"Damn . . ."
The hens were out, bucbucbucing in a nagging cluster. A gap had been clawed between two of the floorboards. Bloodied feathers hung on the splintered edges and trailed along the shallow fox tracks that vanished into the thick pasture grass.
The old man turned an angry, disgusted look on the dog. "Where the bloody 'ell were you?"
The dog dodged the old man's attempt to cuff him. He trotted off to a safe distance, then followed the old man toward the tool shanty, his head bowed low and sheepish.
"Better be sorry," the old man grumbled. "Be bleedin' 'shamed o' yerself. That's yer modrern dog for ya. Not like inna olden times. Those were real dogs, dogs a man could count on!"
The old man laid out a roll of rusting chicken wire, frowning when he saw the scant few feet left. He gauged by eye how much he'd need and cut no more than that. These were not days that tolerated waste or excess.
"In olden times, a man and his dog went out side by side. Out inna wars together, side by side. Tough 'ey was. Slayin' infidels."
The old man went back to the coop. He nudged the hens out of the way with his boot and started tacking the patch of wire over the hole.
"Not like 'is easy farm work yer modrern dog's got.Yuh, slay a few infidels 'n' yer olden dog wouldna bother wi' no li'l ol' fox. 'Neath 'im it was. Not like yer modrern dog, lays about all day, lettin' the sheep stray halfways to London, does."The old man turned sharply to the dog. "Buys 'em a rail ticket almost is what 'e does. Yup, that's yer modrern dog. 'N' 'en 'e wants yer biscuit, too, don't 'e?"
The dog grinned in dumb apology.
The old man leaned over, nose to nose with the dog, and wagged a reprimanding finger. "Old age don't let you out of nothin', ya know."
The dog whipped his tongue out; it caught the old man in the eye.
Excerpted from The Advocate by Bill A. Mesce Jr. and Steven G. Szilagyi Copyright© 2000 by Bill A. Mesce Jr. and Steven G. Szilagyi. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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