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Original Short Story: "Dedalus"

Original short literary fiction, including satire, remains one of the writing genres in my literary toolkit. I do enjoy creating characters!




"To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life!" —James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

At 4 a.m.

Lane Rushington rolled out of bed at four a.m. as usual, heated her new favorite morning drink, orange juice, sewed a patch on her fast-becoming-threadbare jeans, before she began writing. She heated her juice, because she had quit coffee but still craved something hot before breakfast. She could have drunk herbal beverages, as Jane Ralston had recommended, but she didn't like those beverages, so she stayed with what she liked—orange juice, and it was working out quite nicely.

It kept her from bouncing back into the caffeine habit. It had worked for a year. So what if the heat destroyed the vitamin C—what did caffeine ever do for her but make her nervous and forgetful and cause her heart to beat funny? At least, she always blamed the caffeine for making her heart beat funny—sort of skip a beat and flutter once in a while. So what? As long as it helped her stay off coffee.

About 6:15 a.m.

About six fifteen right as she was popping bread into the toaster, the phone rang. It was Jane. She was the best friend Lane had in the English department, a college instructor like Lane, who wanted to write great novels that would become best-sellers. Of course, they always complained that great novels do not become best-sellers, but they could hope, couldn't they?

They had published short stories in literary journals. Jane had even sold one to Redbook, but that was ten years before Lane met her. They both blamed teaching for their slow progress in their writing careers. They had that complaint in common, but actually little else. It's the little else that caused Lane to feel not quite the camaraderie with Jane that she might have liked. And except for their riming names, they found little else to joke about.

Lane thought that Jane acted like a victim of a great conspiracy. Jane insisted that her writing was a great calling that would profit mankind—womankind, she always said, that is, if it were ever recognized for its true worth. She disparaged anything new—including the one new thing that could aid her the most in her writing career, the computer. When Lane got her computer, she didn't tell Jane for three months. They weren't close on a personal basis. They never visited each other's homes. Lane had a husband. Jane had a husband. But they had never met each other's husband.

(Please note: The spelling, "rhyme," was introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson through an etymological error. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")

Jane's Surprise

So that morning, when Jane called, Lane was surprised.

"Hi, where have you been? I haven't seen you yet this semester. How's everything?" Lane tried to sound friendly despite the surprise.

"Lane, dear, I need to ask you a big favor and I'm somewhat overcome by, oh, a bit of shyness. I don't want to take advantage of our quiet friendship," Jane prefaced her request.

"Oh, well, gee, what is it? I'll do whatever I can," she tried to sound willing but not too committed so that she could back out if the favor was too distasteful.

"Jason has to go to Hawaii for a literary convention—a Joyce symposium, and I'm going with him," Jane explained, sounding somewhat humble at first. "Hawaii, can you imagine what that will do for my repertoire of place names? I've longed to cross the Pacific, but the opportunity has thus far eluded me. And Jason is ecstatic that his paper on Joyce was accepted. There are so few opportunities to present the work—the seminal work—Jason is doing on Joyce. We both feel that this trip is much more than the ordinary tourist on holiday. We both feel that this is the opportunity to grow and contribute."

"Sure, you're right, what a great chance," Lane said.

One Concern

"There is one concern, and that's why I'm calling you. We have a dog, a Dalmatian named Dedalus, and he's in great need of some loving care while we are gone. We just don't have the heart to board him. I remember your telling me about a Dalmatian you had when you were growing up, and I recalled the love in your voice as you spoke of him. And when this concern over Dedi arose I thought of you immediately and hoped so much that you could keep him for us. Oh, I do hope you do this, and we will pay you more than the boarding kennel charges. We are just so concerned that our baby gets the best of care. We know that he will miss us terribly."

"Oh, well, gosh, I haven't had a dog since Duke—he was a great dog, and I've always thought that if I ever had another dog, it would be a Dalmatian like Duke."

Lane was stalling, unsure about this venture. Keeping a dog. What would Rob think? They'd never thought about having a dog. Of course not. They had kids. Their kids were their dogs. Their kids may be strange; they had never asked for a dog. They only wanted turtles and mice. Why did their kids never ask for a dog? All kids want dogs. But their kids were twenty-three and twenty-five now. Come to think of it, they both had dogs now. Maybe they should have a dog—she and Rob. Well, if she kept Jane's dog, they could get a taste of dog ownership. Who knows, maybe it would be an opportunity for them to grow and contribute.

"Well, I just might do it, but I'd better check with Rob first to make sure he doesn't mind or have some plans that would make it impossible. How soon do you need us as dog-sitters?"

Leaving Next Week

"We leave early next week, let's see, the 3rd of October and we'll arrive back the 13th. We'd like to bring him over perhaps the 1st—just in case it doesn't work out, and we have to make other arrangements."

"Well, I'll talk to Rob about it and let you know tonight. I get home around 5:30, and I could call you then, if that's OK," replied Lane.

"That will be superb, I'll be expecting your call around 5:30.”

Later that morning, before Rob left for the hospital, Lane brought up the topic of dog-sitting. After explaining who Jane was, and what she and her husband would be doing in Hawaii, she emphasized their reason for asking her to be in charge of their dog. He thought for a moment and said he had been thinking about getting a dog. And that it was OK with him. But he added that he thought she would get attached to the animal and not want to give him up, and that she would probably be hoping they never came back. She told him that was just silly, and besides they could get their own dog if they really liked having one around.

No Survivors

Lane called Jane and told her that they would be glad to keep Dedalus. Jane was relieved and couldn't thank her enough.

Jane and Jason brought Dedalus to Lane's house as planned on the first of October. Dedalus and Lane fell immediately in love. He followed her everywhere around the house that evening. He ate blackberries from her hand, and Jane and Jason were amazed; they claimed that he ate only the finest cuts of prime steak from Lamphen's Butcher Shop. But the dog would became a vegetarian in Lane's house.

Of course, she did not tell Jane and Jason that only vegetarian meals would be served to their dog. Surely, they would have reconsidered letting the animal stay with Lane. But they soon departed, and Dedalus did not grieve or act as if he much cared that they were gone.

On the last day that they were to enjoy each other's company, Lane got up that morning, as usual, heated her juice, shared some with her charge—she had been calling him Duke, feeling a little guilty, that maybe she and Duke/Dedi had grown too close—and just as she was sitting down to brush him, the phone rang. It was Martha Cruelling, chairman of the English department; Jason and Jane had left careful emergency instructions for contacting everyone who had anything to do with their trip, and Professor Cruelling was calling to tell Lane that the plane carrying Jason and Jane back to the mainland had crashed near Maui, leaving no survivors.

© 2021 Linda Sue Grimes

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