Sundown Hill – Two

Chapter Two

The next morning Maya began her day eager to learn. She was a machine of discovery and needed fuel to keep all those levers, pulleys, and gears in motion.  Entering the kitchen, she could smell the aroma of toasted bread and the citrus of a freshly cut orange.  She sat at the table with an empty bowl in front of her. Mom reached into the cupboard and grabbed the graham crunch cereal and set it on the table.  Maya poured her cereal and milk as mom delivered the rest of the breakfast and sat beside her.

“Mom,” said Maya. “I know today is math day, but can you teach me more science?”

“Science?” Mom exclaimed quizzically. “What happened to my little count-bot?”

“I just want to learn more about the Earth, plants, and animals. Stuff like that.”

“Sure.  Well, the first thing you should know is that everything on Earth is connected.  The people, land, oceans, and animals are all here together interacting.”

“So, treating others the way we want to be treated goes for the animals and plants, too?”

“Yes. Every action you do has an effect. You have what is called responsibility to understand your actions and their effects.”

“If everything I do is good, will I always get a good effect?”

“We would hope, Maya. Sometimes things are more complicated than what they appear. Now finish your breakfast and let’s get school started.”

Maya spent most of the day completing her multiplication table assignments.  Her mom introduced her to the concept of skip counting.  Maya enjoyed counting by 5’s as fast as she could.  At the end of the schooling day, her mom handed her a new book to read.

“I borrowed this from Mrs. Jones. It’s a classic called Charlotte’s Web.  I am sure you will like it.”

The rest of the week went by slowly as the much needed summer rain showers interrupted any chance to be outside.  Finally, the weather broke on Friday and it was a wonderful, crisp morning with a light breeze blowing in from the west.  Maya received permission to go to Sundown Hill after lunch as long as she had Cooper as her chaperone.  She made her way playfully meandering through the meadow as Cooper nipped at her wrists trying to pull her down for a good face licking.  When they reached the top, Maya sat down on top of her green, flannel camp pillow and began reading her new book.  Cooper lay beside her with his head on her left leg.  She gently ran her fingers through his short, silky Goldador coat as she began to daydream about her love of animals just like Fern in the book.  She started to see her own life change.  The mysterious tablet was at her right side.  She had nicknamed it, “the go tablet”, because it simply took her places.  Out of impulse, she picked up the tablet and placed her finger in the center.  She did not take into consideration Cooper was still resting on her lap.  Maya instantly found herself on a playground along with Cooper.

“Oh no!” Maya exclaims. “Cooper, you shouldn’t be here!”

She noticed a group of kids playing kickball in the field to the right.  In front of her was a recreational area filled with playground equipment.  Maya noticed a girl sitting on the inside of a geodesic dome and against its bars.  She walked over as Cooper followed.  Maya grasped the warm, metal bars as she climbed up to the top and then, dropped down to the ground.  Cooper casually trotted between the bars to sit beside her.

“Keeping you back turned like that could get you into trouble,” Maya said to the girl.

“I’ve already got plenty of trouble and no friends, anyway,” said the girl.

“Well, you’re not going to make friends with your back turned to everybody.  I’m Maya.”

“I’m Melissa.”  As she looked up, she revealed her silver eyes.

“Hi, Melissa.  This is Cooper. I understand now,” Maya said as she looked directly into the nothingness of her eyes.

“Why aren’t you playing kickball with the others?”

“I’m no good at sports.  The kids make fun of me because one leg is a little shorter than the other.  Then, they make fun of me because I read too much and keep to myself.”

“I’ve got an idea to stop you from being picked on,” Maya said with excitement.

In that instant, Maya was once again not the Maya of the flesh.  Melissa projected her emotional being outward and Maya melded herself into the projection.

“C’mon.  You’re going to play but I’ll kick the ball. They can’t see me because I am really part of you,” Maya explained.

Melissa and Maya walked over to the game and approached the recess monitor.

“I decided I want to play after all,” said Melissa.

“Recess is almost over, said the monitor.  “We will give you last kicks.”

“But we have a chance to win the game,” said one selfish kid.  “If you put her up, we are sure to lose.”

The opposing team moves way in, not expecting any type of meaningful kick.  There were two outs and kids standing on second and third base.

“This will be any easy third out,” teases one of the opposing players.

The ball is pitched.  Melissa runs up to kick and just as she does Maya hits the ball.  The ball goes over everyone’s head and out into right center field.  Unable to run fast, Melissa still makes it to second and wins the game for the team.  The monitor blows the whistle announcing recess is over.

Maya and Melissa walk back to the dome to get their things.  Melissa bends down to pick up her backpack and notices a copy of Charlotte’s Web on the ground.

“Oh, that’s mine,” said Maya.  “You keep it.  It is a great story about friendship.”

Just as Maya finishes talking, Cooper lets out a snarl and starts to bark.  They look over to the edge of the forest and see a black coyote.

“Don’t worry about that coyote,” Melissa waves the animal off.  “We call him Old Duffy.  He’s not much trouble.  That’s why I sit inside the dome. Just in case.”

“How do you know there is just one of them?”  Maya asked.

“He’s got a white patch on his right ear.”

Cooper becomes restless and snarls a few more times.  Maya kneels down and pets Cooper to keep him calm.

A young girl approaches and says, “Let me give you a hand or you will be late for class.  We’ll walk together.”

Melissa leans over to whisper to Maya. “Hey, my first new friend.”

Maya catches a glimpse of Melissa eyes that are now emerald green.  Swiftly, Maya steps out of Melissa’s projection and is back on Sundown Hill with Cooper, however, it is cloudy and rain begins to fall.  She thinks to herself that this time there is no wonderful sunset to absorb after her good deed.  Maya folds her camp pillow into the stuff sack and looks over to the hill on the left.  She sees a black coyote.

“No, it can’t be,” she says under her breath.

Cooper senses her fear and takes a defensive posture as the coyote runs toward them.  Much closer, now, Maya recognizes the white patch on the coyote’s right ear.

“Old Duffy,” Maya shrieks.

Cooper runs down the hill to engage the coyote.  The other side of Sundown Hill is quite steep and rocky. Several large boulders jut out of the hillside.  Cooper and the coyote growl and bite at each other.  Old Duffy gets a firm grip on the back of Cooper’s neck and they both tumble down the hill.  Old Duffy rolls into a boulder, lets out a yelp, and releases Cooper from his grip.  The coyote retreats down the hill and out of sight.  Cooper limps back up the hill toward Maya.  His front left leg was gashed and bleeding from a scrape against the rocks.  As they both hurry home to seek shelter from the rain, Maya recalls the conversation with her mother and says,

“Cooper, things just got complicated.”

Autumn Labrador Portrait


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