I wrote about the frustration of not being able to pull up my new story at Knowonder! website on Tuesday, when it was first online. I'm still having problems so cannot give readers the link to the story. Instead, I'll post the story here--meant for middle grade kids but maybe for grown-ups, too.
Sweet Sue Saves The Day
By Nancy Julien Kopp
On Monday, Mickey Pickert bullied Annie Rose Kiley like he always did. By the end of Tuesday afternoon, they were becoming friends, even though one of them limped.
“Tell me your dog’s name, Annie Rose,” Mickey hollered after school on Monday. An unpleasant grin spread across his freckled face.
Annie Roses’ heart beat fast as Mickey and two other boys sauntered toward her. “Sweet Sue is her name. Sweet as sugar she is. I’ve told you and told you.” She turned away from the trio of boys just in case she couldn’t hold the tears inside.
Mickey grabbed her thin arm. “Tell me again, Annie Rose.” He glared at his captive while Tyler and Jimmy egged him on. “What’s the mangy cur’s name?” he shouted, his face only inches from hers.
Annie Rose pulled back, but Mickey held her fast. “Sweet Sue is her name. Now let me go!” She jerked her arm but Mickey only tightened his grasp.
He released Annie Rose’s arm when a growl rose from deep in the little dog’s throat. “Tell me why such a mutt is called Sweet Sue one more time. Just one more time.” Mickey glanced over his shoulder at Tyler and Jimmy and grinned.
“Sweet as sugar, that’s why.” Annie Rose moved close to the brown and white dog. Sweet Sue’s tail wagged like a flag in a ferocious wind.
“That’s not a name for a dirty fleabag like her. I think you should call her Stinky,” Mickey said in-between laughs.
Annie Rose bit her bottom lip and kept her gaze on the dirt road. Instead of answering, she walked away, her feet sending up swirls of dust. The dog trotted at her side and neither of them turned around when Mickey continued to call out awful things about Sweet Sue. The laughter of the three boys followed them home.
Annie Rose loved Sweet Sue because the dog never teased like Mickey and she didn’t ignore her like her daddy often did. The little dog didn’t make her feel stupid and foolish like her teacher, Miss Evans, sometimes did. Sweet Sue listened to every word Annie Rose said and stayed close. She seemed especially loving on the days when Annie Rose acted sad.
Mama was gone and Daddy sat in his chair a lot. He never had much to say. He didn’t notice that she tried to do things in the house that her mother had done. Some things she did just fine but others she skipped because they were too difficult for her.
She didn’t look much like the girl whose picture sat atop the TV anymore. No one reminded her to wash her hands and face or put on clean clothes for school. Some days her hair and Sweet Sue’s coat were both uncombed and matted.
Lost in thought, Annie Rose didn’t see Henry Hounder, the Dog Catcher, until she nearly ran into him. He was always after her to get Sweet Sue a collar and leash. She’d promise to get them, but she didn’t want to ask her daddy for the money. Henry Hounder wasn’t much of a threat to dogs, for he was too fat to chase them. Instead, he’d plant himself in one spot and holler. Annie Rose ducked her head and jogged past the Dog Catcher on her way to
where she lived.
Tuesday morning, Miss Evans returned math papers, a smile on her face. When she came to Annie Rose’s paper, the smile vanished like smoke from a chimney. Frown lines appeared on her forehead.
Annie Rose studied her desktop as Miss Evans scolded her. “Annie Rose, there is no reason for this poor paper. Any girl who is the best speller in the class should be able to multiply and divide, too.”
Annie Rose tried not to cry over the page with all the red marks on it and she ignored all the snickers and giggles coming from Mickey and some others.
After school, Annie Rose ran down
Pepper Street with Sweet Sue. They didn’t
stop until they reached the edge of town. Three boys came whooping and
hollering through the thicket of trees by the railroad tracks. Jimmy and Tyler
were running like track stars, Mickey close behind. Annie Rose stepped aside
before they ran her down. Sweet Sue barked at the boys but stayed close to
“Help! Help! Jimmy!
Annie Rose turned around when she heard the cry. Mickey lay with the upper half of his body facedown, across the train tracks. She ran to him, Sweet Sue at her heels.
Mickey had one foot trapped between two big rocks near the steel rails. The leg held captive was straight behind him, while the other seemed bent at the knee and drawn up close to him.
Mickey lifted his head and grimaced. “Get me out of here, will you? It hurts. It hurts a lot.”
Annie Rose knew he wasn’t fooling by the pained look on his round face. The boy kept stretching and pulling the captured leg but he couldn’t work it free.
Sweet Sue ran around and over him barking while Annie Rose bent down for a closer look. The faint whine of a train whistle far down the tracks startled her.
“Hurry up and get me out of here,” Mickey wailed.
The other boys were gone. There was no help nearby. Annie Rose kneeled in the road and held Sweet Sue’s face between her hands. “Go find somebody, anybody,” she pleaded.
The old dog whined but turned and ran toward town.
Annie Rose tried to move the rock that held Mickey’s leg but she couldn’t budge it. The distant train whistled again. Mickey laid his head on his folded arms and began to whimper. Annie Rose thought he sounded like she did when she missed her mama. She sat down beside him and patted his back.
“Don’t worry, Mickey. Sweet Sue will find help.” Her hand kept a steady rhythm on Mickey’s back.
After what seemed like a long time, Annie Rose spotted her dog running toward them. Sweet Sue stopped, turned back, ran a little way and barked. She headed to her mistress once more. Annie Rose smiled when she realized the old dog was leading someone to them.
Henry Hounder rounded the bend. He huffed and puffed with every step, hollered and shook his fist. “I’m going to get you this time,” he shouted.
When the Dog Catcher spied Annie Rose and Mickey, he sucked in his breath and hurried to the railroad tracks. “We better get you out of there before the evening train comes along.”
The big man bent over and, with a mighty grunt and groan, he moved one huge rock enough to free Mickey’s leg. Henry Hounder, still breathing hard and wiping his forehead, helped the boy to his feet and away from the tracks.
Soon, Mickey limped down the road, wiping both tears and dirt from his face. Annie Rose and Sweet Sue followed a short distance behind.
Annie Rose called out to Mickey. “Now you know why she’s called Sweet Sue, don’t you, Mickey?”
Mickey stopped, turned around and grinned. “Sweet as sugar, she is. Wait until I tell my mom how Sweet Sue went for help. I bet she’ll buy her a great big bone.”
Henry Hounder said, “Maybe your mother could buy Sweet Sue a collar and a leash instead.”
They all laughed and the little dog ran in circles, tail wagging.
Mickey said, “Why not? And maybe Annie Rose will be on my team in the spelling tournament next month if I help her with math.”
A smile spread across Annie Rose’s face. She turned to wave to the engineer as the evening freight train rolled by. Tuesday was a good day, after all.