There was no time to shoulder the gun. Still clinging to the bush with one hand, I pressed the safety off with the other, grasped the trigger, shoved the gun straight ahead of me on the ground and fired point-blank. With a throaty cry, Old Screamer spun in his tracks and ran back up the cliff. The recoil from the shot wrested the gun from my grip. It flew backward into the darkness and clanged onto the rocks below.
The situation had gotten very out of hand. If my shot had gone wild, I thought, or if Old Screamer was merely wounded, he could return meaner than ever. Moses surely had escaped down the back side by the time Old Screamer came after me. I could think of no good reason to stick around. I backed rapidly down the trail on my hands and knees. At the bottom I jumped to my feet and walked quickly toward the road. Just as I reached the highway I heard something behind me. Old Screamer! With a will of their own my feet began to pound the asphalt in cadence with my pounding heart. I glanced over my shoulder. Whatever was back there was gaining. With superhuman effort I quickened my pace. A shadowy figure pulled up alongside me, and then sped past. Moses! It wasn't Old Screamer who was chasing me after all. Greatly relieved, I started to slow down. Then I thought: Maybe something's chasing Moses. I decided to keep running.
By the time we reached the town limits I'd passed Moses once and he'd passed me yet again. We ran the last quarter-mile neck and neck. Without stopping, Moses darted straight for his usual haven under the back porch. I went to my room and crawled into bed. I lay there breathing hard, my brain feverishly replaying the night's events. Had I, perhaps, bagged Old Screamer after all? Could it be that his carcass was lying up there in the rocks for me to find and lash to a pole and carry back to town in triumph? The thought quickened my pulse even more. I'd check the quarry tomorrow.
Next morning I awoke late. My father was sitting on the rear steps, his wide back to the door. He heard me step out onto the porch. "Good hunt?" he asked without turning around.
"You bet," I boasted. Omitting the embarrassing details, I told him about the perilous confrontation on the trail and how I'd managed, with considerable boldness and skill, to get off a close-range shot. "I think I got him, all right."
"Your gun's not in the closet."
"Uh...no, you see, I fell and dropped it. I'm going back to get it today."
There was a metallic clink from somewhere near my father's feet. Curious, I stepped forward. I was surprised to see Moses on his haunches between my father's legs. My father was running his fingers over Moses' head and body. At one point his fingers stopped and probed. He picked up a pair of tweezers, extracted what he'd found and dropped it into a pan on the steps. I looked into the pan. It held a half-dozen No. 5 shotgun pellets. My stomach flip-flopped. Suddenly it was all clear. It wasn't Old Screamer I'd met on the trail last night. It was Moses. I'd shot my own dog!
Without a word I went back to my bed and pulled the covers over my head. I stayed there most of the day.