Ep. 5 -- Dog & Rhododendron


The dog has been summoned! It only took bushy creatures and some malicious mists--

Welcome, weary travelers, to The Inn Between. Join Gabriela Jones, a recent botany undergrad, in her new job as Innkeeper near the rural town of Shearwater.

New episodes bi-weekly on the quarter moon. Written and read by Bailey Loveless Special thanks to Bastion Loveless for providing the voice of Doctor Perry Wrinkle.

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Special Thanks to Stephanie Salis, this episode's Guestbook contributor and her short story. Writer by night, Stephanie transitioned from mainly writing short poems to novels and is now working on her first children’s novel, The Secret of Wixham Woods. When she’s not writing or reading, she can be found in her herb garden with her two children. You can follow along with Stephanie and her work on Instagram @meetmeinmalkovich.

Read guestbook submission guidelines here

LAND ACKNOWLEDGMENT: This podcast is inspired by and recorded on the Indigenous lands of the Coast Salish people of the Pacific Northwest. We celebrate and honor these ancestral lands and their stewards--past, present, and future.

THEME MUSIC: Yonder Dale / Tiny Surprises / courtesy of www.epidemicsound.com

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[Intro Music]

Welcome, weary travelers, my name is Gabriela Jones, the new innkeeper of The Inn Between, where the trees are green, the rooms are cozy, and the guests are only a little bit strange. Whether you’re listening for the first time or have been here before, come on in and prop up your feet-metaphorically speaking of course—and pour yourself a cup of coffee.

If you have been listening for a while, you may remember Mrs. Carol, the former innkeeper, mentioning a dog before she unceremoniously drove away on my first day on the job. She said that Dog would protect the property but never let him inside or trust him with anything else. It’s been weeks since that conversation, and I had not yet acquainted myself with the dog in question. Not till now.

[Intro Music]

The day I met Dog began as usual. A sweet cinnamon latte to warm me up in the morning. Breakfast for the guests, feeding the goats in the barn, cleaning up after check out, and tending to the fledgling garden. By the back porch is a large rhododendron bush, and I noticed that it needed pruning. Rhododendrons are widespread and quick-growing plants commonly found in these parts, and I’ve grown particularly fond of them. For those of you who may have an interest in floriography, the language of flowers, a little-known fact about the rhododendron is that it’s said to symbolize danger and serve as a warning sign. However, it’s hard to imagine anything dreary or ill-boding about the rhododendron at this time of year. It has become a favorite spot of the birds returning home from their winter migration, and with the spring showers, brilliant ruby-red flowers have blossomed all over the heath. I thought these sweet-smelling blooms might add something special around the inn, so I intended to gather a bouquet once I finished with the pruning.

But as I went to cut one of the flowers, there was a flash of white. Deep deep deep inside the branches of the rhododendron were a pair of eyes staring at me. Now you might think these eyes obviously belonged to the elusive Dog, but they did not. They were the eyes of something very small and nimble, even though the pupils were big and childlike. They looked at me with a mixture of curiosity and caution, sort of like a kid who has temporarily misplaced its parents while out in the park. Or at least that’s how I felt as a protective instinct welled up inside me alongside a weird tinge of guilt for wanting to take the flowers.

“I’m sorry, did I disturb your habitat?” I said.

The eyes blinked slowly at me as if to confirm.

“Are you alright in there?” I asked again, and once more the little thing blinked back at me.

Just then, I heard a loud bark behind me. And this was when I met Dog.

Or at least, what I very much hope is a dog because it kind of looks like a coyote and a bear have made a strange baby cub together. Dog is all mange, mass, and legs with a long snout and a clever grin, and were it not for the collar around his neck, I would have assumed I was staring nose to nose with the big bad wolf. But his sweeping tail beat playfully. And with another loud bark, he lunged at the rhododendron bush at full speed.

“No! Dog, stop” I called out , but it was too late. The creature with the big eyes scampered off as Dog squarely collided with me. I fell flat onto the grass, but Dog was already up, bounding and beating around the bush as if searching for a ball or a squirrel. Finding nothing, he looked back towards me with disappointment.

  “Bad dog,” I scolded as I picked myself up from the lawn and folded my arms.

He did not look chastened. He scratched behind his ear with that smile on his face, and I couldn’t get rid of him after that. For the rest of the day, he trotted around behind me whenever I was outside. I’ve always been more of a cat person, and not only did I decidedly dislike that mischievous look on his face, I still couldn’t quite get over the feeling that he might eat me at any moment.

However, I would be grateful for his company soon after that, and I can’t help but think that he knew that all along.

But first, let’s check in with the guest book. A beautiful young mother and her two children recently passed through town, spending a couple of lovely spring days in the Fiddlehead Fern Room. Before she left, the mother left the following surprising, but not-quite-so-lovely tale behind. It reads:



Three drumbeats rattled the door, the wood rejoicing at the contact. No one ever visited 17 Plover Drive, so the sudden alert at the doorstep was unexpected and unwelcome to the inhabitant. 

Mary, the woman inside 17 Plover Drive, was a recluse. People only ever saw her when she peered quickly out of the curtains, yelling at some teenager or dog to stay away from her house. 

Sitting at her desk in the study, Mary decided to ignore the three knocks, hoping whatever solicitor had shown up would vanish as fast as they came. Only a few moments passed before the knocking sounded again. Frustrated, she made her way to the door on silent socked feet, hoping the solicitor wouldn’t hear any encouraging footsteps. To her confusion, when she pressed her eye to the peephole, she didn’t see anyone. 

Good, she thought, they’d gotten the message and gone away. But as she moved from the door the knocking came yet again. 

Annoyed, she turned on her heel and thrust open the door, hoping to startle whoever was playing such a trick on her. Everyone in this town gave her a wide berth and no one ever disrupted the silence of her home by knocking on the door. 

She squinted against the sun as she pulled it open. She expected to see a misinformed salesman or a desperate Girl Scout, but the only thing on her doorstep was a small ceramic gnome. Odd. Who would leave a garden gnome on someone’s porch? She closed the door on the little creature without a second thought and locked it tight. 

On her way back to the study, she grabbed her coffee to sip and upon entering the workspace nearly choked on the gulp. 

There, staring at her from the writing desk, was the garden gnome from the doorstep. She stifled a scream as she pinched her arm, hoping this was some kind of lucid dream and she was really just in bed, none of this having happened. But she definitely felt the pinch and her reality was the same. She was awake and a gnome had mysteriously and magically appeared at her door and then reappeared in the house. 

Slowly, as if approaching a wild animal, Mary stepped towards the gnome. His potbelly and wide smile made him seem friendly, but the air felt wrong. She could swear the eyes had something behind them and as she reached for the figurine on the desk, the eyes refocused on Mary and an evil smirk raised across its face. 

Mary’s own eyes widened and before she could back away, the gnome reached out for her, touched her hand, and she disappeared down his ever widening mouth. In seconds, the potbelly grew larger, filled with the recluse at 17 Plover Drive. The gnome, satisfied, hopped down from the desk and walked out the front door. 

Across the street, at 20 Plover Drive, three knocks reverberated off the wooden door.”

I can only hope this tale comes from fiction, and is not a true secondhand account about an unfortunate neighbor of this young mother. After my experiences with dog though, nothing would surprise me at this point. Maybe the innocuous really aren’t always as benign as they may seem. Maybe if you have a dog, it provides some extra protection against the unexpected.

In the evening, I was treated to a remarkable sunset. While there’s really no such thing as a bad sunset, that night’s was truly spectacular. The sky was a deep red to rival the flowering rhododendron, mixed with cotton candy-colored clouds. The evening air was warm and pleasant, so I sat out on the porch with Dog, who happily panted at my feet. We watched the sunrise together as I sipped from a mug of my favorite lavender tea.

But as the day turned into night, the sky deepened into an unusual, inky black.  The moon was out, but the stars went unseen, and somewhere in the wood a raven began to shriek wildly. A shiver went down my spine, and Dog lifted his head, his ears standing erect and alert. 

“What is it?” I said, aloud, rising to my feet and straining to listen. “What’s wrong, Dog?”

At that moment, a thick mist the color of black smoke began to creep towards the inn. On all sides, it snuck closer and closer as if only the thin light of the crescent moon surrounding the house kept it at bay.

Dog stood, hackling at his haunches, and growled. He took a few steps into the yard, snapping at the air as if he could take the mist into his mouth and shake it away. Maybe he could because the mist seemed to hover uncertainly, and Dog suddenly stopped and sat watchfully. There was another cry out in the forest that sounded like a woman’s wail. Dog howled in response. Then it was quiet.  Satisfied, Dog gave a snort and returned to my side, giving an affectionate nudge to the back of my hand. The strange mist came no closer after that.

I, meanwhile, no longer felt threatened or frightened for myself. It was abundantly clear that Dog would see that I came to no harm. Instead, I thought of those big eyes I had seen in the rhododendron. Whatever it was that I saw, I hope it was alright, and I hope it was not alone.

On a happier note, I received word back from Doctor Perry Wrinkle—literally. My former permaculture and soil professor sent me the following voice memo about the strange dust I collected April 1st, the morning of my first visitor back in Episode Three. With his permission, I will play the memo for you now: 

Gabriela Jones, I wanted to message you personally about the strange soil sample you sent me. After lab analysis of the sample, I have more questions than answers, one of them being, did you rob a lab or something? How on earth did you come across this soil seeing as there doesn’t appear to be any actual earth in it? I couldn’t believe what I was seeing at first, but all my labs confirmed that there is no organic matter within your sample. This stuff is more out of this world than Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum in that one alien movie.

However, you should still be able to add it to your garden. Aside from perhaps nitrogen, all of the essential minerals appear present in sufficient quantities for plant growth, which is amazing! When mixed with nitrogen-rich soil, I suspect you might yield some interesting results. 

My suggestion of course would be to conduct a controlled experiment, and see how well your vegetables germinate in a mixture of this substance.

Selfishly, I’d also love some samples of your results to investigate…and to add to my coleslaw. 

Thanks again for cultivating my curiosity. Please send any more discoveries my way, no matter how strange. In the meantime, happy growing.

Thank you, Doctor Wrinkle, and happy growing to you, professor! It was a pleasure to hear from you again sir, and thank you so much for the encouragement. I’ll make sure to include a healthy bunch of cabbage in my experiment for your coleslaw’s sake, of course.

Till next time, listeners,

Be kind, give your dog a nice pat on the head, and don’t forget to water your plants,

Gabriela Jones

[Outro Music]

Hey there, it’s Bailey Loveless, writer and reader of Gabriela & The Inn Between. Thanks for tuning in to this week’s episode. If you enjoyed the show, please consider supporting via Ko-Fi, link in the show notes below. It costs less than your favorite latte, and your contribution keeps the show self-sustaining and advertisement free.

Special thanks to Bastion Loveless, comedian extraordinaire and beloved brother, for providing the voice of Doctor Perry Wrinkle. Thanks, bro.

And another extra special thanks to Stephanie Sallis, this episode’s Guestbook contributor. Writer by night, Stephanie transitioned from mainly writing short poems to novels and is now working on her first children’s novel, ‘The Secret of Wixham Woods.’ When she’s not writing or reading, she can be found in her herb garden with her two children. You can follow along with Stephanie and her work on Instagram @meetmeinmalkovich

To submit short prose or poetry to be featured in the Guestbook segment, please send us an email or visit our website for more information, link also in the show notes. New episodes of Gabriela and the Inn Between release twice a month during the quarter moon phase. I look forward to seeing you on the next episode. In between time, keep warm and keep well. See you next time, folks