George and the Boys

by Ivor Slipper

The Rover's Return

George walked into the spare bedroom thinking as he did so that it was odd he should still think of it in those terms. Once it had indeed been the unused bedroom they had kept for visitors, but nobody came these days. Indeed, what had been the used bedroom, not counting the one he slept in, was unused these days.

His son, Brian, had long since left home, married and then emigrated to Australia where he now lived on the Gold Coast near Brisbane with his three children. There were two boys and a girl who had come at almost yearly intervals with the eldest boy, Mark, now just a teenager.

They'd kept in touch, originally through letters, then phone calls and emails and now there was the weekly Skype call. He'd been out to visit them a couple of times, but that had been while Brenda, his wife was still alive. She'd died a few years ago and since then he'd never felt like taking the trip on his own and of course it would have cost a small fortune for Brian to bring his family over to visit him. So it was now just the weekly Skype call, not that he ever had anything to tell them, but they, especially the kids, always had plenty to tell him.

He sighed as he looked round the room telling himself, yet again, that he really did need to sort it out. Since his wife had died and he'd had the task of clearing out her things, this room had become a depository for the items that had been accumulated over the years, but now were unwanted detritus.

His eyes settled on the old typewriter standing on the desk. He walked over, pulled out the chair and sat down. That old typewriter had been his living for many years as he had once been a quite successful author. It was for that reason he had refused to throw it out when computers had arrived on the scene. Now he had a smart laptop that sat on the coffee table in the lounge. He used it often, but now only to read stories because his muse had departed and he could no longer write.

He also had a guilty secret. A lot of the stories he read were at sites such as Iomfats, Gay Authors or Awesome Dude. He enjoyed especially reading those about gay teenagers. Back in his youth it hadn't been possible to be gay, or to be more exact, to let anyone know that you were gay. So instead he'd found himself a wife and they produced a son and to the outside world they had been a normal family. Now though, since his wife had died, he could safely read these stories and wonder what might have been had he been born a few decades later.

He always made a point of looking at the Writing Challenges that appeared quite often on the Iomfats site. Those were usually based around a picture of a one or more teenage boys. Sometimes the pictures sparked an idea, but as yet not one that had led to a story. He also checked the story prompts that appeared at Gay Authors almost every week. Sometimes they were the actual idea for a story; sometimes the first line; sometimes a list of random words that had to be used. He particularly liked to look at those, often provided by this guy (he presumed he was a guy although quite a few people on the site were apparently female) who called himself Comicfan. To date however, he'd never been able to use any of them either in order to overcome his writer's block.

There had been a storm blowing for most of the day. During it the temperature had dropped and just before darkness had fallen, it had begun to snow. He suspected the snow might well continue all night based on the forecast he'd seen earlier. He feared that if the storm continued overnight, not only would there be several inches of snow on the ground come morning, but also the broken fence at the bottom of his garden would have finally succumbed and crashed to the ground. That would leave his garden and house open to the fields and woods beyond. It would have to be replaced meaning more expense he'd been hoping to avoid.

He heard a crash outside and then another noise he couldn't place. He suspected the fence had blown down, but decided he should investigate. He went downstairs, donned an old anorak, pulled on his wellingtons, grabbed his flash light and ventured out. He walked down the path and shone his flash light towards the fence. As he suspected a good portion of it had blown down, but two small golden orbs reflected back to him. He heard a whimper and as he got closer the flash light revealed a small brown and white, evidently scared, dog. It tried to move away from him, to find somewhere to hide, but he saw it couldn't walk properly. One foot seemed to be injured as the dog didn't want to put it on the ground. He also noticed that the dog's fur was soaking wet and that it looked thin.

He had no idea where it had come from as it didn't resemble any of the neighbourhood dogs. He edged towards it, holding out his free hand so the dog could smell him, while softly speaking whatever inane words came into his head. They'd had a dog when Brian was young, one they'd adopted from a Rescue Centre and which Brian had insisted on naming 'Rover'. It had been a similar colour to this one, but rather larger and had been Brian's almost constant companion as he grew up. It had died while he was away at Bristol University and they had never replaced it.

The dog had sniffed his hand and made no attempt to bite, nor to run away, although he thought it might find that difficult to do. He was starting to feel the cold through his anorak and decided to take a chance. He reached his hand over the dog's head and took it by the scruff – it didn't protest. He picked it up and headed back indoors. Once he got there he put the dog down in the kitchen while he went to find some old towels with which he could dry it. The dog allowed him to do that, so the next thing was to find it something to eat. There definitely wasn't any dog food in the house, but he did have some cheese biscuits and a tin of corned beef, both of which were wolfed down when offered. He also had a tin of beef broth soup which he warmed and which the dog also quickly lapped up.

Those needs attended to he walked into the lounge. As he did so he looked over his shoulder and smiled to himself as he saw the dog limping close behind, its tail wagging gently from side to side. He spread the towel that he hadn't used to dry it on the armchair and somewhat to his surprise the dog clambered into it and curled up, watching to see what he'd do next. George knelt down in front of the chair to be at eye level. "If we're not snowed in come morning 'Rover', you and me are going to the vets to find out what can be done about your foot and if you belong to anyone." Rover let out what sounded to George like a sigh of contentment and closed both his eyes.

George stood up, walked over to the table and switched on his laptop. "I think I've got a story to write, Rover. One of those gay teen stories that I like to read," he said out loud as the computer screen came to life.

"Let's see...there was this teenage boy who on a stormy, snowy night happened to hear a noise outside and decided to go out to see what had caused it. There he found a wet, injured little dog which he took in and cared for. When he investigated the next day it turned out the dog belonged to a boy of his own age who lived on the other side of town and it had been missing for a couple of weeks. When he reunited the dog with its owner, the pair became friends – and then close friends – and then very close friends. How does that sound to you, eh?"

"See, I didn't need one of those prompts at all, just something interesting to happen."

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