Monday, October 12, 2009

Man's Best Friends excerpt by P. A. Brown

In Man's Best Friends by P. A. Brown, New Mexico, the land of enchantment, weaves a spell of love around Todd Richards and veterinarian Dr. Keith Anderson as they struggle to make their love work amid terrible loss, betrayal and rustlers and make their dream of a bed & breakfast in Santa Fe a reality.

Man's Best Friends by P.A. Brown
MLR Press
ISBN# 978-1-6082--074-0 (print)
ISBN#978-1-60820-075-7 (ebook)


"Hold her head. Whatever you do, do not let her up."

I was practically sitting on Sally's head. Horses are funny animals. They can weigh in at over half a ton of nearly solid muscle, yet if you can immobilize their heads, you can prevent them from moving. That's what I was trying to do with Sally's Mark.

My lover, life partner, and best friend Dr. Keith Anderson lay stretched out on the stall floor. He had stripped off his shirt, and normally the sight of his beautifully sculptured bare chest would have had me thinking lascivious thoughts of how absolutely fuckable he was. But right now he was lying flat on his side, covered in straw, and blood, and other unimaginable filth, with one arm stuffed up a horse's ass. Definitely not the thing to inspire lustful thoughts.

I kept my eyes glued on the opposite, fly-specked wall. Normally I'm a pretty tough guy, but the sight of all that blood and writhing animal flesh was doing a real number on my stomach. I could hear a sickening squelching sound, and I wished I could redirect my ears as well as my eyes, but all I could do was to try to think of something else. Golf. Baseball stats. How about them Dodgers?

Keith grunted, and my eyes skated over him, instantly regretting the trip. His sinuous chest was sheathed in blood and straw, and his muscles stood out in stark relief as he strained to turn the breached foal inside our favorite mare. Keith caught my eye and frowned.

"Shit, Todd, you look green," he muttered. But if I was expecting sympathy, I was disappointed. All I got after that was, "Don't you dare throw up."

I ground my teeth together and looked away again.

"That's my baby," Keith said, and I smiled -- until I realized he was talking to the damned horse. "Come on, girl. We just have to get this little guy turned for you to do your job. But you gotta be ready, hon. That's a good girl."

I don't know if it worked on her, but it did a wonderful job of soothing me. Not that I wouldn't rather be anywhere else – grocery shopping, sleeping, enduring an audit of the books for the IRS – but any time I got to be with Keith was a plus in my ledger book. I'd loved the man passionately since I'd first met him a little over a year ago. It had been love at first sight for both of us when I took one of my dogs in to see the new vet. Love at first sight for the two humans, that is, though I like to think the dogs loved him too. It hadn't always been smooth sailing since then; we'd had our ups and downs. But now we ran this picturesque little bed and breakfast, just outside Santa Fe, that was doing very well, and added nicely to the income Keith brought in as a veterinarian, with a mixed small and large animal practice. It had sounded so glamorous when he told me he'd be looking after the equine trade, too. I hadn't realized at the time what that meant. If I'd known it meant middle-of-the-night sojourns up some pregnant mare's birth canal, I might have told him to reconsider -- at least, if he expected me to be part of the package.

Usually I'm not part of the deal. That was an honor that normally fell to our horse wrangler, Darrel, but he was with his own pregnant lady right now, our assistant manager, Mandy. She was having some kind of false labor pains, and Darrel refused to leave her side. So I was stuck with sitting on Sally's head while the love of my life swam in blood and guts and stuff I didn't want to think about. Talk about the end to a romantic evening.

We'd been invited to a posh gig at the home of one of Santa Fe's socialites, Mrs. Emanuel Henry Dominguez. Keith's parents had long been members of the Santa Fe community, and Keith had inherited their social standing. At first the socialites hadn't known what to make of this wealthy, good-looking, gay man, so they had tried to treat him like a bachelor. But Keith would have none of that. Invitations he received that didn't include my name were summarily rejected. The town socialites might have gone along with that, if Keith hadn't been such a big supporter of their favorite causes. As it was, they'd had to reconsider their priorities, and now the invitations to their soirees were routinely addressed to Dr. Keith Anderson and Todd Richards. The expediency of money.

This particular evening had been fun. We had attended the opening of a new art gallery featuring paintings I could actually understand, and a wine and cheese party that had edible food. I was in seventh heaven. After we arrived home, I entertained visions of tumbling Keith into bed for a late night romp when he decided to check up on Sally's Mark.

So there I was sitting on her head, trying not to watch the love of my life climb halfway up inside the mare in an attempt to save her foal.

"That's it. Now you're coming," Keith crooned encouragement. "Push now, girl. You're almost there."

I felt Sally's Mark heave under me, and her entire body went rigid. Then I heard more squelching sounds, and this time when I looked, I saw something wet and squirmy lying on the damp straw beside Sally. Under me, Sally gave a guttural sigh and lay still.

"Let her up, Todd." Keith was busy at the other end when I climbed to my feet and watched Sally heave herself up, shaking straw and lethargy away from her. She swung around to stare at the bloody heap on the floor between Keith's legs.

"Come on, girl. Get over here and have a look at him. How's my girl? Come have a look at your little stud."

Sally stuck her nose down and rumbled something in her broad chest. The little colt that Keith had done a fair job of cleaning up wiggled under his touch.

Keith and I backed away from the pair. It was up to Sally now. She had to bond with her new foal, and give him his all-important first feeding, or all Keith's efforts were going to come to nothing.

We held our breath as Sally snuffled at the newborn. Then she nuzzled it, and it jerked its knobby head up and made a minuscule sound that was barely audible in the big box stall. Sally reacted to it.

She snorted and began nosing the foal in earnest. She licked him vigorously. In turn the foal began to try to get its spindly legs up under it. When the foal actually tottered to its feet less than ten minutes later, I knew we had a winner on our hands.

"And look!" I whispered fiercely. "He's a paint. Look at the chest on that thing!"

The little red and white newborn stood beside its exhausted mother and windmilled its tiny stump of a tail in circles. Its nose was buried between mom's legs, searching for that all-important first drink. We left them to get acquainted, and walked back to the house arm in arm. I was no longer mindful of the crud all over Keith; I was too tired to care, and I felt too damned good over the new arrival. For his part, Keith was as depleted as the mare, and just as exhilarated.
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