Chapter: Rue for Two

Entry: Aug 6, 2007

Kyle staggered unevenly across a tilting deck as the cut-down sloop warship crested over a storm-swollen wave. The frothy ocean broke upon the bow, blasting the mainmast hard enough to splinter several deck plates and send it careening dangerously to the left, upsetting the vessel's balance. No halyard, shackle, or vang remained secured; lines flailed like an angry squid, and Kyle cowered under the thunder. Woof, said each deafening crash overhead, woof.


Kyle yawned and blinked in bleary alarm at his disheveled room, only then realizing he fell asleep on top of his covers, while still clothed in a sweat-soaked pair of longjohns and an undershirt, with the overhead lights fully engaged. I fell asleep in here?

"Woof," said a banging shutter, maybe, through the slowly lifting fog of his returning consciousness.

And then a genuinely angry growl, ominous and deep, something that could only issue from a dog, and a large one. Samson? "Woof!" came the answer.

"Samson?" Kyle mumbled, bringing a hand across his eyes to rub away the rare innocuous dream of a ship at sea, chasing pirates to coves and shoals unknown. "You OK boy?"

Another voluminous bark. Another throaty growl.

"C'mon, boy... I'm trying to sleep. Leave the cats, 'r badgers, 'r whatever's out there alone." he said while ambling crookedly toward his window. If the storm had already died down enough, he'd push open the counterweighted window on those creaky wheels recessed in the frame, and yell part of that rehearsed sample. Not many neighbors, but a dog like Samson could wake them, wake anything with each damning and rich bassy accusation. Woof like a falling redwood. Woof like the cracking moon.

It happened on occasion, the barking. No family owned an immense dog like Samson without coming up with a plan, or training, or something to halt a perturbed canine before police were sent by harangued neighbors. "Samson!" yelled Kyle. "Behalten sei ruhig! Ruhig!"

Now, Samson was Kyle's dog, through and through, and obeyed the Cemtes' commands without question, but before his days with his new family, for the first two years of his life, he was the property of a German breeder and trainer. Strange for a St. Bernard, but German Shepherds were but one niche ol' Richter stocked in his surprisingly vast kennels. That fact alone was the reason Samson was adopted—to save him from the Mad German.

But it was that very training that made Samson, even old and disheveled as he was, easy to control. A command from Kyle, Frank, or Jamie, was law. A command in German was something beyond, like the Word of God. When the shaggy beast was still young, he'd stumbled upon a dead skunk, and happily began eviscerating it with wild abandon, only put-off slightly by the smell. Kyle's horrified mother immediately yelled "Stop!" but Samson merely glanced upwards, licked his lips, and resumed gutting the dangerous carcass. At the time, Jamie was still skeptical about Samson's renowned trainer, but knew another yell would hardly make things worse. So she said "Nein. Halt." without even raising her voice.

Samson had dropped the skunk, sat rigid as a statue, and seemed to queue and expect further commands. The dead, mostly gutted animal at his feet was forgotten and unimportant; all that remained was his master's next wish. This continued for years: sometimes a mangled snake dangling from his great jaws elicited a startled "tropfen," or to impress company with a dog that refused to fetch a ball unless given the proper code-word. Always the old German instruction was there, dormant but powerful overrides for a gargantuan beast that required a firm hand.

But this time, the first Kyle could remember, Samson didn't sei ruhig. The barking continued unabated, fervent even. "God damn it," Kyle swore. "Sei ruhig Samson! Ruhig!" Kyle must have slept through the wind and pounding sleet, because the night was still as death; Samson heard, but hadn't obeyed.

Kyle sighed and closed his window, turning toward the bedroom door to walk the hall and follow the stairs that would send him to the outside porch, where Samson lived. If the old dog wouldn't listen, Kyle had no choice but to physically subdue Samson; a difficult task when he was docile, let alone angered by some perceived trespass against his beloved family.

Before Kyle reached his bedroom door, a piteous yelp pierced his badly-sealed window and chilled his heart. A second, more pained shriek issued from Samson's jaw, more the bay of a mule, than confident woof or snarl from a healthy, though ancient dog. And then, at last, Samson was ruhig.

"Samson?" wondered Kyle. "Boy?"

Only silence, grim and dense, just as before he fell asleep, answered his call. Odd how a dog that quit barking suddenly, is far worse than one which never barked at all. Something stopped Samson's challenge—of that, Kyle was sure.

With sinking heart and unleashed imagination fresh with unlikely horrors of recent dreams, Kyle thundered down the stairs like an earthquake.

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