Stay!: Keeper's Story

Stay!: Keeper's Story by Lois Lowry Read Free Book Online

Book: Stay!: Keeper's Story by Lois Lowry Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lois Lowry
    Then only the photographer was left. It had taken him a while to fold his complicated lights, replace his equipment in cases, and load everything into a Jeep that was parked nearby. I was impressed by his meticulousness.
    Finally he looked around to see if he had forgotten anything. He picked up an empty film canister and tossed it into a trash can. Then his eyes fell on me.
    I was still in my "stay" position: alert, waiting, head high.
    The photographer smiled. He came over, squatted beside me, and scratched behind my ear, completely bypassing the uncomfortable head pats that dogs ordinarily have to endure on short acquaintance. Clearly he was a man accustomed to dogs. My heart beat faster.
    "What's up, pal?" he asked. I noted the name change. So I was Lucky no longer. It required a quick adjustment in my thinking.
    Lucky I was, now I'll be Pal!
    I was still pondering the second line (possibly something referring to morale, I thought) when he rose, stretched, grinned, and said the word that I most longed to hear.
    "Come," the photographer said.
    I followed him eagerly to the Jeep and hopped onto the back seat when he opened the door. I sat politely, avoiding making pawmarks on the seat, and tried not to lean too close to the window, though I was wild with curiosity and excitement. I had never been in a vehicle before. But there is some primal inborn awareness in dogs, and I knew instinctively that it would not serve my future well if today I got drool and dog breath on the windows.

    If he learned to love me now, I could slobber all over soon. The combination of timing, self-restraint, and discretion is the art that separates the successful dog from those foolish canines who find themselves at the ends of leashes and on the floor of school gyms having obedience lessons.
    Watching carefully through the windows of the Jeep, I could see that we were making our way through the same streets that I had walked with Jack. I saw the same corner, in fact, where I had met Jack while fleeing the scar-faced dog who had beaten me out for the McDonalds breakfast and become my mortal enemy. I felt as if there should be some memorial there, a marker for Jack, whose life had been lived on that corner; but it was simply an unacknowledged place with a trash can, a mailbox, and a lamppost: nothing physical to mark a spot where the groundstone of a relationship had been laid.
    As we slowed for a light, I saw suddenly the carved wooden door, with the menu attached to its window, that was the familiar entrance to Toujours Cuisine. I realized that we were passing the alley where I had been born. Eagerly I rose to the full length of my legs, unsteady on the slick surface of the car seat. I leaned toward the window, forgetting the dangers of spit on the pane, and found myself whimpering.

    The photographer slowed the Jeep and turned to me with a concerned look. "You okay?" he asked. "Not carsick?"
    I gave him what I thought was an imploring look. If only, the look said, if only we could stop for a moment? Please? And perhaps I might find my beloved mother still on these familiar sidewalks. Or my siblings—well, really only the one, my favorite, my sister, little Wispy?
    He smiled at me. His smile was warm, intelligent, and compassionate. But he had not understood my look, or my yearning; when the light changed, he propelled the Jeep ahead. "Almost home, pal," he said consolingly.
    So I lay back down on the seat and composed a mournful poem—I believe it could rightly be called an elegy—in my head. For the first time, the rhyme came easily, naturally. For the first time I felt what true poets must feel when the words fall into place.
Be brave, my heart; be still, be calm!
Adieu to Jack. To Wisp. To Mom...
    My life seemed an unending series of leavetakings. Unaware of my grief and loneliness, the photographer drove around a corner, and behind us the familiar neighborhood slid away with whatever it still contained of my past.
    To my surprise

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