by L. H. Hall
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
I'll burn myself. Will you take it out of the fire for me?"
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."
Sarah agreed, "but they're all too big, except that skillet with the
floppy handle, and a couple more."
only one of him. He didn't need five dishes."
why he had so many big pots."
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."
have anything to eat with. We can't eat soup with our fingers."
the clam shells I saved at lunch."
them are sharp. We might cut ourselves."
"I can fix
that by scraping the edges on a rock."
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.
were settled down to their supper, I asked Jamie to return thanks.
to the other flat rock and sat on it. "Did you learn anything
about the guy who left us this stuff?"
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."
was he here?"
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?"
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."
you think that's . . ."
her to hunt for him. She would bring it up here for him to dress."
I dropped my voice to a whisper.
did you learn?"
mangoes, papayas, coconuts, wild strawberries, and a whole bunch of
other stuff here, like goats, and he told us where some of it is."
this was a funny looking deer. Maybe it's a goat."
I think now, but I didn't expect goats to be here, and I've never
really seen a deer, except in pictures."
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
"We can try
"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.
Maybe, the rest of you can go, even if I can't."
Nobody's s'posed to be alone. Remember?"
don't go, nobody goes!" Again, that voice of finality let me know
she had the final say on that matter.
down there if I can."
ones were through eating. It must have been good. They had all
asked for second's, and made no complaints.
Jamie asked, "is Sheba still here? Did she bring us this meat?"
you ask such a silly question? That was a long time ago."
what you told Sarah. Is she?"
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.
know. He didn't describe her."
puppies. Can we keep them?"
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
Timmy," they answered in Chorus.
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,
"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
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."
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
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, 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
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."
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
she wept softly. "And I am so very glad you are here to take care
of us. I'll help you all I can."
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.
Leonard H. Hall, Sr.