Title: DOUBTING RIVER
Word count: 240
Thwap, thwap, thwap, thwap. Lucas’s footsteps pounded a staccato rhythm along the trail: you’re late, you’re late. “I’m going as fast as I can,” he muttered, but he pushed his legs faster, hurdling fallen branches and zigzagging through close-packed trees. When the scrub cedar opened up to overgrown pasture, he twisted around and whistled. After much rustling of underbrush and one loud crash, a black head popped out from under a low branch.
The boy whistled again. “Come on, River. Let’s go!”
Ears perked and tongue lolling, the dog paused just a moment before launching himself into the field. The smooth fur of his Lab-like face morphed into slight waves on his forehead then into crisp curls, small and delicate on his ears, larger but still tight on his neck and powerful body. Lucas turned and broke into an all-out sprint. River loped beside him for a few strides, weaving through thatches of Johnson grass beaten nearly flat by late-season storms and winter cold, then shifted into a gallop and disappeared into thicker weeds. When the boy reached the far side of the field, the retriever had his head buried in a rabbit warren near a fork in the trail.
Lucas bent over and sucked in deep breaths of cold air. “Show-off,” he grumbled. “If I could run that fast, we’d be there by now.” River sniffed the air, then plopped his butt on the ground and scratched his ear.