Excerpt from Chapter 5: A “Crazy Mistake”

Tara turned from the purposeful vet, the wounded pony, and the muddled girl. She could not allow her uneasiness to take advantage of her for one more second. Haven’t I just witnessed enough? It’s simply not possible that there’s any more to this. It’s over.
    She opened the door of her Cherokee and patted the top of Yam’s head as she snapped a leash to his collar. “Let’s you and I take a little breather and go for a walk.”
    Yam cocked his ears and studied her with great anticipation as the word “walk” hit the air. He waited.
    She turned from him and looked back at the tragic scene. “We’re not needed here. Mama needs a break and I’m certain after all the horror we’ve witnessed, a good long walk would give us both some much need…”
    She was suddenly yanked from her soliloquy.
    Yam had jumped to the ground as soon as the second “walk” had sprung from her mouth, then started towards the road, away from that all too familiar medicinal smell.
    “Yam!” Tara stumbled after him, then found her footing and pulled back on the taut leash.
    Yam stopped. His ears dropped down and back. Crap.
    “Mama needs two seconds!”
    She looked around. “We are NOT going out to the road. For all we know that yellow beast will come running back up it and you will be forced into a street fight! Something you may well lose, despite your considerable weight advantage. I have not raised you to fight!”
    She brushed her slacks with her free hand, feeling somehow even more unkempt from her near tumble. “However, I will respect your obvious, albeit foolishly misguided, need to avoid getting any closer to the ‘dreaded vet.’ So, we will go this way.” She tugged decisively on the leash and strode off the driveway onto the front lawn of the house.
    Yam’s ears rose as he followed her lead and, once by her side, he jubilantly sniffed the air. The dreaded smell had faded.
    Once they’d crossed the yard to the far side of the house, Tara spotted the dock Otis had mentioned. It stood eerily alone, reaching out over a body of water that was as vast as an ocean. She strained to see a far shore, a near shore, anything at all. She stopped. Yam stopped. Her chest tightened as air ceased to move freely in and out. What IS going on?
    The distant roar of a dog or two in Otis’s kennel on the far side of the pond caught her attention momentarily. What might they know that I don’t?
    That’s when everything that had happened in the few hours since her arrival came screaming back in vivid color, turning and twisting, searching for a way to drop her, yet again, to her knees.
    She braced herself and sucked in a deep defensive breath. Then in a sudden singular and utterly unwitting motion, she dropped Yam’s leash, kicked off her shoes, dropped her pants, panties, blouse, and bra, and ran with the adeptness of a ten year old through the grass, out to the end of the dock where she let out a joyful scream and flung herself into the vast blue unknown.
    Yam stood where she’d left him, astounded, head cocked.
    Tara surfaced, splashing, howling with laughter. She spun in circles, dunked down and up and down and up, then looked to her precious boy, who was far away and stood stock-still. She splashed again and yelled to him, “Your mama’s lost her mind. She hates to swim, she’s naked as the day she was born, and she doesn’t care a hair, not one tiny hair!” She spun and splashed, and howled. “I am your bare bottomed mama!!”
    Yam suddenly barreled towards her, full speed, out onto the dock, stopping just short of the end.
    His roar interrupted hers. She looked up at him. He was staring past her, lips flared, hair raised.
    A voice boomed through a megaphone. “MA’AM, IS EVERYTHING OKAY?”
    Tara swung around. A police boat that was a fair distance away was moving slowly towards her.
    She felt surprisingly calm as she hollered back. “CAN A WOMAN HAVE NO PEACE? PLEASE AVERT YOUR EYES AND MOVE ON!”
    Much to her surprise, the boat turned and moved on.
    Yam closed his lips with satisfaction and turned his attention to his human who was laughing and spinning round and round in the water.
    That’s when footfalls on the dock slammed into his ears. He turned.
    “Tara, you might want to put these on before that cop circles back around.”
    Yam flared his lips, yet again, in preparation. The voice was stern, but the man was familiar. He waited.
    Tara ceased spinning and looked up. She barked back, “Why hello, oh-you-who-was-doing-whatever-you-were-doing while your poor wife had to sit with a possibly dying pony and baby? You have some nerve!”
    Yam’s lips continued to flare.
    Otis looked into the amber eyes. “Take it easy, buddy.” He walked slowly backwards as he spoke. “Tara, I’m going to put your clothes down on the beach for you. Everything is okay back at the house. The ponies are going to be fine. It was all a crazy mistake.”
    He stepped off the dock and down onto the beach. “We’re planning barbecued ribs for tonight. Sound good?” He put the clothes on the ground and headed back towards the house, shaking his head.
    Tara looked at Yam, who was now looking down at her. “Now, there’s a man who is scrambling to come up clean from a dirty bath—just can’t do it though, can he?” She sighed and gently breaststroked towards the shore. Her wild breach of etiquette had thoroughly calmed her.
    Yam followed from above.
    When she emerged from the water, she noted a towel lying amongst the clothes. She smiled as she picked it up and wrapped it confidently around her naked torso. “Otis is quite simply a skittish, self-conscious man who fled from an unfortunate situation. A cookout to make up for behavior he’s clearly embarrassed about, sounds just right.”
    As she walked, clothes tucked under one arm, Yam at her side, it occurred to her that a hot tub would be a wonderful next stop. She made a thirty-degree correction in direction and headed towards the side deck of the house. Her hips wiggled playfully. She felt uncannily spectacular.
    Yam moved out a bit from her side as he glanced up at her. In that moment, he was uncertain of his human.