Ten-year-old Lina leaned on her windowsill and sighed as she stared out at the stormy Summer Saturday. It had rained all week and there was no sign of it letting up anytime soon. She looked back at her scattered toys and games for two forlornly. Suddenly an idea formed in her head, she left her room and went downstairs to the living room where her father was typing on his laptop. Their golden retriever laid by the coffee table behind him, wagging his tail as he ripped at a chew toy.
“Daddy.” Lina said raising his attention.
“Oh, hey sweetheart,” her father said taking a moment to rub her head.
He then pulled her in for a hug. “You’re not up to trouble, are you?” he teased.
“No, there’s nothing to do, stupid rain. Will you play with me?”
“I’d love to sweetie, but I can’t today. Daddy has a lot of work to do.”
“Pleeease! I have no one else to play with now,” she pouted.
Her father stroked his chin in thought, “Well if you’d like you could always play with Chaser.”
“No, I don’t want to!” she frowned.
“Well then I’m afraid you’re gonna have to play by yourself for a bit.”
She sulked off as he returned to his work. Chaser the dog rose and barked at her playfully as he wagged his tail and started to follow her to the stairs.
“No! Bad!” she scolded pointing at the dog. “You stay!”
Chaser did as commanded sitting and watching the young girl ascended the stairs. Lina sat in the center of her room watching a wall of grey beyond her window. The rain persisted battering the house in a huge storm. Every now and then a tree branch would hit the window hard from the fierce wind and Lina would jump slightly. She heard thunder rumbling in the distance as well. Followed by the shocking flash.
She soon began to play with her dolls as a distraction. Something she enjoyed for being one of the few things she could do alone. But the more time she spent alone the sadder she was. And the more
she felt like crying.
“Lina can you come down here please?”
“Daddy changed his mind,” she thought excitedly descending the stairs to find her father still at his computer.
But now Chaser the dog was ripping at his chair leg.
“I’m gonna need you to play with him for a bit he’s really bugging me.”
“What? No, I don’t wanna!”
“It will just be for the afternoon.”
“Noooo, I don’t wanna play with the dumb dog!”
“Now now young lady. Sometimes I’m gonna need you to help daddy. And this is one of those times.”
Reluctantly she conceded walking over to the stairs.
“Here.” Lina said beckoning with her hand to the dog as she ascended.
Chaser followed but instead of going upstairs right away. He walked over to the coat rack and began to rip at the red poncho on it.
“No, you dumb dog stop!” Lina protested running down and snatching it away and holding it close to herself.
“Come on!” she said walking back up the stairs, the dog followed.
In her room she curled up against her windowsill. Throwing a tennis ball against the door with one hand. Her initial plan was to simply keep the dog in her room out of the way. But when he started chewing at things, he shouldn’t she threw him a tennis ball. And when that wasn’t enough to hold his attention, she started throwing it over and over. Chaser happily received and returned it each time. But the girl did not share his enthusiasm. In fact, the longer it went on the more she started to clench her poncho in frustration.
That night after reading to her her father kissed her on the forehead and tucked her into bed.
“Good night,” her father said.
“Goodnight daddy,” She replied.
“Do you want the night light?”
“No I’m a big girl.”
He smiled kissed her forehead again and began to leave when he saw the poncho on her toy box.
“Oh I better bring this downsta-
“No don’t! I don’t want him chewing on it again.”
“Alright,” he said putting it back down.
He then flicked off the room light closing the door. Lina was a little nervous sleeping in a full dark room still. But she wanted to not be. She settled into the comforter and closed her eyes, trying to go to sleep. When suddenly she heard a faint whooshing noise. One that scared her.
“Who’s there?” she said.
But there was no response. She laid back down more nervous than before. She tried to close her eyes again but then heard the whooshing noise a second time.
“Chaser?” Lina said.
As she reached for the night light and turned it on. She saw before her in the center of her room was her red poncho. But not like she had ever seen it before. It was…floating.
It looked like a red Halloween ghost with its pin like head, thin waist and wavy bottom half. Lina could not believe her eyes at first as the fabric floated before her. As it drifted closer, she cowered away. Pulling the comforter tight around her and lowering her nose beneath. She reached the wall by her bed. Sensing her fear the poncho stopped beside her bed. It raised one of its arm like sleeves and pinned in the collar was one of her small yellow flower hairclip's.
Lina examined it then looked up at the poncho. It nodded its head slightly and she released the comforter and moved closer. Taking the clip and pinning it in her hair as she stared up at the entity. The poncho then levitated in front of her and using its sleeves began to tickle her. The girl began to laugh as she wiggled about. Unaware at first how loud she was getting, until her father opened the door. As he did the poncho flew under Lina’s bed.
“Lina what’s going on?”
“Nothing dad. I just have the giggles.”
Her father gave her a queer look before closing the door. The poncho flew back up in front of little Lina who had sat up in her bed. Smiling she put her index finger to her mouth to indicate they needed to be quiet.
Come morning she had awoken to the red poncho floating and waiting for her. she got up and hugged it and it hugged her.
“I’m gonna call you…Ponchy!” she declared.
Then they danced around in a circle by her hands and the collars of its sleeves. Once she had brushed her teeth, bathed, dressed and eaten the two began their play day together. They colored, played with dolls, played games, she created shadow puppets while it watched. Then Lina had the idea to take out her arts and crafts set and glue two buttons for eyes on the back of the poncho. After wards they flew toy planes around the room; eventually taking it through the rest of the house.
As they ran around Lina’s father would occasionally look back at them from his screen. At which point Ponchy would duck behind Lina who stood incredibly still. Then her father would resume typing and they would carry on. They played hide and seek in the basement which she was normally scared to go into. Danced, shared secrets mostly Lina to it. And by the end of the day were tuckered out together laying against her windowsill. Though it stilled rained Lina no longer minded.
“I love you Ponchy.” Lina said standing up.
The poncho rose as well, and they hugged.
“I wish I could fly like you...”
Upon hearing that the poncho wrapped its frilly arms around hers and lifted her off the ground. Lina’s surprise soon turned to joyful giggling as it flew her about around the room. She was so wrapped up in her joy that she hadn’t noticed at first that Chaser had come into the room and was barking at them. Having been in the middle of tearing up an old shoe when he spotted them.
“Shut up you dumb dog!” she said still floating off the ground.
Chaser unfazed continued to bark as they lowered back to the ground. Then he turned to growl at Ponchy.
“I said shhh, don’t you growl at Ponchy. He’s my friend.”
When Chaser wouldn’t listen, she threw the tennis ball out of her room. The dog followed and she slammed the door shut. Then she sat for a minute as did Ponchy. She had forgotten all about the rain outside.
The next day she sat with Ponchy playing a game of Connect Four. She was mildly frustrated that it had beaten her two games in a row.
“Ponchy! You’re too good at this. But I will beat you!” she declared.
“Lina, snack time hunny!” her father yelled from the kitchen downstairs.
“Can’t you bring it up to me dad?”
“You’re a big girl, come get it.”
She pouted at this. “I’ll be back Ponchy. Don’t you go moving without me.”
She got up and went downstairs to get the snack plate of fruits and vegetables.
“Thank you daddie.”
“No problem. And I better not be seeing any vegetables in the garbage this time little lady.”
"Yes daddie!” she called already at the stairs.
She rushed back up the stairs to continue her game with Ponchy. And when she got to the entrance of her open doorway and shut the door behind her what she witnessed threatened to break her little heart. As she dropped the plate in shock, scattering fruits and vegetables on the ground.
“No…NO! HOW COULD YOU?!” she exclaimed at Chaser who had been shaking the tattered remains of Ponchy in his mouth.
Pieces of the poncho were scattered all over the floor. Chaser stood with the rag still in his mouth staring at Lina. Who had begun to sob as her cheeks grew red. Furious she picked up a head of broccoli and threw it at the dog. Who instinctively caught it in his mouth. This only angered Lina more as she ran over and slapped him on the nose. Causing Chaser to retreat backwards
“I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU SO MUCH!” she yelled. Then picked up a wooden toy block and through it at the dog who narrowly dodged it.
“I HATE YOU I HATE YOU!” she yelled stamping her feet.
“What’s going on up here!?” her father asked opening the door.
As he did Chaser dashed out. Leaving Lina on her knees crying as she hugged the remains of her red poncho.
“Oh no,” her father said in a soft sad tone.
As he walked over and knelt beside his daughter hugging her.
“It’s okay sweetie. We’ll get you another one.”
“I don’t want another one! I want Ponchy back!”
“He was my friend and that stupid dog ruined him. Just like he ruins everything, I wish he would just go away!”
“Now now, he might have been scared of it.”
“NO!” she screamed. “HE RIPS UP EVERYTHING! HE RUINS EVERYTHING! HE RUINED MY PONCHO AND IF IT WEREN’T FOR HIM MIKEY WOULD STILL BE ALIVE!” She continued to sob.
“…You can’t keep blaming Chaser for that.”
“B-but if he hadn’t chased that squirrel out into the street-
“Your brother wouldn’t have gotten hit by a car; I know believe me. It was a day much like this. And I gave you his poncho to keep him with you always.”
“AND THE STUPID DOG RUINED IT!”
“Yes, and I’m sorry.”
He rubbed her shoulder consolingly as he sat beside her.
“But your brother loved our dog. That’s why he ran after him. And I blamed Chaser too for a while until I realized he is also suffering.”
Lina had started to calm down a little. As her father hugged her and rubbed the back of her head, she cried into his chest. A few minutes later he went and grabbed one of Mikey’s old t-shirts. Then he whistled for the dog. Chaser came running into the room. Her father then bent on a knee and offered the shirt in one hand.
“What are you doing? He’ll rip it up,” Lina protested.
“It’ll be fine. I needed something with a stronger smell than the poncho. I guess the rain from the past wiped a lot of Mikey’s smell of it.”
Chaser steadily moved closer and Lina instinctively moved forward. Prepared to snatch the shirt away when her father put a hand in front of her to stop her.
“Just watch,” he said.
She reluctantly obeyed as the dog continued to move slowly towards the shirt. Finally sniffing it he began to whimper. As her dad placed the shirt on the ground. The dog lowered its ears and head then laid flat on his stomach, resting his jaw on his front legs. Persistent in his sad whimper and equally sad eyes as he licked at the shirt.
“Every time he finds one of Mikey’s articles of clothing and smells it. He lowers his head and begins to whimper. He knows he’s gone and misses him.”
Lina sniffled and looked at the dog in surprise. Her father put a head of broccoli in her hand and with a gentle push prompted her towards the dog. She looked up at her father for a moment then over at the whimpering dog. Then she trepidly walked towards it with the vegetable in hand. Chaser stared up at her and her at him. She lowered her open palm presenting the vegetable. Chaser was reluctant at first. But then walked forward slowly, sniffed at it and then plucked it from her hand with his mouth and licked her hand. Moments later Lina put her hands around the dog’s neck and went to her knees crying into its fur as he barked a sad longing bark.
They were like that for some time. The rain continued outside.
A few days later the three of them had cleared away the furniture in the living room and were playing fetch in doors.
“Go get it boy!” Lina said throwing the ball down the hall.
Chaser to his name chased and found it. But upon returning slid on the rug colliding into her.
“Op,” her father said walking over, “You okay?”
But Lina only laughed getting up.
“Fine daddy,” she said petting Chaser.
Her father joined in petting him as well.
“We should only have one more day of this dreary rain. How about tomorrow we all go to the park?”
“Okay!” she said cheerily.
The two of them continued playing fetch with Chaser for a while. Before settling down and falling asleep together on the couch as her father read to her. Chaser slept by their feet. Lina awoke with the feeling someone was sitting next to her. She didn’t see anyone, but she knew. Smiling she went back to sleep.