Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Copper and Patch

Here's my latest writing assignment from Stewart Sternberg. This one is supposed to be from the perspective of a pet.

Copper didn't like the puppy.

Puppies have no dignity she told him.

Patch was all wiggles and puppy enthusiasm and Copper wanted no part of that. Copper was sure she had never been so excitable. She had watched over two fine children and she couldn't love them more if they were her own pups.

The family had managed to carve out their own bit of green in the desert, but Copper knew all too well the hazards the could have threatened her charges. She could smell on the wind when the wild dogs were near and she knew how to sniff out the hidey holes of the snakes who might strike out at moving legs.

Puppies did not know how to watch over children properly.

Copper loved her home. She loved to roam the ranch, bark hello to the horses and steal food from the pigs. As long as she could remember she'd follow the kids as they did their chores; patiently waiting until they had time to throw a stick for her and pat her glossy coat when she returned it to them. She most definitely didn't like to play fetch when Patch was around.

Patch had started to make it his habit to trot at her heels as she followed the kids. Sometimes Copper would give Patch a quick nip to remind him that she was boss. But puppies are forgetful and it usually wasn't long before Patch would jump on Copper's back, earning another scolding.

Remember your place she would growl at him.

She also was quite affronted that her family didn't seem to mind the pup's inappropriate enthusiasm. So she continued to hold herself aloof whenever the family would laugh and encourage the mad frenzy of puppy energy that Patch regularly displayed.

But as pups do, Patch would tire in the early evening and sleep long enough for Copper to have time with the family to herself. She would lay herself flat as she could in front of the TV so the kids could lay their heads on her belly as they watched their shows. Close proximity to kids often meant treats given when the parents weren't looking too.

But there was an unusual amount of activity on this late Fall day and Copper followed Dad around with her ears perked forward trying to figure out what was going on. And then she heard the word that let her know what all the excitement was about; hunting.

Oh, Copper loved to hunt. It didn't matter if it was ducks or deer, just so long as she got to run into the woods and help flush out game. Copper didn't know that she had the nose and breeding for hunting, she just knew it felt right. She couldn't help but wiggle with excitement as she followed Dad around the house, her body quivering under his hand as he reached down to pet her.

"You know where we're going tomorrow don't 'cha girl?" Dad said and she barked with excitement.

Copper got a little carried away and woke up Patch. After yawning and stretching the pup came in and wagged his tail in response to Copper's excitement.

"Look Copper, you'll have Patch to help you this year, won't 'cha girl?"

Copper's ears drooped a little and she tried to plead with her eyes to have this one thing to herself. But Dad just ruffled her ears and kept on with his preparations.

I get to go too! I get to go too! said Patch as he ran in circles around Copper.

Copper barked sharply at Patch, behave! But Patch was too excited to listen.

So Copper resigned herself to a hunting trip with the puppy.

You do what I tell you to do she instructed Patch, though she didn't think he'd listen.

The family got up before dawn the next morning since they had to travel closer to the mountains for good hunting. Copper made sure she got the preferred seat between the kids while Patch sort of roamed around the very back of the car.

Are we almost there yet Copper? The pup kept asking.

Copper chuffed at Patch, but didn't bother answering. They'd get there soon enough.

And despite the puppy's company, Copper was in a grand mood. She was with her family and they were going hunting.

The weather was still warm, though the promise of Winter hung in the early morning air. Copper edged over to the window and scented the air, though they were going to fast to really catch a single odor. But she knew by the familiar smells they were getting close to their destination. Forest foliage flew by the window as they left the last of their desert home behind.

Once they hit the rutted dirt road that led to the cabin, Copper began to get excited. She stood over Younger Brother and looked out the window, waiting for the cabin to come into view. Patch didn't know what to look for, but taking his cues from Copper, he began to excitedly jump around the back.

Soon they were there and Copper bounded out the door as soon as it was open. Knowing that the family liked to get settled before they'd head out, she followed Dad as he put away the supplies. Patch made a general nuisance of himself by running under everyone's feet.

Once they started laying out gear by the front door Copper knew it was almost time to go. Mom would stay back at the cabin with Younger Sister since they didn't like to hunt, while Dad, Older Brother and Younger Brother would go out with the dogs.

Dad had brought something he called a "bow" which let Copper know they were hunting deer this time. And though Dad also brought the "rifle" he never brought the "bow" when they were hunting duck.

We're hunting a big four legged animal called a "deer" she told Patch.

What does it look like? he asked.

It's very tall, with long skinny legs. Just follow me and I'll show you.

Once Dad and the boys starting putting on their gear Copper almost danced with anticipation.

"Copper! Patch! Time to go!" Dad called out and they began their trek into the woods.

Copper roamed ahead with her nose to the ground trying to scent out deer for Dad to bring down. She could smell old tracks and sometimes followed them for awhile to see if they led to a common path or a drinking hole. But usually she'd come across a newer scent and veer off on that trail instead. Patch hung at her heels trying to recognize the unfamiliar scents on the ground but mostly followed Copper since he didn't know what he was looking for. Dad and the boys fanned out behind the dogs ready to run if Copper bayed to let them know she scented their quarry.

Before long Copper found a recent trail and began to trot at a faster pace to let her family know she was on the trail.

"Looks like she found something boys," Dad always called out as they picked up the pace to keep up.

And sure enough Copper saw a flash of the deer's white tail as it turned and bounded into the woods. Baying loudly Copper took off after the deer leaving Patch to try to catch up as Dad and the boys took off at a run after Copper and the deer.

Copper was able to cut through the trees and grass quickly since she was low to the ground. She kept baying loudly, as she had been taught, so that the hunters knew where to follow and stay on the trail. Patch struggled to keep up, and tripped over fallen branches as he ran, but he could scent Copper on the ground so he knew where to follow.

Amid lots of baying, yelling and crashing though the underbrush, Dad yelled out that he had sighted the deer and the boys stayed back as Dad took his shot.

"I think I got her!" Dad yelled, though it was hard to tell since the deer kept running.

Copper stayed on the trail and within a few yards spotted blood drops on the ground and knew Dad had in fact hit the deer. Copper barked to get Dad's attention and he ran over to see what Copper had found.

"There's blood, hopefully she won't go too much further," he told Older Brother as he walked up and they began to follow Copper further into the forest.

Patch caught up as they slowed down and again began to trot right behind Copper as she followed the blood trail to try to find the injured deer.

Copper was intent on the deer's trail and barely lifted her nose off the ground as the scent of fear and blood got stronger as she began to gain on the deer. The trees were thick and there weren't many breaks in the forest so Copper slowed down to let her family keep up. There was a lot of blood on the ground so she knew the deer was too injured to go fast enough or far enough to get away. Sure enough she soon saw the deer thrashing weakly on the ground near a large rock outcropping and she bayed again to let Dad know she'd found her target.

Copper sat down and didn't go any closer to the deer as she had been trained and waited for Dad to catch up. She could hear her family crashing in the woods behind her and knew they were almost there. Patch reached her first and wiggled with excitement and ran in circles around her.

Why are you waiting here Copper? Isn't it more fun to grab the deer?

WE don't grab the deer
she told the pup that's Dad's job.

Younger Brother was actually the first to arrive.

"Good job Copper!" He told her as ran his hand over her head. "You too Patch!" He said as he tried to pet the excited puppy.

Not bothering to wait for Dad, Younger Brother started approaching the now still deer. He had almost reached her when a loud noise high up on the rocks suddenly startled Copper and she caught a scent that caused a thrill of alarm to go through her body.

BIG CAT! BIG CAT! was all she had time to think as a tremendous yowl sounded through the valley. Younger Brother fell back in alarm as he realized there was an enormous mountain lion perched on the rocks just above where the deer had come to rest during it's final struggle.

Copper bunched her legs and began to launch herself to where Younger Brother lay in an attempt to get there before the big cat could attack.

The cat screamed again and jumped down from the rocks and landed in front of the deer and faced off toward Younger Brother in an attempt to keep him away from the deer.

Panicked, Copper started barking and running toward the deer, but before she could get there a flash of white and black fur suddenly appeared in front of the cat barking furiously. Copper realized that Patch had instinctively run at the cat in an attempt to protect Younger Brother.

Knowing that the little dog would not be a match for the big cat Copper redoubled her efforts and launched herself at the cat just as it raised a massive paw to bat the little dog away from her. Just as the cat brought it's paw down Copper landed right between the cat and Patch and she felt the stinging pain of the cat's claws as they raked across her right flank.

Yelping in pain, Copper nonetheless held her ground and began to growl furiously at the cat. Patch stayed close barking in a high pitched frenzy as the cat reared up and prepared to launch itself at Copper again.


Dad had arrived and fired the rifle toward the cat, but wide so it wouldn't hit the dogs.

Reacting to the noise the cat fell back crouched facing the newest threat.


The rifle fired again and cat fell back once again, not getting up this time.

Knowing the immediate danger was over, Copper sank the ground and began licking her flank, whimpering a bit at the pain.

Dad hurried over to the dogs and began looking over Copper's injury.

Are you ok Copper? Patch asked anxiously as he laid down in front of Copper nose to nose worriedly seeing if she was ok.

Copper looked up at the pup. Licking his ear gently she quietly said to him.

You did good Patch, real good. I couldn't be prouder of you if you were my own pup.

Gently scooping up Copper into his arms, Dad picked her up and without a single look back at the fallen cat began to carry her back to the cabin, and Copper knew everything would be alright. Their family was safe.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Head Rush

This assignment is again from Stewart Sternberg of House of Sternberg. It's supposed to be about unrequited love from the gender perspective opposite my own. And the main character is supposed to have a handicap, imagined or otherwise. Here goes...

She's late again. This is the third time this week. I wonder what's causing the deviation in her schedule. I have been keeping track for months and this is the first time she's been this far off.

I feel a little panicked. I shouldn't have gone off my meds, but I can't focus when I'm medicated. I need to be able to concentrate. I need......

My mind has wandered again. That scares me. I stopped taking the clozapine so I could C O N C E N T R A T E.

I breath deeply, in and out my nose, in and out. I can feel the oxygen clearing my mind, giving me life, giving me direction.

God, she's beautiful. Beeeuuutiifuuuuullll. She's wearing black today. I like her in pink better. Pastels set off her eyes. I think about the colors I've seen her in. I lose myself in a kaleidoscope of colors, imagining each one on her skin. I can almost see yellow swirls forming in the shiny surface of her shoes. That’s better, a little color to brighten things up.

I follow her as she leaves her apartment. She’s off schedule by seven minutes, I counted off each second as I waited for her front door to open. She doesn’t look in my direction, but then, she never does. She’s focused on where she’s going as always. I carefully count off fifteen steps before I follow. I don’t like to be closer, I’m not ready for our auras to touch.

She passes the coffee shop. She doesn’t stop. Why doesn’t she stop? She always stops. I can feel the panic welling up in me. I can’t take this much deviation in schedule. It scares me. Why is she not going in? I stand in front of the coffee shop, indecisive. I want to go in. I need to go in. I need to see her order a mocha latte. She’s walking away, she’s walking down the sidewalk but I can’t seem to move.

A man jostles me as he tries to get past me.

“Shit man, you’re blocking the door...”

I stumble forward a step. This is good. It moves me toward her. It was meant to be. I turn to thank the man for helping me, but he’s gone. Tears spring to my eyes, where’d he go? I need to thank him before I can follow her.

“THANK YOU!” I yell. I hope he hears it, I can’t stop to make sure. I have to go, she’s almost twenty feet away from me now and I need to hurry if I want to make sure she stays within the fifteen foot distance I am comfortable with.

Okay, I know she has to be at work. I speed my steps up. I alternate between watching the ground for cracks and looking at her back. I noticed a long time ago that she doesn’t step on the cracks either. That’s how I know she understands me. She doesn’t want to fall through either, she knows the darkness that waits underneath.

I catch up. I feel better. Things are back to normal. I count her steps, yes, fifteen steps apart. Okay.

She passes the front door of her office and keeps going.

Blind rage fills me. What is she doing? Something’s wrong. Something’s really wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

I start to run, fourteen feet, ten, eight, six....I’ve never been this close to her before. But I have to get her back to her office. She needs to go back. The world will fly apart if she doesn’t go back.

I’m yelling now.

“Back! Back! You must go back!.”

She stops and turns around. She looks at me. She looks confused. She’s lost and I have to help her go back. I reach her and grab her arm.


“Let go of me!” she yells.


“Get off me!”


I feel arms on me, pulling me off of her. But she stops moving. That’s good. Now if I can just get her to understand that she needs to go back.

“BACK!” I yell again. My eyes appeal to her but I don’t know if she understands. I try to show her, but my arms won’t move. I look down and see hands holding me.

“Back” I start to cry.

“Back” I whimper as I am taken away from her.