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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 4 May 2007 - 11:33am.

Jeremy looked quickly out to where the rope disappeared. A swimmer cleared his snorkel with a loud blast.

Fuji returned the blast with a snort of his own and began pawing the sand staring intently toward the swimmer. Terrified, Elena grabbed Jeremy’s arm. They could hear the swimmer breathing heavily as he recovered from the swim through the tunnel. Jeremy’s mind raced. It would only be a few seconds before the swimmer could catch his breath and be able to see in the dimness of the cave. If they were going to act, it had to be now. Without warning, he slapped Fuji on the back and yelled, “Let’s get him!” Then he ran toward the water screaming at the top of his lungs.

The slap and yell caught Fuji by surprise. He jumped to the side and then chased after Jeremy. With three great strides he passed him and was the first to crash into the water. Jeremy wasn’t far behind. He dove and was just able to grab Fuji’s tail as he hit the water. Fuji powered forward through the water toward the swimmer.

Jeremy didn’t know what Elena was doing and he couldn’t see the swimmer as he was dragged through the water, but he was confident that the swimmer would be terrified to see a beast bearing down on him. Surely he would want nothing more than to go back the way he came. Suddenly, Fuji stopped. Jeremy looked up. The swimmer was still there and he was petting Fuji!

“Hello Fuji! How are you boy?” It wasn’t a he! It was a she, and it was mom!

“Mom what are you doing here?” Jeremy demanded.

“I’ll be the one asking questions young man,” mom replied sternly.

“Okay, you just scared us to death!” Jeremy said.

“Where is Elena?” mom asked.

“She’s on the beach,” Jeremy replied and then turned and yelled toward the beach, “Elena, it’s okay! Its just mom!”

“Elena are you okay?” mom called.

“I am now,” Elena replied, and then added, “Jeremy, I’m going to kill you when you get back here!”

Jeremy looked at mom and smiled. “We thought you might be Mr. Putts,” he explained.

“I think it is ‘Stutts,’” mom said, “and you know your dad wouldn’t let him on the property without telling you first.”

“I guess,” Jeremy said.

“Did you say there is a beach in here?” mom asked.

“Yeah, back this way.” Jeremy pushed off of Fuji and started swimming toward the beach. “C’mon boy, let’s go!” he called. Fuji and mom followed and soon they were all back on the beach with Elena.

“So do you want to tell me what was so important that you left this morning before chores and without leaving a note?” mom asked as she pulled off her mask and sat down on the sand.

“Mom, if dad lets Futts look for bones, we’re going to have to hide Fuji.” Jeremy started.

“Yeah, and this cave is the best place,” Elena continued, “We needed to explore it to see if there was any other way to get in or out.”

“And you didn’t tell us because…?” mom waited for an answer.

“We figured you’d say no.” Jeremy mumbled.

Mom nodded. “Well first off, his name is Putts—I mean Stutts—not Futts.” Mom shook her head, tongue-tied. Jeremy and Elena burst out laughing and Fuji snorted.

“More important than that man’s name,” mom’s tone got serious, “is that you could have been seriously hurt, or lost, or something worse and we would have had no way to find you. You both know better than that! Don’t ever do it again! Got it?”

Jeremy and Elena both nodded.

“Also, your father and I are just as worried about Fuji as you are.”

“But dad is going to let that man on the ranch to find Fuji!” Jeremy protested.

“First off, he’s not letting him on the ranch to find Fuji. Putts will be looking for other bones—period. Believe me, if your dad had any choice, he wouldn’t even do that. He doesn’t like Putts at all. He said he doesn’t trust the man and would like nothing better than to never see him again.”

“Than why is he letting him?”

“There are no other options!” mom said with emotion. “It’s tearing your dad up, but there’s no other way. We need the money or we’ll lose our home! Do you understand that?”

Jeremy and Elena both nodded.

“Good. So lets support him and make sure Fuji can’t be found.” Mom looked around the cave and asked, “Any luck with another entrance?”

Jeremy and Elena both shook their heads. “We swam all around this lake. That tunnel you came through is the only way in or out.” Jeremy said.

“This is the only beach,” Elena explained, “The rest of the lake is surrounded by the walls of the cave. There are ledges higher up on the walls in a few places, but we haven’t tried to climb up to them to see if they lead anywhere.”

“The only other option is the ceiling.” Jeremy pointed up where the light streaked in. “But we don’t have the equipment to get up there and the gaps don’t look very big.”

Mom looked up and nodded in agreement. “So how are we going to get food in here for him?” Fuji had once again rested his snout on her shoulder and she was rubbing it.

Jeremy shrugged. “Tunnel is the only way,” he said. “Will it hurt pinto beans if they get wet?”

A half hour later they were climbing out of the pool into the bright sun. The rope Jeremy had tied off at both ends made the trip much quicker and easier. Jeremy and Elena were the first ones through and were sitting on the edge of the pond breathing when mom surfaced.

“Hey, come look at this!” she called and dove back under the surface.

Jeremy and Elena exchanged confused looks then pulled their masks back on and jumped in.

When they reached mom’s side she waved at them and pointed excitedly to a handful of shrimp swimming near the edge of the pond. Jeremy’s eyes opened wide. There, right in front of him, were jumbo size shrimp!

Mom surfaced and Jeremy and Elena followed.

“Where did those come from?” Elena asked as she broke the surface.

“I had no idea there were shrimp already growing in any of these springs,” mom replied.

“There weren’t,” Jeremy responded. Both girls looked at him. “Saturday when I brought those shrimp for Fuji to try—he threw them in here. There weren’t any shrimp in here before Saturday. I would have seen them for sure.”

“But they’re so big,” mom protested. “How did they get so big so fast?”

Something clicked in Jeremy’s memory. “The water!” he exclaimed. “Mom it’s got to be the water!”

“That’s what your dad has been saying for months,” mom replied, “but they’ve doubled in size! Water couldn’t do that!”

“This water could,” Jeremy persisted. The pieces were now all coming together in his mind. “Remember the night we found the bones? There was no water in the jug so I ran off to get some. I filled it with this water!” Jeremy slapped his hand down on the water’s surface with a splash to emphasize his point.

“And?” Elena asked, waiting for the rest of the story.

“And dad used the water to wash off Fuji’s skeleton and the next day Fuji was alive!” The dinosaur snorted and shook his head when he heard his name. He was now munching on the hay. Jeremy, Elena and mom slowly made their way to the side, climbed out, and sat on the edge.

“So you think the water is magical?” Elena was still struggling to get her mind around it.

“I don’t know if it’s magical,” Jeremy replied, “but Fuji is alive and those shrimp went from popcorn to jumbo in three days!”

Nobody spoke for a while, each of them thinking about the implications of what they had discovered. Mom was the first to speak again.

“I wonder what effect it has on humans,” she said.

“I’ve been noticing funny things,” Jeremy replied.

“What do you mean funny?” mom asked.

“Remember that license plate number I remembered?” Both Elena and mom nodded.

“The Hummer was going at least forty miles an hour as it passed me. I don’t even remember looking for the plate number, but I can see it in my memory as clear as a bell!”

Mom and Elena didn’t say anything. Jeremy continued, “And what about Elena on her harp yesterday? She’d hardly practiced that song and she played it straight through perfectly!”

“I barely looked at the music, I just remembered it.” Elena nodded slowly as it all began to sink in. “Rats!” she added, “I thought I was finally getting good!”

“You are sweetie!” mom put her arm around Elena and gave her a squeeze. “Ponce de Leon never found the fountain of youth and I seriously doubt that we have one here.” She paused for a moment then added with a twinkle in her eye, “But if we did, I’d sure like to get rid of a few of these wrinkles.”

“But how do you explain Fuji and the shrimp?” Jeremy protested.

“The shrimp!” mom said and jumped up. “Jeremy can you catch a few of those shrimp? I need to show your dad. Mr. Stutts is coming again this morning. I don’t care how or why it happens, but if we can grow shrimp like that, we don’t need Mr. Stutts’s money.”

Five minutes later mom and Elena raced off in the Rhino with four jumbo shrimp happily swimming in Fuji’s play bucket. Jeremy volunteered to stay back, gather up the rest of the gear, and follow them on mom’s four-wheeler. He worked quickly, anxious to see what his dad thought of the jumbo shrimp. He stuffed all the snorkeling gear in a duffle bag and slung it over his shoulder. He’d grabbed a tshirt out of the Rhino but was still in his swimsuit and water sandals. He hated riding without sneakers or boots, but he had no choice.

“See you later boy!” he said to Fuji and sped off to the ranch.

The black Hummer was still in the ranch drive when Jeremy pulled into the shed. He closed the overhead door behind him and started for the house. Blue whined from his kennel. Jeremy stopped to pet him. As he talked to the dog he heard shouts coming from the house. Surprised, he headed for the door. The screen door was closed, but the inner door was open. Jeremy reached for the handle of the screen door and heard his dad shouting with a tone he had rarely heard.

“If you and your men don’t leave this property now, Mr. Stutts, I’ll be forced to call the sheriff and have you removed!”

Jeremy decided not to attract attention by opening the door and stood still and listened.

“I don’t think you understand,” a voice replied to dad’s demand. Jeremy had never heard the voice before but assumed it belonged to Stutts. The voice was smooth, too smooth, and very condescending. “We’re not going anywhere until we find what we came for.”

Jeremy heard his mom gasp and then his dad said, “Put that thing away Stutts! There is no need for guns! Think of the children!”

“Your children will be perfectly safe,” the oily voice purred. “All you have to do is cooperate. That’s really all we want is your safety and cooperation. We’ll find what we’re looking for and be on our way.” The voice now turned ugly and demanding, “Now sit down and shut up. We have no more time for this.”

Jeremy was frozen with terror.

The voice inside continued, “Petey tie ‘em up, cut all the phone lines, make sure they don’t have cell phones or anything else they can use to call for help. Bull, come with me.” Jeremy heard footsteps. They were coming towards him!

He ran for the shed and ducked in the side door. A moment later two men dressed entirely in black came out the screen door of the ranch house.

“Shrimp!” the man who had been speaking inside the house said to the other. “These idiots don’t have any idea the value of what they are sitting on!”

Jeremy listened closely through the open door of the shed. He had an old rake handle in his hand but didn’t know what he would do if they came into the shed.

Stutts kept talking, “You go find the boy while Petey takes care of the others. I’m going to get the crew and start checking each of these springs. All the pieces on the map fit. It’s got to be here somewhere.”

Blue barked madly at the men.

The other man, Bull, pointed to the dog, “You want me to shoot it?”

“No,” Stutts replied, “he’ll get used to us and if anyone gets neighborly I want it to look like everything is just fine.”

“Got it!” Bull replied.

There were footsteps on the gravel. The Hummer door opened and then slammed. A few moments later Jeremy heard it drive away. Jeremy didn’t move a muscle. He tried to not even breath. He waited for more footsteps. There were none. Where was Bull?

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wow...what a twist! Keep up

wow...what a twist! Keep up the good work!
Gaynell Parker

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