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The Legend of the Four Winds Butte by DT Krippene

October 31, 2022 by in category From a Cabin in the Woods by Members of Bethlehem Writers Group tagged as , , , , ,

The conclusion of The Legend of the Four Winds Butte.


Utter disappointment at Monroe’s no-show didn’t describe Mary’s mood. She regarded the footholds carved in the reddish stone and sighed to realize he wasn’t coming. 

The debate to press forward without him took but a few moments. She shouldered her Nikon digital SLR and exhaled a deep breath. “Make sure I don’t touch the petroglyphs,” she said, needing the sound of her voice to summon courage. 

With the rock surface pitched inward at thirty degrees, the climb was easier than expected. Good thing heights don’t bother me. 

She pulled herself up and knelt on the edge of the flat peak roughly eighteen to twenty feet in diameter, shivering in the stiff breeze. The four-foot-tall monument of smooth reddish stone jutted from the peak’s center. 

Mary’s first impression was its perfect cylindrical shape. She estimated its circumference at roughly ten-feet. The characters on its unmarred surface encircled the stone in a straight line. Unlike primitive animals and shapes typical of petroglyphs throughout the state, these had the complexity of ancient runes or hieroglyphics.

She carefully circled the outer edge of the rim to view all sides of the cylindrical stone, taking pictures and making notes as she went. A glint caught her eye from rocky gravel piled several inches high around the monument’s base. She got on her knees to squint. A fragment of a different marking peeked from beneath the pebbles. 

Mary crawled closer until she was a foot from the monument. To prevent her fingers from touching it, she used the notebook to scrape away the gravel and expose what appeared to be a humanlike stick figure. She scuffed more pebbles to uncover a second alongside it. Then a third. She unearthed fifteen figures before it ended. 

One etching per known person who disappeared. Monroe’s grandmother was right. Excited at discovering new evidence, she squatted to take pictures. 

Leaning forward for a close up, a loose rock wobbled beneath her boot, and she lost balance. The momentum pitched her forward—until her palms slapped against the etchings. Retracting her hands as if burned, Mary slowly backpedaled toward the peak’s edge with a sickening sensation burbling in her gut. 

The petroglyphs glowed with a silver light. Mary sank to her knees when the sky and surroundings darkened like a full eclipse. Get off the peak, her mind screamed. She scrambled to find the footholds when a gale-like wind pushed her away from the edge. Loose pebbles flailed her body. The wind shifted from different directions, carrying many ethereal voices chanting in an ancient native tongue. A funnel of dust corkscrewed above the monument. The tornadic spiral rose skyward. 

“No, no,” Mary shrieked. “I didn’t mean to. I tripped. I’m sorry. It was an accident.” 

She jerked when an invisible force clamped around her body and pulled her toward the monument. Prickles of static danced on her skin. Dust melded with her tears to form muddy rivulets on her cheeks. “Please don’t take me,” she wailed. 

Suddenly, a strong male voice behind her sang in a native dialect. The song rose and fell in timbre. The static prickling lessened. The winds abated. A few moments later, the invisible force released her body. 

She collapsed in a heap, choking. Dizzy and nauseous, she vomited until nothing but bile drooled from her lips. Strong hands gently helped her to a sitting position. John Monroe’s face appeared when her vision cleared. Mary fell against his chest and bawled like a terrified child. 

“I’m sorry,” she wailed between gasping hiccups. “I didn’t mean to touch it.”

“Easy now,” Monroe comforted. “It’s over now. Just breathe.” 

Monroe rocked her until she cried it out. He handed Mary a handkerchief when she lifted her head.  

She blew her nose. “I should have waited, but I didn’t think you were coming.”

“I was held up by slow-moving campers on the way here. Let’s get off this rock.” 

Monroe went first, staying two footholds below while Mary descended on wobbly legs. He handed her a water bottle when they reached the ground. 

“That song of yours,” Mary said. “What was it?” 

“A little native prayer my grandmother taught me should I ever find myself at odds with spirits.” 

“Do all guides know it?” 

“I doubt it. Most of them are younger and don’t care much for the old ways.” 

“It saved my life.” Mary honked again into the damp handkerchief. “Your grandmother was right. There are fifteen stick people etched on the rock. I almost became number sixteen.” She dabbed her eyes. “What would have happened to me?” 

“The legend claims the life essence becomes one with the winds.” 

My soul scattered to the four winds. She swallowed hard. “Is there any clue to who carved the petroglyphs?” 

Monroe shook his head. “There are some out-of-the-box thinkers who theorize it may have otherworldly roots from before mankind walked these lands.” 

Alien or not, the petroglyphs of Four Winds Butte contained a sinister, lethal power.

Monroe scrutinized lengthening shadows. “We’ve got a good hour hike down to my jeep. We should get back before dark.” 

After stashing their gear, Mary climbed into the jeep’s passenger seat, still quivering from shock. 

Before starting the engine, Monroe turned to her. “You understand now why we don’t allow people there. You were very lucky. So, I’d like to ask a favor.” 

Mary lowered her head with shame and remorse. “Yes. Anything.” 

“If you publish what you’ve experienced here, it will likely renew attraction of other adventure seekers. I don’t think you want their possible disappearances hanging on your conscious. I know of few other petroglyphs hidden from view, and not well known. Nothing as dangerous as Four Winds, but have stories of their own, some of them quite unique. How about you redirect your studies to that.”

Mary swallowed. If Professor Wilkins learned of her transgression and near fatal result, he’d probably kick her out of the master’s program. “Can we—keep what happened between us?” 

“Deal.” Monroe patted her arm. “I think you’re going to be pleased with Three Hands Chasm.” He winked. “No curses. I promise.”   

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What You See . . .

October 30, 2022 by in category Quill and Moss by Dianna Sinovic tagged as , , , ,
Photo by Dirk Ribbler on Unsplash

After three sleepless nights, Damian had the bad luck to draw the early shift at Fitzy’s Diner. His eyes were slits as he broke egg after egg for omelets and poured round after round of batter for pancakes. 

“Hurry it up, Dame!” Fitzy shouted from the kitchen doorway. “This ain’t no five-star dive.” 

“Shove it,” Damian wanted to shout back. But he had rent and a late car payment earmarked for his next paycheck. He was six months clean, and Fitzy, with his sharp eyes and weasel nose, was looking for any excuse to send him back to the streets—or that’s the way it seemed to Damian, who could never move fast enough to please the boss.

When Fitzy slipped back through the swinging doors, Damian turned his focus to the griddle, scraping it for the next omelet. That’s when the spiders crawled out from behind the stovetop, into the pool of melted butter, and skated across the hot surface. Five of them—big, hairy, and long-legged, with eyes that stared him down. 

“Jesus,” Damian half-yelped. How is this possible, he thought. He hated spiders. Too many legs.

When he reached for the whisk, his hand brushed something moving. 

“Aaahh!” This time he yelled. More spiders covered the egg carton and spilled onto the work table.

No, no, no, his mind screamed. Could the hallucinations return even if he wasn’t using? 

“Dame?” It was Helena, on the morning wait staff. She stood in the doorway, concern etched on her face. “You okay?”

Quickly, Damian wiped the sheen of sweat from his face. “Yeah. Just burned myself,” he lied. “Stupid of me.”

She smiled and shook her head. “Be careful. We can’t lose you.” And she was gone, back out to the front counter.

With shaking hands, Damian surveyed the griddle and work tables. The spiders had multiplied, filling the entire stovetop. These couldn’t be real spiders—real arachnids couldn’t survive that heat, could they? Yet he could hear the minute scrape of their feet as they moved. 

He shut his eyes tightly, willing the hallucination to cease. I can’t lose this job.

The paranoia that had been his every waking moment—and often every moment of attempted sleep—had finally driven him to rehab. He could no longer live constantly looking over his shoulder. His counselor had assured him the effects of the inhalants he’d once craved had subsided for good—but maybe they’d been wrong.

The swinging doors squeaked, and he opened his eyes to Fitzy’s bark. “Where’s the short stack and ranchero special?” 

The spiders now covered the mixing bowl with its batter and the bacon Damian had planned to fry up next. He shuddered at the expanding multitude. 

Fitzy grabbed his shoulder, hard, and jerked. “Get moving or you’ll be moving on out of here.”

The spiders descended from the bank of overhead lights and dropped onto Fitzy’s head, swarming down his neck and onto his bare arms. Red welts from their bites began to swell.

After a moment of indecision, Damian removed his apron, hung it on its wall peg, and left the kitchen to Fitzy’s screams.

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Get Me Outta Here!

October 25, 2022 by in category Infused with Meaning by Kidd Wadsworth tagged as , , , ,
Photo courtesy of Olga Guryanova on Unsplash

Get Me Outta Here!

by Kidd Wadsworth

We arrive at 6 am. I sign a piece of paper which informs me of the risks of my day procedure using phrases such as “unforeseen side effects, including death.” A plastic bracelet is secured around my wrist. Promptly at 7 am, I kiss my husband goodbye and follow a stern-looking nurse through a side door. She points me to a changing room.

“Nothing on underneath. Only the gown.”

I obey.

She takes my clothes, my shoes, my underwear. I am left barefoot in a nearly see-through gown I hold shut in the back with a tight grip on the gaping cloth.

“Lay down.” She points to a narrow bed on rollers.

Again, I obey.

Three seconds later, I have a tube in my arm. Another nurse takes my blood pressure and my pulse. “Did you have anything to eat in the last twenty-four hours?”


“Are you sure?”


“No cereal, no fruit, no bread, no banana . . . “The list continues. On and on.


“If you’ve had something to eat, I need to know.”

“No, I have not had anything to eat.” Does she think I’m lying?

“This form says that I’ve asked you if you’ve had anything to eat and you’ve said, no. Sign here.”

I sign.

Too late, I realize I didn’t read the form. As she walks away, I almost call her back, but that’s stupid—isn’t it? I mean, why am I so nervous? This is just day surgery.

They wheel me away down a hallway, into an elevator, and then into a room crowded with people. Surely this can’t be correct? This is minor surgery. What are all these people doing here? I count fourteen. Really? Fourteen?

Two nurses or doctors—let’s just call them people in scrubs and masks—strap me down to the table.

Why straps? Do they expect me to try to make a run for it?

“Just relax,” one of the people who had strapped me to the table says.

Does he really think the phrase, “Just relax,” makes people relax? I think unstrapping me might make me relax.

Above me lights, so many lights, perhaps fifteen or twenty, glow brightly, each one with a shiny metal hat to direct the beam. Moving my head slightly from side to side, I intently examine the fixture. Something’s wrong, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Then I realize that although the fixture is polished and highly reflective, I can’t see my reflection on any surface. Someone has deliberately designed the fixture so that I, the patient, cannot see myself strapped down to the operating table.

My heart pounds in my chest.

I gasp for breath.

Calm down. It’s only day surgery. This probably isn’t a horror movie. Surely, they aren’t going to harvest my organs and sell them overseas or implant an alien fetus in my uterus.

Yet, there is something about those lights, as if no one wants me to realize what a precarious position I’m in. Precarious? No, helpless! And the masks? Of course, they are wearing masks. That way I can’t identify them in a police lineup when I finally manage to escape and notify the authorities.

As every instinct in my body screams, “Get out! Get out now!” the nurse/doctor/whatever who had strapped me down, injects something into my IV.

I want to shout, “No!” But I don’t. Afterall, what can I do? I AM STRAPPED TO THE TABLE!

“Count backwards from a hundred,” he says.

I try to control my shaking. “One hundred.” I am so obedient. Why am I so freaking obedient?

“Please keep counting.”

“Ninety-nine . . .”

I’m an educated, adult woman. Why did I allow someone to strap me, nearly naked, to an operating table in a room full of strangers?


My doctor? Where is my doctor? Am I in the right room? What if there’s been some clerical error?

I realize I never read the name on my bracelet.

What if they think I’m someone else? What if they amputate my leg or remove my brain!

 I lift my head, straining to see the thin slip of plastic. I can’t quite . . .

I wake in recovery. Home by super. The operation is a complete success.

Nope, never going back.

Kidd Wadsworth is the author of the high fantasy novel: “The Death of Magic” which you can read for free by clicking here: https://www.scribblehub.com/series/588059/the-death-of-magic/

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The Legend of the Four Winds Butte by DT Krippene

October 13, 2022 by in category From a Cabin in the Woods by Members of Bethlehem Writers Group tagged as , , , ,

The year 1905

Sam Buchanan and Jack Smalley tied their mules to a bush at the base of a tall butte. 

“Hey, Sammy,” Jack asked out of breath. “Can I bum some of your tobacco?” 

Sam finished wiping his brow in the high elevation sun and tossed him a palm-sized leather pouch. “All I got. Nearest provision is several days’ ride from here.”

Jack rolled a cigarette the length of his pinky finger and went into a coughing fit after the first drag. He took in the valley floor thousands of feet below. “Why are we here again?” 

Sam looked upward. “Heard from an old Indian the top of this rock is a holy place. Sometimes the natives leave offerings. Precious stones. Maybe some gold too. We could use it for a new grub stake.” 

“Damned thing must be two-hundred feet or more straight up. I ain’t no mountaineer.”

Sam walked several yards along the base and stopped at a clump of scrub bushes. He pushed aside dry thorny branches to find footholds leading upward. “Just like he said. Come on. Day is wasting.”

Jack took a final drag and tossed the cigarette butt to the wind. “Better be worth it.” 

The butte sloped inward, which made it like climbing a ladder. They pulled themselves onto a flat, pebble-strewn peak about six yards in diameter. Jutting in the center was a circular, chest-high stone monument etched with Indian symbols wrapped around its circumference. A bed of loose stones buried the lower quarter.

They both inhaled lungs full of air in disappointment to find nothing else. Jack spit off the rim. “Looks like that ole injun spun a tall tale.”

Sam ambled toward the petroglyphs for a closer look. He crouched to brush aside stones banked along its base. “Nothin.” He staggered to his feet and kicked the stone monument. 

The wind suddenly shifted and blew from the south. In the span of several heartbeats, it shifted again, this time from the east, then from the north a few moments later. It changed again and gusted from the west. A ghostly whisper of many voices chanted in a native language.

“What in tarnation?” Sam spun about in search of its source. 

Jack scrambled over the edge. “I’m gettin outta here.” With his boots on the top two footholds, he froze when the sky darkened. The winds gusted in a circle, drawing dust and pebbles in a cyclonic spin. Sam’s body went rigid.

A dust devil whirlwind formed above the monument. “Sam. Get away from that stone,” Jack shouted. The vortex twisted skyward. 

Terrified and partially blinded by grit, Jack clambered down, frantically feeling for footholds. He almost made it but lost his footing and tumbled down the angled wall. 

The year 2015

 Mary Aguilera propped her backpack against a rock at the base of Four Winds Butte. Butterflies tickled inside her tummy when she studied a posted warning with bold red letters in all caps. “Dangerous area susceptible to sudden high winds.” A smaller sign beside it bore the Bureau of Land Management symbol. “No Trespassing. Protected Native American Heritage Site. Permit required to access from the Western Shoshone Tribal Council.”

She sat on a boulder to catch her breath. Though born and raised in Denver, living four years at sea level to get her psychology degree from UCLA killed her elevation tolerance at eight-thousand feet, with another couple hundred to reach the top. 

“Where are you?” she muttered, impatient that her guide hadn’t shown up yet. With nothing else to do but wait, she let her mind drift to her master’s thesis progress at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. 


Mary, fascinated by paranormal legends, found Nevada was considered second or third of the most haunted states in the country fostered by the plethora of ghost towns. Most of its reputation centered on the many deserted mining sites, abandoned graveyards, and hotels dating to the early twentieth-century gold rush. 

The popular haunting histories had been written about Ad Infinitum. But mysteries behind the paranormal legends of local Native Americans were passed down by word of mouth and remained elusive through the generations. Mary decided to direct her research to a unique, little-known subject by exploring the origins of such tales and how the stories changed over time. To do that, she’d need some advice from her graduate school mentor, Professor Peter Wilkins. 

“You might consider western Native American petroglyphs,” Wilkins said.  

“Cave man drawings?” she asked.

“Not caves,” Professor Wilkins chuckled. “Drawn figures or etchings on cliffs or stone ledges.” 

“But still. Aren’t petroglyphs basically primitive rock art. Stick figure animals and such? Where’s the paranormal connection?” 

“Some are quite old, a few dating back thousands of years and believed to be a direct conduit to the spirits.” 

Mary took the next few days to research it. Most petroglyphs proved her doubts that most were simple pictographs and already well documented. About to give up and reconsider a new thesis subject, her eye caught an obscure footnote referencing a little-known petroglyph monument Native Americans called Four Winds Butte, located in the remote uninhabited ranges of East-Central Nevada. 

Its discovery began with a 1905 prospector who wandered into a mining camp after days of hiking with a bloody cloth wrapped around his head. He collapsed on the ground and began ranting of a native curse that killed his partner before dying on the spot from his injuries. No one paid much heed to it until the early sixties, when a naturist hippie couple stumbled onto the site and disappeared. The only evidence left behind was backpacks and camping gear scattered in a chasm thousands of feet below the ridge. 

The BLM declared the site off-limits after the local tribal council took umbrage of any non-natives trespassing on a sacred place. Still, it didn’t stop the occasional curious hiker from climbing to see the petroglyphs, only to vanish like the others. The last interloper to disappear was over a decade ago. Including the prospector from over a century ago, fifteen people disappeared in total. 


Professor Wilkins hemmed and hawed when she mentioned Four Winds Butte. “I’ve heard of the monument. Given the history of disappearances, approval to visit the butte requires a permit from the BLM and the tribal council whose land it’s located.”

“So, it’s possible to get approval?” 

Wilkins sighed. “I doubt you’ll get it. But I know how dogged you are when you set your mind to it.” He flipped through a personal address book, then penned a name and phone number on a sheet of paper. “This a retired BLM agent I got to know years ago. He also happens to be a member of the Newe Western Shoshone.”

Mary gushed with excitement. “He’ll help me get access?” 

“I wouldn’t count on it. But he’s been to the site several times and will be the best source of information.”

Mary arrived a couple weeks later at John ‘Redfeather’ Monroe’s office in a brown paint-peeling double-wide where he volunteered on the edge of a wilderness area. She wrinkled her nose at the pervasive presence of desert dust and metallic taste of Monroe’s rusting file cabinets. 

Monroe scratched an ear and set aside Professor Wilkins recommendation. “Pete must either be jerking your chain or thinks you’re something special.” 

“I’m hoping the latter.” Mary recited her notes to verify accuracy. “According to archived data you provided the BLM, the monument is estimated to be at least three thousand years old, but the patterned lines and shapes are more complex than simple pictographs. Do you think it’s a language of some kind?”

“There isn’t anything in the form of a native written language, especially that far back in time.”

“What can you tell me about the origins of the curse?”

 He scratched the stubble on his chin. “I was a lad when my grandmother told me a story of powerful wind spirits who resided inside the butte and took offense of anyone who defiled the land.” 

“Like those who disappeared.” 

“Our elders assume most who are ‘not of the people’ to be disrespectful of the land.”

Ouch. “Did your grandmother say anything about who created these complex petroglyphs? A particular time or inciting event that led to a spiritual presence?” 

Monroe smiled. “Now therein lies a fundamental difference of interpretation. To you, a spiritual presence is believed grounded by historical events. To us, the land fosters the spirits, not a specific incident.” 

“Was there any legend passed down of others who disappeared before the prospector in 1905?” 

“Possibly, but I think if so, the stories would certainly survive through the generations as a warning to the peoples. It’s only speculation, but we think the prospector was the first non-native to enact the curse. All the subsequent disappearances left no smoking gun as to what they saw. We can only assume they suffered a similar fate.”

Non-natives. “I’ve read varying hypothesis of what became of them, the more popular one being their bodies torn apart and scattered to the four winds.”  

Monroe pursed his lips in thought a moment. “That may be true. Any bodily remains would likely disappear beneath desert sand, if not eaten by wildlife first, leaving only nondegradable items as evidence.” 

Gross. Mary scribbled in her notebook. “You mentioned non-natives, or those ‘not of the people.’ Dr. Wilkins said you and others of the local tribes have been on the butte a few times.  Have any your people touched the monument?” 

“Shamans were known for many generations to climb there and honor the wind spirits. Not so much anymore. I doubt anyone has been up there in recent years.”

“Most of what we know of the site is based on your accounts.” Mary tapped the tip of her pen on her lip. “Have you—placed your hands on the monument?”  

“As part of my work with the BLM, I volunteered to take pictures and sketch the symbols. But I never touched the monument itself.” He chuckled with a wink. “I’m only part Shoshoni. European blood has diluted my heritage, so I didn’t care to test the theory.” 

“But you believe the curse is real.” 

“Most of what I know came from my maternal grandmother, passed down through the generations. Embellishments tend to taint a story over time, but the evidence strongly suggests that something haunts the butte.” 

“Anything else you can share?”

He scratched his chin in thought. “Well, it’s not common knowledge, but when my grandmother spoke of the curse, the legend claimed a new petroglyph etching would appear on the stone monument representing a soul taken by the wind spirits.” 

That’s new information. 

Monroe opened a drawer, extracted a moth-eaten folder, and spread photographs of the monument on his desk. “When I compare archived photos against pictures I took when I went there, I didn’t see any additional etchings.” 

Like the archived photos she’d studied earlier, these were somewhat blurry, as if slightly out of focus. “These the best pictures you have?” 

“Unfortunately, yes. After the last person disappeared, the BLM had a couple of scientists scan the butte for anything unusual. They weren’t permitted beyond the base for safety reasons, but they registered a strong electromagnetic field emanating from the peak above, which may have affected the quality of the negatives.” 

A factor straight out of an episode of The Twilight Zone. “As part of my research, would it be possible to visit the site to get a first-hand impression? See if new digital photos are affected?” 

“You need a permit from both the Shoshone tribal council and BLM. You’ll have to hire a qualified native guide to supervise, and they won’t let you climb to the monument itself.” 

That wasn’t going to yield much of a perspective. Unless – “You wouldn’t happen to be qualified, would you?” 

Monroe palm washed his face and chuckled. “Pete warned me you’d probably ask that.” He stared in thought out the only window opaqued by crusted dust. “Damn you, Pete. You owe me for this,” he mumbled. He extended his hand. “Next week Tuesday, pending permit approval. Meet me at the base of the butte .”

To be continued on October 31st.

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Puppy Love

May 30, 2022 by in category Quill and Moss by Dianna Sinovic tagged as , , ,
Photo by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash

The slip of paper you draw from the basket has a 4 written on it, black ink on a white scrap. This is stupid, you tell yourself, but it’s not really. You want to be here, one of six lucky people who will choose which of the littermates they’ll take home with them. 

You have your eye on the puppy with the black patch over its right eye, the brown and white pattern blending over the rest of its face. You’re in love with that dog, and you are disappointed that at fourth in line, you will lose out. The Australian shepherd you picture jogging with you in the park will belong to someone else instead.

A friend tipped you to this giveaway. “They don’t want a dime, just good homes for the pups,” he told you last week. 

You’ve been wanting a dog for months, since the new apartment you found allows pets, especially dogs. Done your research, talked to any dog owner you’ve run across, and settled on the shepherd as your dream breed. And now this stroke of luck—to get one for free.

And so you stand with the five other people who hold their slips of paper. Three men, three women, and you think that’s a nice balance. The guy with #1 on his slip has a boy of about eight with him, and the boy has his favorite picked out. It’s not yours. Thank god.

“Taco,” the boy calls to one of the pups. He’s already named him. 

But you have too, not that you’ll admit it to anyone. You don’t want to jinx your chances by saying the name aloud, even in a whisper to yourself. Still, you know it’s perfect. So you stand with the others, bouncing on your toes because you are so anxious.

“We’re ready,” the owner of the litter finally calls. She’s standing in the pen where the pups are rolling and wrestling, full of the energy that only young dogs can possess. She smiles, but you can see the glisten in her eyes. This must be hard, to part with these babies.

The boy has Taco wrapped in his arms and then he and his father are gone. The older couple with matching gray in their hair step forward for #2. They reach for the black patch, but that’s a feint, passing the pup by for another. A couple who you guess are in their forties are next. They hem and haw, talking with the kennel owner, pointing at one then another of the youngsters.

Hurry up, you want to shout. At last they make their selection—yes! Not the black patch.

Now it’s your turn. You hand your slip to the kennel owner, who looks younger now that you’re standing next to her in the pen, with three puppies left. The energy of all six has dissipated, but a trio still romps around your feet.

“Why are you giving them away?” you say. You guess at the answer. 

She looks at you, at the two other people waiting outside the pen, then down at the squirm of dog flesh. “Someone stole the bitch—the mom—shortly after she gave birth. She’s not a high-priced dog, so we’re puzzled. We nursed these guys after that.” She runs a hand through her hair and sighs. “I love ‘em but need a break.” She leans over the pups. “Which one?” she asks, back to business.

You almost blurt, the black patch, but another pup catches your eye. You squat down to the pup’s level and reach for it. The brindle colors are less striking than on the one you’d chosen, but there’s something in the pup’s gaze that draws you. The dog scampers to you and licks your nose. You sit back with a laugh, and the dog is in your lap.

“She chose me,” you say. “Guess this is the one.”

And as you hug the youngster, you whisper in her ear. “Roo, let’s go home.”

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