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The orange flicker of the firelight turned Bobby’s round face into a twin of the harvest moon peeking over his left shoulder.

Ralph almost felt sorry about the whole thing — he was glad Bobby was the ranch hand Parker paired with him for herd-watch that night, but it also made him a little sad.

“Sure is a majestic harvest moon we got watchin’ over us tonight,” Ralph said, nodding to the sky.

Bobby looked behind him and snickered. “What you mean, ‘harvest’ moon, Rube? That there’s a hunter’s moon. Ain’t nothing out here on the range to harvest, ‘cept maybe a few cactuses and a scorpion sting or two.”

Rube … that’s what the other men on the farm had taken to calling Ralph when they found out he was from Indiana. It nibbled up under his skin, but he let it slide, mostly.

“There’s always a harvest to be had if you know where to look, Bobby.” Ralph stepped up next to his companion and rested one hand on Bobby’s shoulder.

“Besides, you can’t have a harvest wolf without a harvest moon.”

“Harvest wolf?” Bobby sounded uneasy.

“Sure … back home, they say a moon like that calls out to the harvest wolf, and if you hear him call back … well, he’ll come visit you. Help set things right.”

The two men stood in silence for a few moments. Finally, Ralph whispered, “Did you hear that?”

“I didn’t hear …”

“Shhhh.” Ralph cupped a hand to his ear. “Listen.”

Somewhere beyond the horizon, a lonely wolf howled.

Bobby grinned in relief and brushed Ralph’s hand away from his shoulder. “Aw, Ralph, that’s just a reg’lar old …”

But Bobby smelled the must and felt the coarse hair between his fingers too late to stop Rube from setting things right.

Published inFlash Fiction

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