By Mary Farrell
Isaiahs’ lungs were labouring with deep gasps as he ran, and behind him he could hear excited yelping. On the forest floor, the footsteps of the dogs’ owner were more muted but still too close. Isaiah knew he shouldn’t have looked at the tray on the windowsill, but the smell of baking had sucked him through the trees, up to the house, right to the very sill. His stomach had spasmed with hunger at the thought of fresh bread.
“Who’s there? Get away from here. Where’s my rifle, Flo?”
“Awh, Caleb, I don’t know. Where you left it before coming to bed.”
“Someone’s out there spying on us! You sure your man’s gone hunting all weekend?”
“‘Course I’m sure! Or you wouldn’t be here. C’mon back to bed, a little more fun and then we’ll eat.”
“Nah! I saw someone. Gotta be sure they saw nothing, or your Homer’ll do for us. Ah, there’s my rifle. You let out the dogs!”
Isaiah ran for his life, back out through the trees, knowing he’d leave a trail. At the fork, which way should he go? The left had no signs of use, the right showed footprints in the mud. Did the left go nowhere, the right somewhere with people? ‘More people’ flashed like lightning in his brain. He chose the right path. Nearly four hundred tiring footsteps later, he collapsed behind a tree root and lay there panting. A shadow blocked his light. A mountain of a man stood there, carrying a rifle and three blood-stained sacks, some stains stone dry, others sweating fresh red.
“You’re a skinny little one, aren’t you? Running hard, too. You hungry? Well, how about you help me with these sacks, they’re getting real heavy. And we’ll walk back to my place where my wife Flo’ll feed us both.”