June 15, 1966
Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. Well, actually I’m reporting from the swimming hole out in the county. A lake swimming hole. A beautiful place to swim and now that school is officially out – Yay!! – I can go swimming there with a couple of girls from church. Their grandparents own a house alongside the lake. Betty and Candace are great fun. And good swimmers too. I took some pictures before I hung my camera up in a tree way back from the water. Then I jumped in too. Took my breath but in a positively fabulous way.
I love getting in the water. I’m not great at swimming like Betty and Candace, so I stay where the water’s not over my head. Drowning isn’t on my to-do list for summer. Swim lessons are. Candace tells me anybody can learn to tread water but first you have to get in the deep water to learn. Seems like to me that makes for a little problem. You know, like drowning in water over your head while you’re trying to learn to do something to keep from drowning.
So, I’m learning that this summer at the pool. I know I’m kind of big for swimming lessons, but Dad says I can act like an undercover reporter and learn to swim while getting the story. Dad’s the best. Anyway, at the pool, you have a side to grab hold of if things get dicey. Like you sinking to the bottom of the pool. I can sort of dog paddle, but I like to imagine myself swimming across the pool with graceful even strokes. I picture some kind of Olympian swimmer.
But the imagination sometimes works better than reality. Even a choppy swimmer is better than a no swimmer.
I’m using a little more imagination to see what’s going on with Bailey and friends this week. They are nearing the end of their adventure.
BAILEY’S BUG by Jocie Brooke
(Last week Bailey and Lucinda had about given up hope. Skelley is trying to straighten them out.)
“For a truth, I’m surprised at the both of you.” Skelley lifted his head to stare at them. “After all the three of us have come through, ye let one minor discouragement get you down.”
The tip of Lucinda’s tail twitched back and forth faster and faster. Bailey summoned his courage and spoke up before she jumped on Skelley with her claws bared.
“But what can we do?” Bailey said. “Reid didn’t know me. He patted my head and didn’t know me.”
“Folks have their shortcomings, for a truth. Even me own master had a few. Ye just have to come up with a way to get your boy to open his eyes a tad wider.”
“How?” Bailey asked.
“Do a trick only ye would know to do. Something he taught you. In the circus, we each had our own special trick that nobody else did. Signature tricks me master called them. Me, I walked on me front paws, easy as pie. Always made the children laugh.”
“But I don’t know any tricks.” Bailey thought about the red plastic toy he used to chase, but it was back at the Robinsons’ house.
The tip of Lucinda’s tail stopped twitching angrily. Now her whole tail swayed back and forth. “You could be right, Skelley,” she said after a minute. “All may not be totally lost.”
“I knew ye would see the possibilities, Miss Lucinda.” Skelley sounded pleased but tired. “Me thinks I’d best lie down a while. I’m feeling a wee bit strange.”
The old dog collapsed on the ground with a huff of breath. He kept his head up for another moment to stare at Bailey. “Ye do know a trick, lad. Ye told me about it yourself. How your young master taught you the circus trick where Miss Lucinda rode on your back.”
“That’s it.” Lucinda sounded like somebody had just given her a can of tuna. “It was such a complete disaster Reid would have to remember it.”
At the sound of hope in Lucinda’s voice, Bailey’s tail started swishing through the leaves again. For a few seconds, he thought about how she’d stayed up on the top bookshelf for hours after they tried the trick, but decided against mentioning that. Instead, he started to thank Skelley for getting them to thinking right again. But Skelley’s eyes were closed and his ribs were shuddering with every breath.
Bailey crept over beside him, but Skelley still didn’t open his eyes. “But you have to go with us. We can’t leave you here.”
Skelley eased open his eyes. “Ye won’t have to, lad. I’ll be leaving you first.”
“What do you mean?” Bailey asked.
Lucinda moved closer too. “We need you, Skelley. To be our ringmaster to make sure we do the trick right.”
“For a truth, I’d like that. Even without me master’s baton.” Skelley raised his head a bit to look at her. “But this adventure is over for me. I’m ready to start a new one.”
“You can’t go on an adventure without us,” Bailey said.
“The two of ye aren’t ready for this adventure, Bailey me lad.” Skelley raised his head up and his ears perked up. “Do ye hear the music?”
Bailey and Lucinda looked at each other. There was no music.
Skelley wobbled his head back and forth as though keeping time with some tune and got a dreamy look in his eyes. “Tis our coming on song. I’ll be having to go. I see my master waving me on.”
The old dog laid his head on his paws and closed his eyes. He looked to be asleep, but his bones weren’t trembling the way they usually did when he slept. His chest was too still.
Bailey gently nudged Skelley with his nose, but the old dog took no notice. Lucinda swiped at Bailey to make him back away. Then she leaned down and washed the old dog’s face with her tongue. Bailey raised his nose to the sky and howled once, long and sad. Then he rested his nose lightly on Skelley’s back.
For just a second, he thought he heard circus music. Bailey shut his eyes and there was Skelley. He looked young as he ran out to jump through the hoops his master held while a host of children laughed and clapped.
(To be continued. Remember, you can read the whole story under Bailey’s Bug up at the top of this article.)