“Lie to me one more time, boy, and I’ll toss that mutt of yours right off the cliff” Sidney Granger threatened his stepson, Harry. “Now, I’m gonna ask you again; where’s my compass?”
Harry glanced up at Sidney with an indifferent look on his face. “I don’t know where your stupid compass is, Sidney. Have you tried looking up your ass?” Harry quipped, knowing the comment would only make matters worse. He didn’t care; watching his stepfather get apoplectic was worth it.
Harry immediately regretted what he’d said, not for himself but for his dog. Sidney reacted in his usual way – one swift kick of his hobnail boot directed at Harry’s springer spaniel, Charlemagne. The dog sensed what was coming and quickly darted away, baring his teeth and growling at Sidney. Charlemagne remembered the pain of that boot all too well.
“You got lucky, mongrel. Next time I won’t miss” Sidney snarled. “And, boy, you keep calling me by my name and there’ll be hell to pay. You’re to address me as ’Sir’, is that clear?” Sidney turned and angrily walked away. Harry gave him the finger behind his back.
“Sir!” Harry muttered under his breath. “You’re not in the navy anymore, you bastard! Now you’re just an angry impotent nobody who abuses animals and women.” Harry’s eyes turned dark as he thought of the fresh bruises on his mother’s arms and legs. The man had no conscience.
Barbara Granger fell under Sidney’s spell the first time they met. She always had a weakness for a man in uniform and longed for the life as the wife of a highly regarded military man. Widowed for several years, Barbara happily accepted Sidney’s proposal but her joy was short lived when he was forced to retire due to his age before reaching the coveted position of Rear Admiral. Barbara’s disappointment paled in comparison to Sidney’s humiliation and indignation.
Now Sidney vented his frustration and disillusionment on Barbara and Charlemagne. He tried several times to dominate Harry but the boy’s resilience and stubborn dismissiveness caused Sidney to feel weak and powerless – a role he was not familiar with. He wanted nothing more than to wring Harry’s neck. He knew there was more to the boy than met the eye. Harry would not succumb easily, if at all, and that concept enraged Sidney.
Harry waited until Sidney was far enough away before he whistled for Charlemagne. The two friends walked to a secluded bower on the other side of the large garden. Harry reached into his pocket for his treasured penknife, one of the few possessions he had from his late father. Harry looked for the small marker he’d carved in a tree, crouched down and snapped open the knife. Charlemagne sat quietly in the shade as Harry carefully cut a circle in the moss-covered ground, then painstakingly began to dig until the blade of his knife made contact with a rock he had buried. Harry wiped the knife clean and folded it closed, slipping it back into his pocket. He removed the rock and placed it to his side. Reaching into the hole Harry retrieved a dirty burlap pouch and gently loosened the drawstring to reveal Sidney’s precious compass. Even in the shade of the willow tree the compass gleamed.
Just then Charlemagne began growling and barking; instinctively Harry knew Sidney was standing behind him.
“You thieving little liar!” Sidney spat out furiously. Harry reached for the rock but Sidney kicked it out of Harry’s hand, causing him to cry out in pain. Harry managed to whistle and Charlemagne lunged at Sidney with a force so powerful he fell backwards. The spaniel sank his teeth into Sidney’s neck. Writhing on the ground, Sidney managed to break away from Charlemagne who relentlessly attacked again in an effort to protect Harry.
With arms flailing Sidney edged closer to the side of the cliff but once again freed himself from the clutches of the dog. Harry grabbed the rock from the ground and with a mighty force flung it at Sidney, hitting him squarely on his forehead. Stunned and bleeding, Sidney reeled and careened off the edge, bouncing off the boulders on his way down and disappearing into the choppy sea.
Charlemagne ran to Harry who scooped him up in his arms. “Good boy” Harry said soothingly as they walked to the cliff’s edge. The only sign of Sidney was one hobnail boot sticking out of a crevice. Harry realized he was still clutching Sidney’s compass. Glancing at it, he smiled slightly. How fitting that Sidney had gone south.