Chapter One of Gift of the Desert Dog is available for you to read at my website: www.robertlhunton.com. Just follow a quick link there and you're into the story.
I'm adding Chapter Two here at my blog to give readers a bit more of Danny Rivas's tale of deliverance. I hope you enjoy it, and that you return often for exerpts from my other novels. I will begin posting these additional readings during the month of August. They are samples of what I've been working on lately for new adventure/mystery tales--stories about real-life challenges with fast action and a flood of quirky characters. Enjoy! And send along your comments, questions, ideas, etc.
Okay, here goes...
A thrasher bird sounded from a nearby cholla. Its sickle-like beak made the perfect siphon as it probed the thorns for nectar.
The late afternoon sun warmed Danny's cheeks and glowed throughs his eyelids. He forced them open as the wind whipped a leafy twig against his face. Lifting his head slowly, he gazed along the litter-strewn wash, now windswept and dry.
"Oooooh, my arm."
Gently, he flexed his shoulder muscle--it was stiff and sore. Beneath him a sharp branch jabbed his ribs and his legs ached painfully. He rolled off the limb, landing with a thump in the sand. His head throbbed from a large welt above his temple. Pressing it gingerly, he winced as a dagger of pain shot across his forehead and into his cheekbone.
"This is no dream, it hurts too much," he groaned, peering through torn jeans at a deep gash in his knee. Dried blood had caked around the wound, sticking it to his pant leg. He tried to peel it away, but his hands shook and it tore loose.
He grit his teeth, his body stiffening. For several more minutes he tried to lay still and listen to his lungs taking in air. Slowly, carefully, he flexed other parts of his body, checking for injury. But in spite of his rough tumble down the wash, nothing seemed broken. He was scraped and cut, his T-shirt was in rags, and the legs of his jeans were nearly torn off at the knees. Add to this a missing sneaker, and he was in no shape to make the hike back down the steep ravine.
It was then he heard a familiar call from the far end of the wash. Grasping the branch above his head, he pulled himself into a sitting position. Expelling air through clenched teeth, he hoisted his beaten body up onto one leg. Limping out into the open, away from the tangle of branches, he eased himself onto a rock to watch the figure of his friend approaching.
"Hey, what's up," yelled Digs, carefully picking his way up the streambed. "Whoa, man, you don't look so good. What happened?" he asked, finally coming to a halt beside Danny's battered form.
"A little accident, that's all. I'll be fine."
"You look like a mountain lion beat you up."
"Are you kidding? I sure wouldn't be talking to you now."
"So okay, a javelina then."
"Come on, Digs, I..."
"Sorry, I don't think I'd be laughing either if I looked like you do."
"It's pretty bad, huh?" He took another loook at the damage. "It was this wicked flood--came out of nowhere. Wait 'til Mom sees me."
"Your mom, what about your father?'
"Huh, yeah, it'll just give him another reason to yell at me. Without a doubt, it'll be a lecture from both of them."
"Why, because you're an Indian and you should know better than to get caught in a wash?"
"Hey, shut up, lame brain."
"Sorry, Danny, that's not what I meant..."
"Sure it was. You think I'm dumb too, don't you?" He pushed on Digs' chest. "Well, how does this sound, genius. I was saved by a coyote."
"You were...come on, that's not possible."
"I'm serious Digs. It was trapped in that tree...had a snare wrapped around itself. It must have traveled quite a distance before getting snagged. I'll bet it came from off the reservation. No O'odham would do that to Coyote. Anyhow, we sort of took care of each other's problem."
"A coyote? We'd better keep this between you and me," he advised, "if you know what I mean."
"Well you're the dumb one, because a smart person would know that coyotes do amazing things. Ask my grandfather if you don't believe me. He'll tell you."
"Okay, so say it's true. Will it matter when you get home?"
"Danny stared at the cut on his knee. "I-I guess you're..."
"Yeah, I'm right," Digs declared. "And here's another thing...don't let the guys at school find out about this, especially Jake and Eddy."
"You've got that right," Danny sighed.
"Okay, come on, give me your arm, we've got to get back. Your mom looked a little worried."
"Was Sophie there when you left?"
"Yeah with her friend, Shawna."
"Just great, they'll tell the whole world."
"Tell the world what?" asked Digs. "They don't need to know about the coyote."
"Promise me you won't..."
"My lips are sealed, amigo."
Cecilia watched through the screen as Amelia's Ranchero disappeared down the road in a cloud of dust, but she was no longer thinking of her most loyal customer.
"Danny's never this late," she fretted. "Sophie, come in now and help me in the kitchen. I've got to prepare more food for when they get here. Shawna, we've eaten, but would you like something?'
"Okay, Mrs. Rivas. Are you sure there's enough?"
"Of course...ooops, I forgot about Digs, he loves my refried."
"Does he have to stay, Momma?"
"Sophie, your manners, please."
"He always looks at me cross-eyed. I think there's something wrong with him," she announced, watching a grin break on Shawna's face.
"Well, he's Danny's friend--and that's quite enough," Cecilia replied, rolling out bread dough made earlier and stored in their small icebox.
"Daddy doesn't like him," Sophie added.
"Sophie, how do you know that?" And listen, you're father works very long hours. I'd appreciate it if you left him out of this, okay?"
"I'm serious, he doesn't. He gets mad at Danny for goofing off all the time when he's around Digs."
"You let us worry about Danny's goofing off. And speaking of...Where are they? Shawna honey, could I ask you to keep an eye out by the front door?"
A sudden tapping at the kitchen doorjamb had them spinning about. There stood Digs Ramirez, peering into the light of the room. Behind him waited Danny, carefully watching over his friend's shoulder for the expression on Cecilia's face.
"H-Hello, Mrs. Rivas, are you cooking beans for the fry bread?"
"Oh, thank God, you made it. Yes, Digs, how could I disappoint you?" She stretched to see her son. "Danny, where have you been hiding? You've...Danny Rivas?!" She stared at his tattered appearance. "Wha...what has happened? Look at you."
"Mom, please, I..."
"No please." She moved quickly to his side. "Your arms--and your leg. Tell me now, what happened to you?"
"I-It was raining in the mountains." He looked quickly at Digs. "I fell in the wash."
"That's right, Mrs. Rivas, th-the bank gave way," lied Digs.
"Digs, I will speak with my son."
"Sorry, I'll just go and sit over here..."
"And where is your sneaker? All right, now out with it," she demanded, "the truth this time."
"That is the truth," he cried. "Why is it you don't believe me? You never believe me."
"Yeah, you mean like last week when you told Momma you were at Digs' house after school," Sophie injected, "when you really had a detention with Mr. Jensen?"
"Just shut up, Sophie, this is none of your business."
"Danny, don't talk to your sister that way. Now, I suggest you start again...or practice your story like crazy before your father gets home tonight."
"I don't care about a dumb story--and I don't care about him either."
"You don't mean that," frowned Cecilia. "What has gotten into you?"
"What's gotten into me...is this place and all of you!" he shouted. "It's always the same thing, gang up on Danny. Well, not anymore. Come on, Digs, let's get out of here."
"I-I think I have to go home n-now," stammered his friend.
"Sure, that's right, you too," choked Danny. "Okay, go." Turning quickly, he hobbled from the kitchen and out the front door.
Cecilia hurried after him. "Danny don't. Where are you going?"
"Somewhere...anywhere...who cares?!"he yelled, dragging himself stiffly across the yard.
She caught a final glimpse of his head and shoulders as he disappeared into the dense green of the Sonoran desert.
Wow! Are we in for an adventure here or what? On that one there is no doubt. So, stay in touch right here as the action continues...
Come on now, share your thoughts. What do you think happens to Danny next? Post me anytime with your response. Top Dog answers all his mail.
Until next time, aaahooooooooooo...