A serial novel

Welcome to my serial novel! (ie - I'm making this up as I go...)

New here? Read the first chapter, than catch up on the blog archive.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

3. Dangerous Trail

Seriously, how does one go about obtaining a adventure?  I always do my best thinking on horseback, so headed out to the stable to ride.  As I was throwing a saddle pad on my mare Estella, I called out to a rider coming in the gate, off the trails. 

“Good ride?”

“Hell ya! - finally broke my 5 mph average this week!”

Linda was an endurance rider.  A bit of a strange duck.  Obsessed with color matching her tack and riding tights and constantly muttering about heart rate recovers and “CRIs”.  And I'm pretty sure I saw her peeing in the bushes once with her horse munching grass besides her - she actually waved to me as I rode by and said something about practicing the "cavalry" thing for an upcoming ride.  I preferred to do the “casual acquaintance” thing and throw out a hello or two, but avoid deep conversation. 

Linda reached down and patted Boomer’s neck.  “I think he’s finally ready.  We have a 35 mile ride scheduled in 4 weeks.  I’ve been working to get his trot up to 9-10 mph be able to maintain at least a 5 mph average and I think we’ve got it!  Got to keep moving if I'm going to do a 50 mile ride on him by the end of the season”. 

I let the blur of numbers sail pass my head and nodded politely as I tightened Estella’s girth. 

“Did you hear? Another horse went off the side on the American River trail”. 

I straightened up.  I may not be a serious trail rider, but even I couldn’t miss the buzz that was going in the news.  “Really? Isn’t that the second horse this year?”

“Yep.  No riders have gone off the side yet, and at least this one survived.  The Veterinary Emergency Response Team (VERT) headed out a couple hours ago to assist with the rescue.”

“Do they have any details on the fall?”

“Nope.  Just like the others, the rider said he felt dizzy for a moment, stumbled, and when he looked back his horse was gone - exactly at the same spot the horse went off the trail last month, and the same spot as the others last year.  Apparently, there’s going to be an actual investigation now”. 

In the last three years there had been some curious accidents on the trail that paralleled the American River.  Five horses had disappeared off the trail in the last two seasons.  One had fallen with his rider.  Two of the horses had never been found.  One, the horse from today, was alive.  Two had been found dead either in the river or on the way down.  The trail was a popular one and with it’s narrow single track only 18 inches wide, with a steep hill on one side and a drop off heading straight down to the river hundreds of feet below, accidents weren’t unheard of, but there certainly seemed like something funny was going on.

Linda was continuing to talk.  “I was considering doing a training ride there next weekend but now I don’t know.  There’s something weird going on.” 

“Hope they get it figured out”, I replied.  I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket and stepped away from Linda who was rinsing Boomer off to answer it.

“Hi Jessica, what’s up?”

2. Adventure Wanted

“Let’s run”

I shrugged my shoulders and followed my friend’s quickened steps.  I desperately tried to pretend that I wasn’t gasping for breath by the first corner.

“Are you OK?”

“Yeah, I just forgot to use my inhaler.  I’m not going to die, it just takes longer for me to warm up without it”. 

“Great - that means I get to do the talking and you get to listen.  Lots of people get rejected at least once.  Veterinary medicine is competitive and you have the credentials to get in, you just need to keep trying”.

I managed a single “ah” between heavy breaths.  How is it that my complexion looks like a ripe tomato at all times during and after exercise, and Jessica’s skin is always a radiant tan?

This morning I had gotten my official rejection letter from the last school I had applied to and was waiting to here from.  An email actually.  Apparently that’s how things are done nowadays.  I was wait-listed at my school of choice, but at #42 at a top ranked school, it was doubtful I would get in.  According to the administration office, typically only the top 20 or so wait-listed students end up getting a spot. 

“Molly, are you listening to me?  Are you ready for the next application cycle? You are a good candidate and should absolutely re-apply”

She should know - she had written me a glowing letter reference.  By some cruel twist of fate, rejections come in April/May, just in time to start the application process all over again in June, with applications due at the end of summer in September.  I had a whole whopping three months to make myself a more desirable candidate according to the selection committee’s unknown algorithm that chooses the incoming class of vet students from among the thousands of equally qualified and interesting candidates. 

“I don’t know what to do, Jessica”, I said between gasping breathes between strides.  “I feel like if my current experience didn’t get me into school, three more months of the same certainly isn’t going to help.

“You want my advice?  Find something that interests you this summer and go for it - regardless of how applicable to “vet medicine” you think it is.  What sets you apart from the other candidates isn’t going to be stellar grades or long volunteer hours or how much you care about animals.  At this point everyone has demonstrated they can succeed academically or in a clinic.  Instead, go do something different, enjoy yourself, and attempt to be a more interesting person.”

We slowed to a walk as we entered the gym for our weekly racket ball session. 

Jessica held the door open for me and then stopped me half way through.

“Molly - I’m serious.  I've decided this is your last week in the clinic - you’ve worked hard for two years with me and you are right.  Three more months isn’t going to significantly improve your application.  As of this week you are officially free to enjoy a summer adventure.”

I nodded.  Jessica had started in a local clinic as a new DVM graduate two years ago and when the clinic owner had let me volunteer as a favor to a friend, Jessica had immediately taken me under her wing.  It was because of her that I had finally decided for certain I wanted to become a veterinarian. 

“Fine”, I said smiling, “I’ll start applying for that adventure immediately - does one write a ‘wanted’ ad for this sort of thing?  ‘Three month adventure wanted - must be completed by end of August with no lasting bodily harm.  Animal-related adventures preferred’”. 

Jessica rolled her eyes and laughed. 

I passed my card over the desk and told the clerk “Court #2, two rackets and a ball please”.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

1. Prologue

I flopped down belly first and spread my arms and legs in a vain effort to create maximum friction between me and the dirt, rock, and the dried vegetation that was carrying me down the side of the dark cliff, to the river far below.  To my right I could hear the heavy thumps and grunts of a 1000 pound animal that was accompanying me in the fall.  I was briefly reminded of a physics lesson where I learned that a feather and bowling ball fall at the same rate in a vacuum and wondered which one of us was going to reach the bottom first, considering I was currently in the lead.

Mostly I didn't care as long as I ended up on top.

In the next moment the toe of my boot caught in a low shrub and swung me around abruptly 180 degrees, my head pointed down hill.  Suspended, I watched as my horse catapult above me, the flash of glowbars on the breast collar spinning above me and then - stop. 

In the absolute darkness below me I watched the three spots of green glow oscillate slowly with the breath of the horse, but remain solidly in place. 

I cautiously raised my hands above my head and stretched my finger tips toward the green glow.  My fingertips touched solid ground.  I carefully slipped my boot off where it was fixed in the bush and slid onto my arms in a bastard handstand before scootching my bum over to the left and falling onto the ledge in a heap. 

I lay there for several minutes, wanting to gasp and choke in air in relief and gratitude, but tried to breathe as quietly as possible.  I listened for any sound above that would indicate that the person who started my impromptu sled ride was still around to make sure there were no unscheduled stops on my way down to the American River. 

Estella sighed as I crawled up to her and since her breathing didn’t appear labored, I hoped the darkness wasn’t hiding anything more than cuts and bruises.  I unwrapped the black electrical tape holding the glow bars onto Estella’s breast collar, hid them inside my gloves and then put them in my helmet so I wouldn’t lose track of my only light source.  Satisfied I was as hidden as possible I tucked myself against the cliff wall, out of the way of flailing hooves if Estella decided to get up, and settled in for a long night.