Young Adult Fiction posted July 6, 2012 Chapters:  ...14 15 -16- 


Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
Brooke gets a new opinion on who should race dogs

A chapter in the book Whispers in the Wind

A Winner by BROOKE ANNE

by Alaskastory



Background
Both Brooke Ann and James race in the National dog sled races. One becomes a big winner. Many thanks to msartin for the fine picture of a blue-eyed dog.
Windy snow swirls over Saturday races. My team loses by fifteen seconds, but the first and second races added together still show us with a slight lead.

The final race on Sunday hits me with a blow. Under a bright blue sky and colder, clear air, Bingo starts to limp so I bring the team to a stop. His bootie on one paw is missing, and losing it causes ice to make bloody scratches. I bed him down in the basket and race on with only five dogs pulling. The stop plus reduced speed with fewer dogs cost us over a minute, making me slip to a final third place in the six-dog class.

My head is hanging low when Amy's arms fly around me and she squeals, "That's a real trophy to go back to Denaaka."

Dad and Walter, who help wrestle dogs back in the truck beds, repeatedly say third place is an honor with great pride. I feel cheered up and linger over each dog, giving them dried salmon bits to nibble. As I offer a tasty piece to Shemya, his ice blue eyes meet mine and glow with applause. My head drops on his and I whisper into deaf ears, "You led the way, my hero."

Amy gives me a pound on my shoulder. "Let's get going, Brooke. The big race is about to start."

Walter's gaze takes in Amy's catchy getup. "I'll link with you two later after James takes off."

Amy returns his smile before he runs off toward Fred Samuelson's truck. She snaps around and heaves an impatient sigh to see me still lingering over Shemya. 'Let's just take Shemya with us."

"Great idea." I put him on a leash and wonder why there is so much joy in having him walk beside me.

Amy and I mingle with a crowd of spectators. She leans close to me and says, "Imagine, this race is a long one for James. Like twelve whole miles."

"And his dogs." I give her a playful nudge.

She lifts her eyes to the clear blue sky, shrugs as if I am hopeless. "Don't you know James is more special than a sled dog? Next year he graduates and will go off to college and then.... Oh darn, that gorgeous guy will be gone."

I nod. Visions of James fill my head. I point at him. "There he is with his dad and Walter. They're lining up in the fourth position to start."

Amy lets out a squeal.

Fred and Walter keep a tight hold on the spirited dogs. Proud tails are raised, anxious feet jiggle, high-pitched yelps echo, and noses point straight ahead.

Excitement surges through me. Amy and I hold gloved hands, and between us Shemya stands at attention.

The first team takes off to screams from the crowd. Next goes the second team, and then the third. James and dogs edge up to the starting line. For a third time, the signal horn goes off and sends them lunging forward with top energy. Our yells thunder after them.

James feet fly in a run before he stands on the sled runners. In seconds he and the dogs disappear behind a thick forest of spruce trees.

Before another team takes off, Walter joins us. Again and again, we watch teams take off until all are on the trail. It seems like an eternity that we must wait for any team to return.

To help time pass, we order hot dogs inside the lodge. Walter hands Amy a can of Sprite. "This is a close one for James. In the last two races combined, his lead is no more than a minute. If his dogs hang in there, they'll..."

"Get a trophy!" Amy's bare fingers, bright with multicolored fingernails, raise in a victory sign. Walter gazes dreamily at her and begins to mention the coming dance.

I tell them I'm going out to be with Shemya. He sits on guard right where I left him with his deaf ears up and eyes targeted on the door to the lodge. He and I move through the crowd and find where Mom, Dad and Aunt Maggie are. They shower me with sweet praise for the third place win, but I'm barely aware of their excitement. My eyes glue on the trail. Amy and Walter join us just as the first dogs appear.

"It's Lugar," I gasp, certain the white chest belongs to James' lead dog.

"Hey, hey, here he comes," Walter shouts and sprints to a position where he can grab dogs after they cross the finish line.

The team dives vigorously across the finish line, each dog looking anxious to keep running. James pushes on the brake and his dad and Walter hustle to help bring the excited dogs to a stop.

Amy jumps madly about and cries, "James is the first one to come in."

"That could make him the three day champion," Dad says. "There comes another sled, but I don't see how any of them can beat his combined time."

Above shouts and whistles, a voice over the speaker announces, "James Samuelson finished in 37 minutes and 16 seconds, making a three-day total time of 1 hour 40 minutes and 51 seconds."

Once off the track, James, his dad, and Walter give the dogs big hugs. Shemya streaks away from me with his leash trailing. Amy and I follow but I make no effort to stop him from greeting each of the winning dogs, especially Jonsey and Libby.

Amy and I screech in delight and grab Walter's hands. Together we pound boots in the snow and dance in circles around James. He laughs until we stop.

Walter slaps a glove on James' back. "I'm sure you're headed for the big Yukon Quest or the Iditarod Race sooner or later."

"That thousand-mile run is my dream. How about you, Brooke?"

Amy giggles. "That's something you can tell him all about tonight at the dance."

James grins.

Just as I always do with Shemya, I throw my arms around him. Much louder than a whisper Shemya can't hear, I shout, "Congratulations, James. You are a winner!"

THE END


Recognized


Both teenagers, Brooke and James, train dogs for the North American Junior Championship Race. In preceding chapters, Brooke is saved from a bear by her lead dog Shemya, who is left deaf from an accident. James saves her uncle from an ice breakthrough on the Yukon River. At race time, two of James dogs are injured by a moose and Brooke helps out. Competitive feelings between them begin to change. All chapters have been edited and revised from posts done last year. Each chapter is first person and told by either Brooke or James. This chapter ends this novella.
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