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The Roadside Box

The wind howled, the rain bombarded, and the thunder rolled through the skies. A mile away from the Johnson house, a box abandoned on the side of the road. Coming from the box was desperate yelping.

Greg Johnson, a man in his early thirties, drove cautiously along the slick roads. As he neared his home, Greg noticed a cardboard box shifting on the edge of the road. He slowed down, pulled off to the side, rushed over to the box. Greg was an arm's length away from the box, when it toppled over. Suddenly, a drenched animal jumped out, and it frantically ran down the street. Greg started chasing the animal. It was getting tired and slowed down, and Greg caught the puppy by the collar.
"Gotcha."
Greg carried the distressed puppy back to his car. Both of them were completely soaked and shivering uncontrollably. Once inside the car, Greg blasted the heat and drove home.
"Lucy?" Greg called out.
"In the kitchen," Lucy answered.
Greg walked into the kitchen with the puppy cradled in his arms.
"What is that?" Lucy asked.
"I found him on the road coming home."
“And?" Lucy asked.
"Well, I was thinking we could keep him."
"We can't do that. What if he belongs to someone around town? We should take him to the shelter." Lucy said.
"Oh yeah, I'm sure the person that put him in the box and left him on the side of the road was planning on coming back,” Greg said sarcastically.
"I just don't think now is really the best time to bring a puppy into our home."
"Why not?" Greg wondered.
Their four month old daughter, Zoe, started crying.
"That's why." Lucy said and rushed into Zoe's room.
Greg carried the puppy into the bathroom, washed him, and dried him off.
"There. Now you're presentable. She can't say no to that face," Greg said to the puppy.
It was true; there was nothing more adorable than a German Shepard puppy. He still had all his puppy fur, which made him look like a giant fuzz ball. As Greg continued talking to the puppy, he realized that he needed a name. He considered the possibilities and thought of the puppy's sad, short past. Then, it came to Greg.
Greg walked to Zoe's room carrying the puppy.
"Come on, Lucy. Look at him."
Lucy, too tired to argue said, "Alright, we can keep him...for now, but he is on trial."
"Thanks honey. Do you want to know his name?" Greg asked.
"Sure. What's his name?" Lucy asked.
"Thunder," Greg said proudly, "Do you want to know why?" He was like a child begging for attention.
"Sure. Why?" Lucy asked, playing along.
"Because as soon as thunder sounded, he jumped out of the box and started running."
"Clever." Lucy answered.
Greg glanced at the clock. It was 7:45. If he rushed, he could run out to the local pet store and pick up some items.
"I need to buy some supplies for Thunder. I'll be back,” Greg said.
"Don't leave him with me. Take him with you. I have my hands full." Lucy said as she started mixing formula for Zoe.
"Fine by me," said Greg and he scooped up Thunder.
"I'll be back in a few minutes," Greg said over his shoulder as he walked out to his car.
Greg and Thunder entered the pet store. He picked up a forty pound bag of puppy chow, a small bed, two bowls, a collar, and a leash.
The cashier started ringing Greg up. He asked, "New puppy?"
Greg, "Yeah, picked him up on the side of the road."
The cashier peered at the puppy in Greg's arms, and then shook his head. He said, "You know, my wife and I just brought home a puppy too a few weeks ago."
Greg said, "No kidding. How's it going?"
The cashier replied, "Not too great." He grimaced and then went on, "My wife is really stressed with work, and our newborn twin girls. Right now she's not too happy having a rambunctious puppy running around the house. She practically threatened to throw our puppy out the other day after he whined all night, went to the bathroom on the carpet, and playfully bit our three year old son a little too hard." It felt good for him to talk about his problems to someone else. However, Greg wasn't too happy to hear this, and now the enormity of what he was getting himself into started sinking in. The cashier finished checking Greg out and offered to help him carry the stuff out to his car. Greg declined and left the pet store.

The cashier, Alex, closed up the store and drove home. Alex didn't like driving on the roads in such stormy weather, but more than that he didn't like the idea of arriving home. Lisa had just quit her job because she couldn't handle working a full-time job and trying to take care of their three children. However, working as a mom all day really had Lisa tuckered out by the end of the day, and Alex couldn’t blame her. He signed up for longer shifts at the pet store and started looking around for a second job. Alex pulled into the driveway, and powered off his car. He sighed and stared at his house; he didn’t want to leave his car. He saw the lights on in the house and could make out the outline of Lisa cooking in the kitchen. Alex figured he should go in and walked into the house.
Alex said, “Hey, I’m home.”
Lisa replied, “In the kitchen.”
Alex smelled spaghetti cooking. Lisa made the most delicious meat sauce in the world, and so the nights when she made spaghetti were his favorites.
Alex said, “Mmm, I smell meat sauce.” He came up to her and kissed her.
Lisa said, “How was your day?”
Alex said, “The usual. Yours?”
Lisa said, “Okay. The girls were pretty mellow today, and Sam went over to a friend’s house for most of the day.”
Speaking of Sam, he ran into the kitchen, “Daddy!”
Alex smiled and leaned down to pick him up, “There’s my big boy!”
Sam’s faced turned solemn, “Toby’s gone.” Alex put Sam back on the floor.
Alex asked, “What?”
Lisa turned around and scolded him, “Sam, I told you not to tell Daddy. Go to your room right now.” Sam scrunched up his face, started crying, and ran to his room.
Alex asked, “What is Tim talking about?”
Lisa said, “Well…”
Alex, “Is he hurt? Was he stolen? Did he escape?”
Lisa said, “Not exactly.”
Alex started setting the table, as Lisa continued to talk.
Lisa said, “Today, Toby ran out in the backyard and began digging up all my plants, and after I scolded him, he sulked around and then peed on our living room carpet. When I tried to put him in his crate, he just whined until he woke up the girls. Finally, I got so fed up, that I put him in a box and drove towards the pound.”
Alex said, “So he’s at the pound!?”
Lisa said, “Let me finish. While I was driving, Toby climbed out of his box, jumped into my lap, and spilled my coffee all over the car. I was so irritated by then, that I just pulled over, put him in his box, and left him there.”
“What!” said Alex and continued, “How long ago? What were you thinking?”
Lisa said, “Only about an hour ago. But I felt really bad about what I’d done after about five minutes later and turned back around to get him, but he was gone and so was the box.”
Alex was speechless.
Lisa said, “Look, we can put up posters and go to the pound.”
Alex said, “Yeah. I’m not hungry. I think I’ll go for a walk.”
Lisa said, “I’m really sorry Alex. Please, have dinner with me, I made your favorite.”
Alex said, “I’ll be back soon.”
Lisa said, “But it’s so awful out there. You’ll catch a cold.”
Realizing that Lisa had a point, he decided to just go to the office. Lisa sighed and started eating.

In the office, he looked at pictures of Toby. Then, remembering Sam had run off crying, he left the office and walked to Sam’s room. He poked his head in. Sam was no longer crying. Instead, he was playing with his Legos.
Alex asked, “Hey, do you want to help me make posters to look for Toby?”
Sam grinned and nodded his head enthusiastically, “Yeah!”
With Sam trailing right behind him, Alex went back to the office and they started making posters.

Over the next week, Alex forgave Lisa. Lisa was in a better mood, and Alex hated to admit it, but he knew it was because their puppy wasn’t around. When Lisa was in a better mood, Alex was happier. On Saturday, while Alex was at work and was just about to close the store, a man came rushing in with his puppy bounding along next to him. Alex recognized the man, as the guy he had talked to a few weeks ago.
Alex said, “Hey.”
Greg said, “Hi.”
Alex asked, “How’s life with your puppy?”
Greg and Lucy loved their new addition to their family. Lucy was happy because Greg was now going on runs with Thunder and this was good for both Thunder and Greg. They had to be careful to keep Thunder away from their baby, Zoe, because even though Thunder was always gentle with Zoe, Greg and Lucy knew they needed to be watchful. Other than that, Thunder was a wonderful doggie.
Greg said, “It’s been good so far.”
Alex asked, “Can I help you find anything?”
Greg said, “Well, actually, I saw your posters around town, and I think this is your dog. Am I right?” It killed Greg to say this. He didn’t want to give up Thunder, and neither did Lucy. Lucy had grown really attached to Thunder and argued that Alex didn’t deserve to have Thunder since he had left him on the side of the road. In the end, they knew that they had to do the right thing: return their puppy over to his original owners.
Alex glanced over the counter. It was definitely Toby: the same markings, the same coloring, the same everything. He was surprised that he hadn’t recognized the puppy the last time Greg brought him. Then again, he remembered noticing the resemblance, but at that time, he was unaware that his own puppy was missing and therefore wasn’t on the lookout for Toby. Alex hesitated as he thought about how much easier life had become. Then, he thought about how happy his son, Sam, would be. Then, he wondered if Toby was happier with his new family. Greg saw this hesitation in Alex’s eyes. He heart leapt at the prospect that maybe Thunder wasn’t Alex’s dog.
Alex finally replied, “You know, I don’t think that’s my dog. Toby has lighter coloring. Thanks for asking.”
Greg was overjoyed and said, “Well then, I guess I’ll need to pick up some more things.” Greg went around the store and bought a crate, dog shampoo, treats, a few toys, and a brush. Alex rang up Greg and once Greg left he closed up the store.

Alex drove home, pulled into the driveway, got out of his car, and walked inside.
Alex said, “Hey honey, I’m home.”
Lisa walked out of the kitchen and greeted him with a quick kiss. Then she asked, “How was your day?”
Alex said, “Good. Yours?”
Lisa said, “Good. Any news about Toby?”
Alex paused, wondering whether or not to tell her. Alex said, “Nope.”
Lisa let out a sigh of relief.



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