'Newf'

Story Time

October 06, 1999|By Marie Killilea

Editor's note: A Newfoundland dog comes mysteriously out of the sea and takes up residence with a small white kitten in a deserted cottage.

It was a day in spring when flower and fern began poking their heads out of the brown earth. As the sea rushed to meet the shore, a large black dog was carried by the waves up on the sand. There was no fishing boat to be seen. It was a puzzle whence he had come. The dog, a Newfoundland, rested a minute, then rose and shook himself. He clambered up over the rocks and came to the deserted cottage.

He sniffed the smells of four-legged visitors that had come before him and then was arrested by a cry: a small, weak cry.

In the corner of the room was a pile of old fisherman's netting. He lowered his massive head to it and was rewarded with a stinging slap of claws. He bolted back in surprised hurt. He moved cautiously to look again, ready to leap back.

From the coils there emerged a skinny, dirty white kitten.

He had never seen a creature like this before. The kitten crept toward him and sniffed one of the huge webbed feet. The dog lowered his head. The kitten hissed and struck again. Offended, the dog rose, turned, and went out.

Not long after he came back with a large fish in his great jaw. The Newf lay down and began to eat. The kitten cried piteously. He too was hungry. Cautiously he inched closer to share the meal, keeping a watchful eye on the Newf.

There was enough for both. They ate their fill and slept.

Stretched out, the dog looked like a large black bear with a plumed tail. On waking, Kitten decided to investigate this strange animal. He crept closer and Newf watched him curiously. He walked around the gigantic dog, keeping a safe distance away. When the dog stirred, Kitten humped his back and hissed. Newf paid no attention. Then he wagged his tail, and Kitten pounced. The dog wagged his tail again, and again the kitten pounced. Again and again and again.

Here was an exciting game: wag, advance, pounce, retreat.

Tiring of the game, Kitten bravely moved closer to Newf's side and went to sleep. Newf turned his head and began to lick his companion -- long swipes from head to tail. His tongue was warm and rough as the kitten's mother's had been. Kitten liked this washing and lay quietly until his fur was as white as snow.

Evening came, and as the moon climbed in the sky, the wolves on the near hills began to sing. Kitten shivered and moved to the warmth of Newf's belly. He wasn't afraid anymore.

In the morning Newf went to the beach for a swim, Kitten following close behind. With scarcely a ripple, Newf slid into the water and swam out. Kitten watched from the water's edge. When his feet got wet, he shook them.

Suddenly a rogue wave snatched Kitten from the shore and swept him out, tossing and turning him over and over. Newf saw the helpless body buffeted by the waves.

Churning effortlessly through the water, he seized his gasping friend by the neck and, lifting his head regally above the waves, carried him back to shore. Kitten coughed and shuddered, and Newf licked him all over. Finally Kitten sat up, then bounded to his feet.

From NEWF by Marie Killilea. Text c 1992 by Marie Killilea. Illustrations c 1992 by Ian Schoenherr. Reprinted by permission of G.P. Putnam's Sons, a division of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers.

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