1.3.1 "The Little Dog"

A story of good and evil, and retribution.

And I saw an angel standing in the sun” Revelation 19:17

Is told by Bill, a retired forester, and takes the form of most of the stories in our lives, namely, that we have no idea that we are living a story until later when previous events suddenly seem to fall into place and make some kind of sense. Bill recounts a week in his early working life when, paired with an older, unsavoury and unpopular colleague, they find a little dog sitting beside the forest haul-road way out in a remote part of the forest. What is the little dog doing there?

 

As the week progresses Bill finds himself becoming emotionally attached to the little dog while also becoming increasingly concerned about just who is his objectionable workmate, and when he notices that the little dog is no longer present at its usual spot his concerns heighten, as he cannot help but feel that his workmate has something to do with the dog's disappearance. Although a troubled Bill has a conversation with his local priest and learns of the nature of sin and evil, he remains blind to that which is right in front of him. However the very next day events suddenly take an unexpected turn and the young naive Bill starts to learn some awful truths.

 

An adult fantasy story for those who like to think about what they are reading.

 

To purchase this story click here.

 

Background Information.

My initial idea was of two men finding a small domestic dog sitting beside a road out in the back end of beyond. It struck me as bizarre - what is a dog like that doing in a place like that? But what if the dog was not as it appeared to be - then perhaps, its presence was not so bizarre. Link this with the age old question of “what makes men evil?” together with a modern take on an Biblical Pre-Creation battle and I felt I had a story.

Of necessity the narrator had to be ignorant of what was going on - a who or whydunit story when you know who and why on page one is unlikely to be much of a story! - so Bill (the narrator) had to be young and green at the time of the action and only gradually realise what was happening as the story progressed. I also needed someone emotionally and spiritually solid to metaphorically hold Bill's hand and so the Reverend Money was born. Yes, the ending is a bit ambiguous, because it is an account of what Bill thought he saw. As to what actually did happen; well, I'll leave that up to you, the reader, to decide.

Sample Chapter.

Friday

 “I remember I didn’t like him. You always got the feeling that he was trying to be your best mate, though you knew full well he had no intention of being so and in fact didn’t care less about you. Yes, he could smile and joke though he rarely did, but both had a hollow ring which suggested that he was trying to be happy, trying to be funny, trying to be one of the lads, when he just wasn’t. There was also something rather greasy about him, so I didn’t trust him one bit either; and if that lot wasn’t enough, he was also one of the world's bullies and could have a nasty temper, and I was just learning that this was the chap that Peterson, my manager, was pairing me with for the next week”.

So began Bill’s story.

Peterson,” interrupted Dick, who was sitting just across the table from Bill, “He wasn’t Jimmy Peterson’s father?”

Yes, that’s right”

My, this story’s going back a bit! He’s been dead about twenty years, hasn’t he?”

Bill nodded. “Oh, it goes back further than that; goes back to when I was the age of these two whipper-snappers,” indicating young Derek and Simon who were just up the table from me, “Back to the days when I had just started in the forestry”. He paused. “Goodness me,” he added after reflecting on this, “Yes, its about forty something years ago.” He took a pull from his pint and continued,

Peterson had told me that there was a bit of tidying up to do on the 23rd plantation lot. “Not much, two of you should get it done in a week. As you know we’re a bit short (handed), so there will be just the two of you. Er, you’ll be with Blackman.”

Oh, great! And that was how I learned that I would be spending the next week with Stan Blackman.

He’ll be getting the truck and the gear, so he’ll pick you up at the top of your road at about 7.00am. You lucky devil, you’ll get an extra five minutes in bed,” he had joked nervously in a vain attempt to gloss over the fact that he’d paired me with the most unpopular fellow in our section. Extra five minutes in bed; fat consolation that was!

Peterson was tall, thin, craggy faced and quietly spoken. He had a kind heart and always thought the best of everyone. From his appearance alone you could see that he was born for the outdoors. Since he’d been manager he’d worn a shirt and tie, but they didn’t sit comfortably on him and he didn’t appear comfortable in them. A heavy check, open necked brushed cotton shirt was what suited him and was what he felt comfortable in. He had been a forester for most of his life. Yet there he was, stuck behind a desk and penned in his office for what remained of his foreseeable working life. Gone was the freedom of the great outdoors, the fresh smell of pine, the wind on his face. All he had now were memories of those days out in the forest. There was no way back for him, the only path now open was forward via his desk and office to his retirement, which was due in a few months time.

As much as I felt peeved at getting “the Blackman short straw” that week, I also felt slightly sorry for Peterson. Not just because he was now stuck behind that desk, but because he was stuck with Blackman the same as the rest of us. He knew none of us liked working with him and yet every week he had the unenviable job of foisting - as we saw it - Blackman on to one team or the other and I am sure he would have been much happier if he didn’t have to do it, but, perhaps unluckily for him, he had applied for the manager’s job before Blackman had arrived on the scene and I hazarded a guess that had he (Peterson) realised exactly what his job would entail - that he would be saddled with the unpopular task of handling a fellow like Blackman - he might not have applied, as this latter aspect of his job was a task he couldn’t have enjoyed. He wasn’t disliked by the men because of this, they accepted that he had no choice in the matter, but as “the boss”, coupled with being “the allocator of Blackman”, he was no longer one of them and I had a feeling that he missed that as much as he missed being out in the forest. I liked Peterson. He was always pretty fair to me - until he lumbered me with Blackman that is! - but looking back on it I had had a fairly easy ride vis-a-vis Blackman and so really had nothing to complain about.

Stan Blackman. The story was that he’d actually been christened Stan and that Stan was not an abbreviation of Stanley. However we all called him “Lard”. Not to his face mind you! And no, this was not Lard as in “Lard of the Manor”, but Lard as in “tub of lard”!”

Bill smiled at the recollection and continued, “The lads, my workmates of those days, had an almost innocent directness in their sense of humour, which was both rather endearing as well as being vicious at the same time. Nothing changes!” He smiled and winked at us.

In fairness Blackman wasn’t that fat, though he did have a flabby neck and certainly carried too much belly on him, which hung in a roll over the belt of his trousers. If he did nothing else useful, he certainly did his bit to keep the local pubs in business! Not fat, no, but as I’ve already mentioned he had a greasiness about him. If I say he was the sort of guy you wouldn’t want in the same room as your daughter, you’ll have a pretty good picture of him, though if the rumours I had heard were anything to go by it was not only daughters that he was after, but also young wives. So the “lard” sobriquet was a little more appropriate than it first appeared.

Of course back then I knew very little about any of his sex-related goings-on as I was just a youngster and the older men didn’t talk to me about that sort of thing. Times have changed. Everybody was much more tight-lipped in those days. Oh yes, sex was talked about in a loud boorish, rugby club sort of manner, the rude jokes and all that, and there were times when I felt that the older fellows, and I particularly remember a bloke called Big Joe Sweeney, deliberately set out to try and embarrass us young’uns, but failing relationships, infidelity, affairs and sexual abuse were certainly not talked about with the likes of tyros like me! And I suppose if I am honest, I probably wouldn't have had much interest in them either – I was still a bit young for all that sort of thing. Goodness knows what the women could have seen in Blackman, but the few rumours that did come my way suggested that there was more than one marriage that he had helped towards the rocks and that apparently there were a couple of young girls who had received unwanted attention in just the short space of time that he’d been with us. As said, I was young, and so these rumours were rather like stories to me.

Stan Blackman had arrived in the valley only about six months previously in slightly mysterious circumstances, in as much that no-one knew, or let on, as one or more of the bosses must have known where he had come from, where he had been working previously and why he’d had to move on, as it turned out, to us. Somehow he’d managed to wangle a new forestry house in the village. No doubt there was a bit of jealousy as a result of this, some feeling that they, or theirs, were more deserving than he. And if all the aforementioned reasons weren’t enough, finally there was, in spite of his I’ll-be-your-best-mate façade, the uncouth, rude and boorish way he could treat others, as if their feelings counted for nothing, that got everyone’s back up against him - everyone that is except his female flavour of the month! - and surprisingly he didn’t appear to care. He seemed completely oblivious to the fact that his fellow workmates couldn’t stand him.

Blackman must have been a good ten, fifteen years older than I was, probably more, which, in case you’re wondering, is why he had been allocated the truck and not me.”

Bill shot a deliberately pointed glance at young Simon, who, during the previous month, had managed to put a Landrover in a ditch so successfully that he’d had to have it towed out. We all had a chuckle. Poor Simon, he was still being ribbed rotten about this.

I had no idea then that in just over a weeks time I would again be sitting is Peterson’s office talking about Blackman.”

 

To purchase the story click here.

 

 

Reviews.

*****

"Right away I have to say what I enjoyed most about “The Little Dog” was its presentation. It brought to mind a very late evening I spent at a pub in Todmorden many years ago. Most of the early evening crowd, who had been there for a drink or two, had left and all that remained were the old-timers settling in for “I remember a time when...” stories. I was one of those younger folks happily sitting back at a nearby table with another pint of Old Peculiar and ready to be pulled into a tale about something before my time that still applied to the present day then and now.....

 

..... William (now wanting to be called “Bill” as he is transitioning from schoolboy to adult man, but not quite there as yet at the time the story takes place, but now several decades older as he shares the experience) grapples with this question when he finds himself with a week's assignment with a completely unlikable person, Stan, in a remote forestry area. As the week wears on, both physically and mentally, Bill becomes more and more alarmed by factors, both on the job and in the village.


The story ends with more questions than answers, but that is the point. The reader is tested to make his or her own conclusions, or at least think about the questions raised.
"

 

(See full review by justafarmer4 on Goodreads  and Amazon)

 

 

*****

  "They say that paying attention to how an individual treats animals is a great way to know what their character is really like. After reading this story, I’d be inclined to agree with this test.

The fantasy elements didn’t show up immediately. Once the first few hints of them did appear, I was mesmerized by how subtle and open to interpretation they were. While this isn’t the kind of writing style I’d typically expect to find in this genre, I absolutely loved it for this particular storyline. The ambiguity blended in in perfectly with the narrator’s young and innocent outlook on life........

The Little Dog is one of the best books I’ve read so far in 2016. I’d heartily recommend it to anyone who adores fantasy stories that ask the audience to think critically about what they’ve just read. "

 

(See full review by LAS Reviewer on longandshortreviews.com and Amazon)

 

 

*****

"A wonderful foray into a novella that addresses the ago old question of good and evil ....

I absolutely love the way this was written, and I mean that in the entirety of this novella. I almost felt like I was there listening to a story at a local pub or home. It really felt very much like how someone would tell a story - and after all that is how this novella comes about. Bill was a character that I could tangibly feel when I was reading, I could see him both when he was in the present telling this story, and when he was telling the story of himself when he was younger. 
The message in this story is both simple to understand, and yet has on the very ending of this novel a bigger question that some of still struggle to both ask, and to answer. As such it leaves you pondering for awhile longer - something you may not think you'd be doing for a shorter length novella." 

 

(See full review by Mikaela Nadeau on Amazon and Goodreads.

 

 

*****

"A very fascinating story that leaves the reader in reflection and thought. The story makes for discussion and philosophical questions such as: "What make humans evil?" "Are humans born evil?" .......

 

A good story gives you knowledge and challenges your way of thinking. This story gives you all of this and is highly recommended!

 

(See full review by Patruscha on Amazon)

 

 

****

I feel this is something that needs to be discussed in all English classes across America. There is so much to talk about.

 

Garland writes with a stream of consciousness style which ...... made the writing have a cinematic element to it, to the point that I can clearly see this becoming a short film. As a reader you also get a clear picture of each character. Even the names represent who they are ...... This sense of character is heightened through the different interactions with the most important character of all…the little dog himself.

 

The conversations about what breeds evil and what the definition really means is discussed, acting as a starting point for your own mind to wander around these ancient questions ....... if this seems like your type of reading please give it a read and tell me what you think.

 

(See full review by Adrienne on Amazon)

 

****

The Little Dog is a philosophical story that makes one think about evil and punishment, of karma. It tells the story of Stan Blackman through the narrative of Bill Armstrong.
 

It is a simple tale, told with passion and emotion. The story flows smoothly. Despite long musings on good and evil, the little book, at no point, seems boring. It contains some beautiful descriptions of nature too.

(See full review by Namitha Varma Rajesh on Amazon and Goodreads)

 

****

After reading Leslie W P Garland's The Little Dog I couldn't shake that creepy feeling I get after watching an episode of The Twighlight Zone. Garland describes a beautiful landscape where a little dog sits off the side of the road. Two co-workers repeatedly see the dog on their way to work and back, throughout the week. Of course, I kept asking myself; who is this little dog haunting and what did they do? This is a story about good and evil and the kind of story I was still thinking about after reading it. Eerie and interesting, makes me want to read more of Garlands tales.

(See review by Becky Zales on Amazon and Goodreads)

 

****

"This story gives way to much thought. And I know I will be mulling it over for a long time. And I certainly won't forget it! Which means it was GOOD! ....... Are people born evil? Some are.

Don't let this story pass you by - it is well written and the descriptions marvellous.

 

(See full review by Crystal Mary Lindsey (Author) on Amazon )

 

To purchase this story click here.