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-Chapter Two -
Life continued on from that point. I started a new school, made new friends, all the while that Irish Setter never left my thoughts, but the tall man scared me. So even on my way to school, when Topaz would try to say hello, I would whisper back so as not to upset his owner. I think the red dog knew how I felt, because just like clockwork he was at that fence, sending me off to school and seeing me safely home again. Even during the neighbourhood road hockey game, it was like Topaz was a season ticket holder.
It was actually during one of those most important matches, that an incident happened whose outcome would forever change my life. On this particular day, my new friend Mark and I were playing an impromptu game of “keep away”. That’s when you have but one net and two players. With each possession the ball carrier tries to score on the lone net. If the defender obtains the ball, he must take it back to a pre-determined starting point and try to score himself.
Mark was much bigger than I, and his slap shot sent shivers through most opponents. What made it worse is we lived on a gravel road, so not only did you get that hard orange ball coming at you at a zillion miles an hour, you also got a contrail of pebbles that followed like buckshot. The lucky thing was, Mark didn’t have a very accurate shot. I’m sure the saying “Couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn”, was intended for Mark. So on that day, when Mark wound up and sent that destiny changing slap shot towards me, I had nothing to fear as it rocketed past. The only problem, its eventual destination, was through the tall man’s living room window. Seeing as Topaz wasn’t in the yard, our best guess was the tall man and his dog were walking in the ‘ganny’, a local term for the woods behind our subdivision. Most locals walked the trails in there.
With that knowledge, Mark had the lame idea to retrieve the ball. No ball, no evidence. Mustering up all our courage, not a whole lot when you’re 11, the two of us jumped the fence, with hopes that the scary, tall man left his door open.
Mark approached the door. “It’s open,” he whispered.
“Well, go in and get the ball,” I said.
“No, I think you should Garry.”
Mark’s reason for the decision was as he was taller and bigger – I would have used the term fatter – I would be faster than him, so he should keep watch while the Flash committed breaking and entering to rescue our ball, extinguishing all signs of our guilt.Off I went, me and my new found bravado. How hard could it be? I opened the door, gave one last look outside, while Mark gave me that assuring ‘just go’ gaze and in I went.
There was a smell to the inside, like a mixture of smoke and old shoes. It was dark, except the TV was left on, illuminating the room in a flickering ghostly manner. I brushed fear aside and set out on my task.
I found where the ball came in, and the broken glass, but the orange intruder was nowhere to be found. My eyes searched the entire room, still no luck. The TV flicker reflected off something, it shone like sunlight, more like a mirror, when struck by the sun. Following the light I found an old silver bowl sitting on a shelf just opposite the old Sears television set. And from my vantage point the colour orange was easily detected in the reflection. The ball had bounced and settled in the bowl.
On tip-toes I reached for the object that held my treasure. Pulling it down. I noticed engraving on the silver chalice. ‘The International Kennel Club of Toronto’ and below that it said ‘Best in Show, 1961’.
And at that moment it seemed like the sun was being blocked and all I heard was, “Ain’t that a cracker, we got ourselves a burglar, Topaz.”