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Thomas Rydder
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Book Blurbs > An excerpt from "The Clearing"

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Thomas Rydder (ThomasRydder) | 30 comments The Clearing by Thomas Rydder

Mr. Flapjack had developed into the perfect pet. He was a gentle giant, and distributed nuzzles and slurps to everyone alike. He only barked when a stranger came to the door—discovering he was a stranger caused the fleeing postman considerable dismay—and his only desires seemed to be food, a scratch behind his ear, a bit of cavorting in the back yard, or a long walk.
All that made it even more puzzling for Lizzie, when she came out the back door and discovered her dog peering through the chain link fence bordering the woods. Silent and stock still, with his head bent slightly to the side, he appeared to be listening, so Lizzie looked about, listening too. He remained in that position for several more minutes, and then seemed to shake himself. Turning, he spied his young mistress and bounded happily to meet her. Wrapping her arms around his thick neck, she asked, “What was it, boy? What did you see? Was it a rabbit, huh? Did you see a bunny? Come on, it’s time to go inside now.” Flapjack followed his mistress obediently, but he glanced over his shoulder once more before disappearing inside.
Several days later, while the three enjoyed an after-dinner ice cream, Beth mentioned casually, “You know, I have a new semester starting in a few weeks, and I have to start preparing. Why don’t you and I go out in the yard tonight and collect some lightning bugs? Then you can help me get them ready for class.”
Leaping up, Lizzie breathlessly replied, “Sure! These dishes will only take a minute,” practically throwing the bowls into the dishwasher. Chuckling, Beth walked into the spare bedroom that served as her workshop. Taking down several quart-size jars and her backpack, she began making preparations.
“Honey, get two flashlights out of the drawer and make sure they have good batteries.”
“Okay!” came the muffled reply, and within minutes, all was ready.
As they exited the house, Flapjack slipped by them, determined to be included. “Oh no, boy. We’re working here,” Beth admonished.
“Oh, he’s okay, Mom, let him come. He’ll be good!”
Beth stopped in her tracks.
It was the first time Lizzie had not called her Momma Beth. Her attention diverted, she wordlessly allowed the standoff to pass, and they immersed themselves in the business of catching the luminescent insects by the light of the full summer moon. While Beth coaxed the flashing insects into her jars, Flapjack bounded playfully at the lights dancing about his back yard. He tried again and again to ensnare one in his snapping jaws, while Lizzie ran in front of him, pointing out the biggest and best insects for him to chase.
Flapjack made a sudden turn to dive after one evasive foe, and bowled Lizzie heels over head. Beth started forward, but Lizzie sat up quickly, laughing hysterically and sputtering when Flapjack engulfed her with slobbery kisses. They all ended up on the grass, mother and daughter giggling, while their oversized playmate ran about, barking to get them up and running again.
Suddenly, he stopped short, his head twisting toward the woods. Trotting over to the fence line, he sat on his haunches and stared.
“What in the wor—” began Beth.
An eerie howl split the night air. It seemed to go on forever, rising in pitch and holding, before slowly falling off. Beth felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up, and Lizzie stood frozen, staring up into the hills. Beth had completed her graduate work in the Gila National Forest of New Mexico, and had heard her share of coyotes yelping.
This wasn’t a coyote.
The howl was stronger—almost demanding—and lacked the mournful tone of a coyote’s lament. Flapjack whined then sprang up to pace back and forth, hunching his shoulders and sniffing ceaselessly. Another howl burst forth, this one closer.
Keeping her eyes on the dog, Beth commanded, “Honey, go inside. Everything is fine, but I think you should go in for a minute.” A third howl cut off any protest the youngster might have made, and the slamming screen door was evidence of her compliance. Turning her attention back to the woods line, Beth considered the agitated canine. “Come on, boy. Let’s go inside. We got enough bugs tonight, anyway.”
Suddenly, a faint rustling came from just inside the trees, and as her eyes snapped toward the sound, she could swear she saw a shadow flitting by an opening. Flapjack’s whimpering elevated and he was now standing with ears up. Suddenly, he bounded forward and cleared the fence in one leap. Beth scarcely had time to scream “Flapjack!” before he disappeared into the blackness of the forest.

message 2: by Virtual (new)

Virtual | 435 comments Mod
Thanks for sharing, Thomas!

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