Coffee Break Read – Trackers

He stares at me from round eyes that are the colour of amontillado sherry, or maybe the kind of amber that hides bugs in its heart. His pupils are coal black, and yet they hold a sparkle of light in their depths, a spark of understanding and a humour that defies differences.
When we are alone I talk to him as one equal to another, but when we are working it has to be different.
“Seek,” I say, and he is off, nose to the ground. Always in front but never going too fast for me to follow. This hunt is quick, and the crowd of rednecks and wowzers barely has time to get excited when he stops and sits bolt upright. He points to a tumbledown shack in a back garden.
I stand back and the sheriff’s men race to the door. It’s not locked or anything and they pull it back to reveal the lost kid asleep on a pile of sacks. It seems sticky, but unharmed, so we leave the folks to deal and head back to where our truck waits. Sherif Dean is leaning on the hood, but he straightens us when he sees us.
He holds out a big brown hand and we shake.
“Good job, you two.”
Jacob grins and hops into the passenger seat. He’s done his job and now he just wants to go home.
Dean doesn’t seem in a hurry to leave. He looks at me and his ears go a bit pink. I have never seen a bulky forty-year-old man so obviously embarrassed, but it isn’t funny. More kinda awkward. In the end he breaks the silence by clearing his throat.
“Martha, could you use some bear meat?”
I smile. Me and Jacob love bear meat. “Sure could.”
He slopes over to his cruiser and hefts a big esky box out of the back seat, he lifts it into the back of my old truck.
“There you go. You can let me have the cold box back sometime.”
I feel an odd compulsion to give something back.
“You like bear stew sheriff?”
“Sure do. And I’d admire for you to call me Cam.”
“You off duty tonight, Cam?”
“I can be.”
“Whyn’t you come along to the cabin round about suppertime?”
He smiles and tips his hat. “I’ll look forward to that.”
Jacob sits up in his seat and gives me a canine grin. I climb up into the driver’s seat and crank up the engine. Once we are rolling I look at my constant companion.
“Why’d I go and do that!”
Needless to say there is no answer, so I grumble and swear a bit more.
“Why didn’t I just take his bear meat and have done with it?”
Jacob’s tongue lolls out in his equivalent of laughter and I snort.
“It ain’t funny. Okay maybe it is. But why’d I go and do it. I don’t want a man in my life.”
Jacob grins some more and I snarl at him, then concentrate on my driving. After a stop at the store, we get home pretty quick. Jacob jumps out of the truck to find a patch of late morning sun and get in some serious sleeping. Me? I get on with the bear meat stew, with roots and herbs and a big bottle of bootleg beer. Then I pull the bread starter out of the larder and get kneading. By the time it’s afternoon I’m finished with cooking and I go looking for Jacob. When I find him I sit on the dusty grass beside him. He rolls over and I absentmindedly scratch his chest.
“What now Jakey?”
He sits bolt upright and looks at me with his head on one side.
“No Jacob, I ain’t doing that. I ain’t.”
He looks at me some more. That look where he don’t blink at all. I stick it for a while then get up and head for the creek. Jacob tags along in guard dog mode. I throw off my clothes and dive into the cool brown water.
Sundown and I’m sitting on the front porch with my hair down, and clean tight jeans on, and a blouse that leaves my shoulders bare. I hear a truck growling up the track. It parks up next to my beat-up Holden and Sherif Dean climbs out.
He has flowers in his hands, and when I look into his square dependable face, I figure Jacob was right again.

Jane Jago

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