Busted Axle Road
Chapter 123

Copyright© 1993, 2001, 2010

Kirsten and Jackie and Tiffany were with Mark in the tub room when they heard a pounding at the door. "What the heck?" Kirsten said, getting up and going to the door. "If that's the guys, they'd have just come on in."

It proved to be Josh. Kirsten looked over his shoulder, to see the ten dogs rigged together, the two sleds rigged in tandem, and Mike bundled up in the basket of the front sled. "He's got the flu too," Josh said. "He fainted out on the trail."

Kirsten didn't bother with a coat, and neither did Jackie or Tiffany. They rushed outside, along with Josh, to where Mike lay quietly in the sled. "Honey, are you all right?" Kirsten asked.

"Hell no," he mumbled. "I'm sicker than Mark was."

"Come on," she said. "Let's get you inside."

The four of them helped Mike to get up. He could stand, but was unsteady on his feet. Jackie took him by one arm, and Josh took him by the other, and helped him inside the house, and started to undress him. "Don't take them off," he pleaded, "I'm freezing."

"Shivering from a heck of a fever," Jackie said, feeling Mike's forehead. "Maybe a little hypothermia, too."

"We know how to fix that," Kirsten said.

"I'd better get back outside," Josh said. "I've got ten dogs hanging onto one snow hook out there. Tiffany, come out to help me get the Beatle Hounds picketed, then I'll run the Gravediggers back up to Mark's."

Mike was feeling a little better, just knowing he was home and inside, although shivering as the women stripped him naked. "Drop off the one sled, and go ahead and finish with ten dogs," he said. "There's going to be a crowd there, they need something to see."

"Daddy," Tiffany tried to interrupt.

"I can do that," Josh said. "After that crowd last night, they'll want to see something."

"Daddy," Tiffany insisted. "If Josh can finish for Mark, let me finish for you."

"I don't know, honey," Kirsten said.

"But Mommy," Tiffany said, "It's not as far as I drove the dogs to school, and I'll have Josh with me."

"Yeah, but honey," Mike said. "That crowd at the finish line will make the dogs awful wild."

"They won't be wild for me," Tiffany insisted. "They're good dogs."

"What do you think, Mark?" Mike asked.

"So long as somebody's there to catch them, it probably would be all right. The crowd'll get a race that way."

"All right, Tiffany," Mike said, over Kirsten's glare. "Go ahead and finish. Josh, do you know the route down to the lake?"

"Yeah, down the road, right a couple hundred yards, then down the beach road."

"Right," Mike said, naked now. The women helped him climb over the rim of the hot tub. "God, that feels good," he said.

Mark was feeling a little better now. He'd gotten over his earlier chill, and had gone through a fever phase that made him want to go outside in the snow, and was just now getting through another chill phase. "You two run together until you get a mile or so out. Then, if you want to, give 'em a race. Josh, you look out for Tiffany. Kirsten, somebody's got to stay here, so you take the videocamera and go to the finish line, and catch the dogs."

"I can't catch the dogs very well if I've got the videocamera," she said. "And there'll be two teams."

"Fred Linder ought to be there," Mike said. "I think he ran his snowmobile all the way down there to catch the finish. Find him, and have him help. Maybe Ryan Clark and Gil Evachevski, too. They don't know much about dogs, but they're big."

"I could go," Jackie offered. "I know the dogs better."

"Yeah," Mike said. "But I want to see how this comes out. If I can't be there, at least there'll be the video."

"If it's going to be a race," Jackie commented, "Then Tiffany has the advantage. She's a lot lighter than Josh."

"That's right," Mike said weakly. "There's a couple of fifty pound bags of dog food in the barn. Throw them into Tiffany's sled for ballast. That ought to even things up as close as we can."

"Tiffany, go get dressed warm," Josh said. "I'll go out and start breaking the teams down again."

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