Aen crouched in the brush, surveying the path that curved between massive redwood trunks and lesser conifers. The young hunter, no longer a child but still absent a beard, concealed himself beside a rotten and shattered pine. Having been there since dawn, dusk now deepened the shadows that filtered down from the towering forest canopy above.
Green eyes still focused on the path, Aen’s finger touched the knapped flint head of his best throwing spear. He left the weapon on the ground beside his knee to glance at the ash wood shaft of his second javelin. It leaned upright against the stump, beside a stout fighting spear.
Aen heard a shift in the birdsongs around him, and turned a keen ear to listen as the calls fell silent one-by-one. His gaze returning to path and forest, the growing hush was interrupted by a chittering treetop squirrel. He saw it drop a pinecone to the ground before skittering branch to branch.
His tanned limbs and back moved with a controlled, lean strength. Shifting his squat in a buckskin loincloth, Aen licked a finger and tested the air. Confirming he was still downwind of the path, he crouched deeper in the leaves and took hold of the spear on the forest floor beside him.
Slow, padded footfalls barely disturbed the carpet of orange pine needles upon the animal path. Yet Aen heard their approach, and eyed the bend that disappeared around a great redwood trunk. Continue reading
Racetrack’s a funny place. People says they come here for entertainment, but there ain’t nothing they take more serious. It’s the gambling. They see themselves hitting the big one and taking it all home in a big bag. Course, that never happens, but it seems some always had that idea. Mind, there’s a few can come here and just spend a few dollars and leave, and it don’t bite them. But others, well, they get hooked the first time they’re here. I think it’s got something to do with the horses. Maybe they think they’re not really gambling cause it’s live animals.
I been here near forty year, ever since about 1955. Started out as a groom, then got a lucky break to start as a sulky driver in the races. Even got to travel around the state for a while. But then I got hurt in a bad pile-up and the boss offered me this job. I’m sort of a security guard now. It’s okay, but I sure do miss the horses. I’m not so close to them no more.
I remember this one young feller, back about thirty year ago. His daddy knew somebody and got him into the barns as a groom. That’s the starting point, where you learn everything. He wanted to be a driver and could have made it, too. He had a good touch with horses and was showing some real promise on the practice track. But then I start seeing him in the stands, and at the window, and I thought—well there goes another one. He’d caught the gambling bug. There’s a certain look they get in their eye when that happens, a kind of intense focus when they watch the horses or read the program. There’s despair when they lose, but it ain’t long before they’re looking at the next race. Continue reading