The continuing saga of three generations of ranching family. Below the story you’ll find links to flash fictions.
Mitch woke to a snort that seemed to be next to his ear, but in reality was probably across the camp from the tent where he and Darrin were sleeping. He lay frozen in place and waited for the sound. His eyelids felt like each one was trying to hold up a five-pound weight. He faded into sleep and then was awakened by the sound again. This time the noise was close.
It had to be a bear.
Mitch pulled away from the paper-thin walls of the tent and reached over to shake Darrin.
“Huh… what… what’s up?”
“Be quiet!” Mitch hissed. “Do you hear that?”
Darrin dug his fists into his eyes as he struggled to understand Mitch. A loud bang brought both of them fully awake. When another crash followed the first, Mitch worried. The only thing between them and a huge animal but a few microns of tent materials. Darrin reached upward to turn on the battery-powered lantern, but Mitch grabbed his wrist.
“No. I don’t think it’s a good idea to give whatever it is something to target.”
Darrin snorted. “You mean like two people talking?”
“Asshole. Don’t wake me up in the middle of the night and expect Prince Charming.”
Another crash sounded. This time it sounded like the metal plates they ate from being thrown out of the pickup bed. He turned on Darrin. “Didn’t you put the stuff in that bear proof locker we got?”
“Yes. Of course I put the food away. With all the bear warning signs on the way up here there was no way I didn’t lock everything up five ways from Sunday. They can’t get into the locker.” He turned to Mitch with his nerves shot. “And what about the dishes and shit? Did you take care of all that?”
Another loud thump and this time he had no difficulty identifying its source. “That was the food locker. It knocked it over. I hope the locks stand up to a bear trying to open it.”
“The stupid thing cost enough, it should stand up to a dozen bears and Bigfoot.”
Mitch glanced toward Darrin out of habit but could see nothing. But the tone of his husband’s voice was easy enough to interpret. He was scared.
“Hey. The noise stopped,” Mitch said.
Darrin listened for a minute as he scanned the area under the weak moonlight. A short time later he came back to Mitch. “I think it’s gone. I can’t see anything moving.”
Mitch crawled to the edge of the tent, unzipped the opening, and peered around. He came to the same conclusion as Darrin when something rushed the tent, hissing and chattering. Startled, Mitch ripped the zipper down and back peddled across the floor.
“Shit! What was that?”
“I’m not sure, but it scared the crap out of me,” Darrin said.
They could make out waves of feet racing across the campsite. This sounded different somehow. The noises continued, but it didn’t seem as intent not threatening Mitch and Darrin. Mitch rustled around the bedding until he found the large flashlight they’d brought into the tent in case they needed it. He bounced it in his hand a few times but the noises didn’t get worse so Mitch sat and listened. While the melee continued at their campsite, they huddled against each other, blankets wrapped tight.
Mitch’s next conscious thought was the sound of a horses snort from just outside their tent, and a voice sounded from a few feet away.
“Hey, guys. Ready to pack up Eeyore here and head down? Dad’s got a pen of bulls to go through too.”
Mitch and Darrin crawled out. The young woman on the chestnut horse was doing her best to not laugh, and she strained to keeping it under control. Mitch tried to tame his hair and pull a cap over it, but that just seemed to tickle her even more. He glanced at Darrin, and understood why she was laughing; Darrin looked like he’d fought with their nocturnal visitors, and lost.
Mitch turned to the woman and smiled. “We had a rough night. We had a bear around midnight, and then a horde of something else a few hours later.”
Her expression flashed to serious. “Bear? Where?”
He pointed toward the pickup, and their stash of food. While she investigated he and Darrin dug their boots from the pile of bedding and clothes in the middle of their tent.
By the time they’d finished dressing, and given up on getting their hair to look like anything but a train wreck, she was walking her horse over the area they’d identified. A few minutes later she walked her horse over to them again. Mitch knew it would be ego bruising, she was laughing again.
“Well? How big was the bear?”
She spread her hands a little less than two feet tall. “About that big. Around here we call them raccoons though. The first one was impressive though.”
This time her laughter filled the clearing as she guided her horse to where the mule waited patiently.
If you’d like to see a snippet from the other Wednesday Briefs authors you can go to the groups website. Or click on the name listed below to go directly to the story.