The Excerpts

(Thank you for not copying any material included in this blog.  As of now, the book is self-published, and the manuscript in its entirety is under submission to several children’s book publishing companies.  We will keep you informed as to the progress of the publication of Otis.  Thank you for joining us on this journey!)

Don’t miss… the Vocabulary of Otis

-Chapter 14 – Lunch

… Distracted from his stealthy-ness by his newfound buffet line, Otis brushed against the legs of the cornbread girl, and his soft fur tickled her knees. She lowered her head and peered under the table, still laughing along with her friends, and spotted Otis, who paused with a deer-in-the-headlight expression.

“A dog!” the girl called loudly to her friend. “Y’all look at the dog under the table!”

And they all swiveled and twisted on their stools to crouch down for a better look, raising the noise-level all the while.

“Oh my, it IS a dog!” one girl exclaimed.

“He’s cute!” another declared. Well that was surely a nice thing to say.

“Dude, that’s awesome–a dog in School. Hey, feed him my carrots!” a goofy boy insisted, holding down a bright orange carrot between his finger and thumb.

“Hey, that’s that dog that hangs out the window every afternoon in the pick-up line!”

“Naw, can’t be, somebody tell the teachers…”

“Here boy, have a nugget!”

Otis grabbed the carrot and the nugget and kept moving forward under the table. Yep, he had been discovered, but it was worth it. Lunch had been spectacular. Students petted him and scratched his ears as he stepped over feet and lunchboxes. The commotion had drawn the attention of the teachers at this point, but it was nearly impossible to contain the excitement of children who had just found a big black dog under their lunch table.

There were squeals and hollering and he knew he heard his name several times. More food appeared under the table, served in the palms of chuckling children. “That’s Otis!” someone insisted…

 

– Chapter 13 – Pond-Dog

…Peering into the clear water, Otis saw many, many more goldfish, of all sizes, some speckled, some solid, some speckled and solid. He also saw a wet blue sky, and puffy clouds just like the ones outside the pond, in his own dry world. And right there staring back at him, amongst all the fancy fish, was a black, happy pond-dog. He was strikingly similar to the creek-dog that looked back at him from Brown’s Creek, where he played with the children all summer.

Otis sat, and then stood, and then sat and stood again, and Pond-Dog did the same. Otis panted and sneeze-barked, and snorted a friendly hello, and Pond-Dog did the same. A lovely water-butterfly danced in the air just above Pond-Dog’s ears, and much to his surprise when he looked up, there was a Monarch dancing above his own ears! Otis watched his cotton-ball clouds float to the east, and noticed the pond-clouds did the same. He wondered if they eventually met somewhere far away on the horizon, wherever it is that clouds go.

Now and then, a goldfish jumped and sent ripples through the water, and Pond-Dog disappeared. Otis rounded the water’s edge, concerned for his mirrored friend, and each time, he would reappear as the ripples smoothed to a glassy surface…

– Chapter 12 – The Spelling Test

… one small fellow caught his attention. He was in the back row of the class… timid and uncertain, and he blinked his dark brown eyes a lot, as if to clear his thoughts and reveal the correct answer. He was the last to start writing each word, and the last to finish before the next word was called, although the compassionate teacher was sure to wait each time for him, appreciating his efforts and encouraging his self-esteem with an occasional wink in his direction, imparting to the boy, “You can do this. I believe in you.”

As the last word was called, the boy sighed and crinkled his nose, closing his eyes tightly, looking for the answer behind his eyelids. He looked to the teacher, unsure of himself. Receiving the anticipated wink, he put pencil to paper, but he made no mark. He glanced around the room for some reminder of the correct answer. The second hand ticking on the clock in the corner was no help, and neither was the worn pencil tray that held his backup yellow pencil at the top of his desk, just in case the tip of the first one broke. There was no revelation when he put the eraser to his lip… and it didn’t work pressed against his forehead either. Otis could sense the boy’s apprehension. He put a paw up to the window as the boy looked his way. The boy’s eyes widened like teacup saucers.

“DOG,” said the teacher calmly, repeating the word she had just called, sounding out each letter with intended exaggeration. Otis ducked quickly, thinking he’d been caught!

“DOG,” she said again, with emphasis on the D-sound and the G-sound. Otis didn’t move.

After a few moments of silence–and thankfully no one running after him to see why a DOG was at School–Otis heard the sweet lady say, “Okay class, I’m sure you all did a great job today. DOG was the last word on our spelling test…”

The last word? DOG? Otis raised only his ears and eyes to the window. He saw the boy scribbling as fast as he could. The others were putting their pencils in the trays, sitting back in their chairs and hanging their tired arms down to relax, flipping papers with pride and relief, resisting all urges to chatter as they passed papers down the row. No, he had not been noticed, except by the shy boy, who grinned at him as he gallantly put down his pencil.

Being a dog was a wonderful thing, especially when a surprise pooch pops his head up at just the right time to calm nerves and remind a little guy how to spell such a good word. DOG. Otis was glad the word had not been CAT, as he would have been no help there…

 

– Chapter 11 – Kindergarten

… The teacher was pointing to the letters and the corresponding pictures, and explaining something that seemed to make her and her students very happy.  He saw his smiling girl in the bunch of fledgling readers, all focused together, waiting for the teacher’s approval in their discoveries of letter sounds that were turning into words before their very eyes.  He was witnessing an epiphany, at the spellbinding hands and wise ways of this gentle lady who cared for his girl everyday at School. He watched the teacher as she captivated her restless audience with such a soothing tone of voice, and dazzling eyes.  Her methods were polished and her passion glowed.  He wondered how many children had passed through her class in the years before.

She was not of tall stature, so the children felt especially important, as most of them were able to reach their hands as high as the top of her wavy reddish-brown hair. “I’m almost as tall as you!” one of them would often say, measuring from a forehead to her shoulder. And she would share that loving smile and gracious hug, with heart-felt excitement at their ever-growing heights, leading them naturally and instinctively to their next lesson.

It was clear to Otis that this dear woman doted on all these children just about as much he did on his own three.  He observed his girl proudly answering a question, with patient but eager hand fully-raised, pink bottom lip gently bitten and held in place so as not to blurt the answer out of turn, and ultimate relief at her correct response. Her classmates applauded and patted her back as they all readied themselves for the next challenge.

Ready to know more, Otis removed himself from the bottom left pane of the window, sure in heart that School Days, for his girl, were quite wonderful indeed.

Chapter 10 – The Playground

…The Queen slipped quietly around the back of the fort to dust herself off and regain her composure.  She scuffed her feet across the grass towards the fence, attempting to rid her shoes of the humiliatingly sticky, wet dirt.  Looking up over a protruding bottom lip, she was greeted by the wide smile and appropriately heart-shaped face of her Noble Knight in Friendly Fur, Otis.

Otis bowed to the surprised Queen and pranced his front feet, this time with no glass window to hide his excitement.  He tossed his head back with a muffled sneeze-bark and inched forward, trying to sit like a good boy, but overcome with happiness in the presence of his princess.  The girl threw her little arms around him and squeezed him as tight as she could, “Oh!  My Otis! Oh, I love you so,” she proclaimed, immediately forgetting her predicament.

“I love you more than all the dog bones and cool water and wide open meadows in the world,” breathed Otis.

“But what are you doing here?  How did you get here?” the girl asked, looking around for any sign of Mommy or Daddy.

Knowing he couldn’t possibly explain, Otis wagged his tail, high and back and forth, as a sign that all was well, and not to worry.  The girl’s pouted lip had become again the sweet, upturned, rosy quarter-moon he loved so much.  Otis diligently went to work on the mud stains.  It was fun for him and his three children to get muddy and wet at the creek during the summer months, but he could see from the girl’s reaction to her soggy splat that this was neither the time nor the place for such as that!

With tenderness and affection, Otis licked away the smudges and the embarrassment.  What luck that he had chosen this day to investigate School Days, for his girl certainly needed his encouragement.  Having doggy-bathed his sweetheart to his satisfaction, he nudged her forward to rejoin her classmates as they were beginning to form a reverse caterpillar to return to their classroom inside.

The girl peered at Otis through her dainty eyelashes and asked, “But what about you, Otis?  Who will take care of you?  You shouldn’t be here boy.”

Otis could see the worry on her young face.  “Oh, I’m fine.  I’m on a mission!” Otis tried to convey as he sat up straight, tall and happy, poking out his white tie as proud as a peacock, panting his polka-dots.  He bounced up and licked her pink cheek, scooted backwards towards the shadows, and signaled for her to go on without him, waving his nose toward the busy caterpillar.

The girl looked back and forth, trying to decide between her teacher’s instructions to join the line, and her concern for the timely tail-wagger.  “You wait here sweet boy,” the girl said as she took Otis’ face into her small, soft hands.  She planted a quick kiss on his cold nose, gave a little scratching behind his right ear, and ran off in an instant to carry up the caterpillar’s caboose.  The line moved awkwardly away from the playground and back into the School.  The girl tossed her hair over her shoulder and put up her hand to send a secret wave to Otis, and to reiterate her command for him to wait right there until she could return.  Otis, still hiding in the Oak shadows to avoid being discovered and scrapping his plans all together, nodded and gave a short sneeze-bark, and sat at attention to show he understood.  The girl smiled just from the corners of her lips, and continued through the hall and back to class.

 

Chapter 9 Excerpt — Otis Spies His Girl

The line of pigtails and freckles forged further to the right and began to move as one almost straight caterpillar down the hall.  There toward the end of the line was a purple-plaid about-face with a swish of long white-blond hair, an angel’s blue eyes and posy lips.  Blinking his eyes several times to be sure he was right, he saw his sweet girl, just there on the other side of the glass.  He pranced his front paws with pride and tossed his stately head back and forth, snickering and panting large with joy.  He had a special way of communicating his moods, and a certain action which was far less than a bark, and not unlike a sneeze-with-purpose, that indicated excitement and fun and eagerness, and he couldn’t help but make this funny, gesundheit-worthy gesture as he marched his black-fringed feet.

Chapter 8 Excerpt – A Pup with a Purpose

As the neighbor’s manicured lawn was quiet, Otis eased under the paramount plank and set his nose southward, determining the inviting scent of familiarity amongst the other temptingly interesting aromas that whiffed here and there in the air.  It was mid-morning, as the sunshine had not yet made the turn over the treetops to pose directly upward in signifying the exact middle of the day.  There was a lull in traffic, as most working folks were at Work and most school-age children were at School.  An occasional car or two passed him by as he bravely put paw to pavement, but Otis remained in the shadows of Maple trees and various green bushes of all sorts that lined the two-lane road to School.

…and Otis found himself panting and standing at attention as the School’s graceful red-white-and-blue flag waved its approval against the awesome blue skies.  He made it!  He sniffed the chilled air and gazed at the rectangular shaped building in which his boy and girl likely had their noses in books or their eyes focused on numbers, or their fingers into snacks packed earlier that morning by their mother.  He realized how far he had come, but oh what a far piece he had to go…

Chapter 7 Excerpt – The Great Flood

During the Great Flood, the waters had risen fast and high.  The waterline was still visible on the fence on the far side of the yard, behind the Mimosa and the hammock, purposefully left during clean-up as a reminder of days that would be recounted for ages to come, and as proud proof that, indeed, the neighborhood had managed to stay afloat.  It was a faded line now, once dark and stained with mud and debris, now faint and intended, with soft green moss beginning to grow as beauty in a former place of fear…

…Yes, this wobbly wood plank, a remnant of the Great Flood, was the sentimentally strong threshold under which Otis had crossed into his Forever Home.  How ironic that it should also be his escape into this day’s Great Unknown.

Chapter 6 Excerpt – The Fence Plank

…Confident in his timing, Otis pushed the bottom of a certain fence plank–the one just behind a medium-sized Hackberry whose trunk was split from the ground so that it appeared almost as if three trees grew from the same seed…

…This particular plank was more important than it appeared upon first glance.  It was hidden by the cover of the Hackberry, the Boxwood, the Cypress trees and the Janes, and it was unintentionally loose by result of the Great Flood that had nearly drowned the whole neighborhood almost three years before.  It was deemed the Flood of the Century, and its effects were still felt as fresh as if the waters hadn’t yet receded.  If it had not been for the Great Flood, however, Otis would not be embarking on such an adventure.  In fact, Otis would not even be in this yard he so proudly guarded in this, his favorite chapter of his life.

(Don’t forget to have your child refer to the glossary now and then!)

Chapter 5 Excerpt – Otis Makes His Move

As patience usually does procure perfect timing, so did Otis await the proper opportunity.  One late Fall morning, after the usual depositing of the older two children into their daily classes, the mother came home to pack the baby bag to take the toddling boy to the park, and Otis was certain he heard the plans were to meet up with the father afterwards, when he was finished with morning appointments and mid-day meetings.  Now or never it was!

…And just like that, they were gone.  Otis relaxed to the fading sounds of the car down the street and around the corner, and then all was quiet.  He was alone with his adventure, set to music in this moment of overture by the sweet melodies of Robin Redbreasts and Cardinals, and the percussion of a Tree Squirrel scurrying over Pecan and Maple tree limbs, gathering and crunching nuts all the way.  He drew in a great breath and stepped into the sunshine.

Chapter 4 Excerpt – Otis Plans an Adventure

Otis knew he must not be allowed in the School building, or the children would have surely taken him along with them by now… although he had been the show-and-tell subject for Kindergarten and Second Grade twice this year.  He knew as well that he was not to leave the backyard without the family to guide him, as they feared for his safety out in the Great Unknown, all alone.  What a quandary indeed.  Otis always did everything he could to obey this family who loved him so, and while he couldn’t bear the thought of disappointing any of them or purposefully committing a clearly defined “no-no,” his sense of duty to his personally shouldered responsibility of watching over the three most dear beings in his world trumped… topped with a bit of nosiness…

…An adventure this would be!

Chapter 3 Excerpt – Riding to School

When School Days rolled around, Otis went along on the rides to take the older two children to class, and he rode again to pick them up.  The School children all knew Otis from stories told by the boy and girl, and their faces lit up when they saw his head poking out the top of the window as the family’s car pulled onto the School’s driveway.  Otis could smell those sweet Magnolias in a row as he saw countless boys and girls waving their peanut butter and dirt-scented hands and calling his name, “Otis!  Look, it’s Otis!  Hey there good boy!”  He was no less than a bona fide celebrity in the pick-up line…

…There was but one thing to do of course, for his curiosities had a mind all their own–Otis would simply have to take on the adventure of finding out the goings on at School.

Chapter 2 Excerpt – The Three Most Wonderful Children

Otis was very special, in many ways.  There had been many chapters in his life, and somewhere in his line of doggie ancestry of Black Labrador Retrievers and Water Spaniels, he had inherited–and now proudly wore–a white fur tie, perfectly in the middle of his broad chest.  This trait, of course, made him a gentleman.

He was never happier or more content than with this family who called him their own.  There was a mommy and a daddy, and three young children, one of whom had been born since Otis had come to live with them… and only just one baby in that litter.  Otis couldn’t remember how many puppies had been in his own litter, but many more than one!

This big baby boy had become a sort of smiley, climbing, playfully toddling fellow as of late.  He was always ready to play chase, and sometimes he thought of Otis as his very own pony.  He would put his leg over the patient mound of fluffy black fur, and they would both roll into the floor laughing and carrying on…

…Otis would surely miss the girl though.  She was gentle and loving, and she always smelled so sweet.  She threw a tea party nearly every afternoon, and Otis was always first on the guest list.  Even when boys were not allowed, she made a special exception for Otis, each time making sure he was properly dressed…

…Most often, Otis found himself trailing on the footsteps of the girl and the baby boy, all following after the oldest, the tallest and most responsible of the three children, the big brother.  What a fine young lad he was: handsome, with deep green eyes and long skinny legs.  He was smart too, and he loved reading thick books, books that had only a few pictures and countless words.  He could do anything–run, jump, climb, draw, make up stories and songs, and he sang Amazing Grace like he was singing before The Lord himself.  And how fitting, Otis thought, since he himself once was lost, but now was found…

***

Chapter 1 Excerpt — The End of Summer

It was Autumn… the air was crisp and the leaves were changing colors before falling to decorate the grass with their crunchy-ness.  The sweet scents of Laurel and Tea Olive were still faint on the summer-ending breeze, and the shiny bluish-black Crows had already begun to call from the treetops, as they did every year just as the clouds seemed to raise themselves a bit higher into the deep blue September skies.  It was as if they had taken it upon themselves as their annual duty to announce this season’s arrival… and to Otis, a black, fun-loving family dog, the Crows’ ca-caws meant only one thing: School Days…

***

Please click here for related Glossary terms.

 

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