This was written to give a past to two well deserving pups. They had no history, so this story is to give them one. Since this was written, Bianca and Giacomo have been through a lot and have been loved and adored by two amazing people. This story is for them, Donnamarie Mazzola and Lori Blomstrom, and their brood.]
Part I – The Weaning
“Please Poppa, please. Can’t we keep them? I promise I will take care of them,” Alberto begged.
“Alberto, no, we have been over this again and again. Tomorrow they have to go.”, he answered.
Alberto looked crushed, with a bit of anger in his eyes directed towards his father. It’s true, every day for the last 2 weeks they had had the same conversation. Alberto begged over and over again to keep the two puppies, but each day that they grew, Alberto’s father’s stance became firmer.
When they had arrived in the mountains of Tuscany for their summer holiday that had not known their dog Lucia was pregnant. They all just thought she had gotten fat, and would benefit from the time in the mountains, running around, and would lose weight. She did lose the weight, when she delivered the puppies just two days after they arrived at the Villa. It was a shock to them all, and they all pitched in helping Lucia care for her two new babies. Through the summer they played and started to train the puppies. That was 5 weeks ago, and in a few days they would be leaving. All summer long he never thought they wouldn’t be taking them home, but then Alberto’s father told him that they would have to find a home for them, since back in the city they had no room for two more dogs. Alberto was crushed. He had become so attached to these two. The little boy puppy was so cuddly and sweet; the little girl so very playful and mischievous. How would he be able to say good bye to them?
As the week grew to a close he started to panic. He had gone door to door to all the homes in the village, but no one wanted these two puppies. There was one man in town who offered to take them, but Alberto said no. The man was dirty and scary looking, and he didn’t think he would give them the love and attention they needed. He had to find a good home for these two. But time was running out.
A few days ago Alberto’s father reminded him he had to find a home for them … or else. “Or else what, Poppa? Or else we’ll just have to take them home, right?” He asked. “Absolutely not, Alberto. We cannot take these puppies home. If you do not find a home for them by tomorrow, we will have to take matters into our own hands.” He answered sternly. The look on Alberto’s face was only more complicated and broken by the feeling in his heart and his stomach. He knew what his father meant. He remembered instantly the old stories his father had told them of growing up and having to kill unwanted litters of kittens. He had told those stories so matter-of-factly, as if he were talking about picking grapes from the vine. “It’s simply part of life. Just like grapes, they grow on the vine. When they are ready they can either be used or destroyed. If the time comes and they have not been used, they have to be destroyed.” His father would say. “And we had so many kittens on the vineyard, it was almost like insects.” He would say. “But Poppa,” Alberto would ask “why did you have to kill the kittens? Couldn’t they just live on the vineyard? Outside in the wild?”
“No, Alberto” his father would answer. He would use a softer voice, as he knew Alberto had a tender heart, especially when it came to animals. “We could not leave them to live in the wild. They ate the vineyard, which was our livelihood, and destroyed the grapes. And even so, there were wild animals that would hurt them and destroy them viciously.” He would say. “Alberto, we gave them food with poison, and they did not feel any pain. They just went to sleep.” His words were meant to console his youngest child. He had no way of knowing how that phrase of just going to sleep, became a phrase that Alberto learned to hate.
“Sleep well,” His mother would say every night as she tucked in her children, and every night as he heard those words Alberto’s mind filled with images of kittens, puppies and small pets that he imagined his father, uncles and aunts had given poisoned food to so they would die. Every night Alberto went to sleep with a broken heart.
Now his two puppies were about to face the same fate. And worse than that, Alberto knew his father would make him do it. That last night Alberto could not sleep. He did not want the night to end; not for him, and not for the puppies. Tomorrow was the deadline, and there was no home for the puppies to go to. He tried to be strong as he got ready for bed, but then his mother said those words. “Sleep well” she said. At the sound of the words Alberto’s body almost convulsed in pain.
~ ~ ~
Antoinette, his sister, came to his bedside after their parents had left the room and turned off the light. It was dark in the room and Alberto has his face buried in the wall, but Toni could see the tears in the moonlight coming through the window. He wasn’t making a sound, but his breathing was very heavy, and his shoulders would shake as he cried silently. “Berto,” she whispered, “look at me.”
“No, leave me alone.” He answered quietly. She was sweet to him in these quiet times, but in front of their parents she always acted strong, as teased him for being such a baby. He didn’t want to talk to her, especially when he felt this bad. He didn’t want to hear her mocking him.
“Berto, please, listen to me. C’mere.” She put her hand on his shoulder and tried to turn him to her. He shook her hand off. She leaned her head down towards him and kissed his cheek. She took the sleeve of her nightgown and wiped some of his tears away. He felt the ribbon from her nightgown fall on his face as she leaned over to give him a handkerchief to blow his nose. “Here,” she said, “blow.” He blew his nose into the cloth she held at his nose. Then he rolled over to look at her. She gave him a big soft hug and told him it would be ok.
“No it won’t.” He shot back sternly and pulled away. “Tomorrow Poppa will make me poison my puppies. It will NOT be ok.” He softly shouted. She put both hands on his shoulders and gently held him. She was 4 years older than him and stronger, and he was too sad to fight back. He melted into her hug and cried openly.
“Berto, look at me.” He resisted and still cried as she coaxed his head up. “Alberto. Here. Take this.” She handed him a small folded piece of paper. “Don’t let Poppa see this.” He reached out to take it and and looked up at her.
“What is this?” He asked, with a little bit of frustration in his voice, but not too much.
“This is what you need to get tomorrow.” He jerked away from her and threw the paper at her.
“Get away from me!” He yelled. “You’re horrible! Go away.” He choked on the last words as he flopped his face back into his pillow.
Toni sat next to him and said, “No, Berto, it’s not what you think.” She pulled him over. He tried to resist but she wasn’t giving him. “Now, look at me” she said forcefully. “Alberto. Poppa will be sending you in to town to get the items from the apothecary tomorrow. Take the list he gives you, but make sure THIS is the list you give the pharmacist.” Alberto looked at her confused and sniffed loudly. “Don’t let Poppa know you have this list,” she said. “Do you hear me? Don’t let him know.”
“But what is this list?” Alberto asked.
“This will make the dogs sleep.” Toni said and gently smiled. “Really sleep, Alberto. Just sleep.” Alberto look at her confused, then slowly processed the information.
“But ….” he trailed off back in thought. He looked at the list and then slowly back at Antoinette. She was smiling at him, a warm reassuring smile, and slowly nodded. “Toni, won’t Poppa know? I mean, how will they ….”
“Shhhhhh, it will work, trust me. You trust me, don’t you?” She asked, and winked at him. He did. He did trust her. He had no choice. She gave him a big hug, helped him back in to bed and tucked him in. She sat next to him a bit, running her hand over his head until he fell asleep, and then slipped back to her own bed to go to sleep.
At the doorway, although neither one of them knew, Marta, their mom, smiled quietly, and slowly eased away. She had given Antoinette the list to give to Alberto. Alberto never would have taken it from her, and she would never have been able to tell him what it was. Toni was the right choice. She was so close to little Alberto, her sensitive boy, and knew how to talk to him and ease his heart and mind. Alberto would have asked Marta a barrage of questions she was not prepared to answer, that Alberto would not believe anyway. Toni was the right choice. She always was. Marta smiled. She was a good mom. She found a way to ease her heartbroken child, even though she was unable to do it directly. Through Toni she could.
~ ~ ~
Those questions that Marta would never be able to tell Alberto, Marco, her husband, already knew. It had been a joke in their families for years. Marta’s family, at least the women in her family were known for their skills with plants. Some joked that they were witches because they always had the best grapes, the best bread, and the best wines of anyone in the area. All the townsfolk said it was because the women in that family had special powers, special knowledge that they used to grow and nourish their crops. They were partly right. For generations the women in her family had always passed down the secrets of nature from mother to daughter, grandmother to niece. It wasn’t magic, it was merely family knowledge, generations old, that was perfected year after year. It was what brought Marco’s attention early on, when he came to the village on his own summer vacation as a young man and tasted the wine from the local Vineyard. He HAD to meet the owners, and when he set foot on the property, he was hooked. “That witch of a woman cast such a strong spell I no longer had any interest in the Vineyard,” he would boast at family gatherings. “Her demure look burned through me like a sharp lightening bolt.” he’d laugh. “And of course,” he’d continue, as if this next part were obvious, “I just HAD to have her. So I bought the vineyard, and got her along with it.” Everyone broke out in laughter no matter how many times he told the story. Then he’d turn and give her a huge loud kiss. She’d blush and shy away, but you could see the other women in her family catch her eye and give a knowing smile. There might be something to his story.
The list she gave Toni to give to Alberto was a list of powders from the pharmacy. She knew the concoction would make the puppies sleep, but only sleep. It would be a deep deep sleep, but they would not die. Their breathing would be so shallow so as it could only be detected with medical instruments. They would look almost exactly like the ones Marco was expecting, so no one would be the wiser. And her tender hearted son would not have to live with the pain of killing those puppies, those puppies he raised from birth, with his own hands, by his own doing. She smiled softly to herself and walked back to her room for the night.
~ ~ ~
The morning came too fast. The two puppies had slept in the kitchen last night. Alberto could not bring himself to take them into his bed the night before, knowing what was expected of him the next day. It was too much for him to bear. He stayed in bed a long time, hoping pointlessly to delay the start of the day. He pretended to be asleep when his mother called to him for breakfast. He lay in bed looking out towards the window. How stunning a sight the view was. His window at their summer home looked out over the neighboring Villa up the road, which used to be a monastery. It had a huge strong stone wall lining the road on one side, and just after the turn, past his own house, was the open mountain side on the opposite side from the villa. It was a glorious sight, but today all he could think of was the treachery of the time it was built. That was his mood that day. The elegance of the medieval structure was dominated by the cruelty of medieval times, where it was acceptable to kill those who were merely in the way, or weaker, for sport. He was allowing his sadness to brew into anger, which only grew stronger when he hear his father’s footsteps approaching his door. His anger had a target. How unfair was it that his father was making him do this. It wasn’t horrible enough to not be able to keep these puppies, but to make him poison these very puppies himself, that was too much for Alberto to understand. He grew angrier as he heard the knock on the door. He didn’t answer and instead buried his head deeper in the pillow, covering his view of the feudal view. The door opened.
“Alberto, you’re mother’s calling you. It’s time to get up.” Marco said in a no-nonsense voice. “Let’s go.” He walked over to the bed and pulled the covers off. Alberto feigned being jolted awake, rubbing his eyes and grabbing at the air where the blanket had been only moments ago.
“Wha ….. I didn’t hear anything.” He yawned. “What time is it?” He asked.
“Late. We have to get moving.” Marco answered, and abruptly turned on his heel to leave. He got to the door and stopped, still facing the hallway. “We have a busy day,” he said softly and slowly turned to look back at Alberto. “C’mon, breakfast is waiting.” He hesitated, looking at his son, and smiled sadly. He then quietly left the room. As he walked down the hall he thought he heard muffled crying. He didn’t go back, he knew neither one of them would want that. He also knew he what he was asking his son to do today. ‘Sure it was hard,’ he said to himself. ‘But I had to do it too, when I was a kid.’ His thoughts wandered back to his own childhood. ‘I can’t even remember how many stray puppies, kittens and other animals I had to kill, it’s what we did. It was hard, sure, but it made a man out of me.’ He took a few more steps as his thoughts progressed through the years of his childhood. With each step he seemed to lose his resolve and began to slouch a bit. ‘Alberto is too soft,’ he told himself, reassuringly. ‘He needs this, he needs to be a man. He is getting too old for these childish attractions. After all, these puppies are really just one step above dolls, and he needs to grow a backbone and toughen up.’ As that thought went through is head, in an effort to convince himself, he forced himself to stand up straight and resolve that he was doing the right thing. He rejoined the rest of his family at the breakfast table. Alberto soon followed, but would not look at his father. His mother passed behind him and put his plate in front of him and tenderly brushed her hand over his hair. Toni swung her leg over to acknowledge him silently, under the table, and rested her foot on his, as if to show her support and to remind him of their secret. At that Alberto’s shoulders sank a bit as he seemed to relax.
After breakfast Alberto got up to clear the dishes. His father met him over at the counter where he was gathering up the scraps. “Not all of them remember” he said to Alberto about the leftovers. “You will need to save some for later.” Marco was referring to splitting the scraps for the puppies. Normally Alberto would have given all the scraps to them, but this time his father reminded him that he would need some to mix up later in the day. Tears streamed silently down Alberto’s face. Marco noticed but turned away and left the room pretending not to notice. He wasn’t about to chastise Alberto now.
Alberto finally emerged from the kitchen after feeding the scraps from breakfast to the puppies. He had lingered a while playing with them and hugging them. Marco did not mention the tear stains. He told him to go wash his face and get ready. When Alberto came back downstairs Marco was there waiting. He handed him the small pouch with money inside and then handed him the list. “Take this list to the apothecary and hand the pharmacist the list. If he asks, just tell him we have some paste to make up to ward off the rodents while we’re gone.” Marco told him. “He’ll know what you’re talking about; he’s been dealing with the rats and such here for years.” The thought that the pharmacist would know exactly what this was for made this harder. He would, Alberto realized, know it was for the puppies. Alberto had, after all, gone to him asking him to take the puppies himself, even begged and pleaded with him to help them avoid their certain fate. Yes, he knew, the pharmacist would surely know. He shoved the money purse and the list into his pockets and left his hands there in his pockets as he stared at his feet. “Are you ok?” Marco asked? Alberto nodded without looking up. He felt his father pat his shoulders and then said “ok, on your way then.” She sent him on his way to get the poison. As Alberto left the door he looked up to the bedroom. Toni was in there looking out the window. She smiled at him and waved and then made some movement with her mouth. He stopped and started up with squinted eyes.
“What?” He mouthed.
“The list, do you have the other list?” She mouthed back at him, and made gestures with her hands as if folding and unfolding a piece of paper. Alberto nodded and smiled a bit. Then turned to go. He didn’t see his mother half hiding behind the curtain in the other upstairs window. She smiled, too.
~ ~ ~
Hours passed and Alberto didn’t return from town. Marco didn’t notice, but Toni and Marta did. While they were upstairs packing their bags they kept a sharp lookout, each from their own vantage points, on the road leading up from town. They were both secretly worried about Alberto and what he would do. Toni even allowed herself to think he might have run away, and snuck downstairs to see if the puppies were still there. If he had run away, she convinced herself, he would have taken those puppies with him. They were still there. Cute little ones, too. She had been keeping her distance from them since they were weaned from their mom. She didn’t want to get too attached to them. Lucia had given up on them, too. She was older, and two active puppies tired her out, and now that she wasn’t getting much attention from Alberto, she had attached herself to Marta. She was with Marta when they heard the squealing. It was the puppies. Somehow from the back of the house they knew that Alberto was returning. Marta instinctively looked out the window and saw him coming up the road. She quickly finished backing and was able to nonchalantly walk into the kitchen with the bags as Alberto entered.
“How was town?” She asked Alberto, as if he had just gone in there for a visit.
“Fine.” Alberto answered flatly. He looked at his mother as her back was turned, searching for some reaction. She had given him the other list to get so she knew, but still she didn’t let on outwardly at all.
“Did you get what you needed? Did you get what was on the list.” She asked? He thought he saw her freeze as she said the word list, but it was probably just wishful thinking. He waited a moment before answering, staring at her back.
“Yes,” he said quietly. “I got what was on the list.” She still didn’t move. As he turned his gaze from her back, she relaxed a bit, and then turned in the other direction to fill the kettle.
“All right then,” she said. “Your father’s outside in the back packing up the car. We’ll be leaving very early tomorrow morning, so make sure you’re all packed.” Alberto stopped to get the two puppies and brought them up to his room. He packed his bag while they played on the bed and jumped in and out of the suitcases. He took as long as he could, but then dinner was ready, and he heard them all getting impatient downstairs. He waited for his mother to call him down.
She did call him. Dinner was ready. He slowly gathered the happy, now tired puppies up and went downstairs, savoring each footstep, giving each one it’s proper due in the overall course of the events. He arrived at the table after putting the puppies in their pen, and sat to eat his dinner. He wasn’t hungry at all. His family chatted on as if it was a normal night, recounting different events from their summer as they were verbal postcards from their dwindling time before their departure. Occasionally he would be asked a question, but he remained silent, looking down at his plate and slowly moving his food around but never eating it. He could feel the pitiful look from his sister burning into his head, much the same as he could feel the purposeful avoidance of his father’s glance. His mother would occasionally reach over and ask him quietly if he wanted something else, a refill on his drink, another helping of macaroni. He never answered. She never questioned his silence. The time had come. The table was cleared and the dinner conversation was over. The silence hung like thick used air. It was Antoinette who was designated to initiate the next step. “Berto,” she started and stopped. “Berto, it’s ……” but she couldn’t finish.
“I know.” He said. “It’s time. I’m ready.” Alberto slowly picked up his plate and walked to the counter without looking at anyone else in the room. He took the bowl for the puppies and carefully put the uneaten meat from his own plate into the bowl. He then reached into his pocket and pulled out the package he had gotten that afternoon. He slowly placed it on the counter and opened it and sprinkled the contents from the little plastic pots into the bowl, on top of the food. He picked up the bowl and turned around. Only then did he look up and see his family had been watching silently his every move. His sister’s eyes were puffy and red, her faced wet with tears. His father quickly looked away from him. Alberto felt a good about that; at least his father knew what he was doing and seemed to feel bad about it. ‘He should’, Alberto thought as he felt the anger fill the pit of his stomach, which helped him hold back the painful sadness. ‘He should feel horrible.’ It was his mother’s face that stopped him in his tracks. She looked different. Something about her was different. She looked older and feeble; weak, no, that wasn’t it. What Alberto didn’t know was what he saw in his mother that evening was loss. She was losing her sweet boy that day, her tender hearted son. Even though both of them knew that herbs in the food would not kill the puppies, they both knew that things would never be the same. Alberto would never be the naïve boy again after tonight. His father had thrown down the gauntlet, and knowing he could not stand up to his father, he chose the only option available to him, to begrudge his father’s demand, and forever hold it as a wound of honor. And his mother had proved an ally in betraying his father. No, the relationship between the three of them would never be the same.
~ ~ ~
The puppies ate their food heartily while Alberto watched over them. After they ate they played a little and then settled in for their nap. “Sleep well. ” Alberto said, and buried his head in his sleeve. He stayed with them until he heard the soft snoring that puppies do when they fall happily into slumber with a full belly. Then he leaned over and kissed each one on their little heads and stood up. Only then did he realize that he had never even named them. That somehow seemed worse than what he had just done, and he collapsed to the floor, curled in a ball, silently crying. His mother had been sitting in the dark corner of the kitchen watching the whole scene. She walked over to her son and sat on the floor next to him, picking his head up and placing it in her lap, on the apron. This was foreign to both of them, but both acted as if they had interacted this way for years. She stroked her son’s hair while letting him cry. Then slowly, as he had quieted down, she pressed her lips to the top of his head, as he had done with the puppies and said “Alberto, it will be ok. You know I love you. They will be ok. You trust me, don’t you?” He looked up at her and quietly smiled.
“Yes, mami, I do.” And he did. He know they would be ok, because she said they would. He then sat up allowing her to get up. She did and walked over to the cupboard and pulled out the plastic bag. She looked back at him and gave him a reassuring knowing smile.
“You trust me, don’t you?” She asked again. He nodded. “I know this looks scary, but I do know what I’m doing. Everything will be fine. Your puppies will be fine. I will make sure of that.” She quickly turned so that he didn’t see what she had put in the bag and then she walked over to the puppy pen. She climbed in and gently placed each puppy inside the bag. She carefully secured the bag and carried them out, gingerly. He did not know the details or the specifics, but he knew somehow that she had set the bag so there would be air holes for them. Alberto took the tender bundle from her arms and walked out the front door of the house. Marco was outside by the car waiting, but he didn’t move or make a sound as Alberto walked out. Out by the road Alberto placed the bundle by the curb, where the garbage men would pick it up the next morning. But he couldn’t think of that, of how they would hurl the bag into the truck, not knowing what was, or had been, inside. No, he couldn’t think of that because that would not happen. ‘No,’ he told himself, ‘that would not happen.’ He hadn’t thought about what would happen, but in fact has trusted his mother. He looked back at her as if she had heard the entire conversation he had just had in his head. She looked at him and nodded reassuringly. ‘No, that would not happen.’ And he knew it. One last look at the bundle, and he spun around quickly and ran into the house. Marco looked over at the door and at Marta. She looked blankly back at him. He dropped what was left of his cigarette and stubbed it out over and over again with his shoe. He looked over at Marta again, at the same blank look that she looked back with, lowered his head and went around to the back of the house. Marta went back inside.
~ ~ ~
Marta knew what would happen next. She positioned herself in her room and watched as Marco finally came back around to the front of the house. She had expected this, and while she hoped he wouldn’t do it, she knew he would. He didn’t trust her. That was obvious as he came over to the bundle to check the puppies. He had to make sure. He had tried to convince himself not to check, but he couldn’t help himself. He went over to the bag and laid his hand on the outside. He was checking for a heart beat. He had seen the looks between Alberto and Marta and something seemed different between them. Maybe he was just looking for an excuse for his guilt over having asked his son to kill his own puppies. But he had to check. No heart beat was felt. He turned to go back to the house and as he did, he looked up. He saw Marta standing in the window watching him. As their eyes met she held his glance for a moment, and then she turned away. That one move convinced him of his own guilt. He went over to the front stoop, sat down and lit another cigarette. He sat there as the night few darker. After what seemed like an hour he heard a car slowly driving up the hill. It was very narrow road, which wasn’t easy to navigate in the daylight, but was even harder when it was dark. The car was moving very slowly up the hill.
“What is that?” He heard a voice say from the car.
“What? What is what?” another voice answered.
“That, right there. That white thing on the side of the road? It looks like a dog, be careful.” The first woman’s voice said, rising at the end.
“It’s a bag, why does it always look like a dog to you?” The second woman’s voice said, warmly, you could hear the smile in it.
“Are you sure?” The first woman asked, “Pull over a bit.” The car moved almost imperceptibly to the side of the road and Marco heard the second woman say “See, it’s just a bag of garbage, ok?” Marco smiled at the comfortable banter the two women had. It was easy, but very considerate in it’s nature. He knew he had just lost that himself. He also knew that the bag was a risk. He too pictured the garbage men the next day, and he couldn’t bear it. He went over to the bag, picked it up and walked to the back of the house. Marta watched this, too. He opened the top of the barrel in the yard and dropped the bag in. He heard a splash and quickly replaced the top of the barrel. He could not bear to think about this anymore and quickly went inside to find more wine. Marta had known this, too, would happen. She also knew that she was not the only one watching; Herminia was watching too, as Marta had told her to.
~ ~ ~
Herminia and Marta had known each other for years and while they were never close friends, they had a friendship and bond that was unspoken. Marta adored Herminia. She was able to show her love and follow her heart, and she did. She was adored by all the children in the village, and all knew her to be the guru for all things animal. Herminia was one of the groundskeepers at the neighboring Villa, that served as an Inn. People came to the Inn the first time for vacation, but they came back each year because of her. She made the cold yet stunning former Monastery a warm and inviting home. The cold, stark stonewalled rooms came to life with her flowers, her humming, and her never ending stream of animals always filling the air with happy sounds. You could not go there without smiling, and it was because of Herminia.
Of course she was the first person Alberto had gone to asking about taking the puppies. But the cows had just had calves and the other groundskeeper had just gone away to be with his family while his mother was in the hospital. She simply could not keep up with all the work on her own, and taking on two new puppies in these tough times … she simply could not. That had crushed Alberto. He had waited a while to find a home for the puppies because he had always assumed that she would take care of them for him. But on that last day it was Marta who went to Herminia. She told him the story. Not the one Alberto had told, but had made a personal plea based on the life changing, heart wrenching loss in the innocence of her son. It was that plea that touched Herminia.
“It was all I could do to stand my ground with Alberto,” she told Marta. “All summer I watched him raise those puppies, and when he came to me I didn’t realize what he was asking, what the other option was. I’m so sorry.”
“No, don’t be.” Marta answered. “Honestly, even I didn’t expect Marco to force this hand. Sure, I knew he was stubborn, but it’s Alberto,” she said. “How could he have asked that of Alberto,” Marta said to the air more than anyone else. Herminia knew that look and the sound in the voice. Marta was vulnerable at that moment as Berto. In that moment the plan was hatched. Neither Alberto nor Marco would know. Each would have their own assumptions, but neither would know. Only Herminia and Marta would know. And forever they would be bonded in a deeper friendship.
~ ~ ~
And so it was that when the top when back down on the barrel filled with water, Herminia was standing just a few feet away in the shadows. Herminia had known about the air pockets in the bags made by the plastic containers by their snouts, and the pockets in the bag that were formed when Marta tied up the bag just so. Marta knew Marco, too, and knew he would end up at the barrel. She had placed it there earlier so he would see it, and even put just enough water in. She made the next step easy for him, while she was able to control it. Marco had not even closed the back door on the kitchen on his way in to get the wine when Herminia had already pulled the puppies from the barrel. A quick nod into the darkness, knowing Marta was watching from somewhere, and it was over in a second. The puppies were alive and safe in the hands of the warmest, kindest heart in the village.
The next morning the sun came up. Alberto looked out the front window and saw the bag was gone. At first the thought of the garbage man flew into his head and he caught his breath in his throat. Then he saw the rest of the garbage still out there. But there was no white bag. ‘I do trust you,’ he said in his head, and smiled. His mother had reassured him, and he knew as he looked out the window to where the white bag had been that they would be fine, that they really had, after all, slept well.
~ ~ ~
Across the way at the Inn, morning was well underway. New guests had arrived the night before and the morning chores were almost done. The cows had been milked and the fresh eggs had been brought in. The spread of baked bread and biscuits had been laid out next to the pitchers of juice and flowers, and the guests were starting to gather. Herminia had a moment to run in and check on her newest charges, the two white puppies who were still recovering what their odd sleep the night before. It’s true, they had slept well, but something in them had changed a bit. They needed some time to recover from the herbs they had ingested and she snuck them some of the fresh milk to help their systems pass the toxins that left them a little groggy, and a little unsure. It would take a little time, some extra attention, to get them used to their changed lives. They had lost their family on top of their physical trauma, and that would take a special touch to win them over. Herminia smiled to herself. She knew good was in the cards for these two. She returned to her other guests, to make them feel as warm, safe and comfortable in their new environment, too.
~ ~ ~
Part II — has been lived, but not written yet
[written 10/7/08, LJD)