General Fiction posted March 22, 2012 Chapters:  ...9 10 -11- 12... 


Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
Brook copes with handsome James and danger

A chapter in the book Whispers in the Wind

Mother Moose Attack --by BROOK ANNE

by Alaskastory



Background
In preceding chapters, Brook is saved from a bear by her lead dog Shemya that is deaf from an earlier accident. James saves her uncle from an ice breakthrough on the Yukon River. They compete in races
Headlights flash through my bedroom window, brakes squeak, and a round of barking announces a pickup is parking with a load of dogs. I grab my parka, rush from my room and down the stairs.

"Dad's here at last." I'm overjoyed to have his help in harnessing the dogs.
My smiling mom slips into her coat. She and Aunt Maggie follow me out into the night.

Dad climbs out of the truck and gives us big hugs. "Good to see you too, Maggie. Sorry to hear your husband, Norman, won't be here since he's still up on the Slope."

"That oil company will keep him another week." Aunt Maggie turns to the driver. "Hello, Fred, you and your son need to come in too. Does a hot bowl of moose stew sound good?"

"Beats the heck out of the chips we've been munching." Fred steps out, followed by James in an open jacket. Bright moonlight settles on a white turtleneck that stretches across his broad chest.

"Hello," James says with polite nods to Aunt Maggie and Mom. His gaze switches to me and lingers until a rosy heat rises in my cheeks.

I squirm like a restless pup and say, "I'm going to the barn to check out my dogs."

Dad chuckles. "Okay, sweetheart, we're heading for Maggie's table."

My dogs bed down at the far end of the barn that holds lots of hay and two horses. I snap on a low watt light bulb that gives off a dim light. Amid grunts and snorts from contented dogs, I check out their needs. I add water to Tok's dish and scoop up dog food spilled by Bingo.

Kneeling down beside Shemya, I long to ask him if he knows why I find it hard to be sociable tonight. His intelligent eyes seem to search over my face and maybe know it's not like me to seek escape. How odd that the thought of sitting at a table with James puts jitters in my stomach. Shemya's big, wet tongue licks my chin.

"I think you understand me, my clever, deaf dog."

"Shemya knows his mistress that well?"

A masculine voice startles me. I jump up and stammer, "James,.....did you eat some stew already?"

"All the while you were cuddling with that dog." His teeth gleam and eyes twinkle with so much humor that my defense fires up.

Frowning at a too handsome face, I snap, "I'm just getting more hay to settle around Snowball."

"Oh, I'll give you a hand." With strength greater than mine, James heaves a bale of hay off a stack. He digs out an arm full and adds hay to Snowball's bedding.

Determined to ignore his kind gesture, I grab hay and pad it around Sockeye then put some around Dusty. With no comment from him, I look up from dogs. He wears a quizzical expression as if he is in doubt about the object of his concentration. That is me.

For a moment, I only gawk at him until I manage to jabber, "I think the dogs' beds are padded enough."

"Brooke, on the drive down here, I read over the race regulations. I saw your age puts you in the six-dog class, but your dad told me a champion like you can take a step up."

"That's right. I signed up eight-dogs for the races." I lift a haughty chin to him.

His lips stretch in a sly smile. "I think you should stick to your age group."

His challenge makes me smile. "How about competing tomorrow? Want to hit the training trail with me?"

The pickup engine starts and we hear his dad call, "James, let's get going."

With a big grin he brushes hay from the leather sleeves of his jacket, walks to the side barn door and stops. "I'll meet you at Mushers Field tomorrow at noon."

"Make it one o'clock and I'll be there." He hesitates like I might give him a reason for changing the time. When he shrugs, I hope he doesn't guess I have no logical reason. He raises fingers in an okay sign before his wide shoulders in a black, shiny jacket disappear into the dark night.

Early the next morning, anticipation makes me jump out of bed. My bones tingle with excitement on this cloudy day. At breakfast, I discuss with Dad the trail that will take me and the team over a few, snow-bound miles to reach the official racing grounds.

With Dad's help, by noon I get all eight dogs in harness. He holds them steady until I mount the runners and release the brake. He lets go and we hit the trail. I estimate our speed climbs to about twenty-miles an hour. It's a smooth ride all the way to the official dog musher lodge.

James comes in sight. He is unloading dogs from the truck. His dad, Fred, waves at me as he harnesses an anxious dog.

I bring my team to a stop, and James shouts, "It's not one o'clock yet."
Most of my dogs bark as they look over James' team. I holler, "We're ready for a rest stop."

With the brake set and the sled tied to a post, I quiet the dogs and give each a favorite milk bone. They happily nestle down and rest on packed snow. Ears stay perked up as they closely watch the rival team get hooked up. I can't resist hoping James thinks I'm the most confident musher he's ever seen. So I sprawl out atop my sled, resting my head back like a carefree pup.

It's not long before James has his restless, eager team in a line. As he mounts the sled's runners, he flashes a smile. "It's now one o'clock, Brooke."

His head in a wool cap, trimmed with strands of his blond hair, wags a nod to his dad. James points a gloved hand forward and his dad releases a hold on the sled.

"Let them run, son. I'll see you later." I wave to Fred as he strides to his pickup truck. The sled streaks out on the marked trail at top speed.

In a rush, I untie the sled and order my team into action. We follow behind James for a long while, edging closer on a narrow part of the trail. In a wide-open patch, Shemya manages to sneak us by James' dogs and we take the lead. The next portion demands the dogs pull slightly uphill then we begin to weave onto a narrow stretch thick with trees.

Shemya makes a surprise move. His nose is lifted high in the air. With a quick jerk, he leads us off the main trail. I brake the sled and slow to an almost stop at the top of a knoll. Peering down, I see what Shemya had sensed. A mother moose with very new twin babies appear on the main trail.

James' sled and dogs come from the thick forest, around a bend and are unable to see the moose. To defend her young from danger, the mother moose stands her ground in the middle of the trail. James spots her and shouts as he stomps on the brake, but the team can't respond quickly enough. They head directly into kicking hooves.

Dogs yelp in pain and James screams at the moose. Frightened baby moose on unsteady legs dash into the thick forest. Mother moose rapidly follows her little ones.

My team makes it speedily down from the knoll and we turn back on the trail to reach James and his injured dogs.

We get stopped and I anchor the sled with a tie to a tree. I run up to James who is bent over bleeding dogs.

"How bad is it, James?

"Blackie got a kick right in his rib cage. Adak is bleeding and hurt too."

"But the others all look fine, don't they?"

"I think so. Need to get these two to a Vet." I could hear an ache in his voice. His dad drove off and is not likely to get back until much later.

"Let's get them to Aunt Maggie's. Then Dad can drive us to Gold Animal Clinic."

"That should work, Brooke. One will fit in my sled and the other in yours." He gently unfastens the harness on Blackie and carries him to my sled.

I cover the whimpering dog with the sled blanket, pet his head and soothingly tell Blackie to remain lying in the sled.

A light wind and snow flurries start. James gets Adak nestled in his sled and he hooks up with two fewer dogs. When all is set, his arm raises in a motion for me to take off.

Through a veil of snowflakes, Shemya leads us in a slower, gentler way back toward Aunt Maggie's.


Recognized


Brook trains her dogs for the North American Junior Championship Race, determined to win with her deaf dog, beloved lead-dog Shemya. One goal is to beat James, but her heart changes when two of his dogs are injured by a moose. All chapters have been edited and revised from previous posts.Many thanks to bd shutterspeed for the moose picture.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Artwork by bd shutterspeed at FanArtReview.com

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