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Behind the Warehouse

    Shadow Boxing

    Zoey lived with her father and stepmother in the rolling plains of the Piedmont‒a blend of grasslands and low hills. Getting lost was simple. When she invited me to visit and experience her remote life, I added another hour to drive through unfamiliar back roads before checking my GPS. How many people knew they raised bison in the middle of nowhere? Not many. Thanks to my misdirection, I joined a select few who shared this knowledge. My phone rang.

    Where are you? Are you lost?

    Almost there. Twenty-sixth, right?

    Yes, I’ll look for you. I’m heading outside right now. We maintained our connection amid door sounds and shuffling footsteps. I think I see you. Do you see me? She was waving like a castaway survivor.

    Yes, I see you.

    A long concrete driveway led down to a doublewide home flanked by a garage next to a much larger garage. As I began my approach, a large black dog‒easily thirty inches at the shoulder‒raced from the house, vociferously questioned my intrusion, and hindered the path of my truck.

    <3 <3 <3 <3

    A shadow box has mysterious appeal. Unlike pictures set into frames, an extra dimension invokes a tiny portal into another time.

    I like building boxes. The noun has endured since ancient Greek times. It’s all about tradition and perfect right-angles. The shadow box would challenge my artistic skill.

    A plethora of shadow box designs can be found on the internet. I chose one that used a picture frame on the front‒a window for my portal.

    <3 <3 <3 <3

    His name was Ruger. Half Black Lab and half Great Dane. Zoey had adopted him after he was retired as a prison dog. I obeyed his goofy rules and we got along quite well.

    Do you brush his teeth? I asked while sitting in her father’s kitchen. This was a reference to the giant grinning head that separated us.

    I’m not sticking my fingers in there! You’re welcome to try.

    I’m good. Just asking.

    We went outside and Ruger bounded off to patrol the untamed lowlands next to the homestead. A red fox quickly scuttled away to safety.

    Our next stop was a picnic table. The view included a fifty-gallon steel barrel riddled with bullet holes.

    You should have brought your gun. Bring your gun next time, we’ll have fun.

    Our relationship was showing promise.

    Ruger returned and pressed his large body between us before bounding off for more exploration. This was his jurisdiction and there was never a shortage of matters that required discovery and resolution.

    <3 <3 <3 <3

    I have a large stash of picture frames. I don’t collect them, they just accumulate. An ornate ten-by-twelve frame was selected for my project. The glossy cherry-stained finish would not work. One hour later, most of this finish had been removed. Remnants of stain within stubborn nooks added rustic appeal.

    The box would be three inches deep and larger than the standard size. It would sit on a table rather than hang on a wall. Mitering the box corners to match the picture frame might have resulted in weak joints. Instead, I cut square butts that would be joined with wood dowels. Another picture frame would sit in the back. This vital element would be homemade and less decorative.

    <3 <3 <3 <3

    A couple months later, Zoey found a home of her own that was closer to where she worked. It was a townhome and Ruger lost most of his freedom. Before long we discovered a nearby open space that required pets to be leashed.

    Assuming the local ordinance was advice, we allowed Ruger to run free. The other dog walkers might have objected to the large black beast galloping toward them. But he never harmed anyone or any of their pets and soon began making new acquaintances.

    Sometimes, while Zoey was at work, I would steal my boy and take him out for more adventure. Yes, he was now my boy, and his owner was becoming suspicious about our relationship.

    <3 <3 <3 <3

    I didn’t have any plans. Everything was built around the picture frame. A perfect box must be monolithic. Any deviation should be by intent not accident. Redundant measurements were necessary and anything that failed specifications was scrapped and recut.

    Each piece was completed before fastening everything together. This included sanding, cleaning, and staining the inside faces. These would be difficult to address when the box was finished. The stain was a dark grey that marbled the grain of the wood.

    Assembling the back, where a picture would be enclosed, became a puzzle. I should have made notes. But I didn’t and a few iterations were required.

    <3 <3 <3 <3

    Our brotherhood became an excuse to visit parts of town I had never seen. There were a few days when Zoey joined us. Other than that, it was just me and my boy.

    The county park was the best discovery. It had several ponds and bordered the local river. Ruger loved water. He wasn’t a swimmer. A simple cool belly bath suited his needs.

    His reactions to other dogs were predictable. If he was leashed he wouldn’t shut up and every soul in the park knew our location. Boowoowoowoowoo! Boowoowoowoowoo!

    If he was untethered, his legs replaced his mouth as bounded over to greet another of his kind.

    Hot summer days would beckon us into the shade for a break. Unless another dog walked by, these were mostly peaceful periods of rest. I would talk to him about Zoey. Between the two of us, she was known as The Boss.

    The Boss will be home soon. Maybe we should move on.

    No comment.


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    The picture frame soon became a window. A pane of glass guarded a vault for relicts. The edges of the window were sealed with a rectangular leather gasket paired with avocado green matting. Brass pins were then carefully hammered into the frame to secure the trimming and glass. A medieval appeal crept into my creation.

    The window frame swung open upon hinges and clasped with a wooden nub. At the back, another piece of glass was set into the rear frame. This was trimmed with similar matting and filled with a photo of my boy’s profile. A plywood panel on the back completed my efforts.

    <3 <3 <3 <3

    Ruger’s health began to decline. I can’t go into details. Then the day arrived when he became an unforgettable memory. I wanted to keep the shadow box but gave it to Zoey as had been intended. The photo was perfectly him. My boy.

    <3 <3 <3 <3

    This story was written one week before I learned about Zoey's passing. While she encouraged and enjoyed my stories, I was conflicted about sharing this one with its sad conclusion. Zoey wasn't her real name, but she shunned notoriety and I respected this. Only a few of her close friends will know who Zoey was. She was a good friend and wild inspiration for many stories. To return to the present tense, God has received her soul and reunited Zoey with her boy Ruger and my girl Boo-boo.


    Gordon Frisbie has studied and applied a variety of environmental disciplines ranging from water quality to air quality and all the critters that inhabit these havens. His interests are constantly expanding as he searches for the best phrases to capture the world around him and share imaginary landscapes.

    To augment his literary skills, Gordon is currently tasked with writing about himself in the third person.

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    copyright gordon frisbie 2023

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