Whose dog is that? I know.
All in red, its owner is angry though.
She gives her dog a shake,
And screams, “I’ve made a bad mistake.”
The only other sounds? The brakes,
Of screeching cars and birds awake.
And there Mercy stands, under the moon, watching
“For…a break? Maybe? It rhymes, I guess.”
In her bedroom, ten-year-old Inez Finley tapped a finger to her cheek, trying to figure out the next line of her new poem. She glanced at the flower-shaped clock on her desk.
8:00am. She’d sat in front of her late grandfather’s red typewriter for three hours and, still, the words made no sense. Inez rubbed her sleepy eyes. “Forget it.” She ripped out the paper with her newest writing, balled it up, and tossed it into the overflowing wastebasket beside her desk. The new poem was supposed to “solve” the dream from the night before. Grandma Esther said it would.
Get those thoughts on paper…
Well, Inez’s thoughts were on paper. Written down in her journal and typed out. But Inez was as confused as ever.
“It’s not working.” She dropped her head into her hands. Last night’s dream was a mess of black and white shadows and fuzzy shapes. Three things were clear though: a dog with brown, white, and black fur, Mercy Finley floating in the background, and a crescent moon in a blurry sky. Mercy Finley—Inez’s ancestor, Dad had clarified when Inez first asked about her—looked the same in the dream as she did in the framed picture in Dad’s office and in the locket from Grandma Esther. Inez lifted her head and peered at the golden-colored chain next to the typewriter. She picked it up and held the oval charm in her palm, then traced the smooth edges of the egg-shaped trinket with her finger. She found the lock and tugged both sides of it until the charm opened to the photo of Mercy’s face.
A face almost the same as her own. Round face,dark and round eyes, deep brown skin. Two thick, black braids stretched down to Mercy’s waist. The black top she wore had a line of white buttons in the middle of it. The bigger picture in Dad’s office showed that Mercy’s black top was actually a dress with a wide, black skirt at the bottom. According to Inez’s history book,many women who lived in New England during 17th Century America wore clothes similar to Mercy’s. Dad said Mercy had lived during those days so that made sense. Too bad nothing else did. The only other facts Inez had about Mercy Finley and her lifetime were from the stories that Dad and Grandma remembered being told. Sometimes, Dad’s and Grandma’s information matched. Other times, the details were so different that Inez didn’t know what to think. She tried researching too, but most of the books at school, the ones at the shops in town, and the local library had very little background on Mercy. If they even mentioned her at all.
The desk chair rolled along the floor as Inez moved to stand up. She huffed at Mercy’s picture. “Why won’t you let me be normal?”
Of course, Mercy wouldn’t answer. She never did. She was nothing but a memory from a long time ago. An annoying memory that wouldn’t go away anytime soon. Inez sniffed then smiled. Bacon.
“Nez!” Mom’s voice echoed. “Breakfast is ready!” “Coming!” Inez called back.
Saturday mornings were made for fun—big breakfast, no school, no homework, hanging with best friends—not being bored or overthinking about yet another weird dream. It had been a long week at school and Inez was determined to enjoy the weekend. Putting the necklace with the charm around her neck, she headed down the stairs.
In the dining room next to the kitchen, Grandma Esther sat at the head of the wooden oval table; a plate of blueberry pancakes, eggs, and bacon set in front of her. Dad was in the seat beside her, digging happily into his own breakfast. Inez took the chair on the other side of Grandma just as Mom walked in from the kitchen. She held a breakfast plate with one hand and the phone at her ear with the other.
“I have to ask these questions before I take on any new client, Mr. Frayer,” Mom said into the phone as she placed the plate down in front of Inez, gave her quick hug, then started back toward the kitchen. “Great and what is your…”
Mom’s words trailed off and the sound of a closing door followed.
Her accounting business—named Deborah Finley Accounting— did well, so well that calls from new companies started to come in on the weekends. But Mom savored every single part of her Saturdays and Sundays and almost never took calls on either of those days. Inez wondered how important Mr. Frayer’s call was.
“Good news,” Dad said, interrupting her thoughts. He finished chewing the last bite of his food before he spoke again. “Ms. Bennett is very much all right.”
Inez’s eyes lit up at the mention of her favorite teacher. “She is?”
He smiled and the features that matched Grandma’s beamed. “We kept her in the hospital overnight, but she’ll be able to go home today. She just has to rest up for the next few days. She’ll be all right and back in class before you know it.”
Inez let out a huge breath. If she hadn’t seen the dream and known what to do, her teacher would have…
“It’s okay, sweetie.” Dad reached forward and wiped the tear that started to fall down Inez’s face. “She’s okay.” He kissed her forehead. “You did good.”
For the first time all year, Ms. Bennett’s fifth grade class at Bear Valley Elementary School had a substitute teacher. All week long, everyone said Ms. Bennett was okay. But now, she was going back home to the house she shared with her mom five blocks away. And coming back to class.
Dad looked down at his watch then stood. “If I don’t get going now, I’ll be late.” He kissed Grandma’s then Inez’s cheek before putting on the white coat with ‘Dr. Gregory Finley, M.D.’stitched above the front pocket. “Tell Mom I’ll be home early today. Love you guys.”
With that, he was out of the house and on his way to Bear Valley Hospital.
“So, a dog, a busy road, and Mercy was there, too?” Inez turned at Grandma Esther’s question.
“That’s right,” Inez said. “The dog was barking and there
was a moon. I don’t know what it means.”
The wrinkles and freckles in Grandma’s brown face moved as the eyes behind her cat-eye glasses widened, hopeful. “Any luck at all with figuring out the dream?”
Inez shook her head. “I did what you said, but I still don’t know what it’s supposed to mean.”
“Don’t worry, love. We’ll figure it out together.”
Inez gave Grandma a halfhearted grin. She sure hoped so. Not that hope did any good. Since age seven, Inez began dreaming of Mercy Finley. When she turned ten, the visions of the future started. But Mercy never left.
Inez nodded. “I hope you’re right, Grandma. You said…” She stopped as Mom’s voice drifted into the room and then back out again.
Inez lowered her voice to a whisper. “You only saw her once. Why does she keep showing up for me?”
“I don’t know, sweetheart.” The older woman rubbed her chin, a movement she always made when turning over a question or problem in her mind. “Did you forget anything? You swear you told me everything?”
“Yes, ma’am. It’s just like I told you.”
Before Grandma Esther could say anything back, footsteps sounded. Mom, without the phone and carrying her breakfast, joined them at the table.
“New client?” Grandma Esther asked her. “Where are you headed?”
“Flour Power Pizzeria,” Mom told her, taking a bite of bacon from her own plate. “Looks like I’m going downtown. You two up for a trip?”