Gone missing, part 4 or….. Still missing!

Roger hopped out and took my hand as I came down the steps, then held the door open while I stepped up into his car. Charlie, not so much the gentleman, shoved past Roger and hopped up in my lap, ready to go. I gave Charlie a squeeze and we grinned at each other. I looked up and down the street, again at the general store and the train station, trying to imprint the images in my mind so I’d never forget. As Roger settled in the driver’s seat I finally noticed his marvelous car.
“I’m not familiar with cars, what is this?” I knew men loved to be asked about their cars.
“It’s a Willys touring car. It’s been the perfect car for me, room to take a few people, getting me farther and faster than Joe. Joe’s my horse.” Roger explained, giving me his dazzling smile. “I still ride him when I can for local stories, but now I don’t use up a whole day riding into Crimson Falls for a quick interview or to visit my folks over in Hillside. And I’m building a house just outside of town, it’s been helpful for hauling smaller supplies.” We headed south down Main Street toward the road pointing west out of town, giving me a different view from following the tracks like I had coming into town. I was grinning ear to ear.
“You seem to be enjoying yourself.” Roger was studying me, glancing at the road enough to keep us on track. “Where did you say you’re from? I studied Roger back. There were a lot of things I wanted to tell him, a lot of things I wanted to ask. I wanted to tell him I was a journalist too, that I lived very close by in a part of the same valley that didn’t even exist yet. How I could explain myself without dreaming up more whopper lies?
“From down south.” Was all I could think of. “I like it here, and since I’m on my own I was thinking of looking for work here.” I turned back to watch the woods and hills, knowing I’d left the door wide open for more questions. It wasn’t going to take us long to get to Martha’s and I hated the thought of this day ending. I cuddled Charlie close, wondering what I should do. My best friend, Julie, was not a phone call away and I needed her input. What would she say? What would I want her to say? She’d be giggling like a teenager, asking me what did I have to go back for that was so important? To go with my gut, to stay if I wanted. I wondered if I could go home and then come back?
“I’m building my house just down that road.” He pointed with his chin as we passed a double-rutted road through a broad meadow backed up to trees against the hills. “I’ll be raising appaloosas once I get settled, one of my tribal friends is keeping a dozen pony’s for me already, waiting for me to get set up. Won’t be long now…” Before Roger could finish his sentence he slammed on the brakes and all I could see was a blur of trees and sky, clutching Charlie and bracing as best I could with me feet as we did a screeching swerve. Even going 35 mph it was scary and jarring. When we finally skidded to a stop I watched as the butt end of a lucky grizzly disappeared into the tall roadside grass. I let go of Charlie for just a moment, laying a hand on Roger’s shoulder. In the same moment Charlie was out of the car, disappearing into the same roadside grass.
“Are you okay?” Roger’s hand was on my shoulder now, a look of worry and relief both.
“Yes, I’m fine, but I have to get Charlie.” I was out of the car before Roger could protest. I called for Charlie to come, but I knew it was useless. What could I bribe him with that was more fun that bear chasing? Before I took off the direction Charlie and the bear had gone I looked back to see poor Roger, torn between surveying the damage to his car, sideways with a broken axle in the middle of the road, and going after my foolish dog.
“You stay with the car. Don’t go anywhere.” Roger had me by the shoulders, looking determined, taking charge. “I’ll go get Charlie and be right back. That bear will be long gone and Charlie will be glad to come back.” Roger flashed a reassuring smile and waded off through the grass. Every minute or so I could hear him hollering for Charlie, each call fainter than the last, until finally I heard nothing but the soft breath of a breeze in the grass. The sun would be setting before long. It was getting chilly.
I sat in the broken car for a while, then sat down on the side of the road for a few minutes. The immediate concern was crowding out my internal conversation about the bigger picture. I didn’t know what I’d do without Charlie and probably couldn’t go back home without him. A dog might not alter the course of history but it would change mine. I was working myself into a good cry when a truck full of railroad workers drove up. Before I could even finish telling them our story, the part about Roger going after Charlie, the six men had muscled the rear end of Roger’s car out of the middle of road.
“We have room, ma’am. Will give you a ride back to town. It’s getting late, you can’t stay out here.”
“I’ll be fine, really. My friend will be back any second with my dog. He’d be worried if I was gone. We’ll catch a ride when he gets back. You saved the day though, by moving his car out of the way. Big strong men.” The men shuffled around like they were lost, interested in their feet all of a sudden, all of them speechless, wearing shy smiles. “Go ahead, really, I’ll be fine. Get home for dinner.” As a whole they were back in their truck, two of them waving to me as they drove away. Then I want back to waiting.
The sun was setting, intensifying the gold of the larches, when I thought I heard barking coming across the meadow. I was on my feet in an instant, straining to hear. What I saw was a man on a horse with a dog on his lap! Roger and my Charlie. Charlie barked again when he saw me and, of course, I ran out to meet them. Roger handed Charlie down. Roger waited patiently while I hugged and cooed over Charlie. Then I saw that Roger was a mess! His shirt was torn at the shoulder and his face was scratched!
“My hero.” I smiled and he smiled and he gave me his hand. With Charlie snuggled back into Roger’s lap, I bunched up my skirt and climbed up on Joe, barely fitting on the back of the saddle. Roger turned Joe back to the woods. I circled my arms around Roger’s waist – he didn’t seem to mind a bit.
“My house is just through here.” As we made our way through the grassy field and into the trees, the sun setting on our backs, Roger told me his side of the story.
“I figured if I took the time to go get Joe it wouldn’t take me long me to find Charlie. And it didn’t. Charlie didn’t want to come with me though. The bear was long gone but Charlie thought he was still hot on that bear’s trail, making big circles back and forth over the same prints. He made me chase him across two streams and then on my hands and knees through deadfall before I could catch him. And he didn’t like getting up on Joe much but once he understood the game he acted like he’d been riding horses his whole life.” Roger chuckled, making it sound like it had been a fun adventure.
I could just reach up and give Charlie a good head tussle. Through the deepening shade we came into a clearing with a frame house, a barn, and a large corral.
“Looks like the bear visited here, too, shuffled through some canned goods I have stashed, didn’t hurt anything. Was glad to see my front door is still in one piece. He was a big boy from the prints he left.”
Roger stopped Joe by the corral and I eased off. Roger handed down Charlie.
“Is Martha going to be worried about you?” I could see Roger’s concerned face in the last of the dusky light.
“Maybe a little.”
“I’m sorry I can’t get you out there tonight. I have a few things here for when I stay all weekend working on the house. I can make it comfortable for you, warm, give you some privacy. It will be okay.”
“Of course it will. We’ll be fine. What kind of canned food do you have?”
So in the chilly dark house Roger started a fire while I fished through a box of camping supplies. I opened three cans of pork and beans, one for each of us. Charlie fell asleep as soon as he’d licked up the last bite of his, his tired chin propped up on the warm hearth. With his face brushed orange from the dancing fire, Roger told me his dream to raise horses, how he saved to buy his property and planned his house.
“I’m not done with the newspaper yet. No reason I can’t keep it for years while I grow my herd. And enjoy what happens in all that time in between.” Roger was studying me again and I knew the questions were finally coming. So I told him the reasons I’d come north years ago, not having to make up anything. I wanted distance between me and the big city, I wanted quiet and snow and something better, which I couldn’t quite define yet but knew I was closer than I had been.
I don’t remember the end of our conversation. I must have fallen asleep and slept straight through the night. I woke up next to a freshly stoked fire and Charlie tucked beside me on a thick blanket folded on the floor. I didn’t want to move for fear of shattering what might be a delicious dream. By the time Charlie and I stepped through the front door into the crisp fall morning, filtered rays of sunlight were streaking thru the trees. Roger was just getting off Joe, a string of three fat trout tied on the saddle.
The morning brightened even more with Roger’s smile. “I caught breakfast, I’ll get it ready. While we’re riding out to the Peterson’s you can tell me where you got those boots.” Roger disappeared into the barn. I looked down at Charlie.
“So now what do you think? Yeh, I know, you’d like fish every morning for breakfast, wouldn’t you? He was wearing his contented doggie smile.
“That’s what I figured. Yep, I like it here too.” No movie I’d ever seen would have a happier ending.


7 thoughts on “Gone missing, part 4 or….. Still missing!

  1. I just re-read parts 1,2&3. Really enjoying this! If it turns into a book I bet someone will want to publish it. If it winds up being a short story I’m thinking one of the magazines you’ve already been published in will want it for sure!


  2. This is really well written, very professional feeling.  Do you have a place in mind to sent it?  i guess Charlie is based on Sarah, a mind of his own.  Glad there is some sketching going on and a love of iris. Are you sending your novel to publishers?  Do you have all your copies back now?


  3. Funny, I was visualizing Cassidy, but with Sara’s personality! Cass was a ‘city’ dog. Who knows how she would have acted in MT!?


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