Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Hunting August Moon - Chapter 6

Chapter 6
August sat on the small couch, his favorite spot, worn smooth to fit his large frame. Jed and Maddie stepped into the room and took their normal seats, Maddie wrapping herself in a bright red blanket.
"We'll be quiet and let you talk, August. This is your story," said Maddie.
August looked beyond the two of them, his unfocused eyes scanning his past for a few seconds. "My entire story is too long. We'll have to save that for another time, but I can sum it up."
"My real name is Ma'iingan wa'wo'no mano'minike, though you'll mangle the words if you try to say them properly.  As a matter of fact, I probably just mangled my own name, it's been so long since I heard it. What it means is Grey-Wolf-howling-at-the-August-Moon or roughly that. I've gone by the name August Moon for a long time."
Jed and Maddie looked at each other.
"We are Ojibwe, what most people in the USA call Chippewa Indians, though our Grandmother said we had a blue-eyed grandfather. Lone Wolf and I think he was a French-Canadian trapper.
"Lone Wolf is two years older than I am. We were born near what is now Sault Ste. Marie or close to Port Huron. The Ojibwe roamed most of Michigan at that time." August paused. "We were born before your Revolutionary War."
Maddie's eye got wide. "August, that would make you over two hundred years old."
Jed spoke up. "Dad said we were part Chippewa. Are you an ancestor of ours?"
August's chuckle was deep and rumbling. "No, I wish I was, Jed. I'd be proud to have you and your father as descendants, but the same genetic quirk that gave us longevity also made us sterile." His face flushed. "Sorry, Maddie. I don't know how else to say it."
"I get it. You can't have children." Her eyes glistened. "Jed and I wonder if being Transformed does the same thing to us."
August shrugged. "I wish I knew, Maddie. As the decades passed, Lone Wolf and I never settled in one place for long. Then something happened that we only heard about in old stories. The tribe we stayed with was attacked by a wendigo."
"I don't know what that is, August." Jed said. "Seems I might have heard the word somewhere, though."
"Oh, it's been popularized in white culture somewhat. It's essentially a demon, stronger and faster than human and craving human flesh."
Jed's eyes widened. "A myth, right? And you think…"
August held up his hand, his eyes dark and sharp as they stared at Jed. "I think maybe this creature was very much like a zombie."
August's eyes lost focus and he stared through the walls, surfing his memories. He shook his head and he grinned.
"It was a dark and stormy night…" he began.
Jed and Maddie laughed.
August's big hands moved as he wove the story. "That's the classic bad story beginning, but it is true in this case. It was a dark summer night and it had been hot for weeks. When the rain came, it pelted the ground in sheets of water. My tent was snug and I settled in for the night.
"The thunder cracked, moving closer each time. After one loud thunder boom I heard a scream, a long scream of pure terror. I knew it was Little-Deer. I'm sure everyone in the camp knew it was Little-Deer.
"Wearing only a loincloth, I ran through the mud to the tent of Little-Deer's family. I was faster than the others, though Lone Wolf was close behind me.
"I saw a huddled figure inside her tent. I won't go into the details, but Little-Deer was dead, and the creature feasted on the remains of her family.
"He saw me coming. His eyes were black. Blood and gore covered him. He bared his teeth at me and lunged for my throat the instant I came close to the front of the tent.
"He was fast, faster than anyone I'd ever fought, and by then I'd been in my fair share of scrapes. I don't know how long we fought. I couldn't get a good grip on him. Between the rain and the blood, his skin was slick. His nails were thicker, too, and he clawed at me, tearing my skin. He kept pulling me back into the tent, so none of the others could get to him. When his teeth sank into my arm, my vision clouded over.
"Lone Wolf said he'd never seen anything like it. I roared. With a single sweep of my injured arm, I tore the moorings from the tent and threw it aside. They weigh a few hundred pounds.  Lone Wolf said I looked like a giant standing in the rain, scratched and bleeding, water and blood pouring over me. I tilted my head back and screamed in rage. The wendigo tried to escape as soon as the tent hit the ground, but I caught him by the ankle. Lone Wolf heard the wendigo's bones crack as I picked him up. I wrapped my other hand around his neck and lifted him into the air, then snapped his spine and flung him to the ground.
"Lone Wolf kept everyone away from us. I grabbed one of the tent poles and continued to smash the wendigo's body into the mud. Finally, I collapsed to my knees.
"I remember that. I remember being on my knees and looking at the mud and water and blood running around me, forming tiny rivers, flowing down the hill."
August was quiet. Jed and Maddie didn't interrupt.
"The villagers feared me since I was bitten. They talked about killing me and burning my body, but Lone Wolf did something that changed our futures."
August sighed. "You need to understand. Back then, we believed in Nature, in cause and effect. Becoming a wendigo was a terror from nightmares.
"When the chief explained their fears, Lone Wolf stood in front of the entire assembled men of the tribe. He's never been one for speeches, but I remember his words like they were spoken yesterday.
"'The wendigo came to destroy your tribe, to devour your wives and your children, to change the rest of you into wendigo so you would kill, to curse your spirits. Gitche Manitou sent us here, knowing of the coming of the wendigo, though he did not tell us when it would come. He sent us to protect you, to destroy the wendigo. You saw Gitche Manitou enter my brother's body. You saw him break the bones of the wendigo and return him to the Earth as the tears fell from the sky for the fallen children of Gitche Manitou. We must leave now and search for other wendigos.'
"We left immediately after that speech."
Jed's mouth was open. "Why in the world would Lone Wolf say such a thing?"
"I asked him that. He said he didn't know, that the words came to him, but they seemed right." August shook his head. "You can see how that caused us some trouble, though. We couldn't travel from tribe to tribe any more. The story of the servants of Gitche Manitou hunting wendigos swept through the area."
"August, that leaves more questions than answers," said Maddie.
"So the Z-virus is a natural mutation, except it got out of control?" Jed stared at August.
"And if that's the case, then you're changed, like we are? But that doesn't make sense because you were born the way you are, not from infection." Maddie looked at Jed who shook his head at the unasked question. "But we don't sense you."
"Are you immortal?" Jed stared at August and touched Maddie's long blonde hair with the tips of his right hand. "Are we?"
"And what does Jed's Dad have to do with it?"
August held up his right hand, palm toward them. "Stop. Stop. I don't know the answers, but that was the beginning of the story. Let me finish. To make it brief, that was when Lone Wolf and I became wendigo hunters."
"That's a good title," said Jed. Maddie shushed him with a sharp look.
August chuckled. "I'll have to get a t-shirt made. But let me summarize the rest and we can visit the wendigo tales some other time.
"Lone Wolf and I traveled a lot. We were adopted by a very wealthy Portuguese merchant, Lucas Silva Costa Santos de Aguilar and his lovely wife Maria." August's eyes lost their focus. "In fact, Lone Wolf married into the family."
The log in the fire snapped and the wood settled, sending small sparks into the room, which Jed snuffed out with his feet.
"No wonder you go through so many socks," muttered Maddie. Jed grinned at her.
August looked at them, his face weary. "Anna was very beautiful and she loved Lone Wolf with a great passion. He went by the name of Juan Sangue de Pedra then." A slight smile crossed his face. "They loved each other so much, it was almost enough for me to be in their presence."
"Almost enough?" Jed asked.
Seeing the hurt in August's eyes, Maddie poked Jed in the side. "He loved her, too," she whispered.
August sighed. "After Anna died, Lone Wolf and I traveled all across the world as wendigo hunters. Lone Wolf had visions that gave us hints where to go. In some cases, tales of us spread. In other cases, there were no survivors to spread the tales. In a few cases, people blamed us for slaughtering dozens, so we learned to be careful. Occasionally we arrived to find other wendigo hunters had already solved the problem."
"There are others?" Jed blurted.
"I guess so," said August, "though we never met them. Lone Wolf and I fought in a number of wars as descendants of Juan de Pedra and Eduardo de Aguilar but those are different stories. Still, it was the war records and photos that did me in."
August shook his head, shaking away bad memories or dark thoughts. Maddie watched him closely.
"I know how to fight. When you can spend a decade learning a martial art, you become pretty good, though you have to be careful to avoid notoriety. Lone Wolf and I spent many, many years learning martial arts, armed and unarmed. We studied tactics. We know dirty tricks, killing blows, avoidance techniques…
"Lone Wolf even studied for a few decades in Japan, before it was the popular thing to do. When I ask him what he learned that's so special, he smiles and answers 'patience.'" August frowned. "That drives me nuts when he does that, and he knows it.
"I don't know how they found me. In retrospect, I was sloppy. Lone Wolf told me I was careless, but I ignored him. Perhaps it was a little bit of hubris, as well. I lived for decades in society, changed locations and names a few times and thought I had it figured out." He paused to watch the flames.
"So it isn't as easy as they make it seem in Highlander, I suppose," Jed said.
August jerked, looking back at Jed and Maddie. "You mean the series, right? The first Highlander was okay." August looked away from them, toward the mantle above the fireplace. "No, it isn't nearly as easy as Adrian Paul made it look, though we had that antiquity dealer idea, too. We still have items stashed away that are hundreds of years old." August sighed. "They don't matter anymore, I suppose."
"They took me from my apartment without a single shot fired or punch thrown. I went to sleep in my own bed and woke up on a cot in a cinder block room with no window, a bare bulb, a sink and a toilet. I had a thin mattress and a couple blankets. I was dressed in scrubs.
"I imagine they used gas and walked in and took me away. They carted up everything I owned and hauled that off, too, but I didn't learn that until later.
"They kidnapped me in March of 2013. I don't recall much else until October of 2014. I remember pain. Pain and the experiments."

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Hunting August Moon - Chapter 5

Chapter 5
"We're losing more chickens than we used to," Shelly said.
All of the Selah Ranch residents relaxed in the living room of the main house as the thunder cracked against the mountains outside, rattling the windows. A fire sparked in the large stone fireplace, reflecting heat and a flickering sense of companionship into the room.
Maddie smiled at Ted and moved a checker on the checkerboard sitting on the table between them. "That happens. Owls and hawks always get some chickens, though they roost high under the trees, to stay away from foxes and bobcats. Still, we expect some losses."
"We were talking to some Texas groups about getting yard dogs to protect the chickens." Jed scratched the top of his head absently. "I'm hoping we can make that happen."
Dozing on the small couch, Fae perked up. "I'd like a dog! I used to play with the strays back home."
Sam grinned at her. "How do you play with strays, Fae?"
Fae grinned mischievously. "You grab a chunk of meat or something and wave it at them. Then you climb the buildings and play keep away. It's a lot of fun."
Everyone stared at Fae and Sam exploded with laughter. "Oh, my goodness, girl! Didn't you have anybody to play with that didn't want to eat you?"
Fae's face fell, tears forming in the corners of her eyes. Linda glared at Sam and sat next to Fae, drawing her close and stroking her hair.
"Leave her alone, Sam," growled August, sitting on the end of the long couch, his feet up on a footrest. "Dogs probably didn't even play with you."
"You'd be surprised, big guy." Sam's face reflected contrition, though his eyes seemed to grow darker. "I'm sorry, Fae. I didn't mean anything by it. It struck me as funny, that's all."
Fae snuffled forgiveness as she nestled her face in Linda's shoulder.
"Hey, I thought I saw someone out in the woods this morning. Out of the corner of my eye…" Sam looked toward Jed.
"It was Lone Wolf," said Shelly. She grinned and put three tens down on the little table between her and Nancy. Nancy grinned wickedly, put a ten down, dropped three twos and discarded her final card. "Doggone it." Shelly tallied the cards in her hand and wrote a number down on the small notepad with the stub of a wooden pencil.
Linda looked around, puzzled. "Who's Lone Wolf?"
"Member of the family," grunted August.
"August's brother," said Fae, lifting her head. "He's always in the woods."
"We don't see much of him," said Maddie, glancing at the checkerboard. "You sure you want to make that move, Ted?"
Ted looked at Maddie sternly. "I am perfectly capable of playing checkers, Maddie." Maddie smiled.
Jed, in his big chair by the fireplace, didn't even look up from reading his book. "We don't see much of Lone Wolf because he's quite content, but maybe he'll come in for a few weeks when the coldest part of the winter hits."
"Don't you mean a few months?" Linda shivered and pulled a blanket tighter around her shoulders as lighting lit the falling rain outdoors.
Nancy looked out the window. "Shouldn't Lone Wolf come in from the rain?"
August grunted. "Lone Wolf doesn't like civilization and considers me too soft. I've seen him walk through a downpour like this, steam rising from his naked chest. I've seen sheets of ice cover the trees and Lone Wolf walking across the snow barefoot looking for rabbits."
Jed laughed. "You say that all the time." He looked at Nancy. "He's a member of the family and he has a complete set of survival gear, as well as a small cabin about two miles away. We might see him if he runs out of reading materials or he starts feeling lonely, but we might not." He grinned at August. "And he knows he's always welcome here."
"He knows." August opened a small book. "If he thought otherwise, I guess we'd move again." Claire thumbed through an ancient, worn book while she sat next to him.
Sam looked at August. "So you're travelers? Me, too. Traveled a lot before the Zs, been travelling ever since. Vegas was a great hub for airlines. I traveled the world." Sam grinned, his white teeth gleaming in the firelight. "I can blend in, though. A big guy like you would have a harder time doing that, right?"
August crossed his arms across his massive chest, the flannel of his shirt straining around his biceps. He didn't say anything, but stared at Sam for a moment, his book held loosely in his right hand.
Sam grinned wider. "Man, I'd give anything to have those guns," said Sam, flexing his right bicep, looking from his arm to August's. "How old are you anyway?"
August grunted and Claire nudged him, smiling. "That's a good question, August."
"Older than you," he said to Claire.
"You might be surprised," Claire grinned.
Jed looked up from his book. "Nobody knows how old he is. We don't ask any more."
"Your father knew," Claire pointed out.
"It's not one of the things he shared with me," Jed said.
"I asked him not to," grunted August.
"You could still tell us, August." Claire said. "We're family."
August looked from one face to another and shrugged. "Lone Wolf might visit if we had some venison for dinner." Maddie laughed. August chuckled. "I'm just sayin'."
Jed closed his book. "You know what? That's not a bad idea. We've had quite a bit of beef lately, but nothing fresh for a while. I think I'll head into the hills and look for venison." He looked around the room. "A quick hunting trip then a nice venison dinner. Who's up for it?"
"I'm in," said Maddie. "I need a nice long hike in the woods."
"I'm in," said August.
"I'd like to go." Sam said. "What kind of rifles do you have?"
"Oh," grinned August, "we use bows."
"That was damned cold and wet, August." Maddie stamped the mud from her boots on the wet wooden boards of the front porch.
August grunted.
"Sam, can you take those haunches to the meat shack? One of us will be there shortly to help." Jed smiled at Sam, who grinned back.
"Yeah, sure." Sam's face flushed and his eyes sparkled. "That was awesome, guys. Thanks for letting me come." With no apparent effort, Sam lifted a haunch of meat in each hand and headed for the far shack.
"No problem." Maddie grinned and called after him. "We would have lost him if you hadn't tracked him over those rocks. Good job, by the way."
"Go get warm, honey. August and I will clean the weapons and put them away. I'll be in pretty soon."
"You don't have to tell me twice." Maddie stood on her toes and kissed Jed's wind-reddened cheek. "I'll find someone to help Sam. You boys need to get in here and get warm, too." The door opened and closed and Maddie disappeared.
August and Jed carried the bows toward the end of the main house. "You made a nice shot, August. Dropped him with one arrow."
August didn't even grunt this time.
Jed smiled. "Of course, you always use one arrow. None of us have your hunting skill."
When he still received no response, Jed patted the big guy's shoulder. "I was pretty surprised that Sam could track better than you could, though. I was sure we lost the trail over those rocks."
"He didn't track the buck, Jed. I could have followed the sign eventually, but Sam didn't do any tracking."
"Okay, those are the first words you've said in over two hours. What's bothering you?"
In the small anteroom of the house, they shed their outer coats and cleaned the bows, the arrows and the knives as they talked.
"He didn't track them, Jed. I'm not sure what he did, but I think he smelled the deer. He followed the buck's scent."
Jed frowned. "How is that possible, August? Can you do that?"
"No, Jed, I can't. Neither can Lone Wolf. Well, I won't say for sure what my brother can and cannot do, but I don't think he can follow prey by scent." He paused. "Well, not often."
"What makes you think Sam did?"
"I watched him, Jed. I watched his nostrils flare. I've seen dogs track that way, but never humans."
Jed stopped. "He's pretty strong, too - maybe stronger than I am. He sure handled the carcass easily."
August shrugged. "The buck was less than a hundred-fifty pounds, so we hauled back a bit over a hundred, minus the entrails and the bit I left for the wolves." August wiped his hands on a towel and lightly punched Jed's shoulder. "Even your Dad could handle a hundred pounds of meat."
"After five miles, even a hundred pounds feels heavy."
"So he's strong. Is he one of you?" asked August.
"No, we'd know that," said Jed.
"So you've said." August crossed his arms and leaned back against the stainless steel sink, now dry with a few towels hanging on the edge.
Jed shrugged and looked at August. "There's a sense, a feeling we get from other Transformed. I don't get that from Sam and Maddie doesn't, or she'd tell me."
August didn't move for a few seconds, staring back at Jed. He sighed. "You don't get that feeling from me, either."
"You're not a Transformed, August." Jed stepped back, his eyebrows raised. "Are you? Is that what Dad knew about you?"
"It's time we had a personal talk, Jed. You, me and Maddie." He opened the inner door and started removing his cold weather gear. "Why don't you go get her and meet me in the small study?" Without saying another word, August hung his gear on the pegs and walked off into the house.
Jed removed the rest of his winter gear and pulled on some soft, thick wool socks. In stocking feet, he hurried to find Maddie.

Chapter 1
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Monday, May 16, 2016

Are you saved? A sermon review.

Pastor John Morgan of Sagemont Church addressed “saved” Christians in his sermon Sunday (5/15/2016). Too many Christians think they are “saved” - but are they?

Firstly, you need to know that God has a plan for you. God says “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” [Jeremiah 29:11] *

But, frankly, if you don't do what God called you to do, you'll have a miserable life, and everyone around you will be miserable too. You will always feel that emptiness inside you. God perfectly fills that emptiness, and that's what “salvation” is all about. It is a relationship, not a religion.

You are not saved because your parents are. Everyone accounts to God for their own life. “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed - not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence - continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” [Phil 2:12]

You don't go to Heaven because you go to church. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." [Matt 7:21]

You know if you have salvation. Pastor Morgan emphasized these points.

Is your life changed? Your life should be changed because you accepted Jesus, the Christ, as your Savior and Lord. You should see a difference in how you behave - and so should others. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” [2 Cor 5:17]

Do you desire God's will for your life? Everyone says they do, but are you seeking what God wants or asking Him to bless what you want? “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” [Matt 5:6]

Do you try to bring glory to God in what you say, do and think? The Sagemont church Mission Statement says: we should be living proof of a loving God to a watching world.

Does God discipline you for willful disobedience? “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.” [Heb 12:7-8]

Does the world still have a grip on you? Do you often say to the world (or to God) "I just gotta be who I am?" Do you do what they do, go where they go, drink what they drink? Then how is it that you can claim to be a different creature, a child of the God Most High? “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” [1 Jn 2:15]

Do you set your sights on the things of Heaven? “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” [Col 3:2]

Do you study the Bible and apply it to your life? Loving God also means you want to know more of Him, and the best way to do that is to read the Bible. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” [2 Tim 3:16]

Who are your best friends? Do you choose friends who love God? “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.” [1 Jn 3:14]

Do you desire to be free of temptation, or do you flirt with temptation (you know what I mean)? “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.” [1 Jn 3:9]

Do you expect your prayers to be answered, and accept the answer? Sometimes the answer is a resounding "no" from God. “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him.” [1 Jn 3:21-22]

Do you often feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life? “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” [Rom 8:16] “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” [1 Jn 4:13]

* All verses are from the wonderful web site Bible Gateway. I'm showing the New International Version (NIV) (which is a great Bible translation and you can read about it here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Hunting August Moon - Chapter 4

Chapter 4
Biscuits sat in a ceramic bowl in the center of the table and Maddie and Jed ate scrambled eggs as the five newcomers entered the room.
"What did you do to Charlie?" asked Ted. The other four stood behind him, their eyes echoing the question. They wore clean jeans and button shirts, though the clothes hung on their slight frames loosely. Ted's long arms extended past the ends of his sleeves and the pants came to his ankles.
"We can try to find you some larger clothes soon, Ted. Good morning, by the way. I hope you slept well. Eggs and other breakfast items are in the kitchen. We're a little short of meat right now, but we might have a little ham left. Make yourself something then clean up." Maddie smiled. "In about an hour Claire will get you assigned to chores around the ranch if you'd like to stay. We'll try to find something you like."
Jed looked around at the small group. "Are y'all sure you don't want to milk goats?"
Maddie poked him with an elbow. "It's your week. Get over it."
"What happened to Charlie?" Ted's deep voice didn't waver and he stood straight behind one of the chairs.
Jed crossed his arms. "Charlie chose not to stay with us, and that's okay. Each of you can make the same decision at any time. In Charlie's case, August is escorting him to the other side of the mountains and he is free to continue as he sees fit." He looked at Sam. "You can keep the bullets, Sam."
"You didn't kill him?" Ted still didn't move.
Jed sighed. "Ted, he threatened me, but did me no harm. As a matter of fact, he's the one with a knot on his head. Life is a precious thing, Ted. I can fix a lot of broken things, but I cannot give life to a dead person. So I try not to take a life if I can help it, unless it's for food or a fight I didn't start. Zombies, of course, are the exception. They pose an immediate and deadly danger. Charlie was no threat and August will take care of him."
Jed stood up, his eyes narrowed. "However, let me be clear. If Charlie returns with the intent to harm anyone, all bets are off. Then he is a danger. I won't murder, but I will protect." He picked up his dishes. "I have goats to milk, so help yourselves to breakfast. I'll see everyone around dinnertime, I think." He leaned over and kissed Maddie. "I'll be in the woods today, checking traps." Jed carried his dishes through the kitchen door.
"Well, that could have gone better," said Maddie. She looked at the new residents of Selah Ranch. "I think his feelings are hurt, but he'll get over it. He's very sensitive. Let's give him a few minutes, and then I'll show everyone around the kitchen."
It wasn't long until everyone fit into their own routine at Selah Ranch.Sam was as good a mechanic as he claimed. The hydroponics flourished under Ted's care and he didn't mention the Pacific Ocean again, though he occasionally gazed to thewest, toward the unseen ocean. Nancy and Linda rode with Shelly and Claire gathering and taming horses. Fae was everywhere, briefly. Maddie organized everyone, her sleeves rolled up in every hard job on the Ranch, Jed at her side. Jed still milked the goats, unless someone else volunteered - which they didn't.
August and Fae found the best job on the Ranch.
"Jed didn't say anything about a lake full of trout, August, but it is beautiful here. Way prettier than the river I fished in." Fae tossed her line into the water again, the small boat rocking in the cold blue water of the lake.
August grinned at her. "It's one of my favorite places, being on this lake. On clear days, like today, you can see the morning sun reflect off the snow on the mountain. You'll see it as soon as the mist rises. I think you'll like it."
Fae tugged on her line to lure the fish in. "Thanks for inviting me, August."
August sighed, contentment on his face. His relaxed features made him look much younger than normal. "It's nice to have company. Jed gets so tied up with other things he doesn't come with me much."
Fae tilted her head to the side, looking at August from the corner of her eyes. "You don't have any kids of your own? I mean, you treat Jed like one of your kids, but he said something about his Dad on that first day."
August smiled at Fae. "No, Fae, I don't have any children. I've known Jed his whole life though, and his Dad and my brother were best friends for a long time."
"You have a brother? What happened to him? Did he die, like my Dad?" Fae asked, a slight whisper of sadness in her voice.
August shook his head. "No, Fae. He's around here somewhere. He doesn't live at the ranch, but he lives near us." He leaned forward, pretending to whisper. "He might be watching us from the trees."
Fae's eyes widened and she looked at the shore. "Really?" she asked.
August chuckled and sat back, giving his line a small tug. "Well, Lone Wolf could be." He looked toward the trees and chuckled again.
"Lone Wolf? Wow, that's a real Indian name, isn't it?" Fae's line jerked and she tugged to set the hook. "Hey! I got one!"
The fish fought hard. Fae gave the line a little more slack and let the fish run then reeled him in again.
"Do you need help, Fae?" asked August after Fae fought the fish for a while.
She grinned broadly. "Oh, no, this is the best! I got him!"
August readied the net as Fae finally reeled the tired fish in. He scooped it from the water, the fish splashing them as it came up in the net.
"Wow. That's a nice trout, Fae! It's close to ten pounds!" August beamed at her.
Fae giggled with delight, holding out her left arm. "It's about as long as my arm! Look!"
"Nice job," August smiled at her.
"Let's catch some more!" said Fae, baiting her hook and tossing it back into the water.
By the time the two of them rowed to shore, the sun reflected from the snow on the mountains and they had enough fish for a good dinner for everyone.
They crossed into the shadow of the trees when a voice greeted them. "Now, that's a nice catch!"
Fae jumped and moved closer to August. He wrapped an arm around her and grinned at his brother. "You were watching! Fae, this is my elder brother, Lone Wolf."
Lone Wolf's dark hair hung loose to his broad shoulders, where it rested on his buckskin shirt. In the shadows of the trees, the buckskin was lighter than Lone Wolf's own sun-darkened skin. His nose was narrow, but not sharp. His bronze lips formed a perpetual smile, the sides of his mouth lifted on the ends, showing small laugh lines in the corners. In some ways, Lone Wolf's eyes were like August's eyes, clear and bright. But Lone Wolf's eyes were deep, dark pools with no bottom, sparkling with an inner light that contained infinite laughter.
Lone Wolf shook Fae's hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Fae. August has talked about the newcomers to Selah Ranch for two weeks now. He didn't tell me how pretty your red hair was though." Lone Wolf winked at her.
Fae giggled. "You look like an Indian, just like your name sounds."
Lone Wolf stood taller, puffing out his chest. "Because we are Indians, aren't we August?"
"How come we never see you at the ranch?" Fae asked.
Lone Wolf chuckled. "Because I am a 'lone' wolf, Fae. I'll show up eventually. Consider me the forest patrol for the family."
"Oh. Well, I hope to see you around more. Maybe you can go fishing with me and August next time." She turned her head and pointed at the string of fish. "We had a good catch this time." When she looked back, Lone Wolf was gone. Fae looked around, puzzled.
August chuckled. "He does that all the time, but you never get used to it."

Chapter 1
Next chapter, next Wednesday.
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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Why I want to be President - West Wing

Darling and I are binge watching West Wing. The show forces me to view political liberals in a new light, and gives me some insight into what liberals think of conservatives. I am not sure if the characterizations are always correct, but it does make me ponder.

I ponder what the American people think.


Our government uses statistics and news services like a great chef uses a fillet knife. When the government is finished, we have no idea what the real food was; we only know what they served us.

We, the people, need real people in the House, in the Senate and in the White House. We need brilliant, capable minds in the Supreme Court. We might have the latter. I'm no longer sure of the former.

I am afraid, as are most of we, the people, that our representatives are self-serving politicians who make laws for us that we don't understand but that somehow better the circumstances of the governing.

From watching the primaries, I am afraid that all it takes to become President in the United States of America is a huge ego and an extreme amount of money, neither of which I have, nor do I want.

We used to be Of the People, By the People and For the People.

I love this country. The government is what concerns me. I think many people feel this way. We see strife and division driving a government and budget out of control. Lincoln said "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

I would want to be President to return sanity and the common man to the seat of the Office that is supposed to look out for all us. We need to heal our divisions and find unity amidst our dissensions.

Our Founding Fathers did it once.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Hunting August Moon - Chapter 3

Chapter 3
In the deathly quiet of the room everyone heard Charlie cuss. "I thought so. I figured you were one of them," growled Charlie from the back of the room. "So how fast are you, Jed? Fast enough to dodge a bullet?" The click of the hammer seemed loud.
Everyone scrambled away from Charlie. Jed didn't move. A cool breeze blew through the partially open window and the room seemed chilly. Jed's bright blue eyes narrowed as he looked at Charlie.
"We thought so, Charlie. Travelers don't usually find us like you and Sam did. And we were warned about a vampire hunter in the area. Who sent you, Charlie? Are you a Helsing?"
Charlie's face clouded with puzzlement, then he sneered. "I don't know what you're talking about. How about I put an end to you once and for all? And I don't need to explain myself to the likes of you, Mr. High and Mighty, better than us. I just need to..."
Charlie pulled the trigger and his gun clicked. Jed moved to his right, his hand a blur as he threw the small stone toward Charlie with a swift snap of his wrist. Charlie still looked at the failed gun when the small stone caught him between the eyes. A cue ball flew through the air and stopped at the left side of Charlie's head, a solid thud resounding in the room. Charlie's eyes rolled up and he dropped to the floor, the pistol sliding from his hand as he collapsed. Sam laughed and clapped his hands.
"Charlie, you shouldn't keep your gun in your coat pocket," he snickered to the unconscious man. Sam dropped six bullets from one hand to the next, grinning.
Jed looked around the room. “Have you ever noticed that the people who want to hurt you need to dialogue first? I've always thought that was odd.”
A blond woman entered the room from the side door and moved toward Charlie's slumped body. Her vintage tennis shoes made no sound as she walked. She wore clean blue jeans and a faded blue shirt, tied at her slim waist. Her blond ponytail swished against her shoulders as she moved. Blue stones sparkled in her dangling silver earrings, highlighting her light blue eyes and complementing her fair, smooth skin. Her heart-shaped lips turned up in a smile. "Nice trick with the bullets," she said to Sam.
Sam covered his heart with his right hand. "You wound me, ma'am! Pickpocketing the gun was a trick," he grinned. "Putting it back without bullets was art."
She laughed and Sam bowed at the waist, extravagantly extending his arms outward.
"You didn't need to hit him with the cue ball," Jed sighed at the young woman. "I had everything under control."
"Oh, I know, but I'm tired of fixing the errant bullet holes in the decor. Besides, you get all the fun. I'm bored," she said.
Jed smiled at Maddie and pointed at the unconscious Charlie. "Charlie you know." Jed pointed at the three women huddled at the right side of the room. "Nancy, Linda, Fae." Jed pointed toward the men. "Ted and Sam." Ted managed a slight bow toward Maddie and Sam grinned, an impish smile designed to seduce women. Maddie rolled her eyes at him as she bent over Charlie's prone form. Jed continued, "Ladies and gentlemen, may I present my wife and favorite person on the planet, Maddie."
Maddie smiled. "And yes, by some bizarre twist of fate, we were both transformed by the virus - vampires, as others call us, though we don't like that term. We prefer 'Transformed'." She looked at Jed. "We know others who like to be called vampires." She picked the pistol up and tossed it to Jed, who snatched it out of the air and placed it in the top desk drawer of the old desk he was sitting on.
"Maddie and I have known each other since high school," said Jed, "though that was down in Texas, not here in Colorado."
Sam pointed at Charlie. "Is he dead?"
Maddie lifted Charlie's unconscious body by his waistband and carried him to the front of the room with one hand. "No, I didn't hit him that hard. Barely enough to take him out and leave him with a headache."
Sam picked up the stone and tossed it back to Jed, grinning. "That was an awesome throw, by the way."
Jed grinned back, "Lots of practice," he said, slipping the stone into the front pocket of his jeans.
"Are...are you going to drink his blood?" Fae's eyes widened with fear and her voice squeaked. Her face paled and she twisted one strand of her dirty red hair with her left hand.
Maddie snorted and tossed Charlie to land at Jed's feet. "Look, we aren't the ones who call Transformed people vampires. Other people started that and it stuck. We don't drink blood. Our bodies seem to be more efficient about converting food to energy, so we don't eat as often. That's how the rumors started that we don't eat, but we do. And right now, I'm starved. We have clean clothes for everyone. I'll show you where to wash up. Jed, dear, why don't you bring Charlie in for dinner?"
Jed grinned and picked Charlie up like a sack of potatoes. "Charlie for dinner. That's funny," he said.
A half-hour later, everyone sat around a long rectangular oak table in the middle of a dining hall. Food sat in ceramic and wooden bowls in the center of the table. Vegetables, mashed potatoes and a roast occupied the main spot, with a small pitcher of brown gravy sitting next to the steaming potatoes. Three other people joined them after bringing in a plate of freshly baked corn bread. There were nine chairs on each side of the table. Jed and Maddie seated the five conscious newcomers on one side of the table and took seats on the opposite side, their chairs facing the main entry doors. "August, Shelly and Claire." Maddie made the introductions as they sat. They propped Charlie in a chair between Jed and August. The chair at the head of the table sat empty.
All the residents of Selah Ranch wore similar clothes, blue jeans and denim shirts of some sort, the clothes clean and neat, though showing signs of wear.
Shelly hugged Fae and grinned. "I smell better than last time you saw me, don't I, chiquita?" Shelly laughed. Barely over five feet tall, Shelly and Fae were close to the same height. Shelly radiated an aura of contained power.
Fae, now dressed in clean clothes, smiled shyly. "I do too," she said. The clothes fit her slim frame loosely and she stared at the food on the table, her mouth watering. "Do you always have this much food?"
Shelly laughed, her almond eyes twinkling. "No, Fae. We usually have much less."
At almost six feet tall, Claire towered over the other women and was an imposing figure, a dark Amazon in blue jeans and her light blue shirt. She dazzled the newcomers with her smile as she sat at the table. "We all smell better, don't we? It's amazing how a hot shower will improve socializing."
"And I'm sure the hot food will help everyone feel better, too," said August. At six and a half feet tall, he was taller than everyone in the room, including Ted. His brown, smooth face betrayed no signs of age, and his shoulder length black hair showed no trace of grey. He could have been thirty or sixty. He smiled at the guests and sat at the table. His huge frame showed no trace of fat, his massive biceps stretching the fabric in his sleeves. Dark eyes flickered to Charlie, slumped in the wooden chair at the table and he raised an eyebrow toward Jed, who grinned.
"We say grace for every meal," explained Jed, waving everyone to their seats and sitting down. "We try to be thankful regardless of whether we have little or plenty." He smiled at Maddie. "Fortunately, right now we have plenty." They bowed their heads and Jed said a short prayer, thanking God for the food and for the new arrivals.
Maddie scooped mashed potatoes and dropped them on her plate, passing the bowl to Fae, who sat across from her. "Please, everyone, eat up. We have lots of potatoes this year. Normally we discuss all that earlier stuff as we eat, but Jed had a feeling about Charlie, so you met in the study. We were afraid he was a Helsing."
"We had some Helsings come to the swamp a few years back," Nancy said between bites. "They were pretty intense."
"Mean, hateful hearts, those people," muttered Linda as she chewed. "His heart isn't as black as theirs," she added, nodding toward Charlie.
"Linda can see people's hearts sometimes," commented Nancy. "Been real handy over the years."
Linda's eyes looked at Maddie and twinkled. "You're okay, Dear. Like my Nancy, but not." She indicated Jed. "Soft, but loves you," she whispered. She looked at Sam and grinned, a small chuckle escaping her. "He's such a bad little man to want to be king."
Sam stared at August, a far-away look in his eyes. He swallowed a mouthful of food and looked at Linda. "Lady, I think you've had a few too many squirrels for dinner."
Linda shrugged and continued eating, her brown eyes watching everyone.
The crew of Selah Ranch shared small talk during dinner and Maddie told Claire and Shelly about Charlie's gun.
"So, Sam…" Jed smiled at the impish man, "what in the world made you take Charlie's gun?"
Sam grinned, swallowing another mouthful of food. "Well," he replied, "I didn't feel safe traveling with a guy that smelled funny. And," he pointed his fork at Jed, "I didn't take his gun. Guns aren't worth much of anything, but bullets…" He shrugged, still grinning.
"You don't make a habit of taking things that don't belong to you, do you?" asked Claire.
A hurt look crossed Sam's face. "Absolutely not! I swear! But Charlie didn't seem too right in the head, something a bit off about him. I figured it wouldn't hurt anything to take the bullets." He looked around at everyone at the table. "And I was right, wasn't I? I mean, I would have given the bullets back if he needed them." Sam wrinkled his face, his eyebrows coming together. "Besides, it never hurts to stay in practice, does it?"
Claire chuckled. "I'll be watching you, Sam." She was grinning.
Sam grinned at her. "I'm already keeping an eye on you, Claire!" He winked and she laughed.
"Thank you for helping us on the road," Fae said shyly around a mouthful of meat and potatoes, looking at Claire.
"We were out of bullets when you showed up," said Nancy.
"It's a good thing you had at least one left," smiled Shelly. "When we heard that shot we figured there was trouble and came running."
"And right on time, ladies," rumbled Ted. "I appreciate your help. Claire, you are the fastest fighter I ever saw."
"Didn't Jed mention that some people can be trained to be fast? Like athletes?" asked Claire. "I used to study physiology. We worked to enhance people's abilities for years."
"I want to be that fast," whispered Fae. Linda smiled at her and patted her hand.
Ted pointed at the plates of food. "Thanks for dinner. Lots of what we scavenge isn't worth eating. Finding edibles is getting harder all the time."
"It's not a problem, Ted," said Maddie. "Pitch in with the dishes and we'll call it even."
Shelly reached across and touched the back of Linda's hand. "I heard about your husband and son. I'm so sorry."
Charlie stirred.
Claire finished a biscuit and spoke up. "There are still a lot of old time diseases, even more so since we don't inoculate our children. We lost the skills to make the vaccines and we don't have the production facilities available like we used to." She sat back, her plate empty. "I don't mean to pry, but I have to ask some medical questions." Since none of the newcomers showed surprise, Claire lifted her eyebrows. "Oh, I see. Jed already told you I'm a doctor." She sighed and looked at Maddie, "He does that every time," she whispered.
"Yes, I know." Maddie said back in a stage whisper, and grinned.
Claire grinned back. "Right. Well, you know that Jed and Maddie are transformed…"
"Not vampires." muttered Maddie.
Claire ignored the interruption. "Shelly has never been bit."
"I'm too fast for the Zs." She grinned and looked at Jed. "Naturally fast, you know?"
Claire smiled at the shorter woman. "Quick wit, too. August and I are immune, and so are you, right Nancy?"
"Yes," said Nancy, unconsciously touching the scar on her face. Linda didn't look at Nancy, but patted her friend's hand.
Claire continued. "You might think it's against the odds for us to be here. One in ten thousand or so seems like huge odds for immune people, but the virus decimated the population, so now we are more like a tenth of a percent. Our numbers might be off, though. Some of my studies seem to indicate the odds are getting better, but I can't be sure. My few remaining colleagues in other cities think the same. What about the rest of you?"
Sam spoke up first. "I've never been bit." He looked at Claire and grinned wickedly. "Well, not by a Z, and never unwillingly!"
Claire laughed again. "That might be too much information, Sam, but thanks."
Ted put his fork down. "I have been in a few altercations, but escaped unscathed."
"Linda's never been bit. Neither has Fae."
Fae spoke up. "But my Pa was bit and he didn't turn. Well, he sort of didn't turn. He sat down and cried and cried and said it hurt and I needed to get away. Said he wanted to bite me but he wouldn't. Kept telling me to leave, even though he could barely stand up. I stayed close for a few days, but he got to where he kept moaning and saying it wasn't right." Tears streamed down Fae's cheeks. "I left when he started spitting blood. He was slobbering and crying and talking about me and Momma…I went to the river and stayed in the boat, fishing. When I went back, he wasn't there any more."
Shelly walked around the table and wrapped her arms around Fae. "I'm sorry, sweetie," she whispered in Fae's ear.
"This isn't something I'm familiar with, and I've studied the Zs since they first showed up," Claire said. She looked at Jed, concern reflected in her eyes. "I should call some of the other doctors as soon as I can."
Shelly started to gather the plates and Fae got up to help, her slight hands shaking. Shelly hugged her again and they took the plates out the kitchen doors.
"We know you're awake, Charlie. Have some food and we'll talk." Jed sat back in his chair.
Charlie opened his eyes and glared at Jed, swallowing when he saw the food still on the table. "I'm not sure I want to eat with your kind."
"Sure you do, Charlie." Jed heaped some potatoes on a plate, added meat and gravy and the few remaining vegetables. "Eat up." He put the food in front of Charlie and smiled.
Charlie glared at Sam. "I want my bullets back, you little weasel."
Sam patted his pocket. "Sure, buddy, whatever you say. As soon as Jed says it's okay," Sam laughed. "I still like you, Charlie. You're my kind of guy."
Charlie stared at the plate in front of him but didn't touch his fork. "I think he's afraid we're fattening him up or something," Maddie said.
"C'mon, Charlie. We need to decide if you're going to stay or move on, but you might as well get a good meal out of it. I don't hold a grudge." Jed relaxed in his chair.
Charlie picked up a spoon and shoveled the food in his mouth, his eyes shifting from Jed to Maddie. Bits of potato stuck to the rough blond whiskers on his chin. He didn't notice.
"Claire, would you show the other guests to their rooms, please? I guess we need to talk to Charlie alone." Claire glared at Charlie. Maddie smiled as the rest of the residents left the room, Fae casting a frightened backward glance. As Charlie kept eating, Jed, Maddie and August watched him. August slid his chair back from the table, facing Charlie. Jed turned his chair.
With his plate empty, Charlie sat back, touching the side of his head and glaring at Maddie. "You're the one who hit me?"
Maddie smiled sweetly and shrugged, saying nothing, putting her folded hands on the table.
"Who sent you, Charlie?" Jed sat back in his chair, thumbs in his jean pockets and fingers tapping at his pocket seams. August watched with wary eyes.
"Sent me? Why would anyone send me?" Charlie's eyebrows drew together and he narrowed his eyes.
"I have my reasons for asking." He studied Charlie's face. "Are you a Helsing?"
Charlie sneered at Jed. "I don't even know what that is, you freak."
"So why try to kill me?"
"Because you and your kind are an abomination of nature. Because you think you're so much better than the rest of us." Charlie's eyes shifted to the left, glancing at August.
Maddie looked at Charlie. "What was her name, Charlie?"
Charlie's eyebrows shot up. "Uh… what?"
"The name of the woman who died because of you?"
"She didn't die because of me. She tripped. Ellie tripped, is all."
"And you kept running…"
The muscle in Charlie's jaw tightened. "She tripped. They bit her. I didn't have a choice, did I?"
"And she screamed your name, didn't she, Charlie?" August's voice rumbled in his massive chest. "She cried out your name and you were too afraid to go back and get her."
"What do you know?" Charlie pushed his chair back and stood up, facing August, who remained seated, legs stretched out.
"Did she follow you, Charlie? Did a zombie with Ellie's face come after you?" Jed asked.
Charlie whirled around, tears springing to life in the corners of his widened eyes. "She… she… I had to …"
He sat forward in the chair, head in his hands and cried.
"Ellie was bit and died, Charlie. That wasn't your fault. We were bit and survived. That's not our fault. We didn't choose." Maddie's voice was quiet.
After a minute or so, a huge hand settled on Charlie's shoulder. August's deep voice rumbled. "Everyone lost someone, man. Maybe you could have saved her, but probably not. You have to come to grips with the reality that you have no control over life, Charlie, only over your own actions and your own thoughts."
Charlie wrenched away from August's hand and stood up, glaring at Jed with hate-filled, red-rimmed eyes. "What do you people know? I hate vampires. I'll hunt you until I've killed every last one of you or died trying."
Maddie lifted an eyebrow. "He might not be a Helsing, but he sure sounds like one," she said.
Jed shrugged."So he wasn't sent for us. That's good news, right?" He stood up, looking down at Charlie and his rage. "Well, Charlie, I'm sorry you feel that way. I could end your mission here, but I don't have the energy. It's been a long day." He turned away and he and Maddie walked hand in hand toward the exit door. "August will show you to your room and make sure you get on your way early tomorrow morning. Don't come back here, Charlie. I never want to see you again. I only have so much patience." He shrugged. "You can keep the gun, Charlie. I guess we'll let Sam keep the bullets, though."
Charlie glared at their backs as they left the room. When the door closed, he turned to August. "You're going to kill me, aren't you?"
August didn't smile. He dropped a massive hand on Charlie's shoulder and led him from the room.

Chapter 1
Next chapter, next Wednesday.
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Author commentary on Chapter

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