Greg Kincaid is the author of A Dog Named Christmas. His next book, the prequel Christmas with Tucker, is now available at Amazon.com, BN.com, Borders.com, and all major retailers. You can also read Greg’s previous blog posts for Petfinder and visit him at www.facebook.com/authorgregkincaid.
Last week Greg shared the prologue of Christmas with Tucker, in which he explores the life of a tethered dog. This week, the dog’s story continues. Enter here for a chance to win a signed copy of Christmas with Tucker. (Official Rules)
From Christmas with Tucker: Ch. 2
The truck door creaked open and then slammed shut. The old man walked through the back kitchen door and took off his hat, exposing gray hair cut short. He had high, flat cheeks that were tanned in the summer from hours spent working outside, a Roman nose slightly large but proud, and a complexion that was surprisingly immune from wrinkles for his seventy-two years.
He was an inattentive shaver who apparently believed that using a razor on alternate days was good enough. His eyes were as blue as the Kansas sky and as sharp as a red-tailed hawk.
There was not a suggestion of fat on his frame, which was steeled by work too hard to imagine by today’s standards. After fourteen-hour days in the barns and fields, he moved stiffly.
The no-nonsense look on his face was as constant as the cuts, bruises, and scrapes on his body.
Now he gently kissed on the cheek the tall, white-haired woman standing at the kitchen sink, and filled an old tin measuring cup with the cool rainwater drawn from their cistern. He tilted his grizzled head back, drained the cup empty, and then let out a long “Ahhh.” He repeated this ritual several times a day during their nearly fifty-year marriage. It unfailingly brought a contented smile to her face.
Standing there together by the sink on that early-winter afternoon, they appeared a perfectly matched team, ready to plow through the prairie sod that had sustained generations of McCrays. She was lithe, beautiful, and wore one of her ubiquitous
flowered dresses, beneath which radiated a calm goodness that was a wellspring of comfort to all who knew her.
In the summer months, he might fill and empty the tin cup four or five times before his thirst was quenched. Any water that remained at the bottom of the cup he would unceremoniously pitch out the kitchen window onto his wife’s jewel-toned flowers,
the blossoms of which she chose for one purpose alone: the nectar that best attracted her beloved hummingbirds.
But that day, one cup full of water was enough. Grandpa Bo set the cup down, clutched Grandma Cora’s elbow, and pulled her close to him. In a secretive way, from behind my book, I watched them from my reading spot on the living room sofa. For several months now, I had been hiding behind, or perhaps in, my books. That afternoon, I had to leave Tarzan stranded in a tree, so that I could pick up a few words of the conversation between
my grandparents, two of the people I loved most in the world and whose house I’d shared every day of my thirteen years.
My grandmother’s voice seemed surprised. “Not again. Oh, no. Bo, I’m so disappointed.” After letting out a pained sigh, she continued, “I shouldn’t be surprised, though, given his state of mind. The poor fellow practically had to raise himself with those parents of his, and he’s lost more than he’s gained in this life — so many jobs, his marriage, and now a friend.”
There was a silence and I could not hear their words until her much louder “You what?”
His baritone voice reassured her. “Don’t be upset, Cora. This can work out.”
“I’m just shocked, that’s all. I never thought … Are you sure?”
He grunted. “I stopped being sure of anything on June 15, 1962.”
When I heard that date, a sinking feeling came over me. Like December 7, 1941, it was one of a half-dozen dates our family would never forget. After putting my book down, I got up and walked into the kitchen. The talk stopped when I entered
They both looked at me expectantly, so I invented a question. “Grandpa, did you sell the cows?”
“Yes, I sold them, and had lunch at the Ox. Saw Hank Fisher and his wife.” He hesitated and then just spat it out. “And I made a stop on the way and brought home a dog.”
“A dog!” I had always wanted a puppy and I could barely
believe my ears.
“It’s not exactly what you think, George, so don’t get excited.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“He’s not a puppy and you don’t get to keep him. Frank Thorne has himself in a bad spot again. He has to leave his farm for a while. He was your dad’s friend and he’s our neighbor, so I guess it’s up to us to help him out. I’d appreciate your help.”
“You mean that mean-looking red dog that he keeps tied up in front of the house? The one that barks like a devil every time my school bus goes by?”
“That’s the one.”
My idea of a good dog was a friendly puppy. I let my feelings be known in a simple and direct way. “I don’t think I want to take care of Thorne’s dog.”
Bo McCray had the same simple, direct communication style. “You’ll do it anyway.”
I looked to my grandmother for support, and she stared hard at me in a way that signaled this issue was not up for discussion. “All right, then, where is he?” I asked.
With a tinge of annoyance, Grandpa set his battered tin cup down on the countertop. “In the truck,” he answered, pointing toward the back door. “And if he has a name, Thorne didn’t mention it.”
The old truck was typically parked in the implement barn, but this afternoon it had been left in the gravel driveway close to our farmhouse, so I walked out the back door, without another word. I stopped and stared at the truck for a moment, not sure what to expect and having no idea of the value of the cargo in the hold.
Excerpted from Christmas with Tucker by Greg Kincaid. Copyright ©
2010 by Greg Kincaid. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division
of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may
be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the
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