Find a Christian store Find a Christian store

<< Go Back

Innocent Lies

By Robin Patchen

Order Now!

"My name is Daniel Anderson. My mama's name is Carrie. I don't have a daddy. I am eight years old."
Daniel repeated the words over and over, holding onto them the same way he was gripping the skinny white tree in the forest.
Mama told him to walk toward the white house. Not that there were any other houses around here, deep in these woods. Seemed easy when Mama was standing beside him. But now, the house seemed far away, and he had to get through all the trees and bushes and stuff. At least he wasn't in shorts. He figured in shorts, all those branches and twigs would tear his legs up but good. Right now, even his head and hands were covered so he wasn't getting scratched. And he had on them nice new boots Mama bought him at Walmart. They kept his feet dry.
It hardly ever snowed back home, but Mama said it snowed here a lot. He liked snow. Except right now. Right now, he wished it would quit snowing and the sun would shine. Even if it was bright, though, the sun didn't seem to work the same way here as it did back home. Back home, the sun made things warm.
It hadn't been snowing when they first got here. But now, Mama was gone, and snowflakes were falling everywhere, sort of hiding the white house.
He looked through the trees at the back door. Nothing between here and there but woods and trees and probably bears. Except bears hibernated in the winter. He'd learned that in school. He probably wasn't gonna get eaten by a bear.
What if the man there wasn't as nice as Mama said? Just 'cause he was a police officer didn't mean he was nice, right? Except Daniel had only ever met nice ones. If only Daniel could get up the nerve to go like she told him to.
"My name is Daniel Anderson. My mama's name is Carrie. I don't have a daddy. I am eight years old."
The words were mostly true.
Daniel took a few steps toward the house, shivering and trying not to cry. 'Cause he was too old to cry, and anyway, Mama told him he had to be strong. He wished she was with him right now. He'd hang on tight and beg her not to leave him, no matter what she said. It made no sense to him. If it was okay for Daniel to talk to the police officer, why couldn't Mama?
He turned around and stared at the forest behind him. He'd never seen so many trees in his whole life. It was likeā€¦like a magical forest, like in stories. And these reached all the way to the sky. They made the trees back home look puny.
He stared through those trees at where she'd gone. Maybe she'd change her mind. Maybe she'd come back for him. If he went to the house and found the police officer, then Mama wouldn't come back. Maybe not ever, even though she promised she would. He stared into the woods as far as he could see. If he went that way, he might get lost and never get found again. Except by the bears. They were sleeping, weren't they?
And anyway, he'd promised to go to the house.
She shouldn't have made him promise. That wasn't fair. Mama was usually fair, but not this time.
A noise came from the house. Daniel turned, saw the back door open.
A big yellow dog came outside, a man right behind him. The man was wearing jeans and a sweater, but no coat or hat. He probably just wanted to make sure the dog did his business, as Caleb's mama would say. "Make sure he does his business before you let that mangy mutt back in the house."
Daniel always laughed at that, because the mangy mutt was little and cute. Caleb's mama practically treated it like another son.
Daniel missed Caleb. He missed Caleb's mama and Peanut and everybody from back home. Mostly, he missed his own mama, and she'd only been gone a little while.
The dog stepped down onto the snow and sniffed the air. This was no cute little dog. It was a big dog. Its head came up, and it stared into the forest, right at Daniel.
Then it bounded across the yard.
The man hollered after it. "Magic!"
But the dog kept running, right toward Daniel. He told himself to run, to get away from that crazy dog, but his feet might as well have been stuck to the ground.
He knew that dog was gonna take a big bite out of him. He fell on the ground and covered his head and listened to his heart race. Wasn't until he was like that that he remembered the food in his backpack. The dog would probably attack his back to get at the beef jerky and candy bars Mama had left him.
Mama. Why? Why did she leave him? How would she feel when she found out the nice policeman's mean dog had eaten him for supper?
Bushes shimmied, snow plopped. The dog's huffing breaths came closer and closer. Then Daniel could feel its nuzzle at his ear, his hat, his backpack, too, probably, but Daniel didn't dare look.
"Magic, come." The man's voice was getting closer.
The dog barked three times.
Twigs snapped. The dog panted into the near silence.
"What'd you find, girl?" The man's voice was deep and nice, even though the dog disobeyed him. Maybe he was a nice man like Mama said.
The dog kept sniffing him, found his ear and tickled him, but it wasn't funny, not one bit. Daniel wanted to run, to get away and find Mama. But he was scared to look up, scared the dog would bite his face off.
Instead of running, he prayed the man would get the dog before the dog decided to eat him. Or his beef jerky.
"Magic, come."
Daniel peeked to see the dog join a pair of legs just a few feet away.
"Sit," the man said.
The dog sat. It wasn't as big as Daniel had thought, and it looked like it was smiling.
The man stepped a little closer. "Well, hi there."
Daniel hid his face again.
"You're okay, son." He stepped closer, crouched down, and rested his hand on Daniel's shoulder. "My dog won't hurt you. She might lick you, but if you're not afraid of a little dog slobber, you can sit up."
Daniel did and looked at the man, who was studying him just as closely.
"What are you doing way out here?"
He shrugged. Everything he was supposed to say had been chased away by the dog, who was still sitting like his master told him, smiling at him like he'd found a new friend.
Daniel smiled back. That dog wasn't scary at all.
Seemed scary, though, bolting straight at him like it was going to attack.
"I'm Eric Nolan." The man snapped his fingers, and the dog joined them. "This is Magic."
Daniel stuck out his hand and let the dog sniff his mitten. "Funny name for a dog."
The man nodded like he agreed. "I found her wandering down the highway. Her tag told me her name but nothing else."
"You rescued her?"
"I guess." He ran his hand down the dog's back. "Maybe we rescued each other. I really needed a friend, and there she was."
"What kind of a dog is she?"
The man shrugged. "A mutt. The vet thinks she has some shepherd in her."
Daniel could imagine that, the shape of its face, the dark fur on its snout.
"But her legs are shaped a little like a pit bull's."
Daniel pulled his hand back. "They're mean."
"Oh, I think most dogs are like people," the man said. "If you're nice to them, they'll be nice back. And Magic's as sweet as they come." He ruffled the dog's head. "Aren't you, girl?"
The dog kept looking at Daniel.
He didn't know what to say. He knew his jeans were soaked from kneeling in the snow, and his legs were about to freeze right off his body. His teeth started chattering.
The man stood and brushed snow off his jeans. He didn't even have on a coat, much less mittens and a hat like Daniel wore.
"Where are you parents?"
Daniel shrugged again.
"You live around here?"
Daniel shook his head.
The man looked into the woods for a moment, then looked back down at Daniel. "Is your family around here somewhere? Did you wander off?"
The words came back to him. His teeth were chattering so badly, he could hardly force them out. "M-my name is Daniel Anderson. My mama's name is Carrie. I d-don't have a daddy. I'm eight years old."
The man frowned. Kept his mouth closed for a minute. Then he held out his hand. "Come on, Daniel Anderson. Let's get you warmed up."

Order Now!

<< Go Back


Developed by Camna, LLC

This is a service provided by ACFW, but does not in any way endorse any publisher, author, or work herein.