The bus ride

Jahn looked at the cold landscape through the bus window. It will be snowing soon, he thought, in these mountains, the high Nevatumblas.

He had been riding two days from Lisomon where he had left her — or abandoned her, as he saw it. By necessity, she pleaded. It had to be done to survive, she cried. Because of Lechke.

Lechke was a large, hard man with dirt beneath his nails, both real and symbolic. He knew the sheriff, so he thought he was above the law — and divine justice too though he didn’t know God.

He had taken a shine to her, and no one should say no to Lechke. The fact that Jahn had loved her so long meant nothing to Lechke who wanted her now, and that settled it in his primitive mind.

Jahn glanced at the young girl beside him. Fleeting snow brushed the bus window as sundown drew near. Light was fading. Trees flashed by.

The girl boarded the bus that morning at the town called Fiscada. She was 15 years old, she said. Small for her age, brown-haired and plain.

Looking back out the window, he remembered what his love said. This will not be forever, but it will be months. Not months but years, Jahn thought.

It will be like death, but he would still breathe, place one step ahead of the next, patient. He was headed to Mintablisko. He would be alone.

He turned toward the girl again and wondered. Could it be true?

She looked so innocent.

* * * *

I killed my mom and dad last night. Why? Because they always hurt me.

I waited till they fell asleep and then I got Daddy’s pistol from the dining room drawer. I wanted to shoot them both between the eyes like you see in the movies, just like that.

I walked up to the bed and put the barrel near Daddy’s face and pulled the trigger, right between his eyes. The noise surprised me, and the pistol kicked.

Mommy woke up and screamed. I stepped back, aimed at her chest and pulled the trigger two more times.

Then I went downstairs and made two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and I put milk in a thermos, and I walked six blocks in the dark to the bus station.

* * * *

Jahn wondered. Is she telling the truth? She said her name was Kristanabel. He looked again out the bus window and saw ice sticking to the glass.

He felt gloomy and lonely. Kristanabel was wearing a short pleated skirt and sandals with no socks in this cold weather.

Three hours later the bus pulled into the station at Mintablisko. Police were waiting at the door, waiting for Kristanabel. No one was waiting for him.

Outside, he picked up his bag and shivered.

* * * *

(First in a series titled The Marbol Hotel.)

Piggy’s final escapade

He was the runt of the litter but the sharpest of mind and the fleetest of foot. He was a child pig — a piggy in the vernacular.

Unlike his duller siblings who would grow to be sows, he would escape the pen on occasion and head down my street in a developing nation as fast as his trotters would propel him.

It was on one of these adventures that I saw him that day.

He was a rocket piggy, barreling lickety-split. Children on the sidewalk pointed, screamed and giggled. Two women turned from the door of a butcher shop and smiled as he raced unsteadily by, full-tilt boogie, trying to put as much distance between him and the pigpen as possible.

On earlier escapes, he had always been captured and brought home, squealing.

As everyone knows, pigs are very intelligent. They are the dolphins of dry land. As our piggy ran in the street he was thinking Free! Free! Free! Free!

He was so very happy.

* * * *

Unknown to our piggy, there lived in the same neighborhood an ugly dog called Spot. Nobody had named him Spot, but he was large and black with a spot on his face or maybe it was a scar.

It seems logical to call him Spot, though he did not call  himself anything.

He had no owner. He was neither loved nor cared for. He had been born behind a decaying adobe wall, the offspring of a mongrel mama with no name, an old brindle bitch repeatedly ravished by the manly mutts of the neighborhood, whoever wandered by and chose to assault her.

This had been Spot’s roots, and it twisted him. He had run off at a young age, wandering potholed streets, eating scraps when he found them, dodging stones tossed by children and adults alike. He grew tall, developing a sour and evil attitude, and he was usually painfully hungry.

At this moment, he was standing near the post of the ding-dong bell at a railroad crossing. As his stomach churned, his canine eyes focused on bacon two blocks off, careening toward him.

Piggy never saw the pigpen again. But Spot snoozed solidly that night somewhere near the train track. His stomach was stretched and silent.

Spot really loved fresh pork.

* * * *

(Note: The Unseen Moon sometimes goes dark or slips behind a  storm cloud. Soon we will touch on Romance and other things, and it will not always be about animals.  But first a delay of some days. We’re heading off on a road trip to a very big city.)

The puma’s bed

The night was as black as his fur, and he was lying in a human bed, a new and engaging experience since he was accustomed to dirt, twigs and the occasional gnawed and bloody bone.

He wasn’t sure how he got there. He simply opened his eyes, and there he was atop soft white sheets with moonlight streaming through the bay window nearby.

He swished his tail, which is something he always did when he felt good. Lots of things made him feel good. A sure-fire dinner between his teeth. His kittens. His female.

And now this, white sheets.

He twitched his mustache and wondered.

He was in a strange new world but he was not afraid. The bed was as soft as his woman’s back, his kittens’ ears, the neck of a wolverine as he snapped it.

He admired the moonlight, then closed his eyes and returned to sleep . . .

The old wolf

It had rained most of the night, but not now, so he stood quietly so not to waken his mate. He left the cave to trot the short distance to the overlook.

Clouds were clearing and he sat on his haunches and viewed the incredible distance, the morning valley below and the faraway mountains.

They had left the old home because Homo erectus became more of a worry down in the valley. Now they lived in a different cave that was very high and well hidden. Homo erectus was no threat here.

They lived in peace, eating the occasional rodent and rabbit that were becoming more difficult to catch. He was not as quick as before and gray covered his snout. One fang ached now and then.

His mate, whom he loved so, had caught a burr in a back paw. She never got it out, and it festered. He did all the running now, and sometimes he came back to the cave breathing heavily.

But with a rabbit. He would always have a rabbit or something like that. It had to be done if they were to eat and continue.

There had been pups over the years. Those were very happy times, the little ones climbing over his chest and biting his ears. He loved that. But they had gone. They had found their own mates and walked far away.

This cliff edge where he sat now was a favored spot.  At night he saw the moon, and he howled at it. He didn’t know why he did that. He only knew that he had to, that it was absolutely required.

How would the moon hang in the sky without his songs?

He thought about how he had met his mate so many years ago. They were young together, and they played among the trees farther down the valley. One day she smelled like a ripe pine nut, and they got married in the bushes.

She had never given him anything but joy.

* * * *

The years had passed. The pups. Hunting and being hunted by Homo erectus. Fresh mountain summers and cold winters of snow, which were the hardest times. But most times were good. Few were bad.

In both the first cave far below and this new higher home, distant from Homo erectus, they had slept all those nights atop brown leaves with their bodies touching. Their spirit of love had never waned, and it was warming in the winter, cooling in summer.

* * * *

As he sat this morning on the cliff watching the clouds disperse and the sun rising over the distant damp crests, he thought of these things as he did more and more in recent weeks.

And his fang ached.

He stood with a deep sigh and walked toward the cave entrance. His mate would be awake by now, waiting. But she was not. She lay where he had left her. He drew near and nudged her with his old nose.

The cave was quiet. He heard spiders climbing the walls. A hollow sound crept from the farther depths where they had never dared to walk, deep in the cavern. His heart grew chill. His love had died.

He sat and stared at her. He inhaled deeply. He turned to look at the cave entrance where there was more light. After an hour he stood and walked back to the overlook. It was a brilliant morning.

He asked the unseen moon: What am I going to do?

* * * *

The young wolf in better days.