A Story Written in a FLASH!

Inspired by Flash Fiction Friday prompt words.

Chica Loca (Crazy Girl)

Hector Castillo crammed his cattleman-creased hat low over his eyes. Checking fences in a bone-chilling rainstorm, ranked right up there with mucking horse stalls. A spontaneous shiver pulsed from his neck to his toes. He shifted his rain poncho. Don Julio reared his head and shook his black mane.

The wrangler swiped a gloved hand over his splattered face. “Cálmate, Don Julio!” He tugged on the reins. The quarter horse nickered and stepped sideways.

A growling animal sound merged with the rain’s pelting patter. “Oh great. Just what I need.” Hector pivoted his head in search of a bear or mountain lion.

Writhing in muddy water puddled under the barbed wire fence, a dog whimpered and snarled. Hector reined his horse toward the struggling creature. Her paws bled from scratching and digging in the muddy rocks. She tugged against a treacherous barb snared in her harness. The Border Collie’s chest heaved, and she flailed and panted. Foaming saliva drooled from her thrusting tongue.

The ranch hand dismounted and spoke gently as he inched up behind her. “Hey girl, where’d you come from?” The dog lurched and growled; her eyes wild with fear.

Hector squatted. “I just want to help. That barb has you snagged up good.” His tone was smooth and calm. “You’re gonna have to let me get close.” He reached out with a leather-gloved hand.

The dog bared her teeth, a guttural rumble vibrating in her throat. He jerked his hand back. “Chica Loca, I don’t want to lose a hand today.”

He knelt to examine the snared harness, grimacing as mud soaked into his jeans. The dog lunged and snapped at the hand he pressed to her back. Hector pressed harder, immobilizing the dog in the muddy mire. He yanked on the wire strand, but the barb dug deeper into the mesh strap with each tug.

A single fastener secured the harness. Hector struggled to release it with one hand. “Yikes! Those barbs are sharp.” He pressed a knee to the animal’s back, lifted the wire with one hand and squeezed the snap-on buckle with the other.

The harness released, and he scrambled away. The Collie thrashed and jerked, but with one strap still hooked to the fence she remained tangled in its web. Finally, the dog lay still, heaving and panting.

Hector approached with his pocketknife. “Don’t bite me, Chica Loca.” He cut the snared strap, freeing the dog. She whimpered and pulled herself out of the mudhole. From the other side of the fence, she turned and seemed to study her rescuer before disappearing into the sagebrush.


Hector returned to his empty cabin, hung the harness on a hook beside his hat and collapsed onto a floral sofa. He brushed his hand across the velvet nap, then traced an embroidered rose with his finger. “Bianca, I met a girl today. A crazy bitch with one blue eye and one brown eye.” He chuckled. His sweet wife would’ve scolded him for the derogatory description. His chest rose as he inhaled slow and steady, then fell as air rushed out across tense lips. “God, I miss you, Bianca.”

He wiped a tear from his cheek and glanced at the tattered harness. “Why a harness on a wild dog?” Hector rose from the couch and strode across the room. He turned the tangled straps in search of a dog tag. No tag. Just a name scribbled inside the leather body. “Ronan Walsh.”

Hector swiped a hand through his dark hair. “That old miner’s been dead for two years. They’re still trying to find his gold claim.” He shook his head. “Chica Loca has been wandering these hills alone. I’m surprised she survived.”

He paced from the floral sofa to the hook where he’d hung the harness. Each time, he stroked the velvet upholstery, then tapped the straps, so they bounced. Back and forth, back and forth until missing Bianca and the dog’s lonely life became one aching pain.

Hector pounced a fist off the sofa and slapped the harness. “Chica Loca, you deserve better.” He rushed to the fridge, pulled out his steak dinner, grabbed his poncho and hat and headed for the barn.

Don Julio loped sure-footed along the fence line, familiar with the trail even in dusk’s shadows. At the mudhole, the wrangler pulled on the reins, slowing the horse to a walk. He scanned the terrain on both sides of the fence. “Chica, I have fresh meat for you.”

Continually calling out, he circled until the moon’s glow reflecting off puddled water was the only remaining light. Hector patted Don Julio’s neck. “Let’s go home, boy. We’ll try again tomorrow.” He tossed a strip of beefsteak close to the sagebrush where the dog had paused before running away. “Just a sample, Chica.”

Two glimmering orbs appeared between the bushes. Hector sucked in a quick breath. “There you are.” His horse reared its head, stepping from foot to foot. “Tranquilo, amigo. It’s just our new friend.”

To Hector’s surprise, the Collie followed them home, keeping to the shadows as they rode along the fence. For days, she skirted the barnyard, tagging along at a distance whenever he ventured away from the cabin. Each time nudging closer when they returned.

On the tenth day, Hector, dog dish in hand, opened the cabin door. He jumped at a whack, whack, whack. The Border Collie lay in the sun on the wooden porch planks. She lifted her head, her ears perked at attention, her blue and brown eyes intent on his face, her tail wagging.

Hector grinned and sat on the porch step. The dog inched forward and lay her chin on his thigh.

“Chica Loca, you have been rescued. No more lonely nights in the wild.” He stroked her head. “But I’m not sure who rescued who. Loneliness is a terrible thing.”