This is a short story, in 1,000 words.
Something quick to read during the lockdown.
Tony always hated the holdays. At least at school he had something to do. But the Easter break stretched out ahead of him, knowing his mum and stepdad would not be taking him anyhwere, and with no pocket money to do anyting, even to go and see a film. Mum still made him go out, so he didn’t disturb Cliff. He worked nights, and slept all day. She told him to go out and play. That was all very well, if you had someone to play with, and somewhere to go.
It was hard to make friends when they were never allowed to come round your house, and you were told you couldn’t go to theirs. Tony had tried walking across to the park, see if he could get in on a game of football, or just hang around with the others in the dip under the big tree. But they only nodded at him as he watched from the side. They all had bikes too, and he couldn’t have one because mum said she couldn’t afford it. So when they all jumped on their bikes and rode off laughing and shouting, all he could do was watch.
You can only sit on a bench for so long. Only walk along by the canal for so long. At least when the weather was bad, he could sit under one of the tunnels to stay dry. But trying to find something to do until four in the afternoon every day was really hard.
The old hospital was a good place to explore, though Tony had almost played out every opportunity that had to offer. Scheduled for demolition, and surrounded by a high fence, he could easily slip in under the locked gates when nobody was working on the site. Wandering around the huge empty rooms, switching plug sockets on and off, looking inside the piles of old filing cabinets to see if anything useful or valuable had been forgotten. A couple of times he had thrown things at the windows, just to hear the glass break.
That afternoon, he decided to go there again, as he knew the workmen wouldn’t be around over Easter. At the side entrance that he always used was a huge skip, always packed out with wrecked plasterboard, miles of electrical wiring, and splintered wood. As he walked past it to enter through the doorway marked ‘Do Not Enter’, he heard a whimpering sound. Between the back of he skip and the wall, he saw a small puppy. It was trembling, and backed away as he walked over and picked it up.
Hard to tell what breed it was, it had tan and white patches, and too-large floppy ears the size of sliced bread. Tony slipped the tiny dog inside his coat, and walked inside. One of the old wooden cabinets was perfect. He ripped the doors off, and laid it on the floor. Taking off his sweatshirt, he bundled it up and placed it in inside the cupboard to make a nice bed. The puppy licked his hand as he placed it onto the shirt, rolling over to show its soft belly.
What to call it? It had patches, but Patch was a boring name. And the big ears suggested Dumbo, but that was an elephant’s name. The small legs didn’t look big enough for the pup, almost like stumps. So Stumpy it was. Tony went back outside to the site works, and turned on a tap connected to a rubber hose. Using an end cap from some old guttering, he filled it with water and went back in. Stumpy was thirsty, and lapped up at least half of the water. Finding a roll of new insulating material dumped around the back, Tony made a better effort with the bed, lining it out nicely, and covering one half of the cupboard to create a little dark place for Stumpy to sleep in. As the little dog dropped off to sleep, he was curled up on Tony’s shirt, so he left it under the pup.
Walking through the door almost on the stroke of four, he was glad to hear mum say that it was ham egg and chips for tea. She plonked his plate down in front of him, then went upstairs to wake up Cliff. Tony wolfed down the eggs and over half the chips, then wrapped the rest up in a tea towel and quickly left the house before anyone asked where he was going.
Stumpy was whimpering again by the time he got back. He could just about hear it as he slipped under the gate. Although it was only very small, the pup ate the three slices of ham in record time, sniffing around looking for more. Tony tried him with one of the chips, and he ate that too. He decided to leave the rest of them at one end of Stumpy’s cupboard bed. If he was hungry later, they would fill him up. Making sure he topped up the dog’s water, he had a little play with him before settling him back in his bed for the night. The tiny teeth were like needles, as he chewed on Tony’s hand.
As he turned into his street on the way home, Tony noticed something sellotaped around the lamp-post at the end. The same thing was on all the lamp-posts along the street, standing out against the dull concrete pillars. He stopped and looked at the photo. It was Stumpy, unmistakable with his floppy ears, and colour patches. He read what it said underneath the photo.
Henry. Four Months Old.
Lost this morning.
Please find him and bring him home.
There was a phone number underneath to ring if anyone had seen it.
Going straight up to his bedroom, Tony thought about the poster. He would never be allowed to have a dog at home, mum had said that. He kicked off his shoes, and picked up an old comic.
He would decide what to do tomorrow.