Author of fiction novels, short stories, book reviews and other online content, Peggy Cole has been writing articles on HubPages since 2009.
Hours passed along the highway with mile-markers zipping by like posts on a picket fence. When the gas gauge dropped close to empty, Connie stopped to fill up. From the restroom at the side of the building, she drew water for Queenie's bowl. The pups, sleeping in their box, were carried, one under each arm, to the edge of the concrete onto a strip of grass. The dogs took care of their needs, romping around, happy to be outside in the sunshine.
She bought a pack of peanut butter crackers inside the convenience store and shared them with the dogs. Queenie stayed close, uneasy from the morning's events and the long drive. Connie returned the pups back to their box, then found the southbound entrance and got back on the highway.
The miles stretched on. As they passed slower cars, Queenie watched from the side window under a blue sky filled with watercolor clouds. She always enjoyed traveling with her mistress in the days before the man came along. It felt good to be riding in the car again, just Connie and Queenie and her two pups. After a few hours of car watching, she stretched out across the bench seat and put her head in Connie’s lap and slept. When the sun dropped to the flat horizon, Queenie’s mistress woke her.
“We’re in Texas now, girl, the Lone Star State.” Queenie cocked her head and looked at the huge “Welcome to Texas” billboard as if for confirmation.
Crossing the state line made Connie think about the states where she and Queenie had worked shows. It was at one of those shows she'd met the man who would become her husband. Dashing and charming, he’d swept her off her feet with old-fashioned manners and gentlemanly behavior, pouring on the attention. He'd held doors for her and walked on the traffic side of the street and catered to her whims when it came to restaurants and the type of food they ate. Always the perfect companion during their short courtship. They’d gotten married before a Justice of the Peace in a tiny town on the way to a dog show event.
That’s when she discovered something unsettling about the man she barely knew.
“Not Mexican food again,” he said a few days into their marriage. “That stuff is gross.” She thought back to the meals they’d shared at Tex-Mex restaurants while they were dating.
“How about Chinese then?” she asked.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” he answered. “That stuff is full of MSG.” He’d made a face, wrinkling his nose. They’d settled on a rowdy place that served pit barbecue with a roll of paper towels at every table. The menu held a selection of greasy food choices. After his second or third beer, his true colors had come to the surface when he became verbally abusive and rude. He suddenly forgot about the fun they once shared, grooming, training and showing Queenie as they had traveled across the country.
During their months of travels, they'd talked about Jeb's house. The way he told it, she expected to find a mansion. Instead, they pulled into the rutted driveway of a run-down house with clapboard siding and a tiny yard. It was nothing at all like he'd described.
Within a few weeks, she and Jeb settled into an uneasy domestic routine when something odd happened.
"Why don't I take Queenie to the groomers?" he asked, surprising Connie with his sudden interest in the dog. She hoped he had finally grown fond of her companion. Instead, he'd secretly made arrangements to breed Queenie with a champion stud owned by some people he’d met at the last show. Only after the deed was done had he told Connie about it.
“Maybe the bitch can earn her keep for a change,” he’d said over her objections.
“But she’s my dog!” Connie bristled at the news. “How could you make that kind of decision without asking me?” That was only the beginning. He went on to place an ad to sell the puppies and was checking it in the classifieds when he got a call from the breeder.
“I’ve got some unfortunate news for you, Jeb,” the man on the phone said. “It seems that there’s been some trouble with the stud’s bloodline.”
“What kind of trouble?” Connie’s husband asked. His new found friend explained that his so called Champion Stud turned out to be a fraud with falsified papers.
“We just got a letter from the AKC denying his registration.” The silence at the other end of the line was soon shattered by a stream of expletives from Jeb.
“What kind of fool do you take me for?” he asked the dog’s owner. “You’ve just ruined my Champion’s breeding history with this stunt.”
“You can still sell the pups, the man answered.” They screamed at one another for a few minutes with Jeb demanding reparation for the damages and threatening to file a law suit. Neither was happy when the call ended with Jeb hanging up on the other breeder.
It was far too late to do anything about Queenie’s litter. The news meant the puppies could never be registered as pure breeds. Connie came into the room to find Jeb in one of his foul moods that seemed to be happening more frequently. Sixty-two days after the breeding, the litter arrived right on schedule.
Connie was elated with the arrival of two beautiful and healthy pups although the male was a tad smaller than his siblings. The second pup was stillborn but the third one was healthy, active and the spitting image of her mother, Queenie.
“Darned dog can’t even whelp a decent litter of pups,” the man said, disappointed with only three offspring from the ill-fated match.
Failing to heed the warning signs of his mood, Connie told him about an upcoming dog show.
“I’d like to enter Queenie into the agility competition,” she said. "By the time the event comes up, the pups will be weaned and she’ll be in shape. It’s been too long since she competed.” Jeb’s face turned a dark shade of red with a scowl replacing his normally handsome features.
“That’s just what we need,” he retorted, “to spend more money with nothing to show for it.”
“It’s here in the city, There won’t be any need for a hotel or meals out. No gas to buy.”
“NO MORE!” He ended the conversation slamming his fist loudly on the counter.
At that moment, Connie’s career as a dog trainer and Queenie’s reign as a champion came to a standstill. Everything she'd worked for seemed to be fading away.
Once Jeb passed out that night, she filled a suitcase with a few changes of clothing and essentials and hid it behind some boxes in the garage. Her plan to escape this bad match of her own making was in the works.
Looking for More?
- Looking for Home, Adventures on the Road, 3
Queenie, an award-winning Chow-Chow, and her two puppies, Dolly and Jeff are destined to cross paths with Cookie, Buddy and the other strays. Rusty rediscovers an old friend in his travels.
© 2017 Peg Cole