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A Hot Summer's Day

Author:

Peg is the author of 2 books and fiction stories. In this writing challenge she borrows a character from her novel, Looking for Home.

The Mountain Trail

Photo courtesy of Bill Holland's writing inspiration challenge number 5.

Photo courtesy of Bill Holland's writing inspiration challenge number 5.

Stranger in the Forest

Another couple of miles to go, Rusty told himself. He did the math in his head filling the silence with his calculations. Figuring an average of 30 inches per step, he started his countdown from a thousand adding a familiar cadence to maintain his pace.

"Your left, your left, you had a good home and you left," he chanted to the sound of his footfall. Nine ninety-five.

Birds sounded in the trees above and around him, calling out alerts for their mates and offspring. Stranger in the forest.

It had been a while since his travels took him to this particular place. The lush green foliage and profound quiet called to his nature. He hoped the dogs would still be at the campsite when he arrived.

Babbling Brook

A fresh water creek ran through the woods near the campsite.

A fresh water creek ran through the woods near the campsite.

Packed into his gear was a collection of useful items including a small can of dog food, a package of hot dog buns and some frankfurters wrapped in ice from the convenience store. His mouth watered thinking of the franks roasting over a small campfire later that evening.

Your left, your left, he quickened the pace.

He'd never forgotten the two beautiful dogs he'd met on his last camping trip. After a long haul aboard a rail car, he was ready for some peace and quiet and the company of the animals.

Eight eighty-five.

Buddy the Stray

Buddy waited on the cool dirt, lifting his head at each new sound that echoed in the forest.

Buddy waited on the cool dirt, lifting his head at each new sound that echoed in the forest.

Anticipation

Buddy waited on the cool dirt, lifting his head at each new sound that echoed in the forest. He cocked his head catching the sound of a train whistle in the distance. Every time a train passed through, he imagined seeing his friend Hot Dog Man coming down the dusty trail. His ears went up and he began to tremble.

It had been too long since Buddy's last good meal. He'd grown adept at hunting down the stray mouse or slow critter but the sustenance was meager and random. His prominent ribs were concealed by wiry fur thatched with brambles and a collection of twigs. His ragged appearance never mattered to Hot Dog Man whose loving touch and friendly banter could calm even the hungriest of dogs.

The train whistled again, an eerie sound. Buddy listened for footfalls headed down the path. No one appeared at the edge of the campsite where he lay by the cold remains of a spent fire.

City of New Orleans

Get a Rhythm

Seven forty. Rusty's boots pounded out a rhythm as he strode through the brambles, each step, one step closer to a well-deserved rest. His journey had been fraught with unexpected strangers whose motives were sometimes nefarious. One such encounter left him nearly penniless when he'd reached out to help another traveler and been repaid with theft. But the encounter had only strengthened his determination to set aside his rail-car hitchhiking and settle down into a quiet place. His multiple talents and strengths would allow him to be self-sufficient, calling on his skills as a woodsman.

He'd found an abandoned farm house nestled within a pecan grove. With some repair and carpentry, he could revive the place and live out his days, surrounded by the friendly strays that gravitated toward him. A couple of chicken coops, some domestic animals and a chance to return the much-neglected orchard to its former splendor. Selling a pecan crop would provide the essentials that he couldn't grow. He was a simple man with few needs. Right now, he needed some sleep.

Four seventy-five. Four hundred seventy-five steps. Rusty counted each one as his boots crashed through the undergrowth of the forest.

Chain of Fools, John Travolta from Michael

Newcomers

Buddy's ears went up. The sound of twigs breaking along the trail were either his friend or danger coming. He wasn't sure which it would be. His muscles tensed and he felt a low, rumbling growl roll out of his nostrils.

Emerging from the growing dusk of the woods, two pairs of glowing eyes appeared at the mouth of the trail. From his hiding place under an upturned plastic kiddie's pool, he watched the two scraggly dogs enter his space. Their noses caught his scent and they stood rigid, poised for a confrontation.

What Buddy saw was perplexing. The two dogs that stood by the campfire were tiny, but emitted a strong aura of fierceness. He could see from their overgrown teeth, adult sized in a puppy's mouth, they were not much more than babies.

He crawled cautiously out from his makeshift shelter and bowed, extending his stretch longer than normal to relax the intruders. The smaller of the two bolted to safety finding refuge under a nearby bush. The other one stood her ground waiting to see what would happen. Buddy welcomed the newcomers with a loud yawn, lying down with his back to the big sister who beckoned to her litter-mate to come out.

They had a quiet stand-off that lasted for a time before the little one came out from hiding and the exhausted pair lay down across the way from Buddy.

Timid But Tough

Rusty reached down to the littlest one and let her sniff his hand.

Rusty reached down to the littlest one and let her sniff his hand.

Coming Home

The sun had dropped below the horizon when Rusty found the worn path he'd traveled so many times before. Only a thousand feet or so before he'd reach the campsite. "Divided by thirty inches, that's only four hundred to go!" His pace quickened as he made the final approach to the worn and secluded campsite he'd used often in the past. It was only on his last trip that he'd run across the pair of strays. It had nearly killed his soul to leave them in the woods, but he had one more trip to make, another series of labor-intense jobs to fulfill before he'd have enough to buy the farmhouse.

Your left, your left. He plodded forward in anticipation. Fears of every kind flushed through his mind as he made the final turn. What he saw at the campsite was not the two dogs he remembered. Buddy was standing there, waiting as usual, but his original companion had been replaced with two gangly, puppy-looking mops that slept hard until they heard his footsteps approach.

"Hey, old friend!" Buddy's tail wagged at warp speed. The two strange dogs stood abruptly and backed away at first. Rusty dropped his back pack on the ground and dug inside it's cavernous depths for a couple of dog biscuits.

Once they watched Buddy chomp down on his treat, they came closer, inch by inch, warily, but starving for food and affection they'd missed for so long.

Rusty gave them some much needed reassurance, then gathered some firewood and twigs from the area and built a fire. Soon, the irresistible aroma of grilled meat filled the small campsite and they all ate as much as they could for the first time in what had seemed like a lifetime to the dogs.

Rusty fell asleep in the comfort of a soft sleeping bag, surrounded by the warmth of the grateful and contented strays. Tomorrow would begin a new life for all four of them, a family of his own at last.

Project Farmhouse

By Steve Morgan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Steve Morgan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Thanks to Bill Holland, Billybuc, for his photo challenge 5 that inspired this story.

© 2020 Peg Cole

Comments

Peg Cole (author) from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on September 16, 2020:

Thank you, Umesh Chandra Bhatt.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on September 16, 2020:

Very nice. A story with a purposeful and happy end. Nice narration.

Peg Cole (author) from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on September 07, 2020:

You're always a delightful source of encouragement, Maria. Thank you for thinking of a sequel to the "Looking for Home" adventure. I've been really neglectful of my daily writing exercises. Hopefully, that will change with cooler temperatures just around the corner.

I heard a different song today that put me in a mood to watch a movie with lots of dancing. It was "Time of my life." I couldn't help but envision Baby doing the lift with a big smile.

Hope you all are doing well and enjoying a well-deserved day off. Love and hugs.

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on September 06, 2020:

Dear Peg,

This heartwarming story puts me in the mood for a sequel to "Looking for Home". These photo prompts reminded your muse it was time to come out of hiding.

Listening to "Chain of Fools" and dancing in my chair - JT was a smooth dancer for sure.

Hope you are having a relaxing Labor Day weekend. Love, Maria

Peg Cole (author) from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on September 03, 2020:

Thank you, Flourish. Dogs deserve a happily ever after ending.

FlourishAnyway from USA on September 02, 2020:

What a sweet ending for everyone involved. Animals ask little but can exten do much. You did well with Bill’s photo prompts.

Peg Cole (author) from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on August 28, 2020:

Hello Chitrangada,

Thank you for visiting and for the kind words. I'm always delighted to see you here and I appreciate you taking the time to read this story and comment.

Bill's photo prompt was effective on my long-silent muse!

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on August 28, 2020:

A heart warming story, well written in response to the picture prompt.

Your stories are always engaging and this one is beautifully written as well.

I love happy endings.

Thanks for sharing and nice to see you publishing after a long time. Take care.

Peg Cole (author) from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on August 27, 2020:

Hey there Linda C,

I really needed a feel-good, happy ending dog story myself yesterday when this one came to mind. Bill's photo was just the right prompt to get me motivated.

So nice of you to drop by, read and leave a comment, too!

Peg Cole (author) from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on August 27, 2020:

Hi Peggy,

I'm honored first of all for your visit and also that you remembered my character, Rusty. More than that, I'm thrilled that you passed along my novel to a friend. That means so much to me!

Sales have been flat. I'm not much on promoting my work. Just relieved that it's in book form and that part of my goals are completed.

As always, it's so nice to see you. Thanks so much.

Peg Cole (author) from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on August 27, 2020:

Good morning, John, Nice to see your smiling face here on this short story. Bill's photos inspired a memory that seemed to flow into the words. Borrowed one of my old characters to revisit his travels, too. Something borrowed, something (un) blue.

Peg Cole (author) from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on August 27, 2020:

Hi Becky,

Dogs are such great companions: forgiving, compassionate, loving, always glad to see you. I'm happy that you have one in your life even if it's just until your son moves away. Maybe you can find just the right one to be your own again. Thanks so much for reading this story and for your kind words. Hoping that you're well and happy.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on August 26, 2020:

I always enjoy reading about dogs (and people) finding happiness. It's lovely to think that Rusty and the dogs will have a happy future in the farmhouse.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 26, 2020:

Hi Peg,

Your short story is a spinoff of the book you wrote. I just passed your book along to a dog-loving friend of mine who lives alone with the company of her little dog during COVID. She will appreciate reading that book, and The Pub, among others.

Peg Cole (author) from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on August 26, 2020:

Hi there Nell. So nice to share a cuppa with you. Thanks so much for coming by to read this doggy tale.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on August 25, 2020:

A nice story with a happy ending, Peg. You did well with Bill’s photos.

Becky Katz from Hereford, AZ on August 25, 2020:

Beautiful story. My kids want me to adopt another dog. Not sure I am ready yet. I miss my old boy, and maybe if the right stray comes around, I will take them. My son is staying with me right now, and his dog is such an attention hog, I won't do it until he leaves. Another couple of weeks to go until he has his own place again. I will miss this guy, but not him getting out of the yard. Goes right over the gate and doesn't slow down. I am too old for chasing a dog every couple of days. I take him out, watch him carefully, and drag him back in before he is done running around. No life for a big dog.

Nell Rose from England on August 25, 2020:

Aw, that was lovely! What a great read with a cup of tea, loved it!

Peg Cole (author) from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on August 25, 2020:

Thank you, William. And thanks so much for dropping in for this story. I'm always glad to see you here.

Peg Cole (author) from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on August 25, 2020:

Hi Pamela, Thanks so much. I appreciate your visit and kind words.

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on August 25, 2020:

Whatever inspired the story, it was great, as usual. Thanks for sharing it, Peg!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 25, 2020:

I think this story was excellent, Peg. I liked what you wrote about the dogs as it added so much to the story.

Peg Cole (author) from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on August 25, 2020:

Thank you, Sha, for your sweet words. I borrowed a character from another story to use on this remake. Loved the inspiration of Bill's photos.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on August 25, 2020:

Peg, this is such a heartwarming story of hope, perseverance, kindness, and love.

You have such a way with words! Your style is seamless, picturesque, and inviting. It's always a pleasure to read your work.

Beautiful response to Bill's challenge!

Peg Cole (author) from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on August 25, 2020:

Thanks, Bill. I enjoyed playing on the keyboard this morning. First time in a while that I had the inspiration to write anything at all. Thanks to you for that.

Best to stay away from the news machine. It's perpetual doom and gloom. Life is good.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 25, 2020:

That was the perfect feel-good story for my morning. I'm listening to the news and, as always, a dark cloud is falling down on me, so your story snapped me out of the news-caused melancholy.

Thanks so much, my friend. Any story about a man and "his" dog is a good story, and I loved this journey and reunion.

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