Jesse's Girl - Cover

Jesse's Girl

Copyright© 2022 by Dyspneic

Chapter 7: Gaia’s Lesson

Jesse had just finished tightening the final ratchet strap, securing the Norton in the back of the toy hauler trailer that was backed up their driveway. Jav stood inside, next to it and ran a soft gloved hand across the tank.

“Man cuz!” he crooned, “you sure did right by this baby. She is almost too pretty to ride!”

Jesse nodded wistfully as he stood back and stared at the bike. He had finished painting it and reattached all the chrome parts before spending hours buffing and polishing it until it gleamed.

“That’s the problem Jav,” he admitted, “it looks so good now that I’m afraid to take it out. I’d die if something happened.”

Xavier carefully crawled out of the trailer and placed an understanding hand on Jesse’s shoulder. “It will be an awesome showpiece where your gramps is sending it.” Supposedly It was going to be put on display at the California Motorcycle Hall of Fame for a spell before making its way to Pickerington, Ohio to the big venue itself, the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum.

Grandpa Vincent offered to give him cash for it, but Jesse instead asked him to invest it with the rest of his trust fund. He didn’t trust himself with that much money around and he always made do with what he had. Frugal living had taught him many valuable lessons and he quite enjoyed turning trash into treasure.

It had been a month since the lawsuit and, at Maia’s urging, she and Jesse confronted their angry neighbor and offered to dismantle the fence for him, saving him the cost and headache. He responded by slamming his door in their faces, which they took as permission. It took them two days to remove all the boards and clear the area. Maia took over at that point and combed every nursery in the county for specific foliage that she was quite particular about. After generously applying her special ‘dirt’ and placing simple stakes along the ‘legal’ border, she planted her new canes.

Jesse was amazed at how hard she worked yet seemed so spry about the whole thing. She sang the entire time that she worked and placed her lovely feet over every square inch of the soil and yard they reclaimed. It came as no surprise to any of them that the canes had begun sprouting over night with tiny budding satellites.

It was midafternoon and Jessie was washing the Broncho down in preparation for final painting. He had been less than gentle with it on several off-road excursions, collecting mud on every surface as well as bugs of every persuasion. Maia took advantage of the opportunity and decided that Fug could use a nice bath as well. She looked tiny standing beside the huge dog in her bikini top and cut offs as she hosed him down and scrubbed his entire body with a natural shampoo that smelled lightly of honey and eucalyptus. While tolerant of the endeavor, Fug was neither helpful nor contrite about it when he nonchalantly shook gallons of soapy water all over her as she worked. Despite his best intentions he still came out clean and fragrant and refreshed.

“There,” she said, planting a big smooch on top of his dripping head, “doesn’t that feel so much better?”

Fug didn’t bother to comment other than a huff as he sought out a sunny patch of yard and flopped himself down onto it.

As she was gathering her bucket and soap, Maia turned suddenly and looked out onto the street. At that moment a blonde furry body appeared from the sidewalk and sat looking up the slight hill to her. It was another golden retriever with a dirty matted coat and dark stains around its eyes. It panted deeply and Jesse felt the curious sense of wrongness that Maia was expressing. He watched as she put down her things and walked over to the animal.

“Hi girl.” she said warmly as she reached out to let the dog lick her hand. “Where did you come from?” She knelt down and began touching her, feeling along her head and back. She reached under her and gasped. “Oh! Honey, you just had babies!” her voice was suddenly excited as she placed her forehead to the dog’s. “Where are your babies, girl?” she asked.

Jesse had a sudden sense of urgency, and he heard the retriever whine quietly. Maia looked back at him in alarm. “Baby something is wrong!” she stood and bent over the dog. “Take me to them, Momma.” she urged. “Take me to your babies!” Even Fug got up and sauntered down to them as Jesse shut off the hose and followed. Fug greeted the female with a brief nose to nose and then sat waiting.

The Golden rose to her feet and licked Maia once more, giving a faint sweep of her tail before turning back the way she came. They journeyed east past Mr. Sinclair’s house and continued for nearly a block. It was Thursday afternoon, so garbage cans lined the street for early morning pick up. She stopped at a decrepit looking driveway that led up to an equally run down home. The dog stopped and whined again, looking back at Maia and Jesse, her eyes were stained from the frequent tears that now leaked from them.

“Where are they?” Maia asked desperately. “Show me your babies!”

The female dog just panted at her forlornly and continued to whine. It was Fug who began pacing around the driveway sniffing before turning back and returning.

“What is it Fug?” Jesse asked. “Show us boy!”

Fug barked and lunged at the nearby garbage can, knocking it over. Maia screamed in horror as she realized what he was doing. As the can toppled, its contented spilled forth littering the driveway.

“Oh no!” Maia whimpered as Jesse ran to the refuse and began searching through it urgently. “No! No. No.” She breathed in a panicky voice as she struggled to comprehend what she was witnessing.

“They’re here!” Jesse shouted and pulled apart a garbage bag revealing the still damp little forms of the recent litter. “Oh sweet Goddess!” He cried as the smell assaulted his nose. Fighting the nausea, he picked through the bag and began collecting the still forms and setting them aside.

“NOOoo!” Maia shrieked at the top of her lungs, and she fell forward and began cradling the tiny bodies. Fug barked furiously in response to her anguish while the golden retriever looked on helplessly and whined.

“Hey!” an angry voice yelled from the house nearby. “What are you doing? Get out of there!” the voice belonged to a disheveled looking, middle-aged man. He was storming off his porch, wearing a filthy pair of jeans and a greasy, ripped wife-beater shirt. His hair was dirty and matted and he appeared as if he had just woken up. “Did you hear me, I said GET!” he got as far as the actual driveway before he found himself facing a very large and very angry red dog. Fug snarled and snapped at him aggressively, stopping him in his tracks with a terrified expression.

“How could you?” Maia screamed, turning on him as she cradled half a dozen of the tiny bodies to her bare midriff. Tears were pouring from her eyes as she gasped for breath. Jesse ignored the scene and continued combing through the garbage.

“Call off your dog!” the man screeched as he backed up.

“YOU KILLED THEM!” Maia’s anguish was terrible as she screamed back at him.

The disturbance drew the attention of several neighboring houses and people began appearing on the street to watch. Several phones began recording the debacle while others were being used to call the authorities.

“That’s my damn business! Now get gone!” he yelled back as he continued watching the giant dog in front of him. “Shasta! Come here girl!” he called angrily to the golden retriever.

“NEVER!” Maia screamed at him. “She is no longer yours, you MURDERER!” rer voice rang out clearly to all ears as she faced off with the filthy man. “You heartless, despicable excuse for a...”

“Maia!” Jesse called desperately, breaking off her tirade. He held up another tiny body in one hand while he cradle two more in his other. “I think this one is still alive!”

“Oh Goddess!” Maia cried as she reached out and traded her burden for his. She took the puppy in her hands and dropped to her knees as she placed her forehead to its tiny body. She closed her eyes and whispered a prayer to Gaia. The bystanders approached and gathered around them in a loose circle to watch. Their expressions were profoundly sad and horrified as Jesse sadly lay each of the still bodies on the grass nearby, arranging them in a line. It was heartbreaking to watch Shasta approach her litter and lay next to them, sniffing and licking each with soft whimpers.

Jesse stood protectively over Maia as she began humming and rocking her body with her eyes closed.

Sirens could be heard approaching from the distance and the dirty man began looking about at the angry faces regarding him. Fug growled deeply and stepped closer to him.

“Call off your dog! He’s gonna attack me!” he yelled.

“Shut up!” Jesse roared, turning on him angrily. “You murderous pig! Fug, stand down!” he ordered.

Fug immediately calmed and turned away to walk over to the female retriever and lay down nearby, watching her.

“Please mother! Let this one live!” Maia sobbed and gently pressed her lips against the tiny muzzle, puffing tiny breaths into it as she rubbed it’s coat gently. “Please, give me just this Gaia!” her voice was ragged as she prayed aloud.

Two squad cars pulled up and parked in the middle of the street. One was driven by the same African American officer who arrested Mr. Sinclair that fateful day. She was speaking into her radio as she walked up to the crowd. The spectators parted, letting her in and she approached Jesse and Maia. She saw the tiny bodies lined up along the sidewalk, the whining female retriever laying with her head beside them, and Fug resting nearby protectively. She glanced at Jesse and read his sad expression as he watched Maia intently. Seeing the frail puppy in her hands struggling to live, the officer turned to the other cop, a taller woman with bright red hair, and murmured something to her. The red-haired officer turned back to the crowd, while speaking into her radio requesting veterinary assistance.

“Who can tell me what’s going on here?” the black woman asked facing Jesse and Maia.

Jesse looked up and regarded her for a second. Her name tag read: Williams. He shrugged his shoulders and began telling her what happened. The homeowner interrupted, calling for their arrest for trespassing and threatening him with their ‘mangy dog’. Officer Williams didn’t even turn to him as she held up her hand to stop him. She was taking notes quickly as she prompted Jesse to continue.

Maia continued to whisper her prayers to Gaia as she breathed into the tiny little lungs. She was rewarded with a tiny sneeze from the creature in her hands and she smiled brightly at it as it squirmed in her hands. “That’s it baby girl!” she gasped between a laugh and a cry. “Keep fighting!” she looked over at Shasta with tear-stained eyes. “Hey Momma, look! She’s alive.” she crawled over and held the newborn to her mother. The Golden immediately began licking her baby and the crowd responded with eager praise and encouragement.

Officer Williams turned and approached the man in his yard. “Sir, is this your home?”

“Yes ma’am it is.” he replied sourly. “And those kids trespassed on...”

“What is your name?” she interrupted.

He balked and tried to stare her down. “I don’t need to tell you!” he drawled.

“Horace Johnson!” A bystander called. “His name is Horace Johnson.”

Williams nodded at the speaker and turned back to him. She was sickened by what she had already seen and heard, and he could tell she was not in the mood for any nonsense. “Are you Mr. Horace Johnson?” She asked coolly. Her radio crackled. “Media’s on scene.”

“Y—yes.” he stammered.

“Puppy killer!” someone called out from the crowd causing an angry chorus from the growing number of bystanders.

A news van rolled up right behind a mobile veterinary aid van. The camera crew and anchor rolled out like a well-oiled machine and began recording everything as the veterinary crew grabbed several large cases and walked through the crowd to the disorderly scene. An older woman with a lab coat and stethoscope paused as she saw the tiny bodies. “Oh good God!” she muttered loudly under her breath.

Jesse pointed down at Maia and the puppy in her hands, being cleaned affectionately by her mom. The Vet nodded and knelt down beside them. “Hi, I’m Dr. Amber Small.” she said softly. “May I please see the puppy?”

Maia nodded and gently handed her over to the woman. “She is very weak, but her spirit is strong now. She is very dehydrated though.”

“I can help with that.” Dr. Small replied confidently as she began examining the puppy.

Both police officers conferred, and escorted Mr. Johnson back up to his porch before grilling him about his actions and getting his side of the story. It was clear that the disposition of the crowd was sullen and angry. The news anchor, a young female journalist named Daisy Preston, wormed her way past the bystanders looking for the root of the story. She instinctively homed in on the distraught kneeling girl with the pixie cut hair, wiping her tears away as the veterinarian worked on the newborn canine. She came up to them just as the doctor inserted a small needle into the tiny creature’s skin, to inject saline.

“Excuse me?” the journalist asked as she held her microphone out. “I’m Daisy Preston with Channel Seven News. Could you answer a few questions?” she asked. Maia glanced up at her and sniffed. She reached up and Jesse automatically helped her rise, before holding her in his arms.

“Maybe this isn’t the best time.” he told her softly with just a hint of warning in his voice.

She looked up at him with a determined expression and then looked behind him, her attention diverted as the two police officers turned the homeowner around and placed handcuffs on his wrists. She forgot the young couple and raced up the driveway, her cameraman in tow.

“Vultures.” Jesse griped as she began firing questions at the man and his arresting officers.

Dr. Small stood and smiled back at them. “I think you two have saved a life today!” she beamed. She gestured and they saw the little creature nursing on one of mom’s teats, with a swollen bulge across its back. “Between the fluids and some good nutrition, I think she will be just fine.”

“Thank you, Doctor.” Jesse replied softly. He knew that half of his emotions were coming from Maia, and he took several breaths to control them. “We will be taking them home with us if that is okay.”

“Of course.” she smiled. “Can you give me your address and phone number for my report?”

While Jesse did, Maia turned and scowled at Horace as he was led past her to a patrol car. “You filthy parasite!” she yelled after him. “You’re not worthy of such a fine creature as this! I hope you rot in jail forever!” he kept his head down as several bystanders echoed her thoughts. Once he was placed in the back seat and driven away, Officer Williams returned to them and looked once more at the terrible row of tiny bodies. She sighed sadly and regarded Maia closely.

“Are you going to be alright Ms...?” she asked politely

“Maia.” she replied softly with a smile. “Just Maia.”

Jesse regarded the black woman and realized what a striking beauty she was.

“Maia, I am officer Denise Williams, and I will need to get a statement from you,” she looked up at Jesse, “and you as well.” She placed a warm hand on Maia’s arm. “But it can wait until later. I know you have a lot to process right now.”

Maia suddenly grabbed her and gave her a tight hug which officer Williams graciously returned. “I have your address and phone number. Would it be alright if I come by later this evening to interview you both?”

They agreed and parted ways as the officer turned towards the crowd and began dispersing them.

“I will take the bodies and have them cremated.” Dr. Small said softly.

Maia shook her head. “No. I must take them and return them to Mother Gaia as is proper.” She turned to Jesse, who nodded and began collecting them in his big hands. The vet simply nodded and collected her own things while Maia bent over and detached the youngling from her mother. “Come, Mama. Let’s go home.”

As they walked back home, Maia held the little puppy gently while Shasta and Fug escorted them.

“Why did she do this to me baby?” she asked painfully. “Why would Gaia make me endure such pain and suffering?”

Jesse was quiet as he considered her question. “I don’t know my love. Maybe she is offering you a lesson of sorts?”

“What kind of lesson could I possibly learn from that?” she retorted as her voice cracked.

“You remember when you said that you were still learning about people and your place among them?” he suggested.

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