Length: 37,000 words
Sam wants nothing to do with his irresponsible, sarcastic neighbor…or does he?
Sam McAuley is having a rough start to the summer: Not only is he being sued, but the new guy running the animal rehabilitation center next door has no idea what he’s doing and his runaway chickens constantly end up in Sam’s pristine yard.
Everything is temporary for Bo Novak. For as long as he can remember, it’s been one town to the next, one school to the next, one job to the next. Even his current job—running his sister’s animal rehab center while she’s away on a four-month leave—is temporary. And he does know what he’s doing, thank you very much. Sure, things don’t always run smoothly, but the stick-in-the-mud next door could be a little nicer about it.
One overheard conversation, an olive branch, and a baseball game might show these guys that being at odds isn’t really what they want, and that what they want might just be each other.
Argh! Bo kicked his closed front door. That…that man. Every five frickin’ minutes he was up in Bo’s face about something.
I’m trying to work, Bo. Can you get the dogs to stop barking? Why is the goat making weird noises?
How did your chicken get into my yard?
What’s that smell?
Fix your side of the fence.
Bo had fixed his side of the fence, damn it, so it wasn’t his fault the chicken was still getting into Sam’s yard. If anything, it was Sam’s side that needed to be fixed. But did Sam give him a chance to say his piece? Nooooo. Mr. I’m So Cool With My Muscles And Tallness And Swanky Haircut wouldn’t get off his pedestal long enough for Bo to defend himself.
Not that Bo was envious of those muscles or that tallness or that swanky haircut that was on the redder side of strawberry blond. He was perfectly fine with his own five foot seven height and his messy ‘do. Tallness was overrated anyway. And he had his own muscles. Arm muscles, anyway. The little pudge on his belly left a lot to be desired.
But whatever. Arm muscles were all he needed to catch a guy’s attention at the clubs and bars. By the time the guy realized Bo wasn’t so muscly all over, they were already in each other’s pants and that little detail no longer mattered.
Bring on the cookies.
Shaking his head at himself, he headed out back to the shed and grabbed a thicker pair of gloves and some chicken feed. He inspected his side of the fence—just in case he was mistaken. Which he wasn’t, thank you very much. Grunting in satisfaction, he left his backyard via the gate and cut through the path in the hedges between his and Sam’s front yards. After unlatching the gate to Sam’s backyard, he followed the sounds of clucking chicken to a wildflower garden along the back fence. Along with some kind of leafy tree and a couple of shrubs, there were bursts of yellow, purple, and pink flowers in the garden that Bo couldn’t name to save his life.
Of course it was that chicken. The brown one with the lone white feather along its back. The instigator of the group. The one that riled up the other chickens and always seemed to find a way out of the chicken coop. The one who’d pecked Bo’s hands raw the first time Bo tried to pick him up. That’s where his new extra-thick gloves came in.
He slipped them on then scattered some chicken feed. Bait the chicken and then grab it from behind, the YouTube tutorial he’d watched a couple weeks ago had said. Bo had become somewhat of a chicken corralling expert in the past couple of weeks. A skill he never thought he’d need and didn’t know how to add to his resume without sounding like a smart-ass.
The chicken went after the food just like always. Bo gave it a minute to eat most of it, then quietly snuck up behind it, cupped his hands around its sides, and lifted.
The angry squawk the chicken let out pierced Bo’s eardrums and its legs worked as if trying to walk on air. Bo held on tighter as the bird struggled in his grip. He made tracks for the gate, where Sam was oh-so-helpfully holding it open. The sight of him standing there all tall and perfect jolted Bo and had him fumbling the chicken. A wing got loose and flapped in Bo’s face.
Bo thought he heard a chuckle, but when he looked at Sam around the feathers in his face, the man was as stony as ever. Was that a hint of laughter in Sam’s eyes? No. The man didn’t know how to laugh. Drawing his shoulders back, head high, Bo stalked past him and—
“Don’t forget to fix your fence,” Sam said.
Before Bo even had a chance to reply, the gate slammed at his back.
Amy started writing on a rainy day in fourth grade when her class was forced to stay inside for recess. Tales of adventures with her classmates quickly morphed into tales of adventures with the characters in her head. Based in the suburbs of Toronto, Amy is a marketer at a large environmental non-profit in Toronto by day, and a writer by night. Book enthusiast, animal lover and (very) amateur photographer, Amy’s interests are many and varied, including travelling, astronomy, ecology, and baking.