Hanks wandered aimlessly around the house, from kitchen to dining room to living room, through mom and dad’s bedroom out the bathroom and into the kitchen again. The old wood stove in the corner of the kitchen burned away mildly heating the entire house. On top of the stove simmered a pot of chicken stew filled full of sweat potatoes, carrots, onions, tomatoes and lovely spices. Mom would make baking powdered biscuits and Hanks could smear each biscuit full of golden honey: her very favorite meal.
There was no special reason mom was making Hanks favorite meal. It was only because mom bought a live chicken at the market that morning and brought it home and she needed to wring it’s neck quickly because they didn’t have a fenced- in place to keep a live chicken. Hanks didn’t like it much when mom did that: wring it’s neck, the chicken’s neck. She shivered thinking about it and wondered if she would have to do that when she grew bigger. Maybe not. Maybe she wouldn’t eat chicken. That might be best.
Snort was gone again. He put a penny inside the cast that he had on up to his knees; he had a similar cast on each leg to the knee, but put a penny down only one cast. He found a coat hanger, stretched it out long, and shoved it into the cast. He sighed with relief as he scratched the itching from inside the cast he had on for more than a month now, but he couldn’t reach the penny. Mom took him to the hospital 3 days ago to get the infection taken care of that the penny made near his heel where he had an incision from the operation the doctors had done to his feet a while ago. He had to get a new cast put on. Hanks had no idea when Snort would be home. Maybe mom didn’t know either because no one was sure how long it would take for the infection to heal enough to put on a new cast.
It was very quiet in the house. And lonesome. Dad was at work, mom was resting because she had one of her sick headaches and needed to be in a room with the shades drawn and the curtains closed. Hanks wondered if Bradshaw was around. She left the warm fragrant kitchen and headed for the dining room. A white linen table-cloth covered the dining room table. Mom hadn’t taken it off since Sunday dinner. Hanks went under the table and snuggled into a quilt mom had made and gave to Hanks to use in her table tent. She would wait for Bradshaw to join her.
It didn’t take long at all. Bradshaw swooped right under the table-cloth and landed on Hanks’ shoulder and began to whisper in Hanks’ ear. Wanna go someplace? Bradshaw asked. Wanna fly away…..off to a special place I know?
Always up for an adventure, Hanks quickly agreed and before she knew it she and Bradshaw were flying over the town where they lived and found themselves high above the Big Lake. They flew over huge sand dunes, a coppice or two of pine trees, tall sand grass, sparkling white sandy shoreline that went on and on for miles. It was totally glorious to hold Bradshaw’s hand and feel the cool air blow over her whole self as they both flew through the clouds and over miles and miles of beach and then just water.
The waves out in the middle of the Big Lake were getting bigger and bigger. The shore line disappeared and dark clouds began to cover the blue sky and bright afternoon sun. Then it began to rain, the wind blew very hard and Hanks felt soaking wet all over. She looked over at Bradshaw with wondering eyes, not quite scared, but not really happy either. Bradshaw grinned, took a firmer grip on Hanks’ arm and down, down, down, into the water they tumbled, over and over, head over heels, floating free and blowing around in the stormy wind.
The Big Lake was very deep and both Bradshaw and Hanks sank downward for what felt like miles and miles. Hanks forgot to be scared and looked all around in wonder. She had no clue if she was going up or down, sideways or straight ahead. She could see almost nothing and it got darker and darker as they fell farther away from the sun.
Finally they reached the sandy, muddy bottom and began to walk around. They were surrounded by small hills of sand, big and little and beautiful and ugly fish, pieces of wood, some big boulders, and there, right there! Up ahead….what was it? As the two pushed their way through the strong Big Lake current an old falling apart sailing boat came into view. Both rushed over to explore, pushing against the water in slow motion while trying to hurry. They climbed over the sides of the long boat, explored the place where people sat, the deeper inside place where people ate and slept and talked, they looked for the sail but couldn’t find it.
Oh, man! Hanks found something she didn’t like very much. Is this what a skeleton of a person looked like? There was hair floating all around the skull and tattered clothes clinging to what must be arms and legs. Oh, NO The head moved……the holes where eyes should be stared straight at Hanks. She was scared. Then she thought of the bones of the chicken mom killed for dinner and she thought she might throw up. But Hanks didn’t know how to throw up when she was under water. She didn’t know how she was breathing either.
Hanks was scared and she couldn’t find Bradshaw. What was that all about? Bradshaw comforted her when she was scared. Bradshaw helped her to feel safe and helped her know what to do when the grown ups were all muddled and fussy and not available. Where oh where had Bradshaw got to?
Hanks tried to swim but wasn’t very good at it and not as strong as she hoped she would be. It was difficult to push against the power of all that water surrounding her on both sides and up top. She felt pushed down, stopped, stuck, afraid to move. She wanted to shout for Bradshaw but dared not to open her mouth. Nose, nose, she chanted. Nose, keep on breathing, just breathe. All I have to do is breathe. All I have to do is stay alive and that means just breathe. Hanks chanted her mantra over and over, trying to get a grip, trying not to be afraid, trying to figure out what to do when there were no grown ups helping her and her best friend Bradshaw had disappeared.
This, thought Hanks, is what it feels like to be all alone. No one to talk things over with or make a plan with or get ideas from. Just me. No Bradshaw. Where oh where has Bradshaw gone?
More About The Adventure: Part 2
Hanks decided she wanted to see the skeleton again. She pushed her way through the thick heavy water until she was standing by the feet of what she thought might be the skeleton of a girl about her age. At least it seemed about Hanks’ size. Tiny ripples from the fish swimming by caused the arms, the legs, the head of who Hanks was coming to think of as The Girl, to move grotesquely from side to side.
I’m sorry you had to downed, Hanks whispered without opening her mouth very far. She was still concentrating on her breathing. Breathe in, breathe out. Keep on living. Keep on breathing. Despair seemed to overcome Hanks. She didn’t know how to cry underwater, but she knew there were salty tears mingling with the cool waters that held her. If she just let go and let herself rest into the water it felt like there were arms around her and she might be safe again. But…..it was much too scary to let go or to relax into the water. She had to hold herself together or she wouldn’t make it, that was for sure.
Hanks straightened up, clinched her eyes shut tight, took a deep breath without knowing how she could possibly do that being under water and all, and touched the foot of the dead girl in front of her. Then she screamed; The Girl’s toe broke off into Hanks’ hand and the bones of her foot spread out in the water and began to float away. Dear god, wailed Hanks, what am I supposed to do?
I don’t know how, Hanks gasped. I am not big enough! I do not know what to do. I am just a little girl. I am only 8 years old.
But you do know what to do, came a whisper in her ear. Swim. Swim away. Let’s get out of here.
Hanks didn’t know where the voice came from, but it made good sense to her. Just get out. Get away. Don’t do this any more. Do something. Do anything. Just don’t do THIS. So clutching the toe bone in her hand she began to step backward away from The Girl. Slowly, one step at a time, taking little tiny baby steps, Hanks began to move away from The Girl in front of her. All I have to do is get the heck out of here, she told herself. Just move. Go. GO. GOOOO. Stop doing what is scaring you and get out of here.
All by herself, with no grown ups and no Bradshaw, Hanks left The Girl, the boat, the fish and drift wood and muddy bottom of the lake and felt herself starting to climb up, up, up where there was more light. It took a really long time, but all by herself, Hanks began to see sunlight hit the Big Lake and suddenly, when she thought she could not possibly hold her breath another minute, her head broke out of the stormy lake waters and her nose was in the air and she took a shuddering little breath…..then another bigger one…..and finally the water let go of her arms and shoulders and she was kicking her feet and scrabbling away from the underwater nightmare from which she had just saved herself.
When her eyes cleared of the water from the lake and she could breath again, Hanks looked toward the sun and saw what she knew was Bradshaw, who swooped down, grabbed her by both of her arms and took her up into the sky away from the Big Lake, the broken boat, The Girl, the storm clouds, toward a safe place.
Took you long enough, Hanks said to Bradshaw. Bradshaw laughed. And together they did a fancy dance as they tumbled through the sky back toward home.