A Novel in 850 Words

PROLOGUE

“Of course!”

Joe’s eyes gleamed mischievously as he snapped the shears in his right hand together gleefully.

“It happens to just about everyone. Eventually.”

He took pity on me then, as with a final snap of the shears he said more quietly “But you have time, a few years at least.”

CHAPTER 1

I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, a bit of grit stuck between my lids, and groaned as I pulled myself out of the warm bed. Slowly my eyes focused on the alarm clock chirping brightly on the nightstand. “3:46 AM”

“Crap. Today’s my day off. Why did I set the alarm?” The odd thing was, I distinctly recalled turning off the alarm when I crawled into bed the night before. “Damn place is haunted,” I rumbled.

I thought for a moment of returning to sleep. The way I felt I was reasonably certain I could quickly doze, but then Ixchel tucked her nose under my arm and twisted. Tweaking her ears, I pulled a shirt over my head, and pulled a day dirty pair of socks on to my feet. Minutes later, stepping out of the bathroom I made my way to the sofa where I found my Puma walking shoes.

It didn’t take long to finish getting ready, then grabbed leashes for the girls. We slipped out into the cool morning air, refreshing after the previous evening’s heat. I looked up at the full moon and grinned to see the ring. “Gonna have some bad weather, maybe!” I told the girls who were straining at their leashes. I quickly surveyed the sky, spotting the Dipper and Orion, my favorite constellation. Off to the west, though, the stars were swallowed behind an even darker sky. Clouds. “Yup, bad weather.”

We turned north and began our morning walk.

CHAPTER 2

Hunger, really just a need to eat something, drove me from the sofa and soon I was seated at the table, my bowl of Cheerios before me. Ixchel sat on the floor beside me, bouncing with excitement, waiting for her spoonful of milk.

“Have some errands to run today, little one. We’re gonna go to the vet, yes we are! Time for shots.” Her excitement to get her milk drowned out any concern she might feel.

“Yup, and then we’re going next door to get a baff and those talons of yours trimmed!” She tilted her head and bounced again. Over on the sofa, Dakota looked at me, the hint of concern clear on her forehead. She huffed once, then turned her head.

CHAPTER 3

“They’re both in great health!” Melissa sat back on her heels with a grin. “And Dakota is so much more happy than the last time you were here! She’s really coming around, isn’t she?”

“Yes, she really is. She still treats me like ‘the Ogre’, but I can tell she likes having me around. They both miss Scott, though.”

“Oh?”

“Didn’t we tell you? Scott has a job over in Alamogordo, now, and he lives in our RV over there. Comes home on Friday nights until Sunday. He should be home in a few hours.”

“Whew! You had me nervous there. I’m glad it’s short term.”

“Me, too. Me too!”

Leaving the Vet’s office, I loaded the girls in the car, then got on the phone.

“Joe, you busy this morning? No? I need to drop the dogs off for a bath and nail trim. How about I come over for a visit? Forty minutes? Not a problem. See you soon.”

CHAPTER 4

The trip to PetSmart to drop the girls off was uneventful… lasting less than 1 minute. The moment we were out of the car, I knew I was in trouble. Dakota dug her feet in, and resisted every step, as did the much smaller Ixchel.

“Come on, girls,” I whined. “It’s ONLY a bath!” They hated their baths. I’m not sure why. And they hated having their nails done even more, especially Ixchel.

I finally dragged them through the door and to the back of the store. Soon they were led away into the holding area, looking back at me the whole time. I felt the traitor, then, and sadly left.

I still had 30 minutes to get to Joe’s. I ran through the nearby drive-thru at McDonalds, shocking myself when I only purchased a cup of coffee. Pulling into traffic, I took a quick slurp.

“Huh,” I thought. “It’s hot!”

CHAPTER 5

“Hey Joe, how are things? Sorry I’m early.”

“No problem, Eric. I can see you now, if you like. Come on back.”

For the next 20 minutes we chatted about families. About how Scott was loving his time in Alamogordo, how Pops was doing at the home he was living in, and how Mudder was getting along living on her own. He told me about his daughter, and his nephews and cousins. The phone rang, and he excused himself.

I looked in the mirror while he was gone, then, catching sight of something I leaned closer.

Joe walked back into the room.

“Hey, Joe… I have a question. Is my hair thinning on top?”

“Of course!”

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