I was up
before dawn the next morning. The meat was spread out on the rocks,
and I was starting to cut the path to the lake before Sheba came
back from her hunt. "Good Girl!" I patted her head when she trotted
in with a rabbit in her mouth. After a couple swings with the
machete, I shucked the skin off from it and let the refuse fall. It
did not last long. Sheba gulped it down, almost before it hit the
you doing out here so early?" Sarah asked.
if I could get the trail cut down to the lake early enough, Jamie
and I would go to the beach after the sand. After I went to bed
last night, I remembered the dogs the last time we had meat out. I
don't want Sheba leaving the patio while the meat is drying, and I
don't want you and Jamie going to the beach without her; so, I will
try to do both."
could get by without sand for a while. I know, we could wait on the
path, but it would be nice to go swimming. Everybody's excited
about it. I don't know which is the most important."
"I think I
can do both before it gets too hot, if you'll watch the meat cook.
I'll call the others to move the brush out of the way as I cut it."
Just as I
said that, the others came out of the cave, rubbing their eyes,
heading for their morning pee-bath. From that first morning they
had always gone directly to the stream. I had never seen any of
them go to the bathroom until quite a while after breakfast. In my
mind I accused them of taking a pee-their-pants bath, whether they
really did or not.
get through, come pile this brush," I called.
early to work," Jamie griped.
"Do you want
to go swimming this morning."
exclaimed in chorus.
and help me with this brush."
you want us to put it?" Debbie asked.
"Pile it up
in front of that corner we use for the bathroom. That'll give us
into the project like their lives depended on it. They were
everywhere, back and forth. I had to be careful where I swung the
machete or I might have hit one of them. By the time breakfast was
ready, I had quite a space cleared. I decided that in another half
hour or so, we would have access to the lake, but we would go to the
beach first. There was no need tempting the girls before I had a
chance to check the lake.
Sheba was at
her usual place on the ledge, watching the meat, so it did not take
much effort keeping the birds away. Occasionally, we would have to
shoo one off, but with Sheba there; they were not so brave.
breakfast when Jamie and I started down the trail to the beach,
Sheba left her place on the ledge to go with us. "No! Sheba! You
stay here and take care of the girls. Help them watch the meat."
whined, but returned to her post, as if she had understood every
We did not
waste any time getting to the beach. We harvested a couple dozen
clams, got the sand, and made it back to the cave in plenty of time
to finish clearing the trail to the lake before the sun got too
work was finished, I walked out into the lake. I had been right.
The rock floor sloped down until the water came about to my hips
then it leveled out for several feet. I walked up and down and
around, but until I got out about even with the edge of the
waterfall, the water stayed about hip level. However, just before I
was even with the waterfall, the bottom fell away abruptly. I dove
down several times until my ears hurt, but I could not find the
bottom. I swam across to the other side. There was no good place
for Julie over there. I swam down stream, looking for some
outcropping of rock or a rise in the lake floor. There was none. I
swam up to the waterfall. Nothing protruded into the lake there,
either. I dove under. The cliff, over which the water fell, went
straight down as deep as I could dive. There would be no real
danger in jumping off the cliff, but it was no place for a poor
swimmer. We had to teach Julie to swim well, or watch her every
minute to see that she did not step off the ledge.
been helping me check the pool and had seen what the bottom was
"What do you
think?" I asked.
"It's a good
place to swim. There are some big fish in here too."
"I know. I
saw them. Do you think you can help watch Julie, and save her if
she steps off the ledge?"
What do you think I am? Helpless?"
you watch the meat until I get up there, and ask the girls to come
down here. I'll be up to take my turn in just a minute, as soon as
I show Sarah where the drop off is, and see how well she and Debbie
Debbie were both pretty good swimmers. I did not think they swam as
well as Jamie and I, but Sarah, at least, could have saved Julie if
she had gotten in over her head. Julie could stay afloat, and take
a breath or two, but she needed watching. We had to teach her to
When I told
Jamie I would watch the meat, he ran off the edge of the cliff,
screaming; scaring the girls half to death. He came up laughing
before I could get to the edge; to make sure he was all right.
"I guess you
kids know you're swimming in your own pee." I called down
"Oh, no we
aren't. That's already gone down to the ocean," Debbie called back.
little pee in so much water. It would take a big herd of elephants
to pollute this much water," Jamie argued.
drink it," I returned. "Keep you mouths shut."
drinked it," Julie called. "I saw you. You said it was good water."
said as Sheba barked. "I was just kidding."
better get to work," Sarah called pointing at a retreating bird with
a long strip of meat hanging from her talons. "There goes our
I turned to
the meat just in time to see another strip taking off to some
unknown part of the Island. After that, I watched the meat, but I
also kept an eye on the kids below. I knew if I had to; I could be
in the water in seconds to help one of them, and I was ready, but
there were no problems.
The sun was
getting pretty high in the sky when I called them and told them it
was time to get out of the sun. They all moaned and groaned about
it, but they came without much delay. When Jamie came up, I asked
him to watch the meat. I took one dive from the edge of the cliff,
and came right back to the cave.
Jamie put on
the tee shirt, and took his turn watching the meat while the rest of
us retired to the coolness of the cave.
before, Sarah and I had made a pallet three blankets thick, and
covered them with sheets, and fixed a pillow for each of us. It
felt like a feather bed compared to the bare rock floor.
tired. I had gotten up much earlier than usual, and had worked
harder. I lay down to take a nap, but the puppies felt neglected,
and decided it was time to play. Jamie had both of his and Julie and
Debbie each had one, but the other four were all over me, wanting
attention. I laughed and knocked them away, playfully, but they
kept coming back for more. After a while, the game got old to them,
and they wandered off to see what else they were missing. I fell
asleep. I do not think I had been asleep long; at least it did not
feel like it, before Sarah called me for lunch.
going to sleep all day?"
"I might if
you'd let me; at least until it cools off; so I can start working on
the goat pen. I got up awful early, you know."
the clams you dug this morning. I hope you like them."
"How did you
"I just put
them in the coals like we tried last time. When I took them out they
opened up easily. I tasted one. It was good."
watching the meat."
now. It's almost your turn again."
"What do you
mean? I watched it all the time you were all swimming."
watched it all morning. I think I've done my share for this day."
Jamie and I were working all that time, and the girls were helping
too, except while we were down at the beach."
your turn when Julie gets tired. Eat your lunch."
Jamie and Debbie?"
playing in the west room. They say it's cooler in there. I thought
it would be all right. They said they wouldn't go out."
right," I agreed.
After I had
eaten my clams and some left over breadfruit, I relieved Julie, and
methodically turned all the drying meat. I looked up at Sheba who
was still lying, panting, at her post on the wall. "Poor girl, you
need a break, don't you?" I tossed her a long strip of meat. She
looked at me for a few seconds before she gobbled it up. She was
strange for a dog. She would sit there all day, and never touch a
bite of the meat unless it was given to her. Twice, once the first
day the pups were out and again today, the pups had come out to
steal some of the meat. Each time she barked twice. The pups left,
and did not bother the meat again. After she ate the meat, she
hopped down to get a drink from the stream, and jumped back up on
was not long, but it seemed like hours before Sarah came out and
asked for the tee shirt, saying she would relieve me. She put the
sweaty shirt on. "Whew! This shirt stinks. I've got to wash it
"It ought to
stink. It's had five kids sweating in it."
I went into
the cool of the cave. It was still warm, but it was better than
being outside in the heat. I really felt sorry for Sarah. I would
not let her stay out there too long. I would send Jamie to relieve
I went into
the west room to see what the kids were doing. They were right.
It is cooler in here. It must be because of the smaller entrance,
I thought. The kids were quietly wrestling with the puppies. They
had not even seen me come in. I watched them for a minute, and
eased back out into the main cave. I was bored. I went over to the
corner where we had found Mr. Wilcox, and picked up a Zane Gray
book. I had never read anything by him, but I knew they were
Westerns. Riders of the Purple Sage, I read the title. I
pulled the chest over against the front wall and started to read.
It was rather boring, but most books are at first; I decided, and
continued to read. When I thought Sarah had been outside for about
a half hour, I got Jamie from the other room to take his turn, and
returned to my book.
"Are you mad
at me?" Sarah came in and sat down beside me.
should I be mad at you?"
made you take my turn outside. I really didn't think you would do
it, but I decided to try. I was kinda mad at you because I wanted
company, and you were sleeping. All I could do was think about our
troubles, and that made me more upset. If you would have argued
with me, I would have felt better and taken my own turn. But, you
didn't argue. You just went out and took my turn. That made me
feel even worse because I felt guilty."
decided that you were right. While I went to the beach, cut a path
down to the lake, and took the first swim, you were stuck with the
boring job of watching the meat. I figured you had done your turn."
"I went into
the other room, a while ago, to check on the others," I continued.
"They didn't even see me, but I watched them play for a few
minutes. I wish we could make them something for Christmas. Each
of you girls need to have a doll. And Jamie needs some trucks and
cars, and boy stuff."
"What do you
need, Timmy? Cars and trucks and boy stuff?"
"No. I don't
need anything as long as we're here, except things that would make
our lives better."
way it is with me. If I were home with my parents, I would need a
doll so I could be its momma, but I don't need that here. As I said
the other night, I feel like I am a momma, and I don't like it. I
don't have time to be a little girl. I don't even feel like a
little girl, but I want to."
know. That's the way I feel. I don't think I even want a Christmas
present, but I'd sure like to make something for you and the
others. Sometimes I want to call them 'kids'. We're kids too, but
it doesn't seem like it. I don't even think like a kid. The only
problems other kids my age have is getting their homework done, and
trying to be good enough, not to get into too much trouble. I have
to go out in a little while and cut brush 'til dark. Early in the
morning while other kids my age are sleeping, I'll be up cutting
some more brush. I'll have to cut brush for days. Then for several
more days, I've got to build a fence so my children can have a
little milk to drink. I don't mind, but I am still a little boy. I
would like to be able to act and think like a little boy."
you think we could ever go back to being, just, children? thinking
and acting like other children our age? I mean if a boat with all
of our parents on it were to rescue us this very minute, could we
ever go back to thinking like kids?"
think so. I want our folks to come for us so badly, I let myself
cry a little sometimes when I'm all alone; but then, I think of
something that scares me almost as bad."
"When we get
rescued, our parents won't know what's happened to us inside. To
them, we'll still be little kids, and that's the way they will treat
us. They'll expect us to still act and think like we did last week,
but that's not the worst thing."
be worse than that?"
you and your sisters. You'd go back to live with your folks, and
Jamie and I would live with mine. Your dad would get transferred,
and we'd stay in the Philippines. We might never see each other
again. I want to go home, but I don't want to lose you and the
girls. I don't think I could stand it. I've learned to love you
all too much."
couldn't do that to us after what we've been through together!
never know what we've been though. They can't know the changes that
have taken place in us, or how we have become a family. As I said,
they'll always think of us as their little babies, and think they
know what's best for us. They wouldn't even listen to us. They'd
just say, 'You'll get over it,' and we'd get over it; just as we
would if one of us were to die. That's what it would feel like to
let them separate us! Not now! We just couldn't!"
wouldn't even listen to us."
to! We'd have to make them!" She began to cry. "I want my mommy
and daddy, but I don't want to lose you and Jamie."
wouldn't listen. They'd think they know best. It looks like we're
in for a life of heartache. No matter what happens, and the longer
we're here, the worse it will be."
her head on my shoulder and cried for a long time, until Jamie came
in. "It's hot out here. Isn't it about someone else's turn?
What's the matter with Sarah?"
sad," I explained. "I'll get Debbie."
relieved Jamie, and he went to play with Julie. Sarah got control
of herself. "Timmy, I hope help comes really soon, 'cause I think
the longer we stay here, the less I'll want to be rescued."
"I know, and
I don't like that kind of feeling. I'm going out and cut some
brush." The sun was still too high, and it was too hot, but I had
to work off the pain I felt in my heart.
you want me to pile the brush?" She followed me out.
better go on back inside. It's still too hot."
"I know, but
I need to work this out of me, as much as you do."
it over there where we were putting it this morning. If we work
hard, we may not have to work long." By the time Debbie
was calling for relief, I was ready to quit, and cool off. "C'mon,
Sarah, let's take a break before we die from the heat. I'll get
Julie." I called to Debbie.
Julie, and Debbie was relieved.
take a very long turn," Sarah said, "I'll relieve her."
right that she doesn't have a long turn. Don't you know, the older
you get the longer turn you have to take? but I'll relieve her.
It's my turn."
going to fight over this?"
"No. I'm the
boss, and I will say whose turn it is. I will relieve her as soon
as I cool off a little." I smiled so she would know I was teasing.
"You had a turn since I did."
took my turn."
"And you had
five turns this morning."
"It was cool
then." She argued.
too!" She followed my lead.
"I knew you
would agree with me sooner or later; so, I'm taking the next turn."
me!" She picked up a stick to hit me.
I ran out of
the cave in mock fear. "Julie, it's my turn give me the shirt."
give it to me. It's my turn."
from me to Sarah and back to me, as if we were crazy, but glad to be
relieved. She took off the shirt and dropped it on the patio. She
was not about to take sides.
still chasing me with the stick, and I just happened to get to the
shirt first. "Now I've got the shirt. I win."
fair." She playfully hit me on the bottom with the stick, and went
into the cave.
worked up a real sweat cutting brush, and I had not cooled down
much. There were not any birds in sight: so, I lay down in the
stream, and rolled over a few times. When I had cooled off a
little, I got up and threw Sheba strip of meat. "Here, Sheba,
you've earned this."
I had barely
gotten the words out of my mouth, when Sarah came out of the cave.
"Okay, your turn's up. It's my turn now."
isn't. I've only been here five minutes. You go on and come back in
a half hour."
Leonard H. Hall, Sr.