Written for Christian Flash Weekly #26
The alley was dark.
Don Cheatham stopped, unable to see. He touched Diamond’s shoulder. “I guess we’ll spend the night here.” He swung out of the saddle and carefully untacked her. He took a step forward to lay the saddle down and tripped over…something. He lay sprawled on the ground, not even making an effort to get up.
It seemed like forever since he slipped out on his parents. He had taken his truck, their little trailer, and Diamond, his horse. After a summer of winning at his local rodeos, he was positive that he could make it at the nationals. His father had said no. “You need more practice, Don.” He told Don. “You swing too fast, Diamond is still green and you both need more work on the little things. Next year, I’ll take you to the nationals.” Don had huffed for a bit, begged, but nothing worked. Finally, the night before the first event, he sneaked out.
He won third.
His father came to the rodeo, looking for him. Somehow, Don had snuck out without getting caught. Living on his winnings, he had made the week—barely—to the next event a state away. He was homesick and got fifth this time. He traveled to the next event, unable to sleep in hotels and still eat, buy gas, pay entry fees and feed Diamond.
He was exhausted when he got there, but somehow he managed to get fourth.
And so it went on the whole summer. Fourth, sixth, fifth, fourth and sixth again.
His truck had run out of gas ten miles away from the rodeo grounds and he had to ride Diamond all night when she should have been resting for the next day’s elimination round.
“Number 1775, seventeen year old Don Cheatham riding TJ’s Diamond Dance. He hasn’t been doing too well this year, let’s hope he can change this today!”
Diamond had given it her best and they had gotten sixth.
And they had gotten eliminated.
Now, he was here in this alley behind the rodeo for the night. Somehow he had to get gas to his truck and find somewhere to go. He was three states away from home. Then again, not like anyone there would want to see him. He thought about his family.
They’d never want to see him again. Not after he left them like that.
Diamond snorted. Don sighed and pushed himself up. “Ok, forget about sleeping. Let’s go find the truck.”
Sunrise found Don at his truck, wearily slipping inside. There was a message on his cell. He listened to it.
“Hey Don, this is your dad. I saw the last event on TV. Diamond did good that round, but you weren’t focused on your cow, son. Look, we want to know if…”
Don jerked the phone away from his ear and stared at it in dismay. The battery died. “No…” he managed to moan.
There was a tap on his window. He looked over to see a policewoman standing there. He opened his door. “Morning, ma’am.”
“Is there some trouble here?” She asked, calmly going over his rig.
“Ran outa gas.”
“I figured. So, here. I keep a gas can in my trunk for folks. You want it?”
Don slipped out of the cab, laughing with relief. “Yeah…wow.Thanks, ma’am!”
Fifteen minutes later, he was at Circle K, topping off his tank. He slipped back in his cab and picked up his phone, now charged from being plugged into a working truck.
“Hey Don, this is your dad. I saw the last event on TV. Diamond did good that round, but you weren’t focused on your cow, son. Look, we want to know if your gonna come home. We miss you around here, Don. I’ve been praying every night for you. Terri…I’m on the phone. Wait a minute. Oh, ok.” A new voice came on. “Hey Don…this is Terri. So, uh, Ginger had her foal!! Won’t you come home? Please?? I miss you!!” Dad’s voice came back on. “Well…we miss you, Don. We love you too. Come home, please. Bye.”
It took two days, but Don finally made it home. When he got there, it was dark.
But there was a light on in the kitchen and Don walked towards it. When he opened the door, his dad looked up. Their eyes met. Dad smiled big.
“Welcome home, son.”