Saturday, August 7, 2010

Off Leash Top 10 in Contest

Okay folks my new nitty gritty YA story called Off Leash finalled in the top 10 in the kidlit contest and I want to share. Below is the beginning and I've added more excerpte. I'm also looking for feedback so let me know what you think.

Off Leash
The Nitty Gritty Series
By Renee Pace


I am suffocating inside my plastic lined steel barred cage; dying with the thickening silence and quiet sobbing coming from the other room. Locked inside for more than half of the day, my body twitches for the feel of the brisk air that causes my drool to freeze to my face.

Big footsteps lumber down the stairs and instinctively I cower as far back inside my cage as possible, lowering my body to the pee-stained blanket in an attempt to make my big frame small while keeping my eyes downcast. A whine slips from me when he kneels in front of the cage, as I fear he is going to haul me out and give me a good beating. He stands, glaring at me with eyes full of hatred but then turns away, and just when I think I am in the clear he gives my cage a good hard kick, forcing it to almost roll over. At the last moment I leap up to my full height forcing my legs wide to keep it upright. Task accomplished, I sit back down and wait.

Time turns to mud, thickening the suffocating air around me. I can barely turn around. My legs are cramping in the too-hot musky cage. Gnawing on the bars is useless, but I knew that from previous experience, except I’m bored and need to pee again. I know now not to bark my head off. That gets me nowhere.

I start whining in earnest. My paws push at the hard plastic frame with a yearning to run wild racing like a frantic circle inside of me.

The doorbell rings.

At first I think she is going to ignore it. After all, she has been still like a frightened bird in the other room, ignoring me for quite a while. The creak of the door excites me, and the feel of the frigid air bristling sharply through me leaves me with the taste and smell of freedom—a tease of something I will not get.

I hear footsteps. Hers, are familiar because of the soft tread, but there is another set I don’t recognize. My head goes up, curiosity makes me cautious. The steps are louder, but hesitant and not as forceful as Loud-mouth’s.

When the cage gets unlocked I try hard not to leap out, but it’s too much. Stuck in that hole for too long, my back leg muscles flex with joy and my front paws jump up, almost pushing her over.

A good loud command from her instantly forces my body to freeze. Following her pointed hand motions I sit. She is all business. If I jump up again on her I will land back in the cage. Not understanding her words does not mean I don’t understand her motives.

Lowering my eyes, my entire body itches to move. I force the stillness. I don’t even prance around. Sitting like I have got all the time in the world, when I know I will probably only get a few minutes of fresh air and freedom, might not make sense but she controls my prison.

She talks fast, using hands to speak to the boy. Thrusting the leash into his hand he warily glances at me. Great, another walker. I know now not to get attached. He might last a day or two with me, if I am lucky, than move on to something easier…something inside where it is warm.
My heart speeds up when he gives a good tug on the leash and moves to the slightly open door. He acts all business-like, but the scent of his excitement, like the cool air, is refreshing. We shall see who runs who.

Ten dollars per hour. That is seventy dollars a week, which is two hundred and eighty dollars a month and that’s over three thousand in one year. I am doing math in my head when I should be paying attention to what she is saying about Ollie. She needs to slow down. Shit. I think I missed something important but when she thrust the leash in my hand the frigging dog almost took off out the open door. Jesus woman shut the door, it’s freezing out there.

She seems nervous. Maybe she thinks I am going to steal something. We went over all of that before, when I approached her about the job at the hospital. I had heard her talking about needing someone to walk her dog and letting a job opportunity pass wasn’t my habit. She asked me if I had references, and by my puzzled expression, I think she got that I had no idea what she was talking about. My desperate look at the time might have helped. I did tell her she could call my school Principal. Not sure she did, but a few days later she called me, so here I am, inside her designer house feeling like the unwanted flea.

I hear words like trial run, security cameras, a code for the back door and not much else. The frigging dog wants out. Know exactly how he feels.

He’s now prancing on his paws, the click of his long nails driving me nuts while I watch him dance to his own beat. Poor sucker. Bet he sat in that stinky cage all day. Shit, he even pissed in it and by the way his body is twitching and moving I’m guessing he’s got to go again.

The piece of paper she hands me with her cell number scrawled on it is my acceptance paper. At the end of the week I’ll get paid in cash.. Suits me. Nodding, I say that’s great. She tells me she will be gone when I am done walking Ollie, and that I have to put him back in his cage, and to make sure the door’s locked. Guess he’s got a knack for escaping.

One hour. Ten bucks. I am not going to screw this up.

She doesn’t even know me and she’s citing off the four digit security code, again. Lady I got it the first time. Christ, what world does she live in? Certainly not mine. That was clear as Seven Up the minute I crossed the soccer field, moving from the welfare block of non-descript apartment buildings to single dwelling houses with lawns.

Middle-class, out of my league. This living room I stand in is as big as my entire apartment and there are two more levels and a big mother fucker of a garage I would kill to live in.

“Any problems, call me.” She flings her large white purse over her shoulder, flicking her long blonde hair off her shoulder. She looks pretty in her nurse’s uniform, but her eyes are red, like she’s been crying.

“Thanks. I need to go now. Don’t want to be late.” Grabbing her coat, keys and purse, she ushers me and Ollie out the door, but there’s a look on her face I can’t quite figure out.

“I’ll lock up, don’t worry.” Not sure why I feel the need to tell her the obvious but when she flashes a smile at me, I know those words were exactly what she needed to hear.

“Thanks, Jay. This means a lot.” A slight pause fills the air but then Ollie barks causing both of us to give shaky laughs. This job means more to me than her. Not that I plan to ever tell her how desperate my situation has become.

Tomorrow I am wearing gloves. I’ll have to swipe a pair from the school’s lost and found box, but I don’t care. Shit, it is freezing out.
She climbs into her Escalade. I could have those hub caps off in six minutes flat.The minute the SUV leaves, Ollie takes off. Jesus, she wasn’t kidding. He pulls hard. Ollie is a boxer with sad brown eyes. They probably match my own. For a dog living in a fancy house I get the distinct impression he does not get the run of it.

My feet are flying along the icy sidewalk as I try to keep up with him. Only a blind person would not notice how all the driveways have been shoveled, the snow packed down around the sides like some freaking thing anal middle-class people do. The houses, mostly a mix of brick and expensive siding ranging from beige to cranberry in color might as well be foreign objects to me. I don’t recall ever stepping through the doors of one, besides to get my job. My face probably had that Disneyland awe plastered to it. Pathetic! The dog pulls me sharply to the left, forcing my feet to do double-time. I will be lucky if my arm doesn’t get pulled out of its socket. Then I think about the money.

Seventy dollars. No, I got that wrong. She said she would pay me fifteen on the weekends because she knew I would be busy with extra-curricular activities. Her words, not mine. I didn’t say anything when she spewed that nonsense. I do nothing on the weekend, except be. That means in a year I will have close to four thousand dollars from walking a dog.

Ollie pulls me sharply to the left, again toward the park the lady talked about. I almost land on my face, but honestly I don’t care. Grinning ear to ear, my mind is thinking of all the important things I am going to buy with my money. Four thousand dollars rings in my head and I feel like I’ve finally won the lotto. This is going to be the easiest one hour of my day. If I can keep my arm in my socket from the damn dog pulling me along the sidewalk like some scrambling wayward kite ready at any moment to plunge to the hard, unforgiving ground.

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