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Sorry for being MIA for a while. I went on vacation and then got busy with work and had little time to write. I will do my best to get back to my regular schedule with my chapters. 😀

 

Even though I didn’t have to wake up at sunrise anymore, I still liked having an early start to my day. Our garden at the side of our house was bigger than I was used to at the park, but I didn’t mind the work. It was relaxing, I guess. Or maybe it was a habit that was hard to break. Either way, Dad didn’t mind the help.

“Who are you and what have you done with my daughter?”

I laughed. “She’s right here, tending to your under-watered sage.”

“Sage doesn’t need much water, baby girl.”

“These do. The leaves are dry and brittle. They probably need more fertilizer in the soil too. You’re out by the way. I checked the shed and I didn’t see any. I’ll pick some up for you later.”

“Like I said, who are you and what have you done with my daughter?”

I shook my head at him. “You know, I have been doing this stuff for months now.”

“Yes, but, you complained every day. I figured you’d be happy to not have to do this stuff anymore.”

I shrugged. “I kinda like it. Besides, it feels good having a hand in producing the food I’m going to eat.”

He snorted, “I wish you felt that way when you were in high school. I had to use working in this garden as a punishment for you girls to get you to come out here and help me.”

“I was a rebellious little snot who didn’t know any better. Forgive me.” Teenage me seemed so long ago. I look back at those pictures of me with my green and purple hair and often wonder…why the hell did I think that look was cool?

“I can’t wait for the chrysanthemums to bloom. They only come in during the fall. Did I tell you they were my mother’s favourite flower?”

“No. You didn’t.” He rarely talked about her at all. Mom and Aunt Lyra would tell us stories about their parents all the time. My grandmother Ivy, the scientist who went to space. My grandfather Cyrus, the DJ turned stay-at-home Dad who raised them. Dad never talked about his parents at all. All I knew was that his father was a deadbeat who walked out before he was born, and his mom raised him as a single mom until she got sick and passed away. “What was she like?”

Without hesitating, he said, “Like you.”

“Really?”

“Nori resembles her a lot. Sometimes I look at her and could swear she’s my mother’s twin. Personality-wise though, you’re a lot like her. She was just as feisty, stubborn, and outspoken as you are.”

I guess I had to get it from somewhere. Nori’s a lot like Mom. Poppy’s a lot like Dad. I used to wonder why I was so different, but now I know. “I wish I knew them. My grandparents, I mean.”

“I wish that too. I’d be lucky if I get to meet a grandchild from any of you girls. Or even get to give one of you away on your wedding day.” He said it so seriously that it gave me a chill. I knew death for my parents was inevitable but I didn’t want to think about either one of them dying anytime soon. I changed the topic. “Hey, I’ve been meaning to ask…this is one of the crops Grandma Ivy brought back from space right?”

“It’s called an orb stalk, I think. Your mother would know.”

“It’s really cool.”

“Like how it glows in the dark you mean? Yeah, it is.”

“No, I mean, yeah, that’s cool too but I meant how Grandma Ivy travelled all the way to Sixam. Is it true that our great uncle was an adopted alien or did Mom make that up as a story to get us to fall asleep?”

Dad chuckled. “She told me that story too, but I thought she was just drunk cause she had half a bottle of wine in her system when she did.”

I guess I’d have to ask her when she gets home from her lunch date with Aunt Lyra.

“Spit it out.” He commanded. I looked around wondering if he was talking to Shiloh or something. That girl is always chewing on something she shouldn’t have in her mouth. “Huh?”

“Whatever is on your mind, talk to me.”

Damn. He knew me so well. “I’ve been thinking about what to do next and…I don’t know if I want to work for someone else. Mom thinks I can start my own cause but…I’m not so sure if I can.”

“Why not?”

“One, I don’t know the first thing about starting an NGO and two, I don’t know what my cause will be. I’m passionate about so many things but I know I need to focus my efforts on something specific. I just don’t know what.”

 “Well, why do you want to start your own charity?” He asked.

“I want to help people in need.” I answered honestly. “I want to do something good for this town. Give it something it needs that will make people’s lives better in some way. Carina’s farmer’s market is opening soon and there’s a lot of buzz around it, way more than the Green Initiative ever got so that’s one cause out of the way. I’m ready to move on to something else now.”

“You’ll think of something.”

“But when?” I was getting a little antsy being home all the time. I never thought I would enjoy working this much. I still had a lot more research to do but I was ready to get the ball rolling on starting my own charity. The only thing holding me back was picking a worthy cause.

“It will have to be something that matters to you, something personal so you find yourself passionate about it without much effort. It’s just like art – all you need is a little inspiration.”

Inspiration? I felt like I needed more than just that.

At least talking to him made me feel better. It always did. He’s my favourite person in the world to talk to because he just gets me. Probably because I’m just like his mother, as it turns out.

I still didn’t want to tell him why I was really anxious. I feel like I’m sucking at this whole legacy heiress thing. Every Sloane woman who’s ever held this role has been someone great. Looking at that alien tree made it hit me. My mom, my grandmother Ivy, and all the other Sloane women going way back have done something cool and amazing in their careers and I can’t help but feel like I’m slacking off.

My mother is a chef, best-selling cookbook author and restauranteur. My grandmother was a scientist and inventor who travelled to space and communicated with aliens. Even my sisters are winning at their careers. Nori plays for one of the best orchestras in Europe and Poppy just finished her first season as a professional basketball player for OS Rattlesnakes. My biggest achievement so far is planting a garden and painting a mural for a failed project that I happened to help sabotage myself. Not exactly impressive stuff.

I know I shouldn’t compare myself to my sisters, but I can’t help it. They’re both living out their dreams and I’m really happy for them. I just feel like I’m getting left behind. As much as I trust Dad’s opinion, I know I can’t sit around waiting for inspiration to kick in. I had to figure out the next step soon otherwise I might drive myself crazy.

I was about to head up to my room when this weird, gross scent hit me like a slap in the face. Shiloh came up to me and I knew right away that she was the source.

“Aw girl, did you get in the garbage again?” She just stared back at me with this weird look on her face and an even weirder goo hanging out of her mouth.

“What did you get into, Shiloh?” I grumbled. Oh Watcher, please don’t let it be fish or something! Ugh. I can’t handle cleaning fish guts out of her mouth again. She got into the garbage months ago and came back smelling gross as fuck that I wanted to vomit.

Speaking of vomit, I noticed there was some in the corner. That’s where the smell came from. She never barfed. Even when she ate all those fish guts she didn’t even throw it back up.

Something had to be wrong.

“Shiloh baby…are you sick?” I knew she couldn’t exactly answer me, but I was hoping she’d at least bark or something. Let me know she was okay save for the vomit in the corner and drool hanging out her mouth. But she didn’t bark. She didn’t wag her tail. She just whimpered like she was in pain.

I got down and inspected her for any physical sign of harm. She had no cuts or bruises that I could see. Though she did have weird ass bugs hoping around her fur.

Maybe she had fleas. Could they be the problem? I had no clue what to do. She was always so healthy, and she never even had fleas despite her many garbage can and dirt pile adventures.

I had to take her to the vet. The only problem was that the closest vet clinic was four hours away in Brindleton Bay, and that’s four hours if there’s not much traffic. It wasn’t an option to leave her like this anyway. She looked miserable and seeing her like that was making me miserable too.

So, I made the long ass drive to Brindleton Bay. I never liked travelling with her in the car because she always hopped around the seats which wasn’t safe for her. This time she laid still in the back and whimpered a lot when she wasn’t sleeping. It frightened me seeing her like that and it made me feel so damn helpless that I couldn’t do anything about it.

It was the longest five hours of my life since I had to make a couple of stops to clean the poop and vomit out of my car. When we arrived in Brindleton Bay, it was mid-afternoon. Thank goodness her condition didn’t get worse in the hours it took us to get there.

The check in system was unique. No receptionist necessary. It allowed me to input the information myself and list all her symptoms. I even got to see which veterinarians were currently available and I could choose which one I wanted. It would have been a nice feature if I knew any of them at all so I simply picked one at random.

Unfortunately, none of them were free so we had to wait a while.

Shiloh threw up again in the waiting room. This was the fourth time for the day. I had to keep feeding her bottled water so she wouldn’t get dehydrated. I wasn’t even sure if that’s what I was supposed to do. I mean, I know that’s what I had to do that time I got food poisoning but is it the same for animals? I had no idea.

Someone came over, a doctor or an orderly maybe. I started to apologise for my dog, but she graciously shrugged me off by saying this stuff happens all the time. “Are you from Oasis Springs, by chance?” She asked.

“Um, yeah, how did you know?”

“A lot of the patients that came in over the last few days live Oasis Springs. And by the looks of your pup, I think he might have swamp mouth.”

“It’s a she…and swamp mouth?” I asked. What the hell was that?

“Ptyalistic palusis, commonly known as swamp mouth. It’s a bacterial infection that’s common in strays. I guess your town has a lot of them?”

I nodded. “We do have a lot of strays…but Shiloh is not a stray. I take good care of her.”

“All it takes is for her to have contact with a dog that’s infected and she’ll get it. Maybe when you take her for a walk and she socializes with one or if she eats out of something an infected dog ate from…that’ll do it. Don’t worry, it’s curable.” She tacked on that part really quickly almost as if she knew I already started panicking.

“Thank Watcher!” I sighed in relief.

“Yeah, just a shot and a round of antibiotics and she’ll be fine.”

“Oh, that’s a relief! I’m glad it’s not serious.”

“Oh, it is serious!” She said with a serious look. “Good thing you brought her in now. The doctor will have to check her out but she still looks like she’s in the early stages. Another day and we might not be able to treat her.”

Thank goodness I didn’t have to work anymore. If I went to work this morning I wouldn’t have noticed that Shiloh was sick until right about now and then I’d have no choice but to bring her to the hospital tomorrow. I didn’t even want to think about what our options would have been if they couldn’t treat her.

“Thanks a lot…?” I gestured for her name.

“It’s Billie. Billie Jang. I actually wanted to live in Oasis Springs, you know?”

“Really? Where are you from?”

“San Myshuno, born and raised. The winters are really cold there. I wanted somewhere warmer, you know, but Oasis Springs doesn’t have a clinic so Brindleton Bay became my only option. I’m a third year in vet school so I’m not qualified to open up my own yet.”

“Yeah, it sucks that we don’t have a vet clinic in our town. The commute with a sick dog was like torture for us both!” This was the first time I smiled at all since this morning. It was nice talking to Billie and I was also relieved that Shiloh was gonna be fine.

We didn’t have to wait much longer to see the veterinarian. Her name was Dr Cheryl Hewitt and according to Billie, she was the best in the whole hospital. She didn’t even spend much time examining Shiloh before she came up with a diagnosis. Then again, there were a lot of dog patients coming in with the same bacterial infection all week so it probably wasn’t too hard for her to notice the symptoms.

It was just like Billie said, she gave Shiloh a shot and prescribed a week’s worth of antibiotics that I would have to crush into her food. At least it wasn’t a suppository.

I noticed a difference in Shiloh right away. She was no longer drooling after Dr Hewitt gave her the medicinal treat. She stopped whimpering within minutes of receiving the shot plus she had a lot more energy now than she did when we first walked in.

She was back to normal and I was so thrilled. The doctor said she would be fine, but we would have to monitor her for any side effects to the antibiotics. I was so thrilled when she rubbed her head against my chest and barked I could cry.

As I was mentally preparing myself for the four-hour drive back home, a thought occurred to me. Billie and Dr Hewitt agreed that Shiloh got infected most likely from a stray. Sometimes, she would wander off our property so maybe that’s how she managed to contract the bacterial infection. She never goes outside of our neighbourhood, but still. Almost every day I see an unattended animal in our town. Most of them get sick and because there’s no one to care for them they get worse and become contagious. And even if there was someone taking care of them, how would they get proper treatment for them in a timely manner if they have to go to another town. Not everyone has the luxury of driving all the way to Brindleton Bay. If I didn’t get Shiloh here in time then I would be saying goodbye to her.

I held her as we left the clinic but then she jumped out of my arms and began chasing a group of pigeons. My little troublemaker can’t help herself. I just hoped there wasn’t any pigeon-borne infections she can catch. I don’t wanna have to go through this again. I don’t think anyone should have to go through what I went through with their pets.

And then it hit me. It was just like what Dad said about inspiration. The thing I’m passionate about without much effort came forward and I was inspired. I was overwhelmed by all the ideas in my head and I couldn’t wait to get back home to begin planning.

As soon as I tore her away from her new hobby, of course.

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