Heart & Coal
By: John Lock
(Originally published in The News-Gazette, March 20, 2011)
Anything can be a character. Coal isn’t just a dog, man’s best friend. To her, he’s closer than a best friend. Your best friend isn’t always there, always helping, always listening. She shelters him from the verbal abuse he sometimes gets, just because someone doesn’t think a dog belongs in a Subway. He shelters her on dark night trips across campus. That kind of bond isn’t easy to get across on paper.
– John Lock
“Watch this,” Bridget Evans says. “Sit. Stay.”
Bridget wheels away around the corner, down the aisle at the Halloween store. Bridget is smiling; she knows what her dog Coal is thinking.
Where is she going? What if she needs me? Coal’s eyes are smiling as they follow her.
When the 21-year-old University of Illinois student disappears around the corner, he stares intently at the spot. After a couple seconds, his tongue hides in his mouth and he looks quizzically at the empty space.
Maybe I should go find her. But she said to stay. But what if she needs me? His eyes, mouth and head droop together below his shoulders, and he starts to whimper, softly at first, then progressively louder.