Buster tightens his bite on Lakota’s pant leg, jerking her as he tugs. Lakota desperately attempts to hold onto her best friend, “Take my hand Dust Pan! TAKE MY HAND!” (Suzann scrambles frantically to take Lakota’s hand), “I can’t!” Lakota calmly changes her tone, “Suzann, I’m losing my grip, please just try!” (Suzanne glares at her best friend, streaming tears), “Save Dakota Lakota.” Suzann’s tail seeps through Lakota’s fingers, she watches helplessly as Suzann plummets down the jagged embankment covered in layers of icy snow. (A devastated Lakota fully extends her hand knowing full well she is unable to reach her.) Her eyes begin to water and she screams in anguish, her echoes rebound off the mountainsides, “Noooooo.”
Three months earlier….
Two best friends Lakota and Suzann reside on Erfie Drive in Barefoot, Dakota. Suzann Tucker lives in an elegant wood and cobble stone cabin with parents Tia and Thomas Tucker and her twin brother Zach, (a wanna be surfer). Lakota lives in the house next door, a slim odd three story brown creaking wood cabin surrounded by tall pines. Beautiful clay planters line the house and contain the most elegant of perennials to deter you from noticing its spooky appearance. The rap around porch holds various colored hanging plants, rocking chairs and Buster, a lazy brown Mastiff with sad eyes. Buster has been around for many years, he showed up on the Dashing porch looking exhausted and seemingly out of nowhere. The Dashing’s took the old brown mastiff in and treated him as if he were family.
It’s another plain sunny day in Barefoot, the girls are out doing what they love, picking and selling apples. Mr. Tucker built the girls an apple stand in the front lawn under the large fruit tree. (Suzann wipes her dirty hands on her yellow dress.) She proceeds to the bright red door which highlights her home, “Come on Lakota let’s go inside.” Lakota’s golden pig tails bobble as she bends down to pick up the last apple from the ground to place it in the crate. She observes the monstrous hawk that sits on a wire staring at her as she turns toward the house. A loud eerie screech is enough to compel Lakota to peer over her shoulder just long enough to notice, his sights were on her. The immense hawk draws his claws forward as he approaches his prey. Lakota tries to out run him and screams for someone to help her. The hawk’s vast wings begin to over lay her fast moving shadow as he soars in and clutches her small pink glittered t-shirt. Her small feet flail and her deafening screams are deafening, “SUZANN! HELP ME!” Suzann turns in time to capture the gigantic hawk attempting to fly off with his enormous prey, her best friend, “Lakota!” (Suzann runs swiftly towards the hawk and Lakota’s flailing feet. The hawk wrestles with his heavy prey as he struggles to lift off.) Suzann stretches her small fingers as far as she could and managed to touch the bottom of Lakota’s sneaker only to trip and summer salt onto the soft plush grass. She watches helplessly as the enormous bird flies off into the glaring sun with her pig tailed friend.
Lakota blinks her eyes coming to. She sits high on Barefoot Peak, far above the town, far above the tall pines and lakes, and high above the Dakota Sea. She passed out sometime after lift off and departing her best friend’s large front yard. She feels the air, its cold and crisp, she hears the wind softly whistling in her ear and she is lying in the comfort of warm stuffing cradled by intertwined pine straw. She is surrounded by odd household objects, including her missing sled. She hears whispers and frantically leaps up to a sitting position. Her eyes circle the make shift nest, absorbing her bazaar company including her dog, her lazy brown mastiff Buster wearing copper glasses, that was new to her. Next is the hefty brown hawk who stole her, a beautiful grey wolf with deep blue eyes and a clumsy white and black emu stumbling about on long buckling awkward legs. She vigorously shakes her head and her voice trembles, “Am I dreaming?” Her brown mastiff Buster approaches her side, “You are not dreaming Lakota.” Lakota’s eyes widen, “Omg, Buster? Why are you talking, how? I am surly dreaming.” The strange emu advances towards her and pecks at her pig tail.) “Ouch! Hey, why did you do that?” The emu speaks in a French American tone, “I believe that was, how you say, (she searches her imaginary English dictionary) deserved?” Lakota looks at the emu angrily, “Deserved? I wake up to talking animals and you say I deserved to have my head pecked?” (Buster clears his throat as the animal’s strut in closer to form a circle around their new found pal). A panic stricken Lakota, “Are you going to eat me?” (The smug emu pecks Lakota’s head again.) “HEY!” (Lakota lowers her brows), “STOP THAT!” The prissy emu dishes out a superior glare to the bemused girl.
A confused Lakota listens while the talking animals each introduce themselves. She met Erica, the egotistical emu, long thick eyelashes complimented with a dab of permanent pink marker scribbled on the end of her beak. (Erica the emu clumsily bows.) Walter the grey, beautiful blue eyed wolf, his voice deep and frail, “Nice to meet you, Lakota.” Then finally Henry, the kleptomaniac hawk. Henry smartly lifts one claw off the edge of the nest and bobs his head quickly up and down as if he were a rabid parrot.
Buster begins to explains, the small herd of talking animals get comfortable. “Lakota, we are hoping you are the one destined to end The Curse of the Missing Shoe.” A puzzled Lakota asks, “The missing shoe curse?” Buster replies, “Please, just listen.” She snares, “I am listening,” convinced she is dreaming. Buster resumes to divulge important information that could spare her and her two friends their human existence. He describes how an Indian Chiefs wife’s curse came to the unique mountain town of Barefoot, Dakota. “There were three men on a boat following a paper map.” ( Lakota raises her hand), “Yes Lakota?” She chuckles, “Is this the beginning of a joke?” Erica the emu moves in to peck her on the head, Lakota dodges her large beak. Erica ruffles her feathers and squats in a sitting position and directs her attention to Buster. “As I was saying, the three men in a boat, Walter Dashing (your Great Grandfather), Pete Tucker (the twins Great Grandfather) and Earl Larkin who was the jail attendant at the Barefoot Sheriff’s Department. The three men grew up together and the story you would hear today is, the three were in search of a treasure after Pete and Walter found the map while investigating a pirate ship that had washed ashore during a freak blizzard many decades ago. (Not trusting Earl Larkin), Walter and Pete took a pair of new shoes from the police station and copied the map into two halves, (one half on each insole.) They would have show Earl a map only because they needed his boat. Walter and Pete created a fake paper map so it contained misinformation. The two trusted friends each held half of the true map in a safe place, the shoes. Earl, none the wiser, set up an expedition with the two friends to find the treasure. The map took them to the main land, across the dangerous sea, (supposedly to retrieve a hidden key that would unlock the chest), that part of the map was true. 9Earl Larkin was the only survivor from his crushed vessel named, The crooked nook.) He said the seas were extremely rough heading back to Dakota during a storm. He said it was an unexpected blizzard and he managed to escape on his dink close to shore. The town wanted answers for the loss of two officers, he continued to maintain his innocence and said he tried to save Walter and Pete but was unsuccessful and that he watched helplessly through the swirling snow as the boat sank, hitting treacherous rocks and watched his two friends sink to the bottom of the Dakota Sea. The two bodies were never found. Lakota gasps, “Omg, how is this possible?” Buster walks over to Lakota, “I was getting to that part, should I continue?” Lakota sluggishly nods in disbelief. “Now from what my father and I could gather by looking through books, we found a legend of a treasure that was buried hundreds of years ago by the wife of a great and powerful Indian Chief. (She had buried her husband’s mummified body along with valuable treasures they collected by selling their land.) She made it known that there would be a curse cast upon anyone who came across the map she kept of her husband’s sacred resting place. Her name was Aiyana, which means eternal life.” (Buster bows his head), “I believe down to the bottom of my soul that she lives up to her name as well as the curse that she cast. The rest of the story we believe, goes like this.
An old pirate ship full of pirates had invaded the Indian village and had stolen the map from the ancestor of the deceased Indian Chief’s wife. And so the curse began, but only after the pirates followed the map and took the mummified Indian chiefs valuable belongings. The pirates in turn, hid the valuable treasures in another location and made a new map while awaiting the barter with the early settlers. You see, the pirates were to hand over the map to the early settlers in exchange for a piece of land of their choosing. (The reason they didn’t just hand over the treasure you ask?”) Lakota nods and portrays a riveting stare. “It was all a set up. Yep, the dirty pirates had planned on ambushing the naive settlers, but before the pirates could attack, they all vanished. The settlers stumbled upon their empty run a ground Pirate ship. That’s when the map was found by a couple of first settlers Pete and Walter. And that also explains why Earl was not cursed because he had a fake map and never saw the real one. (Lakota butts in), “Wait, does this have something to do with the shoe I found in my attic? The shoe with the map drawings doodled on it?” “That would be the one, yes. With the original map seemingly destroyed, we believe Aiyana’s curse turned Walter and Pete into animals to stop them from perusing the reburied treasures using the new map.” Lakota wildly entertained, “Whoa!” Buster continues, ”However, the part of the map that was true did in fact lead Earl, Walter and Pete to a key which was hidden deep in a cave under a red rock. They took their lanterns and bags of pebbles and some food. They traveled so far into the deadly maze of caves that they had to leave a trail of pebbles to lead ’em back out. (The three men, totally exhausted, decided to hunker down in the caves and get rest before their journey to the next part of the map.) But they didn’t get that far. Earl decided he wanted the treasure all to himself and was so greedy, that he gathered all of the pebbles leading out and took the lanterns leaving his two friends to die immersed in the pitch black unforgiving caves. Walter and Pete were right all along, Earl was not to be trusted. He had lied about the boating accident and intentionally crashed his boat into the rocks after jumping into the dink. (Lakota raises her hand again.) “Yes?” Buster nods for her to ask her question, “Yea, um.” She curiously leans her head slightly, “How do you know all of this?” Buster engaged in a smile as if he anticipated the question, “Lakota, I am your grandfather, Joe.” Lakota’s face turned pale white and her eyes rolled to the back of her head and she started to slump backward. Walter the big grey wolf swiftly lifted his paw under Lakota’s head slowly bringing it to rest on the large hawks nest. Lakota’s eyes slowly opened. She stares at the animals hovering above her and lifts her head. Erika the emu’s instincts kick in and starts to peck meticulously at the pine straw tangled in Lakota’s hair. Lakota hollers wailing her hands above her head, “Erika? Will you PLEASE STOP DOING THAT? What is wrong with you?” (Erika tilts her small head and bats her eye lashes.) Lakota turns her attention back to buster, “You said my grandfather? Whoa, this is getting really weird. Walter, my great grandfather Walter? He is,” (she points to the hawk), ” him?” Her face lights up, “This is remarkable! Keep going!” Lakota is amused believing all of this is an overly dramatic dream that she will awake from. “Now where was I?” (Buster begins where he left off in the enthralling story), “You see, as a young boy, I went through some of my father’s things, as did you, in the attic where my mother put them when she couldn’t bear to look at them anymore, following his disappearance. I have seen the map on the insole of the shoe. I didn’t know what it was either, at first, just like you.” Lakota fades in and out…..
She tiredly awakes and gazes at her blank ceiling, the peculiar dream flashes before her eyes filling her empty canvas above. Buster lies on the shaggy red rug in the middle of her room, his head rested on his front paws, his eyes droopily staring up at her. Lakota throws her hands up and makes a big stretch, she smiles looking down at Buster, lifting his head staring. Lakota says excitedly, “Finally Buster!” (He raises his droopy mug.) Lakota finalizes her stretch, “It’s the last day of school! It’s officially, summer! Buster let’s out a long sigh, shakes his head back and forth and lies it back down on his front paws.