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Companionship had never been part of the plan for Bart.

And he certainly never figured he’d take on a partner. Heck, the whole reason Bart headed west in the first place wast to get away from people, stand on his own for the first time in his life.

At thirty, it was well past time.

But then Jack just sort of showed up one night … and Bart was sure glad he had. Why, if it hadn’t been for Jack hollering and carrying on, Bart would have never even known the bear had found his campsite.

Well, least not until the bear woke him up in his own way.

As things went, the two of them managed to scare the beast off. Once they settled their nerves a bit, Bart offered up some of his leftover beans and jerky, and Jack accepted heartily. Next morning, they said their goodbyes and went on their way.

Wasn’t a week later that Bart found what he was looking for — a little spot of land where he could build out a modest ranch, spend his days working the land.

And, wouldn’t you know it? A stranger showed up on Bart’s second night at the new place, before he even had a shelter built. Looking for work, and a place to settle in for a bit.

Only … it wasn’t a stranger at all. It was Jack.

Time sure can pass by in a flash when a man is busy building a life. Even out in the wilderness, where his mind is clear, the bustle of each day can cause him to miss some things.

Like the slow decline of a beloved friend.

“Get back inside,” Bart said when Jack poked his out of the cabin into the cool morning air. “I’ll be in to feed you directly.”

Five years was a long time for a dog, and Bart didn’t know how much time they had left together. It was his duty to make those days the best of Jack’s life.

He owed that much — and so much more — to his friend, his partner.

Published inFlash Fiction

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