It happened in the Idaho desert. The rodeo clown: Brody wants the thrill of bullfighting and the wind at his feet. The actuary: Rita doesn't want anything to do with a busted up cowboy--and odds are, Brody will be. The mule: Socrates understands humans. And love, even if humans don't.***
Can Socrates lead Brody to Rita's heart? Will Rita let herself take the biggest risk of all?
Humans are so stubborn.
But never let it be said that we mules don't take care of our humans. Mine is Brody Alexander. I'm Socrates, master of cogitation and entertainer of both large and small children.
Infinite patience is required to endure Brody's abstinence. Granted, we john mules do have it easier than men. We don't have this hormone thing going on so we don't spend our lives trying to make little mules.
That gives us lots more time to cogitate. And believe me, I can think of a few more species who could do with a little thoughtful uncommon sense.
Human males, for instance. Why, they seem to spend every waking hour thinking about sex, getting sex, or being disappointed by not having sex.
That's how I see it. Except I left one thing out--human males need more than sex. They need love. My human could use a little loving these days. Why, he's been moping around worse than a porcupine on a bad hair day.
That's where the cogitating comes in. If testosterone hadn't clouded Brody's thinking, he'd already know what he needs. Funny thing, those hormones.
The way I see it, my job is to help his brain listen to his other parts--especially his heart. And I have the answer. Yes, sir, I do. I just saw a pretty little filly drive down the road, the very same one who mooned over Brody ten years ago.
It's time for action.
Brody Alexander stomped into the house and threw his battered Stetson on the table. "Luke, have you seen that dang mule? He's let himself out of the barn again."
Luke smashed his cigarette in the ashtray. "Nope, but I s'pose he'll show up once he gets a little hungry. Or cold. Old Socrates don't like the cold." Luke slurped his coffee and let out a satisfied sigh. "There's scrambled eggs on the stove."
The phone rang. He nodded toward it. "That might be him now."
"Don't be a smart ass." Brody yanked the handset off the cradle. "Hello."
"Howdy. Your mule's in our pantry eating apples." He recognized the partly annoyed, partly amused voice of Judy Markum, the middle-aged widow from up the road.
"Uh, sorry, ma'am. I'll be right over."
Luke chuckled. "It was him, wasn't it?"
"Smart ass." Grabbing his hat, Brody made for the pickup and hitched up the trailer--the splint on his left arm not making the task any easier, or his humor any better. Sometimes he'd like to kick that dang mule into next Sunday.
Perseus, his Australian Shepherd, hopped into the pickup before Brody had the door halfway open. The old '62 Chevy was already warmed up from hauling feed to the cattle. The heater worked even if the rest of the pickup decided not to--a blessing in the crisp autumn Owyhee mornings. He took off for the Markum place.
Five minutes of bumpy dirt road later, he pulled in front of Judy's white stucco house with yellow trim. Snapdragons and petunias grew along the perimeter of the house, and the tinkle of the wind chimes seemed to smile on visitors.
She stood in the front doorway propped on her crutches, waving him in. At least she had a smile on her weathered face. He got out of the pickup and tipped his hat at her.
"Good morning, Judy."
Her dog, Beauty, ran up and nuzzled his hand. He obliged her with a few quick scratches behind her ears. A late-model tan Volvo was parked beside the Markum barn. He smirked, knowing that no local would have an expensive, foreign car with no ground clearance. Socrates had picked a mighty poor time to work up a hunger for the neighbor's apples.
"Come on in, Brody." Judy seemed quite happy for a woman with a mule in her house.
He took off his hat and trudged in. "Evenin', ma'am. I'm sorry about Socrates. Where is he? I'll get him out of your hair."
"It's my apples I'm worried about, not my hair." She pointed to a curtained room off the kitchen. "He's in there. Probably the happiest miniature mule in the world right now."
Brody made for the pantry, ready to give that mule the what-for. But the obnoxious beast beat him to the punch, sauntering out with a Red Delicious in his mouth. Socrates dodged Brody's one-handed grab for the halter and trotted into the living room.
Brody gritted his teeth. Judy's guests would be in there, and here he had to chase a flea-bitten mule. Oh well, might as well act the clown. After all, he did it for a living.
"I do not want that animal on my new carpet!" Judy hobbled after him.
He held her back and called to the mule, "Socrates, get your tush out here." In two long strides, Brody managed to grab the mule's halter. "What in the Sam Hill do you think you're doing? Let's go home."
"Hello, cowboy." The feminine voice was sultry, and familiar.
Brody stopped cold, took a breath, and turned toward the voice.
There she sat on the couch, little Rita Markum, holding the apple Socrates had brought her. Only she wasn't little anymore. Not that she'd grown taller or gotten fat. Nope, she'd filled out into one helluva woman. He felt a certain amount of compassion for old Adam in the Garden of Eden. If Eve bore any resemblance to Rita, poor Adam never had a chance.
You can read all of Chapter One here, or see the book video featuring the music of Justin Saragueta. Stay tuned on Sunday when Jacquie will answer questions and offer a cool contest prize!