The Bet-A Short Story
Hello everyone, here is my first story on apricot pie. I hope you enjoy it. I have another story to post but it is much longer. So enjoy!
A long streak of golden honey slid down the trunk of a hollow tree; a furry brown paw was pulled out, belonging to a very large bear. The honey slid off his paw and he made a vain effort to recapture it. He scooped another pawful into his mouth. A swarm of angry bees alighted on his coat and tried to bite him, and a few landed on his nose. The bear lifted his sloppy paw and brushed them carelessly away.
A short distance away a squirrel was chattering furiously at a chipmunk that had just stolen a nut from it. A pair of robins fought over a worm. No trail led through that thick forest. No signs that any human had ever been there. Suddenly the slap of a beavers tail broke the overall silence of the forest. The robins forgot their worm and with it their fight and fluttered into the treetops. The squirrel scampered up the tree. The bear, which had seemed so determined to get the honey, forgot it, dropped onto all fours, and lumbered off into the denser forest.
The cause of the animals' hasty retreat was because a man was walking through that pathless forest. He was an old man with a thin pointed nose and white hair lying in a rough mess on the top of what he liked to think of as his head, but which did not resemble one very well. He carried a rifle over his shoulder and gave all signs of falling asleep on his feet. A few feet ahead of him jogged an old looking dog, more wrinkled even than the man and carrying a sad expression in his eyes; he even had his head hanging. But his tail was not hanging like it would if he had been as sad as he looked: it lashed quickly back and forth showing he was indeed happy. He was a bloodhound, and his job was to keep his head on the ground.
Suddenly the silence was broken by an earsplitting bark from the dog. The old man jerked his head up. In his haste to bring his rifle off his shoulder he dropped it and at the same time, tripped over a root in front of him. He picked himself and his gun up and began checking for broken bones.
By the time he finished he could just faintly hear his dog in the distance (partly because his age was interfering with his ears). He began running at an amazingly fast speed for such an old man. He ran on as fast as he could until he suddenly came to a sliding halt; at least, that was what he meant to do, but he had encountered some very slimy slippery mud and what should have been a stop slid him into the lake below the mud and as he hit the mud he also hit his dog and the two of them tumbled head first into the water. After much struggling the dog pulled got out and shook himself. But the old man was still in the water, sinking into the mud until he was knee deep, and it refused to give him up.
His ears were clogged with water (and old age), so he did not hear the scrape of an oar on the rocky part of the shore. But the dog heard it and barked furiously at it. Soon the boat came into sight, and it was a sight. It was a canoe that looked like it was weighted down too much on one end and might sink if anything more was put there; its paint, which might have been red once but it was hard to tell now, was worn off almost all the way and the sun had faded it a lot. The man in it was as strange a sight as his boat, his black hair was shaggy and messy. It looked like he might have tried to cut it himself, with a knife, without a mirror. His clothes were dirty like they had not been washed for years. They were also patched in many places.
"Help! He-e-elp!" the old man cried.
He struggled again and sank even deeper.
The man in the boat rowed over and said,
"Hello old man. What are you doing swimming in this pond? Don't you know where this is?"
"Help! He-e-elp!" cried the old man again.
The young man leaned over and gripped his shoulders. After struggling for a few moments, he leaned further over and pulled hard.
"Heeeeeeeeelp!" the young man cried as he flopped into the water. Amazingly his boat stayed upright, and he swam to shore and climbed out.
"The... thing to do, is to pull... you out with... a rope. Do you have... any?" panted the young man.
"Not with me sonny. But you could go to my house which is about a mile away and get it."
"That's too far. Can you reach my boat?"
"Alright, then I will swim to it."
He swam back to the boat and pulled it to the shore. He pulled some rope out.
"Oh no! You are not going to pull me out with that!" the old man said determinedly.
The rope looked very old and rotten. The young man tied one end to a tree and threw the other end to the old man.
"If you want to get out, tie that around you."
The old man grumbled and tied it around himself.
"Now," said the young man. "Why are you there?"
"Well," he said, "My friend and I got into an argument about a week ago, whether the deer in the hills had bigger antlers or the deer in the forest. I said I didn't even think there were deer in the hills; I said he would have to get a bear. But we made a bet..."
The young man let go of the rope he had been pulling and sat down.
"An old man like you makes bets?"
"Yeah, now why did you let go of the rope? I was almost out." "The rope broke." he said.
"Well I told you it would."
"No you didn't."
"Yes I did."
"No you didn't."
"Yes I did."
"Anyway," said the young man. "I have another rope."
He pulled another rope out of the boat. It looked brand new.
"Why didn't you get that one first?" snapped the old man.
"I dunno," said the young man.
He tied it around the tree and threw the other end to the old man, who tied it around his waist.
"Now," said the man from the boat, "What was this you were telling me?"
"Oh yeah, well I told him 'I bet you my whole year's pay from last year and my best hunting dog...' " he pointed at the bloodhound, "'... that I can get a deer with bigger antlers from the forest than you can.' Well, my friend said, 'And I bet a whole year's pay and my best hunting dog that I can get a deer with bigger antlers from the hills than you can from your forest.' So we shook hands on it and here I am hunting for it. I already have three deer, each with bigger antlers than the last. Oooff."
He was out of the water and mud and he tried to brush the mud off his clothes. The young man looked at the old man and said,
"You aren't going to be able to get all that mud off."
"I don't care. Might as well try."
"Well you know, I don't think you are going to win the bet with your dog. He is way to loud. See, I heard him way down the river. You know why I am here?"
"No. But most likely to hunt."
"Right, and I was thinking I would make a bet with you." "Depends on what the terms are."
"Well, you didn't tell him what dog you would use, so it doesn't matter. Well you see, I have a dog that can track as good as your dog and keep his head shut at the same time."
"You do? But I suppose it is at home. I don't see any dog."
"Oh no, he's right here."
The young man reached back into the boat, pulled a dog out, and held it at arms length by the scruff of the neck for the old man to see. It was a little dog, a beagle. It had scars across its face, back and legs. It had it ears chewed to little tiny things. He was a scrawny dog with brown eyes that looked excited like a puppy's. Its tail wagged back and forth. He hung limp in his master's hold. "You trying to throw that scrawny thing into my life?" said the old man. "What happened to him?"
"Oh, that happened two years back; tangled with a bear. His ears got chewed up by a rat when he was a baby, and no one was taking him and he was the last of the litter, so I took him."
"Oh-hohoho! I am not going to hunt with that ugly creature."
"It's not his ugliness that matters, it's his brains, and he's got lots of them. So I bet a whole year's pay and my best hunting dog that he will win your bet with the other man."
"Oh yeah? Well I bet a whole year's pay and my next best hunting dog that he won't."
The old man pulled a notebook out and flipped through it to near the back and began writing.
"What's that?" asked the man with the beagle.
"It's a notebook that I keep a list of bets in. Here."
He finished writing and handed it to the young man, "What's your name?" asked the old man.
"Bill. Hey you did one about fifty years ago, betting that you would get the best grades at the end of the school year or you would give your favorite toy."
"Yeah, well I've been betting since I was a boy. Been doing it ever since."
He looked through several more pages.
"Why you haven't lost one bet in this whole thing."
"I know. I'm pretty good huh?"
"Well, when you took my bet you took sure defeat," said the young man. "Because you bet that my dog couldn't win the other bet for you, well if he does you lose the bet with me, and if he doesn't you lose the bet with the other man."
"Oh dear, I hadn't thought of that, any way to take back a bet?" "Nope."
"Alright, then lets get that deer."
"Wait," said the young man. "I don't even know your name."
"My name is Nigel."
Bill set the dog on the ground and the dog put his head down and began running around. Soon he came to Bill and lay down. "Hahaha. That dog gives up faster than any dog I ever seen."
"Oh no, he hasn't. I told you we do everything quietly. Come on. Go get 'em boy."
And the dog got up and, with his head on the ground, began running off.
"Come on Nigel. You're going to have to run."
The old man came running and puffing, his dog trotted beside him, sad that he had been left out. The beagle ran along looking very important. Bill followed looking proud of his dog. Nigel hurried along looking like he was hoping to win something. Suddenly, the beagle stopped and the old man bumped into him without noticing him. The beagle dropped to his stomach and turned his head toward a rustling in the bushes.
"It's your bet," whispered Bill. "Get it."
"But I don't see anything."
"Look, see those trees all grouped together? He's in there."
"But if I miss he'll get away."
"Alright, let me help you."
He put the rifle against the old man's shoulder, stood beside him, and helped him to aim, then he whispered,
"Fire." And he did.
Then Bill said,
"C'mon, I think we got him."
They ran through the trees and there lay a big deer, with huge antlers.
Suddenly the man forgot how old he was and that old men did not act like children. He began dancing around laughing and shouting. Then he said,
"Let's get this thing home. I have just won. And I will gladly give you a year's pay and my second best hunting dog."
So they carried the deer to Nigel's horse and wagon, which was far away from there, with the three deer which he had caught earlier in the day; they rode together on the wagon seat. The poor horse was loaded down, and, to top it off, just as they were about to leave, Bill leaned out of the wagon and caught his dog by the scruff and lifted it onto his lap.
"Want your up here? He looks tired," said Bill, and without waiting for an answer, lifted the panting dog up and plopped it into the old mans lap. The horse staggered home and Nigel forgot to feed the horse but jumped about delightedly as he brought the deer inside. Then he said,
"Wow, I have never done a double bet that undoes the other. That was great."
And he paid Bill a whole year's pay and led his next best hunting dog in. It was an Irish setter. It had its hair grown out nice and long and was very pretty.
"Here he is. All yours."
"Goodbye, and good luck on your bet." said Bill, and he walked back to his boat and went away with a fortune and a new dog. Nigel rode into the hills the next day with the deer in the saddle in front of him.
"Look here Freddie. I won!"
Freddie glared at the deer and then frowned and measured the antlers and frowned again.
"Okay," he said. You win."
And he got out a notebook of bets that had nothing but losses and wrote another loss.
Three years later you would have seen the old man trudging along behind his dog. His dog suddenly began barking and ran down through the forest. The old man ran after him and his dog led him straight to the water where he had been stuck three years ago. Suddenly Nigel's eyes got big, and his jaw dropped.
"Bill!" he yelled, "Bill!"
For Bill was paddling over to the shore. He climbed out.
"Why Nigel. Your still hunting."
"Yes. And I made a bet with my friend that I could get the biggest bear. I bet two whole year's pay and my best hunting dog. He did the same."
"Well, I can help. Want to bet the same?"
So Bill lifted the same ugly beagle out of the boat and then reached back in and pulled the Irish setter out. The old man almost fainted from shock. The dog's hair was shaved almost all off and it had scars all over it.
"What happened to my dog?" Nigel gasped.
"Oh, he tangled with a bear," said Bill. "C'mon."
And they started off into the woods on another bet.