alexis morgan


a short story by Alexis Morgan
© 2019.

Tripp Blackston closed his history textbook and tossed it on the end table. After checking the clock on the microwave, he stood up and stretched. He needed to roust out his temporary roommate.

"Hey, Zeke, it's time get out of bed."

No response.

A few seconds later, Tripp tried again. "Come on, Zeke, get a move on."

To offer further encouragement, he headed into the small galley-style kitchen and rattled the mini crate that held Zeke's favorite food. There was nothing but silence in the other room, so he shook the food again several times but harder this time. That finally did the trick.

There was a heavy thump as four feet hit the bedroom floor. A short time later, Zeke appeared in the doorway. The huge mastiff-mix blinked sleepily in Tripp's direction and then gave himself a good shake to get his day started.

While the dog got himself sorted out, Tripp filled one bowl with kibble and another with fresh water and set them on the floor. Past experience had taught him never to stay between Zeke and his next meal, so he hustled back around the island counter that separated his kitchen from the living room. While the single bedroom mother-in-law house was plenty big enough for one person, it got a bit crowded when he had to share the limited space with Zeke. Once he was safely out of the way, he poured himself another cup of coffee and watched the dog make quick work of his breakfast.

"Sorry about the early hour, big guy. I know you normally like to sleep in, but your new owner is due back today. Abby will have a lot on her plate and may need some help getting things sorted. I thought it would be a good idea for us to get our walk out of the way before she arrives."

Zeke lifted his head long enough to glance toward Tripp and then at the leash that hung on a hook by the front door. The dog loved his walks but not nearly as much as he did eating. It came as no surprise that he immediately turned his attention right back to his food bowl.

Tripp patiently waited for Zeke to lick up the last few crumbs. He liked the dog and had enjoyed his undemanding company for the past two weeks. On the other hand, it wouldn't do for him to get too attached since Zeke now officially belonged to Abby McCree. He wasn't sure what he thought about that. It had been clear that Sybil, Zeke's prior owner, had really loved the big goof. The pair had been an odd match—the tiny, elderly lady walking a dog that she only outweighed by a few pounds.

Sybil had rented her guest house to Tripp after Gage Logan had vouched for him. The two of them had served together back in the day long before Gage had become chief of police here in Snowberry Creek. Tripp had immediately take to his new landlady and had cheerfully worked off part of his rent doing yardwork and other odd jobs around the place to help her out.

After two decades of bouncing all over the world on his various deployments as a member of the Special Forces, he'd really hoped to live in the small house until he finished his degree. But Sybil's death just over two weeks ago had cut both Zeke and Tripp adrift and unsure of what came next for each of them. What if Abby McCree, Sybil's niece and sole heir, decided she didn't want to live in Snowberry Creek and put the two houses on the property up for sale? Even if she did move in to stay, there was no guarantee she would want Tripp as a tenant or even the dog.

Zeke must have picked up on his mood, because he wandered over to stand next to Tripp and bumped up against him with his shoulder. Tripp did his best to shake off his dark thoughts.

"Sorry, boy. I don't mean to be all gloom and doom. Let's head over to Main Street to grab some more coffee and a couple treats for both of us. Then we'll walk

the trail along the river in the park. Maybe even take a run through the National Forest on the way back."

There was a definite uptick in the dog's enthusiasm for the proposed outing. Tripp was never sure how much Zeke actually understood, but the dog definitely knew the words "walk" and "treats." Tripp clipped on Zeke's leash and let him lead the charge out the door. The two of them would enjoy the morning air and some of Bridey Roke's excellent coffee and baked goods.

There would be time enough to make plans after they returned and learned more about what Abby McCree was going to do with her unexpected inheritance. As the two of them started down the driveway, Tripp planted his feet and hauled back on Zeke's leash. When the dog looked back to see what was up, Tripp knelt on one knee to meet Zeke's soulful gaze head on.

"I just want you to know you have a home, Zeke, if not with Abby, then with me. Got that?"

Zeke woofed softly and gave Tripp a slobbery lick to seal the deal. With both of them feeling better about the situation, they picked up the pace and headed for town.