From the moment Tom woke up, he was told what to do – what to wear, what to eat, what time to go and where to be. At school he was told when and where to play, when to eat, what to read, where and how to sit, what and how to write and draw and count.
Then he was told what not to do.
Sometimes he got confused but most of time he was okay with it. Sometimes he got a fluttering ache in his chest that made him stop and think, and he would put his hand on his chest, just over his heart. He knew where his heart was because he had been told. It was like his heart was waving its hands to get his attention – he knew his heart didn’t have hands, but that was what it felt like. It was as if his heart was trying to tell him something so that he knew what to do, or what not to do.
It happened when Dad finally said he could get a puppy. Tom was soooo excited but his stomach felt full of worms – all squirmy and nervous, because he was told he had to choose the puppy that was right for him.
They went to the animal shelter and as they looked at each pup, Dad told him, ‘You don’t want one that grows too big, or has long fur that is hard to look after, or is too small that you can’t take for long walks, or one that needs a big back yard because we don’t have that, or one that is yappy or jumpy . . .’
Dad went on and on and Tom became worried. What if he chose the wrong one?
Then Tom saw a skinny, wiry haired, tan and white terrier pup happily pushing a rubber ball around with his nose. The pup wasn’t handsome or even cute but when he stopped playing and tilted his head to the side, Tom thought he smiled. And that was when his chest began to ache.
Dad looked at a chubby, creamy Labrador pup that put its paws on the wire to be patted. ‘What about this one?’ he suggested. ‘Not too big or small, reliable . . .’ He went on and on.
But Tom stayed with the little terrier. ‘Hello,’ he said.
The puppy barked, ‘Hello,’ back. They stood either side of the cage door and watched each other, tilting their head from side to side and smiling, checking each other out. The fluttering ache in Tom’s chest began to spread over his whole body. ‘This one,’ he decided.
Dad stood behind him and looked at the terrier. ‘This one? You sure you want this one?’ he asked.
‘I’m sure,’ said Tom.
‘Why this one?’ asked Dad.
Tom put his hand on his chest, over his heart, and knew he had chosen the right one. ‘Because, I’ve been told,’ he said.
© Jennifer Crane 2012 image credit
Bedtime Stories downloadable tales for children are an AWO initiative, run in support of the National Year of Reading 2012. We encourage you to print and read these stories with your kids, and revel in the joy a wonderful story can bring. All stories are original and have been penned by established and emerging Australian authors. Every month, we will publish four stories running to a central theme, each on a Monday morning. See here for more.