The Boy Is Found. This excerpt is from my upcoming book, Shoodii Bill.
HUNKERED DOWN BEHIND a creosote bush, his thirst and shaking limbs held him fast. With a quick jerk of his head, he flipped his greasy hair out of his face. He rocked back and forth on his haunches. The sound of the approaching wagon now carried a voice, brassy and annoyed. Cutting his eyes, he searched for an escape. Creosote bushes as far as he could see. The wagon came on. Banging and groaning. A different voice rose and fell a softer, kinder voice. Animals blew and snorted. It was too late to run. He hunkered down lower to hide.
The sunbaked wagon, loaded with goods to trade, drawn by a team of struggling mules, shadowy in the low light, hove into sight. A man sat humped in the shoulders, his hat pulled down over his hidden face, making sawing motions with the lines in his hands. A woman sat stooped on the seat beside him. She took refuge under a large straw hat more to block the blowing sand than to shield her from the light that now ran low and golden across the ground. She looked fretful. The man, his face flushed from the heat and frustration, goaded the drowsy mules with whistles and yelps. The mules pressed on against their harness.
“Whoa,” the man’s cracked voice cut through the air. The wagon rested beside the bush where the boy crouched. The wagon wheels settled into the sand.
“It smells like rain,” the woman said. Her posture stiffened as she shielded her eyes. She gazed at the distant mountains now in near purple silhouette.
Tears welled up behind the boy’s gluey eyelids. Lightness overcame him as he threw back his head and let out in a high pitched, “Yip, yip, yip. . .”
The mules reacted with jerking heads and rattling chains. The woman let out her own yipping noise, while the man, who had fetched two water buckets, cursed, dropped the buckets and struggled to bring a shotgun to bear. The boy whined.
“Wait!” the woman said, stuttering, “That’s a child.”
The man raised his sighting eye above the notch of the shotgun’s barrel and peered at the naked boy. “I’ll be go to hell if it ain’t . . . .,” he said.
“Don’t be throwing curses around,” the woman said.
“I could a-swore it was a coyote.” He knitted his brow and dropped the end of the shotgun barrel, pointing it to the ground.
“Don’t just stand there Horatio, do something. That poor thing looks near cooked to death. Fetch some water.”