Dinner For Two

 

She jumps, imperceptibly, at the buzz from the stove timer. She scoffs at herself as she grabs the pot holders that match her floral dress. The heat from the oven blankets her face and she half closes her eyes as it washes across her. Grabbing the glass baking dish, she sets it on the waiting mat on top of the little island centered in her cozy kitchen. The sweet smell of teriyaki fills the bright room as the scent of the onion and peppers stuffed within the chicken breasts bite at her sinuses.

“Just another minute,” she calls out to the other room. 

He is waiting there, she knows. She cannot see him without moving to the other side of the island. She assumes he is perusing her bookshelf, assessing her personality from the various titles on the outward spines. She worries for a moment that she has left her mail on the tiny side table by the door. He might infer that she has lied about her name. Wendy but with an ‘i’ she had told him, and he had repeated it.

She scoffs again at herself; no need to worry about that anymore.

She dresses the chicken breasts on the plate with crushed pineapples and spoons a side of rice. She thinks of meeting him just the week before. There were a lot of loud people in that place and after several drinks, and even more dances, they exchanged numbers. They met for dinner the following day. 

It was a terrible restaurant that smelled of too much grease and tequila. They had shared jokes about the poor food, and she had gotten him to agree to call her later so she could make him a real meal. 

He had arrived the day before with flowers and a bottle of wine. Her dish had been inspired by the one the restaurant had failed so miserably at. They laughed, and enjoyed a few more drinks. While he relieved himself in the room with the pastel pink bath mat, she had slipped his phone from his coat. She removed the battery and broke the sim card and placed the pieces in the trash under the sink. 

She brings out the plates of chicken breasts and rice and pours a rich red wine into the glasses that had been standing guard at the table’s placemats. He is sitting there in the same blue and white shirt, with its starched collar, that he had been wearing when he arrived the evening before. He looks at her with his eyebrows slightly up. A bit forlorn of a look as she considers their deep brown. She takes her first bite congratulating herself on the chicken. 

She speaks light-heartedly to him while she eats. Talking about her mother and her father. She tells him about their controlling ways and how she hadn’t ventured outside her own backyard until she was nearly twelve. She explains that while he was waiting she had placed his car in the garage for him. She tells him it can stay there for now, but it too would eventually have to go. She smiles at him, the corners of her mouth moving high enough to squint her eyes; he is such a good listener.

Grabbing the last bite of chicken with her fingers she slides it around the plate, sloping up the juice from the pineapple. She licks her fingers with a smacking as she savors the final piece. She closes her eyes, feeling them flutter. I should really cook like this more often, she thinks.

She stands and picks the plates from the table, “Well, you’ve hardly touched yours. You don’t like it?” 

He looks up at her. His eyes even bigger than before, his mouth turned downward. He seems off to her. He seems so sad. But of course, she thinks, he had received some bad news when he woke up that morning. 

“I guess that could ruin anyone’s appetite,” she says and scoops up the dishes and deposits them into the porcelain sink. She makes only symbolic attempts at cleaning up. The kitchen can wait until morning, she decides. There is other work to do.

She turns, finding him standing there, his shoulders slumped and his eyes drifting to the floor. So sad, she thinks as she reaches behind her back and begins to draw the zipper of her dress down. Her bra and matching panties make contact with the cold tile floor a second after her dress. She steps free of them. He had said she was beautiful last night. She saunters her way down the short hallway to the room that holds the bed they had shared the night before. He trudges along behind. She doesn’t bother to glance back. 

She carries herself across the room, but he stops just inside the door. Her eyes find his. Her face hardens as she turns toward the bed, and then looks back at him. Her hands clenching and unclenching into fists. She sets them high on her hips to steady them.

“You see what you’ve left me to clean up! Will you look at this mess.”

She stares into his eyes and thinks he may cry, if only he could. She looks around the room. A blue and white shirt with a starch-stiffened collar lay to one side. On the other, a pair of pants, and some boxers with a strange green print to them. She doesn’t care for the boxers. On the bed, his body lay as naked and exposed as she left it. The knife was still in the sheath she had made of his chest. Hands still on her hips, she shakes her head as she gazes across the room at his vaporous form, “You only cried out once, but you were quite the bleeder.” 

Marysville, Kansas
Black Squirrel City

Scurrius sniffed the warm evening air, his nose twitching in the breeze. The squirrels had spent the long Sun sitting in their cells again, but at least the Carnival Master had set them in the shade this time. 

Most of the Elders were already asleep for the long Moon. The Young Ones were rambunctious as they chittered away at each other.  Scurrius chuckled softly as he thought of the old saying, “Young Ones and boredom lead to…more Young Ones.” 

Scurrius had stopped dreaming of escape years ago. The Carnival Master did feed them well. Humans loved fat squirrels, so at least there was that. He paused to remember the good ol’ days when some Native Americans believed that the Black Squirrel was responsible for the eclipse of the Sun. “…believed we ate it!” Scurrius laughed to himself. 

Scurrius continued to listen to the Young Ones chatter softly, and decided to close his eyes for a minute. Just a minute. 

Twitch. Sniff. Girl. Human. Girl Child. 

Scurrius’s eyes popped open and he looked directly into the huge face of a young girl child. “Shh.” she whispered. Her warm breath smelled of sweet popcorn and peanuts. “I’m here to save you!” 

Scurrius looked over to the cell of the Young Ones. The door was open. Wide open. They all looked at him, their eyes wide and black. “Go!” he yelled. He saw the Elders farther down the row. “Go! Go! Go, now!” he screeched. 

The girl child was reaching through the open door of his cell. “I just want to help…” she laid her hand gently down on the floor. “Come on.” He stepped onto her hand slowly, and sucked in his belly full of nuts and fluff so he could squeeze out the cell door. She set him gently on the ground, looking mighty proud of herself. “Go! Be free!”

He knelt at her feet, bowing before her grace and kindness. He could hear her giggling as he hurried after his scurry. 

Humans can be slow, so it took longer than it should have, but the Black Squirrel became the gods they were destined to be. The human village erected statues in their honor. There is a yearly celebration of their very existence. Humans come from far away lands to feed and worship them. The scurry scurries freely across the lands of Marysville, Kansas…there is no place like home. 

They take their squirrels very seriously around here.

The Legend:

Local legend has it that in Marysville, Kansas in 1912 a child released black squirrels from their cages during a carnival show. The squirrels scattered and their population grew, as it does with squirrels. On August 28, 1972 Marysville adopted the black squirrel as their town mascot, with an accompanying ordinance for the safety of all black squirrels. Today, about 1/5 of the city’s squirrel population is black, with most of them residing in the city park

Oh! ‘ello! Please follow our Black Squirrel rules and regulations! 
The black squirrel has the right-of-way on all streets, alleys and railroad crossings in Marysville, KS.
If you harm a black squirrel you will be fined a minimum of $25.
It’s nuts!
If you could also avoid running me over, that would be greatly appreciated as well!

The City Park: 

Marysville City Park is beautifully shaded with their famous black squirrels maintaining ownership of all the shade trees. This large park includes free camping, a themed playground, a swimming pool with colorful slides, tennis courts and various historical buildings.

Camping spaces are available on a first come, first serve basis. 30 amp/50 amp and 110 is available.  Tent camping is welcome as well. The city does request that you limit your stay to five days. There is potable water, a dump station, and restroom facilities on site. Donation information is located at the restrooms.

Marysville City Park
Squirrel!
Free RV and tent camping at the city park!
Squirrel!

Black Squirrels on Parade:

34 five-foot fiberglass black squirrels are displayed all throughout Marysville. Each one designed and painted by local and regional artists. You can find squirrel maps at the Visitors Center or at area gas stations for a driving tour of the squirrel statues. 

What do you call a fight between squirrels? A squarrel.
I got kicked out of the park after arranging all the squirrels by height. They didn’t like me critter sizing.

Pony Express Museum:

Marysville features the Home Station No. 1 on the Pony Express route. The home station is a stone barn that was built in 1859, and is the oldest building in Marshall County, Kansas. The building now houses the Home Station Pony Express Museum. 

A Help Wanted advertisement allegedly read, “Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.”
Squirrel!

Abandoned Kansas:

Kansas is full of ghost towns and abandoned homesteads and farms. While staying in Marysville we explored the area to find the beauty of the forgotten.  

An old abandoned power plant along the Blue River near Marysville.
A deserted Herkimer Grain plant.
Squirrel!
Decaying homestead off of some old county road.
Historical choo-choos in nearby Waterville, Kansas
The Weaver Hotel in Waterville.
Squirrel!
Abandoned barn on an old homestead. 
While we explored a local man stopped by and told us that this place was last occupied in the early 1990’s. We were surprised by how fast the neglect had deteriorated this beautiful property. If these walls could talk…
Rusty and Frankie exploring with us…until they found the piles of deer shit to roll in. #rvingwithdogs

For More Information

 

Visit Marysville

Black Squirrels on Parade

Native Languages of the Americas: Preserving and Promoting Native Languages

10 Things You May Not Know About the Pony Express

City of Waterville

The Weaver Hotel

Squirrel!

 

Young Love, Old Earth

by M.D. Parker

The blue trimmed, off-white building came into view. The over-painted brick wouldn’t give up the textured detail of the stone underneath even if Calvin had been touching the side. A sign near the corner of the school said something about Building future minds since 1949. Calvin passed the sign with the hollow thump-thump of skateboard wheels over cement cracks. He guided himself in a long arc toward the entrance. Steering clear of the meat of the parking lot, where those who already had cars were pulling in to join the fray. He already had Dad on his side; even showed him which car he wanted. Tonight was the time to start working on convincing Mom.

Stepping off the board, he kick-stomped it into his hand. He paused, looking up at the school’s attempt to use the bright color to distract from its looming presence. Pleasant colors to hide the natural angst of every one of the future minds being built.

“Hey, Cal.”

He turned his head. He grinned as she strode the final few steps toward him. A clamminess slickened his palms as he readjusted the hold on his skateboard. He drew in a deep breath. She looked at him, glanced at the ground, and smiled as she lifted her head up. She knew. He knew she knew, but they both pretended that they didn’t.

“Hey. ‘Nother day of servitude at the day-prison. You ready, Mads?”

“Nope. But no one is giving me a choice, are they?” Madeline’s rhetorical sarcasm lofted through the air and she took her first step toward the doors.

As Calvin’s eyes fought a losing battle to not follow Madeline’s march away into the hub of social conformity, the world around him brightened. The sidewalk suddenly illuminated as if by an extra sun. The light gray of the cement reflected the glare as it grew to blinding proportions, joined by an array of brilliant color. The rapid increase of purples and oranges, of blues and greens, overtook the morning’s yellow-white hue. His head turned away from her and up to the sky. His mouth fell open as his vocal cords squeaked out one last word…

“Mads–”

Madeline had already turned to see it.

The sky ripped apart, like a tear in the middle of an overstretched vinyl seat cover. The rip was growing; a swirling mix of every color they ever had a name for poured through the wound in the sky and forced the gap even wider. No sound accompanied it, but in their minds Mads and Cal could hear a torrential ripping sound as it rattled their souls.

Every color spread out from the tear as a blackness filled the center of the growing rift like the iris of an eye; a cold dark nothingness of an iris. The gash filled the whole of the visible sky with the trailing end dropping below the horizon. The black opening slowly gained color of its own in the center of the center. A steel gray flecked with various greens shaped itself into a circle. And like the first pimple before the school dance, Calvin and Madeline watched as the circle became a sphere and started to bulge through the blackened center of the kaleidoscope.

The sphere grew in size and appearance of closeness. The green of a hundred variations splashed across a gun-metal gray surface. The prism of color that tore open the sky gave birth to a planetary orb as the sky cried in silent agony. The orb slipped through the great tear. The rip began to draw the colors back into itself as the hole shrank as the last of the orb was free from it.

Other students, and teachers populated the grass and front steps of the school building. Gasps could be heard, vulgar inquiries of the divine were made, and others remained frozen in the same mouth-agape silence as Mads and Calvin. Nearly the whole of the orb could be seen above the western horizon, and it filled the illuminated sky in glaring contrast to the morning sun on the eastern horizon.

Then, the Earth itself took its cue and groaned under their feet.

A great wrenching sound twisted itself from the miles below them. The world screamed with a voice born of breaking glass and snapping wood and crumbling brick. Some ran in every direction with unknown destinations. Calvin fell. His ass hitting the ground harder than he would have liked, if he cared enough to notice. Mads hollered, but he did not hear it. His own shock and the sound of the second level of the school lowering itself to the first floor, stopped her voice from reaching its target. Car alarms screeched. Buildings collapsed into rubble. Trees were ripped from their ancient roots. Calvin’s eyes turned away from the orb for a single moment to see the nearly two hundred year old tree in front of the school join the dying world around him.

Mads was still beside him. He realized she held his hand. Together they watched. He was reminded of a freight train as a new sound wormed its way into the world. The barreling, chugging, crunch of a sound grew and climbed to an octave a hundred times louder than anything else. The screams and whimpers of people scampering about were muted. Power polls and their exploding transformers could only be seen, not heard.

Mads and Cal turned away from the orb in time to see most of their beloved day-prison swallowed by the Earth as it opened in a jagged line that disappeared into the streets beyond the school. The freight train noise paused. A single moment of stillness before rising again in a crescendo that would claim Cal and Mads as they locked in their first, and last, embrace. With closed eyes, their young souls merged as they breathed each other in.

The Earth cried as it claimed them.

They never let go of each other.

The  Long  Blink
by
M.D.  Parker

 

The cloud reminded him of twirled cotton candy at the fair. It even had a straight tail to make the stick that would become coated in the sugary goo of a young child’s fingers. He inhaled deep and instantly he felt the sharp edge of pain. 

Blood had dried and soaked through again on Joel’s shirt. It had been a light tan color. He had snagged it from his closet without thinking about where he got it. The logo of his favorite show was faded. He had nearly forgotten she had gotten it for him; once, long ago. Maybe if he hadn’t been the way he was, she’d be sitting here with him now. Maybe if she hadn’t been the way she was, she would have wanted to say goodbye. 

He looked up in time to see the cotton candy cloud turn itself into something that resembled a mangled car. He felt the cool damp on his right hand. 

“Guess we should be honest in times like this ‘eh girl?” She licked his hand and looked up at him. “Yeah, we should. I was as bad for her as she was for me. Don’t matter though. I mean, well, not anymore, I guess… right?”

Her blue-gray eyes stared at him and he wondered if she was asking him for clarification, or giving him the eye of approval. Seven years. It would have been eight in less than two months. His longest relationship outside of his parents, he mused. Joel lifted his hand and stroked the line of white that broke the gray and black patches of fur along her back. He had always thought it looked like those Olympic ski jumps when she reached out her front paws stretched her back. 

Joel looked down at the mess that was his left side. 24-36 hours they say. No watch, no phone, nothing but a necklace around his neck, his pants, shirt, and Laskie with her leash. The sun was getting lower. It had been just before midday when the things got to him. 24-36 hours when it is passed on by bite or scratch. 

He felt tears welling up again and hugged Laskie closer, she made a cooing sound and rolled herself over demanding that Joel rub her belly instead. He complied and the tears held their place inside the well without overflowing. 

‘Laskie’ – what a silly name in hindsight. He had thought he was so clever when he came up with it (Lassie-as-a-husky), and she had lived up to the name; She followed him everywhere. Joel found himself only going to this bar-n-grill down the road from his apartment. They had this nice covered outdoor section that was dog friendly. Also in hindsight it was one of the reasons he annoyed her so much that she left. He never ventured into new places, and Laskie got more of his attention and care than she had. 

“Can’t change that now can I?”

Laskie responded with a soft yowling sound he’d come to associate with approval. Laskie’s approval was important. 

24-36 hours they say. When the blood becomes infected through a cut or bite, it takes a little longer. More direct transfer of infection is quicker. If their blood gets in your mouth or eyes; less than 12 hours that way. Happened a lot during the first couple of days. People thought the movies were finally coming true. Zombies they said. Except they weren’t, were they?

A distant explosion, loud enough to break his trailing thoughts, but far enough away to not be felt rattling the ground beneath him, echoed around. Every muscle in Laskie’s body tensed.

“Betcha that was the gas station.”

Laskie looked at him. Eye to eye he saw her twitch and her eyes turn away as they darted around.

“It’s okay girl. Doesn’t mean anything to us right now.” He rubbed her head and the muscles slowly eased up. she vocalized her concern followed by an approval of Joel’s method of calming her. She nuzzled his hand when he stopped. He wondered how blood shot his eyes were getting. 

“We should get somewhere.” He looked around, wondering what was next. The sun touched the western horizon. Seven or eight hours, he thought, still got time. 

He stood, the ache grew heavy and his head light. 

“Not far, girl, we should… jus…”

He swore his lips still moved but the sound stopped. His knees filled with jelly and lowered the rest of his body back to the earthen floor beneath him. Sound returned as his breath grew louder in his ears. Each inhale stabbed at his lowest rib a little more than the breath before. The pain rolled out in waves blanketing him as he exhaled. She licked his face. 

Tears had slipped from their ducts and Laskie was removing them, as gently as she could. Using the grass as leverage, Joel pulled himself back against the tree, and she curled around his right arm and leaned into him. His eyelids slammed shut not even allowing for a single bounce in his nodding off. Laskie, laid across his knees, drifted in and out as the sun surrendered to the moon. Her eyes snapping open with each sound or scent that was not his or the tree and grass they laid upon. 

Joel dreamed. His mind taking a surreal journey and twisting every moment into one where he found himself dying over and over again. Laskie whimpered each time he mumbled or cried out. She never moved, he didn’t wake.

The first ray of sun came through the trees to the left and Joel’s eyelids began a slow march that matched the pace of the sun as it cleared the hills in the east. His thoughts a fog of presents turned into explosions and dinners that turned bloody. 

“Still light out. I must’ve-” the fog parted as a certain synapses found a path through, letting him know the sun was on the opposite side from where it used to be. 

“Fuck!”

Laskie jumped up. A single bark and the line of white down her back became rigid as she landed in a sitting position watching Joel. He ran it through. 

“Ah, Jesus. Oh, fuck… fuck. That’s what another, maybe, like nine hours?” He looked at Laskie, her head unwavering as her eyes followed every moment of his mouth. 

“So, um… let’s see – eight hours. Right, we’ll say a full eight hours before, and nine more now. SHIT!” He slowly lifted the tattered shirt. The blood was no longer free flowing but the wound was open. The edges were swollen and red with yellow puss the consistency of gravy. Deep, dark lines radiated outward from the wound stretching across his entire torso like a road map of the Los Angeles freeway. The hole itself, the torn bite, was blackish red and reminded him of the time he found a rotten London Broil in his fridge after returning from a camping trip. He was rotting. The flesh in and around the wound was dying, or was it already dead he wondered?

No.

Not dead. They all said zombies, but they weren’t, he knew that. No one was actually rising from the dead; they were just going brain dead from the infection. Brain sections shut off like switches. Joel didn’t understand it all, but he knew enough. Seventeen hours or so in.

“By tonight, I … Ah, fuck, I don’t wanna go, girl…” he stroked her head as the tears chased each other down his cheeks. Cries turned to silent sobs and he no longer cared about the pain his left side used to conquer the rest of his body. 

His vision began to change; a pinkish-red tint colored one half the world. The left side, always the left. They couldn’t explain it and he had no ability to understand their phony excuses. The blood vessels in the left eye were bursting, coating his eye in red as the tiny vessels leaked their content across the wet optical globe. Soon it would bulge and then would go dark, but only on the left side. This was it, he thought, the final hours have come. 

“I don’t wanna… Oh God, I don’t want this to happen.”

She licked his hand before her head spun. Laskie’s legs went taut as she leaned into the barely audible growl. 

“Hello?”

A voice called from somewhere behind him. Joel tried to turn his head, but the sound was coming from his left, back where they had already been. Laskie stepped between him and the sound. 

“Easy boy… I’m not gonna hurt ya.”

“She. She’s a girl,” Joel said with a cough.

The owner of the voice stepped into view. A large man with a face as round as his belly. His black hair disheveled, and a patchy stubble that covered his face betrayed any argument he may have given to being able to grow a full, even beard. 

“I’m Enrique.” he started to hold out his hand and step forward but snapped it back as his eyes grew to saucers and expanded his round face. “Oh shit man. Did they get you? You okay?” 

Joel didn’t move as Enrique jumped back. A haze was creeping into the space between his ears. Not like this, he thought, please go away before it…

“… is too late.” He didn’t even realize the last words of his thought had been spoken aloud.

“Shit man, they got you? You’ve been bit?” Enrique asked as he pointed to the drying blood mess of a shirt covering Joel.

Laskie stood firm but the growl had ceased. Her eyes did not leave Enrique and she held position between the two men. Joel nodded, or at least hoped he nodded. He tried to move his arm, but nothing seemed to happen.

“How long ago?” Enrique asked his right hand held by his side as he took one more subtle step backward. 

“Not sure, not… much time… left.” Joel felt his breath getting shallow. 

“Your dog?”

“Yeah. Her name… is Laskie.”

Laskie’s head turned to Joel, and back to Enrique.

Enrique held out his palm, “It’s okay girl.”

Laskie turned again to look at Joel. He nodded, this time he could feel the muscles in his neck work. He tried to speak, to tell her it was okay, but no sound came from him. She gave a long blink, a look Joel knew from every time he told her to do something. She would give him the blink and then turned to do whatever had been requested. She swung her head around and stepped forward sniffing at Enrique’s splayed fingers. She leaned into him as he moved to stroke her head. She licked his hand and he smiled, accentuating the uneven stubble across his cheeks.

Laskie turned away and stepped back to Joel, laying beside him as he spoke again, “She says… you’re okay.”

“She’s a good girl, I see, guess I’ll take that. Better than what some people think o’ me anyways.”

The two men half-chuckled. Joel broke into a serious of coughs. The ribs stabbed sharp with pain. Tears leaked from his eyes again, and he was sure that he would die from the pain alone.

“If only,” he said, again not realizing he’d given voice to a thought.

“What’s that?”

Realizing he had spoken, Joel tried ‒ and failed ‒ for a deep breath. He looked the man in front of him over with his one remaining eye. He was younger, by a few years. A backpack was slung over his shoulders and a large knife was at his side, flopping from a belt that held his baggy chinos up. His shoes, which under normal circumstances cost nearly as much as Joel’s car, looked brand new; barely touched by the dirt of the world in which they walked. 

“Hey man, I, I… I don’t wanna be cruel man, but I ain’t gonna stay here. You’re

 sick and, well, ya know what I mean?”

“Yeah… I know,” Joel said. 

Enrique shifted the pack on his shoulders and offered his hand out to Joel. Laskie leaned in faster and licked his hand.

“Wait. Please… can you… do 

something? For me?” his eyes fixated on the knife at the man’s side.

“Oh shit, are you askin’… I um…”

“Yeah.” Joel could see he was no longer looking at him. His eyes cast downward towards Joel’s feet.

A long silence hung in the air. Laskie stood again and faced Joel. Enrique stepped in and knelt before him.

“What’s your name, bro?”

“Joel.”

“Joel, I… I am very sorry for what happened to ya. Shit man, ain’t no one deserve this shit.”

Joel coughed as he tried to nod. The half the world that was not tinted red swam in a darkening haze. Laskie licked his face. He lifted his hands to her head, rubbing her face. She licked as she whimpered.

“You… be a good… girl, okay?”

Laskie’s eyes blinked slowly.

“Now?”

“Now,” Joel said as his eyes half closed. His eyes were too dry for tears to flow. He had not seen Enrique slip the knife out and into his hand, but he felt the point as he reached him. His eyes closed and his hands wrapped around Enrique’s. Laskie began licking furiously as the larger man leaned into the blade. Both sets of hands guided the shimmering steel into his chest. Aiming for Joel’s heart, Enrique closed his eyes and turned his head. 

Joel’s last gasp was lost in the sound of the long howl Laskie released. Her head leaned back to the sky, and the ski-slope stripe down her arched back shivered as the blade’s hilt stopped when it made contact with the skin. 

Time changed as they sat unmoving. When Laskie’s howl came to an end, Enrique, with one hand still on the blade reached up and stroked the face before him. He closed Joel’s eyes the remainder of the way. 

Laskie licked Joel’s face clean. When she dropped to her haunches before him, the stains of tears and dirt had all been removed. She threw back her head again and released one more low, mournful howl. Enrique, with knife still in hand, stood. He felt the tears run down his face.

“Shit, man I’m so sorry… I hope you rest easy, bro.”

He stared at the lifeless body before him. He scrunched up his face and took a deep breath. He hadn’t noticed Laskie move until she started licking his empty hand. He looked down at her and rubbed her head. 

“I’m sorry girl. Laskie? Right?”

She sat down beside Enrique’s leg, looking at Joel. He pulled out a rag and a water bottle. He washed his hand and wiped his knife as clean as he could. After examining his hand ‒ no cuts or scrapes ‒  he slid his knife back in its sheath and looked down at the dog with the white stripe breaking up the even blotches of gray and black beside him.

He turned and began walking away. Turning his head back to the man under the tree, he looked at Laskie sitting there, watching him.

“Well, ya comin’ or what?”

She climbed in Joel’s lap bringing her face up to his. Her wet nose touched his. She stepped gingerly off his lap and turned towards Enrique. Her eyes closed and opened in a long blink.


Follow M.D. Parker on Twitter @MDParkerwrites