Rez Dogs and Scooter Trash by Deirdre O'Dare
Adam was not there when his kid brother needed guidance and a firm hand. Back from two tours with Special Forces, he starts a youth center on the Rez to try to atone for his error but he cannot give up his Harley or his image as one bad ass biker. When an outsider starts a shelter for abused and neglected dogs, Adam initially finds it ludicrous but then recognizes a purpose similar to his own. But the stranger seems to fear or hate bikers and is reluctant to begin a friendship. When crime and danger threaten both their projects, they have to join forces to prevail and suppressed attraction bursts into flame.
Excerpt: (Meet Adam and Mike...)
NM State Highway 164
Mid-afternoon, late winter
Sometimes a man just had to ride—fast and far. The bad part was you couldn’t outrun those damned demons, no matter how fast or far you went. Memories, mistakes and missed chances always rode right along. In the end, all you could do was say fuck it and keep on keeping on.
Adam Bolt, Navajo and Kiowa, veteran and rebel, knew he’d missed his era. He should have lived about 1850 when his steed would have been a ragged but tough mustang stallion, one he’d walked down in the wild and tamed himself. He’d be a solitary warrior, someone they told kids stories about at night…cautionary tales to the boys and warnings to the girls. Wild stallions were hard to find in 2012, though, so he rode his Harley instead. With the custom paint job he’d done on the scooter, it never disappeared in the crowd, and by now most folks on the Rez knew who just blew past them.
The biting wind whipped his hair, tearing it free from the braid hanging down his back. It had been one hell of a fight, but somehow he managed not to cut his hair, even when he joined the National Guard and went to the Middle East. Claiming religious freedom finally won the day. In the end, though, it was a pyrrhic victory. He’d served out his six-year enlistment and made a fast exit, but the rebel and troublemaker label would likely follow him until doomsday.
Even behind his mirrored sunglasses, the same wind stung tears from his eyes. There’d be a storm by nightfall. Maybe this one would bring some much-needed moisture. They didn’t call the reservation area high desert for nothing. Although it could get plenty cold, mostly it stayed very dry.
In the back of his mind, a voice much like his mother’s chided him, ordering him to slow down and put his helmet back on before he crashed and cracked his skull.
Do I look like I give a flying fuck? If they have to come and scrape me off the road in an hour or two, who’s left to care?
From what he’d heard, a roach or a snort of dream dust could make him feel all better. Even a bottle of cheap wine might help, but he refused to surrender his soul to drink and drugs. In the end, those demons would be even worse. For now, he’d wrestle with the ones he’d earned and owned, letting alone the kind that sneaked in on the shadows of a brief respite.
Near sundown, he turned off the highway onto a narrow, dusty double track. It led him a couple of miles to the little house crouched under the sheltering bulwark of an eroded, rusty-hued cliff. The place wasn’t much, but it was home, a safe den to return to, lonely but totally his.
He wheeled the bike under a brush-roofed shelter, kicked down the stand and then threw an old tarp over it. On his way across to the door of his house, he passed the faded, rusty Chevy pickup. It had once been his grandfather’s. On the dented bumper a newer sticker boasted, My other car’s a Harley. What’s yours? He slapped the left rear fender, much as he would the haunch of a horse he’d turned loose.
After a second’s pause, he continued to the never-locked front, back and only door into the house—a house he’d designed and built himself. It stood near the site of the crumbling hogan in which he’d grown up. That ruin held many ghosts, even tchindis, but he didn’t fear such lingering spirits. If he left them alone, mostly they’d leave him alone. His personal demons were newer and held little trace of the local haunts.
* * *
Not long afterward, across the Navajo Reservation to the south, in Gallup, New Mexico, Michael Dufrane drove his battered van into the Motel 6 parking lot and stopped across from the door marked Office. In the lot’s circle of light, he saw the first swirling flakes of snow, borne on a biting northwest wind. Although he knew he must be thrifty with the foundation’s funds, the van was loaded to the gills with gear he’d need to begin his project. And it was getting cold. The heater didn’t always work and he would not want to leave it running all night anyway. Sleeping on the ground tonight didn’t look feasible and trying to drive much farther didn’t either. But with any luck, tomorrow he’d be there.
He’d finally found his passion. For his first eighteen years, his sole purpose had been escape—from poverty, from an abusive biker father who came and went, and from the hurtful labels like trailer trash and, even worse, slurs directed at his racially mixed ancestry. He’d managed to get into the army right after 9-11, the first step in his get-away. In Afghanistan, he’d encountered representatives of the International Foundation for Prevention of Cruelty (IFPCA) to Animals. In their quiet but determined way, they’d been fighting right alongside the troops, rescuing dogs and occasionally other creatures caught up in the storms of war. When he helped rescue a puppy for the family of a fallen buddy, it all started to come together, although the seed lay dormant for some time.
The idea, buried deep in his soul, emerged once he’d completed his enlistment and recognized military life was not right for him as a career. He wanted to do visible good, not kill or repeat the violence he’d always known. He could readily identify with abandoned animals, and those neglected or actually abused. Been there and done that. A child was almost as helpless as a dog or cat in the face of cruel treatment. Although the search had taken some time, he’d finally found and met with people responsible for operating the IFPCA. He’d even convinced them he could work for them.
After he saw a TV special about dogs on the western reservations, where poverty, disease, drugs and alcohol took their toll on almost everyone, his goal zoomed into focus. It might not be a huge thing, but he knew he could help. Opening the shelter in Black Gap, New Mexico would be the first step. Tomorrow. He felt the magic in the concept: future, purpose, progress, even power in the ability to make a difference. Safe and snug in the simple room, he slept hard but well, free of the nightmares he often suffered, where brutality and violence painted everything in shades of red.