‘Catch the ball, Jess!’
She jumps and snatches the ball in her mouth. On the way down, it drops, bounces on the concrete and flips over the fence into the neighbour’s yard.
Last time that happened, Mr Gardener said, ‘I left my last house because of neighbours like you, Zac.If I find your ball in my yard again, I’m keeping it.’
‘I guess that’s the end of the game,’ I tell Jess.
Jess darts up and down along the fence, barking. ‘Shh. Do you want Mr Gardener to complain?’
She keeps barking. I guess that means ‘yes’.
‘It’s only a ball. Fetch this stick instead.’ I hold it up high, ready to throw.
Jess stops and looks at me as if I must be joking.
‘Come on, girl.’ I jiggle the stick to get her excited. She slumps on the ground with her head on her paws.
‘I know it’s your favourite ball but I can’t exactly go and get it.’
Jess’s ears stiffen and she raises her head.
‘Oh no, I’m not going over there. What if Mr Gardener catches me?’
Jess’s tail whirs.
‘Are you serious?’ I ask, although I already know the answer.
Peeking over the fence, I see the red ball smack in the middle of the green lawn. Mr Gardener is bound to spot it as soon as he comes outside. If I’m going to try to get it back, I need to do it now.
‘You have to be quiet Jess. Not one bark or else…’ I better not think about or else what.
I scramble over the fence as quietly as I can but I sound like a cricket bat bashing the metal. Crouching on the other side, I wait to see if Mr Gardener heard. Even if he didn’t, he must be able to hear my heart thumping. I’d better make a dash for it. Ready, set─
Sprinting to the middle of the lawn, I notice something strange.
On the ground next to the house lies a boot. The boot is attached to a leg and nearby the other leg is bent at an odd angle.
I tiptoe over to the legs. They belong to Mr Gardener. He is face down on the grass and there’s a ladder lying next to him. It sure is a funny place to take a nap.
Still, if I sneak away before he wakes up, Jess and I won’t get into trouble. He’ll never know about the ball.
I kneel down beside him. ‘Mr Gardener, are you okay?’
He opens his eyes and groans, ‘Get help.’
‘You’d better bark now Jess,’ I call. ‘Bark really loud!’
Jess and I watch the ambulance men lift Mr Gardener onto a stretcher. Before they take him away, he says in a shaky voice, ‘Lucky for me I have neighbours like you.’
I guess he doesn’t mind about the ball anymore.
Sharon Hammad lives in the Blue Mountains. She writes short stories and poems for adults and children. For more information, please visit Sharon's website.
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