A Small White Scarby K. A. Nuzum
All his life, Will has cared for his twin brother, Denny, who has Down syndrome. An excellent ranch hand and rodeo rider, Will plans to leave Denny and his father's ranch and win a large purse at the La Junta rodeo.
- Harpercollins Childrens Books
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.30(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.70(d)
- Age Range:
- 10 - 13 Years
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A Small White Scar
By K. Nuzum
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 K. Nuzum
All right reserved.
It was close to midnight. The crickets sang loud and steady. The July air was so hot and heavy it made me sweat just to push each breath from my lungs. From my cot on the ranch house's screened front porch I picked out the single stars and constellations in the black Colorado sky that Momma had taught me when I was little.
The Northern Cross stretched its arms wide across the Milky Way. All the dimmer stars were washed out by the light of the round, white moon, but in the south, Vega still shone bright.
A coyote keened and wailed close by. I held my breath and strained my ears, trying to tell if it was the devil I'd been gunning for the last months. The one that chewed up my dog Lucille so bad I had to shoot her. I'd spotted him at least a dozen times, him and his stubby, damaged tail. I'd even fired a couple shots at him, but I was never close enough. Though he was always far distant, I felt like I knew him. I'd seen him hunt and knew he favored ground squirrels for dinner, but didn't care for their tails. He always gnawed them off and left them stiff and dry on the ground. His paws were narrow but thick-padded; his prints jumped out at me from all the other coyote tracks that crisscrossed the ranch. And I knew he was a loner; his tracks showed him always solitary, never witha pack, never with a companion. I was the only one in the wide world, I figured, who kept track of him, cared where he was and what he was up to.
The coyote's prickly voice joined with Denny's snoring across the porch; and I felt like I'd jump out of my skin.
Denny always snored. Most nights I had to get up and roll him over on his cot to make him stop. I never slept through the night.
I folded my arms behind my head and bent them so they covered my ears. I had figured up that if Denny had been snoring for fifteen years, snoring every night since 1925 when we were born, that meant I'd been tossing and turning for over five thousand nights.
No, sir, I never slept through the night. But it wasn't always Denny's snoring that woke me first; sometimes it was the dream.
That night I got in a good two hours of sleep before the dream woke me up. In the dream, it was me and Denny out riding. When we reined in we were far out on the prairie. It was late in the day, and the weather had settled in so I couldn't even see the mesa. No rock outcroppings. No junipers, no pinon pine. There was only Denny and me. I turned to remind him to keep the reins loose when he jumped down so he wouldn't tug on Scooty's mouth. His arms were too short, so he always ended up yanking on the reins when he got off, and that made Scooty back up, and then Denny would get his foot stuck in the stirrup and have to hop backward to keep up with her. Half the time he ended up on the ground, scraped and bruised and feeling disgusted with himself.
But when I turned, Denny was already down and waiting on me. And he was changed. His face wasn't all slack anymore, his eyes weren't small and slanted, and when I looked into them, I saw that he looked just like me, instead of like a cartoon drawing of me.
Finally, I thought, my real twin brother. This was how it was supposed to be. I was so happy.
I felt like a five-hundred-pound boulder had been lifted off my shoulders. This was what I'd always wanted.
I would keep looking into Denny's eyes and begin to see myself reflected there. I had changed too. My face was all lax, my eyes were tilted up. I had a big ol' grin spread ear to ear.
And that is when I woke up every time. And every time, my heart pounded in my chest, my breath so fast my head spun, and my cheeks burned from the hot tears running over them.
I pulled on my jeans and boots and eased the creaky screen door open. I stepped into the night and took a deep breath that filled me with relief.
I was alone.
Denny was asleep. He would not follow me.
My father was asleep upstairs and wouldn't tell me to go check on Denny.
Deep heard me. From over in the corral he gave a nicker. I pushed through the hot air to the rail fence. His light, ghostly form moved toward me, and as it drew closer, took on his regular, beautiful horse shape. He nudged his soft, whiskery muzzle into my hand and blew. The other horses wandered over too, thinking I might have food. They all ambled off again pretty quick. Except for Deep.
Deep and I were partners, companeros. We were about as close as a two-legged fifteen-year-old and a four-legged eight-year-old could be. We depended on each other. We liked the same things, too: speed, competition and freedom.
Deep's name was no accident. He was the deepest-bottomed horse there ever was; he had the endurance of three horses. He could outrun any in a short race and outlast any on a long haul. He was a quarter horse, a roan with a mane as black as pitch and a tail the same, except for a tuft of short hair at the base, which was stark, stark white. His flanks were the lightest gray with black and brown spots, like an Appie, but smaller. The spots didn't show up until he was almost three, then everybody tried to get me to change his name to Dice, but it was too late. He'd already shown the stuff he was made of, and he was Deep.
Excerpted from A Small White Scar by K. Nuzum Copyright © 2006 by K. Nuzum. Excerpted by permission.
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