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For The Strength of Youth

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    Ch. 44 The Wisdom of the Wise
 
Submitted by Dave Free on 20 March 2007 - 9:59am.

“Hoof waa mack bummer?” Jeremy asked, his mouth stuffed full of baked chicken.

“Jeremy David! Don’t talk with your mouth full!” mom reprimanded him.

Jeremy chewed vigorously for a few moments and then exerting great effort, gulped down everything in his mouth with one great swallow.

“Sorry,” he said as he reached for his glass of water. He took a few gulps of water, put his glass down and then asked again, “Who was in the black Hummer with the Nevada license plate ALS 5469?”

“You memorized its license plate number?” Elena asked impressed.

Jeremy looked back at her for a moment, thinking. Finally he answered, “I didn’t mean to, but yeah I guess I did.”

“The black Hummer belongs to Mister Peter Stutts,” dad answered Jeremy’s original question.

“Did he come to look at your shrimp?” Jeremy asked as he attempted to get mashed potatoes, gravy and at least a few kernels of buttered corn all on his fork before lifting it carefully to his mouth.

“No,” dad replied, “he wasn’t here to look at the shrimp. He is actually a private collector of antiquities.”

“He was looking for antiques?” Elena asked curiously.

“Please pass the chicken,” Jeremy interrupted.

“Not till you’ve eaten something green,” mom responded and handed him the salad bowl.

“I don’t like salad,” Jeremy whined.

“Yes, you do. You’ve loved it since you were three years old. No salad, no chicken.”

Jeremy reluctantly took the salad bowl and picked out a few leaves of lettuce being very careful to not even touch the tomatoes.

“Actually, he came looking for dinosaur bones,” dad answered Elena’s question. Jeremy forgot about the salad. Everyone at the table quit eating and looked at dad.

“Apparently he read the little story in the Lincoln County Recorder. He said he ‘makes it his business’ to know about all dinosaur finds.”

“What did you tell him?” mom asked the question that was on everyone’s mind.

“I told him we have yet to find the dead bones and that it was like they just got up and walked away.”

“You didn’t!” mom protested.

“I did,” dad replied.

“What did he say?”

“He asked if he could take a look around.”

“You said no, right?” Jeremy asked.

“I said I would think about it,” dad replied, then quickly proceeded before the other four sitting at the table could protest, “he offered me money—lot’s of money—to look around. Plus he said if he found anything he would pay us for what he finds.”

“How much money? mom asked.

“Enough,” dad replied.

Everyone was quiet for a few moments but no one returned to eating. Dad looked around the table and sighed. “Look, I’m really sorry, but the shrimp just aren’t growing and we’re out of money. I don’t like the idea of Mr. Putts—I mean Stutts, wandering around the ranch with his crew anymore than the rest of you, but we may not have any choice. We’ll just have to figure out a way to keep Fuji hidden.”

“Can I please be excused?” Jeremy asked with more politeness than he was used to using.

“I thought you wanted more chicken?” mom probed.

“I’m not hungry anymore,” Jeremy replied.

“Don’t worry son, I won’t let anything happen to Fuji,” dad said.

“Dad you said yourself that if anyone ever finds out about Fuji we’ll lose him.”

Dad sighed again, “You’re right Jeremy, I did say that and I still believe it. But the sad fact is if we don’t get some money we risk not only losing Fuji but the entire ranch.”

“Can I be excused?” Jeremy asked again quietly.

“Sure son, you’re excused.”

The next day was Sunday. The family was quieter than usual as they drove the thirty minutes into town for church. Jeremy tried to concentrate on what the speakers were saying but his mind kept going back to his plans for hiding Fuji. He decided the first thing he needed to do was explore the cave. Maybe there was another entrance to it somewhere. He was just starting to think about ways he could get food into the cave for Fuji when the congregation began singing the closing hymn.

After Sunday dinner Jeremy went to his room to make a list of all the equipment he would need to explore the cave tomorrow. He cleared a space on his little desk by moving a pile of dinosaur books to the floor. Using a sheet of paper from his school binder he started his list. Under water flashlight, snorkel, fins…

The phone rang and he heard his mom answer, “Oh hi sweetie!” That would be one of his brothers calling Jeremy thought. He returned to his list. Rope, snacks… Elena started playing her harp in the family room. Jeremy listened and thought for a moment. He would be able to explore a lot faster with two people. He was sure Elena would help, but he wasn’t sure if she would do it without telling mom and dad. They hadn’t told him not to go back in the cave, but Jeremy figured they would say no if he asked and he couldn’t risk that at this point. He could still hear his mom on the phone. His dad would be on the bedroom extension talking as well. Jeremy decided to risk it.

He casually walked into the family room and sat on the couch. Elena continued to play. Jeremy waited for her to finish her song, hoping it would end before the phone conversation. Finally Elena plucked the last string.

“Did you hear that?” she demanded of Jeremy.

Jeremy nodded, “Yeah, I was sitting right here.”

“No, I mean did you really hear it? I just started on that piece last week and I just played it without a single mistake! I’ve got to tell mom.” Elena began to stand up.

“No wait,” Jeremy protested, “mom’s on the phone and I’ve got to talk to you.” Jeremy looked around to make sure Madison hadn’t wandered into the room.

“What?” Elena asked a little frustrated she couldn’t go share her excitement.

“Promise you won’t tell mom and dad?” Jeremy started.

Elena rolled her eyes. “You know I’ll never promise that she said.”

“Even if it is a matter of life and death for Fuji?” Jeremy asked.

“Okay,” Elena sighed, “but if it is wrong I’m still going to tell them.”

Jeremy began to wonder if this was such a good idea, but he figured he didn’t have a choice. “I’m going to explore the underwater cave tomorrow.”

“Why didn’t you just say so?” Elena asked. “I’ve been thinking the same thing.”

“So you won’t tell mom and dad?” Jeremy asked.

“They’d never let us go if we did,” Elena replied.

At 4:00 am the next morning Jeremy’s alarm went off. He quickly turned it off and jumped out of bed. He quietly opened his bedroom door and tiptoed down the hall to girl’s room. They slept with their door open. He slipped in the door and shook Elena’s shoulder. She woke with a jerk and then recognized Jeremy standing over her and rolled out of bed.

“Hurry!” Jeremy whispered and then went back to his room to get ready. A few minutes after waking up they were pushing the Rhino down the drive to avoid making any noise. When they reached the road they jumped in. Jeremy started the machine and they headed for the bowl.

There was no sign of sunrise yet and no moon in the sky. They drove in silence, the lights of the Rhino illuminating the road just in front of them. When they reached the bowl it was empty.

“Fuji must be in the cave,” Jeremy commented. Elena just nodded and began unloading the gear.

“Did you get the underwater flashlights?” she asked.

“Yeah, I also brought a lot of rope,” Jeremy replied. “There should be enough so we can tie off one end here and take the rest with us. Then when we’re ready to come back we can just follow the rope.”

“Good idea,” Elena said as pulled off her sweatshirt. The early morning was crisp, and she looked forward to the warm water of the pool.

Jeremy carried several coils of rope to the edge of the pool. Taking the end of one of the coils he tied it to the bumper of the Rhino. Then he returned to the other coils and tied them all end to end to form one long rope. Elena handed him his fins, snorkel, mask and flashlight.

“Here you go,” she said and then sat down on the edge of the pool and began pulling on her fins. Jeremy pulled off his sweatshirt, kicked his shoes off, and began peeling off his socks.

“We stay together no matter what, right?” Elena said as more of a reminder than a question.

“Together,” Jeremy said and nodded. He pulled the mask strap over the top of his head and positioned the mask on his face then he picked up the loose end of the rope tied it around his waist and jumped into the pool. Elena followed him.

Fuji woke with a start as they splashed their way up on to his beach in the cave. He had scraped a nest for himself out of the sand near the back wall and was curled up with his head wrapped around lying on his tail. He jumped up as they approached and snorted and bobbed his head. Elena took an apple out of the net bag she had over her shoulder and threw it him. Fuji caught it in the air with his open beak and crunched on it happily.

“We’re going exploring boy!” Jeremy said happily. He was glad to see that Fuji was still safe and for at least a few minutes forgot about Mr. Stutz. He untied the rope around his waist and began pulling it hand over hand through the water making a wet pile of it on the sand.

They decided to start by exploring the underground lake for any additional tunnels. Two hours later their fingers were wrinkled like prunes but they were convinced that there were no other tunnels. Fuji thought it was a game. He would dive with them and then launch himself from the bottom of the lake toward the surface. With his snout straight up, he looked like a rocket shooting up through the water. His head, neck, and most of his body would clear the surface of the water before the weight of his mighty legs and tail would bring him crashing down with a mighty splash.

Jeremy tried to stay focused on the search, but he had always wanted to swim with the dolphins and Fuji seemed to be having so much fun he finally gave up and swam toward the dinosaur. The next time Fuji came down, Jeremy was ready for him. He swam in close, wrapped his arm around the dinosaur’s neck and straddled his back with his legs. Fuji twisted his head around to look at him. Jeremy nodded his head and said, “C’mon boy, dive!”

The dinosaur pointed his head down into the water and his tail went up. Jeremy held on tight, took a big gulp of air and went down with him. In a matter of seconds Fuji’s feet touched the bottom. He squatted low and then without warning shot upwards. The rushing water tore Jeremy’s mask right off his face but he didn’t let go until they shot out of the water. He flew five feet into the air and then landed with a splash.

“That was so cool!” he yelled as he surfaced. Fuji snorted and bobbed his head.

“I want a turn!” Elena called from the beach. The sun was now up outside and the cave was lit by the streams of light from above.

“Come ahead!” Jeremy called, “But I’m going again.” This time as he came out of the water he had time to spin and dive headfirst back into the water. Two or three turns later he swam to the beach for rest. He dropped down on the sand next to the pile of rope and laid back on it. He was just dozing off when he felt the rope that went into the water tug. He opened his eyes, sat up and watched it closely. Sure enough something was tugging it back into the water. Elena and Fuji had just shot out of the water. He called to them.

“Elena, something or somebody is pulling on the rope!”

“What?” Elena responded.

“Come here quick!” Jeremy called, “Something is pulling the rope back into the water!”

Elena headed for the beach and Fuji followed. “What did you say?” she asked Jeremy as she dropped down next to him breathing heavily from the swim.

Jeremy pointed at the rope. It was slowly being pulled into the water. It would go slow for a moment and then speed up before going slow again.

“Looks like someone is pulling on it,” Elena said.

“Following us,” Jeremy said.

“Who do you think?” Elena asked, then answered her own question, “Dad wouldn’t have let Stutz start exploring without telling us would he?”

Fuji was now eyeing the rope closely, he reached down to take it in his beak but Jeremy stopped him.

“No,” he said, wrapping his arms around the dinosaur’s neck and pulling him back. “If we pull back, whoever it is will know someone is in here.”

“Jeremy, whoever is pulling on that rope saw the Rhino and our clothes and the rope leading into the pool. They already know someone is in here.”

Jeremy nodded, “Do we have anything we can hit him with?” He started looking around.

“Too late,” Elena replied.

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Okay...I keep waiting for an

Okay...I keep waiting for an installment on this! Hows it going?
Gaynell Parker

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Thanks for the

Thanks for the encouragement. I've had another project consume me the last few weeks, but I've about got that wrapped up. Look for more before the end of the week.

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Anna of Gilbert Loved it.

Anna of Gilbert Loved it. It's not my first choice genre, but I'm hooked, I read all nine chapters in one sitting, and can hardly wait to read more. I notice this copy is not extremely particular about capitalization, and has trouble with the usage of lay and laid, but I applaud everything else. Wish I could write like that. Keep up the good work.

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Anna of Gilbert

Anna of Gilbert

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