The kennel has been JC’s home ever since his new adoptive father locked him inside. For hours on end, JC sits and tells his dog Boy how he came to this country: his family; the orphanage and the Haitian earthquake that swept everything away.
When his adoptive mother Melanie rescues him, life starts to feel normal again. Until JC does something bad, something that upset his new father so much that he and Boy are banished to the kennel. But as his new father gets sicker, JC realizes they have to find a way out. And so begins a stunning story of a boy, a dog and their journey to freedom.
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.80(d)|
|Age Range:||12 - 18 Years|
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By Nikki Sheehan
Oneworld PublicationsCopyright © 2017 Nikki Sheehan
All rights reserved.
Wake up, Boy. Wake up.
Time passes so slowly in here, just you and me.
He'll let us out soon.
Stop staring at me. I'm not coming down.
I have nothing for you.
And stop barking. He won't like it.
Do you want to play? Here, I'll throw this stone.
I think it broke your tooth. Look, there's a shard of white right there on the ground.
I didn't mean that to happen.
Does it hurt, Boy? I'm sorry.
I'll come down now.
A little more.
Perfect. Now we're cosy.
It's not bad in here, is it? It's like a house, and the run is a lawn with no grass. It's small, but that's not a problem. Not too small. If I lie flat on my back only my feet are outside.
Come here. It's good when we're curled together. Like I'm a dog too. Two puppies together. Two happy black puppies.
The doghouse is perfect for us. I'm grateful for that.
And we won't be here much longer.
Did I tell you how we planned this place?
He drew a picture on a large sheet of squared paper. He said, 'Each square represents six inches. So,' he said, 'the doghouse will be —'
I counted the squares quickly. I didn't think, I just did.
'Five foot nine by three foot two,' I said.
He frowned. I didn't know why; I was sure that my answer was right.
Then he took an eraser and rubbed out the lines he had drawn. He redrew them.
'Five foot seven by three foot,' he said.
Do you remember? His eyes were on me, but he reached down and rubbed your head.
'We mustn't spoil the dog,' he said. He held my eyes with his a moment more. 'It's not like he needs a palace! A small space is warmer.'
You wagged your tail like he'd said he loved you. It knocked against the table leg.
Yes, like that, Boy. You wagged like that.
Melanie came in. Our eye-lock broke.
'What are you two plotting?'
'A summer cabin, for the dog,' he said. 'Boy can chill out there when your nephews come.'
She sucked in the wind before she answered.
'I won't banish Boy to the yard,' she said, and I knew that banish was not a good thing. 'They're fine with dogs. Their allergy's quite mild. It's only drool that gives them hives. It's hardly dangerous.'
She ruffled your head like he had, and you wagged. But we all saw that it beat faster for Melanie.
Like you knew she loved you.
She does love you.
Your tail is like clockwork; joy winds you up and it flows like energy through your wags. You love her more than you love him.
He noticed, but she kept on talking.
'Besides, Boy would hate it out there all alone,' she said. 'Dogs live in packs.'
He sighed, releasing an angry warning gust. 'It's not a big deal, Mel. Lots of dogs are kept outside. It's not like I'm saying to leave him chained out in the front yard. I want to do a nice thing. I'm building Boy a house! So climb down off my back, please, Mel?'
She wasn't on his back. She was in front of him, looking into his eyes.
The silence that followed was thick and I wished I were behind him, so I couldn't be seen.
His face changed suddenly, the angry lines all smoothed, and when he spoke his voice was honey.
'We'll make it nice for him.' He tried a smile. 'Hey, I might join him out there.'
Melanie narrowed her kind eyes, about to strike. My body tensed, ready to run.
'Upset my dog, I'll lock you out there myself,' she said.
He laughed. 'I wouldn't dare.'
Then he pretended to shoo her away. 'Men at work,' he said. 'Me and JC are busy.'
'OK, you two.' She punched him playfully.
But she was happy because he was planning the doghouse with me. She liked us to spend time together.
The truth is, Boy, I liked it too. Working on this with him, it was special.
Move over, Boy. My leg is running with ants. I need to stretch and let them escape into the ground.
Last night the wind was so strong.
It forced the rain sideways and pushed it through the slats.
In my country we say
a leaky house can fool the sun, but not the rain.
I'm glad for our shelf. It gives us a second floor. It's narrow though. Too narrow for you to lie on. I don't want you to fall.
I didn't know why we needed it. He said, 'There's no such thing as too many shelves, JC.'
'But what will Boy put there?' I asked.
'No, Boy won't put things there. 'Cuz Boy is a dog,' he said. 'But we might want to store his cans of food, or his leash.'
'There's space in the pantry for dog food,' I said. 'And Melanie keeps his leash by the door. So it doesn't get lost.'
His face slipped then.
Sometimes I wonder if he's really two people.
In that instant, it was as if the dad/husband face had never been his at all. Not really.
He drew a breath, and forced it back.
'You can't have too much storage,' he said, as if he had answered my question.
The shelf is useful.
But we didn't get everything right. The roof is low and kills my back from too much bending.
It's my fault for being so tall.
We should have measured my height and built the ceiling to brush the top of my hair.
But we didn't know we'd need to.
We should have put down something soft to lie on.
Your baskets in the house are so comfortable, but out here there's not even a blanket. Melanie said you have sore joints and need a soft bed.
I think my joints are sore.
Please let me rest my head here. Right near your heart.
So I can hear you living.
A rug, or a foam mattress, would be good.
Boy, stop that. If you scratch bites they keep on itching.
I think you have fleas because Melanie hasn't been here to put the medicine on the back of your neck.
Please let me look.
No, don't go, I've nearly finished.
It's impossible. Your fur is so thick and black that fleas can hide like children in a forest at night.
Something has bitten me too; look at all these bumps and spots and scabs.
I need the medicine on my neck.
Does it work on people?
Look! There! I saw one jump from your back. It landed on my leg!
Boy, where did it go? Find, Boy! Find! Kill!
I think you trod on it.
No! It's there! It's jumping away!
I hope it didn't leave a crying flea wife and children.
Can fleas cry?
You and me could have been born fleas. I've never thought of that. Instead we ended up as a kid and a dog that no one wanted.
So, what are the chances?
How lucky are we?
I really hope Melanie comes back soon.
What was I saying before? Oh, yeah.
How we built the doghouse.
So, after he had drawn the plans, he calculated how much wood and how many metal panels we would need, and together we walked around the backyard deciding where we would build it.
'This area is good,' I said. 'It's flat.'
In my country I'd helped people build houses, gathering stone and wood that had been shaken loose by the angry ground and thrown into toppling piles. We always chose the flattest ground because it saved us the job of levelling.
There was a lot of ground to choose from.
He considered the place I suggested, then shielded his eyes with his hand and turned around, surveying the whole yard.
'No,' he said. 'Back there.' He pointed to this area.
'Behind the big plane trees, so the neighbours can't see. Those bleeding-hearts wouldn't like the thought of a dog being outside. Even in a nice doghouse with a big run. They would think it's cruel.' He laughed at this, as if it were a joke, but it wasn't funny.
You can see the run from the house, Boy. But only from the first floor.
Have you ever been up there? You're not allowed upstairs now. But did he let you when you first came?
Last night I went outside and I saw him stand at the boy's window, just watching us.
I felt as if ice were in my blood. I crept back into the dark with you.
You warmed me again so I could sleep.
I'm sorry I helped him build the doghouse.
I never wanted you to live out here, but you would have done the same. If he threw a stick into the mouth of a volcano shouting fetch!
you would try to bring it back for him.
Please don't look at me like that, your head all heavy on one side. I know you would have. You want to please him.
He'd decided about the doghouse, and I didn't like the thought of you locked out here, but I knew that Melanie wouldn't allow it for long.
Just when the nephews came.
And that wouldn't have been so bad, would it?
I couldn't have known that he would bring you outside when she left. The very same day.
That's why I'm sorry.
I helped him. We went to the hardware store and picked out the wood and thick metal fencing for the run. He didn't want the cheap stuff, like chicken wire. He said he wanted hardened metal that can't be cut, and weatherproofed so it won't rust.
'This fencing will last forever. My dad used it all around our land. You can't even climb it.' He laughed. 'It wasn't to keep intruders out. It was to keep us kids in. We were animals.'
When I didn't laugh too, his face changed back.
He paid and then we took everything out to the car and he strapped it to the roof. But he was worried that it would slide off onto the road, so he went back inside and bought more straps. So many straps we could have carried a whole tree home.
He drove home slowly, shouting at anyone that was impatient with his crawling turtle speed, and laughing as his anger blew dust in their faces.
When we arrived Melanie was out.
'Let's start before she gets back,' he said. 'She'll be pleased when she sees how we made Boy a palace.'
I didn't move. Something didn't seem right.
'Don't stand there looking dumb, JC,' he said. 'I can't do everything by myself.'
So I helped him carry the fencing through the backyard, past the patio and those trees, and all the way beyond the pond. We laid it just there, by that thick bush.
You were in the house barking, so I ran back and opened the back door and you ran down to us, wagging and smiling, like you hadn't seen us for weeks.
He patted you on the head and he said, 'This cost a fortune, dog. I hope you appreciate how much we're spending on you.'
You bounced around and wagged your tail.
Sometimes it would be nice to be you.
But even stuck out here we're lucky, Boy, and we shouldn't forget that.
When we complained about the food or the rules at the orphanage they would tell us that we had much to be grateful for. Once they made us think of all the good things we had; like full stomachs, and clothes and often a bed to sleep in.
We should try it too. I know we're hungry, and my clothes are dirty, and we don't have a bed, but we're still lucky.
It's your turn first.
You're sniffing the air.
One: The fresh air. It really helps. You smell worse than garbage that's been left in the sun.
Two: I'm here with my best friend.
I'll have another turn.
Three: The doghouse is at the end of the backyard so he can't see what we do here.
Oh, wait, I have another one.
Four: It's spring, not winter. So it's hardly cold at all. Just sometimes, Boy, I forget that you're a dog, and then I see your tongue hanging out like a lost piece of ham, or you lick your butt or eat your sick.
Do you remember when we met? It was the day I first looked inside Jake's room.
'So ...' Melanie said when we heard his car coming into the driveway. 'Are you ready for your surprise?'
I was anxious, so I pretended I hadn't understood.
'Come on, let's go out and meet them.'
You know my first thought? I was worried that they had adopted another child. A brother or a sister for me. Please, not a sister, I thought. I really didn't like girls. Their whispers and glances frightened me.
'Come on!' She was standing at the front door, and she looked so happy that I couldn't say no.
He had popped the trunk, and I wondered why they would make a girl sit in the place made for luggage.
'Ta-da!' said Melanie. 'Meet Boy.' She smiled and laughed as a black hairy nightmare with yellowed teeth like the devil jumped out at me.
I'm sorry, but that was you, Boy.
I was so scared that my legs stiffened and kept me from running. But you approached and then rubbed your nose all over me, trying to push it into my private parts.
He laughed. 'I suppose we should've checked that the kid wasn't scared of dogs.' He thought it was funny that I was afraid. Maybe it was.
Melanie pushed you away and put her arm around me. 'Boy, give him some space,' she told you.
Then, to me, she said, 'Just offer your hand, like this.'
She showed me how. I held my palm out, shaking. You stopped trying to sniff my crotch and began to lick my hand, and your tail beat faster, almost looping in a circle.
'Helicopter tail means he likes you!' she said. 'I knew he would. He loves children, and he's missed —' She paused and her smile flickered. 'He's missed having young people around, haven't you, Boy?'
I thought then that maybe you did like me, but I wasn't sure that I liked you.
'Why do you have a dog?' It was probably the first question I had asked since I arrived.
He frowned. 'Well ...' he said, then stopped, as if he didn't know the answer, or didn't want to say.
'Is it a guard dog?' I asked, because you were too big to be a lapdog.
'No,' Melanie laughed. 'Boy would be a terrible guard dog. He's a member of the family. Our family.' She stroked your head, then touched my hair, and she said, 'Your family too.'
Families don't sleep all the time, please wake up.
Wake up and hear the rest of the story.
It's about you.
If you can't open your eyes I'll lift the flap of your ear and speak it directly inside. Then you'll hear it in your dreams.
What was I saying?
Oh, yes. Now that we're such good friends it doesn't seem strange, but back then I couldn't believe how they treated you. You had three meals a day, just like us, though you had yours in a bowl on the floor.
You had special dog food, not scraps from our plates, and little pellets that looked like chocolate. But didn't taste like it.
And you had two soft beds to curl up in. One in the kitchen and one at the foot of the stairs.
'You spoil that dog,' he said. But she just laughed.
'I spoil you all,' she replied, and she kissed him on the lips. 'Besides, Boy hates being alone.'
It was true. You followed her everywhere, even sitting outside the bathroom when she was inside.
Gradually you began to follow me too. And then instead. Melanie noticed, but she wasn't angry. 'He's been my shadow for so long now, I'm glad to have someone to share him with. It's quite a responsibility being the whole world to a dog.'
Did you ever follow him, Boy?
Melanie told me that you were nervous of men when you came to live with them. You had been treated badly before. They think that you were used for fighting because of the state of your ears; they're ripped and scarred from another dog's teeth.
She told me that when you heard men raise their voices you became upset and aggressive. She said that fortunately this isn't the sort of family where people fight and shout.
That's why you're happy here.
You're my first dog friend, Boy.
I've had human friends.
I had Oskar. We met at the Sweet Angel Orphanage. We did everything together.
Don't worry. I didn't like Oskar more than I like you. I liked him different. Anyway, I didn't know you back then. If you'd been there we would have all been friends.
Sometimes I wonder where Oskar is. I should have asked Melanie to look for him too.
But she left so suddenly.
I just realised. Number five: We're lucky because Melanie has been away for so long that she's sure to be home soon.
The backyard is overgrown.
It's what happens in spring, because all the plants are full of energy and excited after a really long sleep. The grass is waving and dancing and dotted with weeds. No one has mown it since that time when he was angry with me.
How long does it take for grass to grow all the way up to your knees?
That's how long it's been since Melanie left.
Remember how the run was green at first? Your claws and pee have killed all the grass. Nothing grows here now, except your shit.
It's disgusting. But it's not your fault.
He should take you out for walks.
He shouldn't leave you in here day and night.
He shouldn't have put you in here at all.
Boy, let's make the run nice. Clean it up a little. He'd like that.
Maybe he'll be so pleased he'll let us both back into the house.
What d'you think?
Don't just scratch your chin, give me a wag for a yes.
Was that a yes?
Gimme a lick too.
Excerpted from Goodnight, Boy by Nikki Sheehan. Copyright © 2017 Nikki Sheehan. Excerpted by permission of Oneworld Publications.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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