The fat clouds above the trees danced in the great blue sky like fat, overfed zoo lions. Below them, the water of the large pond-lake was still and peaceful, without even a slight breeze to disturb it. Black ducks and white geese frollicked about on it, and the fat, golden hens flitted around it.
The sun had just woken and risen, rousing the earliest farmers and roosters of the Helland Lake rurals, signalling them to begin the work day. They groaned and moaned, and relucantly stepped out of bed, and slogged downstairs for their morning grits, coffee, and morning news delivered by the paperboy.
Helland Lake was still a sluggish town, even though it was 1919 and only just the end of the first World War. They were a small, typically unnoticed town located slightly east of midwest and a bit north of southeast Michigan. Looking on a map, it would seem to one as if the mapmaker wanted to fill the empty space between Manual and Sharp Axe, and placed a random dot there, and gave that dot a random name. It was a rather small town, with a cozy, comfortable air, and it was one of those towns where one word of gossip could be heard by everyone within twelve hours; it was one of those towns where one could get to any house by just walking down Main Street and its splits; it was one of those towns where everyone knew everyone else.
The square and cobblestone paths of Helland Lake was only occupied by free-ranging chickens and dogs who had been kicked out of their owners’ houses until worktime. The market carts were empty, with dark green canvases covering the front; smartly, however, the owners had all emptied the carts and the dogs could only weave out and around them, smelling the sweet smell of sun-dried-and-salted chicken and beef that still hung in the air.
The cobblestones paths of many towns in Michigan had gradually evolved to paved ones that horses could comfortably walk on, but Helland Lake had yet to catch up. The peaceful air was momentarily disturbed by the splashing of mud, and the click-click-click sound of tiny claws on stone; it had rained freshly yesterday and the dirt between the cobblestones had become mixed with the puddles, creating a disgusting, muddy slop that got in between the soles of people’s boots.
Riddel the Scottish terrier trotted down the wide road that lead to everyone’s houses, his four stocky legs teetering back and forth as he tried to keep up with the dog in front of him.
Her name was Willow, and she was two years his senior; he was six months. There had never been a bark directly exchanged in between them, but he had willingly followed her around for, so far, his entire life, and she was all right with a sidekick.
They both trotted down Main Street, and Willow automatically turned left, ambling along at the same pace; Riddel had stupidly continued straight, but after a short while had noticed Willow walking another direction, and had scrambled to rejoin her. Riddel wagged his tail and panted a bit to show his reappearance, but Willow only twitched her ears and kept her head down.
Riddel could see the pond-lake already, and Willow finally began to straighten up. They had reached sanctuary from the other town dogs, strays and spoiled brats and brawny shepherds’ dogs who stalked the streets to appear intimidating and big. None of them said a word to the pair; Willow was a she-dog, and so Riddel stuck close to her like a little brother.
A prim white house sat square and fair in front of the pond-lake, blocking it from view from the rest of the neighborhood; there were no other houses nearby. The closest was about half a mile down the road, south. The house was whitewashed a coat of blankness, laced with flowers, creeping with vines, and surrounded by a porch. By far, it was the only painted house in the rural county.
The back door opened, and a man appeared, whistling. Willow immediately perked up and with six strides, was across the green lawn and up the porch. Riddel tried to follow on his stubby legs, and eventually was picked up by his Master Adam Lions grudgingly, and placed into the house. There, he joined Willow in eating their quick breakfast of table scraps.
They ate quickly, for they both knew, even Riddel at his six months, that immediately after the cuckoo bird declared it was five o’ clock sharp in the morning, worktime began. Being a border collie, Willow was sentenced to round up the sheep and cows for grazing. Riddel was assigned to watch the farm birds and himself; he was strictly forbidden to eat any eggs or fowl, nor could he chase their fallen feathers, for they would escape.
However, they heard the door slam. Willow kept eating, but Riddel, his curiousity taking over his hunger, perked up. He walked to the front door, but it was closed; they were shut in.
They finished their breakfast, and a while after the cuckoo chirped five times. They waited, but Master Lions did not show up.
Riddel glanced towards Willow, his small pink tongue lolling out, looking at her curiously, searching for the answer to the Lions’s actions. She snorted and padded away.