Huckleberry Summer by Avery Cove
Hot sun rays scorched every item of clothing Sam wore and the heat burned where it touched his skin. He swiped again at the sweat that rolled down his face as some trickled into his eyes. He blinked and squeezed his eyelids hoping to lessen the sting. He couldn’t take much more of this heat. He looked down the fence row where more bobbed wire needed tightening. Rip, his dog, sniffed the ground and chased the brown grasshoppers popping up from the grass not far from him.
Two steps down the fence row, he reached out and grabbed the wire gaging how much slack he needed to take up. A shrill scream echoed across the hills and valley. Sam jerked back his hand, his glove still hung on the barb. He bit back a cuss word and shook his hand. Blood ran across his fingers.
Another scream—fear jolted him from his pain. “Rip—load up!” After the second try at the ignition switch, the truck fired and Sam forced it into reverse. It bumped and rocked traveling as fast as it would go through the field. Rip barked as the truck climbed the hill. The screams sounded like they came from the back side of the old Duncan place. Charging over the last bump, he topped the hill and slid the truck to a standstill next to the fence. Standing in the middle of the saddest excuse for a garden stood a woman wielding a hoe. A blond ponytail bounced with every move.
Sam pushed open the door and jumped, Rip behind him.
She stood frozen to one spot. He grabbed the top of the fence and jump over it as Rip crawled underneath, ready for the chase. He bounded for the lady.
“Hey—lady!” Sam hollered, again. “You hurt—snake bit?”
She glanced up as the mutt loped through the grass heading her way. Winded Sam reached the edge of the garden. Facing him stood that woman—the one stranded on the side of the road—all culture and no country. Sam sucked in a hot breath. His new neighbor. Scrutinizing the terror in her eyes, he watched as she shuddered and scanned the ground and plants near her feet.
Now she glared at him. Ponytail no longer bobbed, but the most exquisite green eyes he could not have dreamed up flashed sheer annoyance. “What?”
Sam hesitated. “I said—are you hurt?”
She scowled recognizing the truck. “No. Do I look hurt?”
“Wasn’t that you who let out those bloodcurdling screams?”
She pulled in a deep breath, her shapely bosom evident in her pink cotton sundress. “I saw a snake!”
She had the grace to stare back toward the ground as her face reddened.
“God save me from silly females!” Sam yanked the remaining glove off his good hand and looked down at the blood spreading across his fingers on his other one. He wiped the sweat from his brow with the arm of his t-shirt. “Woman—if you are afraid of everything that crawls in these hills, you’d better pack up and head back to whatever city you came from!”
Smarting from his accusations, she twisted her head back in his direction. “How dare you!” You drive across My property and shout at me for no reason. I did not ask or need to be rescued! What time-warp century did you come from?”
Abashed, he frowned. His dog was now at her feet, wagging his tail and looking up at her adoringly.
“Point taken.” His sweat and blood stung his hand.
“Come on Rip.” Slinging the dripping blood from his injured fingers, Sam turned and marched back to his vehicle with Rip at his heels. Sam tipped his head at the woman, offered up his juvenile behavior by stomping on the gas pedal. He spun his truck around, almost grazing her fence, then bounced across the ruts as he tore down the hill.
“Oooh!” She kicked a dirt clod with the toe of her sandal. The hard soil did not budge. A cry of pain escaped her lips. She threw down the hoe, grabbed her throbbing big toe, lost her balance, and then fell squarely on her butt. “Ouch!” A small vapor of dust completed her humiliation. Why couldn’t I have a kindly old man for a neighbor—not a blue-eyed jackass!