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For The Strength of Youth

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Submitted by Dave Free on 11 May 2007 - 2:45pm.

While Jeremy helped his parents with Petey, Elena and Madison gathered up all the pinto beans they could find and took them out to Fuji. He was munching on them happily while Blue ran back and forth trying to get him to play.

Jeremy and his parents joined the girls outside watching Fuji and Blue. The sky was still dark but it was 3:30 am and soon the eastern sky would begin to grow light.

“Any idea where Stutts is?” dad asked Jeremy as soon as they were outside.

Jeremy shook his head, “Their helicopter is at the bowl but it’s not going anywhere.”

“How do you know that?” dad asked.

“Well, their pilot is tied up and hidden under a pile of hay, they have leaks in several important hoses, and there is a very mad rattlesnake now living in the cockpit.”

Dad laughed. “You did all that?” mom asked incredulously.

“Me and Fuji,” Jeremy replied then asked his dad, “Any way we can get a hold of Sheriff Brown?”

Mom interrupted with a question of her own. “Does anyone want something to eat?” she asked.

“Mom,” Jeremy protested, “we don’t have time.”

“We’re three steps from the kitchen,” mom replied, “and most of us haven’t eaten for hours. Who knows when we’ll get a chance to eat again? We’re talking anyway we might as well be eating.”

“Okay, okay,” Jeremy reluctantly agreed. They all filed into the kitchen. Jeremy put the radio they had taken off Petey on the table. They each grabbed a bowl of their favorite cold cereal, said a prayer of gratitude, and started munching.

Jeremy was about to speak when he remembered Petey sitting in the family room listening. “Maybe Petey would like to watch some TV,” he said. He walked into the family room, flipped on the TV and turned up the volume. There was as an infomercial on the television advertising a system guaranteed to make anyone rich.

“Perfect timing Petey!” Jeremy said, “You’re going to need a new career.”

Petey just grunted.

Jeremy returned to his family and asked his prior question again in a hushed tone, “How are we going to get a hold of Sheriff Brown before Petey’s buddies show up?”

Dad swallowed a mouthful of raisin bran before answering, “Been thinking about that. They cut the phone line somewhere and Petey’s friend Bull took all the cell phones with him.”

“Why don’t we just light something on fire?” Madison asked.

“Uh?” Jeremy asked.

“The sheriff came last time we had a fire,” Maddie reminded everyone.

“Unfortunately we have no buildings that burn,” dad replied, “The other problem is that Stutts is likely to see a fire and come running.”

“Why don’t we just run for it?” Elena asked. She was pouring her second bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios. “Without a helicopter we can probably beat them to town.”

“Maybe,” dad replied, “but I’m not sure the Sheriff could get enough men back out here fast enough.”

“Fast enough for what?” Jeremy asked, “Do you know what they are looking for?”

Dad nodded and pointed over his shoulder at Petey. “That’s as quiet as I’ve seen him in the last twelve hours. Petey can’t shut up.”

“So what is it they want?” Jeremy asked.

“They’re looking for the fountain of youth,” dad replied.

“How did they know about that?” Jeremy asked.

“Everybody has heard about the fountain of youth,” dad said.

“No,” Jeremy interrupted, “I mean how did he learn about our fountain of youth?”

“What?” now it was dad’s turn to look confused.

Jeremy looked at mom and Elena, “Didn’t you tell him?” he asked.

“We didn’t have time,” Elena responded. “He was already arguing with Putts when we arrived.”

“Where’s the bucket of shrimp?” Jeremy asked.

“We left it outside the door.” Elena stood up and returned a few seconds later with the bucket. She put it on the floor next to her dad and took the lid off. His eyes opened wide.

“What the--?”

“Remember the shrimp you gave me for Fuji?” Jeremy explained, “They grew up.”

“How?” dad asked incredulously.

“It’s the water in the bowl,” Jeremy replied.

“Well, I’ll be!” was all dad could say.

“We came home to show you so that you could say no to Stutts,” mom explained, “but you were already telling him ‘no’ and then everything happened so fast and we just never had time to tell you.”

“So this whole time that Petey was telling us this wild story about the fountain of youth, you knew it was true but you never let on?” dad asked mom and Elena. They both nodded.

“Remind me never to play poker with the two of you.” He looked back into the bucket. “We can grow shrimp!” he nearly shouted.

“We can,” Jeremy agreed, “but I still don’t understand how Stutts knows about our fountain of youth.”

Dad looked up from the shrimp. “Sorry,” he said. “According to our boy Petey, Stutts has some kind of ancient Indian hieroglyphics that describe the ‘life giving’ waters. Apparently a key part of the story is the skull of an orinothimometer—or whatever Fuji is. The hieroglyphics say that the skull of a dinosaur will go into the water and then come out alive. So Stutts has spent the last several years tracking down every orinoth—

“Ornithomimus,” Jeremy finished for him, “and I’ve seen the hieroglyphics.”

“How?” dad asked.

“In the cave. They’re drawn on the walls.”

“Really?” dad said with some thought, “Well, Stutts believes it and has tracked down every Ornithomimus skeleton ever found looking for the ‘living waters.’ When he read that we had found one and that we had several springs on our property he figured he had finally found what he was looking for. He forced us to give him the map of all our springs,” dad concluded, “thankfully the spring in the bottom of the bowl wasn’t on the map yet.”

“They know where it is now,” Jeremy said weakly. “At least some of his men do. Any idea how many men he has?”

“Petey only said he could get as many as he needed,” dad replied.

“How will he know when he has found it?” Jeremy wondered out loud.

“He has a dinosaur skull with him,” Elena replied.

“What?”

“That’s what Petey said,” Elena responded. “They dip the dinosaur skull in each spring and then wait and see if anything happens.”

Jeremy stood up. “We’ve got to get to the bowl!” he exclaimed.

“Hold on,” dad said pulling him back into his chair. “First we’ve got to worry about staying safe.”

“Dad, if he gets that skull into the pool at the bowl you know what will happen?”

“I know Jeremy, we’ll have Fuji II. But I want to make sure we have a plan so that we’re successful and nobody sitting around this table gets hurt.”

Jeremy calmed down. “Yeah, yeah, you’re right,” he agreed.

The family sat in silence for a few moments. “Maybe Madison’s idea about a signal fire wasn’t so bad,” Jeremy spoke first. The rest of the family looked at him but didn’t speak. Jeremy continued, “What if instead of a signal fire, we use a signal mirror?”

Dad nodded. “I like it,” he said. “I helped McKay build a big signal mirror a few years ago for Varsity Scouts. I think it’s out in the shed.”

“If we can get somebody up on the wall at sunrise with that mirror, they ought to be able to send a good signal into town.” Jeremy said excitedly.

“Hopefully somebody will be watching and notify the sheriff,” dad concluded.

“I know where the trail to the top is,” Elena volunteered. “I’ll do it.”

“You’re not going alone,” mom replied. “Madison and I will go with you.”

Jeremy disagreed, “I think it would be better if I took her to the base of the wall on Fuji,” he said. He didn’t wait for a reply. “It will take too long if she walks from here. If she takes a four-wheeler Stutts and his men may hear her. Fuji is fast and quiet. I can get her to the wall safely and I’m sure she’ll be fine once she goes up the trail.”

Dad looked at mom and she nodded. “Okay,” he said, “but Elena you stay put until one of us or the sheriff’s men come to get you. Got it?”

Elena nodded.

“Now, how can we keep Stutts away from the--” dad was asking when Petey’s radio crackled, “Petey, it’s the Jackal. The boy is on the loose and may be on his way there! Over.”

The family sat in silence staring at the radio. It crackled again, “Petey, did you copy that? Over.”

Slowly dad reached out and picked up the radio. He pushed the “speak” button and said in a very stern tone, “Petey is otherwise occupied at this time. We will be sure to give him your message.”

The voice on the radio became angry, “Who is this?” it demanded.

Dad spoke again, “This is the owner of the property on which you are trespassing and in the process of committing at least three felonies. Your friend Petey is waiting patiently for the imminent arrival of the federal authorities. I would encourage you to come and join him.”

There was a flurry of swear words from the radio. Dad shut it off with a smile.

“That should get them thinking,” he said. He turned to Jeremy and Elena. “The two of you need to leave now. Mom, Madison and I will stay here and try to buy some time with a few surprises for our friends. Do either of you remember the Morse code for SOS?”

“Got it dad,” Jeremy said as he and Elena stood up.

“Good. Be careful.”

“We will. I’m going to go to the bowl after I drop Elena off. If they show up, I’ll try to keep them distracted.”

Dad nodded.

Mom was at the counter going through one of the drawers looking for batteries. She finally found what she was looking for and handed Elena and Jeremy each a two-way radio. “Remember channel 3-4,” she said, “take your 72 hour kits from the mud room. No telling how long you will be out there!” Jeremy was about to protest but mom grabbed them both and pulled them into a hug. “Be careful!” she whispered and then turned them loose to go out the door.

Jeremy returned a minute later with Petey’s gun in one hand while dragging Blue by the collar with the other. “I think you guys better keep Blue in here with you,” he explained, “and dad, I almost forgot about this. It’s Petey’s gun. You might need it.” He handed the gun gingerly to his dad who took it with a sigh and said, “Let’s hope not. These guys are killers but I don’t want to be. Be careful Jee.”

“Don’t worry dad,” Jeremy reassured him. “We’ll be careful.” He gave his dad a quick hug and turned and walked out the door.

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