Guardian

Phoebe struggled to attach the leash to Shadow; her silly yellow lab, as he wiggled and shook his head. “Relax shadow, hold still for a moment,” Phoebe requested. He shook his head vigorously. “Sit! Hold still!” She commanded. He sat, with his tail wagging back and forth on the floor. “Thank you.” She attached his leash and he ran to the door, letting out two loud barks. “Alright, I know, we’re going.” Shadow put his nose to the ground, sniffing the sidewalk as they walked. They turned onto Chestnut Road; which lay just off of Muddson Street, where they resided. At 9AM Chestnut was already paraded with people and traffic, Phoebe stopped on several occasions to allow Shadow to lift his leg. “Yikes boy, you know we’ve still got a ways to go, no need to stop to pee on every bush, tree, and rock that you see.” As they were walking past The Java House, a regular greeted them. “Well lookie what we have here, how are you two doing on this fine morning?” asked George. “Hey George, we’re doing just fine, aren’t we boy?” Shadow wagged and barked. George looked at his plate; he placed it on the ground, allowing Shadow to lick up the crumbs from his poppy-seed bagel. He laughed as he watched the dog lick at the plate. “Every day, I’ll tell you, he’s no fool. He knows what’s coming.” Phoebe giggled. “Oh yeah, he looks forward to walking by here, well we’ll see you tomorrow George.” He smiled, “Bye you two.”

They walked another half mile down Chestnut Road, until the road forked, leading them straight onto Washington Drive. Shadow’s tail began to wag with more excitement than Phoebe had seen since she woke up. “We’re almost there fella.” She could see the turnoff to the dog park in the distance, but as they got closer to the turnoff, Phoebe could also see what looked to be the silhouette of a man walking in their direction. She stopped to retracted Shadow’s leash, so that he’d stick tightly to her, as they passed by each other; however as they approached the man, he stopped, squatting to the ground, he then stuck out his hand. Phoebe, felt a tad uneasy, but had little time to mull it over in her head; Shadow took off in a sprint, pulling her so hard that she could feel the leash unraveling from her hand, and almost evade her grip. Shadow stopped so suddenly that Phoebe stumbled, she knew that she was about to go over the top of him. Her muscles locked and she prepared for impact, when she felt a hand pull her back. “Whoa there, almost had a nasty spill there didn’t we?” She looked back to find the man who had stopped to pet Shadow standing behind her. “Yes, thank you for assisting me.” She looked at the man feeling extremely confused, wasn’t he just squatting in front of Shadow a second ago? Everything seemed to happen so fast. How could he have possibly moved so quickly? She was at a loss for words; quickly she tried to pull them from her mind. “Umm, I’m sorry; I think I may be a little disoriented.” She paused. “But, weren’t you just squatting in front of me, petting my dog?” He smiled at her, warmly. “Oh yeah, I was about to pet your dog, but then I noticed that you were in trouble so I just reacted.” Phoebe studied the man’s answer for a moment. “Huh? Well you were very quick.” The man smiled at her once again. “I have good reflexes.” Phoebe looked at the man closely; he looked older, possibly to be in his early to mid-seventies. A man his age couldn’t possibly have reflexes that react that quickly, could he? “Well thanks again,” she said, deciding to let it go. “You’re welcome.” He bent down, giving Shadow a pat on the head. “You should go easy on your mother there Shadow,” he said, as he scratched Shadow behind the ears.  His comment to the dog made her stop to think. “How’d you know my dog’s name?” He smiled at her once more. “I saw it on his collar, just before you began to stumble.” “Oh,” she said, feeling taken aback once more. “Well I’d best be off, nice talking with you.” He started walking, with his back to them. “You too,” said Phoebe, with a fog of confusion thick in her mind. Shadow let out a bark, and she was instantly brought back down to earth. “Okay I’m sorry we’re going.” They took off in a sprint toward the dog park, by the time Phoebe had reached the gate, her ribs ached and she was having a difficult time catching her breath. She took a moment once they were safely inside the gate, to inhale and exhale slowly, which seemed to make the aching in her ribs disappear, and also help her catch her breath. Once her breathing was back at a normal pace, she unhooked his leash. “Okay, go crazy and wear yourself out.” She watched Shadow from a picnic table, as he ran around with other dogs, and played tug of war with a piece of rope. A half an hour later she hooked up his leash, and began to walk him home.

Shadow plopped himself down on the sofa, after stopping at the water bowl to have a drink. Phoebe came in from the kitchen with a fresh bottle of water in hand, and noticed, as she took a slug, Shadow, lying on the couch, already fast asleep. She grabbed the blanket that always lay on the arm of the couch, neatly folded, and placed it over him. “You played hard this morning, didn’t you,” Shadow began to softly snore. “Sleep well,” she whispered. She let out a soft giggle; as her phone began to vibrate in her jean’s pocket, tickling her thigh. She looked briefly at the screen, then pressed accept. Her coworker Randy bellowed on the other end of the line. “Phoebe, where are you?” Her eyes darted from side to side, nervously. “What do you mean?” She could hear Randy moving through the restaurant on the other end, till finally the noise in the background had completely faded. “Aaron has you on the schedule today from 10:45 to closing.” Phoebe jumped into the air, she ran to throw on her uniform. “I thought I had today off,” she said, as she buttoned and zipped her khaki’s. “Mike and Liz called out sick, he left you messages.” She buttoned her shirt, and rummaged through her pockets, searching for her name tag. “Well tell him I’ll be there soon.” She clicked disconnect, slipped on her shoes, then grabbed her keys from the counter and stowed them away in her pocket.

Phoebe crossed Muddson and sprinted down Chestnut, praying to catch the number 52 before it left. She could just see it pulling over in the distance to allow passengers aboard. She ran fast, faster than she thought she could. She reached the bus, just as the driver was preparing to pull out. She banged on the side of the bus noisily; the driver opened the door to let her on. “Sorry didn’t see ya,” he announced. “That’s alright.”

Phoebe arrived at The Downtown Bistro, wanting to sincerely apologize to her boss, though she felt that it would do little good. She knocked on Aaron’s office door, which was ajar. “Enter.” As Phoebe walked through the door, she saw a nasty look spread on Aaron’s face. His forehead vein was throbbing, as it usually did when he was angry at an employee. However she noticed that his face looked worse than she’d ever seen it before. His entire face was a fierce shade of red; which made it seem as though the flesh might very well melt from his face. She swallowed a big lump in her throat that took her remaining saliva from her mouth, which made her sound dehydrated as she spoke. “I’m sorry that I’m late sir, in the future I’ll be sure to keep my phone on next time so that I will hear it when it rings,” she said, trying to accumulate saliva. She began to sweat, expecting him to put her in her place, or possibly fire her. “I need someone to cover Liz’s hostess duties in the afternoon,” he began. “Then I also need someone to help cover Mike’s tables and wait on the customers, during the evening shift,” he looked at her spitefully. “The only reason I’m not going to fire you,” he paused, and then smiled at her, with a nasty grin. “Is because, I would like you to cover their shifts.” She exhaled, after holding her breath for a minute. “Not a problem sir, I would be happy to cover their shifts.” She smiled at him, wishing that she could instead flip him off. “Good,” he put his hand in his pocket, and dug out keys. “Since you’re working till closing, I’d like for you to lock up,” he said, as he tossed the ring of keys to her. “Okay,” she placed the keys inside her pocket. He nodded, “I have some business to attend to tomorrow morning. I hope that I can trust you to open up.” Phoebe fixed her face into, what she hoped to be a very serious look. “Sir, you can absolutely trust me.” He nodded, “Excellent, now get to work, we’ve got a long day ahead.” We, don’t you mean me? When Phoebe began her hosting duties there was already a line of people outside, waiting for the bistro to open. Oh lord, it’s going to be a long day. By the time the dinner shift came around Phoebe could feel blisters forming on her feet, she looked around at the tables before going over to wait on her first customers of the night, and knew that somebody would need to carry her home by the end of her second shift. At the end of the night her ankles had swollen and her feet were covered in bloody blisters. She went to her locker to change her shoes. Her blood covered socks stuck to her feet; she let out a yelp as she put on her sneakers. It took her a while to walk to the front of the restaurant, so that she could turn off the lights, and lock the doors to the Bistro. She once again, stowed keys into her pocket, then turned her attention to the parking lot; which was completely deserted. “Dammit; Chris you little shit! Oh yeah Phoebe, sure I’ll give you a lift home,” she said, mockingly, as she looked at her phone. It was just going on 12:30AM; she knew there were no buses running at this time of night. Reluctantly, she rummaged through her backpack, until she pulled out her pepper spray. She began to walk home with it balled up into her fist.

Except for seeing the occasional headlights from vehicles, as they passed by her on the road, there wasn’t a soul to be found. It’s not so bad, what was I expecting? Though she told herself, ‘it’s not so bad,’ her stomach was tangling itself into knots, and her nerves had become even more unsteady than, her job at The Downtown Bistro. I should just run the rest of the way home. It’s not that far, it would certainly be better than walking around town by myself, at this hour. Phoebe started to jog down the sidewalk, but felt a searing pain in her ankles, followed by an explosion of a blister. “AHH! Okay, bad idea, I have to take it easy.” I just need to stay calm; although heart began to beat a bit faster than usual. Later, as she crossed the road into an area that she knew, she loosened her grip on her can of pepper spray. The dog parked looked downright spooky at 1AM. I can’t believe that I was walking Shadow down this road earlier, it feels as if it were days ago. She felt another blister on the bottom of her left foot pop as she continued down the sidewalk, breathing in deeply, and holding her breath for the next few steps, then exhaling. She repeated the process until she’d finally become numb to the pain. Up ahead, a ways past the dog park she noticed a figure coming towards her, but was unsuccessful at making out its form. Her heart began to race, she debated whether or not she should continue toward the figure until she could make out who it is, or walk on the other side of the street. Her logical part of her brain took over, she crossed the road, but just as she’d begun to walk down the other sidewalk, from the corner of her eye she spotted the figure crossing the road over to her side. Finally she saw enough of a silhouette, in the overhead light of a street lamp, to realize that the mysterious figure was a man. Panic-stricken she pulled at the cap of her pepper Spray, but had pulled too quickly. Briefly she could see the can of pepper spray flying passed the light of the street lamp and then hear it land in the darkened gutter; she could hear the can rolling, followed by the sound of it dropping into the sewer. “No,” with that a tear rolled down Phoebe’s cheek, as the man approached her.

The man was large, and looked scarily grotesque in the minimal amount of light, provided by the street lamp. His face had a scar on it which was slit diagonally, from the left corner of his forehead down to his right cheek. She could smell a mixture of terrible body Oder and alcohol which were wafting from his pores. “Well, what’s a pretty little thing like you doing out and about at this hour?” he asked, in a slurred voice. Phoebe was petrified; she swallowed a large gulp in her throat. “You seem shy,” he lifted a finger, stroking her cheek. “Well don’t worry; I can be social enough for the both of us.” A charge of electricity surged through her body causing her leg fly backwards and then swiftly extended, hitting the target that she was seeking. The man grabbed his testicles, and fell to his knees, moaning, and hacking from the pain. Phoebe took off in a sprint shouting, “Help me!” She ran as fast as her legs could carry her, she had just crossed the road from Washington to Chestnut, when she felt a large, heavy mass, latch onto her shoulders, knocking her to the ground. Her hands hit the sidewalk, scraping against the cement, as her body was being pushed into the ground. The large, grotesque, man on top of her shouted into her ear, “Don’t you try that again bitch!” Tears streamed down Phoebe’s face, as she attempted to fight him off, but it did her little good, for he was too big. She mentally tried to prepare herself for what was to come; she could feel his hands on her waist. Her eyes were closed, and she began to tremble when she felt his hot breath on her neck. To her amazement she felt the weight of the man being lifted off of her. She scrambled to her feet to find another man holding the grotesque man up by his throat. He threw the man to the ground, but instead of the grotesque man a getting back on his feet, and fighting the other man, as Phoebe assumed he would, the man scrambled to his feet and ran away in the other direction. Phoebe was still in hysterics, her voice sounding terribly shaky, as she got out a, ‘thank you.’ The man finally turned to her; after feeling satisfied that the grotesque man had disappeared into the night.

Phoebe stood, staring shockingly at who she saw standing before her. “Aren’t you the man who,” “Who greeted you and your dog Shadow this morning nearby the dog park, yes I am.” Though her body was still in a state of shock and still trembling, her mind was going at a mile a minute. “How did, how did?” was all that she could manage to get out. The man simply smiled warmly at her, in the same way that he had this morning. “You needed help; I’m always around to help those who need it.” Phoebe gestured to him with a nod, unable to speak. “How about I walk you the rest of the way home? So that you can be with your dog and rest your feet.” Now she understood. The man who rescued her tonight and who had assisted her this morning was not only a warm, kind, and helpful soul, but he was also a guardian.

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4 thoughts on “Guardian

    1. I never put any thought into going deeper with the story when I came up with the short story, but perhaps it’s something to mull over, after all nothing beats coming up with different story ideas. The blister popping was harrowing to write, but I think that it gave the story a more realistic feel; even though the thought of a blister popping is completely disgusting.

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