Thursday, December 13, 2012

Write A Holiday Short Story - Duke and Duchess by Lou Allin!

This Thursday can't be happier than it already is, but anyway, happy Thursday one more time!

I am excited to share the next story of Write A Holiday Short Story Contest with you! It is written by multipublished author Lou Allin.

Ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm welcome to Lou!

Duke and Duchess

By Lou Allin.

Christmas Eve alone, nursing a jumbo can of pork and beans and a forty-ouncer of cheap rye, yet Duke Stafford managed a lopsided smile as he stroked the comforting head of his German Shepherd. "It's you and me, Duchess. Mom can take a long walk off the Big Nickel."

He spooned up the cold beans, doused on catsup, and sloshed more rye into the dirty glass. A surf of the channels brought the movies he'd watched as a kid. Now What a Wonderful Life depressed him, Miracle on 34th Street bored him, and A Christmas Carol battered his ears with funny accents. Settling for a re-run soccer game blaring into the stuffy room, he dove into the bottle, paddled around, and fell into a stupefying sleep.

As the grandfather clock bonged twelve, Duke blinked awake, bathed in the fluorescence from the blank screen, wondering why Heather hadn't wakened him to come to bed. He struggled for the light, Duchess rousing at his sounds and nuzzling at his hand. He looked with bleary fondness into her liquid brown eyes, so intelligent, so loyal. Heather had bought the pup for him on their honeymoon at Niagara Falls ten years ago. Duke had cradled the furry bundle of floppy ears and gangly legs in his lap all the way home. "Duchess and Duke. Man's best friend. Love me just like I am. You never asked for anything more," he muttered, a tear for himself trickling down his sandpapery cheek.

The dog growled softly. "That's because I couldn't. Tonight I have a few observations about your behaviour."

Duke staggered up, overturning his glass. "Obserwhat? Am I nuts?"

"Christmas Eve, Dukie. The animals' time to reach out and touch someone." She lifted one lip, exposing a chipped canine tooth yellow with plaque.

Shaking his head, he slumped back into the chair. "I thought we were buddies."

The dog left the room and trotted back with her bowl in her mouth. She dropped the empty dish at his feet, flipped it upright with a paw in a trick which usually made him laugh. "Fed me today?"

"Uh," Duke said. In the filthy fireplace he saw a crumpled bag. Wasn't it just this morning that...

"You forgot again. And anyway, I don't like that cheap dry junk. Just like the rocks all over this town. Why can't you ever give me juicy wet food like my friend Penny gets? She even has her own toothbrush."

Duke tried to pet her head, but she turned away. "Of course, beauty. But that canned food is pretty pricey. And your diet is nutritious. We've fed you Top Chunx since you were a pup."

She bared her yellowed teeth, a few missing in the lower jaw. "Chunx Schmunx, and I'm older than you in dog years, so don't talk to me like a child. My teeth hurt now, and I need something soft and tasty."

She had a point, Duke admitted. "I'll keep it in mind." With shaking hands he commandeered the rye, gauging the inches that remained. Just enough to go back to beddie bye.

The dog snorted, its nostrils flaring. "Sure, suck down that bottle. You're always ducking responsibilities. When I was a kid, you training to be a mechanic. Then what? Too many lost weekends, and now you're toast at the garage. Pushing a broom instead of doing tune-ups. Just like Mom said."

"Mom! So you're siding with her! You women stick together."

"We were a good team, Duke. But you bailed out a long time ago. Gambling, drinking, and that funny business with Penny's mother. Yes, my best friend was under the bed the whole time. Don't you have any shame?"

He gasped and dropped the bottle, spilling a pool onto the hardwood floor. "My God. Does Heather know?"

The dog gave what passed for a laugh. "I didn't tell her, but I don't blame her for leaving you. She gave you so many chances, tried to get you to that support group. You took me to one meeting, found the biggest jerk in the hall, and took him to a bar while I went home alone."

Duke cleared his throat. "What about our walks?"

"You mean those excuses to find another drink or a poker game? How many times did you leave me outside, even in the worst sleet and snow? Then you told Mom we'd had a good long trek, you liar."

Duke stuck out his lip. "Well, she's gone now, so I can drink at home. And we'll go out. I promise."

"Sure. Just like you promised her you'd think about having kids. And what about me? That trip to the bad white place that smells like medicine. One minute I was dreaming about Sailor, the next I woke up sore and without the least interest in puppies. You'd scared him off with that shoe anyway. What a brave bark he had." Her eyes misted as she lowered her head.

Duke reeled toward the last dregs of rye, slipped on the wet mess, and cracked his head on the floor. When he awoke the next morning, the bright sun making his head ache, it was well after ten. He narrowed his eyes at the dog. She licked his hand, her eyes warm and loving again. When he let her out, she returned proudly with The Sudbury Star.

Shaky and hot, Duke went to the sink to soak his head in cold water. He hunted for his hidey hole bottles and poured them down the drain. After a quart of orange juice, an equal serving of strong black coffee and a handful of aspirins, he soaped himself to kingdom come, shaved twice and arranged his best suit on a neatly-made bed. Taking Duchess outside, he brushed and combed the dog until her fur shone.

Duke tossed the last package of ground chuck into the microwave, punched "auto-cook," hauled out the vacuum and gave the house the cleaning of its life, even rubbing the hardwood floor with beeswax and dusting the figurines. Boxes emerged from the closets, up went the Canadian Tire Douglas fir tree, and wreathes, garlands and bows decorated the house, along with fresh pine boughs from the bush out back. Finally he called Heather, talking and listening, listening and talking for nearly an hour. "Duchess and I need our Queen" were his last words as he hung up, a weak smile lighting his pallor as if a faint spark had rekindled.

Knotting his tie and running a lint brush over his suit, Duke watched the dog lick her bowl clean. "I don't know if you can still hear me, but Mom's coming back. Christmas Day services at Holy Trinity first, then over to Grandma's for the turkey. Dibs on dark meat for you. Don't know if any place is open for presents, but we'll try. And if I get off track again, say the word." She cocked her head at the sound of a car in the driveway. "Well, on second thought," he added, "just bark."

Thank you, Lou, for sharing your story! It is highly appreciated!

About the author:

Lou Allin has two mystery series, one set in Northern Ontario and one on Vancouver Island. Her latest book is Contingency Plan, a novella for adults or older teens with literacy issues.

She Felt No Pain (Dundurn Press)
That Dog Won't Hunt/Contingency Plan (Orca Books)

On Kindle: She Felt No Pain, A Little Learning (an academic mystery) and Man Corn Murders (Utah mystery)

Thanks, Lou!

Now, there is a giveaway connected to the Write A Holiday Short Story Contest. We will randomly choose 1 comment amongst all the comments posted under the published stories and this winner will receive amazon GC of 20$!

To enter, leave a blog comment below the post and you must enter the RC form below.

Open internationally!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy commenting and happy reading!


  1. Love this doggy take on A Christmas Carol! Penny under the bed is delightful.

    1. What do you know, we're both taking a break from work at the same time for the same thing.

  2. I love that story. It has just enough bite. ;)

  3. I loved this. Very original and funny!

  4. Thanks, folks. I must have written this around 1985-8, when we got our first German shepherd. Freya was her name, but her mother was Duchess.

  5. Find the use of dog to be great way to tell story. Thank you for posting this gem for holidays.