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Friday, October 30, 2015

Through the Tunnel - Part 1

Good morning Faithful Friday Fiction Fans,
I imagine many of you are just here to read the first part of my new book. :) That's okay. I don't mind, really. I'm just glad the cover was appealing. Since it was the first "real" book cover I've done, I wasn't sure if it would catch attention. I'm happy to know it does.
Creating that cover was quite an experience for me, but it was really fun. I had to learn how to crop someone out so that it didn't look strange and to change the color of the eyes. :) I still have to finish the back of the book once I get the interior layout finalized. (And I can't do that until I have the rest of my snowflakes.)

Anyway, it's been a crazy week. My brother and sis-in-law signed a contract on a rental house last Saturday and my mom, sis and I spend two afternoons over there cleaning it. Today we'll probably be watching at least some of the kids while the others work on starting to move. Tomorrow is the big moving day. Everyone is eager to get into their new house. :)

Okay, I'll cut this short and let you get on with the story. :)

Through the Tunnel
Part 1

    It was all so quiet and still. Lissa drew in a long breath of the cold winter air and relaxed. The beauty of nature surrounded her. The awe inspiring slope of the rugged mountain in front, almost hidden behind clouds, seemed nearly close enough to walk to. Below the clouds, wearing their winter coats of snow, stood the towering pines and smaller, shorter deciduous trees. One tree in particular caught Lissa’s attention. It was a pine, tall and straight like the others, and holding heavy loads of wet snow, but its top was missing. There it stood, as grand as the others, yet it wore a scar which no other tree nearby bore.
    “Probably snapped off in some storm,” Lissa mused, gazing at the tree for some minutes before dropping her eyes to the stone bridge below it.
    The bridge, when one first glanced at it, appeared to be just another stone bridge spanning an icy river, but a second look showed three arches; the larger and most noticeable one was across the water, while smaller ones on either side, not as obvious, formed tunnels over the walking paths. Piled up on the walls of the bridge were layers of snow, mounded and white. Lissa smiled as she noticed that something or someone had knocked the snow off in a few places, and she wondered who had done it. Had it been knocked into the river, or had someone picked it up to eat? Shrugging, her gaze shifted.
    The soft, almost musical melody of the river drifting its slow way between banks of snow was the only sound to be heard, and Lissa’s head, still pounding with the almost constant noise, clatter, and raised voices of a cabin full of people, felt relief, and the throbbing subsided to a dull ache. Along the bank before her, she could see ice had formed along the water’s edge. Rocks, each wearing a cap like the top of a cupcake piled with sugar crystals, dotted the bank and even stuck up through the ice of the river itself, as though the sugar piles were sitting on a silvery tray just waiting to be served.
    A rumble sounded in the still air and Lissa glanced around before realizing the sound had been her stomach. “Those rocks are making me hungry,” she giggled to herself. Reaching down, she scooped up a handful of the pure, mountain snow and took a bite. With a sigh, she closed her eyes, reveling in the sensation of the powdery crystals melting into ice cold water in her mouth.
    With a glance back the way she had come, Lissa hesitated, then, lifting her chin just a little, she resolutely continued on toward that alluring bridge before her. She knew she wasn’t yet ready to face the turmoil of the cabin again, and she didn’t think anyone would even miss her until supper time. Leigh might realize I am gone. The thought of her twin brother made her look back once more. Perhaps she should have told him she was going out. He might have liked to come along.
    But then someone else would have heard, and before I could say anything, they’d either all be coming out and disturbing the quietness or someone would have forbidden me to go out. A slight frown came over her young face. For the seven hundredth time she wondered what life would have been like had she and Leigh not lost their parents when they were two. Bouncing around from one foster family to another for twelve years had been very difficult.
    Tears welled up in her eyes, but she blinked them back and continued trudging through the snow toward that tunnel under the bridge.
    “Lis–sa!”
    The call rang out loud and clear in the stillness of the snowy mountains. Lissa recognized her brother’s voice at once and paused, sighing inwardly. She wasn’t ready to go back and face a lecture from Mrs. Grose nor the constant commotion of the cabins. Life had been better before the Grose family had decided to have a family reunion in the mountains. Now seven adults, five teenagers, and half a dozen noisy, crazy kids were sharing two cabins for a long three day weekend. Why couldn’t she and Leigh have been allowed to remain behind? After all, they weren’t a part of the Grose family. Not really.
    The soft squeak of snow-boots stepping through the blanket of cold whiteness came closer. “There you are. Why didn’t you tell me you were leaving?”
    Lissa looked up at her brother. Though they were twins, Leigh was nearly three inches taller than she was and had the build of an athlete. “I would have,” she said, “but you were talking with Tony, and I was afraid of letting anyone else know I was going out.”
    “You missed lunch.” It was all Leigh said as he shoved his hands in his pockets and started slowly forward.
    “Didn’t anyone miss me? Except you, I mean.”
    “Nope. At least no one said anything. Here, I brought you an orange.” Leigh pulled out a golden ball and handed it to his sister.
    “Thanks.” Taking the fruit, Lissa slipped it into her pocket. She would eat it a little later.
    “Where are you going?”
    “I don’t know. To the bridge first. I want to see the tunnel.”
    The quiet of the winter afternoon was only broken by the soft sound of the twins’ footsteps in the snow as they neared the old stone bridge. Suddenly grabbing Leigh’s arm, Lissa whispered, “This is a tunnel to a new world. The entrance lies before us, and beyond–anything is possible. But we must enter holding hands and not speak a word from the moment we step foot inside this special passageway until we are out on the other side.”
    Raising his eyebrows slightly, Leigh stole a quick glance behind them before pulling his gloved hand from his pocket. Sometimes his sister had the strangest ideas, and he wasn’t sure where she got them.

So, what did you think?
You want a little more next week?
How did I guess?

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Rescue - Part 3

Hello FFFs!
Glad you decided to come back. I hope you had a good week.

Yesterday was full, fun and fallish. How else could it be when you mix 6 kids, parents, aunts, grandparents, great-grandparents, leaves, ladders, dead tree branches, swings, rakes, huge leaf piles, truck beds, lunch, dessert, a new ball, lego, saws, energy, supper, more dessert, darkness, games and more? Yep, it was fun. The truck bed of Papa's truck because a Coast Guard rescue boat. The ladder tied on the top of the ladder rack became a spaceship, the leaf covered yard was a perfect place to rake paths and roads and the 2 /12 year old greatly enjoyed following the paths and seeing where they led.

Here's a quick news flash. Check out Read Another Page on Tuesday and you'll get to see the cover and read the synopsis (finally) for my new book. It's not published yet, but you can find out more about that on Tuesday. So don't forget to come back. :)

And now, even though this is short, I'll let you get on to reading the last part of:

The Rescue

    “Don’t think about it,” quickly interrupted Jared. The last thing he wanted was Holly getting sick again. “See, look, they’re putting the ladder out. It won’t be long now.”
    Beside them Gene remained silent, sitting cross-legged and staring down at his dead phone.
    The minutes seemed like hours to the three soaked and waiting teens. The water was climbing higher and higher on the car and soon it would go under. Would help never reach them? A cry of dismay broke from their throats when they saw a large branch crash down and stop the progress of the ladder.
    “We’ll never be rescued,” Holly moaned, while tears mingled with the rain and ran down her face.
    “Yes, we will,” Jared assured, though he didn’t feel too hopeful at the moment. “Guys, we’ve got to pray again. God heard our first prayer and sent those men sooner than I thought was possible.”
    Gene didn’t reply, but Holly nodded. “Yes, we do.”
    As he prayed for their rescuers, Jared didn’t close his eyes or take them away from the efforts being made to save them.
    At last the branch was out of the way, and the ladder stretched farther out. But it was too short. Jared bit back a groan as he saw the ladder retracted, the fireman on it steadily moving backwards. Now what?
    Gene spoke for the first time since they had lost contact with the 9-1-1 dispatcher. “Uh, look at the water.”
    Holly screamed, moved and slipped. She screamed again as the boys grabbed her arms and pulled her back to the top. She was shaking. The water had almost reached the top of the car. Only another inch and they would be sitting in the water just waiting to be swept away.
    “Stand up,” Jared ordered. “There’s a branch above us. We’ll hang on to that until help arrives. Gene, you’re taller, grab it and pull it down just a little. That’s it. Now Holly, get a good grip and no matter what happens, hang on!” Jared had pulled Holly to her feet and held onto her arm until she was clinging tightly to their last hope of safety.
    “Help!”
    “Gene, save your strength! They’re going to get us.”
    As the three teenagers held on to the branch, the water crept up, covering their feet and lapping about their legs. Then suddenly they heard a crash and felt a shock run up their legs. The car below them shifted, turned and disappeared, leaving them hanging to the branch, their bodies pushed about by the torrent of water.
    How long would they have to hold on? Jared could feel his legs growing numb, and his hands and arms screamed from the tight grip he held on the branch. Would it be better to let go and pray that the water would take him closer to shore?
    “Hang on! We’re almost there.” The voice, strong, firm and commanding, seemed to infuse new energy into the exhausted muscles of the trio. A boat with two rescuers was nearing them.
    “All right, Lane, grab that branch. Hold us steady for just a minute. Now, you’re first, young lady. I’ve got you. Just let go and–that’s right.”
    Jared watched as Holly was safely pulled into the inflatable boat. It was Gene’s turn next. Then he felt hands on him. The last bit of strength seemed to flee from his body as he dropped exhausted into the boat between Gene and Holly. “Thank you!” The words didn’t seem adequate, but it was all he could say.
    The man gave a nod.
    Jared closed his eyes a moment and breathed a silent prayer of thanks. As the raft made its way towards the safety of the shore, Jared promised himself that he would never again allow anyone to drive through a flooded road if he was in the vehicle. He didn’t care if he had to forcefully take the key from the ignition. Nor would he mind the laughter of the guys when he made a right choice. He had learned his lesson.

###

    Bret gave another shove with his paddle. He could see the flashing lights of Ladder Truck 7 as well as those of the police and an ambulance up on land. That was good. The teens were going to need to get warm quickly or they’d all end up in the hospital. Jumping from the raft into the shallower water, he seized the rope and towed it toward shore. Quickly Charlie, Frank and Drew hurried to help and soon had it pulled farther up to the edge of the water.
    “All right.” Bret nodded to the three bedraggled and shivering teens. The boys didn’t need help as they rose and climbed from the boat, but the girl, still shaking and pale, accepted Bret’s offered hand. He watched a moment as the three had blankets put about them.
    It felt good to see that all three were safe and would soon be warm and dry. Reporters were everywhere, and someone tried to shove a microphone in his face, but Bret turned away. They had work to do. This rescue had been in the line of duty, it had gone well, and everyone was safe. There wasn’t more to be said, except . . .

    “Well, Bret,” Charlie remarked, as Ladder Truck 7 with its crew was once more back on the streets, “that’s our first three for the evening.”
    “And you were right,” Drew put in. “They were there because one of them was stupid enough to try driving through the flooded road. Why don’t kids like that think before they head into water?”
    “He was a teenage boy and had a girl with him,” Lane remarked, “what else would you expect?”
    “Better sense,” was Bret’s quiet answer, “because it may not turn out with the same results next time.”

Would you let a friend drive through a flooded road?
Are you excited to see the cover of my new book?
Post for next week?
Come back and you'll see!

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Rescue - Part 2

Welcome back, Fiction Friday Fans!
I hope you all had a good week. I did. It was busy, but then, what week isn't?
Not much writing got done this week. That's what seems to happen when I finish a book. At least the writing part. But don't panic yet, I plan to write again soon. It also doesn't help when I was working the nursery at church on Wednesday night, babysat the kiddos last night and tonight I'm going to some friends' house for a cookout. Oh, well. I'll just call it my break week. :)

However, I did get something finished this week. I published one of my longer short stories on kindle. This is a Christmas story you haven't gotten to read on my blog. I think it just might be my favorite of them all. Well, hmm, I have written many Christmas stories, . . . I don't know. :P But you can get it here on Amazon for $.99.

I Need Your Help!
Yes, you! I mentioned this before, but I still need some more people to draw snowflakes for my new book. Right now I have 7 either done or promised, but I need 20 of them for this book! So, if you like to draw or have a sibling who likes to draw, I would love to have your snowflakes! Your name will get mentioned in the front of the book. You can draw it with pencil as long as you go over it with a dark marker or sharpie or something black. Try to make it at least an inch wide as they will probably scan better. You can scan them and send them, take a really good picture and send them, mail them to me or give them to me (if you see me.) If you have any questions, let me know. Oh, and if you think you might be able to help me out, let me know so I can put your name down. Thanks!

And here is the next part of

The Rescue

    Somehow Jared’s sharp voice roused Holly and she pressed her window button with a hand that trembled.
    As soon as the windows were open, Jared, who had reached down and unbuckled both Gene and Holly’s seat belts, ordered, with a half attempt at gaiety “Okay, now comes the fun part. We get to climb on the roof of this car.”
    “I . . . I can’t climb out,” Holly gasped, staring at the swirling, rushing, brown water which roiled and turned, pushing the car farther from the roadway. “I . . . I think I’m going to be sick.”
    “That’ll have to wait until you’re on the top of the car,” Jared retorted. “I’ll go first and give you both a hand. Gene, stay on your side so the car doesn’t suddenly turn turtle while I’m climbing out.”
    Gene nodded. He was too shaken to say a word. This was not the way he had planned to spend his evening.
    Carefully, yet quickly, Jared climbed through the window of the car and up onto the roof. A slight jar almost made him lose his hold, and he sent up a swift, silent prayer for help. He heard Holly give a slight scream. Gripping the edge of the car tighter, he pulled himself up and glanced about. A large tree had stopped the car’s progress down the creek which, flooded over the banks as it was, looked as wide and rushing to him as the Mississippi River.
    “All right, Holly, your turn.”
    It took several minutes to get Holly and then Gene up onto the top of the car, but at last they were all there. The water was rising rapidly and already the floor of the car was under water.
    “Oh, my phone!” Holly’s cry made the boys look at her. “I think I left it in the car.”
    “We’ll use mine.” Gene pulled out his phone.

###

    “Keep your eyes open and shout out when you see them,” Bret ordered, as he flipped on the lights and sirens. Their engine had just received word about a car washed partway downstream with three teenagers in it. Dispatch had said they had lost contact with them suddenly and wasn’t sure if it was because of the rain causing a short in the phone or . . . But Bret understood.
    “I see it. Over there, Bret.” Frank pointed.
    “Got it.” Bret eyed the dark water which stretched out yards beyond either side of what once used to be a creek. “Charlie, get this thing as close to the water as you can,” he directed the driver. “We’re going to need every inch of land to reach them.” He shook his head over the situation.
    Flipping off the siren, Bret grabbed his hand-held walkie. “All right, Drew, radio dispatch and let them know we are at the sight and it looks like all three kids are still there. Frank, Lane, get ready to get the ladder stretched out. I’m going to wade out and see just how deep the water is. The car is stuck by a tree, so they aren’t in the middle of the creek. That’s good. I also want to get close enough to talk to them.”
    “Careful, Bret,” Charlie remarked, preparing to step outside after having brought the big truck as close as he could to the water’s edge. “That current looks strong, and who knows where an undercurrent might be.”
    Bret nodded. He knew the risks. Rain drummed on their helmets as the firefighters turned water rescuers stepped out. The cries of the stranded teens could be heard above the roar of the water. Carefully Bret started forward into the water. His waterproof clothes kept him dry, but the breeze which was blowing was fairly cool for June, and he knew the three young people on top of that car must be chilled.
    Step by step he ventured out towards the car. The water was soon up to his knees, then to his waist. Still he kept going until he could feel the strong push of the current. Then he stopped, holding his walkie over his head, for the water was halfway up his chest. “Are any of you hurt?” he shouted to the teens.
    “No, sir.” The shout came back firmly.
    Bret could see that there were two boys and a girl on the car. He also noticed that the water had reached the tops of the car windows. There wasn’t much time. He spoke into his walkie. “Drew, have dispatch alert the team laying sandbags farther down the creek. If we lose them here, they should be able to pick them up.”
    “Roger. I’m on it.”
    Turning to look back at the kids, Bret shouted, “Hang on, we’re going to get you.” Then he began his slow way back to shore. Frank and Lane were already getting the ladder turned and starting to extend it. Would it be able to reach the teens, or would they have to find another way to rescue them?

###

    On top of the car, Jared watched the rescue efforts being made on shore. With one hand he kept a hold on Holly’s arm for the swirling water around them made her dizzy.
    “Why is he leaving us?” There was panic in Holly’s voice as the fireman in the water turned and made for the shore.
    “He can’t wade out to us,” Jared retorted. “If he could, why didn’t he tell us to get off the car and wade to shore? Sorry, I shouldn’t snap at you.”
    Holly sniffed and clutched at her purse. “I’m cold and my stomach doesn’t–”
    “Don’t think about it,” quickly interrupted Jared. The last thing he wanted was Holly getting sick again. “See, look, they’re putting the ladder out. It won’t be long now.”

Will the ladder be long enough to reach them?
What do you think happens next?
Have you ever had to be rescued by firemen?

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Rescue - Part 1

Good morning Friday Fiction Fans,
How has your week been? I hope it was good. Mine was fast. But it was good also. Right now the weather is chilly, but delightful. We're at the time of year when one day will be warm and the next chilly. I think I'm ready for a cold snap though. I want the leaves on the trees to change color. I want all the webworms to die! And I want to wear sweaters and long sleeves. What about you? Are you ready for colder weather or do you already have it? Or do you dislike cold weather?

Here's an update on my writing. My new book "Through the Tunnel" has reached the end. My mom and sister were teasing me asking if I was SURE it was the end since I thought I had reached the end before. I'm almost positive this time. I haven't had any brilliant ideas to continue the story and I liked the ending much better than the first one. But we'll see what my editor says. :)

This story that you are about to read, was written way back when we had all that rain. All that flooding in Texas and other places was in the news. Well, after seeing some of the flooding near us, I went and looked up other flooding. This story (which I fictionalized) came from a news story down in TX. So, now that the flooding is over and fall is here, I'll let you read it.
(And see if you can find the pattern for the names I used. :) )

The Rescue
Part 1

    Bret Endky peered out of the fire truck windows at the steady rain and shook his head. “I don’t imagine we’ll be heading back to the station for a long time,” he remarked to the other men in the truck.
    There was a collective murmur of agreement as Ladder Truck 7 drove slowly down the street. Every yard was a swamp, every low lying bit of land a lake, and the water rushing down the streets along the curbs was at least a foot wide, often spreading out to two or three feet and covering the curb itself. For days the rain had been coming down, though not all the time; the sun had been out three afternoons, but that hadn’t been enough to dry the ground before clouds once more collected in the heavens to dump yet another load of excess moisture. This new rain only added to a ground already fully saturated and oozing with water.
    “How many people do you think we’ll have to rescue today, Bret?” Charlie asked from the driver’s seat.
    Being the most experienced water rescuer on the truck, Bret usually took the lead in any rescues unless the fire chief was around, and even sometimes then. “Well,” he began slowly, his fingers toying with the strap of his seat belt, “that all depends on how many stupid people are out driving in this weather.”
    “Surely not all those who need rescued are doing something stupid,” Drew protested. “What about that older lady whose house was washed off its foundation and she was in it?”
    “I didn’t say everyone needing rescued is stupid, Drew, but you’ll have to admit that there seem to be an over abundance of those in need of help who have only themselves to blame for their trouble.”
    “Yeah, I think you’re right, Bret,” agreed Frank with a nod. “It seems that we always have plenty of rescues that could have been avoided had someone not done something crazy.”
    “Well, it certainly keeps things exciting,” Charlie said before silence fell over the truck.

###

    “Hey, you think they’ll have the pizza ready by the time we get there?” Gene Everman asked, turning the wipers up a notch on his car.
    From the other front seat, Holly Osbourn pushed back her dark hair and laughed. “Probably not. I just got a text asking where we were.”
    “Who from?” the question came from the back seat where Jared Adams sat. He was the oldest one in the car having been eighteen for two months while the other two were still seventeen.
    Holly glanced down at her phone and replied, “Kinsey. She said some of the others are late too.”
    “It’s all this rain,” Jared remarked, looking out over flooded yards and sidewalks turned into pools. “If it doesn’t stop raining soon we’ll all have to get boats to get around town.”
    Gene laughed. “Don’t worry, this car is so light she’d float like a cork.”
    “Yeah, and just how would you steer her?”
    “I’d just go where she went. I’d see the world that way, and when we ran out of water, I’d just drive away.” Gene laughed again. He was proud of his new car and loved to boast of her power and speed to his friends. Nothing seemed to please him more than showing it off to the girls and guys he knew, unless it was eating pizza
    Flipping on his blinker, Gene turned onto another road to cross town. It was a shorter way to Kinsey’s house than going all the way to the bridge over Lostman Creek, and he was getting hungry.
    “There’s water over the road!” Holly exclaimed suddenly, sitting up and staring out the front window.
    “Ah, that’s not much,” Gene scoffed, not slackening his speed.
    Leaning forward and resting his arms on the back of the seats in front of him, Jared asked, “Are you sure you should try it, Gene?”
    “Hey, I’ve driven through that much before. It’s no problem. But I’ll let you out and you can swim across, Jared, if you don’t trust me.”
    Jared didn’t say another word but quietly unbuckled his seat belt as he looked at the rushing water before them. It seemed to be moving rather quickly. Too quickly for his comfort. He opened his mouth to say something and then closed it again. What was the use? Gene would only laugh at him, and so would the other guys when they heard about it. Besides, after his boasting there was no way Gene would back out now, not with Holly there, and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to know Holly wasn’t about to get out if Gene said it was safe.
    The dark car entered the water with a shower of spray. For a moment Jared’s fears seemed foolish, but then, without warning, the car made a sudden movement, bobbed up and down, and began to turn. Holly gasped and turned pale.
    “We’re floating!” Jared’s words were hardly necessary, for the scared faces of the two teenagers in the front showed that they knew it too. As the swift current caught the car and shoved it off the road, Jared quickly reached over and pressed the button to roll his windows down.
    “Jared, what are you doing? Are you trying to drown us all?” Gene half turned in his seat to glare at his friend.
    “No. But we have to get out of the car. Roll yours down. Quick, before the water kills the engine! There’s no time to argue, Gene,” Jared said, his voice rough. “Water is going to fill the car sooner or later, and I for one would rather be on top of it not inside, when it goes down. Holly!”
    Somehow Jared’s sharp voice roused Holly and she pressed her window button with a hand that trembled.

Have you ever tried to drive through water?
Do you know how to escape if your car starts floating?
Do you think Jared should have done something different?

Friday, October 2, 2015

To the Farm - Part 10

Hello FFFs,
It's a chilly morning here. I can tell it's below 50ยบ because my hands are cold. :) We've been getting farther and farther into autumn's lovely weather. The trees haven't started turning yet. We need a cold snap to start them off.

This week has slipped by without me quite knowing how. :) It's hard to believe that yesterday was the first of October! I'm still writing. Last night I wrote 2,021 words of "Through the Tunnel." Hopefully soon I'll be able to show you the cover and give you a few parts to wet your appetite. :) Am I almost to the end? Well, I think so, but I've thought that before and it hasn't happened yet. Maybe soon. If you haven't seen the picture that started this story off, visit Read Another Page. What kind of story could you make from that picture?

Tomorrow my sister and I are heading to Farm Girl Fest! I'm sure it will be a fun two days. We'll have a tent there with her sewing and flexi-clips and my books, and some small bags we made. It looks like we'll have great weather for it! 

But here is the last and final part of this Ria and the Gang story. I hope you enjoy it!


To the Farm
The Final Part

    Ed, Jimmy, Raymond and Winston strolled around from the front of the house a moment later, with Winston whistling Dixie, while Jack darted around from the other side.
    “Hurry!” he hissed. “Earl and Grandpa are heading towards the house!”
    “Close ranks.” Uncle Frank’s words were low and clipped. Instantly, the five boys fell into place behind and beside him completely shielding Ria’s small form from sight. “Keep your head down and be as still as possible, Ria,” he breathed in her ear.
     Ria clung to the neck of her uncle and tried to stifle her giggles as they left the house quickly, hid behind trees, crouched behind some large bushes, and walked, half bent over, in a ditch. Something strange was going on, but since it involved two of her brothers and her uncle, as well as some cousins, she didn’t care what it was. Anything was better than being stuck on the couch. When they neared the road, Ria was passed over to Ed.
    “Stay low and wait for my signal,” Frank whispered, motioning with his hand. Then he turned and, crawling low to the ground, disappeared in the direction of the road.
    “It seems like a military maneuver,” Ria thought as she clung to Ed and waited. They were screened from sight by tall grass and brush so she ventured to look around. Jack gave her a wink but the others were sober, each keeping a watch in a different direction.
    “The signal,” Ray whispered, pointing to a blue flag just above the grasses near the road. “You go first, Ed, with Ria. We’ll keep watch.”
    Ed didn’t reply, but started forward bent low, while his sister clung tightly, half afraid she would be dropped. But she wasn’t and soon they were on the road. A bend hid the house from sight and Ria was astonished to see a truck waiting a little farther away.
    As soon as Walt appeared from the grass after them, Frank motioned them on. “Get her in and I’ll come with the others. And remember, stay low when you are in.”
    Ed and Walt jogged along towards the truck, lifted Ria into the bed making sure her injured limb wasn’t jostled, scrambled up themselves and lay down.
    “Ed, what are you doing?” Ria whispered.
    “Later,” was all her older brother would tell her.
    Lying there in the bottom of the truck, Ria stared at the deep blue sky. This certainly wasn’t what she had envisioned when she had first learned of Uncle Frank’s visit, nor was it what she had expected when Uncle Earl had ordered her to stay off her foot. “Ed-–” she began, but a hand was placed over her mouth and her brother shook his head. Just then Jack scrambled into the truck followed by the others. A tap was made on the cab and, with everyone staying low in the back, the truck began moving down the road.
    With only a view of the sky, it was impossible for Ria to tell where they were going, and she quivered with excitement and suppressed the urge to sit up and look. At last the truck slowed to a stop and a voice said, “Here we are.” It was the driver, and Ria realized that it was a neighbor of her grandparents. “I don’t know what your gang are up to with Ria, but it looks like fun.”
    The fellows grinned at each other and began sitting up. “Thanks Mr. Sandman,” Frank smiled, vaulting from the truck and shaking hands with the driver. “And we’d appreciate it if you didn’t let on that you had anything to do with this–um, situation.” And Frank nodded towards Ria who was being handed over the side of the truck to Ed.
    “Oh, I had nothing to do with anything,” Mr. Sandman replied laughing.
    “Frank, car!”
    Ria watched as her uncle instantly dove for cover in the tall grasses and brush beside the road where the others had already taken refuge.
    As soon as the car had passed, Ria whispered, “What are we doing?”
    “You’ll know in a few minutes, Sis,” Ed promised, a slight grin on his face. He stood up, shifted Ria in his arms, and fell in line with the others behind Uncle Frank.
    The walk was short, and then, to Ria’s surprise and delight, they discovered the other members of the gang with a wagon loaded with hay and two horses hitched to the front.
    “Care for a ride, Ria?” called Phil from his perch in the midst of the loaded wagon.
    “Do I? Oh, how fun!” Ria clapped her hands in glee and was lifted up and settled into the hay. “Is this what you all were planning out in the yard earlier?” she asked Ray, who she found beside her as the wagon started off.
    Raymond grinned. “Yep. Do you like it?”
    “I sure do. But why did you all kidnap me and keep everything a big secret?”
    “That was half the fun,” Winston told her, laughing. “Besides, if you had just been carried right out of the house, someone would have wanted to know where we were taking you, and if they had found out about the wagon, they would have all wanted to ride, and we weren’t sure we could fit everyone on at once.”
    “Are the others going to get a turn?” Ria was laying back in the sweet smelling pile contentedly as she watched the trees slip by and felt the gentle bump and sway of the wagon.
    “Sure, but we wanted you to have the first ride.”
    “Yeah,” Chris added, leaning over to grin at his sister. “That way if it broke and everything crashed, you’d be the only lady we’d have to rescue.”
    A general laugh went up at that and Ria wrinkled her nose at him.

    From her position in the hay, Ria watched Grandma and Grandpa’s farm come into view. The ride had been lovely and all traces of self-pity had vanished. Idly she wondered if the sound of their singing or the sight of the wagon would attract attention first. She never knew which it was, but before the wagon had reached the house, everyone had gathered, and many were the exclamations of surprise and wonder, as well as a bit of good-natured scolding for the disappearance of Ria. The younger ones all clamored for a ride and, after Ria was lifted down and carried to the porch swing, the gang gave up their places to the youngsters.
    “Oh, it was so much fun,” Ria sighed with delight as she watched the wagon drive away. “I didn’t dream I would get to ride on a hay wagon today. I don’t think I’ll even mind staying off my foot for the rest of the week.”
    A chuckle went around the few lads who were standing on the porch, and Jimmy said, “We’ll remind you of that tomorrow when you are confined to the couch.”
    Ria joined in the laugh at her expense. She knew she probably would complain again before the week was over, if she was confined to the couch, but she didn’t think she’d ever forget her trip to the farm, her sprained ankle and the thoughtful kindness of “the gang.”

Did you enjoy the ending?
Was it what you had expected?
Have you ever gotten to ride in a hay wagon?