2005 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
Best Original Character - Heidi
2005 Papa Bear Awards - Third Place
Most Unique Story
2005 Papa Bear Awards - First Place
Best Short Story
Her legs twitched, as she lay sleeping on her side. They always twitched when she slept, especially when she dreamt of rabbits. Big, tender, tasty rabbits. A lush field suddenly teaming with them, and they were all hers. Her mouth began to quiver, salivating at the thought of how it would taste when she finally caught one. She was on the heels of one now, her legs moving faster beneath her, almost flying across the ground, the fur of her prey’s hind quarters ruffling as her breath blew out with each powerful lungful of air. She neared, extending her taut body toward her target and opened her jaws… and heard the guttural laughter of the guards on patrol in the compound, stirring her from her fantasy.
Annoyed, she arched her back and elongated her legs, issuing a throaty growl mid-stretch at their disturbance. Couldn’t they have waited just another second? She had almost won her prize that time. Settling back in on the bed of loose straw, she shifted her muzzle to avoid a tickling strand. Her gaze contentedly scanned the compound from her ground-level vantage point, and instantly she spotted him, her ears perking at the sight.
He was crouched low beside the wheel well of a large truck outside the guard’s barracks, his body tensed and pressed against the vehicle for cover. His head anxiously swiveled back toward the tower. He had heard them, too. Those two guards who had disturbed her sleep with their ribald exchange of jokes. They were walking in his direction and would soon come level with the truck.
The problem was the searchlights sweeping the compound in their lazy, rhythmic arcs. He had timed his hurried movements across the compound, scrambling breathlessly between each meager patch of relative safety where the beams failed to penetrate. First the edge of a guard shack just inside the wire where the fence had long ago been breached. Then on to the blind side of rarely-used fire-fighting apparatus and from there to the stacks of water barrels and finally the parked vehicle. She had watched him make that hazardous journey countless times before. But this time it wasn’t going well.
His eyes darted over at where she lay, his brow furrowed with worry. Licking his lips anxiously he realized he could not retreat from where he momentarily hid. Their study of the patchwork of searchlights accommodated movement in only one direction. To return meant guessing as to whether each footstep would mean instant peril or temporary sanctuary. He heard the voices approaching; another second and they would be upon him. His eyes, questioning, desperate, swept the expanse of open compound to no avail. She knew without thinking what she had to do.
In an instant she bolted through the open door of her shingled house. Lunging for the far end of the wire enclosure, her deafening barks insistently pierced the night air. Purposely agitated, she hurled herself at the chain link fence, her thick, muscular chest and shoulders cushioning the impact as she rebounded again and again. The two guards abruptly reversed direction, their gear clanging against their field belts, as they scrambled across the compound. Voices shouted. The searchlights instantly deviated from their pattern, tearing frantically toward the perimeter fence and the dense woods beyond. More harsh yells. She intensified her strident display, her dark eyes blazing at an imaginary point well beyond the fence line. Blazing deceptively at a point precisely in the opposite direction from where her dark-haired hero now breathed a quick sigh of relief.
As all attention briefly focused away from the compound center, he bolted across the remaining expanse of open ground, the leather-clad end of his trench coat belt slapping softly with the movement. Silently, he slipped the latch and opened the gate to the wire pen, pausing with a wince as the hinges momentarily complained. Her shrill vocalizing sharpened, masking the rusty protest. He smiled gratefully, shaking his head in amazement at her ever-keen instincts.
His eyes still scanning the compound, he knelt down, as one hand grasped the edge of the shelter’s wooden floor and slowly tilted it upward. Carefully, he backed his way onto the ladder below, the rungs giving slightly with his weight. He began to lower the structure before halting, appearing to suddenly remember something. His free hand reached into a coat pocket and removed an object.
“C’mere, girl, c’mon, Heidi,” he called to her softly.
She looked back at the fence line. Confusion and frantic inefficiency had them all concentrated at one spot. He was safe now, she sensed. The ignorant fools had fallen for it once again. Softly, she padded back toward the shelter, her nose investigating the pale, smooth item he held out for her. His warm brown eyes invited her to take it. Grasping the bone between her jaws, she gently slid it from his hand.
“You don’t know how much trouble you almost got me into tonight, girl,” he chuckled. “Good thing I had this with me, or Lily never would have believed it wasn’t another woman’s hair on my collar.”
His hand, strong, yet gentle, reached up to scratch behind one ear. She grunted with delight, her eyes closing to savor his touch. She dropped the bone as he began to recede into the ground once more.
“What’s the matter, girl, don’t you want it?” He sounded hurt, puzzled.
Their brown eyes met for a moment before she stretched out her head, nuzzling his face with her wet nose. He laughed, enjoying the affectionate gesture and knowing what would come next. Closing her eyes once more, her pink tongue playfully washed across his face. She loved how the stubble on his cheeks tickled her tongue’s surface. She lapped again at the corner of his mouth as he broke into a wide grin, not objecting to the intrusion.
“Yes, girl, I ordered hasenpfeffer tonight just for you.”
With a final pat, he lowered himself once more, sealing the secret entrance overhead. Proud, knowing she had done her job well, she stepped into the shelter and made her obligatory circles before settling in atop the straw bedding. Another shuffle of her legs before she sighed, contented, the taste still lingering on her tongue.
She had finally gotten her rabbit.
For all you canine lovers out there—hope you enjoyed this!
dog searches until he finds me upstairs,
lies down with a clatter of elbows,
puts his head on my foot.
Sometimes the sound of his breathing
saves my life--in and out, in and out:
a pause, a long sigh...
from Jane Kenyon’s “White Daffodils”
Text and original characters copyright 2004 by Nina Stephens
This copyright covers only original material and characters, and in no way intends to infringe upon the privileges of the holders of the copyrights, trademarks, or other legal rights, for the Hogan's Heroes universe.