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Goldie by Joan M.

Word count 1,122

Originally appeared in the 2006 Homecoming Souvenir Magazine


She was crouched low, peering out of the alleyway, around the dark corner of the saloon. She was relieved that no one seemed to notice her, but she tried to shrink even closer to the ground just in case. Settled at last, her body remained perfectly still, but her large brown eyes were in constant motion. After quickly scanning the busy street, they came to rest on two laughing young men nearby.

She studied the two carefully. One was tall, slim, blonde, and handsome, the other shorter, dark, attractive, and vibrant. They were loading supplies into the back of a large wagon, food supplies. Her mouth watered at the sight and the smell. Yes, the darker one had a sandwich in his hand, a meat sandwich. She sighed and had to force herself not to moan out loud.

The two of them were having fun at their work, joking and teasing each other, their voices deep and friendly, satisfying to the ear. She shut her eyes and focused on the pleasing sound. One of them must be the one, she was sure of it – but which? Her instincts seemed to be failing her. She was tired and hungry, and she had to decide. She needed help badly, but which of these men should she turn to? Usually she could tell who was safe and who wasn’t – but not always. And any mistake on her part could prove fatal.

She slowly rose to her feet. It looked as if fate was making her decision for her. The fair young man was heading off down the street, as the other loaded the last of their pile of goods into the wagon.

 She crept cautiously around the corner, stopping to make sure no one was looking her way. She knew she didn’t look her best; she hadn’t for a very long time. Her long golden hair was matted and darkened with dirt, and she needed a bath in the worst way, but she was determined to make the best impression she could. Silently she made her way across the street, and then stood waiting patiently, hoping desperately that he would notice her.

The dark haired man tossed the last item into the back of the buckboard and turned around suddenly, stopping abruptly in his tracks. “Who do we have here?” His voice had a gentle, crooning tone that she liked. She moved a step closer. His hand tentatively reached out and rested on the top of her head. He smiled at her, “Are you hungry, el de Oro?”

 She stiffened at an unexpected voice behind her. “Who’s your friend, Johnny?” She must be getting careless; she’d never even heard him coming. “Ain’t she pretty, Scott? I was just going to get her something to eat.”

“Here. She can have my sandwich. Teresa makes them nice and meaty.” She kept a wary eye on the newcomer as he tossed some envelopes onto the seat of the buckboard and grabbed up a bulky package that was laying there. The smiling man dug out an aromatic combination of beef and bread, and held it out to her. She hesitated a moment, then seized the hearty snack and wolfed it down. “Good girl,” said the one called Johnny, gently smoothing her rumpled head. “Now, let’s get you into the wagon, so we can head home.”

 “Johnny,” Scott spoke in a warning tone, one which caused her a flash of panic. They were going to leave her behind! She sighed and started to turn away. Why should she have expected any more from them? They had been kind to her, fed her, why should they do anything more?

 She heard the frown in Johnny’s voice, “What? You think the Old Man’s gonna be mad?”

 “You know Murdoch – he complains we’re always bringing in strays.” Scott moved to catch up with her as he spoke. “Wait up, Girl. Don’t go running off now.” She raised sad eyes to meet the sympathetic blue ones looking down at her.

“We can’t just leave her here.” Johnny moved protectively closer.

“You’re right, Little Brother. Help her into the wagon. I’ll be right back.” Scott headed for the street.

“Where’re you goin’?” Johnny lifted her off her feet and placed her carefully in the spot he’d cleared in the midst of the flour sacks and the bags of potatoes.

“To see if Val has any more of those Indian blankets for sale. We want her to be comfortable on the ride back to Lancer, don’t we?” Scott grinned sheepishly. Johnny grinned back, but sobered quickly, “What about Murdoch?”

Scott laughed, “We both know that Murdoch brings home at least as many strays as we do. And if we have to, we’ll just convince him it was all his own idea to have her stay. A bit of reverse psychology is just what we need.” Johnny wasn’t quite sure what his brother meant, but he had faith in Scott. He was sure the Lancer family would soon have a new member. He smiled happily as he dug another sandwich out of the lunch Teresa had fixed for them. To his delight, she made that one disappear even faster than the first one. Good thing his little sister liked to feed them so well, or there’d be nothing left for him and Scott to eat.

 Scott appeared at his elbow with a colorful blanket. As they spread it carefully the limited space available, Johnny said, “I bet Teresa’ll be glad to help get her all cleaned up pretty before Murdoch meets her. What do you think we should call her, Scott?”

“I think Goldie would be appropriate – well, after she has a bath anyway.” Scott smiled at her.

Goldie curled up on the soft blanket and sighed contentedly. Her instincts certainly hadn’t failed her this time. She finally had a full belly and a name of her own. Her bushy tail thumped happily against the wooden floor of the wagon, as the young men each stopped long enough to give her a final pat before heading home. What more could a dog ask for!



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