Lost and Found (part 5)

(This is the final part of Lost and Found, a short story posted in five parts over five days. You can find Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 by clicking on the Short Stories and Poems tab in the menu bar.)


The next morning, Eleanor attached the dog’s leash to his collar and grabbed her tote bag, mask, some tape, and the flyers she had made the night before. Originally, she planned to drive over to the housing tract but decided at the last minute to walk. “The exercise and fresh air will do us good, huh, boy?” Judging from his delighted yelps and dance around her legs, he agreed.

Eleanor knew there were just two ways in and out of the neighborhood. She planned to enter on the road nearest to her, follow the streets as they looped around through the neighborhood, and finish at the other end. She would post the flyers wherever she could and ask anyone she ran into if they knew who owned the dog.

After about a half hour of walking the neighborhood, Eleanor was almost done. She had managed to post most of her flyers and talk to several of the residents, none of whom recognized the dog. Approaching the final block, she saw a group of boys walking her way (all wearing masks, she was relieved to see). Before she could ask them if they knew the dog, they enthusiastically gathered around him and showered him with nuzzles and hugs, which he just as enthusiastically returned. Eleanor was sure this was it; they knew the dog and his owner and Eleanor would have to give him up. “Do you know the dog?” she asked quietly, already feeling an almost unbearable sense of loss.

“No, ma’am,” said one of the boys. “We see your dog sometimes when we play in the field, but we didn’t know who he belongs to. I’m glad to know that he has an owner and a home.”

Eleanor felt giddy with relief. She assured the boys that he had a good home and was well-loved. As she walked away, one of the boys called out to her, “I like how it looks like he’s wearing a mask like the rest of us. What is his name?”

“Ranger; like the Lone Ranger,” she replied over her shoulder. Then, she looked down at the little dog happily walking beside her and said, “Except you aren’t so lone, are you? You have me, and I have you.”  

A week later, just before the scheduled Zoom meeting with her son, Eleanor prepared herself and Ranger for the call. They had taken walks in the woods just about every day and, yesterday, she gathered more flowers. The vases competed with her books for table space. Her hair was loose and fluffed up like she had been wearing it lately, and Ranger was newly brushed after having had a bath that morning. She wanted everything to be perfect. “You are going to meet my son today,” she murmured as she held Ranger’s face between her palms and nuzzled her nose against his. “I’m sure he’ll love you as much as I do.”

Douglas Jr. had also been looking forward to the call. He had some news that he was anxious to share with his mother.

“Hi, Mom!” As upbeat as he tried to sound, Douglas Jr. couldn’t help feeling worried as he took in what he saw on his screen. Her living room still looked unorganized, her hair and clothes were much too casual, and her general demeanor was, well, a little erratic. “I have some good news for you!”

“Me too!” she exclaimed. “But why don’t you go first.”

Douglas Jr. took a deep breath. “My company is letting me work from home. Now that Max isn’t in school and Wendy is home full-time, we have all agreed that you should come to stay with us.” Not getting the reaction he expected, Douglas Jr. continued a bit more cautiously, “You must be getting pretty lonely in the big house all by yourself. It’s probably hard to keep up with the housework and cooking for just yourself must be boring. You won’t need to shop for your groceries and Wendy could also help you with your clothes and hair. She’s good at that type of thing.”

Rather than the enthusiastic response he hoped his announcement would receive, Douglas Jr. saw that his mother’s earlier smile had faded. “Before you tell me what you think, why don’t you share your news?”

Eleanor hesitated, taking a breath deep into her lungs and blowing it out slowly. She knew what she was going to say would surprise and, probably, disappoint her son, but she had to say it.

“I want you to meet someone special,” she began. “His name is Ranger. I was lost, and he helped to find me.”

The End

Copyright © 2020 retirementallychallenged.com – All rights reserved.

Author: Janis @ RetirementallyChallenged.com

My blog is about travel, relationships, photography, and whatever else pops into my head (even, sometimes, issues surrounding retirement and aging).

110 thoughts on “Lost and Found (part 5)”

  1. I really found myself eagerly anticipating the next part! Pretty great for a first time effort. I also was relieved that you didn’t break my heart at the end. I wanted a happy ending and got one. They are few enough these days.

  2. I liked the intertwining of masks, the times and a little dog’s masked markings of a face as a subtle theme throughout. And then to add to that, the natuaralness of his being named – Ranger.
    I know you had fun writing this, it shows!

  3. Janis – No wonder these characters grabbed your attention. I thoroughly enjoyed your story and am so glad you shared it. More to come, I hope! Very well-done :))) Cheers – Susan

  4. What a sweet story! I have a feeling that life is going to be better for both Eleanor and Ranger from now on. I like the way you used today’s situation as the background for your story, that made it even more realistic.

  5. Hi, Janis – I loved this story the first time that I read it and loved it even more upon second reading. Eleanor, and Ranger, completely grew on me. Awesome ending! I look forward to reading more short stories from you!

  6. I loved this, Janis! It was such a delight to watch Eleanor claim her life and expand into her world, even in a pandemic. Loved Ranger, too. Your writing is clean, clear, and direct–such a pleasure to read. Thanks for sharing this with us. You have embarked on a new adventure during the pandemic, too. Looking forward to more.

  7. Great story! I worried a bit that there would be something forced but you ended it on a high note. I’m sure that her son will come to understand, maybe even have some sympathy that she had lived so rigid all those years.

  8. What a great idea to post your story over five days! I looked forward to reading every installment. And I loved the positive, empowering message.

  9. I think that there is a bit of you in Eleanor. The tempo picked up more which kept my attention, especially when she started to get out of her comfort zone. I take my hat to you, Janis, for completing your first short story. As Anabel wrote, “Bravo, Eleanor!”.

  10. Oh Janis, I loved it. And, as we are traveling at the moment, I shared it with my husband as he drove and he, too, loved it. As English teachers, we’ve both read a lot of stories over the years!

  11. I thoroughly enjoyed this! Love Eleanor’s spunk and that she found a pup to love and share her life with. I am looking forward to more about Eleanor and Ranger. I haven’t wanted to read for awhile and found myself looking forward to your posts.

  12. A fantastic story and ending, Janis. I’m glad Eleanor and Ranger found each other. Maybe your next dreams will be about their adventures 🙂

  13. I had a lump in my throat and tears in my ears several times while reading this. I didn’t want it to end!!

    I hope Douglas Jr understands his Mom’s newfound self or refound self, and she, Ranger, and Douglas Jr live happily ever after.

  14. These have been fun! The story is timely because of COVID but also of how our children view us. Eleanor truly found herself through Ranger. May her son come to appreciate the changes – for the good – in his mother. Good story telling! I enjoyed reading and was glad you posted daily until the final one.

  15. Hi Janis! You’ve missed your calling…well one of them at least. I loved this story and I’m not really a short story reader at all. It moved along perfectly, kept me engaged and made me look for the next installment. (for some reason I didn’t get notified about this last episode so I came looking. I also think it worked really well posting it in installments. I was concerned that it might be awkward but it wasn’t at all. I sure hope you plan to do more….and then publish!!!!! Congratulations for taking this step, busting out of your “cage” and sharing with all of us! ~Kathy

    1. Hi Kathy! Thank you for your kind words and encouragement. I would like to write more and maybe even figure out how to get something officially published (just so, of course, I can call myself a “published author” 🙂 ). I’m so glad that you enjoyed my story.

  16. Janis, nicely done. I love the names Eleanor and Ranger. They give the story some added meaning, maybe due to the marvelous first lady. Thanks for sharing. Keith

  17. Janis, You are a genius! I looked forward to reading each chapter and loved how Elenore got more courageous and independent each day. Your story is so relevant – you should submit it!!

  18. I saved these to read in order, Janis. You are quite the tale spinner! I loved her metamorphosis and how her rescue rescued her and validated a life she had brewing inside her already. Really awesome job on this Janis, I think you’ve opened yourself up to some flash fiction challenges. My eyes got a little misty reading the ending. And I loved your images!!

  19. I waited to read them all together … and it’s a really delightful story (and I’m glad I waited… the installment would have frustrated me… I was spinning the pages madly to get to the next post!). I enjoyed how you wove in the current situation – the isolation, zoom connects, mask wearing uncertainty. The story made me think about my mom (as I think someone else said, too). I loved her exploration & finding her true self. … from cooking new things to flowers in the house to letting her hair down (literally) and that made me wonder how I should be looking for my true self a bit more right now! Congrats on a wonderful short story.

    1. Thanks, Pat. I’m so happy you enjoyed my story. Although I didn’t want to put all 4,500 words into one post, I knew that not everyone would enjoy reading a bit every day. I guess we all need to be looking for our true selves, but sometimes life gets in the way. During this current global “down time,” many of us might find the opportunity to do some exploring.

  20. I enjoyed this short story immensely Janis … my heart sank when the boys recognized Ranger. I was cheering Eleanor on with each new venture and was happy that Douglas Jr. got the shock of his life when his mother rebuffed him – good for Eleanor and good for you for writing this short story. I hope we will read more of the adventures of Eleanor and Ranger.

    1. I’m glad you liked reading about Eleanor’s journey, Linda. It was fun to write and then to put it “out there” for others to read. I grew quite fond of Eleanor, and it appears that others did too. I don’t know if I’ll write more of her adventures but, be assured, she and Ranger will be enjoying their new life together 🙂

      1. I hope you do some more stories about Eleanor Janis – she is a strong person and it was fun to see her gain independence and become a whole new woman than she had ever been before, stifled first by her husband and then almost by Douglas Jr. as well.

  21. What a wonderful and delightful story, Janis. I found myself eager to read each new installment. Since I’m a dog lover, I was happy to read that Eleanor found a furry friend to keep her company and I hope her son understood. I think it means more to her to stay independent and to not be a burden on her family. And the mask aspect was clever, too. I really enjoyed this and hope to read more from you! Take care, Lauren

  22. Janis, this was totally engaging. You painted a vivid picture of Eleanor, a woman in transition. Incredibly well done, right down to the masked pooch. And you did the paintings, as well? Such talent. I think you need to explore more fiction. Maybe we need to hear about the poor, overly worried son and his family.

  23. Nicely done, Janis! Eleanor’s transformation was delightful to witness, and she puts to rest the notion that change is something to be feared – a critical lesson for many who have lost a spouse. I hope you’ll continue to write – not only for the pleasure of your readers, but for your own pleasure and satisfaction, too. It’s obvious that you enjoy this new creative endeavor and you do it well. Thanks for bravely sharing your first foray into fiction with us – based on the comments, it was a huge success!

  24. I hope you have more of these short stories to share with us because I LOVED this one!

    I loved how you used this pandemic to create the setting and the continuing theme of the little puppy face wearing a mask 🙂
    You’ve aptly demonstrated that often out of difficult situations positive things can grow. I’m confident the ‘new’ Eleanor will flourish and handle the objections from Douglas Jr very well!

    1. Thank you, Joanne. I wanted to spin the whole lockdown/mask/isolation time we are going through in a positive light. I think many of us have discovered that it’s not all bad. I agree with you about Eleanor’s future… I think she will continue to find her true self.

  25. Love it! We are currently going through a similar situation in my family. I am a fan of independence for as long as possible. Great ending!!!

  26. Hi Janis – rather late to the party am I, but as they say, better late than never!

    Allow me to add my voice to the chorus – I enjoyed your short story enormously.

    One of the reasons I’ve been absent from the blogs is because I am trying to limit my exposure to C-19 this and pandemic that. And yet, what else is there to write about without appearing tone deaf? You pulled it off brilliantly.

    Bravo! and Encore!

    1. Thank you, Maggie… and it’s great to “see” you in my comments section! I don’t blame you for trying to avoid pandemic news, especially when much of it isn’t very helpful. I had hoped that my little story could put a positive spin on what many are experiencing as a negative. Btw, I think a lot of us had a hard time ignoring the elephant in the room at first, therefor many of our posts were about that. More and more, though, I’ve seen posts that either ignore it completely, or mention it just as a very minor player. After all, we need to normalize our lives as much as possible so we don’t make ourselves crazy. Don’t stay away too long.

  27. Hi Janis, I had read the individual stories when they were posted each day. Last night, I read the five parts all together. I gave you my initial thoughts by email. Each part stood well on its own and I looked forward to reading more. I really enjoyed reading the story all at the same time, too. The photo of Ranger is endearing and Ranger is a perfect fit for Eleanor in this stage in life. Meant to be. I also see myself in Eleanor and how children are concerned about their parents as we get older. I also believe we should not generalize people. One 70 year old is very different from another. You describe this very well. The true Eleanor emerges. I look forward to reading more of your stories.❤️

    1. How nice of you to read my story both ways… and leave a comment here as well as email me your impressions. I really enjoyed writing about Eleanor’s journey not only through the current pandemic, but also as she started to rediscover the real woman inside her. Thank you for your kind words.

  28. I’m late to the party, but I wanted to find a moment that I could binge-read your entire story, Janis. And, a wonderful tale it was. It looks like Eleanor and Ranger both “found” the perfect home now. Will there be a sequel? I assume, she will now not move in with her son and his family anymore – what a beautiful transformation and I love your positive outlook in this story about how masks and a pandemic can turn something disastrous into something positive as well! Plus, the inventiveness of Eleanor and her achieved freedom (as a single woman), as well as the pup, speak to me. Nicely done!

    1. Hi Liesbet! Thanks for reading my story and commenting. There probably won’t be a sequel but I’m pretty sure Eleanor and Ranger will stay in their own home together for as long as they can. Her son will just have to get used to it :). The story was a lot of fun to write and – I hope – there will be others to come.

      1. It shined (shone?) through that you had fun writing the story – it seemed to have come easy to you. The only thing that struck me as odd was that Eleanor brought reusable bags to the grocery store. It might be different in CA, but in MA nobody has been allowed to bring their own bags inside the stores since Covid began. Enjoy writing more stories and poetry! 🙂

  29. I really enjoyed this Janis and the way you spread it out over a few days. I liked the tension and the way she told her son. Well done and I hope you are thinking of continuing to write. Isn’t this an interesting time for us all, we can be creative and use our time differently. I also did a writing course and shared a version of my final story in a recent post.

    1. Hi Deb! Thank you for reading my story. I saw your post and read your story too (I’ll comment on your site). I’m so happy that you decided to take the writing journey too. It’s amazing what our imaginations can come up with if we only open our minds to inspiration.

      1. Yes indeed Janis, and it’s also good to be able to share with our like minded community of bloggers first of all. Your story was fabulous!

  30. Thank you for sharing this with us, Janis! I so enjoyed reading your story, and I’ve come to love Eleanor…and Ranger, of course.

  31. I am glad I waited and binge read them all at once because I am a compulsive reader and the suspense would have been bad! What a great uplighting short story. After years of confirming she makes her own mark. And life is always better with a dog!
    I have thought about how to weave in the pandemic into the story in my head but it will be from looking back at it and now of course I have no idea how many years to make this thing last! Thanks for the encouragement about my Natalie’s story. Perhaps this winter I will sit down and do a few more blurbs and see how it goes.

    1. Thank you for reading my story and reporting back 🙂 I loved writing about Eleanor and the start of her new life with Ranger.

      I hope you “play” with Natalie’s story some more as I hope to read it some day. Interesting idea about looking back at the time of the pandemic since so much is unknown right now.

  32. Janis, I read all five parts together, and loved the story! It is an intriguing idea that being put into a situation of not being recognized (wearing a mask in this case) can be very liberating. It frees a person from feeling their behaviour must conform to others’ expectations. I think many of us have had this experience when travelling, or, in my case, when I left my hometown as an 18-year-old to go to university. Your story also provides an insight into how one’s life can become quite constrained within a partner relationship, as each person adjusts to the other and suppresses some aspects of themselves. Once no longer in that relationship, other characteristics and interests might emerge. Of course, ideally, a relationship can also grow and change as the two people within it change.


    1. Thanks for your comment, Jude. I think Eleanor’s story is a universal one – before, during, and after the pandemic – and you pointed out some great examples of how we conform to, and break free from, those conventions. It is a little liberating to be “hidden” behind a mask… but I do miss seeing smiles and having my smile seen by others. Just the other day, I was talking to someone who said something nice and I said “I’m smiling right now.” 🙂

  33. What a lovely and telling story. I have always felt that fiction is as real as it gets. You can be in the mind and share the life of a person from another time and place, and I feel you can learn as much about them as if you knew them- maybe even more as the author takes you into their head. I read everything and write too. Presently, I am mainly writing non-fiction, telling tales of hanging banners and accosting aircraft carriers with Greenpeace, climbing mountains in Mexico and the Himalayas, and making my living by inventing answers to market research questionnaires. I also have a couple of fiction pieces too! https://writesimon.wordpress.com that’s me. I hope you enjoy my blog as much as I have enjoyed yours Happy reading and happy blogging

  34. I loved your five-part story! I came across your blog when searching for likeminded blogs on WordPress. My blog is at http://www.donutsandwine.com . I have ten short stories that relate to Covid in one way or another – with the last one swinging back to reflect on the first. The funny part is that my first story involves a senior named “Ellie” and her visit to the grocery store.
    I have blogged for many years but not with your success! You do a great job at blogging. I’m hoping to increase traffic to my posts. You are an inspiration! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thank you for reading my story; I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’ve read a few of yours (including the one set in a grocery store) and enjoy them also. Covid is a ripe subject matter, isn’t it? I have always found that the best way to increase traffic to our blogs is to visit and comment on other blogs that resonate with us (just like you did). I appreciate that you stopped by, commented, and are now following my blog!

  35. I got goosebumps reading your story, especially the ending – I hadn’t been back to read since I first read Part 1 and Part 2 and I was able to pick right up and follow the story, smiling all the while I read – well done, Janis, well done!

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