Poor Earl insisted that he be allowed on the table with TB and Grey. That required a little assistance.
I spend a lot of time in Bellingwood and though I generally write from Polly’s perspective, there is an entire community that lives on, even when she isn’t paying attention. Sometimes, they rise up and let me know that there is something going on, so I take a minute to step into their lives and write a short vignette.
A new vignette is published in each of the newsletters (which come out on the 25th of every month), but as I get ready for the publication of a new book, more of these seem to come up.
Book 14, Reflecting Love’s Charms, will be here before you know it (June 25) and Book 15 is already in process. But while you wait, here’s a quick look at Marnie Evans and her family. Marnie works at the veterinarian’s office with Mark Ogden and Dr. Seth Jackson. It seems that even when she’s home, animals find their way to her.
Never Say Never
“Do you hear something?” Marnie Evans asked her husband, Dave.
He was already up and heading for the kitchen. “Sounds like somebody at the back door,” he replied.
She shook her head. Barrett and Ella knew better than to have people over after nine o’clock.
“Marn?” Dave called out. “You wanna come out here?”
She put her tablet down on the table and groaned as she stood up. It had been a long day at the office. Trouble always seemed to come in waves and today was a day filled with trouble. She’d even had to call Doc Ogden back in because they’d been so busy. Dr. Jackson had been stuck in emergency surgery most of the morning with Mrs. Denoro’s young dog. Poor thing. He’d gotten into the trash and busily ate everything in sight while the woman had been at work. She’d come home to find a dog that got sicker throughout the night. This morning, Mrs. Denoro and Dooley had shown up as Marnie opened the front door. The day had gone downhill after that.
“Someone needs to see you,” he said, looking down.
She followed his eyes. “Devon Rittenhouse, what are you doing out at this hour? You should be home and in bed.”
The little boy lived two houses away, but his mother never paid attention to where he was. Marnie had sent him scurrying home many a night, making sure to watch until he waved at her from his front door.
“Mom said I can’t keep it.” He held out a small orange kitten. “She said I had to bring it to you.”
Marnie glanced up at her husband who gave her a mock scowl.
“Where did you find it?” Marnie asked. “Were there other kittens?”
“No, just this one.” His lower lip puffed out. “Well, we all took one home.”
“Who is we all and when did this happen?” Marnie reached out to take the kitten from him and began running her fingers over the little body, checking for anything that might be a problem.
“After school. And it was just me, Gabe, Luke and Hunter. There were four kittens and four of us.”
The kitten looked old enough to have been weaned from its mother, but Marnie still worried. “Where did you find them?”
He looked up, bright-eyed and excited to tell her the story. “Somebody left them in a box at school. You know, under that big tree on the corner? We just knew it was for us.”
Dave reached over and put his hand on Marnie’s shoulder, fully aware that her anger would be rising. There was nothing she hated more than abandoned animals. Either neuter your pets or be responsible for their litters.
“Did you see who left the kittens there?”
“Oh no,” he said. “They’d been there for a while. We saw the box when we went out for recess, but couldn’t go look at it until after school. Somebody had to take them home, didn’t they?”
“Yes they did, and I’m glad it was you. That was a really good thing to do. Have you fed him anything?” She turned the poor kitten upside down to make sure she had gotten his gender correct.
“He ate some milk. That’s all we had. I named him Chester.”
“That’s a great name.”
“Will you keep him?” Devon asked. “If I can’t have him, somebody nice should.”
“Somebody nice will keep him, even if it isn’t me,” Marnie said. “Now you go on home and tell your mother that he’s safe. Do I need to go outside and watch you walk home?”
“No, I’ll go. I promise.”
“Devon?” Marnie said.
“When you see your friends tomorrow, tell them that they need to bring their kittens in to see the doc. And if their mothers say they can’t keep them either, tell them to bring them in anyway. We want these babies to have good homes, okay?”
“Okay. But their moms aren’t as mean as mine,” Devon said.
“Just make sure to tell them what I said,” Marnie replied and stood at the back door as he opened their back gate and headed home. She watched until he crossed into his own yard and then stepped back inside.
“Marnie,” Dave said. He only needed to say her name. She knew what he meant.
“Don’t you think it’s time? Slim died two months ago. This place is lonely without a cat.”
“We have two dogs. We don’t need a cat.”
As if they knew someone was talking about them, Rocky and Groot came racing into the kitchen. Barrett had chosen their names after watching the movie. Both dogs had come into the vet’s office one day; a bonded pair. Groot was a Great Dane mix and Rocky, a Papillon. They couldn’t have been more different. When their owner died, the son brought the two dogs in to have them put to sleep. He wasn’t taking them and didn’t want to spend time trying to find a home for them. It had seemed quite obvious to him that the only option was euthanasia. Fortunately, Doctor Jackson had been in the office and Doc Ogden had been out on a call. Marnie was certain that Mark would have done something unspeakable to the man. But Seth Jackson had asked the man to surrender the animals to him without putting them to sleep. As long as they were someone else’s responsibility, that was fine. He’d signed the papers.
The dogs had lived at the office for a few days until Marnie couldn’t stand it. It had been a couple of years since they’d had a dog in the house. Slim was enough. As the kids got older, they’d gotten busy and hadn’t pushed for another pet. One night after work, Marnie dragged Dave down to the office and introduced him to the dogs. He’d fallen in love with Groot right away. It wasn’t really fair. Dave didn’t have a chance. He’d always expressed an interest in having a Great Dane. The two dogs had gone home that night with them and settled right in.
Barrett had been beside himself with joy and immediately gave the two dogs their new names. Ella tried to act as if she didn’t care; she’d been quite attached to Brando, but it didn’t take long for her to fall in love. Rocky usually slept on her bed, while Groot couldn’t be persuaded to sleep anywhere but beside the man who chose to bring him home. Dave had finally built a bed for Groot to put beside his side of their bed. Otherwise, that big ole thing insisted on sleeping between Dave and Marnie. Groot just couldn’t be too far away from his favorite person. Barrett came in a pretty close second for the big dog, but hadn’t yet convinced him to leave Dave’s side at night.
“I’m going to check the gate that kid came through,” Dave said. “Tonight is not a night to chase after lost dogs.”
Marnie opened the pantry door. She hadn’t yet thrown away any of Slim’s cat food. In fact, she probably still had some kitten food in here. There should still be a nearly full box of litter and she’d cleaned up Slim’s litter box and put it on a shelf in the garage. There was no way she’d be without a cat for very long.
“Here you go, Chester,” she said, taking out a box of canned kitten food.
“What’s all the noise down here, Mom?” Barrett asked, coming into the kitchen. He pulled up short when he saw what she was holding. “Did we get a new cat? What did Dad say?”
She chuckled. “Dad’s outside with the dogs. He hasn’t said much yet.” Marnie popped the top off the can of kitten food and gestured with her head toward the cupboards. “Get me a fork and a plate, would you? And put some water in one of those little white bowls.”
Instead, Barrett walked back through the door he’d come in and yelled up the stairs. “Ella, we have a cat. Get down here.”
Marnie shook her head. “Food and water first. And you know better than to yell.”
Thundering feet on the stairway announced Ella’s arrival.
“We have a cat? Where’d it come from? Does it have a name? Can we keep it? Let me hold it.” Ella had started talking before she even got into the room. That was standard Ella. She was Marnie’s live wire.
“Barrett,” Marnie spoke a little more sharply. “Please with the fork and plate.”
“Can I hold it?” Ella asked again.
Barrett opened the drawer and took out a fork, then reached up and pulled down a plate. A complete opposite of his sister, the boy moved slowly and deliberately, something that nearly drove Marnie to distraction some days.
She shoved the cat into Ella’s arm and crossed the room, taking the plate and fork from him. “Slow as molasses in January,” she muttered, then said aloud. “A bowl of water, please.”
The kitten had been mewing all this time as it smelled the cat food. Marnie emptied the can onto the plate and mashed it up, then slid it across the table to where Ella had sat down. “Feed him up here,” she said. “The dogs will be back in any second.”
“Can we keep him?” Ella asked.
Marnie made a quick decision. “Yes. We’re keeping him.”
“I heard that,” Dave said, coming in the back door. “But I draw the line at moving out into the country so we can open an animal rescue, got it?”
Marnie grinned, then reached up to kiss his cheek. “You really shouldn’t lay down ultimatums. You know what kind of trouble that always causes.”
He laughed. “Oh yeah. We weren’t going to live in a small town and we were going to stop having children after Ella. And when Brando died we weren’t going to have any more dogs.”
Barrett looked up at his parents in shock. “You didn’t want to have me?”
“I wasn’t thinking straight,” Dave said, ruffling his son’s hair. “I wouldn’t have missed out on you for anything.”
Groot pawed at the back door and woofed a plea to be let in. “And I wouldn’t have wanted to miss having those two around either.” He leaned forward and rubbed his thumb down the kitten’s back. “It looks like Chester is part of our family now.”
“Yay,” Ella said, jumping up. She sat back down quietly when the kitten startled. “Sorry, little baby.”
Marnie sat down across from her daughter as Dave opened the back door, letting the dogs in.
Groot was always interested in what might be happening at the kitchen table, so rushed over and set his chin beside the cat’s dish, trying desperately to be inconspicuous.
“Groot, down,” Dave said. The dog picked his head up and looked at Dave, then back at the cat, while Rocky yapped and danced around Groot’s feet. “It’s going to be a long night,” Dave said to Marnie.
Today had defined chaos and it looked like it wasn’t finished with her yet. Tomorrow would be better. Marnie reached out and Ella gave the kitten back to her. A satisfied tummy brought out quiet purring as Marnie snuggled the kitten to her chest. She hadn’t realized exactly how much she had missed having a cat in the house. A little chaos tonight would be worth it.