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FIVE ALIVE

by L. H. Hall

Chapter 6 - The Journal


FIVE ALIVE

by L. H. Hall

Chapter 6

The Journal


I got the dead man's notebook, sat down in the stream to soak my leg and read. Sarah was pouting silently. She was mad at me because she had to cook, but I did not care. My leg hurt, and she had to learn to cook too. It would do her good to fix the supper. Some of the book was kind of boring, but I learned a lot. I was still engrossed in reading, when Sarah interrupted my thoughts. "Timmy, when I touch the meat with the knife, it breaks up in little pieces. Do you think it's done?"

"Yes, Sarah, it's done."

"I'm afraid I'll burn myself. Will you take it out of the fire for me?"

"Yeah. I'm about through soaking anyway. I'm getting hungry." I got up carefully. I did not want to get the notebook wet.  "That water sure makes my leg feel better." Using rags from my pants for pot-holders, I moved the soup over to the table rock. "We need some dishes to eat out of."

"I know," Sarah agreed, "but they're all too big, except that skillet with the floppy handle, and a couple more."

"There was only one of him. He didn't need five dishes."

"I wonder why he had so many big pots."

"I don't know, but I'm glad he did." I fished the breadfruit out of the coals, and sliced it. "Get the smallest dishes you can find. We'll let the younger ones eat first; then, we can use the same dishes."

"We don't have anything to eat with. We can't eat soup with our fingers."

"We've got the clam shells I saved at lunch."

"Some of them are sharp. We might cut ourselves."

"I can fix that by scraping the edges on a rock."

The children were ready to eat, and did not need to be called a second time. They thought it was kind of funny, using a clam shell for a spoon, until they burned their fingers in the hot soup. They soon adjusted to it, and learned to eat without getting burned. The really hard part was dipping the soup into their plates.

When they were settled down to their supper, I asked Jamie to return thanks.

Sarah moved to the other flat rock and sat on it. "Did you learn anything about the guy who left us this stuff?"

"First, we're on a small island. We could probably walk all the way around it in one day, if we didn't mess around too much. Second, the guy who owned all this stuff was John Wilcox, an Australian, who came to the island to watch for Japanese ships and planes during the war."

"How long was he here?"

"He came here with his dog, Sheba, March 5, 1943. He wrote in the notebook everyday until October 27, 1943."

"Did he say anything about the people on the island?"

"There weren't any when he got here, but the Japanese came the first of October. After that he talked about the danger he was in. I think he knew he would be killed. The people he talked to on the radio said it was too dangerous to try to move him."

"Sheba? Do you think that's . . ."

"He taught her to hunt for him. She would bring it up here for him to dress." I dropped my voice to a whisper.

"What else did you learn?"

"There are mangoes, papayas, coconuts, wild strawberries, and a whole bunch of other stuff here, like goats, and he told us where some of it is."

"You said this was a funny looking deer. Maybe it's a goat."

"That's what I think now, but I didn't expect goats to be here, and I've never really seen a deer, except in pictures."

"What else did he say?"

He had a lookout point on top of the mountain where he could see the whole island, and the ocean in every direction. We'll go up there in a week or so. I almost forgot! When he had more meat than he needed, he would cut the raw meat in thin strips and lay it on the rocks in the sun until it was dry. That's the way the American Indians used to make something called, 'Jerky.' He said it takes about two days, but it tastes good, it's easy to carry, and it will keep for a long time.

"We can try that tomorrow."

"He said he had to watch it to keep the birds away, but we can do that. If my leg isn't a whole lot better, I won't be going anywhere, I don't absolutely have to, for the next few days."

I was hoping we could take some buckets and get some more fruit and vegies.

"We'll see. Maybe, the rest of you can go, even if I can't."

"Oh! No! Nobody's s'posed to be alone. Remember?"

"Yeah, but I'm different."

"If you don't go, nobody goes!" Again, that voice of finality let me know she had the final say on that matter.

"I'll hobble down there if I can."

The younger ones were through eating. It must have been good. They had all asked for second's, and made no complaints.

"Timmy," Jamie asked, "is Sheba still here? Did she bring us this meat?"

"What makes you ask such a silly question? That was a long time ago."

"I heard what you told Sarah. Is she?"

"I don't know. I really don't, but I think maybe she is."

"Is she that big black and white dog that's been watching us from the bushes?" My little brother was more observant and smarter than I had thought.

"I don't know. He didn't describe her."

"She's got puppies. Can we keep them?"

"That will be up to her. She is a wild dog now. She can be very dangerous. You can't trust her for a minute. Stay away from her. If she comes near you, run to Sarah or me. That goes for you girls too. Do you understand me?"

"Yes, Timmy," they answered in Chorus.

Sarah had cleaned out a couple dishes and handed me some of the soup. We sat there for a few minutes eating quietly. "If we can find some gourds or coconuts, I can make some bowls to eat out of." I broke the silence. "You're really sorry there aren't any people on the island, aren't you?"

"Yes, I want to go home so bad, and find out about my mom and dad. I am so afraid they drowned." Tears began running down her face; then she burst into deep sobbing.

"Me too." I envied her. I did not dare allow myself that privilege, even in the middle of the night. One of the children might be awake and hear me. "I hope someone will be looking for that man we found on the beach this morning, and find us. That is one reason we didn't search for people on the beach this morning, like I promised. I wanted to get up here where we could keep the fire going. If anyone comes looking for him, and sees our smoke, maybe we can be rescued."

"I've been kind of mad at you all day because you didn't try to find someone. I know your leg hurts, but you promised we'd try. I thought maybe you didn't want to be rescued."

"Are you crazy? Don't you think I want to be with my mom and dad as badly as you do? Don't you think I worry about them, and wonder if they're still alive, and think we're dead. I love my folks as much as any kid alive."

"I thought maybe you liked being daddy so much, that you didn't want to be rescued. You don't have anybody to tell you what to do, and you get to boss everybody else around."

"Sarah, Sarah, Sarah, don't you know that I am scared every minute of the day and night? Everytime I do something, or make a decision, I'm scared. If I'm wrong, somebody can get hurt or killed. It's worse for me than it is for anybody else. You all think I have all the answers, and know what to do. I don't, Sarah! I'm just a kid like you and the others. Still, I have responsibilities that no man ought to have. I'm scared! Scared sick! To make it worse, I need a doctor to sew my leg up. The pain is so bad; I want to cry all the time.

"Last night," I continued, "you told me you were glad I am here. Stop and think a minute. How would you feel, if I hadn't made it?. What if I die with blood poison, and all of a sudden you have to make all the decisions to try to keep your sisters and Jamie alive. How would you feel? A few minutes ago you were crying for your parents, and I have seen the others crying too, I'm so glad you do. I envy you, but I can't. I have to act, as much as I can, like a grownup. I know you feel like that too, but I do even more. If I whined and cried like I want to, we'd all die. You'd all think I am just a kid who don't know anything. You wouldn't trust me or do what I say. You'd be right. I am just a kid. I don't know what I am doing, but I've got to fool the others, and I need your help."

"You don't know how much I'd like to sneak off and have a good cry, but it is too dangerous for me to be alone, and for the rest of you for me not to be here. Please don't ever again think that I don't want to be rescued."

"I won't," she wept softly. "And I am so very glad you are here to take care of us. I'll help you all I can."

"So far, you've done exactly what I've wanted you to. When I make a decision, you make the kids understand it and help make them mind. That's what being the momma is all about. You're a good momma.


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Copyright 1995
by
Leonard H. Hall, Sr.



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