Kristen Otte

Finding Love and Laughter through Story


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Flash Fiction: The Black Raven

For those who may not know, I have two day jobs. I tutor students of all ages in reading and writing. I also coach freshmen girls’ basketball. Anyways, a few weeks ago, I was tutoring an eighth grader in our writing module. My student picked a journaling topic. As an instructor, we are encouraged to journal and share with the student, so I wrote for ten minutes from this sentence:

Due to the raven that follows him wherever he goes, a young man is convinced that something terrible is about to happen.

Below is my raw story from the ten minutes of writing time.

Bob turned around. Sitting above him in a tree branch was a black raven. It cawed at him. Bob shook his head and turned around, continuing on his walk through the streets. Starling was filled with people on this warm summer day. A man in a black suit hailed a cab and two women ahead of him were laughing while they walked.

Bob stopped at the street corner. The street sign read Third and Broad. While he waited for the signal to change, he glanced ahead. On top of the street light was the black raven.

Wasn’t there an old wive’s tale about ravens? He thought they were bad luck or a bad omen. He shrugged it off and started across the street with the change of the signal. Bob walked two more blocks and turned left. His meeting was on Fifth Street. When he turned on Fifth, the crowds diminished. The silence gave him a chill, but he moved forward.

When he reached the steps of the Seers’ Building, the raven was sitting on the silver overhang of the building. The raven’s black feathers were a stark contrast to the shiny building.

Bob strolled through the revolving doors and took the elevator to the thirteenth floor. He stepped off the elevator to find a receptionist’s desk. The woman had black hair and green eyes. She stared at him.

“Mr. Jones, I presume,” she said.
“Yes.”
“Mr. Ozark is waiting for you. Go ahead.” She pointed to a large door behind her.

Bob pushed open the heavy door. Inside the room, Mr. Raven Ozark had his back to Bob, looking out the window behind his desk. Perched on the colossal desk was the black raven. Bob gasped. 

Here’s my question for you–should the story continue? If so, what happens next? I’d love your help to finish the story!


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The Final Hour – A Short Story

At the beginning of January, I had a story burning inside me, so I took a break from revising The Photograph and Zelda book promotion. The words flew on to the page (or rather my macbook) in a matter of hours. The result is this short story titled The Final Hour. All writing is personal in one way or another, but this story is heavily connected to the emotions and struggles from last year.

The Final Hour is available here on this blog, Wattpad, and also in the Amazon Kindle store. The Final Hour will be free on Kindle for February 25-27 and after it will be priced at $0.99. If you read on a Kindle or a Kindle app, I would love for you to download the story for free today or tomorrow. Also, I would love your honest feedback. Let me know what you think!

Cover Design by James, GoOnWrite.com

Cover Design by James, GoOnWrite.com

The Final Hour

 

When I wake up to the phone ringing, my heart fills with dread. I glance at the clock. 4:02 a.m. The scenarios start running through my mind, and instantly I am awake and alert. The last time the phone rang at this time of the night, Mom’s heart had stopped beating.

I hear hurried footsteps approaching my doorway; I sit up, anxious for the news.

“Jake, get dressed, we need to go to the hospital,” Dad says.

“What about Claire?” I ask.

“I’m about to wake her up. She’s coming with us.”

“Is that the best idea?”

“I don’t know,” he says. “But Grandma and Gramps are meeting us there.” Even in the darkness, I can see the redness in his eyes.

“Okay.” I get up and turn on the lights in my room. I find a pair of jeans, throw on a T-shirt and a hoodie. I walk into the hallway and bump into Claire, my ten-year-old sister. At this hour, she resembles a zombie—her eyes are barely open, and she’s stumbling toward the bathroom. I change course and walk to the other bathroom downstairs.

Once my eyes adjust to the light, I splash warm water on my face. I stare into the mirror. My blue eyes are surrounded by dark circles.

“Jake, are you ready?”

“Yeah, Dad.” I open the door and walk to the kitchen. I look at Claire and give my dad a questioning look. He shakes his head from side to side, and I know Claire has no idea why we are heading to the hospital. I don’t know either, but I’ve learned to expect the worst.

The warm, humid air smacks me in the face when we walk outside to the car. I take off the hoodie immediately but carry it with me. The hospital is a cold place.

The drive is only fifteen minutes. At this point, I am confident that my father and I could drive here with our eyes closed. The car ride is silent except for Claire’s light breathing in the back seat. I wish I could fall asleep like she does. Honestly, I wish I could fall asleep and wake up to a new reality—a new life where my mother isn’t dying.

We pull into an empty parking garage. Dad hurries us out of the car to the front entrance. We sign in, get our visitor badges, and head for the intensive care unit. Claire is almost running to keep up with us. Dad’s pace worries me even more.

We pull open the doors to the ICU waiting room. Grandma and Gramps are waiting inside.

“Jake, why don’t you sit with Claire for a few minutes in here?” Dad says. I nod. Dad, Gramps, and Grandma walk through the double doors to the ICU.

“All right Claire, let’s find something on TV to watch.” I know I usually can find cartoons around channel 40. I walk up to the TV and flip channels until I find something suitable. I glance up at Claire.

“Will this work?”

“Sure,” she says. “Jake, what’s going on with Mom?” Her wide-open eyes plead for the truth.

“I don’t know Claire, but I don’t think it’s good,” I say. I look at her, wondering if she comprehends what I don’t have the heart to tell her. We both stare at the television. Minutes pass, but it feels like hours.

When the double doors open, Claire and I both jump. We turn and look, but we tune back into the television when we realize it’s not our father. Another few minutes pass before the doors open again. My father calls to me; Gramps and Grandma join Claire on the couch.

As I approach, I notice Dad’s face is flushed, and his eyes are puffy. I take a deep breath.

“The doctors say this is it. Mom’s organs are shutting down, and it is time to say good-bye,” he says, looking at the floor.

“But she was awake and talking a couple days ago,” I say.

“I know, son. But her body is giving out. There’s nothing else they can do.”

“No. She’s come back from this state before.”

“And it was a miracle. We had more time with her. But this is it.” My father reaches for me and pulls me in. I protest, trying to keep up a tough-guy image, but after a moment, I give in. A few tears well and drip onto my shirt. I back away and regain composure. I have known this day was possible for a month now, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

The doors open; I remember Claire.

“Claire,” I mumble. “What do we tell her?”

“We tell her the truth,” Dad answers. “She needs to say her good-bye, too.”

“It will crush her.” I am losing my mother at seventeen, but Claire is only ten. I am entering my senior year of high school this year; I’m almost an adult. Claire has so much more growing up to do. And now it’s without Mom. I can’t bear to think about it.

“Hey, we are going to make it through this,” Dad says, grabbing my shoulders and looking into my eyes. “We are going to be okay.”

I look back at him. It’s hard to believe him at this moment.

We walk into the waiting room. Dad motions to Gramps, who moves to a new chair, and Dad sits next to Claire on the couch.

“Claire, we need to say good-bye to Mom now. It’s her time to go home,” he says. Dad waits for a response from Claire, but she says nothing.

What really is there to say?

“Is she awake?” Claire asks, breaking the long silence.

“No, dear. The doctors have her sleeping so she isn’t in pain. But you can still say good-bye. She will hear you.” I can’t listen anymore. I stand up and walk to the other side of the room and sit down at a table. I take out my iPhone and play the latest mind-numbing game. I don’t want to think right now.

“Jake, c’mon,” Grandma says. My family is moving in the direction of the double doors. I stand up and walk through them.

My father leads us to Mom’s room with Claire at his side. The nurse tells us to take our time and to tell her when we are ready. The room is eerily quiet except for the beeps of the machines and her ventilator. My father walks to the left side of the bed and takes Mom’s hand. Claire stays at our father’s side, clutching his other hand. My grandparents walk to the opposite side of the bed. Gramps lays his hand on Mom’s shoulder, and Grandma takes Mom’s right hand. I watch from the foot of the bed, trying to ignore every inclination that is telling me to run away from this scene.

“I wish I didn’t have to say good-bye to you,” Grandma whispers.

“We love you,” Gramps says. He gives his daughter a kiss on the forehead and takes Grandma’s free hand. Grandma whispers something into Mom’s ear and kisses her on the cheek. She releases her grip on my mother, nods to my father, and turns for the door. Grandma takes my hand as she passes and squeezes it before exiting the room.

“Jake, why don’t you take Mom’s other hand,” Dad says. I take Grandma’s spot next to the bed. Mom’s hand feels strangely warm.

“Claire, it’s time to say good-bye,” Dad says softly. Claire looks at him and then to our mother.

“Good-bye, Mom,” she says. She turns away from Mom and buries her face into my father’s side. I hear the sniffles; I need to escape this place.

“I’m sorry, Mom.” I walk out of the room, through the double doors, out of the ICU, and into the hospital hallways. I hear my name, but I don’t stop. I am almost running by the time I pass the desk at the entrance. I shove open the doors and step into the fresh air.

Compared to the dry, cold hospital air, the summer humidity has never felt so good. I walk to the other side of the building, out of immediate sight from the hospital entrance, and collapse to the ground.

I breathe in the fresh air. Peeks of light are breaking through the sky. The sun is beginning to rise. I stare at the sky, wanting this day to end.

“Jake, it will be okay,” Claire says, walking toward me. “But we have to say good-bye.” I see my grandparents waiting at the corner. Claire offers her hand to help me off the ground. It’s almost comical; there is no way her tiny frame could support me. But I can’t deny her gesture. I grab her hand and stand up.

“I’m so tired of all this, Claire. I’m tired of all this hurt,” I say as I walk with her to our grandparents.

“I know,” she says. “Me, too.”

My grandparents say nothing, and we walk back in the hospital, down the white hallway, through the double doors, into my mother’s room. My father is still next to her, stroking her forehead and whispering to her. When we approach, he waves us in. The beeps of the machines and the rhythm of the ventilator have disappeared.

“It’s time,” he says. I know I can’t escape this time. I walk to Mom’s free side. I grab her hand. It has already lost some of its warmth.

“I love you, and I will miss you,” I whisper. I squeeze her hand. Claire walks over to me and grabs my other hand. My grandparents stand at the foot of the bed. The nurse stands behind them.

We watch and wait. Mom’s breathing is labored. I can see it’s a struggle for her without the machines. I glance at the monitors behind Dad. The heartbeat blip is taking longer each time. I can’t believe she is fading so quickly. I look at Claire. She is staring at Mom with tears in her eyes, but for some reason she is smiling. Gramps has his arm wrapped around Grandma. I hear a slight gasp, and I turn back to Mom.

“It’s okay, honey. Let go,” Dad says to her. I hear one last breath before I notice the flat line on the monitor above him. We stand for a few more minutes, hoping for a miracle.

The nurse moves into the room.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” she says. She looks at Claire and me. “Your mom was a fighter.” She nods to my father.

“It’s time to go home,” he says. He gives his wife one last kiss on the cheek and stands up slowly. He waits by the door as Gramps and Grandma give their daughter one last hug. When they finish, Claire nudges me to the side. She walks up to Mom and whispers in her ear.

“Enjoy the stars, Mom.”

Mom’s hand is freezing now. I can’t believe her body is cold already. I have nothing left inside me, no words to say. I turn and walk away.

My father, sister, grandma, and grandpa walk through the double doors for the final time. We exchange no words, only tears and sniffles. As we walk through the hospital, I examine the white hallways I’ve memorized over the past few months. I don’t want to see these hallways ever again. When we pass by the front desk, the woman tells us to have a good day. Nobody responds.

The doors slide open in front of us. The sun has risen, and the brightness is blinding. I feel a small hand grab mine.

“The sun is up,” Claire says with a smile.

“Yes, it is.”

“It’s going to be okay,” she says.

“Huh?”

“Mom said as long as the sun rises every day, we will be okay,” Claire says, releasing my hand. She runs forward and grabs Dad’s hand. I hear her tell Dad the same thing. Her words are something Mom would say. I stop for a minute. I hear birds chirping amid the sounds of the street and cars. I see my family walking in front of me. Claire is now skipping. I look up at the sky, the few scattered clouds, and the bright ball of sun. I take a step forward.

 

 


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The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Thanksgiving

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Today’s post is a chapter in The Adventures of Zelda: The Second Saga which will be released in late December or early January. Share this story with your friends and family to get a laugh or two!

A Pug Thanksgiving

When Hannah told me we were going to see Tucker and Whitney, I was super excited. I couldn’t wait to play with them and chase Jack Jack the cat. Now that I have arrived, my excitement is waning. The house is filled to the brim with people of all sizes- from tiny children to giant men. Anywhere I go, someone wants to pet my head or pick me up. Ben and Lucy are running around with other children; Hannah and Nate are ignoring me. I can’t escape the madness.

With all the commotion in the house, I follow the lead of Tucker and Whitney. I curl up on the couch next to Whitney in between two unfamiliar bodies. I try to fall asleep, but the noise in the house is deafening. It’s no use. I get up and wander towards the kitchen, following my nose. The smell is overwhelming, but in the best possible way. I wonder what they are cooking.

The kitchen is busy with activity; I have to walk carefully to avoid being trampled. My nose leads me in front of the oven. Unfortunately, the oven is in the center of the kitchen, surrounded by moving feet. I take a step back and try to see in the oven, but I am too short to look in the window.

I see a foot coming towards me and I jump to the right. I can’t stay in the kitchen any longer if I want to stay in one piece. I walk back to the couch and jump next to Tucker. From this spot, I have the perfect vantage point of the kitchen. I sit and wait, hoping to see what is giving off the delicious odor.

Not long after I sit down, the kitchen mysteriously clears. Most of the group vacates to the living room. I leave my spot on the couch, and someone claims my seat moments later. I don’t mind. I’m willing to give it up to figure out what is cooking in the kitchen.

I walk straight to the oven and stand on my hind legs. The oven is warm to the touch on my paws. I look into the window. The window is dark, but I can make out the outline of something. It is big and sort of round with a pale color. I have never seen anything like it. Honestly, it looks disgusting. I jump off the oven, disappointed.

How could something so ugly smell so good?

I wander around the kitchen looking for scraps. I find a few bits of cheese and crackers under the table before returning to the living room. A spot is open next to Hannah, so I claim it and lie down.

I can’t sleep with the noise and activity. After what seems like an eternity of trying to fall asleep, Hannah carefully gets off the couch and heads to the kitchen. I follow her.

“Is the bird ready to take out?” she asks.

Bird? That’s one big bird.

“I think so.”

“Great! That means it’s almost dinner time,” she says. “Z, come here.” She walks away from the oven to the other side of the kitchen.

We watch as Nate’s dad opens the oven door and reaches inside. He pulls out something completely different than what I saw. It is golden brown, almost a pug color brown. It looks moist and tender. And, oh my, the smell. It reminds me of chicken, but tastier. I need to get a piece.

“The turkey looks and smells great,” Hannah says as Nate’s dad places it on the table.

Turkey? What kind of bird is a turkey?

I hop onto a chair in the kitchen and stare at the magnificent cooked turkey bird. While I fixate on it, the rest of the kitchen is a blur. People are moving everywhere and carrying food to the table, to the counter, and back again. They are shouting to one another and laughing, so I sit and wait. The turkey bird is unreachable at the moment, but at some point I know an opportunity will arise for me to take a sample bite. Or two. Or three.

I watch as Nate’s dad cuts up the turkey bird. I am a little sad watching the giant bird being dismantled into bite-sized pieces. But, in the long run, I know it’s better for me if it is sliced. It’s a lot easier for me to get my paws on a slice, than on the whole big turkey bird.

All of the food, including slices of the bird, is resting on the counter in the middle of the kitchen. It’s impossible for me to reach the counter unless someone lifts me up. Eventually the food will move to plates around the table and the opportunity will come.

The seats are filling up around me. Children and adults are staking their claim on chairs. I know it’s only a matter of time before someone sits on me, so I hop to the ground. I look for the kids’ section of the table, the gold mine for scavenging.

Lucy sits down on the far end of the long table. The table is the longest I have ever seen. You could have twenty pugs sitting on chairs! Sitting next to Lucy is a boy smaller than her. He is the lucky winner today; he will be my helper on the turkey quest.

In a few minutes, the room is quiet and the table is full with people and plates. I sit next to the small boy and wait. He eats for a few minutes and then stops. He backs his chair up.

“Christopher, you need to eat more before you get up,” a woman says from across the room.

“But Mom, I’m not hungry,” the boy says.

“You need to eat the rest of your turkey and potatoes.” The boy looks at his plate. I take my opportunity. I walk over to the far side of him, hidden from his mom’s view. I put my front paws on his lap.

“Hi Zelda,” he whispers.

This is it. I know it.

I leap on to his lap. My head is at table height, but I can’t reach the turkey. I put a paw on the table.

“Zelda, down,” Hannah yells from the far end of the table.

It’s now or never.

I put my other paw on the plate and reach for the slice of turkey. I grab for it with my mouth, but as I put my weight on my front paws, the plate flips toward me. The turkey flies to me and I catch it in my mouth. I leap off the table and on to the ground out of the way. With the turkey in my mouth, I look up.

Uh oh.

The plate is upside down on the boy’s lap.

I’m in trouble.

I bolt for the living room, but I slow down when I hear laughter. I stop and turn, setting the turkey on the floor. The table is erupting with laughter; I am okay. I listen to the conversation as I take my first bite.

“I can’t believe what just happened.”

“Zelda must have really wanted some turkey.”

“Christopher, let’s get you cleaned up.”

“This will be something to remember for years.”

I savor the turkey. It does remind me of chicken, but juicier. After the first bite, I gobble the rest of it in seconds.

“Happy Thanksgiving Zelda,” Nate shouts. The table laughs. I lick my lips and smile.


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Zelda Meets Squeaks the Squirrel

This month’s short story is the 6th of The Adventures of Zelda series. I am excited to announce I have now written all 12 stories which will make up the first collection of The Legend of Zelda stories. The first collection includes 6 stories not published on the blog such as Zelda vs. the Skatepark and Zelda vs. Jack Jack. With the writing done, I’m moving into the compiling, final edits, and cover design phases. More details will come in April, but for now, enjoy Zelda Meets Squeaks the Squirrel.

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Only a few leaf piles remain on the tree lawns in our neighborhood. Every day the breeze becomes a little bit colder, and I realize winter is around the corner.

With winter on its way, I spend as much time outside as possible kicking leaf piles and taking walks. The squirrels are busy collecting nuts in the trees at the far edge of the yard. Some days I lie in the grass and watch them jump from branch to branch, wishing I could join their fun.

I notice a new squirrel scent in the backyard. The squirrel scents are usually concentrated along the tree line on far edge of our backyard. This scent, however, is not along the tree line. I smell one squirrel in two new spots–behind our garage and at the oak tree bordering the patio. I wonder why the squirrel ventured so far into my territory on its own.

My curiosity gets the best of me, and I change my backyard habits to investigate the mysterious squirrel. When I am outside, I run first to the backyard to see if I can spot the squirrel. So far, I haven’t had any luck, so I start surveillance of the backyard through the kitchen window. An hour into my stakeout, I notice something brown and fluffy in the oak tree.

Squirrel!

I stand with my front paws on the windowsill, watching the squirrel’s every move. When I hear a car pull into the driveway, I know it’s the perfect opportunity. I run to the back door. Moments later, Ben opens the door, and I run outside.

“Zelda, no!” Ben says. But, it’s too late. I am in the backyard beelining for the oak tree. I am about ten pugs’ length away when the squirrel runs from the tree to the ground. I chase after the squirrel, but I can’t catch him in time. He darts up a tree and perches on top of a branch. I gaze up at the squirrel, and he starts squeaking and screeching. I bark and kick the ground.

“Zelda, come!” Nate yells. He is walking towards me with a bag of treats.

Treats! Forget the squirrel!

I sprint to Nate, and he gives me a few treats.  We walk inside. After enjoying my snack, I remember the squirrel. I walk to the back window and look out, but he is gone.

After our encounter, I decide to call the squirrel Squeaks. I look for Squeaks day and night, inside and outside. I sit on the kitchen chair, staring out the window for any signs of him. Most days, I end up falling asleep by accident. But I am determined to stay awake today. I sit in my chair, scanning the yard for movement.

My eyes are blurring when a flash of brown appears in the corner of my eye. I focus my eyes on the brown flash. Squeaks runs down the oak tree and towards the garage. I can’t see Squeaks when he moves behind the garage, but he only stays behind the garage for a moment, before running back to the oak tree. Squeaks repeats the pattern five times, and then he disappears into the woods. I can’t figure out what he is doing.

When Nate takes me outside later, I pull him to the back of the garage. I follow Squeaks scent to a small pile of acorns–Squeaks’ secret acorn stash.

I realize I have an important decision to make.

I break for the oak tree, dragging Nate behind me. I find an acorn, scoop it into my mouth, and run to the stash next to the garage. I place the acorn in the pile and run back to the tree. I grab another acorn; I bring it back to the stash. I place my third acorn in the pile before Nate grows tired of walking in circles with me. He leads me inside.

Over the next two days, I add more and more acorns to the stash. My family has caught on to my routine. They let me stay outside longer, so I can collect more acorns.

“Why is Zelda collecting acorns?” Lucy asks.

“Because Zelda thinks she is a squirrel,” Nate says.

“But Zelda is a wrinkly pug. Why does she think she is a squirrel?” Lucy asks.

“I don’t know dear,” Nate says. Lucy asks more questions, and I know my family thinks I am crazy or confused.

A few days later, I spot Squeaks from my kitchen chair. I start scratching at the front door, and Hannah leashes me to take me outside. I am so excited to see Squeaks that I start sprinting for the backyard. I turn the corner to the back of the house and see Squeaks at the bottom of the tree. He runs for the tree line. I am disappointed and out of breath, so I stop running. Squeaks disappears into the woods. I return inside, sad I didn’t have the opportunity to meet Squeaks.

I sulk and sleep away the new few days. I give up my backyard surveillance, and I ignore the acorn stash. Maybe I was naive to think Squeaks and I could become friends.

 

A week later, Squeaks is a distant memory. I meander into the backyard with Hannah to do my business, like any other day. As I look for the perfect spot, Squeaks’ scent fills my nostrils. I follow my nose toward the tree line. I hear a squeak and gaze into the tree. Squeaks is perched on a branch above my head with an acorn in his mouth.

Clunk! 

The acorn hits me on my forehead wrinkles. Squeaks starts making lots of noise.

Is he laughing at me?

I think he is. Squeaks runs across his branch to another tree, darts down the tree, and races back up the tree above my head. I look up to see he has another acorn. I’m not falling for that twice! I scamper to the right, and the acorn falls to my left. Squeaks leaps to a nearby tree branch and runs down the trunk. I run to the tree and meet him at the bottom of the trunk. Squeaks and I arrive simultaneously. We are looking into each others’ eyes. I freeze, unsure what to do.

Squeaks makes the first move. He grabs another acorn, runs back up the tree, and finds his place above me. I stay still. Clunk!  Squeaks makes more noise. I air kick below him, kicking leaves, dirt, and grass everywhere. I hear more squeaking and look above. Squeaks is smiling. I smile back and look into Squeaks’ eyes. He returns the eye contact, implying we are not enemies–we are friends.

“Z, time to go inside,” Hannah yells. I bark a goodbye to Squeaks and trot back inside.


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Zelda vs. the Snowman

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Today’s post is the fifth installment in the Adventures of Zelda series. If you are a new reader, I encourage you to catch up with the links below! 

Beginnings

Zelda vs. the Leaf Pile

A Pug Christmas Story

Zelda vs. Gannondorf the Tapeworm

Zelda vs. the Snowman

“Dad, it’s snowing!” Ben shouts. Lucy and I are in bed, wrapped in warm blankets. With winter in full swing, I find myself staying under the blankets much of the day.

“I wonder how Zelda will react to the snow,” Nate says to Ben while he sips his coffee.

“She needs to go out anyway, why don’t you take her and find out?” Hannah says from the kitchen. The word “out” sends me running to the front door.

“Okay, let me find some warm clothes,” Nate says. I run in circles around Nate while he puts on his shoes, a giant red coat, and something black on his head.

“Are you ready, Zelda?” he asks. My tail wags furiously.

Nate attaches the leash and opens the front door. I dash out the door onto the porch and freeze.

White stuff covers the ground and the trees. I slowly walk down the steps from the porch. The white stuff is cold yet soft; my paws sink into it. I am not sure I like the feeling. I turn around and head back to the door.

“Back inside already? Don’t like the snow?” Nate says. Snow. That must be the name for the white stuff.

“I don’t think Z likes the snow,” Nate says. “She took one step and ran inside.”

“She has to like the snow. All dogs like snow,” Ben says.

“Zelda isn’t a normal dog,” Hannah shouts from the kitchen.

“Nope, she’s better than a normal dog with her wrinkly face, curly tail, and snorts,” Ben yells back. He grabs my owl and throws it. Without hesitation, I fetch it and bring it to him.

“See Mom, Zelda is a great dog,” Ben mutters.

Ben and I play until Lucy wakes up and wanders into the living room. I snuggle up with her on the couch and start snoring.

I wake up later in the day and look out the window. The snow covers the yard. How long does this stuff last? To make it worse, small drops of snow are falling from the sky. I can’t avoid the snow forever. I will have to go out. Hannah walks into the living room and sees me staring out the window.

“Do you want to go for a walk in the snow?” Hannah asks with a book in her hand. No, not really,but I walk to the front door anyway.

“Okay Zelda, I’ll take you, let me find your hoodie to keep you warm.” Hannah walks over to Vacuum’s closet and opens the door. I sprint to the door and bark at Vacuum until Hannah pushes me out of the way and closes the door. In her hand is a pug-sized blue shirt. She grabs me and slides the shirt over my head and my front paws. I immediately hate wearing the shirt. I feel like my front paws can’t move normally, and I probably look ridiculous, but I cannot get the thing off me. I sigh and walk to the door.

The snow is higher than earlier, almost to my stomach. As I walk, I forget about the coldness of the snow and begin to like its softness. I run through the snow, letting it splash around me. Hannah and I run down the sidewalk together.

We stop at the corner, mostly because I’m out of breath. When I stop moving, a cold wind blows, and I’m thankful for the blue shirt. As we walk back home, my curiosity about the snow grows.

Can I eat it?

I take a quick bite as we walk. The snow melts in my mouth and refreshes my dry throat. I stop for more and more mouthfuls on the way. When we arrive home, I dash indoors to warm up. The snow stuff is actually fun, in short bursts.

During the evening, Nate takes me for another walk. The sky is dark, but the snow casts a faint glow; it’s eerily quiet outside. We walk down the street on the sidewalk. The wind is blowing harder than earlier, and when we reach the corner, I’m shivering. Nate doesn’t notice my shaking, so we continue down the street further.

Up ahead, I notice a large shadow in someone’s yard. The shadow grows and begins to take shape as we approach. The shadow is cast from a man, who is almost as tall as Nate. The man is made of snow, but much rounder than Nate or Hannah. He has stone black eyes and mouth, stick arms, a scarf, and shoes. I don’t know this man is, and I don’t want to find out. I turn around and start walking the other way.

“Zelda, this way,” Nate says. I pull him the opposite way, but Nate resists. “C’mon girl.” I bark a few times and try again in the opposite direction of the shadow. “Okay, okay,” he says as he follows my lead.

“How was your walk?” Hannah asks as we walk in the door.

“A little short, but I think Z was cold. And she may be afraid of a snowman,” Nate says to Hannah.

“Wait, Zelda, let me take this off,” Nate says as he pulls the shirt off me. I lick his hands, find a spot on the couch on top of the fuzzy blanket, and fall asleep.

Suddenly, I am running down the street through the snow. Something is chasing me. I look back as I run, and I see it. The man with stone black eyes is gliding down the street after me. I try to run faster, but the snow is deep, slowing me down.

“Zelda.” I hear my name and open my eyes. I’m lying on the couch without a snowman in sight. It must have been a nightmare.

“Sleepy-time,” says Lucy. I slowly get up and move to Lucy’s bed. I lie under the covers next to her.

I have trouble sleeping that night. I can’t stop thinking about the man with black eyes. The man haunts me in my dreams. When sunlight shines through the window the next morning, I am grateful.

Not long after I wake up, Hannah takes me on our morning walk. I lead her on the same route as the previous night. At the corner, my heart starts beating faster. I know we are getting close. I continue forward, but at a slower pace. From a distance, I see the white mounds rising out of the ground.

I stop several feet in front of the man. His white body glimmers in the daylight and his black eyes pierce into me. I start barking.

“Zelda, it’s okay, it’s just a snowman,” Hannah whispers. “He can’t hurt you.” I want to believe Hannah, yet my instincts are telling me otherwise. I back away from the snowman, but Hannah pulls me closer. She walks right next to the snowman and touches his body with her hand. The snowman doesn’t move an inch.

“Cmon, girl, it’s okay,” she says. I walk closer and closer. I take bites of snow along the way. I can’t help it; I eat when I’m nervous.

The snowman stands motionless, and I take a few more steps under Hannah’s reassurance. I am next to the snowman. I take a bite of the snowman’s belly. The snow is delicious and refreshing.

Wait a minute, I just bit the snowman!

I back away slowly, scared of the snowman’s reaction. The snowman’s black eyes stare at me, but he doesn’t move.

I inch closer. No movement. Now I am standing next to the snowman. I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t stop myself. I take a bite of the snowman, then another bite, and another, and another.

“Zelda, leave it! Stop eating the snowman!” Hannah says in between laughs. She pulls me away from the snowman, back to the sidewalk. I run forward and lead the way, stopping occasionally for mouthfuls of snow or a good scent. When we return home, I am exhausted. I curl up on the couch. I won’t have any more nightmares tonight, just sweet dreams of eating a giant snowman.