I’m sharing this excerpt from Matching Scars, Book Two in the Boone Series, to mark the publication of the fifth book. Choosing Family is scheduled for release in May of this year. This selection is from Chapters Three and Four; Boone is house sitting for his friend Gamaliel.
After I get a bite to eat I take Frankie outside and let her run. She makes a quick circle around the house, sniffing for any changes since yesterday’s night patrol. She’s out of sight around on the side of the house up toward the Thompson’s when I hear her growling low in her throat.
Then she starts barking, that loud, angry, don’t fuck with me kind of bark, and I speed up and turn the corner.
She’s standing, facing away from me. The hair on her back is bristled, and her nose is low to the ground. I follow her stare; there’s a raccoon at the edge of the yard, just standing there staring back at Frankie.
I call her. “Frankie! Come here!”
One ear twitches but she doesn’t move.
“Frankie! Here, girl! Here!”
She starts to take a step back and hesitates, then breaks off from the raccoon and comes over to me. She whirls around and starts in again on the raccoon. I really need to get her better trained.
Then I take another look at the coon and start to get scared.
It looks like it can’t get its balance, and I can see a long, thin thread of drool hanging off the side of its mouth. It shakes its head and the drool drops off, and the coon starts snapping at nothing I can see. It looks around, trying to find something to focus on, and takes a couple of shaky steps toward us.
It has to be rabies, I think to myself. Frankie’s a big dog, lots bigger than the raccoon, and it didn’t run or climb, didn’t even act like any normal animal would, and then there’s that staggering, drooling, snapping stuff. I’ve never seen an animal with rabies before, but I’m betting that’s what it is. I grab Frankie’s collar and it takes all my strength to get her started toward the house.
The coon is still there when I come back out with the shotgun, and it’s an easy shot to drop it where it stands. I leave it in the yard and go back in the house. I’m shaking like a little kid.
I go over every inch of Frankie when I get back inside. No scratches or bite marks anywhere. I sit there on the floor with my arms around her and start crying into her fur.
“I’m a terrible owner, Frankie, terrible,” I finally say. “You are going to the vet today for a rabies shot. I can’t lose you, girl, I can’t.”
There’s only one vet anywhere close, and I call them as soon as I can let Frankie go. “You are staying inside, girl, until we figure out what to do about that coon out there,” I say.
“Hello,” I say, “I need to bring my dog in for a rabies shot. It’s been a year or so since I got her, and she was a pup. I don’t know that she’s ever had one.”
The man on the other end of the line says, “Definitely get your dog in here. We’ve had reports of rabid raccoons in the area.”
“Well,” I say slowly, “since you mention that, I just shot a raccoon that was acting really strange. It’s laying in my side yard.”
He gets a very serious tone in his voice and gives me a number, says I need to call TWRA right now.
“And don’t let any animals or people anywhere near that coon,” he says firmly. “Did it get to your dog?”
“No, I had just taken her outside for her morning run and she started barking like crazy and when I came around the house she was in the yard and the coon was out on the edge of the yard. I’ve already checked her out, no scratches or bites or anything.”
“You keep her inside for two weeks,” he says. “Don’t let her out except on a leash. Don’t let her go anywhere. If she’s infected, it’ll show up by then. If she’s okay, bring her in after that and we’ll give her a rabies shot. What’s your dog’s name?”
“Well, you keep a close eye on Frankie, and call TWRA right now, as soon as you hang up. And go outside and don’t let anything near that coon. It’s still dangerous.”
I make the call, and then tell Frankie to stay put and go outside. The coon is still laying right where I shot it, and there’s a kid walking toward it with a stick in his hand. He’s whistling that same tune I heard last night.
“Get the hell off this yard!” I shout at him. He stops where he is, but doesn’t back up.
“Is that coon dead?”
“That coon is dead, and it had rabies. You get the hell away, you hear me? Somebody’s coming to get rid of it. That thing’ll make you sick, and then you’ll die. You get off this yard and stay off!”
He throws down the stick. “You don’t have to be so mean about it.”
He goes back out to the road and starts down the hill, then turns back.
“What’s your name?”
“You go on back home. Go on now.”
Shrugging his shoulders, he turns, then turns back. “Mine’s Trevor.”
“Well, Trevor, you stay off this property. You got no business here.”
He doesn’t answer, just walks away.
The guy from TWRA comes and gets rid of the body, and tells me to keep my eyes open for any other coons or other animals acting funny.
“It’s a bad year so far,” he says.
When I go back inside Frankie is bouncing around, and I say, “You’re on a leash for the next two weeks, girl. Sorry.”
Then I realize I don’t have a calendar.
It’s been a while since I’ve needed to know what day of the week it was, and, since I don’t have school or anything else like that to worry about, it hasn’t been that big of a deal. Now I need to know when it’s been two weeks, so I’ll know Frankie’s okay and I can call the vet, and then I’ll need to know so I can keep the appointment.
Surely, I say to myself, Gamaliel’s got some kind of calendar around here. I’ve never really explored that front room, if you don’t count the drawer where I found the silver dollars. There’s a desk in there, one of the old style, big, wooden, lots of drawers and stuff stacked on top of it. Compared to the rest of the house, it’s kind of a mess, which by itself makes me curious. Gamaliel, as far as I can tell, isn’t much interested in stuff, and what stuff he’s got he keeps in pretty good order.
I decide to go through the desk tomorrow. The kitchen’s getting a little empty, and I’ve got enough money from what Carrie gives me to afford a good-sized trip to the grocery store.
Daddy’s old truck is still running, but lately when I start it up there’s a cloud of blue smoke. It goes away pretty quick, soon as I drive it a quarter mile or so, but I’m thinking that I may be back on a bicycle before long. Sometimes I wish he had taught me something about cars, but I’m not sure he knew very much.
On the way down to the store I think about Daddy. I don’t much like to, considering how things ended up, but once I start I sort of have to run through it. I try to remember something good about him being around and I have to think way, way back, before Hannah was born, when Frankie was still around, before Daddy messed up his hand. There were a few times he wasn’t angry or drunk or both, usually both, but damned few even then. I shake my head to try to get back to today, jerking the wheel a little and scaring some old woman in a big four-door something or other. She almost goes into the ditch trying to miss me, and I grin a little. I wasn’t even really out of my lane. I glance in the mirror; she’s back on track and there’s nobody else on the road, no police anywhere, and I settle in for the rest of the drive.
The store is almost empty, so it’s a quick run through the aisles. I fill the cart with some Thunderstorm, frozen pizzas, cereal, milk, crunchy peanut butter, bread, a big hunk of cheese, a pound of ground beef, dog food, and half a dozen other things, including a jar of spaghetti sauce and some spaghetti noodles. On the way back down that row I see some hot pepper sauce and grab that too. I’m heading for checkout when I hear, “Boone? Is that you?”