleís bed to keep him safe. The family couldnít have asked for a better dog. He was lazy once in awhile and he was a little overweight, but he was a sweetheart.

Caleís parents continued their conversation about their plans for the weekend, but Cale was still pondering about what his good olí dog would have to say if they ever had a chance to talk.

Golden rays of sunshine were streaming through his window when Cale opened his eyes the next morning. He glanced at the alarm clock and saw it was 9:30. "Itís Saturday!" Cale squealed. Murphy was sleeping soundly on his belly at the foot of the bed, his silky golden hair shining in the sun. Cale gave his dog a pat on the head to wake him up. Murphy opened an eye and looked at Cale sleepily before licking him on the face.

The two padded down the steps, following their noses to the kitchen where the aroma of coffee and bacon filled the air. Lucy was sipping on her coffee and Caleís dad, Curt, was frying eggs and bacon for breakfast. Everyone said Cale was the spitting image of Curt; they shared the same curly blond hair, brown eyes, and big smile. Cale knew that someday he would be tall and strong, just like his dad, but for now he thought he was pretty strong for an eight year old.

Cale ate breakfast and chatted with his parents. He decided this was a great morning to take Murphy for a walk. He ran upstairs to his room to get dressed and find Murphyís red leash.

When Cale and Murphy stepped outside onto the front porch of their big blue house, Lucy was sitting on the porch swing reading her romance novel.

"Mom, Iím leaving," Cale told her. Murphy was tugging on the leash, unable to contain his excitement.

"Okay honey, remember the rules," Lucy said looking up from her book.

"I know the rules Mom, stay in the neighborhood and be back before lunch," Cale told her with a nod of his head.

"Very good," Lucy said with a wave. "Have fun!"

The McKenzieís lived in a safe neighborhood filled with families, children, and pets. The homes were beautiful, the green lawns were carefully mowed, and colorful flowers bloomed each spring. Lucy knew she didnít need to worry about Cale, but she always reminded him not to get too far from home.

Murphy and Cale bounded down the porch steps and they were off. The morning was filled with the familiar sounds of their neighborhood; a lawnmower in the distance, the laughter of children, an occasional dog barking, and singing birds. Cale loved to listen to the jingling of the tags on Murphyís collar as they walked along. Sunshine was warming Caleís back, but the September breeze made the day cool enough for Cale to wear his favorite Hawkeye sweatshirt.

They continued walking down the street until Murphy stopped in his tracks to sniff a red and white baseball cap that was nestled among some wildflowers growing beneath a huge maple tree. Cale knelt down and picked up the cap. It was faded, a little dirty, and the white fabric on the bill was beginning to tear, but Cale liked it anyway. As he held it in his hands and examined it carefully, Cale sensed there was something special about this tattered hat.

"Whose hat is this?" he wondered aloud, glancing at Murphy who was wagging his tail and watching with an excited look in his eyes. After a bark of encouragement from his dog, Cale placed the cap on his head. It fit perfectly.

"Looks pretty good, if I do say so myself," Murphy commented.

Cale looked around frantically. "Who said that?" he asked. The words had startled him because he didnít think anyone was around.

"Me, silly boy," Murphy chuckled. Cale was stunned when it dawned on him that the words had come from Murphy, the dog who had sprawled out in the grass next to him.

"Wow," Cale whispered in amazement, settling down in the grass beneath the tree. "Did you know that just last night I was wishing we could talk?" he asked Murphy in bewilderment.

"Yes, I know," Murphy responded with a gleam in his eye. "I was almost asleep, but I heard you. I always hear what you guys say, and I talk back too. But usually you canít understand me."

"You do? It just sounds like Ďruff, ruffí to me," Cale said, mimicking Murphyís bark.

"Must be that magic cap on your head," Murphy said with a wink. "Everyone in the neighborhood has been talking about it."

"What? Who? Who do you talk to?" Cale asked.

"Oh you know, Fred, Sophie, Gus, and I think Dusty mentioned it too," Murphy answered.

"You mean Fred and Sophie as in the mutt and poodle next door?" Cale asked in disbelief.

"Yes sir, and big olí Gus the black lab and Dusty the strange cat," Murphy answered. "They said that when their buddies put the cap on, the kids could finally understand what they were trying to say. And I think the kids could understand other animals too."

"So, all animals can talk?" Cale questioned.

"Sure can," Murphy replied. "They just sound different than you. Now, you can chat with us. You can actually understand me!"

Just then, Scooby, Kipís scrawny mutt with scruffy gray hair came running over to the tree. "Hey Scoob, whatís gotten into you?" Murphy joked playfully. Scooby plopped down in the shade of the maple tree to catch his breath for a moment.

"This is crazy!" Cale exclaimed in amazement. "Me and Kip are friends and Murphy and Scooby are friends!"

"Itís KipÖ heísÖ in trouble!" Scooby panted.

"What?" Cale asked. "What kind of trouble could Kip be in now?"

"Well, we went out this morning to spy on Brandi Bilson because Kip is in love with her, even though he wonít admit it, and he climbed up in a big tree to try to see over the fence in her backyard," Scooby explained. "I tried and tried to tell him not to get up in that tree because I knew he would get himself stuck up there, but he wouldnít listen to me. He never does!"

"Well Cale, we better go help that rascal get out of the tree," Murphy chuckled. "Good idea, boy, " Cale answered. They both hopped up and started down the sidewalk. Scooby looked at them with a puzzled look on his little face.

"Wait a minute," he said. "Cale can understand you?" he asked Murphy.

"Yeah, itís that red and white cap everyone has been talking about," Murphy told him, motioning towards the cap on Caleís head with his nose.

"There has been such a frenzy about that thing lately. I was a little skeptical about it myself. Anyone know where it came from yet?" Scooby asked.

"Not that Iíve heard of," Murphy answered.

"Well wow, Kip is lucky you have that today!" Scooby remarked.

"Yep, otherwise I wouldnít be able to understand you, and he would be stuck in the tree all day," Cale said.

"I think Kip needs to put that thing on so he can hear a thing or too Iíve got to tell him," Scooby smirked. Cale and Murphy just laughed.

"That kid is always in some sticky situation," Murphy commented.

"Itís this girl, he just canít get enough of her," Scooby added. After turning the corner, Cale was able to see Kip from about a block away. He was perched on a branch of a tall tree with a thick trunk and green leaves that were just starting to turn to their crimson color of fall. The tree was located in Brandiís neighborís backyard.

"Look at him!" Cale exclaimed. He and the dogs dashed over to the tree. Kip had gotten just high enough to peek over the fence between Brandiís yard and the neighborís. Cale didnít think it would be that hard for Kip to get down, he was probably just scared.
"We are here to rescue you," Cale shouted from the sidewalk below.

"How did you know I was up here?" Kip asked with a stunned look on his face.

"Scooby told us," Cale hollered back.

"What? Scooby? What are you talking about?" Kip asked.

"Oh never mind," Cale answered. Lucky for Kip, Cale had spent many summer days climbing trees on his Grandpa Ken and Grandma Janís farm. He would have no problem getting up there.
"I just got up here too high and Iím scared!" Kip whimpered. Even though he was dressed in camouflage from head to toe, Kipís curly red hair made him easy to spot. His yellow and orange binoculars dangled from the strap around his neck. Kipís blue eyes were wide with fear as he peered down at Cale like a scared little kitty.
" Well I hope you at least got to see Brandi!" Cale teased. Cale couldnít help but laugh at this situation.
"Hey, what are you talking about? I was watching the birds up here." Kip said trying to defend himself.
"Kip, I know what you were doiní," Cale told him before he scrambled up the tree like a monkey. He situated himself on a branch so he could reach Kipís hand and help him make his way down.
"Be careful!" Murphy hollered up at him. The dogs were watching anxiously from below, wishing they could help. It amazed Cale how Murphyís words sounded like an ordinary bark to Kip. Cale was the only one with the magic powers.

"Kip, take my hand," Cale encouraged.
Kip cautiously reached for Caleís hand and the two boys made it safely to the ground. Once he was out of the tree, Kip looked around nervously. "I gotta get outta here!" He exclaimed. "I donít want Brandi to see me here. Come on Scoobs."

"So did you see her for real?" Cale asked before Kip took off.

"Yep I did. I saw her playing in the backyard and she looked so beautiful." Kip whispered. Cale just rolled his eyes and laughed. Cale thought Brandi was pretty too. Her long hair was light blonde and wavy. She had pretty turquoise eyes and rosy cheeks. Everyone knew Kip had an enormous crush on her. He was always teasing her, chasing her at recess, and sitting next to her during story time at school.

"But I really gotta go now," Kip declared before he dashed down the sidewalk, his binoculars bouncing with each step.
"Bye Kip," Cale waved. Kip was embarrassed that he had been caught spying on his crush, but thrilled that he had gotten a glimpse of the beautiful Brandi.
         "Guess I gotta go. See you later Murph. Bye Cale," Scooby hollered.
"Thanks for the help guys!" Kip shouted over his shoulder from halfway down the block. Kip disappeared around the corner with Scooby following as fast as his legs could carry him.

"He is a goofy kid," Murphy said to Cale as they watched them dash down the street. "Iím glad he got down safely. Scoobs had me worried," Murphy added.

"I know," Cale replied. "I donít know what he was thinkiní." Kip always acts like he is such a tough guy but he really is a big scaredy cat," Cale giggled.

"I guess itís noon already, Murphy commented after glancing up at blue sky. I think we better start heading back home. Lucy will have lunch ready for you, and Kibbles Ďní Bits will be waitiní for me!"

"Okay, whatever you say," Cale replied. The two started on their way back to the house.

"Good day, Mr. Murphy," a bright red cardinal whistled in a sing-song voice as he flew overhead.

"Hello Albert," Murphy greeted him as he stopped at a nearby birdfeeder. As they trotted along, Murphy also chatted with a squirrel named Earl who was busy gathering nuts for fall and a fluffy black kitten named Pee Wee. Pee Wee told Murphy and Cale that he had been trying to catch bugs all day. Cale felt as though he had entered a fascinating new world, and he didnít want to leave.

"Hey there Murphy," a soft voice cooed.

"Hi Sophie," Murphy replied bashfully. Sophie was the pretty white poodle who always had pink bows in her hair. She was laying in her front lawn basking in the sunshine. Cale and Murphy continued walking and when they were far enough away from her house so she wouldnít hear, Murphy whispered, "I have a crush on Sophie."

"You do?" Cale asked.

"Yes, but I donít think she likes me," Murphy said sadly. "She is so gorgeous!"

"I bet she does, you are pretty handsome," Cale told his dog. Murphy just laughed.

The two had been strolling down Mayberry Lane for awhile and they had almost reached their big blue house.

"Iím getting hungry," Murphy said.

"So how do you like that dog food anyway?" Cale asked.

"Oh, itís delicious," the dog answered. "As a matter of fact, I think just about everything is delicious. But I sure do like it when you slip me a piece of cheese under the dinner table."

Cale couldnít help but laugh. "I wish we could talk forever," the young boy said. "But how long does this cap work?"

"Iím not sure, but I know it isnít forever. I think it just works and stops working as it pleases, ya know?"

"Yeah I guess so," Cale answered.

"From now on you will know Iím all ears when you need to talk, and I really do understand what you say. And I promise I never tell any secrets."

"Thanks Murphy, I donít know what I would do without you," Cale said giving Murphy a pat on the head. "So nobody knows where this cap came from?"

"No, itís a mystery. I think it arrived in the neighborhood a few weeks ago, but nobody knows where it came from or how it got here," Murphy replied.

"Thatís weird. But I like mysteries," Cale answered with a smile. "I guess it is just magic!"

They continued on and Murphy stopped to hoot at Tina, the neighborís fat orange cat.

"Hey there good lookiní" Murphy hollered.

"Lookiní better than a big hairy dog," Tina sassed back.

"I always knew that cat was stuck-up," Cale giggled as they reached their yard.

"You could say that again!" Murphy exclaimed as he galloped up the front steps to the McKenzie house. Cale and Murphy took a seat on the steps of the porch. They were home at last.

"Hey, should we let my mom try the cap on?" Cale asked Murphy.

"Oh, Iím afraid the cap only works for youngsters," Murphy said. "Grown-ups donít have enough imagination and they just canít hear us," Murphy explained.

"Oh bummer," Cale said. "So is it a secret for just us kids and our pets?"

"Yes I think it is," Murphy replied.

"Thanks for being such a good pal, Murphy," Cale told him. "I think you are the best dog in the whole world."

"Well, since you are the best kid a dog could ask for, Iíve got to be a good dog," Murphy responded with a loving look in his big brown eyes. Cale rubbed Murphyís floppy ears and Murphy laid his head in Caleís lap. They watched the breeze rustle the leaves of the maple tree in the front yard. Tina hopped over the white picket fence and came sauntering across the lawn. Murphy followed Tina with his eyes and barked loudly at her.

At first Cale didnít think anything of the bark, but then he realized the cap had lost its magic. He looked at Murphy sadly, but Murphy just barked again and licked him in the face until Cale started laughing.

"Time for lunch you two," Lucy called as she stepped out onto the porch wearing her favorite polka-dotted apron. "How was the walk?" she asked.

"It was so fun," Cale told her. "Check out this awesome hat I found," he said as he took the cap off and proudly held it up for her to see.

"I like that," Lucy said warmly. "Well come on inside to eat," she told them before she turned and went back inside.

"Well Murph, I guess since we donít need this cap anymore I should probably leave it out here for someone else to find," Cale told Murphy.

Cale went down the porch steps and walked over to the old maple tree. He gazed at the faded old hat for a moment, in awe of its magic and mystery. Cale gently placed it in the grass beneath the tree and Murphy barked at him in approval. They headed back towards the house. As soon as they entered the bright kitchen, Murphy bounded over to his bowl of Kibbles ní Bits in the corner of the room. Cale sat down at the kitchen table and took a bite out of his ham and cheese sandwich. A few minutes later, he looked out the window to take another look at the cap that had been his ticket to a delightful new world. To Caleís surprise, the cap had disappeared already. Cale wondered what lucky kid found it this time.


Acknowledgments

I would like to say thank you to all of my classmates for carefully reading the drafts of my story. I really appreciated your thoughtful advice and brilliant ideas. I would also like to thank Terry for his guidance, encouragement, and helpful advice. Thank you for being patient with me as a fantasy writer. I owe thanks to all the children I know for their spirit and imagination. Last but not least, I have to thank my dog, Murphy. His happiness, big brown eyes, and excitement for taking walks were an inspiration to me. I often wonder what goes through his head and what he would say to me if he had the chance.


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