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“If I didn’t know better, I’d say that was a bed you’re building,” Gerty said from the doorframe of the barn.

If Charles was surprised by his wife’s sudden appearance, he didn’t show it. Neither did Gracie.

“That’s what it is,” Charles said. He kept sanding one of the three tall boards that wrapped around some sort of soft-looking cushion. Gracie lifted her eyebrows and glanced at Gerty, but otherwise the dog didn’t move from her spot there at Charles’ feet.

“What are you building a bed for, Charles?” Gerty walked the rest of the way into the barn and stood in front of her husband.

“Dog’s got to have someplace to sleep this winter.” Charles still didn’t look up.

“Winter! Why, it’s the middle of August. Hot and sticky, at that.”

Charles set the bed frame upright on the floor and fluffed the mattress.

“Maybe,” he said. “But the days are getting shorter. Fall will be here before long, and you never know when October will be a cold one.”

“October’s still two months off, though!” Gerty sounded surprised, but she was teasing her husband. If he knew that, he didn’t let on.

“Well, we got to get Gracie used to her new surroundings. Make sure she’ll be comfortable.”

“New surroundings?”

“Sure,” Charles said and stared intently at the bed. Gerty felt like he was intentionally avoiding her gaze. “Even a dog can’t sleep outside in the prairie winter.”

“So you’re going to put her bed here in the barn?”

Charles patted Gracie on the head, and the dog hopped up, then circled into a ball in the middle of the bed.

“How’s that, girl?” Charles scratched behind the pooch’s ears, and she rolled on her side, exposing her belly. Charles petted her undercarriage, then answered his wife. “It’ll go in the house.”

“The house!?” Now she really was surprised. “I thought you didn’t even want this dog!”

“I didn’t,” Charles said, then corrected himself: “I don’t. This is Teddy’s dog. I just don’t want the boy to find her frozen up some morning.”

Gerty placed a hand on her husband’s shoulder and ducked her head around in front of his face to look into his eyes.

“So, if this is Teddy’s dog, why is he out fishing with his pals, and she’s in here with you?” She grinned.

“This looks about right,” Charles said, ignoring his wife’s tease. “Come on, girl. Up you go!” he said to Gracie, and the dog popped out of the bed and stood by his side. Charles picked up the wooden structure and walked toward the open door.

“I’m going to go ahead and get this set up,” he called back to Gerty. “Just so it’s not a surprise, it’s going to slide in between my side of the bed and the wall.”

He walked out into the sunshine toward their wooden cabin.

“In our bedroom?!?” Gerty called after him.

Charles didn’t break stride, and Gracie ran after him. She caught up just in time for man and dog to disappear into the little house together.

Published inFlash Fiction

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