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Florida, United States
Southern born, Southern reared. It's a quirky place and we are unique folk... These are my people and these are my stories.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The "real" Road to Testament (Day 3)

I went to the Mount Herman Christian Writers Conference years ago as a faculty member and, having a break in my schedule, decided to meander over to Karen Ball's class on fiction writing. I don't necessarily remember a lot that she taught, but I do remember her saying that all of her books have animals, such as a pet dog, cat, etc.

Gold fish? I don't remember ...

Since that time, I've noticed when I read books with "pets" that I get a little warm fuzzy, so--whenever I can--I incorporate the pup or kitty or ... gold fish.

After all, didn't Rocky become more lovable after we met Cuff and Link?

How delightful that, years ago during my first trip to Decker Ranch, I met "Buddy" and "Sis" as Sharon calls them (because this is not their real names). During my trip to the ranch and to that little paradise area of God's country called Rutherford County, North Carolina, Buddy and Sis came to see me every morning while I took a walk or when I sat in the Adirondack chairs reading my devotions.

One afternoon, Sharon called me. "I can't find Buddy," she said. I smiled and said, "Hold on." I took the photo you see here and sent it to her. Buddy had taken over "guarding" the writer within.

Here's what happened, exactly as it happened, one morning during devotional time ... and then I wrote it into The Road to Testament as happening to Ashlynne (with some obvious modification).

I sat in what had become my favorite place to sit and read. Behind me, the sun made its slow ascent, casting shades of gold and ash across the lawn and the river rocks. A sliver of glitter in my flip flops caught one of the rays and shot back a brilliant reflection. Overhead, birds had already begun their morning song. The notion that we were becoming friends fluttered across my mind, and I smiled.
            As I crossed my legs and took a leisurely sip of tea, I caught a glimpse of my two furry friends from between the red-tipped bushes. They sauntered up the path. Over the past few days we’d formed a morning ritual whereby I drank tea and read; they sat and watched. Our actions, when done together, worked out beautifully.
            I’d also learned their names.
            “Good morning Buddy,” I said as the black dog reached me. I placed the mug between my thighs, extended my hand; he eased his head under it. His tail swished back and forth before looking back to see how close his constant companion had come to stealing my attention. “Come on, Sis,” I said, using the nickname Bobbie gave Kelsey. “Come on, old girl.”
            Kelsey easily pushed Buddy out of the way for her love pat. Buddy’s dark eyes stared at me for a moment. Unfazed by my shift in attention, he walked over to sniff a decorative garden stone with “DREAM” carved into it.
            I continued to rub Kelsey’s head, scratching behind her ears. I laid my head back against the glossy slats of the chair and closed my eyes. “Ah, Sis,” I said. “Do you know what I’d be doing right now if I were back in Winter Park?” I opened my eyes. Sis now sat, her long tail wrapped around one hip and leg. Her pink tongue dropped between sharp teeth, and her mouth formed a smile. “I’d be rushing off to work, that’s what.” Buddy rejoined us and I shifted my hand to his head. “You see,” I continued, “back home, when I get up—I get up very early—and I do my reading inside my apartment. I have a settee that once belonged to my grandmother—ah, you probably don’t want to hear about that. But I don’t get to go outside and sit under the trees and feel the breeze on my skin when I do my reading.”
            Both dogs stared at me, looking at me as intently as Gram and Mom when I bare my soul to them. “What I’m trying to say,” I continued, “is how special this is becoming and how much I will miss it when I leave.”
The dogs blinked in unison.
“Well, then.” I raised the book with my free hand. “I guess I’d better get to reading so I can shower and go get my nails done.” Kelsey panted deeply as though, being a girl, she understood.
            I propped my mug on the armrest farthest from the dogs and opened the book to: SING AND DANCE. The artwork on the corresponding mirror tile was of a woman with her mouth open and of a ballet shoe with wide pink ribbons.
            “Sing to him,” I read to Buddy and Kelsey. “Sing praise to him; tell of his wonderful acts.” I looked at the dogs, both curled near my feet. “That’s from First Chronicles, chapter sixteen, verse nine.”
            Buddy groaned as he rested his head on his front paws.
            “I take it you’ve heard me sing,” I said.

            Kelsey followed her companion’s motions. Her eyes rose to meet mine as though to say, “Uh … yeah.”

Don't just read bits and pieces of The Road to Testament! For heaven's sake, call your favorite bookstore and go to your favorite online bookstore right now and purchase it so you can read the whole thing and ... my dog can get a new collar. (insert big cheesy grin here)

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