Summer of the Ancient

 

Excerpt

(From) Chapter 1

Weaver Rock

…Kneeling, I fished a jade scarf with silver crescent moons out of my pocket and unfolded it. To keep the wind from stealing it, I weighted the edges down with the canteen and an Almond Joy. Tucked inside the scarf were relics I’d found earlier on the anthill beside Red Rocks.

Our healthy Rez ants were amazing. They found tiny pieces of history in their daily work and added them to the outsides of their pebbly mounds. Sometimes I wondered what it would be like carrying things fifty times heavier than my own weight like they did. Birdie said that was too boring, but I still wondered.

My treasures today were a yellowed bead fragment pocked with time scars and a pottery shard almost half the size of a bottle cap. I wet my finger and rubbed it over the ancient pottery piece. Two thin black lines appeared from under the dirt. Wow—a great piece for my collection.

I sipped from the canteen. Yuck. Warm canteen water tasted like metal. My stomach gurgled for food. Today I had one of Birdie’s and my favorite adventure lunches—fry bread covered with smashed pinto beans and roasted pinion nuts. I un-wrapped it from the waxed paper and missed Birdie something terrible.

Smiles snorted and jerked his head so hard his snaffle bit jingled like a dog collar in an after-swim shake. Goosebumps circled my scalp. I spun around on my rump and eagle-eyed in every direction to check for a snake or mountain lion. Nothing slithered away, and no beady eyes stared at me from the trees. I was double-dog glad of it too.

“Settle down, Smiles,” I ordered in a shaky voice. His horse sense said something was wrong, but maybe he was just picking up on my morning nerves. “Hey, beauty, that rice grass tickling your hooves looks delicious.”

That was supposed to be a little humorous, but Smiles neighed moodily. I waited to see if he’d start eating again. He didn’t.

My Auntie Jane said it was a stupid thing not to listen to a horse. Mine was telling me it was time to leave. I jelly-rolled the relics back into the scarf and shoved them in my pocket. Shade spread over us like a tarp, and I looked up to see the sun playing in-and-out tag with a stack of clouds above Towering Cliff.

I pushed my stomach in to stop its complaining and decided I had time for a few bites before climbing down. My bread was an inch from my lips when Smiles squealed and whirled a quarter turn. I jumped so hard I kicked my candy bar off the rock. My fry bread splattered beans-side-down by my feet.

As I twisted to follow Smiles’ wild-eyed stare, something leaped from the rocky outcrop beside Weaver Rock to a lower ledge. An agonizing shriek filled the air—then another one—as the winged creature plunged into the trees below. It crashed noisily through the brush up the side of the mountain.

Then, nothing.

Silence surrounded us like a blanket.