JULY 12 --- Dog Days

Holiday: Hot Dog Day

Murdock brushed his hair back before shoving his cap back on. His hand came away wet with sweat. He sighed, looking over toward the shed where BA could be heard working on the van. BA was not happy. Well, more not happy than usual. The van had been a casualty in their clash with the scumbags this time, taking a high-powered rifle round directly through the engine block. Bad enough they had to wait while BA replaced the engine; they also had to wait until he had the whole damn thing tuned up to perfection once again.

Murdock sighed, pulling his cap down lower over his forehead. It was hot, but anything to lessen the glare of the sun. Not that it helped a lot. Funny. Sun on wheat fields was just as bad as sun on a white sand beach. Blinding. Even with sunglasses. Which he'd forgotten in the house. He sighed again, and pushed up from his shelter under the spindly cottonwood and walked slowly toward the house.

Face sprawled in the makeshift hammock, stretched across the corner of the open porch. Either the heat had knocked him out, or he felt secure enough not to wake as Murdock shuffled up the wooden steps. No. Murdock caught his eye as he passed, just closing again. He should've known.

Hannibal was stretched out in the La-Z-Boy in the living room. The shades were drawn, and a fan in the corner droned softly, sending a bit of cool air around the room. Like Face, he appeared to be asleep, but Murdock didn't have to think twice about Hannibal. The colonel knew exactly who'd walked through the door.

Down the hall and into the kitchen. Here, too, the shades were drawn, but it was still hot, being on the west side of the house. He grabbed his sunglasses from the table and turned, opening the fridge and grabbing a beer. He didn't drink it right away but ran the cold bottle across his forehead and over the back of his neck. He shivered in satisfaction. Grabbing three other bottles, he headed back the way he'd come.

Hannibal looked at the offered bottle a moment, almost as if he didn't recognize it. Then, with a tired smile and a nod, he took it. Like Murdock, he used it to cool down before popping the top off. He saluted Murdock with the bottle as the pilot wandered outside once more.

Face was less energetic. He shifted his head on the thin pillow, shoving the bottle between it and the back of his neck. He'd never even opened his eyes when Murdock pressed the bottle into his hand.

Murdock ambled across the yard, dust rising in small clouds about his feet. He knew BA didn't usually drink beer, but there was no milk left. Murdock couldn't think of anything less appetizing than milk on a day like today anyway. He stepped into the darkness of the shed; despite the relief from the sun, the shed was only slightly cooler than outside.

BA stepped back from the van, sweat running over him like a shower. He nodded gratefully as he took the beer. Yeah, it was that hot. He swallowed long and slow before setting the bottle down on the shelf on the wall and wiping his face with his handkerchief. He bent back over the engine as Murdock wandered back outside.

He settled back in the shade of the cottonwood, and looked over the wheat fields. Miles of wheat fields. Miles and miles of wheat fields.

Face had been wrong.

Nebraska was the comatose state...