(from The O. Henry Prize Stories 2007)
On their second day, Old Bull’s party began to see many wolves and coyotes in the distance, slung low to the ground, throwing backward glances. The animals appeared in the midafternoon as mirages through a heat-wave gauze that rose off the plain and made things shimmer and seem not as they were. One stopped and sat on his haunches and looked behind him. He licked his chops, then looked right at Old Bull before slinking away. Something extraordinary was happening, plainly, but Old Bull was unconcerned. There were many days to cover before reaching this Great Lake he had heard so much of. They were Old Bull, Red Moon, Sandman, and Whiteshield. Other than strips of dried meat wrapped in skins and an extra horse each on a side rope, they carried no excess baggage. Their horses were lean and muscled and born to run. But this wasn’t a war party or a scouting trip. This was plain-and-simple joyriding, an adventure, and who wants to be bogged down on an adventure?
This one sorta took my breath away. Certain images just stick with you, but the mood even moreso. It’s as if possibility hangs over every twist and turn on the road the party takes. There’s an uneasy mix of fear and wonder, will the next person or place on their path bring danger? Discovery? Beautiful. I wanted to get lost in this story. Read it here.