Thursday, August 22, 2013

Prompt: Backpack, falls, crossroads, soothe, message (use at least 3 of these)

Charley lay on the sun-warmed riverbank, drying off after a long overdue bath in the deep pool below the roaring falls. Hero sat patiently by her side, keeping watch and panting as his fur also dried. He loved swimming almost as much as she did.

Finally she pulled on her mostly-dried long-sleeved tee and threadbare jeans that she’s washed in the river and dried on tree branches in the sun. She pulled on her black Lucchese boots and tucked the Ruger 9 mil in her right boot; out here, she didn’t hide it under her jeans. She hadn’t seen anyone on the trail since she’d shared a campfire with a young couple three nights ago, but you couldn’t be too careful.

She finished braiding her hip-length light-brown hair and stood, stretching and twisting before she picked up her backpack.

Hero took a few steps along the trail they had followed to the river. Charley shook her head. “Come on, boy. We have to get out to the road. Storms are coming, and we need to get some miles behind us.”

She headed towards the distant road. Hero trotted next to her and whined.  She rested a hand on his back to soothe him as they walked. “I know, boy. I don’t like it either, but we’ll be okay.”

At the road, she hiked along, turning and sticking out her thumb for the occasional car. They sped past and she shrugged and continued walking. Finally a dusty red pickup truck passed and then pulled over. As she approached, she could see a child’s head in the back seat of the cab. That bode well, although she was kind of surprised they stopped, with Hero by her side. She didn’t plan to put him in the back, so she figured this would be a quick conversation.

The passenger window rolled down. The driver was a handsome guy, maybe thirties, short hair, dark skin that made his smile extra bright. He had a long scar from the side of his right eye down his cheek and under his chin. Charley wondered what his story was, then cut off that thought. It didn’t do to ask questions. People asked them back, and she had no answers to give.

“Hey, where you headed?” he called.

“As far west as we can go,” Charley said, hoisting her backpack and resting her hand on Hero’s back again. He sat under her touch, alert and quiet.

“We’re headed to Denver. Can your dog sit on the floor in front of you? I don’t think he should go in back with Pete.” Charley leaned forward and looked into the back seat. Pete sat on a booster, bouncing with excitement, reaching both hands out to wave at her. She smiled and nodded to him.

Looking back at the driver, she said, “Yes, he’s a good dog.”

“I can see that. He’s big.”

The door unlocked. Charley swung her backpack behind the seat next to Pete and climbed in, pointing to the floor. Hero neatly jumped in and sat next to her, facing Pete. She reached out a hand to the driver. “Thanks. I’m Charley. This is Hero.”

He pulled back out onto the freeway without taking her hand. “No problem. This is Pete, and I’m Daniel.”

Charley didn’t realize she had fallen asleep until she felt the truck slowing down. She opened her eyes and jerked upright when she didn’t see Hero next to her. Looking back, she saw him curled up on the seat, with his head in Pete’s lap. Pete’s hands were fisted in his hair, and he slept with his head dropped back against the booster and his mouth hanging open in that wide, vulnerable look kids keep in their sleep longer than they do awake.

She looked around to see where they were stopping. Daniel said, “I need a break, and I figured we could grab a bite to eat…”

Charley bit her lip and wondered if Daniel and Pete would notice that she didn’t eat anything. She wouldn’t need to feed again for several more nights…

Dogs in house
Houdini, Brindle
Time writing:
35 minutes
August word count:

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