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An Ode To Esther Bertine

By Cathy SchieffelinPublished 4 months ago 3 min read

Calliope's in the back yard, training yet, another pup. She fosters them from the nearby shelter. This one’s all black, short and stocky with a square head. Strong and playful, she struggles to keep the dog from pulling her off her feet. The pup is just that – a pup. I’d guess seven or eight months old. Reminds me of days gone by with my Granny Sawyer, training our herding pack.

Callie’s undeterred. Plants her feet in the ground as if rooted and uses her bodyweight to muscle the dog, offering treats as reward. He likes her. I'd even say he respects her. I like watching from my perch. Makes me wonder what my life could have been if I’d been able to forge a different path.

She favors me when I was her age – dark, wavy hair, big blue eyes. In fairness, she has her father’s eyes – steel blue, flecked with flint. I was always startled by my boys' beautiful eyes. They certainly didn’t come from Milford. His eyes were dark and brooding. Not sure I ever looked deep enough to know the color of my own husband’s eyes. But my sons had eyes similar to mine – shades of the sea or sky.

I married young - out of high school. Milford had his eyes on me back then – whatever color they were. He dated me til my parents demanded we make things official. He was handsome but not the warmest of people. Broad shoulders, strong forehead and a smile that when given, could melt ice bergs. Trouble is, he rarely smiled. Early on, yes, when he was courting me. Once I was snared, he didn't need to anymore.

He came from a family of plumbers. Hard working folk. That meant something to Mommy and Daddy. They struggled raising my sisters and me. Nothing more stressful than a house full of girls you gotta see married off. Even pretty ones.

I know things aren’t done that way anymore. But in 1921, I couldn’t fall in love with just anyone, even if I had my blue-grey eye on hazel-eyed Eddie Shaw.

I’m Callie’s grand sire and it shows. We share the same conformation and stature: petite, heart-shaped face, high cheekbones and a left-side dimple. She even has my stubborn cowlick, thankfully hidden under a mop of curly auburn hair.

My hair's darker now, crow black. Feathered

But she’s got something I never had.


She goes after things she wants, realistic or not. She’s curious, full of questions and something else…


I remember hope. Hope for rain. Hope that Granny’s lead bitch would whelp a healthy litter. We raised them to manage the sheep. Skipper was my favorite – a black and white shepherd. Slept in my bed every night, keeping me warm on frosty Ohio winter nights.

Then the Crash hit. No more dogs. Pretty sure some of them were eaten.

Wonder what Callie knows about that time? I don’t expect she’d comprehend people eating fallen scraps of food off the floor or rationing staples, like flour and sugar. Let alone, eating your prized sheepdog. Never forgave Gramps, even if we were starving.

A heavy void sits in my craw. It’s never left...even all these years later. That kind of hunger alters your make-up.

I never met Callie, my granddaughter. Cancer took me young.

Thank God she’s never experienced that hunger.

She has a different hunger.

A hunger for learning and helping…

Even if it’s a little black dog…

Tethered to her by…

A leash.


About the Creator

Cathy Schieffelin

Writing is breath for me. Travel and curiosity contribute to my daily writing life. I've had pieces published in Adanna Lit Jour. and Halfway Down the Stairs. My first novel, The Call, comes out in 2024. I live in New Orleans.

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  • Hannah Moore4 months ago

    What a strong sense of continuity your narrator creates.

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