By: E.G Moore
Genre: Upper Middle Grade Literary Contemporary
*1st 500 Words
I snuck in the front door of our new house with a gopher snake dangling in my hand. Pops had to be in there somewhere. Searching between shafts of July sun from the holes in the ceiling, I found him hunched over a map on the kitchen table.
“What are you doing?” I asked, thinking eagerly of treasure hunts and hunting trips. I slipped the snake into the pocket of my sweatshirt. He’d come in handy later.
“Well, Ol’ Red is nearly out of gas, Son. And Mom don’t get paid ‘til Monday. But I’ve got an idea.” He pointed to the map. “When we go through town and ‘round to the mill, it’s fifteen miles. But look.”
He dragged his bony finger down the blue-inked lines of the creek, around the mill and South. Then he stopped, pointing to our property.
“If we drive through the creek…” I started.
“It’s only ‘bout two miles,” he finished.
“Will we make it?” Visions of white water rapids rushed around my mind.
“Should. Gotta avoid any deep spots. Mom’s off here soon. Load Rosie up and we’ll go get her.”
It’s not every day I got to ride up a creek in a truck, but even my excitement dimmed. Pop’s wild ideas never panned out. The thumb stump on his left hand proved it.
My terrier Rosie’s blonde tail wagged as I lifted her up, and then she sniffed my pocket. The snake shifted as I pushed her aside and climbed into the cab.
Pop crept Ol’ Red around the hunched house and slumping shed. We’d only spent a night there, and already it felt like home. My brother Reed pumped his fist the night before when he turned the shower lever and nothing came out. Pop warned us that we had a busy summer ahead fixing things up, but I didn’t mind.
Even as Ol’ Red crawled slowly down the slope between the fields, I noticed something else that needed mending. The single-wire fence hung lifeless to the ground. We’d have to fix that when I got my horse. The truck tires bounced over gopher holes and upturned rocks, and the seat squeaked as it tossed us around. I kept my hand in my pocket, keeping track of my stowaway. Maybe I could sneak it onto the seat before Mom hopped in. I smirked. She’d be so freaked out. Gopher snakes look enough like rattlers to scare anyone without much time to react.
We stopped at the creek bank and got out to examine the depth of the water.
“I think we’re good. It stays shallow for a ways,” Pop assured no one in particular.
“Yeah,” I reluctantly agreed.
We climbed back onto the red bench seat. I made a show of snapping my seat belt together and pulling Rosie into a protective hug. Pop grinned at me, double-checked our location on the map, and then waved it in the air like Charlie with Willy Wonka’s golden ticket. I just laughed at him.