Welcome Short Story First Line Challenge members and anyone else who finds this story.
"Try to be one of the people on whom nothing is lost."
Go Home Little Sheba! (1,000 words)
The path wove its way through the meadow and into the darkness of the woods beyond. Sarah plunged into the woods determined to find Sheba, her friend Caitlin's dachshund. "She ba!" she hollered and then listened for the little dog. Despite her short legs, Sheba moved like lightning. Finally, Sarah heard Sheba digging and caught up to her. If there was anything Sheba loved, it was digging up gross stuff.
Sarah berated herself for letting go of Sheba's leash back in the meadow. It had all looked so serene with butterflies flitting about. The log was the perfect height, so she sat down to pull out her camera equipment. Sarah busily assembled lenses and filters while Sheba snuffled about her feet. Then Sheba was off like a shot, following some mystery scent. Now that she had hold of Sheba's leash once again, it was too late to get pictures of butterflies. She was also unsure of the direction she'd gone while chasing Sheba. Sarah turned around in a circle trying to spot the trail she'd followed. "Darn you Sheba!" The little dog just wagged her wiry tail. "Okay, then, how about we go home?" Sheba responded immediately, tugging at the leash as if she knew exactly which direction to go.
Sarah followed Sheba down the trail, keeping hold of the leash this time. Soon enough they emerged from the woods into a meadow. It just wasn't the meadow where she'd parked the car in a gravel lot. This meadow came with a fully functional cabin complete with smoke curling out of its little chimney. "Well at least it isn't made of gingerbread" she told Sheba. Sarah figured that a cute cabin in the woods couldn't be that bad. Besides, somebody had to be home with a fire burning, so she walked up to the door and knocked.
As she waited, she wondered if it would be a grizzled old woman who collected herbs or a hunky guy who just wanted to live in solitude. She'd decided on tortured hunky guy when the door opened. He wasn't exactly hunky, but he was good looking, probably in his thirties, hard to see what color his eyes were behind his glasses. Sarah took a step backward to see his whole frame - 6' 2", maybe 6' 3". "Hi, I'm Sarah and this dirt encrusted mutt is my friend Caitlin's dog, Sheba. We were walking in a meadow, she led me through the woods and, well, here we are. Lost. No idea where we are. Can you help?"
"Can't you just call your friend on your cell phone to get you and her dog?"
"Certified technophobe." She blushed. "You get service out here?"
"What? And your camera uses film?"
"I happen to like film! I get far better pictures with film."
"Which meadow did you say you started at?" He had a great baritone, reminding Sarah of the country singer Josh Turner.
"I think it was called Springer or Sparrow or something like that."
"Spafford. I can take you back over there in my Jeep, but you might as well stay for dinner. I can't just leave it on the woodstove and hope it will be edible when I get back."
"Sheba and I wouldn't want to put you out. If you can lend us a flashlight we'll find our own way back."
"If you couldn't find your way in daylight, you'll never make it in the dark. Come on, have some soup with me."
"I don't even know your name!"
"It's Mark. You can sit and watch me eat if you're afraid, but come in where it's light and warm."
Sarah and Sheba stepped in. Sheba immediately got comfortable by the stove and went to sleep. While Mark served up soup, Sarah looked at the cabin walls covered with framed nature photographs.
"Wow! This is great soup! What's it called?"
"Italian Wedding soup. I got the recipe off a website. Now don't look so surprised. I'm not some recluse woodsman. I have electricity and a phone. The highway is just on the other side of the trees out back."
"Oh sorry! I didn't mean to look disbelieving. I should have known. Digital photos?" she asked with disdain.
"Look, eat the soup or don't. Call Caitlin or wait for me to take you to your car. Just don't sneer at my photos. I earn a great living with them."
"It's just that you get a lot of exercise jumping to conclusions."
"Okay. I get it. I'm insensitive."
"No. I'm sorry. I'm just going through a hard time. My girlfriend dumped me last week. I thought I'd come hide out here for a little while. It's been nice. Then you and Sheba showed up. I thought maybe she sent you to check up." Mark turned away, but Sarah saw sadness cover his face. When he turned back, his face showed none of it.
Sarah took another bite. "This really is seriously good soup. The meatballs are so tender. I can't believe any girl would dump a guy who cooked in and out of the kitchen like you. You got some bread to sop up this broth?"
"Caitlin really didn't send you?" he quizzed, disbelieving.
"Why would... Oh... Oh my god! I had no idea! Mark-Marcus. No wonder Sheba ran here when I said home." Sarah got up, starting for the door, tears sizzling on her blushing cheeks.
Mark quickly caught her. "Stop! It's okay. She knew what she was doing. She always told me I was better suited for her friend, Sarah than her. This is just her way of proving her point."
Sarah wiped at her tears. "I am so embarrassed! I didn't even recognize you. Do you usually wear contacts?"
"Don't be embarrassed, I didn't recognize you from her photos either. But, I did know Sheba and I didn't say anything when I found you two, lost on my porch. Come have some more soup. It's nice to finally find a fan."
Â© Susan K Barton 2007
This was written for the Short Story First Line Challenge, week 21. See http://firstlinego.gather.com/ for further information. Join the group to join in the fun. You'll find fun competition if you write; lots of good short stories to read, even if you don't.
If you liked this story, you might like to read some of my other stories which you can find by clicking on this link.