Young Adult Fiction posted October 23, 2010 Chapters:  ...7 8 -9- 10... 

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With dogs loaded in pickup Brook and Mom take off

A chapter in the book Whispers in the Wind

Off to Fairbanks --by BROOK ANNE

by Alaskastory

Brook trains her dogs for the North American Junior Championship Race and figures how to win with her deaf dog, her beloved leader, Shemya. She wants to beat James, a celebrated hero, in that race.
Brooke, did you have a good time tonight?" Mom asks as we wipe down tables. Everyone from the potlatch cleared out except a few of us cleaning up.

"Sure...., it was okay." If I tell my mother the whole truth, I will have to say why. I don't know why I found it far from fun. The whole evening people asked me questions about that bear attack. Each time I repeated the story Shemya coming to my rescue, my throat went dry and my heart pounded in my ears.

Thinking about the grizzly furiously charging is not all that gives me shivers. It's James. It's just that he looks so different, taller I think, and more filled out than I ever remember. Tonight a deep green shirt makes his eyes shine green, and it's tightly tucked into his jeans, fitting as if he stepped out of Hollywood.


I look up at Mom's curious frown. "What?"

"Did you hear me say we're done? Let's go home and get to bed." She yawns and hands me my jacket.

"Oh, yes, I need to check the dogs." I grab a bag of table scraps that the dogs will relish.

"Wait for me, Brooke Anne," Amy calls from across the hall.
Mom and Dad leave me to walk home with Amy. They drive in the Jeep loaded with pots and cake pans.

Amy pulls up her hood against a breeze sweeping down from the river. "How come you didn't get out on the floor and dance with us tonight, Brooke?"

"I wasn't in the mood, but you and Mary and Tianna really got going. You three were so good and inspired others to join in." The wind forces me to zipper up.

"Well, not everyone. That James just sat there feeding his gorgeous face and talking with the guys. I tried to catch his eye when the fiddles started, hoping to get him out on the floor. He barely looked my way."

"Surely he was trapped by all those men in huddle to praise him and elect him king."

"Oh, silly you, Brooke. Anyway, when the fiddlers played 'Goodnight Sweetheart', I grabbed Walter for the last dance. You know what? He's a neat dancer."

"Oh, Amy, you two make a really fine couple."

Amy giggles. "I agree Walter's an okay guy. Good news is that he's going to the races in Fairbanks too."

"Mom and I will be driving there in just two days. Mom wants a long visit with her sister, and I want time to practice the dogs on trails there."

"Plus time to go shopping without me." I promise Amy we'll shop together as soon as she gets there and then I leave her at her door.

A noisy reception of barking melts the silent night when my dogs get a whiff of the leftovers I'm toting. Tails wag with joy as I scoop a cupful into each bowl. Shemya's eyes shine in the moonlight as he nuzzles, filling me with relaxation for the first time tonight. I thank him with a good rub down. After he curls up inside his dog house, I end the night and run into the house.
I get the Panama Canal report turned in to Ms. Bloom and other homework done, before Mom and I get packed up for the long drive.

Our front door swings open and Amy pokes her head in. "Brooke, are you all packed up?"

"Oh yes, Amy." I come from my bedroom with my backpack.

"We're ready to start the long drive to Fairbanks," Mom says.

"I can tell Brooke's raring to go since she left school at noon today." Amy hangs her down coat on a hook by the door. "Since you're cutting classes tomorrow and Friday, that means spring break starts early for you."

"Brooke turned in a big load of homework. Now, she has all those dogs to get settled at my sister Maggie's place." Mom piles our coats on the sofa.

"The dogs and I need practice before three days of races start."

"I'll be there before the first race on Friday and until after the finals on Sunday." In a glamorous pose Amy stretches down her sweatshirt and twists her trim body. "How cool it will be in a mall day after day."

"We'll do a little shopping with you. Right, Mom?"

Mom nods with a big grin and rushes off to the kitchen as if she forgot something.

"I don't think James will take off school early like you." Amy fluffs fingers through her hair and begins to weave it into one long braid.

"Ha. That means I'll get more practice runs on trails than James."

Amy gives me a sidewise, critical look. "Did you ever thank him for saving your Uncle Earl?"

"I really didn't get a chance. He brushed pass me in the hall at school with so many kids hanging around him."

"Are you ever going to?"

Dad, returning from the school, bursts through the front door. "I see the dogs are all loaded on the pickup. They look snug in their kennels."

Mom hurries back. "Dinner is ready to warm up anytime in the microwave, Donald."

"Thanks, my dearest Bea." Dad squeezes Mom and gives her forehead a kiss.

"Mr. Malden, are you going to the race, too?" Amy reaches for one of our suitcases.

"I sure won't miss it. As soon as school is out on Friday, I'll start the trip with James and his father."

"Oh ho, driving with the competition." Amy raises eyebrows at me.

Her gesture makes the image of Dad riding next to James sting more than a little. I thrust the cooler up on a shoulder and head for the door.

The dogs stare from behind screens in their cage-like compartments. A few give off excited barks and whines. Shemya lies calmly with his eyes brimming with contentment. I can't resist rubbing his nose that's pressed to the screen.

Mom and I get the last few things stuffed into the truck. We give Dad a hug and Amy, too, before we drive away.

It is over a hundred fifty miles from Denaaka to Fairbanks and the first half is on gravel road. Mixed snow, ice, and gravel make up the road through a long valley into hills. Frosty bushes and frozen rivers lead the way up to endless forests of snow-filled spruce, alder, and birch trees.

"Watch the road for moose," Mom shouts above the rumble of the pickup.

That is a wake-up call to my slumped body and far-away thoughts. It shocks me to find my mind is not consumed with plans for the trail. My dreams, day and night, keep seeing strange things. Out the windshield there is a pair of beaming eyes on the cold, white landscape. They are not the mean black eyes of the bear that wanted to tear me out of the tree, nor Shemya's excited blue eyes. The eyes are an intense, grey-green stare. A whole lot like James'.
I give my head a shake and focus on the roadway. In minutes animals with tall antlers and long legs appear.

"Look, Mom, caribou. A whole herd is coming from those hills."
As we round a bend, Mom steps on the brake. "Yes, and some are wandering right into the road."

We stop and go as we move slowly forward. Animals of all sizes are in front of us and on both sides. My dogs begin a stream of barks.

I start to count full-grown and baby caribou. "There are well over a hundred in this herd."

Our noisy truck with barking dogs make the herd wary and they clear the road or dash quickly right in front of us. Slowly we manage to move beyond the herd then Mom resumes speed and we remain cautiously aware of migrating animals.
Hours go by and I fight to keep my mind from wandering. When gravel is replaced by pavement the truck stops rattling loudly. New quiet in the cab offers opportunity for conversation. No doubt, that is what Mom expects.

"Tell me your thoughts, Brooke Anne. You have had so little to say lately." Creases wrinkle across Mom's brow.

"It's the races I'm thinking about." Body heat sweeps over me so I pull off my sweatshirt. "I'm entering all eight dogs."

"You're only fifteen. According to the race rules, the lowest age for the eight-dog class is sixteen."

"They make an exception for someone who won the six-dog race last year."

"Yes. I remember the Race Marshal saying that. Well, that means you'll compete with the older teens, including James."

"Yes, he's sixteen and entered in the eight-dog race." I squirm at the thought of him standing tall in that sleek green shirt at the potlatch.

"You beat him last year in the six-dog class."

"What I want is to win the eight-dog this year."

Mom laughs. "I heard Amy poking fun at you for not giving James a pat on the back for saving dear Earl."

"She and Mary and Tianna have a big crush on him. I think all three of them want him to be the winner." I force a chuckle.

"Hmm, I see." Mom frowns out the windshield as if her thoughts go deeper than my light-hearted comment.

I reach for the radio button and find a station with blaring music. I bounce and sing along as if I'm enthralled with the lyrics.

With increased speed on clear pavement, scenery passes quickly. The climb into hill country surrounds us with snowy trees, and on a summit there are vast views of gleaming white mountain-peaks in the distance. The sun shines brightly making long tree shadows fall across the road. Short days of winter are over as spring approaches. At last the town of Fairbanks comes in sight, glowing in shades of red as the sun begins to set. We take a winding road that takes us into Aunt Maggie's farm-like yard.


In preceding chapters, Brook is saved from a bear by her lead dog Shemya that is deaf. James saves her uncle in a snow machine accident.
Many thanks to Charlene S for the picture of a very snowy road.
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