Chapter 3 – Dawg
Dawg watched Kurt’s car until it turned the corner and was out of sight. He put the bag strap over his shoulder and carried the guitar by its neck. A noise. Someone was behind him. He whirled around quickly.
A man walked drunkenly down the sidewalk. Several times he wandered off the path into the snow. Dawg watched until he was gone and then looked around to see if anyone else was near. He ignored the cold as he looked at the bus station. If he was going to get to Dylan he had to go inside.
Dawg knew as soon as Kurt had said that he should go to Nashville that he must. If Dylan wasn’t coming back to Chicago, then he would never know that he needed him. So he must go to Dylan and tell him. Then Dylan would let him live with him. He would be his father. They would play the guitar and piano together and tell the Gospel to all the people that needed to hear. And Dylan would be able to answer all the questions about God that he so longed to ask, but couldn’t. Maybe Dylan would even teach him to read the Bible for himself. Well, perhaps even Dylan couldn’t teach a dog to read.
But he had to go inside the bus station first and ask for a ticket. Jesus, help me. He started walking. Inside the door, he looked around but didn’t know where to go. A hallway was in the middle of the far wall and to the right a hall stretched endlessly with glass windows, chairs, and numbers.
“May I help you?”
Dawg dropped the guitar on the floor as he spun around.
A uniformed security guard stood behind him. He hadn’t heard him. He was getting careless. “Is there something you’re looking for? You can’t spend the night in here, you know.”
Speak, Dawg, you idiot. Tell him. “I want to go to Nashville.”
“Of course. I should have guessed,” the guard said, giving a negligible wave at the old, caseless guitar lying on the floor. “Ticket window opens back up at six.” He nodded toward it. “You’ve got almost two hours. I’ll let you stay, but if you don’t buy your ticket don’t expect to come back tomorrow with the same story.”
When the guard walked away, Dawg picked up the guitar. He sat in one of the chairs along the wall and examined the guitar to make sure he hadn’t damaged it. He played a few songs. When he looked up, the guard was watching him.
“Going to Nashville, huh? You know how many kids with guitars go to Nashville trying to make it big?”
Dawg didn’t know how to respond. He watched him warily, hoping he didn’t come any closer.
The man shook his head and answered his own question. “Too many. You want to know how many make it big? None. Why don’t you go home to your mommy and daddy, finish high school and get a real job?”
He continued staring at the guard.
Finally the guard said, “You’re not too talkative, are you?” and walked away.
Dawg opened the cloth bag to make sure everything was in it that Jerome and Kurt had promised. His tapes were on top. He took out his favorite one. He couldn’t listen to it anymore, but he knew the songs so well he could play them in his mind. He also liked the picture of Dylan on the cover. That’s what his father would have looked like.
Maybe Dylan was… No. He would never have been with someone like her. Never! Dylan was too good for that. But Dylan would want him. He had to. He’d protect him and never hurt him. Jesus, please give me a safe home. Like Jerome prayed. A place where I can only do what you want. Not what she wants.
Dawg took out the map. He couldn’t figure out where he was or where Nashville was on it so he put it back in the bag. He glanced at the clothes and finally found the wallet on the bottom. He had never had a wallet before. He opened it and saw the money. Twelve twenties. He was rich. Why would Kurt give him all that money? He put the wallet in his back pocket, but then he kept reaching back to make sure it was still there.
More people moved around in the station now, but they ignored him. Finally the guard came back to him. “Window is open. You gonna get your ticket?”
Dawg looked where he pointed. A woman sat behind the counter. He stood, shouldered his bag, and grabbed his guitar. Then he walked to the window. Someone got there right before he did. He stepped back. Someone came up behind him in line. There were too many people. He wanted to run. Jesus, help, he prayed. I need to get to Nashville.
The man in front of him left. It was his turn. “Where to?”
“Eighty nine dollars please.”
Dawg started taking twenties out of his wallet. Almost half of his new fortune was gone when the woman took the money. She then gave him a ticket and eleven dollars back. “Gate five at eight twenty.”
The man behind him pushed to the window, and Dawg quickly moved out of the way, still holding the money and the ticket.
“So you actually bought it,” the guard said.
“Gate five at eight twenty?”
“Your bus doesn’t leave until eight twenty, and it loads at Gate five, down there.” He pointed down a hall where numbers stood out along the wall. “This is your first time on a bus, huh, kid? Probably your first time away from home. I’ve seen a lot of kids come through here, and I bet you’re not even as old as you look. Do you even know anyone in Nashville?”
“Yes. Dylan….” He stopped. He did know Dylan. He was waiting for him, he reminded himself.
“Good. Although I know you must be a runaway. Don’t worry, I won’t turn you in. But you should call your parents to let them know you’re all right. No matter how rotten you think they are right now, they’re probably worried sick about you. Why don’t you get some breakfast at the snack bar? You’ve got two more hours to kill.”
Dawg took the guard’s suggestion. He ordered eggs because he saw someone else had them. It was amazing. He said what he wanted, and people got it for him. All he had to do was give them money. They didn’t know who he was. They didn’t care. He was almost a real person.
After breakfast he wandered around the station. He put the guitar strap over his head so that his guitar hung behind him, and he didn’t have to worry about dropping it. He tried to avoid groups of people. He watched how the other people seemed to belong there, knowing where they were going. He tried to imitate them by lifting his head and straightening his back. He wanted to be a real person.
The guard approached him again. This time he almost seemed like someone from the mission, and he wasn’t afraid. “Your bus is getting ready to leave.”
Dawg turned toward the gates, his fear returning. “Which bus?”
“Come, I’ll show you.” The guard led him to the right gate. “Don’t forget to call your parents,” he called as Dawg entered the bus.
Dawg ignored him and looked at the rows of seats before him. A woman behind him said, “Excuse me,” in a loud, sarcastic tone. He ran down the aisle until he was at the back of the bus. The last seat was empty, and he adjusted his guitar so he could sit down. He tried to see where the woman had sat, but she wasn’t in sight. It made him nervous.
Soon the bus was underway, and Dawg stared out the window at the scenery once they left the city. He hadn’t been able to see that well in the dark from Chicago, but now he noticed all the open fields and trees. So few houses. Soon the mountains captured his attention. They were much more impressive than they looked on TV. The bus stopped many times to load and unload passengers and several times just to allow the passengers to eat and stretch. It was after dark when they pulled into Nashville.
Once off the bus Dawg had no idea what to do. He knew he couldn’t stay at the station, so he left and started walking. There were so many buildings. He’d never find Dylan. But he kept walking because there was nothing else to do. Eventually the taller buildings were behind him, and he came to a residential section. The cold and his tiredness made his movements harder. He began studying the houses. The sky was turning lighter in the east when he found what he was looking for.
The house had boarded up windows and overgrown bushes in front. He glanced around quickly and then ran into the shadows next to it. Examining every window closely, he tested the boards nailed to them. He finally found a loose board, pulled it off, and climbed inside. Trash and leaves littered the floor. He set his bag and guitar down and gathered the debris together in the corner. At last he was able to curl up into the pile and sleep.
He slept through the day and most of the next, ignoring his stomach. When he left the house on the second day, it was already getting dark. He found a small store and almost bought more food than he could carry in his bag. He knew he had to find Dylan, and the only way he could think to do that was to ask people. So he asked the store clerk. She’d never heard of him.
Dawg could only work up the courage to ask two more people that night and neither knew. It wasn’t as cold, and he found a bed in an alley behind a section of already closed stores. She was chasing him again. He had not been able to do as she had asked. He ran from her room through the living room to the kitchen. He tried to make it out the back door, but something hard hit him in the back, and he fell to the floor. He tried to escape, but she had picked up the thing that she had thrown at him — a can of soup — and started hitting him with it. The sound of a motor close to him woke him. He quickly jumped up, grabbed his things, and ran for three blocks.
He wasn’t sure how long he wandered the streets of Nashville looking for and praying to find Dylan. One day blended into the next, as he walked, looked, asked, and watched his money dwindling. At first the few people he had asked had responded without hostility, but more and more people would look at him with disdain and walk past. It was getting harder and harder to ask with each rejection. A short, older man came toward him. Dawg stepped into his path. “Do you know Dylan Trent?”
“Get out of my way, you human waste. Get a job. You people are worse than dogs.”
He felt like she had come here to Nashville and slapped him even though it was a man that had spoken. He staggered away. He couldn’t go on. He had started to think he was human. That people may care. But they only sent him here to be rid of him.
He had heard a story in school once about a family that took all their dogs to the country and let them go because they didn’t want them. All the dogs died but one. The story had been about that one dog, and the dog eventually found a boy to love and care for him.
He hadn’t thought about the story in a while, but that’s what they had done to him, wasn’t it? Dropped him off not caring whether he lived or died? He was out of the way here. But he would never find someone to love and care for him. He would never find Dylan. Why am I here, Jesus? Did you come to save dogs, too? Or am I just fooling myself into thinking that You even care about me.
His eyes became moist. He turned and leaned against a plate glass window so the passerby who was making a wide circle around him wouldn’t see. He’d learned to never cry, but it didn’t matter anymore. Let them kill him this time.
But then his blurry vision focused an instant, and he saw Dylan Trent. He stared until he realized it was just his picture. But if his picture was here….
Dawg went inside the store as quickly as possible, straight to the picture. It came out of a display stand that held CD’s and cassettes. He grabbed the tape. It was one he had never seen before. He started to open it.
“You must pay for that first,” said a man with hair almost as long as Dawg’s.
Dawg reached for his wallet. As he held it, he thought about his ruined tape. He opened his bag and pulled it out. “This is broke.”
“That’s his third one. You want another one?”
The man led Dawg to the T section of the cassette display along the wall. “Right here.” He pulled out the tape.
Dawg grabbed the treasure and followed the man to the checkout. He gave him a twenty. He had one left. He took a deep breath. Now he had to ask. “Do you know where Dylan lives?”
“I heard he lives out near Westmoreland.”
“No. Most move out to the country after while.”
“Westmoreland,” he repeated, mostly to help him remember the name. “Which way?”
“North. Almost to Kentucky. You know, I don’t think the artists really appreciate people they don’t know showing up at their door. If you’re trying to break into the business you need to clean up, hang out at the clubs, and put a band together. Make a demo. Get to know people. Just showing up is not going to help you. It may hurt you.”
“I know Dylan.” He had given him the tapes and a Bible. He wanted to see him. He wouldn’t allow himself to think the thought that almost came next. What if he didn’t? “North. Which way is north?”
The clerk pointed toward the front door. “Knock yourself out kid, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Dawg found the first street that went in the direction the man had pointed and followed it the rest of the afternoon while he listened to his new tapes. He stopped at a small store and stocked his bag with food. He also bought several replacement sets of batteries for the tape player. The houses became farther and farther apart with trees, fields or high bluffs he couldn’t see over between them.
He put in his favorite tape. There was no one around. He had only tried singing a few times and then in a very low voice in a back room of an abandoned house. He started to sing with the tape now. By the third song his voice was responding the way he wished it to sound. He couldn’t believe how good he felt. He wasn’t hungry or hurting. It wasn’t even that cold today. He was able to sing praise songs to his God, and he was on his way to see Dylan.
At the end of the day he found an unlocked shed with an empty corner. He counted his money in the fading light from the window. There wasn’t much left, but he didn’t regret buying the tapes, and now he knew where Dylan was.
The next day the road ended. He waited a half hour at the corner before someone came by, and he could ask the way to Westmoreland.
He walked as long as he could each day. On the third day he came to a small gas station store and tried to restocked. When he went to pay, there wasn’t enough money, and he had to put most of the food back. There would be no more when this was gone. He must find Dylan soon.
The next day he reached Westmoreland, but no one would tell him where Dylan lived. No one even wanted to be near him. He tried to approach several people, but they would turn into buildings or cross the road. He went into a store and asked for Dylan, but he was chased out by a large man. Finally, with a prayer, he just picked a road and started walking. That night he ate the last of his crackers.
At dawn he started walking again. His stomach protested only slightly at his lack of food. The sun kept behind dark clouds, only appearing occasionally. The temperature dropped. Around noon a car passed him slowly and then stopped at the mailbox a few hundred feet ahead of him. The mailman placed mail into the box. Was that cereal with the mail?
Dawg watched until the mailman was gone from sight. Then he looked around to make sure no one was watching. Quickly he opened the mailbox. It was cereal. He grabbed the sample, and a letter fell to the ground. He picked it up to put back in the box. That was when he saw the name — Dylan Trent — printed in the center of the envelope in large, block letters. The rest of the address was below it.
He was here! This was it — Dylan’s house! And he almost passed it by. He could barely see it down the long driveway. He put the letter in the mailbox. He looked at the cereal and realized that he had been about to steal, and from Dylan Trent again. He placed the cereal back in the mailbox and then walked up the long driveway.
Go to Chapter 4
© 2013, 1995 by Deborah K. Lauro. You may make one copy for personal use. To share, please direct friends to this website.