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Well, this was at least a quaint rural village where nothing much happened. He had found an old home that needed a great deal of attention. It was a way for him to keep his mind occupied as he scraped off the old paint and wallpaper. He replaced rotted boards and gradually rewired, and converted a house that had been built in 1875 into a home, which had the modern conveniences of up-to-date wiring, modern plumbing and a look about it that showed someone cared.
He even found a stray dog that had decided that he was a safe individual with whom he could share his heart. How animals sensed that one person was in need of a companion was something the Stephen found difficult to understand. Was he that open?
So the strange looking dog moved in and became his sole companion. He was as strange as his new human. He was a mixed breed and a cross between a Corgy and a Spaniel. His colouring too was brindle and had all the shades of brown, black, gray and white. He was christened "Odd", odd like his owner.
"Are you coming back for more paint?" the hardware store owner asked. "You are fast becoming my best customer and Bert down at the lumber yard says that you have already had two loads of 2X4 and 2X6. Sounds to me you are not just fixing the old Bradshaw house but dang near rebuilding it."
Stephen smiled. "Yes I guess I didn't notice that it needed more fixing when I first saw it. It keeps me busy. But things are coming along. And since you have all the tools I need, I just have to make do."
"We don't get too many new folk coming to UpHill. Most of the young people get out of here as soon as they can. Therecertainly is nothing much to keep them unless you want to stay on the farm and try and wrestle a living from those boulder-strewn fields. What makes you think it's worthwhile slaving away at that old house?"
Stephen looked at the old man. He must have raised a few eyebrows when he came to town. Someone new always attracted attention.
"I got tired of the rat race. New York is another world. So I thought I'd come and get some peace of mind and learn to value life."
"Well, son, you sound like you made a good decision. Hell, I went to New York once and hated every second I was there. I never saw so many people sleeping on the streets and begging for a hand out. Then talk about crime. You couldn't even walk across the street unless you had an armed guard. You made a wise decision. At least here you can breathe fresh air and have a chance at a long life. Back there, I've heard that people are filling up the graveyards."
Stephen ignored the remark. He too had noticed that some of the murders were not just of drug deals gone bad but of people who he had known. Was it a settling of accounts or were they trying to make sure that no one would be left that had any way to finger them? No wonder the FBI had handled him so carefully. But now he was through with that. His three years were as much of a prison sentence than that of a villain. At least a crook had time to socialize, he had spend nearly every moment alone.
"I see you found a friend?" the owner said.
"Oh! Yeah, I did. He's a fine dog and a good friend. I call him Odd. It suits him."
The clerk watched the new owner of the Bradshaw place carried his two gallons of paint out to the old pick-up truck. Yes sir, the dog suited his owner. "Odd. What a strange name, but then he smiled as the truck turned up the short main street. It was a name that suited them both. Even the young man's name was odd. Wabashick! What sort of name was that? It was more of a mongrel name, Polish, Ukrainian, Dutch or other European nationality. It didn't sound American. He scratched his head. He had heard that name before but just couldn't remember where. Yet the man had no foreign accent. Well, what did it matter? He was about the first new face in UpHill in a dog's age. He chuckled at his thought. Yes, the two of them seemed to go together. Odd, was the best description he could come up with.
Each morning Stephen put on his jogging shorts and ran a circuit of 10 km. He had never been a runner in his before life. But he needed something. He needed to re-tune his body as well as his mind. The trail he had selected worked its way past the playground, the graveyard and up the sloping hills that had given 'UpHill' its name. Then he had a downhill rush as he ran back through the residential streets past the old homes and the old folks who clung to their property. The modern age had not really come to town. Oh, TV antennae were now common but that seemed to be the only modern convenience. Most homes were still heated by burning firewood. He had first noted that when he had come to town. The smell of wood smoke had reminded him of a life back when he was a youth and when he had a family. Then it was a way of life and something exciting to visit his grandparents on their lakeside home.
Not far away in the playground, another recent newcomer was trying to get a kite out of a tree. She had lived in UpHill for close to two years and as yet she had not managed to cross the difficult barrier of being new and being accepted. She had a feeling that she'd have to have lived in this small rural community for a couple of decades before she would lose the classification of that "new woman" in the Horton's old place.
"Mom, you are pulling it too hard. You are going to bust my kite!" The girl of nine had the same colour as her mother, light brown hair with the essence of brass and a flare of red. She would, in time, become quite an attractive lady but right now her face was tearful and she was about to give up on her mother's efforts. Her mother too was reaching the end of her rope or at least the end of the kite string. They had been trying to fly the kite for most of the morning and had just succeeded in getting it fully airborne when a gust of wind tangled it up in the oak branches.
"Sarah! It's not coming and unless we get the local fire truck to come out with their extension ladder we are not going to move it. I'm sorry, pet."
A strange looking dog raced up behind the young girl and barked.
The bark was not an angry bark but more of a friendly bark or a bark of inquiry.
Copyright © 2006 George W. J. Laidlaw