Just Another Shopping Trip

It’s amazing how quickly things can change in unwanted and unexpected ways. Here I was, merrily walking through the mall, minding my own business, enjoying an afternoon away from the pressures of work. I stopped off and on, as casual shoppers do, to admire the goods displayed in a store’s window. If an item caught my eye, in I marched, like a soldier on a reconnaissance mission.

Any large mall is a shopaholic’s paradise. Given a huge variety of stores, a dedicated shopper like myself could find any number of things to satisfy the palate. From slinky lingerie to elegant evening wear, exotic foods to handcrafted creations imported from far away lands, expensive gadgets to popular toys, something for everyone beckoned.

I’m the gazing and grazing type, and so it takes me quite a long time to travel from one end of a mall to the other, scanning one side, then back the opposite way, doing the same thing.

One Saturday, I set off early in the morning to allow ample opportunity to paw through the selections before the competition arrived. Fresh and alert, my personal radar efficiently eliminated unwanted items with barely a glance. Determined to score sale clothing suitable for work, I bypassed craft, food, and doodad stores and zeroed in on any business selling outfits in my size. And considering that I am not a thin woman, that narrowed down the options considerably.

In and out I went, sifting through displays of colorful blouses, monochromatic slacks, multicolored sweaters, and a variety of denim wear. Occasionally something called to me as loudly as my parents did when I was but a child. These items I cradled to my breast, tightly grasped so as not to inadvertently fall when I was distracted by some other equally enticing morsel.

When my arms could hold no more, I dashed into a dressing room. Giving each item due respect, I buttoned, snapped, zipped, and then inspected. Those pieces of clothing that adequately disguised my lumps and bumps went into the purchase pile. The others found themselves abandoned on the reject rack.

After a few hours of this, sensory overload set in. My hunter’s walk slipped into a meandering shuffle, and my desire to spend money morphed into a yearning for nothing more than a seat.

That’s when it happened. When my life took an unaccustomed turn. Laden with bags, I fell into the first empty bench that appeared. Numbness overtook mind and limbs. Eyes glazed over. Heart slowed. Totally relaxed, my normally hyper-protective guard took a vacation.

“May I sit here?”

“What?” When focus returned to my eyes, I discovered a kindly looking gentleman standing before me. Silver hair neatly combed, clothing clean and pressed, he smiled in a comforting way as he pointed to the remaining third of the bench.

“Sure,” I said as I moved my purchases to the floor between my legs.

“Having fun?”

“Oh. Yes.”

“Looks like it’s been a good day,” he said as he nodded toward my bags.

“I guess,” I shrugged.

“My daughter’s trying on clothes and I got tired of being her personal assistant. I told her to meet me out here.” His smile lit up his face.

“That’s nice.”

“Where do you live?”

At this point, alertness returned, reminding me to be careful. Despite the man’s polite mannerisms, something about him suddenly made me uncomfortable. Pretending that I did not hear the last question, I fiddled with my watch. “Look at the time! I’d better go. My husband is expecting me,” I lied. And blushed.

As I bent to loop my hands through the handles, the man said, “Let me help you with these.”

“No, thanks. I’ll be fine.” As I half-stood, butt in the air, head down, hands intertwined in the bags, something tugged on my purse. “Stop that!” I tried to turn, but the man grabbed hold of my hands, as if attempting to relieve me of my burden.

With a second, stronger tug, my purse flew from my grasp, over the back of the bench. I turned, screamed, leaned over, but could not grab my purse. Before I could make a move, a teenage girl, dressed in jeans and a gray hooded sweatshirt, sprinted away. “Stop that girl!” I hollered.

“Is there a problem?” The man asked as if nothing untoward had happened. At that moment he let go of my hands, stood and looked about as innocently as a young child who has just raided the cookie jar.

Sputtering with rage, I had a difficult time getting out the words. “That girl stole my purse. Call for help!”
Unfortunately, by now the girl was long gone, having turned the corner into the food court. “She’s heading toward Burger King,” I said as I hefted my purchases as easily as if they contained marshmallows and hastened after the girl.

“Wait,” the man said. “I’ll phone security.” He pulled out a cell phone and proceeded to dial, all the while holding on to my left elbow with a pincher’s grasp.

“Let me go,” I hissed as I attempted to wriggle free. “Let me go or I’ll scream.”

“Calm down. I’ve got security on the line.” He then went into a long explanation as to what occurred, including appropriate sounding pauses, yeas and nays. “I’ll tell her to stay here until you arrive. Thank you, officer.” With that he snapped shut his phone. “An officer will be here shortly. I gave them a good description of the girl. It sounds as if they caught her already and will be coming by to get you.”

“Thanks,” I warily said.

“Well, I’ve got to go. I see my daughter coming. Good luck getting your purse back,” he said with an endearing smile. As he walked away, I felt relief wash over me. The man had been a big help, or so I thought.

I stood in place, anxiously awaiting the arrival of a security guard. As minutes ticked away, with no one dressed in an officer’s uniform appearing, a sense of dread washed over me. Dismayed, every ounce of strength drained away, and so I collapsed onto the bench.

That’s when realization hit me square on the forehead. Not only was my purse gone, but as my eyes scanned my bags, I noticed that a number of them looked suspiciously empty.

I had heard about those who preyed on the elderly, but I am not that old. I had gotten scam phone calls at home and been able to fend off each and every one. But this was different. With his genteel mannerisms, the man had penetrated my defensive shield. His accomplice then moved in, ripped off my purse, and dashed away. With me in a tizzy and distracted by my purloined purse, the man had removed a few of my newly purchased possessions while pretending to call for help.

Tears poured down my face and sobs shook my shoulders. Disappointment in myself quickly replaced anger at being robbed, and so when disgust and frustration moved into my heart, I grabbed what goodies remained and headed toward the security station. Nearly blinded by my tears, I stumbled through the mall, brushing against strollers, displays, and planters.

“Can I help you? Do you need assistance?”

I blinked away the newest rush of tears to see a smiling face before me. With her neatly coiffed silver hair and kindly eyes, the woman offered a helping hand. As she gently relieved me of a few of my bags, she said, “Sit here. Let me get you a cold drink.” Following her directions, I collapsed into a wrought iron chair, grateful that someone was stepping up to help.

You would have thought that something inside of me might have registered alarm. After all, my whole world literally changed minutes before. Blithely enjoying my shopping extravaganza, I had let down my guard, only to be taken advantage of by a charming older man and his accomplice. Could it happen a second time? Surely not. And so I settled into the chair and allowed my rescuer to soothe me into compliance.

Child’s Play


Easy, breezy, light and freezy
squeezy, sleazy, sometimes squeaky
Fluttery, buttery, I’m not nuttery
Cattery, splattery, but no flattery
Speedily, bleedily, just not greedily
Eerily, blearily, eyes are tearily
Quakery, shakery, give me cakery
Flakery, bakery, do not takery
Snuggle me, bungle me, don’t tungle me
Spangle me, dangle me, please jangle me
Laughy, gaffy, just plain daffy
Play with words every dayfy

All things Must End

Dreamers navigate their way
through shadows deep and dark
searching for the light of morning,
marching across endless dry deserts

or searching towering mountain peaks
crowned by heavenly angels
whose glittery gossamer wings
flutter fleetingly in a gentle breeze

brushing the sleeper’s cheek
as lightly as mother once did,
helping to climb the ladder
of delicious dreams toward

a blushing sky, streaked
orange, pink, and baby blue
as the sun, ever so slowly,
rises to greet the morning

shirking off terrifying nightmares
of hideous monsters and demons
or relishing romantic love stories
sung by twinkling firelight

in a lover’s embrace,
broken most unwillingly only
to greet the dawn of day,
without thinking, without choosing,

unable to stop the inevitable
awakening as all must for
dreamers dreams must end.

Sorry for not Posting!

I apologize for not giving you something new to read this week.

I’ve been a little busy.

This past weekend I attended a four-day writing conference in San Francisco. It was chock-full of writing tips from experts from all over the world. I especially enjoyed those sessions in which presenters read the first page of an author’s book and gave advice about how to improve the content, those in which plot, scene and story were discussed, and those that introduced self-publishing as a growing market.

I also had the opportunity to meet an Author Coach who will read my manuscript and plot out high and low points, plus several agents who are interested in receiving the first few pages of my book.

I promise to be back on schedule next week.

The Storm


Thunder rocked the house while lightning danced across the sky. Stan Ellis, a slightly built fifteen year old, stood on the front porch, watching the show. Simultaneous bursts struck at a couple of trees on the nearby hills, sending puffs of smoke into the moist air. He wondered where his grandpa was. He hated to think of the old man out driving in this terrible weather.

Stan’s eyes followed the gravel drive from the front of the barn, through the wooden gate that enclosed their property, and out toward the state highway that went into Bozeman. No rusty red truck rumbling home.

A jagged bolt of lightning plunged into the field just beyond the horses’ corral. The impact sent small rocks flying and a dust cloud filled the air. The horses stabled in the barn screamed in fear. Stan knew he’d better check on the horses and make sure that all were safe in their stalls.

Pulling on his anorak, he ran down the steps and across the yard, hoping to beat the next bolt. Just as he pulled open the barn door, another hit, stronger than before. Stan held on to the door as the earth trembled, absurdly terrified that he might fall. Eyes huge, he saw a nearby fir tree burst into flame like a forgotten shish kebab on a grill.

Stan stepped into the cool semi-darkness of the barn and pulled the door closed. It slid easily on its well-greased track. After dropping the latch into place, he turned to examine the animals.

Dopey and Suzy-Mae stood in the back of their stall, brown eyes as large as platters. The stallion’s head draped over the mare’s shoulder, his nuzzle stroking her mane. Dopey snuffled in a whisper-like voice, trying to calm his frightened partner.

Big Joe’s hooves clattered against the sides of his stall, a staccato beat that seemed to match the pounding of Stan’s heart. The big horse’s snorts sounded like rifle shots, and Big Joe’s sides were covered in a foam-like lather. Stan knew he’d better wipe Big Joe down before he left the stables.

Betsy and her foal, Spotter, squealed when the ground shook from another blast. They stood at the back of their stall, with ears pulled back, seeming to be listening to the pounding rain.

At the back end of the barn, Lucifer, the most gentle of the bunch, snorted, neighed, screamed, and bucked when another round of thunder shook the barn. This would be Stan’s first target. Lucifer was his grandpa’s favorite, a horse that was bought for Stan’s mother to ride when she was young.

“Hey, boy. Lucifer boy. It’s OK, big boy,” he softly crooned as he approached the stall. Whistling the stallion’s favorite tune, “Edelweiss,” he stepped closer and closer, hands outstretched in a pleading fashion. When even with the stall door, Stan peered in over the edge. Lucifer plunged forward, crashing into the wood, nearly cracking it down the middle. “Calm down, Lucifer. Calm down, boy.”

Stan picked up a handful of sweet hay, the stallion’s favorite, and held it gingerly toward the horse’s mouth. Still whistling, the young man slithered forward at turtle speed. Lucifer’s eyes rolled, showing white even in the gloom of the stall. Foam dripped from the horse’s mouth, and his sides heaved and rattled. Stan moved closer, still offering the treat. “Come on, boy. Easy, boy.”

When thunder sounded again, Lucifer burst through his door, shattering the wood as easily as breaking toothpicks. Stan jumped out of the way of the flailing hooves just in time to avoid being struck a deadly blow to the head.

He cowered against the back of the barn as the terrified horse raced up and down the center. Stan trembled in fear, leaning tightly against the door to Knight’s stall. The giant horse suddenly stopped running and looked around the barn with terrified eyes. Taking advantage of the temporary calm, Stan took a step into the center aisle. “Here I am, boy. Come here, Lucifer. Come to me, boy.” His hands shook, but he kept his voice soft and calm.

After shaking his head up and down a few times, Lucifer allowed Stan to approach. Sides quivering, spittle flying from his gritted teeth, Lucifer was far from relaxed. “Let me touch you, boy,” Stan crooned. He resumed whistling and watched as the horse’s eyes focused on the hay and the hand. “That’s it, boy. That’s it.”

When Lucifer took the first tentative nibble, Stan grabbed his halter. After pulling the giant head toward his chest, Stan offered the last of the hay, and then began stroking the black muzzle. The stallion slowly calmed, thanks to the passing of the storm and the persistent cooing and petting of the young man.

Once the horse’s eyes narrowed to a more normal size, Stan urged him forward. They walked from one end of the barn to the next, stopping only to turn and change directions. In time, Lucifer’s breathing took on its changed cadence. “That’s the way, boy. That’s the way.” Stan wondered where to put Lucifer now that his stall door was shattered. Not in with Big Joe. They’d fight and get each other riled up. Not with Betsy, either. Lucifer hates Spotter. He decided to put him in Knight’s stall as it was empty. Grandpa had taken his Appaloosa into Dr. Steinway’s clinic for some kind of operation, and so the stall would be available for a few days.

Stan walked Lucifer to the stall and opened the door. Agitated about entering another horse’s place, the stallion reared in protest. Stan jumped out of the way of the hooves. “Hey, boy. No problem. Knight’s gone for a few days. He won’t mind.” Lucifer instantly calmed, as if he understood every word.

“Go on, now,” Stan said. “Step in. Step in, boy.” The stallion did as told, as meekly as the lamb he normally was. “Yeah, that’s it. You okay now?” Stan picked up a soft cloth and rubbed the horse’s sides and neck. When Lucifer was quiet, Stan checked the food and water, and then quietly stepped outside. He closed the door and dropped the latch into place.

Now that the stallion was calmer than before, Stan rechecked the other horses. He spoke to them and whistled each one’s special song. Within minutes, all were relaxed, and even Big Joe was wiped down.

Stan left the barn and headed back to the house. His grandfather still was not home to prepare dinner, so he went into the kitchen to find something to eat. The refrigerator light did not come on when he opened the door. The clock on the microwave was dark, and when Stan flicked the switch for the ceiling lights, nothing happened.

He dug into the meat drawer and pulled out some sliced turkey, and then he got out the mayonnaise, some leaves of lettuce, and a slice of mozzarella cheese. He assembled a mammoth sandwich, tossed a handful of chips on his plate, and poured himself a tall glass of water. Stan carried his meal out to the front porch, sat in his usual chair, placed the glass on a nearby table, and balanced the plate on his lap. As he ate, he watched lightning bolts, far off in the distance, as they zigzagged across the darkening sky. The air had that fresh smell that always followed rain.

As night came on, Stan gave up his watch and went inside. The electricity was still out, so with nothing to do, he decided to go to bed early. He was worried about his Grandpa, wondering if he was safe, holed up somewhere in town, or stuck in mud out on the road. There was nothing he could do about it, so Stan pulled off his shoes, socks, jeans and shirt, and then climbed into bed. He stared at the dark ceiling, trying to recall if his grandfather had said anything about visiting Uncle Jack, or dropping in on his old friend, Zechariah.

In time Stan’s breathing slowed to a rhythmic cadence and his worried face relaxed.
Fire! The barn’s on fire! Got to save the horses. Lucifer will be in a panic. Got to get there before he kicks through the wall. Clothes. Jeans. Found them. Where’s my shoes? There they are. Do I need a shirt? Forget it. Run to the horses. Save the horses.

He flew down the stairs into the front room, across the braided rug and out the door. Panicked neighing filled the night with eerie sounds. Stan froze at the top of the stairs. He stared into the dark, searching for the outline of the barn.

I can’t see it! Where’s the barn? Horses. Got to get to the horses. My God! What’s making that noise? Is it a panther? Can’t be. No panthers near here. Mountain lion. A lion’s in the barn. Rifle. Where’s Grandpa’s rifle?

Stan stepped back inside the house and ran to the gun case. He snapped open the door so forcefully that the glass shook. Rifle. That one. Take that one. It’s loaded. Yeah. That’s the one Grandpa always keeps loaded.

Holding the rifle across his chest, Stan rushed out of the house, down the steps, and across the yard. The barn door was closed, the latch in place. No lion’s in there. What is it, then? What’s scaring the horses?

Another blood-curdling scream tore the night apart, sending shivers down Stan’s spine. Got to get in there. Got to see what it is. Open the door, and then jump aside. That’s what I’ll do.

Stan reached out with his free hand, grabbed the latch, and lifted it up. The door burst open, sending Stan flying backwards and onto the ground. Out of the barn exploded a fire-encased figure. An unearthly looking creature, with wide, gaping maw, screaming an ear-piercing sound as it rushed toward Stan. Eyes, dark as night, stared into Stan’s soul, while writhing fingers reached toward his face.

He raised the rifle and aimed where the heart should be. His finger started to squeeze the trigger, but then froze in place. No mater how hard he tried to move that finger, it refused. The creature moved closer and closer, until its searing breath brushed across his face.

“Stan, wake up, boy. You’re having a nightmare,” a familiar voice penetrated the haze that fogged Stan’s brain. A rough hand stroked his right cheek while another squeezed his left shoulder.

Stan fought back, trying to escape the demon that held him in a vise-like grip.

“Settle, boy. It’s me, Grandpa.”

Stan opened his eyes into the dark of his own bedroom. He made out the silhouette of his grandpa, leaning over him. “Grandpa? Is it really you?”

“Yes, it’s me. You’re safe now. You’re safe. Nothing’s going to hurt you,” he said as he removed his hands from his grandson’s shoulders, and then sat on the edge of the bed. “You were dreaming. It must have been one heck of a nightmare. I’ve never seen you so scared.”

“It was terrible. The barn was on fire and the horses were calling for help. I opened the door, thinking there was a lion in there, but this thing…this thing came after me. I’ve never seen anything like it. It…it tried to kill me. I had the rifle, but I couldn’t squeeze the trigger.” He stared into the darkened room, seeing the creature once again. “Grandpa, are the horses safe?”

“Yes, they’re fine. Everything’s fine. The power’s still out, but everything else is fine. How about you, boy?”

Fully awake now, Stan reached for his grandfather’s gnarly hand. Finding it, he gave it a firm squeeze of gratitude. “I’m glad you’re here. I couldn’t remember if you were coming home or not. That was a bad storm, Grandpa. It scared Lucifer.”

“Don’t worry about it, boy. I got hung up at Becker Creek. The darn thing overflowed its banks. And then lightning hit a tree right in front of me. It burst into flame like a torch. Next thing you know, the grass caught fire and surrounded the truck. I thought I was a goner. The gas, you know? But your grandmother must have been watching over me, like she always does. The flames moved away, silently creeping back into the woods as if blown by a ghost. Her spirit has saved my life more than once. I sure owe that woman.”

“Next time you see her, give her my thanks,” Stan whispered.

“I will, boy. I will.”

“Did you see anything in the flames? You know, like an animal?”

“I was too scared to pay attention,” Grandpa said. “Even if I had, I couldn’t have done anything but sit there and watch. You calm enough now to go back to sleep?”

“Yeah,” Stan answered as he settled back on his mattress. “Would you mind staying for a bit?”

“You want me to hold off that demon?”

“Yeah. That would be real nice.”

Silence fell, wrapping both men in a blanket of comfort. Soon snores echoed off the walls: Grandpa’s deep rumbles harmonized with Stan’s staccato tenor notes. They slept.


Spring is coming

There is a nearly imperceptible
Change in air pressure
A ringing in the ears
The brush of a breeze
That signals the beginning
Of new life

Colors change from brown to green,
Pink, red, white
As buds burst forth on branches
Knife-like leaves pierce the soil
Roses bloom in varied colors
And the sky explodes in morning
And at the dusk of night

Birds flit about
Singing joyously of rebirth
Floating above the earth
Gathering bits of stick and hair
To create a loving home

It is a time of wonder
A time of growth and change
A time to give thanks for all
The glories that bless us and
Give us comfort

Into The Woods

Every year, in the early spring, the woods called to Sarah and her brother Josh. Trees were covered in silky green leaves and birds sang, calling to each other in the languages that only they understood. Even at this time of the year the days were hot and humid, made breathing difficult. But not inside the woods.

The twins stood, hand in hand, just outside the entry gate. As far as anyone knew, the woods belonged to no one, for inside were no houses or buildings and no warning signs hugged the perimeter. Nevertheless, it was with great trepidation that the kids stepped over the line. Once done, it could not be called back. Either you were in the woods or not.

Sarah’s eyes were huge. She was amazed by all she saw and heard. Underfoot, a lush carpet of moss, decaying leaves, and green sprigs of color poking through in anticipation.

Above, a canopy of leaves in various sizes and shapes. She knew none of their names. They were simply trees to her nine-year-old brain.

Josh climbed first one and then another tree, searching for the one that would allow him to go the highest. He giggled as he reached for one branch that hung well above his head.

“Look at me, Sarah,” he shouted.

“Be careful,” she answered. “Mom will kill you if you fall.”

“I’m not going to fall.” When he could not grab ahold of the branch, he came back down. Before his sister could protest, he attempted another climb. And then another.

Not wanting to witness his fall, Sarah collected the nuts that had fallen from the trees. They were almost completely round, swirled with two shades of brown. They were smooth to the touch and solid as marbles.

With each step, each engrossed in their separate tasks, they roamed further and further into the reaches of the woods. They stayed within calling distance of each other, but not always within sight’s range.

Josh’s voice carried clearly to Sarah’s ears as he sang out that he was a pirate scaling a mast of a schooner ship, or a super being capable of flight, or an eagle scanning the ground for prey.

Sarah hummed a quiet tune. Something she’d learned at Sunday school.

When Josh grew tired of climbing, he grabbed Sarah’s arm and pulled her deeper into the woods. “Let’s see what we can find,” he said.

It was a fine day for adventure. There were gentle rises and falls that kept the twins on alert in case they might stumble, that took them over roots and fallen limbs. There were boulders to climb and rocks to throw. Before long they rounded a turn and stopped when they came to a tiny creek, bubbling along.

“Let’s see where it came from,” Josh said as he took off, leaving his sister trailing behind.

As they followed its twists and turns, the creek slowly widened. It was a foot wide, then two. It moved faster as well, but still bubbled as if with excitement.
One more turn and there it was. The source. The waterfall. A four-foot wide stretch of water poured over a rock rim, then fell into a swirling pool.

“It’s beautiful,” Sarah said. “I’ve never seen anything so pretty.”

Josh leaned into the mist and stuck out his tongue. “It tastes good. You should try it.”

Sarah shook her head and stepped back, but not quickly enough. Josh grabbed her left arm and pulled her close to the edge of the pool.

“Look down,” he said. “What do you see?”

“Rocks. Lots of rocks.”

He pushed her head lower. “No, I mean down into the middle. What do you see?”

“Only water.”

Josh stripped off his shirt, shorts, shoes and socks.

“What are you doing?” Sarah asked.

“I’m going swimming.” Josh carefully stepped into the stream.

“You’ll get hurt!”

Josh took another step in, and now his ankles were covered with water. Then he was up to his shins, and then thighs. He swirled his arms about, temporarily changing the course of the water. “Look, Sarah, the water spins.”

“Get out before you get hurt,” Sarah said.

“I’m not going to get hurt. This is fun. Come on in!”

Sarah shook her head and backed away. She sat down on a large rock, keeping her eyes focused on her brother. He took another step and was suddenly under the surface of the water. Sarah jumped up, screaming his name, but there was no response. She moved as close to the edge as she could and bent over, searching for any sign of her brother.

That’s when she saw him, lying at the bottom of the pool. He was not moving. His eyes were closed but his mouth was open. Sarah didn’t know a lot about this sort of thing, but she was pretty sure that Josh was in trouble and the only hope he had was for her to do something.

Without stopping to think it through, Sarah went into the water. As her head went under, she tried to keep her eyes open, but it hurt. She felt about with both hands, hoping to touch some part of Josh.

She ran out of air and had to stand up. At this point, Sarah panicked. Should she run home or try again? Going home would take too long. All that way through the trees and the gate and to the house, find someone and then all the way back. So Sarah knew it was up to her.

Back into the water she went. She stepped in further this time, going deeper into the pool before bending over. She reached with her hands, feeling all about. Once again she found nothing, but just as she was about to give up, her fingers brushed against Josh’s hair. She grabbed ahold and tugged.

At first nothing happened. Sarah let go and stood, gasping for air. As soon as she could, she bent down and this time quickly found her brother. She pulled and pulled and when Josh moved, she felt joy. She moved her hands to his ears and slowly brought him to the surface of the water. When his nose was free, Sarah smiled and tugged even harder.
Within what felt like hours, she got Josh out of the pool and onto the bank of the creek.

“Breathe, Josh,” she said over and over. She opened his eyes, but saw no spark. She sat on his chest and hugged him.

All of a sudden Josh sputtered. Water sprayed from his mouth and he coughed and coughed. His eyes opened. “What happened?” he said.

“You went under the water. Are you okay?”

Josh closed his eyes and seemed to fall asleep. Sarah tapped him on the chest and moved his head from side to side. “Wake up,” she said.

But he didn’t. Not knowing how to help her brother, but knowing that he was safely out of the water, Sarah took off for home. She went as quickly as she could, being careful of roots and limbs and rocks that were along the way.

By the time she found her mother, Sarah was nearly exhausted. She explained what had happened, then led her mother to where her brother still lay.

When they got there, Josh was awake, although a bit disoriented. His mother picked him up and carried him all the way home. She put him in the back of the car and drove Josh to the hospital.

Later Sarah learned that Josh had banged his head when he slipped and had suffered a concussion. If Sarah hadn’t been there, her brother would have died.

Sarah and Josh returned to the woods over and over, year after year, but never again went into the pool.