Copyright© 2013 by Refusenik
Noise woke him, and Scott rolled over. The sky was turning brilliant colors as the sun rose over the horizon. He was lying in the sand and had an odd sensation of déjà vu. Two puppies were playing next to the motionless body of Jobe, an arm's length away. They yipped and wrestled with each other. Both had the same markings, the black muzzle and ears were unmistakable Belgian Malinois characteristics. The body of one was a lighter fawn color while the other a little redder.
The puppies noticed him immediately. He reached for them and they began to bite and lick his fingers. They were the right age to have been weaned, seven to eight weeks he guessed. Maybe nine pounds each.
He rose to his knees. The body was cold. Scott found a paper note pinned to Jobe's collar. The puppies continued to romp around him, begging for attention.
Scott unfolded the note.
'Do not be sad. I continue – Jobe.'
He had to blink away tears. The note began to disintegrate and the fragments blew away in the wind.
He looked around to gain his bearings and reached for the map in his mind. It was gone. There was nothing else there, no strange information, no maps, no projections in his field of vision. Nothing. He smiled.
Scott didn't need a map anyway. After a quick glance around, he knew exactly where he was. They were on a ridge overlooking an ancient creek bed, a modest hike from the old Piotrowski house. The campsite had been a favorite since he and Jobe had first discovered it.
He turned around. The aliens had parked his truck on the downslope. The tires and sides were caked in dirt as if he'd been off-roading.
The dogs were jumping up on him.
"Okay, which of you is the smart one?" he asked.
The puppy with the red coat stopped, stood at attention and yipped.
Scott picked the puppy up by its little belly and checked underneath. "Yep, you're a boy." He turned the puppy to face him. "I'm going to need you to keep an eye on your sister until I can get things sorted out, okay?"
The puppy panted excitedly at him.
"I'll take that as a yes."
He scooped the female up with his other hand and walked to the truck. The doors were unlocked, his keys were in the ignition and his cell phone where he'd left it. He put the puppies in the passenger side foot well, knowing that wouldn't keep them for long.
He grabbed his pack from the backseat. It had bottled water and some energy bars. The puppies lapped water from his palm. He ate half a protein bar and fed crumbs to the two mobile destruction machines. Their sharp little teeth made it a fun experience.
"All right," he announced. "I'll be back soon. Keep an eye on each other and try not to crap all over my truck."
He walked to the campsite with his folding E-tool and started to dig. The soil was dry and hard, but he broke the ground with the blade of the shovel and determination. It took fifteen minutes to get the hole deep enough. He wrapped Jobe's body in the tent from his pack and laid him at the bottom.
He hesitated to fill the hole in. A desert grave didn't seem right. He was only able to do it with the knowledge that Jobe, wherever he was, wasn't there.
Scott patted the mound of soil. He searched and uncovered the rocks used for many of his fire pits. He built a small cairn with them. After a moment of reflection, he walked away.
In low gear, the truck made slow, but steady progress back to the road. He took a long route through the desert scrub away from the Piotrowski property, which was now state land. He didn't need a citation from the Parks and Wildlife Department.
He drove out of the dirt and rock, onto the road and mashed the gas pedal. The puppies were much happier on the smooth roadway. Scott noted that his cell phone was finally showing a signal, but another thirty minutes weren't going to make a big difference to anyone he could call.
He blew past Meritt's Corner with a regretful look. He would loved to have stopped and had a belly busting breakfast of biscuits and gravy. Along the way, the female puppy went to sleep on the floor mat, with the male curled up beside her.
They woke as he turned in to the Mendoza's driveway. He hadn't even shut the engine off before Janie burst out the front door of the house.
She pulled open his door and shouted, "Where have you—"
He shoved a puppy into her arms and picked up the other one. "Put her in the grass, she probably needs to go."
Janie put the puppy down. He handed her the other one and climbed down from the truck.
Both puppies squatted, did their business, and proceeded to trot around the grass with tails wagging. They were happy campers.
Janie started to hug him, but declared. "You're a mess."
Scott knocked dirt from his shirt and jeans. "I was hoping I could get a shower. Shouldn't you be at work?"
"Daddy gave me the day off."
Connie Mendoza came out onto the porch, "I'm glad that was you," she said. "I didn't think she'd go running out of the house for anybody else." She spotted the dogs. "Oh, how cute!"
The male was doing his best to herd the lighter colored female to the center of the yard.
"Are they yours?" Connie asked.
"You found him?" Janie asked.
"Buried him at our old campsite." Scott gritted his teeth to tell another lie. "There was no sign of the mother or any other pups."
Both Mendoza women reached to comfort him. After that, the puppies and Scott were hustled inside. Scott took a shower upstairs while the ladies hunted for a cardboard box big enough to contain the two.
He took a long shower. There hadn't been time to process the night's events. Understanding what had happened to him as a child and why he was different had always been a driving force. With that accomplished and his questions answered, he felt strangely untethered from his life.
Janie was waiting for him when he opened the bathroom door.
"You okay?" she asked.
He wrapped his arms around her and kissed the top of her head. "I've missed you."
"I need to see Honour and Joseph, will you go with me?"
"You know I will."
"You left your mother alone with those terrors?" Scott said. "Should we rescue her?"
"She did pretty good raising five kids."
Scott started to say something but Janie pointed a finger at him.
They found Connie watching the pups. They were busy destroying somebody's house slipper.
"Sorry, Connie," Scott said.
"I needed a new pair anyway," she pointed to the couch "Found a box and put an old towel in it."
"What are you going to do?" she asked.
"I'm going to give one to Honour and Joseph for their kids, and I'm going to keep the other one."
"That's sweet of you," Connie said. "Can you keep a pet at your apartment?"
Janie shot him a look.
"It's not a problem."
They stopped at the feed store to get supplies. Honour and Joseph had Jobe's stuff, but not the right kind of puppy food. Scott had none of what was needed in Levall, so he bought everything the dog would require.
Janie rode in the backseat to keep an eye on the rambunctious pair.
"You seem pretty sure they're going to accept the puppy," Janie said.
"How they doing back there?" he asked.
"They're about to zonk out."