The following special preview of Falen: Semper Fi by James MacKrell appears here with the permission of the author.
The screen door slammed in Falen's face as Rick wheeled back into the house. Her brown eyes clouded over as she pressed her nose into the closed door and uttered a soft whine, straining to see him.
"Master, don't you want me with you? I can perform all sorts of tricks for you. I can make you smile. I need to be with you and help you through this dark time."
Her wet nose pressed against the screen so hard the wire made check marks across it. Her butt wiggled slowly. Falen's disappointment sent waves of sorrow through her whole body. The desire to be needed pulsed in every core of her being. She wanted to convince him she could help.
"You want to play Frisbee? Or I can just sit by your chair and offer my heart up to help calm whatever is bothering you."
Sick at heart her joyous eyes faded into a dull haze. Aussies' are a strange breed of dog. They're never happy unless they are useful. No matter whether it's making themselves into clowns or working all day in the fields. In this case, Falen dedicated her life to protecting Rick and looking after his every desire. Again she whined and pawed the screen to get Rick's attention. With shoulders slumped in the chair and head lowered he stared at the stump of his right leg.
Slowly Falen turned her red head away from the front door and walked toward the edge of the porch. She leapt to the ground and sauntered over to the crabapple tree in the middle of the drive. The afternoon breeze ruffled her coat as she stared down the lane toward where the car had passed. Falen wondered why this young woman's visit brought so much sadness to her Rick. The young marine didn't deserve any more hurt in his life. Falen let her body plop into the grass near the trunk of the ancient tree. Filled with doubts, She wondered what she might have done to bring on this dark mood of Rick's. She rested her beautiful head on her snowy paws and continued a soft whine of sorrow.
In the house Rick didn't even miss Falen. Clouds of embarrassment plowed through his thoughts over how he acted toward Susan. The biggest drawback to being so injured was the constant awareness of the disability and how he thought it affected others. His relationship with Susan had never matured to a level of trust, and certainly not acceptance. Time apart seems to only postpone any chance of growth in relationships.
Many times Rick wished they were still back in the easier times of high school. As they both grew into adulthood they were separated, Rick at Montana State and Susan off in Chicago at Loyola University. Lonnelle Burton thought her girl would meet a whole different class of young men at the famous university. Lonnelle couldn't wrap her mind around any chance of Susan falling in love with a local boy from Big Timber, let alone an Hispanic.
Even though they phoned long distance and emailed daily, the feeling wasn't the same as seeing her in the halls of school. Rick, busy with studies and football, didn't have a lot of time to date, so this long distance affair appeared to be only in his mind and heart.
As proud of their son as Sergio and Isabel were, they were not a touchy-feely family. They relied on respect and loyalty to express their love. Sergio was much better at telling friends and neighbors how proud he was of Rick. He assumed Rick somehow knew the depth of his love. Rick did know, but affection wasn't expressed in words, just deeds. With the arrival of Falen, Rick slowly became able to demonstrate the warmth of love in his heart for this wonderful dog.
All the time spent at Montana State and then in the Corps, Rick wished he could have been more outgoing about his feelings for Susan. Being an extrovert was not in his makeup. Now the sudden appearance of her caused the old nervousness to manifest itself again. He never believed himself worthy of her and now as a cripple he seemed even more remote. With Falen outside, and Rich alone in the house, he freely let the tears flow. He buried his head in his hands and sobbed
Outside Falen stirred. Pacing the length of the porch she solemnly walked to the edge looked out into the yard and turned again to stare at the closed screen door. Something appeared to be wrong; she turned and ran to the door only to be separated from her Master by the closed screen. Inside the phone rang.
After a successful career in radio, music publishing and many facets of the entertainment industry including appearances on popular television shows and in feature films, James MacKrell was inspired by a dream to try his hand as an author. James' first book, Down from the Mountain, is being hailed as one of the best new dog stories of our time. It is a gripping tale about an intrepid Australian Shepherd. Set in the mountains of Montana, it is a story of bravery and loyalty and it celebrates the connection between animals and their people.
Down From The Mountain
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