Busted Axle Road
Chapter 18

Copyright© 1993, 2001, 2010

It was a nice day, and the work in the attic got old after a while. Tiring of the hot, sweaty, confined place, Mike and Kirsten decided to take a run out to the new house, to take Tiffany and Henry out to see the place. It made an excuse to get away from the mess for a while. They were walking around the barn when they saw a pickup truck drive in.

It proved to be Mark and Jackie Gravengood. "We wondered who was here," Mark explained from th pickup. "We're supposed to be keeping an eye on this place for Binky."

"We're buying this place," Mike announced.

"Well, welcome to Busted Axle Road," Jackie smiled. "It'll be a nice place to let your kids and cats and dogs run around. You won't exactly have problems with traffic racing past."

"It's going to be different from living in town," Kirsten said, "But I think we're going to like it."

"We've been here on Busted Axle Road for fifteen years," Jackie said. "Sometimes, I wish we were a little closer to town, but we've put a lot of work into the place, and we wouldn't want to give up the airstrip."

"What's this 'Busted Axle Road' stuff?" Kirsten asked.

"It's a dead end road, ever since the bridge went out a few years ago," Mark explained. "The county gets around to grading it almost never. They get around to snowplowing it only after everything else in the county gets plowed. We get in an out pretty good in the winter if we don't get too bad a storm, since I've got a blade I put on the tractor in the winter. But, too much snow, and I can't dig through it."

"The road didn't seem too bad when we came out here," Mike said.

"That's because I graded it with the tractor a couple of weeks ago," Mark said. "I can do a pretty good job in the spring when the ground's soft. Once it's sat for the summer, baking in the sun, the clay hardens up so much I can't bust it up, even if we get rain, and then it get all full of potholes and really bad. Then, it takes one of their big graders to bust up the hard pan."

Without saying anything, Mike wondered to himself what effect a couple of nasty columns in the Record-Herald would have on the road commission. But there was no point in doing it until he saw how bad it really was. "Well, I'm sure glad we'll have you and your tractor living up the road from us," he said. "You be sure and let me know if there's anything I can do to help you."

"Don't get me wrong," Mark said. "It has it's compensations. You don't get bothered much unless somebody really wants to bother you."

Back in high school, Kirsten and Jackie had been more or less friends, but a lot of water had flowed under the bridge in nearly twenty years. Nowadays, Jackie only saw Kirsten around town by accident, mostly at the grocery store. It was simply that they'd grown apart, with different lives and different interests, and partly because it was of the fact that Mark and Jackie were very close to each other, but not the sort to make close friends easily. For her own reasons, Jackie preferred to stay at home and run her business out of the shop, going to town only when she had to. Mark and Jackie got out of the truck.

It didn't take Tiffany and Cumulus long to find each other. What started out as a friendly little pet soon turned into a belly scratch. "You be careful with that dog," Kirsten called, a little alarmed.

"He's a good dog, Mommy," the little girl called.

"He could bite you," Kirsten replied, her voice rising a little. She'd never had pets herself, or allowed the children to have pets, except for goldfish, wasn't used to the sight of her daughter and this dog playing together.

"He won't bite, Mommy," she said. "I can tell he's a nice dog. What's his name?"

"He could scratch you, the way he's rolling around like that."

"His name is Cumulus," Mark explained, "But he's still learning to answer to it."

The adults watched Tiffany and Cumulus play for a moment. Even with a few days of decent, regular feeding, he was getting to be a lot better-looking dog; much of the scrawniness and scraggliness had disappeared. "They seem to get along pretty well together," Mike commented.

"Yeah, he followed me home the other day," Mark said. "A stray. Sure is a nice dog, though. It looks to me like he's been around people, a family dog, but got abandoned."

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