Claire waved the dog cookie in front of Kitty’s nose. Her one-hundred-fifty-pound Newfoundland sat with a thump in the grass. His brown eyes promised the world as a long string of drool dangled from his jaws.

“You’ll be a good boy, Kitty, right?”

Kitty stared at the cookie, eyes intent as chocolate brown lasers.

“Remember our commands, ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ and ‘down’?”

Kitty flung his body into a down position. His eyes glazed as they followed the cookie. Claire relinquished the treat and Kitty’s zombie-like stare cleared as he chomped down the morsel. They’d just graduated from obedience class—surely Kitty could handle a walk in the park. It wasn’t like there was a pack of savage wolves, or even yipping Chihuahuas, prowling through the artwork. Despite his size, Kitty had fear issues.

Claire gripped Kitty’s leash and surveyed the landscape. The grassy lawns were packed with white tents, each housing the wares of a local artist. This was the perfect test for Kitty’s newly acquired obedience skills. People, food, and dogs. So many dogs. She swallowed hard and tugged her pet toward the artist who had caught her eye. He had artfully-mussed hair and an encouraging smile. More importantly, he was selling lovely charcoal sketches of people and their furry friends.

Claire plied her pet with another cookie and glanced at the front of the line where the young artist was sketching a girl with a fat tabby curled in her lap. Hmmm … Kitty had never seen an actual cat before.

The cat meowed. Kitty’s head snapped up.

“No, boy, it’s just a—” Kitty launched toward the reclining feline, barking out a fierce challenge. Where had this sudden bravery come from? Connected by the leash, Claire hurtled after Kitty. She tripped, slammed into the grassy bank, and bounced through the easel, sending the sketch soaring. All that obedience work and yet she was going to die here, dragged through the streets by her rowdy dog.

Strong arms pulled her close and the leash slipped off her wrist.

Slowly, Claire looked into the face of her rescuer. Yep, the handsome artist, staring down at her with concern. She realized that she was gripping his shirtfront in trembling fists. How mortifying. She stumbled back.

All that obedience work and yet she was going to die here, dragged through the streets by her rowdy dog.

But the artist held her shoulders a moment longer than necessary. “Are you all right?”

She met his gaze and felt her stomach clench with something that was no longer terror. Nonetheless, the emotion was just as effective at rendering her speechless. She stood frozen, unable to formulate a proper reply. Then realization struck.

“My dog!” She turned in a circle, her heart beating at a fabulous pace.

“Don’t worry, I think that cat has him treed.”

Sure enough, the fat tabby had backed Kitty up on a park bench where he stood trembling in fright. The artist chuckled and pulled out a fresh sketch pad. He knelt in the grass as he drew with furious speed, capturing the utter terror on Kitty’s face as the sleek, orange cat advanced toward him.

“So, I think you lost your spot in line.” He nodded back to where five other customers had taken advantage of her near-death experience to move toward the front. “But if you wait for my lunch break, I would treat you to coffee and a sandwich and see what I can sketch out while we eat. Unless you wanted to keep this one.”

He knelt in the grass as he drew with furious speed, capturing the utter terror on Kitty’s face as the sleek, orange cat advanced toward him.

He produced the sketch of Kitty being vanquished by the orange fluff-ball. Claire stifled a laugh. “Make it tea and you have a deal. I’ll just … save my dog while you finish up.”

The artist gave her a solemn bow, then paused. “Just a moment.” He tore off a new page and drew his number with confident strokes. When he handed her the sketch, Claire smiled. The ten digits had been turned into a massive black dog. In the background, stood the artist himself, smiling down at a lovely girl holding a broken leash and a dog cookie. Claire took the page and blushed.

“Twelve thirty, at the outdoor café?”

Claire nodded, her stomach doing a completely non-dog-related flip. “It’s a date.”

 

 

For more art and romance, check out the November 2017 edition of Spark magazine.

 

Meet the Author

Kristen Joy Wilks lives in the beautiful Cascade Mountains with her camp director husband, three fierce sons, and a large and slobbery Newfoundland dog. She has blow-dried a chicken, engaged in epic Nerf battles instead of washing dishes, and stared into incredibly twinkly eyes while considering earnest advice such as: “I don’t think you should try so hard not to swear at Daddy, Momma.”

Wilks’ stories and articles have appeared in Nature Friend, Clubhouse, Thriving Family, Splickety, and Havok Magazines. Her story Day of the Cyclones is included in Nancy B. Kennedy’s book Miracles and Moments of Grace: Inspiring Stories from Mothers. Pelican Book Group published her debut novella Copenhagen Cozenage, as well as The Volk Advent, and Athens Ambuscade. When Kristen is not refraining from profanity or helping transport chickens into tree forts, she loves to write about the humor and Grace that can be found hidden amidst the detritus of life (much like the shiny quarter one member of their household swallowed and then found in the pot five days later). If God is good enough to grant us these gems, she figures that someone should be putting them to the page. You can follow Wilks on her website, FacebookPinterest, and YouTube channel.