Jumping at the sound of his name being bellowed through the forest, Crank nearly lost his grip on the short legged hound wriggling at his knees.  Jamming his fingers beneath the dog’s leather collar, he twisted his head around to see who was looking for him.  Catching sight of the tow-headed, wreck of a boy that was his sister’s son, he dropped his head and sighed deeply.  Marty definitely came from the shallow end of the gene pool.

“Whatcha’ want!”  He tightened his grip on the collar as the young dog scrabbled at the soft earth, trying to get around him to see Marty.  Despite looking like he was being deliberately strangled, Crank was certain the dog had more sense in its head than his fourteen year old nephew.

Heaving his way up to the top of the ravine, the boy bent over, placed his hands on his thighs and waved weakly at Crank.  HIs chest railed as he struggled for air.

“The hell you do?  Run up the side?”  He chuckled cruelly as Marty dropped to all fours, belly jiggling, and wheezed like an old, dying lawn mower.  “I wonder has there ever been a kid what died of a heart attack from just runnin’ uphill?”  Snapping the lead back onto the dog’s collar Crank let him go, watching with amusement as the hound bounced and slathered excitedly all over Mary’s head.

“I think he likes you.”  Crank lifted his cap from his head and refitted it, pulling the bill down lower toward his eyes.  “Why you here, boy?  What’s goin’ on?”

Pushing hard with one hand, Marty forced himself up on his knees, using his other hand to press the spastic, slobbering dog away from his face.  His steel, blue eyes shot desperately to Crank’s.


The hound sprang upward, tongue swiping toward the open mouth.  Marty lurched to his feet and filled his lungs.


The dog hit the dirt as Crank snapped the leash downward.

“Coulda’ just said that!”

Leaving the boy kneeling in the dirt, he plunged down the side of the ravine and began jogging for home.

“Keep up, you sloppy fool.”  Crank grinned down at the dog galloping along beside him.  “Yer gonna be an uncle.”

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