Archive for April, 2011

Chapter eleven -Sniff, sniff, sniff

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When Mom woke me up for church on Sunday I didn’t complain like I usually did.

I had never noticed all the angels before. At the very back of the church, the sun shone through a big stained glass window sending colours streaming through the air. They landed on some of the empty benches and onto peoples’ faces and shoulders.

Along the top of the window frame was an angel with wings spread. Its white robe and long blond hair seemed alive in the light.

There were statues of angels with hands pressed together, eyes closed and wings folded, guiding shepherds and looking down over babies.  These smooth bluish white stone carvings held tiny details; eyelashes curled and fingernails and toenails peeking out from sandaled feet.  I could feel the warmth of Gabe’s body against me and the thump of his heart.

Even Tara behaved herself; mainly because she spent most of her time sitting on the floor petting Gabe.

Leslie was waiting for me outside when we left.  I was used to seeing her in faded Levi’s with her hair pulled back, but today her hair fell in soft curls to her shoulders and her skin was shiny and pink.

“Hi Leslie” I said boldly.

“Hi Trevor,” she said, gazing at the ground.  “We’re all going to meet at the empty lot today and figure out something to do.  Do you want to come?  It’s only half a block down from your house.  And…maybe we can even go for a swim later.”

“Sure, there’s nothing else to do today.” I said.

I had to ask her something that had been bugging me for a couple of days.  “Leslie, I was wondering, what was in that note you were trying to pass me the other day?”

“O ya, it was a good thing you kicked it out of sight.”

“Uh ya, ya, that’s what I did. Was it anything important?”

“Well, it just kind of said,” she stopped, “well, that I, that I’m glad you moved here and I hoped that we could be friends, something like that.”

“Oh,” I smiled, “Ya sure, great.  Well I better go; I’ll see you after lunch.”

I could see Mom watching us with a big grin.

When I got to the empty lot kids were standing around talking.  I heard one of them say, “Oh great, here’s Trevor.”

Did they say “great”, and were they waiting for me?  Yes!  We decided to play kick the can.  I thought that game had gone the way of the dinosaurs, but I didn’t say anything.

They said the youngest person had to be “it” first, which seemed unfair because it was John and he was only six.  Bruce’s sister was there and I’m sure she was younger, but no one said anything.

Leslie motioned me to follow her and we found a super hiding spot up in one of the big oak trees.  We were the first ones to race over and kick the can. We couldn’t hide together after that because everyone complained.

When it was my turn to find everyone, it was easy.  I whispered to Gabe “go find,” and he sniffed everyone out before they had a chance to break free.  Bruce especially didn’t like being found and the next time we hid Bruce followed me and sat on me.

“What are you’re some kind of show off?” he said.

“First you’re a superstar at soccer and now you’re winning at everything.  Maybe I won’t be your friend anymore, I can’t stand show offs.”

That was it; I couldn’t take it anymore.

“What are you talking about?” I shouted.  “Friends? You think we’re friends?  You don’t even know what a friend is.  All you ever do is push me around and make fun of me.  It may be fun for you, but it’s not for me.  I can’t stand it, and I can’t stand you!”

I had finally said it, but I felt worse instead of better. I ran all the way home.

I went right up to my room mumbling and shaking my head.  I turned my stereo up loud and blocked out the world.  That is until Mom came in.  I guess she had been knocking on my door for a while but I didn’t hear her.

“Trevor?  Can you turn that down a bit please?  Wow, is your room tidy.  I couldn’t help but notice how good you’ve been lately?  I appreciate all your help, and you’ve been very nice to your sister. Is everything okay?”  She laughed.  “I mean it’s really great, but I was wondering if something was on your mind.  It’s like you’re off talking to yourself all the time.”

“Everything’s okay I guess.  I don’t have a lot of friends though, well there’s Leslie, but she’s a girl.  That’s different.  I don’t seem to fit in like I did at home.”

“It’s going to take some time Trevor.  You can’t expect things to be exactly the same as they were in Burnsmead.  Don’t worry; you’ll soon have lots of friends.”

I doubt it.

“And can you keep that music down a little?” she asked.

“Okay,” I groaned and turned it down.

When she left I turned it up again, and lost myself in the music for a couple of hours, and when I turned it off and heard sirens. They were close, real close.

I ran downstairs and asked Mom what was going on, but she said she didn’t know.  I had to get to the empty lot and see what happened.  I thought about Leslie.

When I got there Bruce’s face was puffy and red.  His dad and mom were there too talking to a policeman.  Bruce’s Dad kept shaking Bruce by the shoulders and telling him to stop being such a crybaby.  Bruce was trying hard not to make a sound but tears were rolling down his cheeks.

I looked around and saw all the kids clumped into little groups not saying a word.   I spotted Leslie and ran over to her.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“It’s Bruce’s little sister Nancy.  Remember she was here when we were playing kick the can.  By the way, you left in an awful hurry.  Anyway, we kept playing for a while after you left, then we went down to the lake, the next thing you know she was gone.  She never leaves Bruce’s side and it’s been over two hours since anyone has seen her.  We looked everywhere before we called Bruce’s parents.  Poor Bruce turned white as a ghost when we told him he had better go get them.  That policeman is Bruce’s uncle.  Usually you have to wait something like 24 hours to report a missing person, but he’s going to get everyone to start looking now.  She has to be close by.  We’re afraid that she might be hurt.”

I thought about how I would feel if Tara was lost and hurt. The crowd grew bigger with more kids and lots of adults joining in.  The policeman tried to quiet everyone down.  He explained that they were looking for a little girl; five years old named Nancy, and he showed us her picture. It seemed like everyone in the neighborhood was out looking; moms pushing baby carriages, kids on bikes, even a couple of police cars cruised the streets.

I tried to think where I would go if I was five and the big kids wouldn’t let me play with them, but I didn’t know the area well enough.  I looked in all the trees, and all the hiding spots we had used that day.  The adults concentrated on the lake.

If only I could help.  And then I remembered how I had found everyone when I was “it.”  I had the best sniffer and tracker in the city.  If I could get something of Nancy’s that Gabe could smell, I knew he could find her.

I looked for Bruce hoping he would have something I could use.  When I found him he was hanging onto his Moms hand.  His eyes were red and he was holding onto some kind of rag doll.  It had to be his sisters.

“Bruce,” I called and waved.  I felt badly for what I had said.

“Go away, remember, you’re not my friend,” he said in a shaky voice.

“No, Bruce wait, I think I can find her.  I need a piece of her clothing or maybe that doll.  Is it hers?”

“What are you going to do, sniff her out?” he asked.

“Well ya, sort of.  Come on I want to help. Trust me I can find her.”

Bruce shrugged his shoulders and handed me the doll.  It must have looked real strange because I held it up to Gabe and whispered “go find.”

 

Chapter 12 – With the Help of an Angel

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Gabe took off like a shot with me running behind. I had thrown the doll back at Bruce and he caught it giving me a funny look. Gabe kept his nose to the ground, stopping every now and then to look around.

We raced by my house, and ran down the street for two blocks, until we came to a place that the kids called the “Morrison” house.  I always passed it on the way to the school but never gave it a second thought.  It had been vacant since we moved here. The “For Sale,” sign was still pounded into the ground in front of it.

Gabe began jumping up on me and whining and I knew Nancy was close by. The police had checked here but they hadn’t found anything.  The house was old and needed lots of repairs.  A big porch went all the way around the building. Two huge windows with peeling paint stood on each side of a cracked and broken door.  The grass in the front yard was as tall as the overgrown weeds in the back.  I thought maybe I might find her hiding in there, but Gabe was over by the porch.

It was boarded up underneath, all the way around, so I didn’t see how she could have gotten in.  Besides she would have answered when someone called.

Gabe went over to one side and started digging.  Dirt, rocks, and weeds flew through the air. When Bruce came up behind me I jumped.

“Is she here do you think?” asked Bruce.

“Ya I think she is. Help me find a hole or a loose board or something.”

I patted Gabe on the head and pointed for him to move out of the way.  We found a board that was still nailed to the outside of the deck but could be moved back and forth.  We couldn’t possibly fit through, but a five-year-old could.

“Nancy are you there?”

“Gabe is she here?”

I asked him not caring if Bruce heard me.  He got all exited and started digging again.  Bruce saw dirt flying mysteriously through the air and looked at me in amazement, but didn’t say anything.

I dug in the same spot with my bare hands, and Bruce joined in.  Our fingers were cracked and bleeding when we stopped. The hole was big enough for my small frame to fit inside so I began to wiggle my body in as far as it could go.

Underneath the rotting porch was a large metal container buried deep in the ground.  It was old cistern used to catch rain a long time ago when the house was first built. I prayed that it wasn’t full of water, because this is where she had to be.

“Nancy!” I shouted as loud as I could.   I waited and then I heard a little whimper.

It was all I needed. I carefully squeezed myself back through the boards. When I told Bruce I had found her, his eyes filled up again and a few tears leaked out.

I patted him on the back and told him to stay put while I went for help.  He didn’t say anything. He nodded and wiped his dirty hands across his face leaving brown streaks of dirt.  I motioned to Gabe to stay with Bruce.

I ran as fast as I could, faster than at any soccer game, and faster than when I had tried to beat Bruce.  The first vehicle I came across was a cruising police car and when I saw it, I jumped up and down, waving my arms. As I told my story in between deep breaths, they radioed Bruce’s uncle.

The car beat me back to the house and when I arrived I could hear the scrunching and squeaking of the old boards as they pulled them off one by one.  The opening they created was still too small for an adult to fit through, and even Bruce was too husky to fit, so I volunteered.

Bruce hugged me and said, “Go to it buddy.”

They tied a thick yellow rope around my waist, handed me a flashlight and lowered me down slowly.  I shone the flashlight down into the narrow opening and saw Nancy squatting in six inches of water. I shouted back that I could see her.

It was cold and smelled of rust and mold. My knees scraped the metal sides and tears escaped down my cheeks. All I could see was the top of her head.  I called down to her several times but she wouldn’t look up.

After a few more bumps back and forth my feet hit the water and I sank in past my ankles.  A shiver ran through me and I felt like I had to pee.

She was all cut up from the fall. Her wet hair was wrapped around her cheeks and she was squatting down holding onto her right ankle. Her body was trembling and I could hear her teeth rattling.

“It’s okay Nancy, we’re going to get you out. All you have to do is hold onto me.”

But she wouldn’t move.  She stayed hunched over hugging her knees.

“Nancy, it’s me, Trevor, you know Bruce’s friend.  I’m here to help you.  Your Mom and Dad are up there waiting for you.”

I didn’t know what else to say. I reached over and touched her shoulder, then I squatted down and whispered, “let’s go home Nancy.”

She turned around and fell into my arms and hugged me with what little strength she had left.  Slowly I stood up bringing her with me.  The air was thick and damp and smelled like sour milk. My stomach shuddered as I held the flashlight between my teeth and tied the rope around my waist and then hers. The sides of the well seemed to be closing in around us.

“Okay, I got her!” I yelled as I wrapped my arms around her middle.

Slowly we began to leave the ground, swaying back and forth. Her knees bumped against the side of the walls and she cried out. Her sobs got louder and her body started to shake.

I knew we didn’t have much time before she lost it.  Or before I lost it too.  The rope squeezed us tightly together and it pinched my skin.  I wanted to yell hurry, but I was scared that if I spoke, I would start screaming.

Three quarters of the way to the top I could see some light and I could feel some cool fresh air from above. I patted her back and told her we were almost there, when we felt a sudden jolt downward. My head hit the wall and I dropped the flashlight. It shone back at us through the slimy water, with one white eye.

When I looked down at the yellow rope around us, I saw that my knot was slipping.  A few more twists and it would be completely undone.

I yelled and started to claw at the walls.  My nails broke and my fingertips screamed out in pain. If we fell back down from this height we would surely break some bones.  My feet began to move, trying to jog us upward.  I could hear muffled, excited voices but I couldn’t make out what any one was saying.

Nancy was crying loudly, and calling out for her Mom.   Again I prayed.      “Please God, help us out of this mess.”  My head seemed as though it was floating on my shoulders and I closed my eyes. Reaching down I held onto what remained of the knot.

And then we were out.  People were cheering, and clapping. Someone undid the rope and we were free. Someone else was hugging me and crying.  When I looked up I buried my face in my sister’s familiar brown curls.

“Well done Trevor” Mom said proudly.

“Doggy, doggy” said Tara as I picked her up and kissed her on the cheek.

“Yes Tara, that is a goggy,” I said, and she smiled at me as if to say “finally someone notices him too.”

When I put her down, Bruce’s Mom was standing beside me.  “Next!” she said and gave me a big bear hug with Nancy still snuggled tightly into her arms. “Thanks Trevor.  I don’t know how you did it but you’re an angel.”I looked over at Gabe and winked, and he seemed to wink back. “Let’s go home,” I said.

Chapter 13 – A Time and Purpose for Everything

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Bruce wasn’t at school the next day and I hoped he was all right, that his dad hadn’t come down too hard on him.  All the kids were coming up to me and patting me on the back, calling me a hero.  Even Mrs. Mitchell said congratulations and gave me a whole week of happy faces.  She also said I could take the rabbit home if I wanted.

Walking by Bruce’s house on the way home from school I saw him playing hopscotch with his sister.  I couldn’t believe he was playing such “a sissy game.” I didn’t say anything though.  I crept by as quietly as I could.

Mom made my favorite supper, Sloppy Joes.  She told me how proud she was of me again and started asking a whole bunch of questions, like how did I know where Nancy was. I told her, “something led me there,” and changed the subject.

I happily ate three Sloppy Joe burgers and was wiping my face and loosening my pants when the doorbell rang. I opened the door and was surprised to find Bruce, holding a video game still in the wrapper.

“I wanted to say thanks and give you this,” he said handing me the game.

“Wow, Speed City. Thanks” I said, looking at the ground and anywhere but Bruce’s face.

“Do you want to hang out for a bit?” Bruce asked.

“Uh sure, Mom, is it okay if I go out?”

Mom said it was okay, she would look after dishes tonight, so Bruce and I walked out toward the field in behind my house; the same one where we had raced a few days ago.

Bruce was quiet and he kept looking at me. “Trevor, I’ve been thinking about what you said. And I’m sorry,”

“Oh forget it,” I said, kicking at a rock on the path.  “I’m sorry I said all those things.”

“No, really.  I didn’t realize you felt that way and that I was acting like that.  Sometimes when I want someone to be my friend I kind of overdo it.  Because you were new I thought I had a chance.  I don’t have any friends, not someone I can hang out with.  I guess I push too hard.  I don’t know any other way.”

“Let’s start over,” I said. “Just no more shoving or pushing.”

“Sounds like a deal,” Bruce grinned widely.  “By the way… I was also wondering how in the heck you knew where my sister was?  Remember, we’re friends now, you can tell me.”

“Okay, but you’re going to think I’m crazy.”  It felt good to tell someone.  I explained what happened that day he “accidentally knocked me in the lake.”  I told him how Gabe saved me and how he has been with me ever since.

When I finished my story Bruce laughed “Come on, you expect me to believe that?” He dropped his eyes to the ground.  “I mean, that does sound nuts.  Where is he, how come I can’t see him?”

I looked around and Gabe was right beside us.  How could I prove it? “You can’t,” I said, “only I can see him.”

“Fine, okay,” said Bruce shaking his head, “It doesn’t matter I guess.  You saved her life and that’s all that counts.”

He bent over and picked up a stick off the ground and threw it.  Too bad he couldn’t see Gabe fetching it, he would believe. But wait a minute Bruce could see the stick!

I picked up another stick and told Bruce to watch the stick.

“Go fetch, Gabe” I called to him.

Bruce raised his eyebrows at me and shook his head again.  “Trevor, I said it was okay.”

“No, no, wait, really, he can do it.  Gabe, I said go fetch.”

But for some reason Gabe didn’t move, he looked up at me sideways.  What was he doing?  He knew what I was saying.

“Come on Gabe, please.”

Bruce turned and walked away.  I felt like I had let him down and I couldn’t understand what was happening to Gabe.

As Bruce reached the end of our yard Gabe ran in front of him and dropped a stick.  From where I was sitting I saw Bruce stop, reach down and pick up the stick, and look at Gabe.  He was petting him, and jumping up and down.  He could see Gabe. He could see him.  I stood up and ran over to them.  Bruce’s face was pink and grinning, as he patted Gabe and stroked his fine wings.

“Trevor, this is awesome!” Bruce said.

“Good boy Gabe” I smiled back at Bruce, I wanted to say I told you so, but I didn’t.

We stayed and both of us played with Gabe until it got dark.  It was so good to have someone else who could see Gabe.  Gabe and I walked Bruce home and all Bruce could say when he left was “awesome!”

That night though, Gabe didn’t sleep on my bed like he normally did.  He curled up in a ball on the floor, but he couldn’t seem to get comfortable.  He paced back and forth by the window stretching out his enormous wings. From time to time he would walk over to the edge of my bed and place his head down and stare up at me.  He panted loudly and it made me nervous.  Maybe he was sick.

“What is it boy? What’s the matter? Come here boy.” I called to him.

He came over and licked my hand and nuzzled his nose under my blankets.  He let out a whimper and walked back to the window.  He looked at the window and whimpered again and my heart sank. I knew what he wanted.

I got out of bed and hugged him as tears rolled down my cheeks and onto his velvety wings.

“No Gabe, no” I said firmly.  “You come and lay down.”

But he looked at me and whined.  When his eyes met mine they looked dull and dark, and inside my head I heard him saying, “my job is done, I must go.”

“No Gabe, I still need you.  What am I going to do without you?”

But I knew it was no use. Sadly I walked over the window and opened it.  I hugged him again for a long time.

Gabe hopped up onto the window ledge, easily balancing himself.  He bowed his head for a long time.  He looked at me and barked, then he turned and flew off disappearing into the night.  A single white feather floated in the air. A little breeze pushed it through my open window and I watched it land on the floor.  I picked it up and stood looking out at the night and the stars for a long time. How could I possibly get along without him?

Final Chapter 14 – Friends

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I didn’t remember going back to bed, but that’s where I woke up.  My head was pounding and my eyes felt like they had grains of sand in them.  I couldn’t eat breakfast and when Tara tried to grab me as I walked by, I pushed her away.  I ignored everyone on the bus and sat by myself at the very front.  Nothing was ever going to be the same again.  I had lost my best friend in the whole world.

I hid from everyone at recess and lunch and when I was walking home, Bruce ran up to me and asked me what was wrong.

“You, your what’s wrong” I shouted at Bruce and dug my finger into his chest.

He looked at me with surprise.

“He’s gone, and it’s all your fault.  If I didn’t have to save your stupid sister, he would probably still be here to help me.  He thought I didn’t need him anymore, but he was wrong!”

I was yelling, but I didn’t care.  It felt as though I had been punched in the gut.

“Leave me alone” I blurted out, and ran all the way home.

I was glad Mom wasn’t around when I burst through the door and went up to my room; I didn’t want to answer any more questions.  I threw the covers off my bed, dumped all the toys out of the storage box, and tipped over my bookshelf.

After calling me three times for supper, Mom knocked on my door and came in.  She tripped over a football and looked around my room in surprise.

“Trevor? What’s happened?  Why’d you do this?” she asked.  She didn’t sound angry, just scared.

“Mom please,” I said “I don’t want to talk about it.  Leave me alone.  I don’t want supper, I’m not hungry.”

She came back two hours later and I hadn’t moved from my bed.  This time I could hear a little anger in her voice.  “Trevor you have to come down, there’s someone here to see you.”

“Tell whoever it is to go away,” I said, “I don’t have any friends and I don’t want any!”

Mom’s voice didn’t sound soft and understanding now.  She spoke louder than usual, “I don’t know what happened today and you don’t want to tell me, but I do know you’re being rude.  You come downstairs this instant.  It’s Bruce and he says he has something of yours.  Now move it.”

When Mom said “move it” I knew I had gone a little too far.  I slowly got up and walked down the stairs, taking as much time as I could.  I didn’t want to look at Bruce’s face.  I knew what I had said to him was a lie, it wasn’t his fault.

Bruce was grinning when I saw him and that made me madder.  He was holding a medium sized cardboard box and before I could say anything to him he placed it at my feet.

“Well,” said Mom, “go ahead and open it.”

I reached down opening the flaps slowly, one at a time.  Before I could open the last one, it sprang open by itself and out popped a little black and white furry head.  I jumped back, not knowing what it was, and fell on my rear.  A little body followed by a wagging tail, jumped out of the box, ran at me and plopped into my lap. It looked up at me and started barking ferociously.

We all started laughing. I picked up the pup and held him in my arms. I walked over to Bruce and said sorry, hugging him quickly, then turned to my Mom.  “Can I keep him?”

“I guess so,” she said smiling. “We’ll have to make a house for him outside so that he doesn’t bother Dad.”

We took him out into the yard and wrestled with him.  He was a hyper little guy and we laughed until our sides hurt.

“I guess you know what his name is,” I said to Bruce.

“Yep” he said, and threw the ball.  “Come on Gabe, go fetch.”

In school the next day it was my turn to read my essay about summer vacation.  I hadn’t quite finished it yet so I faked it.  My story had changed over the last couple of days, and of course I couldn’t tell them everything.

“Two incredible things happened to me over the summer,” I started, “I found two new friends, their names are Gabe and Bruce.”

At the end of my report everyone clapped, even Mrs. Mitchell.

“And don’t forget Trevor,” she said to me as I walked back to my desk, “You get to take the rabbit home this weekend.”

I nodded, and laughed to myself, wondering how Gabe and Mr. Hoppity were going to get along.