October 12, 2009
Animals, Nature and Spirit Connect in New Novel "Strays"
Has an animal influenced your faith? Contributors to The Francis Files share their stories.
The following is excerpted from Strays, a new book by Jeanne Webster.
Jane almost choked trying to swallow fast enough to answer. Out of the corner of her eye she caught a slight movement by the screen door.
What her eyes beheld was no heavenly host. Standing where her angel should have been was one of the scruffiest, dirtiest dogs imaginable.
Her sandwich dropped to the plate. “It’s you isn't it,” she said with a trace of disappointment in her voice, “My escort?”
“Geez, I’m not that bad,” the dog answered, “I know I haven’t had a bath lately, but I’ve been on my own for a while.”
Jane was utterly speechless as she pushed open the screen door. The dog brushed past her at mid-thigh and sat down near the table. An ironic smile spread across Jane’s face. Here she had been dreaming of some divine and angelic visitation; instead what she got was a mutt. She would remind herself in the future to give up on her expectations and allow things to unfold as they would.
Neither spoke as they took measure of each other. Bath or no bath, the dog was by no means a purebred anything; maybe a cross between a golden retriever and a collie or a chow or a…something. His coat was thick, longish and a light shade of gold all over, but his fur was matted in spots, crusted with red dirt and something brown and sticky. One ear bore a healed rip from an old injury by who knows what and when his mouth was closed his top right canine tooth stuck out over his bottom lip.
“Disappointed?” he said.
Jane cleared her throat, “No, not really,” she answered trying to be casual and polite. “I just thought you would…I just imagined you…ah, a bit cleaner and maybe a bit more divine.”
“Ah, the Angel wish,” Dog said.
Jane blushed and looked down at her feet, there was no use denying it. An awkward moment passed as Jane struggled to change the subject.
“So I take it you don’t have a home? You’re a stray?” Jane asked, relieved to move on from the topic of angels.
“Yup, I’m a stray; I had a home once, but not now.”
“Well, do you have a name?”
“I’ve had several,” the dog replied. “I’ve been called Rex, Goldie, Bandit and a few others I won’t mention in polite company. Those more colorful names were temporary and usually came after I’d been caught rifling through someone’s trash can.”
Jane stared at the dog; he wasn’t as unattractive as she first thought. With a good bath, there were possibilities. She wondered how attractive she would be if she were homeless.
“How did you get the job of my escort?”
“Escort is Grandmother Spider’s description, I prefer the term guide and to answer your question, the call went out on the wind. I wasn’t exactly busy so I volunteered.”
“Call...what call? Or, rather who called?” Jane was curious and still trying to digest the idea of this universal mind.
“You did, Jane, don’t you remember? You were crying out for answers.” The dog saw the blank look on Jane’s face as she struggled to make sense of his answer, so he continued. “When you wish for something or seek something, your thoughts naturally dwell on that wish. Thoughts are a form of energy that radiate out much the same way a radio station is able to send music through the air. Grandmother mentioned this, remember? There are different frequencies for different energies. Trees have certain frequencies that are very different from, say, mice. If you’re tuned in, you can pick these up. I picked up yours, so I came.”
Jane nodded, she was getting the concept. “So, you’re my guide for the rest of this journey?”
“Yup, I am.”
Reprinted with permission. Dupuis North Publishing, 2009. Strays is available October 2009 in book stores and from online retailers.
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