September is the most beautiful month on earth and in Strathloy it resembles paradise. It's a small but warm and friendly town in Scotland where people wholeheartedly enjoy the simple pleasures of life. And nature. Roland was no exception. He loved to doze in the backyard especially on a sunny winter afternoon like this one. He yawned and stretched his lithe body as he heard the slowly approaching footsteps of Mrs. Proudfoot. "Come have your lunch dear!" said Mrs. Proudfoot with her usual fondness for him and he waved his tail affectionately in return.
He was a magnificent German Shepherd, a little lazy though. Handsome no doubt with sable hair coat and deep umber eyes. His bloodline was a matter of pride for him and his lady owner Mrs. Proudfoot. She often used to discuss his father late Resnick among her friends with quite vanity. For he was honored as 'Canine of the year' for three consecutive years by the renowned Kennel Club of Strathloy. Roland was only two years old and he aspired to be like his ideal—his dad. Someday I'll steal the show and everyone will remember me. This was his preeminent dream. He growled, pleased with the idea of meal he followed Mrs. Proudfoot inside the cottage.
Roland was licking the last morsel of lamb meat in his skillet when the doorbell burst into music. "Gawd! Have mercy! No more salesmen please!," said Mrs. Proudfoot as she put down her novel and reading glasses on sofa-side table and walked with a little stoop to answer the door.
"Good noon Mrs. Proudfoot". It was Sam, her teenage neighbor. "Can I come in please. I am in soup and only you can help me," said Sam with high hopes. "Oh why son do come in and make yourself comfortable," said Mrs. Proudfoot as she waved her hand towards the couch and closed the door behind him. "My! My! You look drained. What happened?," asked Mrs. Proudfoot with genuine worry. She was a lonely widow. A charming lady on the wrong side of sixty but very active and robust despite her age. She was well loved in her neighborhood especially by kids. Though she had no kids to call her own.
Once encouraged Sam disclosed his dilemma. "Mrs. Proudfoot do you know my friend Barry?" Mrs. Proudfoot nodded with mute retrospection and Sam continued, "Well he had lost a rare book of school library. Its kinda expensive, 150 dollars. He has only 55 bucks and his parents can't afford to pay the rest. They are as poor as church mouse. Barry is working at the local bakery but at a petty wage. That won't do." He said pettifogging nervously and adjusted his collar with index finger as if releasing the dreadful tension. With a dramatic sigh he bared further, "If he didn't refund the loss till next to coming Monday he will be dismissed from the term end exams. This would jeopardize his future. I have to help him Mrs. Proudfoot whatever it takes. I can't let him suffer like that. He is my best friend."
"Don't worry son. You want me to pay…" but Mrs. Proudfoot was interrupted. "No, No, Mrs. Proudfoot. This is not what I came here for. No doubt I need money but I'll work for you. Its winter would you favor me to graft your roses please? For as low as 2 bucks a pot." He importuned with begging eyes.
She was touched. "You are such a dear Sammy. It's nice of you to make an offer like that. We will start tomorrow morning. Now cool it okay." She said. "Let's seal the deal with coffee and cake."
Next day rain started to pour painting the ever-picturesque landscape with fresh vivid colors. I love rains. Roland moaned licking his toe clean looking at Sam with watchful eyes. He was grafting the orange roses.
"Oh! I love rains. Do you Sammy?" asked Mrs. Proudfoot doing tapestry under the back porch, enjoying rain and instructing Sam now and then. He was a deft worker though he never before lifted a rose-knife in his life. Maybe the desperation of doing something for the sake of one's dearest renders the needed incentive and dexterity. "I do Mrs. Proudfoot but after a while it bores me. You have to be under a roof all the time. That's boring", said Sam pulling a serious face which made her laugh. "I used to feel the same son when I was your age."
All of a sudden Roland spotted something behind the mulberry bush and ran barking towards the thing followed by Mrs. Proudfoot and Sam holding an umbrella. "What the dickens is going on here?" said Mrs. Proudfoot and stopped short. Even Roland stopped growling and stood surprisingly quiet. They all stared, mesmerized at the foundling and it stared back, with huge innocently trusting yet terrified eyes. There sat a mousy ewe. Shocked, scared and soaked to the bone. About nine months old she was as beautiful as a wingless fairy. "Goodness gracious!" cried Mrs. Proudfoot as she dropped on her knees and picked up the soggy bundle with trembling fingers. "She is so soft. Say isn't she pretty," said Mrs. Proudfoot and broke into sweet nothings to sooth the frightened ewe.
The three of them gathered around the ewe on the kitchen table cheerfully doing things for her. The most delighted was Roland. Unable to break the spell he was waving his tail with affection, looking at the ewe with the eyes of someone besotted. After been tenderly dried by Mrs. Proudfoot she was looking even more white and pretty. Fluffy and soft like a calico ball she was no longer afraid. She seemed hungry too as she guzzled the third refill of milk. She eyed Roland coquettishly and blushed under his admiring gaze. Sam was stroking the ewe's soft ear.
He asked, "Are you going to keep her Mrs. Proudfoot?"
"Oh yes of course! I wonder where she came from though," said Mrs. Proudfoot with momentary surprise then dismissed the thought and said, "She is an angle. We will call her Meg."
"Meg." said Sam feeling the name on his lips, "Nice name Mrs. Proudfoot."
We are going to be good friends Meg. Somehow I know. Roland's eyes passed the message. I feel the same. Answered Meg's and she licked the remaining milk. Heavy droplets drummed the windowpane as a sign of blessing from heavens above.
The blessing was fruitful. Roland & Meg were the best of friends in a matter of days. Never before did Roland realized how alone he was, until Meg came as a miracle. Curious questions about her arrival still hung unanswered shrouded in mystery. But not for this twosome. They knew they were destined to meet someday. They played for hours and hours in the backyard with Roland's rubber ball. Chasing butterflies. Running around Mrs. Proudfoot's roses. Rolling on grass. Frolicking in rain. Sharing meals. Enjoying mud baths. Spoiling the otherwise neat cottage and doing the whole caboodle of possible mischief.
It was not only the fun they had together, moreover it was the feeling of belonging to someone. To love and if you are fortunate enough to be loved in return. When you find someone really truly special to share your dreams, hopes and fantasies; fears, pains and sorrows; passions, desires and joys you call him your best friend. And to have and hold that gift of unconditional love is the culmination of lifetime.
Barry was close to nervous breakdown. "Sam tomorrow is Monday and we are still 40 dollar short." He moaned. "God oh god! What am I supposed to do."
"Don't worry I'll sell my watch. That'll do just fine," said Sam.
"Noway! You have done so much already. It's all over Sam."
"Stop it you fool! It's not over. Not yet."
"No buts," said Sam looking at Mrs. Proudfoot's cottage with plotting eyes and calculating mind. I have an idea. He decided at last.
And it rained again. A thunderstorm this time.
Roland was away with Mrs. Proudfoot for his monthly checkup at Mr. Corbin, the vet and Meg was all alone at the cottage. She was dozing near orange roses unaware of the lurking danger. She rolled over in slumber. Suddenly someone caught her by the mouth. She wanted to scream hard but was helpless. She writhed tried to get free but her capturer was much stronger. She was feeble and miserable in his grasp as he lashed her mouth & feet painfully tight with a rope. This was a horribly vile and inhuman act that her kidnapper shoved her in a stinky wet sack and walked away with the silence of a Python.
Meg was ruthlessly abducted.
"Mr. Bean I've gotta deal for you." Said Sam putting down the writhing sack on the butcher's counter.
"What's it?" asked Mr. Bean, the butcher.
Sam exposed tied Meg. Weak and exhausted she tottered pitifully on the counter. "How about a lamb for just 40 bucks," he said making the deal tempting for the butcher, "Its winter and lamb chops are hot favorites. Sure you know."
"Keep telling me! Ya got it." Said Mr. Bean handing over the money.
"Thanks Mr. Bean." Said Sam and walked away smiling.
He was happy. His best friend's future was safe and secure. No more trouble.
And Meg. Our poor little Meg gave her humble life under the expertly merciless knife of Mr. Bean, the butcher. She was turned into silent meat ready to be sold for dollar five a pound. She died the agonizing death she did not deserved.
Roland couldn't believe Meg was gone. How could she just vanish? Roland was angry with her. Angry with himself. He was unable to find her. That fateful Sunday evening when he found her missing he went absolutely crazy. In his frenzy he ran down the town desperately exploring every possible and impossible nook. But she was nowhere to be seen. She disappeared as mysteriously as she arrived. Three days passed since then and his hope to find her was dying bit by bit with each passing day.
No more was he a nimble skittish dog. Instead he was metamorphosed into a broken-hearted lamenting body. He felt lost and alone. That wonderful sense of belonging was gone. He was down to a morsel a day compared to his once hearty diet. Languishing for Meg he spoiled his health and lost the vigor for life. Even the sunshine couldn't warm his pining heart. Now there was no charm in butterflies. No fun in the rubber ball or mud bath. When it drizzled, he sat for hours in the corner of the backyard, crying among the orange roses that Meg loved so much. Come back to me. Please. His heart cried out for her.
Without you oh! without you,
I may do the things I do.
But what will they mean,
Mrs. Proudfoot missed Meg too. She was such a pretty little thing. God keep her safe wherever she is. Her soul chanted a silent prayer. But her main cause of concern was Roland and his now declining health. What must I do? She thought. Aha!. She got an idea and walked down town.
"Mrs. Proudfoot! Nice to see ya! What will ya like to have?" asked Mr. Bean.
"Some meat for Roland," said Mrs. Proudfoot, "about a pound."
"Ya got it! I have some good stuff for dogs. It’s a little stale. Four days to be honest but it will serve him just fine. What do ya say?"
"Never mind. Pack a pound please. How much?"
"Five bucks only," said Mr. Bean.
Mrs. Proudfoot placed the meat in the skillet and called out, "Roland, have your lunch dear." But he didn't show. She carried the skillet to where he was laying. In the backyard, among the orange roses. Something cracked in her heart as she felt the intensity of his grief. "Do eat something Roland," she said caressing him and sighed, "I loved Meg too. She was such a darling. She will come back you will see. You'll meet again." With that she laid down the skillet in front of him.
God! What the hell is this? Tears sparkled in Roland's eyes as he sniffed the meat. No! No! This is impossible. Meg. Oh dear! Talk to me. You can't die. You can't be dead. Bewailed his soul. It was a lamb's meat. Meg's flesh. Cold and silent in his eating skillet. It was hard to take. Impossible to believe. Roland touched the stagnant meat tentatively with his fore leg and turned it over once. It was motionless. My Meg is dead. The wretched cognizance was too much to bear. His heart gave a sharp painful lurch and he fell near the skillet. Near Meg. Later surprised Mr. Corbin pronounced him dead.
Why the dog died is beyond medical science and living logic. But you and I know. Roland died for Meg. His best friend.