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Gordo found himself struggling to keep up with Dottie. She walked briskly towards the fresh grave. He could not help but look around at the dark tree line and wonder what sort of evil lurked there. Gordo’s idea of roughing it was staying at a hotel without room service. He was not the outdoors type.
“Gordo, you must hurry up…” Dottie hissed “We do not have all night!”
She beat Gordo to the fresh grave. There was a flat rock at the head of the grave with Fluffy’s name crudely scratched into it. A single white rose lay on the grave, its light color in deep contrast to the rich dark earth. It wasn’t there when Suzy stormed off earlier so Dottie assumed she came back to leave it.
“All right, Gordo, we need to dig Fluffy up and get her over to Mort’s place as quickly as possible.”
Gordo then realized that he had only one shovel. As usual, when Dottie said “we” she meant “you”.
“Why didn’t you tell me to bring another shovel?” he asked. Gordo did not like the idea of disturbing anything at rest.
“Don’t be silly. Who would hold the flashlight?”
Gordo decided it wasn’t worth arguing about and began digging. It did not take long for him to reach the shoebox. He placed the shovel on the ground and gingerly reached into the grave to pick it up. It was heavier than he thought it would be.
“Be careful with her, Gordo.” Dottie whispered. “Suzy’s best friend is in that box.”
“You know I do not even know why you are doing this, Dottie.” Gordo whispered back. “It is not as if you and Suzy are best friends. You hardly know each other. I really wish you would reconsider this.”
“I know Suzy well enough. She never made fun of me and even stuck up for me a few times. Not that I needed it.”
“Besides, if the only people that you help are your friends, what kind of person are you?” Dottie asked
“I don’t really think this is helping, Dottie.” Gordo responded.
Gordo began to bend down to reach for the shovel. The shoebox, slippery from the wet earth, fell from his hand and hit the ground with a thud. For the second time that night, Gordo felt as if his heart was going to burst out of his chest.
When the box hit the ground, a few sparks flew out of the cracked lid. It reminded Gordo of the sparks he could see at night when he had on a new pair of pajamas charged with static electricity. He jumped and then quickly closed the box.
“I told you to be careful!”
“Dottie, I don’t feel comfortable carrying her. You know I can be a little clumsy.”
“Gordo, you know I am allergic to cats. I would carry her but I am afraid I will go into an asthma attack.”
Gordo did not want that to happen. Dottie had a pretty bad case of asthma and if she was not careful, she could easily have an attack. She carried a rescue inhaler with her everywhere she went. She rarely had to use it but it was always a concern.
The wind began to blow, sending leaves dancing across the path before them. The air felt heavy with moisture. Gordo and Dottie walked along the path in silence. Gordo held the shoebox in one arm and the shovel in the other. Dottie walked next to him shining the beam of the flashlight on the path in front of them.
“You have a cat.”
“I know I do, Gordo, but Magog does not make my allergies act up.” She answered very matter of fact. “I guess I have built up an immunity to her.”
Gordo suspected that allergies had nothing to do with Dottie not wanting to carry the shoebox but he knew it was not worth pursuing.
The path to Mort’s place led them through the old graveyard. Gordo did not think things could get any worse but then it began to rain again. It was a light drizzle but at least the noise helped drown out some of the sounds of the night.
He looked over at Dottie. She did not seem to notice the rain. She was the most determined person that Gordo had ever met. She was a force of nature and he felt sorry for anyone who got in her way.
Dottie felt that her life calling was to protect the weak and downtrodden. Gordo wasn’t sure if it was because she really felt that way or if it was because she was so scrappy and was always looking for a fight.
As long as Gordo knew Dottie, she was fascinated with martial arts.
Her parents were against her pursuing that interest. They were supportive of other types of athletics and extracurricular activities. Her mother was a pretty socialite who believed little girls should engage in more refined activities. Her dad believed that whatever his wife said was correct.
Everything that Dottie knew about karate she learned from watching movies. Needless to say, she didn’t know much. What she lacked in skill, she made up with enthusiasm. She was extremely confident in her ability and several of her classmates had felt the power of her karate chops and kicks.
Gordo smiled as he recalled the first time he met Dottie. It seemed so long ago.
It was a warm summer day at the first part of the school year. He had just moved to town with his family so he started third grade two weeks after school had already started.
Starting a new school was difficult enough but starting later than everyone else made it much worse. He felt like he was behind in class and that all of his classmates had already chosen their friends for the year.
Most third graders could not wait until recess. It was a time to run and play in the blessed freedom from the stifling confines of the classroom. The monkey bars were transformed into forts or spaceships depending on the day. For Gordo, it just was time for validation of just how lonely and outcast he was.
As he stood near the monkey bars trying to mind his own business, he felt a sharp pain on his neck. He put his hand up and felt a tender spot and wondered if he had just been stung. He heard a whizzing noise near his ear and saw something hit the ground near him kicking up dust. He spun around and saw a kid bending over to pick up another piece of gravel.
“Hey fat boy!” the kid leered at him with a big gap toothed grin. “Sorry to throw a rock at you but my friend here said I could not hit the side of a barn with my slingshot.” The kid motioned to his crude homemade slingshot made out of two popsicle sticks.
“I had to prove him wrong.”
Gordo felt his face flush beet red with embarrassment as the kids laughed at him. The place where the rock hit was beginning to throb. Gordo recognized the kid as Dennis, a tall kid from his class who was built like a gorilla. To say Dennis had a reputation for being a bully was an understatement.
“That’s ok.” Gordo really didn’t know what to say. His mom had told him that fighting was wrong and that diplomacy was always the answer.
He started to walk away and then felt another sharp crack on his arm.
“I didn’t ask you whether or not it was ok.” Dennis smiled a wicked crooked grin.
Gordo stopped and clenched his fist. He was about to respond in a way his mother would not have approved when he heard a girl’s voice.
“LEAVE HIM ALONE!”
He looked around and saw a little blonde girl stomp up to Dennis with a ferocious look in her eyes. Dennis looked amused. The playground fell silent with all eyes watching what was unfolding in front of the monkey bars.
“Go play with your dolls Dottie.” Dennis sneered “This is no place for a stupid little girl.”
What happened next became the stuff of legends at EC Segar Elementary School.
Next week: Mort and his Treacherous Treehouse
Words and Pictures Copyright 2016 SF Varney