Lick Mortensen headed east into the desert. In his pack he carried enough supplies for three days and a small container holding his dogs ashes.
It had been a difficult week and getting away from civilization, society, people is all the he desired. Losing his dog had been the worst of it and now he wanted to go spread his ‘best friend’s ashes and be done with the heart ache of it.
Three days earlier, 13-year-old Donny Robbins had run away from his fourth foster home. He’d given it a week, but after that had become certain he was only there because no place else would take him and the older couple needed the money the state and county provided.
The teenager had no idea where he was headed when he found the trail north into the desert. Nor did he have any idea how arduous a journey he’d taken on with only his jacket on his back.
Lick decided on a spot some 50 feet from the finger-canyon’s rim, having located a small rivulet of water dripping over the edge and copse of Aspen to camp under.
“Tomorrow, Ol’ Roy,” he said to the small package that still rested in the bottom of his pack.
Donny lost track of time, had it been three days or four, since he’d fallen down the hillside into what he called a ravine.
“Thank god,” he said, as he nursed his bruised ribs and a sharp gash on his cheek, “that it wasn’t any deeper, I might have died.”
Then he recalled how he couldn’t get out of the ravine and with no one around, he might die anyway. He looked at the dripping water that fell from the lip of his tomb.
Morning was nearly present. The sun had not yet come up over the mountains in the distances, but the eastern sky was turning a lighter shade of gray with each passing moments.
Lick has a small fire going and a few strips of bacon sizzling in the pan. To those he added some pancake batter and began cooking them as one.
With breakfast served, he leaned back and watched the sun peak over the Ruby Mountains.
Donny, huddled against the smooth stone wall of his trap and tried to sleep. It had been too cold to fall asleep completely, so he allowed him self to catch snatches of rest here and there and to dream.
This morning, as the sun rose someplace beyond where he could see or feel it, he dreamed of bacon. The odor had been so real that it woke him from his restless slumber with a start.
Once he was awake, sitting up and rubbing his cold and numb legs and arms, the smell of cooking bacon held steady on his mind. In fact, Donny was certain the scent was real and not simply a figment of his half-dead imagination.
“Hey!” he cried out.
Lick had been busy stowing his gear in his back pack when he thought he heard an echoing shout. He stopped and standing still, he held his breath, looked around and listening.
There it was again, this time coming from the nearby canyon. Cautiously, he walked to the edge of the rock and dirt escarpment and looked over.
A pair of eye’s looked back and up at him. The skin about those eyes was crushed in dust and haggard looking, lost and without hope.
“Eh, can you help a fella out, mister?” Donny asked in a weak voice.