Short Story Wednesday: Lost and Found

Short Story Prompt: “A Death in the Woods” by Sherwood Anderson.

Supper was over and the dishes done. More out of boredom than anything else, I decided our black and brown German Shepherd needed a walk. I kissed my wife and said, “I’m taking Ranger for a walk.”

She looked up at me from her comfortable chair. “Ranger will like that.” She returned to her television program. Then she joked, “If you see Jesus, tell him I said hi.”

I laughed. Beth wasn’t religious. She found humor in the religiosity of people she knew.

I grabbed a sweater, then said, “Ranger, c’mon.” He jumped from the couch and followed me outside into the nippy night air. I pulled on the sweater and attached a leash to the dog’s collar. Ranger and I headed for the street.

Several blocks later the dog indicated he wanted to go into the empty field. If Ranger indicated he wanted to do something, I’d best do it. Or have a darn good reason not to. So I allowed myself to be pulled along after him.

Our German shepherd strained forward across the field. With the lease, I commanded the dog to stop. He stopped and I undid the lease. Then he was off into the woods nearby. I followed him into the trees. He disappeared and went off to do his business. I sat down on a log and waited for him to return. The tree canvas blocked the stars. Only a slight bit of moonlight made it through the leaves and branches.

Ranger reappeared in the clearing and came over to me, barking. I stood up, not knowing what to make of the dog. His mouth grabbed my hand, not biting, but secure around it. He pulled, then dropped my hand and turned and went back deeper into the woods. I made my way after him, then he stopped, sat on his hind legs and barked twice.

I saw what the dog saw. A baby in a basket and bundled to keep warm. It appeared to be asleep. But it wasn’t. It was unconscious. All pale. I checked its little pulse and felt barely a beat. But there was still a beat.

I grabbed the basket and ran, Ranger ahead of me. Almost stumbling several times, I reached the house. The dog had aroused my wife, and she was standing on the porch.

I handed the basket to Beth. “It’s still alive,” I went inside and got the keys to the car, then I told Ranger to stay indoors and watch over things the way he always did. He took his place on the couch. I came back out and she handed me the basket. “I have to get my jacket.” She threw the jacket over her nightgown and joined me as I was warming up the car.

On the way to the hospital, she kept saying, “Hurry. Hurry.” I was driving as fast as I could on the dark streets and then out onto the main thoroughfare. A cop pulled up behind me, lights flashing. I did not stop. I did not dare stop. “Is the baby still breathing?” I asked. “Yes,” she said, “but hurry.” A second police car pulled up behind the first as I turned into the hospital and pulled up to the emergency room and came to a halt. She jumped out of the car with the basket. The baby started screaming. Then Beth was inside.

A cop ran after her. Two other cops pulled me out of the car and threw me on the ground, face down. I heard a muffled “You’re under arrest” as they cuffed my hands behind me. Then “Stay there and don’t move.” The other cop, the one who had followed Beth into the emergency room, pushed her outside. Her hands were cuffed behind her.

A cop lifted me off the ground and threw me into the back seat of the police car beside my wife. A nurse and a doctor came out of the emergency room door and walked up to one of the men in blue.

“Who’s in charge here?” the doctor in his white coat demanded.

One of the three cops stepped up to the doctor. “Sgt Henry, sir.”

“Let them go,” the doctor almost shouted.

“What?” Henry said, looking like he was about to arrest the doctor.

“I have some questions for them. I’m Doctor Joe Samuels and I am the super for the E. R. Uncuff them and bring them inside.”

Henry signaled for one of his officers to pull us out of the car. He pushed us both into the hospital and sat us down. My wife and I were keeping quiet. Neither of us wanted to make matters worse and get anyone hurt. I could feel one of the cops behind me. The sergeant and the other cop took their places by the emergency room door and watched us.

Then Beth asked, tears in her voice, “How’s the baby?”

“We don’t know,” Dr. Samuels said. “Tell me what happened.”

“I found the baby in the woods close to our house. It didn’t appear to be conscious but it was still breathing. That’s why we rushed here.”

We explained the whole incident to the sergeant and the doctor, Beth interrupting me, me interrupting her. The sergeant uncuffed us.

“We’ll need your information,” Henry said. “But, due to the circumstances, I think any charges will be dropped. No one was hurt. Just a little of everybody’s pride.” Then he said to one of the other two cops, “I want you to take Mr. Wayne here back to where he found the baby.”

“Yessir.”

I showed the two cops the spot where the child had been left. They called for a detective. Once the detective arrived and took my story, the cops dropped me off at the hospital. Beth was being interviewed by the local news.

Several hours later, Doctor Samuels came out to let us know the baby was sleeping, recuperating. “It’s going to take a lot of care but I think the baby will survive. At least, we can hope.”

“Can you show us the baby?” Beth asked.

We stood and looked through the glass, our arms around each other. The child had needles in its arms attached to feeding tubes. It seemed to be resting. My wife asked the doctor, “Who would leave a baby to starve like that?”

“I don’t know. I can’t imagine.”

“So what happens next?” I asked.

“Social services.”

My wife looked up at me and her arm squeezed me. Since we had no children of our own, she was thinking adoption.”Perhaps…we can call her Nicole.”

I said, “I think Ranger will like that name.”

Next Wednesday’s Prompt: “The Death of Ivan Ilych.” By Leo Tolstoy

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