The dog had no name. For a dog to have a name someone must have him and someone must love him, and a dog must have someone. The dog had no one, and no one had the dog. The dog had only the silent empty countryside of the few houses. The dog had only the crumbs and cleaned bones he could pick up at the few houses. The dog had only himself, so the dog had nothing, and he was afraid.
Hunger haunted the dog. It sat like an agony back of his eyes. Hunger ached out of his ladder-rack ribs, those lean ribs that threatened to break through the stretched, shivering skin. Always the dog shivered. When at rest he shivered. Not from cold necessarily, but from hunger, from fear, from loneliness, and from lovelessness— mostly, perhaps, from lovelessness, for the dog had nothing but himself.
Sometimes the haunting hunger drove the little dog out of his woodlot hiding places by day. But only when hunger became bigger than fear. Only on days when he had not been able to find a dead rabbit or crow, or hadn't been able to catch a quick, scurrying field mouse. On such days he would emerge from his shadowy woodlots. By secret avenues of hedgerow and fencerow he would whip himself across the furtive fields to still another woodlot. In the hope of finding something dead there, or of catching a mouse there. In that hope.
No one in that countryside really knew the dog existed. No one was sure. Still the dog had lived there for a year.
But now in the last two weeks of his stray year the little dog had added a house on another road to his nightly rounds. A house where two old people lived with a toothless, rheumatic old hound. The hound was too toothless to gnaw his bones, too old and weary with life to bury his bones. But still the old hound obeyed his dog instincts and shoved his bones under an old burlap bag against the wall of a shed where he lay during the day sunning his rheumatic joints. And the little dog knew.
To start with there was Shora. Shora was a fishing village in Holland. It lay on the shore of the North Sea in Friesland, tight against the dike. Maybe that was why it was called Shora. It had some houses and a church and tower. In five of those houses lived the six school children of Shora, so that is important. There were a few more houses, but in those houses lived no children— just old people. They were, well, just old people, so they weren't too important. There were more children, too, but young children, toddlers, not school children— so that is not so important either.
There were no storks in Shora. Lina had written this story about storks of her own accord-the teacher hadn't asked her to write it. In fact, until Lina read it out loud to the five boys and the teacher, nobody in school had even thought about storks.
Do you know about storks? Storks on your roof bring all kinds of good luck.
First to dream and then to do— isn't that the way to make a dream come true?
It had been a long journey. Tien Pao had lost count of all the days and nights. But all those nights when the horns of the new moon had stood dimly in the sky, Tien Pao and his father and mother had pushed the sampan on and on against the currents of the endless rivers. Day and night. There was no stopping even at night. "We won't stop until we drop," Tien Pao's father had kept saying over and over. "And we won't drop until we are far inside this great land of China. Far from the sea-for where the sea is, there the Japanese invaders are."
Back and back the planes had come with their hail of bullets, while sampans sank and went under. Back and back until there was but one empty sampan left drifting on the water. Then the planes had come no more— not for one empty sampan. It had drifted silently— empty.
On the floor Tien Pao had held Beauty-of-the-Republic tightly against him, while with his other hand he'd twisted his cap into a prop to shove into the bullethole through which the river water came welling. He had lain on the prop to keep the water from pushing it out again, and he'd lain half over the baby sister to shield her if the airplanes and the bullets should come again.
There was this boy, Davie, and he was going to have a rabbit. His grandfather had promised it. A real, live rabbit. A little black rabbit, if possible. In a week, if possible. And this was in the Netherlands.
And what is a week? Poof— and like that a week is gone by. Poof— there is a good week, and poof -- there it is gone. But a week doesn't go by, and doesn't go by, when you are waiting for a little black rabbit. Oh, a waiting week is long. It is like eternity.
All of a sudden he knew. Shadrach was rabbit's name. It even sounded black! He tried it on his tongue. He listened to it. Shadrach.
But Shadrach was a name from the Bible. And now he wasn't sure that it was right to name a rabbit with a name from the Bible. Shadrach was one of the three young men that old Nebuchadnezzar in the old testament had tossed into the fiery furnace— Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Suddenly he thought that Shadrach must be a good black name— Shadrach must have got pretty black in that fiery furnace. He didn't smile, because it wasn't right to joke about things from the Bible, and he still didn't know whether you should name a rabbit with a name from the Bible. It worried him.
The sun was out, the sun was rising in the sky. Importantly the rooster strode across the floor, hopped up to a window sill, filled his chest, and crowed a mighty crow— to crow the sun up in the sky and sunlight into his busy hen house.
The little hen poked her head up from the hole she had dug and looked at the crowing rooster. She thoughtfully looked from the rooster in the window sill to the high row of nests that rose against the end wall of the hen house. She started to dig again, but then she hurried through the loose straw to the nests. The time had come to lay an egg.