Laudizen King Banner gathered along the way
long road home Signposts and Junctions      

The Corgis at the Stairs


The Corgis at the Stairs


Corgis at the Stairs
(photo courtesy George Nolan)


Helen, cradling two large shopping bags, managed to open the back door and stepped into the house.

“Hello,” she yelled. “Anybody home?” The house was quiet; she placed the packages on the kitchen counter. “Henry,” she called out anew, expecting her husband to reply. Again, only silence. “He must be out with the dogs,” she thought.

As she stowed the groceries, a muffled noise came up from the basement. She walked across the kitchen and opened the door to the cellar. Henry lay motionless at the bottom of the stairs, a halo of blood radiating out in a wide dark circle on the cement like the aura surrounding a saint’s head in an icon.

“Oh my God!” she cried. Snatching the phone from its cradle on the wall, she dialed 911; an operator answered. “Send an ambulance,” she stammered, “my husband has fallen down the stairs.” She descended the stairs and knelt at the side of the inert figure. She placed a hand across a large gash on the back of his head and clasped his shoulder with the other. A soft moan emanated from the body; he was alive.

“Oh, Henry,” she cried softly, gently rocking back and forth. “Oh, Henry.”

Helen looked up and saw five pairs of eyes quietly watching her from beneath a clothes rack; it was their Corgis. The dogs sat quietly with the alpha-male, Jack, squatting out front while the others sat watching behind him, impassive and aloof. She heard a siren in the distance and she returned her attention to the man lying on the floor before her.

The next few minutes transpired in a blur. The ambulance arrived along with a police cruiser. The EMTs bandaged Henry’s wounds and strapped him to a litter, then wrestled the litter up the stairs and into the kitchen where they transferred Henry to a gurney before loading him into the ambulance. Helen followed them to the hospital in her car.

Henry had several deep lacerations on his head but it could have been much worse; they kept him overnight at the hospital as a precaution. Susceptible to seizures, Henry had blacked out at the worst possible moment and tumbled down the steep cellar stairs to land hard upon the cement floor of the basement. After giving the police officer a statement, Helen checked in on her husband before driving home alone.

She entered the back door into the kitchen and made her way to the basement; she did not look forward to the cleanup that awaited her down on the cellar floor. However, when she reached the bottom of the stairs there was no pool of dried blood, no stain or odor evident, nothing. The cement floor was clean and unmarked.

“It could only have been the dogs,” she whispered. “They must have cleaned up the blood with their tongues. Who else?”

She walked into the room where the dogs slept. Fergie and Sarah lay on their sides, heads raised, eyes open and looking up. Cadbury, Monty, and Jack stood gazing at her; they had that guilty look that dogs acquire when they have been up to some sort of mischief. Their ears stood up like arrowheads.

“It’s okay, Jack” she said, her tone soft and soothing. “It's okay. Henry misses you all; he’ll be home tomorrow.” Helen sat down among the dogs and the five of them nuzzled up to her, happy to have their bellies and ears scratched and rubbed.

Henry returned from the hospital the following day, bandaged and sore. Helen told him about the puddle of blood that had disappeared. He still needed to negotiate the cellar stairs, however, as his office was in the basement and there was no room upstairs for the large desk, computer hardware, and loaded bookcases that Henry used in his research. So he resigned himself, at least for the time being, to negotiate the stairs infrequently, and used them only when Helen was in the house, lest he have another seizure alone.

But for Henry, who suffered through seizures with some regularity, these episodes had become part of his life; he fell to the floor and his wife made him as comfortable as possible until it passed. Helen no longer called the paramedics; they could not afford it and besides, the EMT’s had no remedy. They just let the seizure run its course.

Sometimes, the dogs would act strangely just before a siezure began, and Henry would lie down as a precaution.

Several days later, Helen returned from shopping and found Henry sitting at his desk with his eyes closed, a morose look on his face.

“What’s wrong, honey? You feel all right?”

“I have a headache,” he answered. “I’ll be okay.” She rubbed his shoulders gently. In a few minutes, Henry opened his eyes and looked at her. “The dogs are different.”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“I’m not sure, just different. For one thing, they won’t eat our dog food anymore. And they look at me strangely now. I can feel it.”

“Honey, I think the dogs are just traumatized by your accident. You scared them with your fall. Remember, they’re castle dogs, descended from the spoiled dogs of royalty. I’ll pick up a good bag of beef bones from the butcher. You can pass them out to our pack to gnaw on and they will all love you again. You’ll see.”

The next morning, Helen went to the butcher as promised and secured a bag of thick beef bones sawed into short lengths. She returned home and put the bones in the refrigerator. She called out to Henry, no answer. She walked down the cellar stairs and found Henry hard at work at his computer, headphones fastened over his ears. She tapped him on the shoulder and he jumped in his chair. He turned around to face her and removed the headphones.

“I have to go out for a few hours,” she said. “You gonna be okay?”

“I’ll be fine,” he answered. “Get out of the house and enjoy yourself. You need a break from this house and my seizures. The dogs will keep me company and watch over me if I have another episode.”

Helen left the house and met friends at a local coffee shop where they chatted over lattes and tea. Everyone voiced concern over her haggard appearance and listened with interest to Helen’s update on Henry and his seizures. “It’s nice to have a sympathetic ear,” said Helen. “Even my Corgi’s are run down and depressed. We’ll all need therapy before this is over.” They all laughed over this last remark.

Eventually, they paid the bill and said goodbyes before going their separate ways. Helen returned home and entered the kitchen, throwing her keys on the counter.

“I’m home,” she said. Dog noises came up from the basement. The phone rang; it was her sister. She sat down and related the events of the past few days to her sibling. For the first time in three days, she felt calm and relaxed. After chatting for an hour, she hung up the phone.

Down in the cellar, she could hear the dogs gnawing on their bones and growling at each other, always wanting another dog’s treat because it looked bigger than their own. She walked to the refrigerator and opened it. The full bag of bones sat where she had left it.

“What’s going on,” she said, opening the cellar door.

At the bottom of the stairs, still partially clad in fabric, lay a large human leg; a long length of fractured white bone protruded from the bloody stump. A blood trail led away from the bottom of the staircase towards Henry’s office. The five Corgis leered up at her, their muzzles and chests covered with red and gore. In horror, she staggered away from the door, screaming as she collapsed against the far wall.

From the door came the sound of twenty little feet bounding up the cellar stairs.