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by L. H. Hall

Chapter 13 - The Dark Night


by L. H. Hall

Chapter 13

The Dark Night

I felt a little sprinkle on my arm, and turned around to see a heavy black cloud coming in from the East. "Get the meat! Quick! It'll get all wet."

The younger ones heard me from the main cave, and came out to help. There was a mad scramble. We got the last of the meat into the cave just as the rain started coming down in bucketfuls. We had been so concerned about the meat getting wet, no one even thought about the fire until it was too late. We had stood in the entrance of the cave watching the hardest rain we had seen on the island. We just stood there watching the rain put our fire out without ever realizing what was happening. There was only a small wisp of smoke, when Debbie remembered, "We don't have any fire in the cave, and the fire has gone out."

I ran out to try to salvage some coals, but it was too late. The saucer shaped top of the fire rock is nice for holding coals, but it also holds water. "Maybe we'll be able to start a fire after the rain stops." I was optimistic, but that was just wishful thinking. The rain lasted longer than usual, and the clouds moving westward covered the sun for the rest of the day.

When the rain was over, Sheba started for the jungle. I called her back. She did not attempt to go out again that evening

"It's a good thing we have that jerky left from the other day," Sarah reflected. "It looks like it's a cold supper tonight."

"I'm sure glad we have Sheba to protect us," I declared. We had not seen any signs of that pack of dogs after Sheba had run them off, but if she had not been there, I would have been really uneasy with no fire. "I hope nobody's afraid of the dark."

"Julie is," Debbie piped up.

"I won't be afraid if I'm with you, Timmy," Julie vowed. "I know you'll take care of me."

"How do you know I'm not afraid of the dark?"

"You're not afraid of the dark, Silly. You're too big to be afraid. Besides, Jesus will take care of you," she argued.

"Jesus would take care of you too," Sarah assured her.

"Yeah. I know, but--but--I like it better, when Timmy's with me."

"Why?" I asked. "Jesus can take care of you better than I can."

"But--but--I can see you, Timmy."

"All right, Julie, you can trust me, but is it okay if I trust Jesus, and Sheba?"

"Okay." She flicked her head in a cute little way that only Julie can do when something is settled, and she is satisfied. She stuck her nose in the air, and headed for the patio. "C'mon, Sheba, I gotta go potty in the jungle. I thought I was gonna have to go in that hard rain. C'mon! Sheba!" With a bound, Sheba was in front of her, leading the way.

"I'll bet Sheba will be glad when the pups get big enough to protect us; so, she won't have to go everywhere one of us goes." Jamie commented.

The rain had cooled things down tremendously. I picked up the machete, and went out to work clearing the goat yard, but every swing of the knife brought a shower down on me. Sarah followed me out. "Why don't you let it dry for awhile? Maybe it will be better, after supper."

"What'll we do in the meantime? I've been sitting around all day."

"We could take another swim."

"Yeah! I forgot about that! The last one in is an old wet hen." I ran off the edge of the cliff

"Wait for me!" Julie called from the jungle.

I had just come up when, SPLASH! Jamie landed a few feet from me.

"That ain't fair," Sarah grumbled, leading Debbie down the path. "You guys jump in, and we have to pick our way down through these sharp sticks in the path."

"That path is really hard on feet," I admitted. I left the stubs a little high on purpose, so we could see them; but nobody said you couldn't jump in."

"Oh, sure! And I'd break my neck too."

"No you wouldn't. All ya gotta do is make sure you land feet first, or head first, and start swimming' up as soon as ya hit the water." Jamie told them.

"I told you to wait for me," Julie complained from the bank. "I mighta got losted."

"You couldn't get lost on this whole island, Julie, not when you've got Sheba with you." I splashed water at her.

"But I hurted my foot."

"Let me see." Sarah looked at the foot. "You mighta hurt it anyway. It's just a little skin. We'll put some aloe on it when we get back to the cave. C'mon. Let's swim now."

"C'mon, Sheba," Jamie called. "Do you like to swim?"

Sheba jumped into the water, swam around us a couple of times as though she was checking things out, and returned to lie on the bank and watch us.

"Do you want a swimming lesson, Julie?" I inquired.

"I can swim a little bit, Timmy."

"I know, but I want you to be able to swim so good you can jump in from up there, and I won't have to worry about you." I pointed to the cliff.

"I ain't never gonna do that!"

"Sure you will. In a couple of weeks we'll have you swimming like a fish, and in a month you'll be jumping in from way up there, just like Jamie and I do."

"Huh! Uh!" She exclaimed with some fear. "You wouldn't make me do that, wouldja, Timmy?"

"Of course not. I just want you to swim well enough so you can if you want to, or if you should fall in."

"I wouldn't ever wanna do that. It's too high."

"All right, Julie, nobody's going to make you jump in if you don't want to. If anybody ever teases you because you're scared to do it, you tell me, and I'll punish him. Did you hear that Jamie? Don't you ever shame one of these girls because they're scared to jump in." Where did that come from? I wondered. A week ago I would have been the first to scream, "Chicken." That couldn't have been me talking. I suddenly felt sorry for people were afraid, and remembered that I wouldn't want to be teased about my own fears.

"I hear ya, but I don't think it's fair."

"Come out just a little deeper, Julie, and I'll show you how to swim. I remember how my dad taught me. Can you lie down with your face in the water and blow bubbles?"

"I don't know. I never tried it."

"Try it. Take a deep breath; then, lie down in the water, blow out through your nose, and kick with your feet. Don't be afraid. You won't sink. Sarah and I will be right beside you to help you, if you have trouble. Be sure to keep your eyes open so you can see where you're going. The water won't hurt your eyes."

She tried it, and did all right. She moved forward a few feet, while Sarah and I walked along beside her.

When she stood up to get another breath, I advised, "This time, hold your arms straight out over your head, and see how far you can go before you have to come up for more air." She swam quite a distance that time.

When she saw how far she had gone, she was elated. "I never swimmed that far before."

"Remember, when you're swimming, always breath in through your mouth, and out through your nose. That keeps you from getting water into your nose. Now you practice that. Someday, you should be able to go almost all the way across the lake with just one breath. Don't breath out fast. Take a big breath; lie down in the water with your hands over your head; breath out slowly through your nose; and kick your feet. Can you remember all that when you practice?"

"I'll try." She was quite successful a few times, but the time came, when, like all swimmers have, she came up, crying with a nose full of water.

"Blow out through your nose! Blow your nose!" I called. In a minute she was ready to try it again. That's what happens when you don't breath out through your nose, and in through your mouth. If it ever happens again, blow out hard as soon as you feel the water in your nose."

I did not do anything but watch her go back and forth in front of me for at least a half hour, until I was sure she had that exercise mastered. "I want to show you how to breath without putting your feet down. I'm going to swim just like you were. When I need a breath, I'm going to push down with one hand, roll over on my side, and turn my head way up so my mouth and nose are clear out of the water. Then, I'll open my mouth and take a big deep breath, roll back on my stomach, and put my arm out in front of me again. Watch me." I showed her a few times. "Now you try it. Remember breath out through your nose until your face is out of the water. Then, breath in through your mouth. This is harder to do than the other. In the beginning you may get some water in your nose. What are you going to do when you feel water in your nose?"

"Breath out hard through my nose."

"That's right. Now, try it"

She did not have much success the first few times. She had a tendency to put her feet down, and when she did roll, she did not roll far enough. Finally, I suggested that she try rolling the other way, and after a few tries, she took her first successful swimming breath. "That's all there is to swimming," I applauded. "All you need now is practice. When you learn that, I'll teach you how to pull with your arms, but that is easy. You'll have to practice breathing a lot before you can go out into the deep. Keep practicing." It was not long until she was taking several breaths without putting her feet down.

"Hey! It's starting to get dark, and we don't have a fire!" Sarah exclaimed. "We'd better get back to the cave."

"But, I wanna practice some more." Julie complained.

"You can practice tomorrow," I promised. "Let's go, or you might really hurt your feet if you have to go up the trail in the dark."

As night closed in, we huddled together, fearfully; waiting for the nightly noise in the mountain to end. We had gotten used to it. Sometimes we did not even pay any attention to it, but in the dark without a fire, it was really scary. None of us wanted to go outside while it was happening.

When the mountain racket stopped, we went to the patio and watched the stars come out. It was a beautiful night. We stayed up much later than usual. I told them the story of baby Moses; we said our prayers, and felt around on the floor until we found the bed.

It was the first night I had not dressed my leg with Aloe since we found out how healing it was. The leg was healing nicely, but I still knew the cut was there. It hurt worse in the mornings until I got it loosened up, but I did not let it get me down.

Julie snuggled close to me. "Timmy, put your arm around me so I won't be scared. Please."

"All right scaredy cat." I put my arm over her. "Isn't it too hot to snuggle?"

"Not when I'm scared, and you said nobody could tease me about being scared."

"That was about jumping off the cliff, but I'm sorry. I shouldn't have teased you."

"I love you, Timmy," She gave me another good-night kiss. Then she turned her back to me, and pulled my arm close around her. She was safe and sound.

"I love you too, Julie."

"Do you love Sarah and Debbie and Jamie too?"

"Yes. I love all of you. You're my family, aren't you?"

"Mmm Hmmm." She squeezed my arm one more time and fell asleep.

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Copyright 1995
Leonard H. Hall, Sr.

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