Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Whine (05/23/13)
TITLE: Smoke Dog
By Sheldon Bass
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Two years after Fawn's death, God had relieved the ache in his heart with a grandson. Billy was a bright boy, and mirrored his father, Tall Bear's handsome features. But a month ago, Bear had relocated his family an hour to the south, closer to his in-laws. Billy visited his grandfather every other weekend, yet the two weeks in between left a vacuum in Wankan's life. His empty days slipped by as he dawdled, withdrawn into memories of the past. Last week he'd languished by the river for ten hours straight, just recalling stories his father and grandfather had told of long ago.
He'd always cherished traipsing the old trails, sighting the natural denizens of the forest and woodlands. The verdant beauty offered a quaint solace for his mundane existence. Now however, his favorite path was barely distinguishable, as he made his way toward the river; communing with God and the land.
"It will grow back again."
"But my people, the Lakota, will not. Things will never be as they once were."
"Oh God, I don't understand... By the time the forest turns green again I might not be here to enjoy it. I don't mean to complain, and I thank you for Tall Bear and his wife Helen, and especially for little Billy. But I don't see them enough. I have nothing to offer anyone—just a useless old man."
A muffled sound halted his steps.
"Yip, yeowl, hymm." It was a whimpering, like a whining pup. He'd heard it before, coming from the dens of mother wolves.
Wankan swiveled his head around trying to locate the source, as again the high pitched whine sounded.
"hymm... hymm... yip."
Rounding a bend, the burnt and blackened body of a she wolf was found curled around the base of a large tree. The fire had trapped her—she was dead.
"Dead wolves don't whine."
Rolling the partially charred cadaver away from the tree, his eyes suddenly blazed with sparkles. A wolf pup tumbled out from where the mother had pinned him against the thick trunk. He was very much alive. She'd covered the little ball of fur with her body—giving her own life to protect her baby.
Scooping up the fluffy youngster in his arms; he couldn't help but smile, while the pup whined a relieved greeting.
"A smoky little wolf cub!"
"Maybe I should call you Smokey... No—that's been used. I'll call you, Smoke Dog."
The helpless wolf's lively eyes gazed up into the face of his only hope for life, stirring a deep compassion in the old Indian.
"Looks like we need each other."
Over the six months since Smoke Dog had gone to live with Wankan, the bond of love and trust between the two had grown, and was quickly becoming legendary. The east side of the river was discovered to be untouched by the fire. And this is where Wankan, Billy and Smoke Dog now tromped the woods together.
Reclining under the shade of a shivering pine—Smoke Dog snuggled his head into Wankan's lap, mooning up at his best friend. Those big blue wolf eyes had a persuasive way of softening the old man's resolves. And Billy too had come to love the young wolf, which had been spared by a mother's love and an old man's loneliness.
Smoke Dog whined, pawing at the bag hanging at Wankan's side.
"You just ate two hours ago!"
Billy also whined. "I'm hungry too grandpa."
Grandpa chuckled, "I don't think there's enough food in this entire state to keep you two filled up. Well... You're both still sprouting... Looks like it's the whining wheel that gets the grease—let's eat."
The spark was quickly returning to Wankan Tehoa's life. And the adventures, which awaited him and Smoke and Billy too, would become stories told for generations. No one could have imagined how large Smoke would become, or the size of his legend.
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