This is a story inspired by my son's adventures in Michigan. it is a work in progress
|Today was the very last day of school before summer break. Tyler James could hardly believe it. He was almost done with fourth grade. Tomorrow would be the start of the best summer ever. His mom had finally agreed that this summer he could fish on Grandpa’s pond all by himself. Of course she said that he had to wear a lifejacket. That’s how moms are. They worry over everything. He couldn’t wait to take Digger and go fishing. Digger was the best dog ever. Tyler and Digger had been buddy’s since Tyler could remember. Thinking of Digger made him look out of the classroom window. He could see his house across the street. By the fence, Digger was sitting patiently waiting for Tyler. He knew school was almost done.
“Tyler James! Are you listening?” Mrs. Baker interrupted his thoughts of summer.
“Yes Mrs. Baker.” Tyler replied.
“Please pay attention Tyler. You don’t want to go to RTC on the last day of school do you?” asked Mrs. Baker in a rather stern tone.
“No.” said Tyler.
He really meant it. RTC stood for “Responsible Thinking Center”. If you got into trouble, you had to go there and sit quietly. You had to just sit and think about what you did wrong. Then the RTC lady gave you a piece of paper to write down what you did wrong and what you would do to be right the next time you thought about doing something wrong. Tyler was pretty familiar with the whole process. Sometimes there would be other kids in there crying. That made it hard to concentrate on what you did wrong and come up with a plan to get back into class. Sometimes, however, Tyler couldn’t come up with a really good plan. Sometimes you mess up, just because you messed up. But you couldn’t write that down. The RTC lady would never accept that.
Mrs. Baker was talking about cleaning out lockers and being sure to take everything home. Tyler looked over at Kevin Wilson. Kevin was not only his best friend, but also his cousin. They hung out every day at lunch and recess. Today Kevin was coming over after school to stay the night. It was going to be awesome. The planned to eat pizza, watch movies, and play video games all night. Mom even promised that they could make nachos after nine o’clock. Mom almost never let him eat after nine!
Kevin didn’t notice that Tyler was looking at him. Kevin was staring at Lucy Maddigan. He was always staring at Lucy. Kevin had told Tyler that he thought Lucy was the prettiest girl in the whole school. Tyler always laughed at Kevin when he talked about her like that.
Mrs. Baker interrupted his thoughts again. “OK Class. I’d like everyone to come up and get one of these bags and quietly go to your locker and remove everything.”
Tyler stood up and got into line. He was determined to be on his best behavior today. He had promised his dad that he would make it the whole day without getting into trouble. He knew Dad would find out if he got into trouble. He always did. Tyler’s dad was a teacher at the same school. He taught in the high school wing. He was also a coach so all the kids knew who he was. He always found out about Tyler’s troubles before Tyler got a chance to explain anything to him. Mom always said, “Good news travels fast in a small town, but bad news flies!” She sure was right!
Tyler felt someone poke him in the back. “Move it Nature Boy!”
Tyler turned around and shot a look at Kevin. He knew that only Grandpa was allowed to call him that. Grandpa gave him that name, and only Grandpa could use it. Kevin was just trying to get a rise out of him. Kevin always thought it was a hoot when Tyler got into trouble. Kevin, on the other hand, never seemed to get into trouble. He always knew exactly what to say to a grown up to stay out of trouble. Tyler, on the other hand, never seemed to say the right thing.
Tyler grabbed a bag and walked to his locker. He took a deep breath and opened the metal door. What a sight! Shoes, sweatshirts, papers and books were crammed into the bottom of the locker. Tyler promised himself every year that he would keep his locker clean and organized, like Kevin’s. Oh well, there was always fifth grade! He flipped open the bag like he had seen the baggers do at the grocery store. He unloaded the contents of his locker into the bag. He jammed and stuffed and pushed to get everything into his bag. It still didn’t fit. He looked at Kevin’s bag. Everything was neatly stacked. It was only half full. His locker was empty.
“Hey Kev,” he said, “Can I put some stuff in your bag? Mine’s full.”
“Sure Cuz.” Kevin grinned and shook his head at Tyler. Together they put the rest of his locker junk into Kevin’s bag.
“Nature Boy, you need to get organized!” Kevin said with a laugh.
Mrs. Baker walked toward them smiling. “Well boys,” she said, “it sure has been nice having you in my class.”
“This year has been a blast!” said Kevin as he smiled up at her. Mrs. Baker grinned. Tyler didn’t know what to say so he pretended to look for something in his empty locker. Kevin always knew what to say to adults.
The bell rang! That was it! Fourth grade was over! Tyler and Kevin grabbed their bags and ran towards Tyler’s dad’s class. Several teachers told them to walk. But this was the last day of school! The decided it would be ok to slow down to a half run.
They reached Dad’s room. “Hey Uncle Troy,” hollered Kevin as they ran through the door.
‘Hi Boys! Ready for summer?” asked dad.
“Heck yeah!” Tyler and Kevin shouted in unison.
“Why don’t you boys leave your bags here and head on home? Be careful crossing the street. Watch for cars and…” dad was saying.
“Yeah yeah, we know! Look both ways and cross at the corner. We’re not babies dad!” said Tyler. Why did grown ups insist on telling kids what to do all of the time?
They dropped their bags on Dad’s desk and headed out. On their way to the corner, they saw Johnny and his new bike.
“Hey Johnny,” said Tyler, “great bike. Let me try it out.”
“Sure.” Said Johnny “Just be careful not to run anyone over.”
Tyler hopped up on the bike. It was a ten speed bike. His BMX bike was much shorter. This bike had sleek tires compared to the chunky tires on his bike. Tyler decided to take the bike to the street away from the people on the sidewalk. He rode between two parked cars. When Tyler hit the brakes to stop, a funny thing happened, the pedals went backwards. The bike didn’t slow down at all. Nobody had mentioned that this bike had brakes on the handlebars. He rolled between the two cars directly into the street. He never saw the car coming. He heard someone yell, “Look out!” and that was it.
The next thing he saw was a circle of people looking down at him. They were all telling him to lay still. That was no problem. His leg hurt really badly and his head hurt worse. Kevin and Johnny were staring down at him with scared looks on their faces. Johnny didn’t seem to notice his bent and twisted bike laying several feet away.
Kevin took off running towards Tyler’s house yelling, “Aunt Jenni! Aunt Jenni! Come quick! Tyler’s hurt!”
Tyler closed his eyes and thought, “Just great! My mom is going to be so mad!”
Tyler heard the ambulance coming from blocks away. That was one nice thing about living in a small town the ambulance didn’t have to come from very far. His mom was sitting on the curb beside him trying to look brave. But she had that funny line right between her eyes, just above her nose. That was the line she usually got just before she cried. Oh man, he really hoped she didn’t cry. His dad was keeping the other kids out of the street. The lady who hit him was trying to explain to his mom that she never saw him. How she wasn’t going very fast. That he had just popped out from between the cars. Tyler didn’t think she was helping matters much.
The ambulance pulled up and two men hopped out. They kept asking him question after question. They poked at him and felt his arms and legs. All Tyler knew was that he didn’t feel like talking and his head was really hurting now. He heard his dad tell the ambulance men that the windshield of the car was cracked. Nobody knew if it was from the bike or Tyler. From the way Tyler felt, he was pretty sure he knew the answer. The ambulance guys pulled out a board and scooted it under Tyler. They put a foam block on either side of his head and strapped him to the board. He was lifted onto a bed with wheels and slid into the ambulance. Mom wanted to ride, but the men said that it wasn’t allowed. Tyler thought she was going to start yelling at the men. Dad put his hand on her shoulder and said,
“That’s ok. We’ll follow in the car. Don’t worry Tyler. We’ll be right behind you. Everything will be ok.”
“What in the world is going on?” Tyler heard a screechy girl voice. Even though he couldn’t turn his head to see, he knew it was Macy, his perfect big sister.
“Tyler got his by a car.” He heard Kyle say.
“Again?” asked Macy. Tyler could picture her rolling her big blue eyes and shaking her head.
He didn’t hear anything else. One ambulance guy climbed up beside him and sat down. The other closed the doors and hopped into the front seat. He flipped on the sirens and pulled away.
“Hang in there Sport!” said the man beside him. Tyler figured he was about Dad’s age. He seemed really nice and concerned. The siren was loud, his head was pounding, and Macy’s last comment was ringing in his ears.
“Again?” Yep! Again. This would be the third time he had been on a bike and ran into a car. The first time, he actually ran into a parked car. He was trying to do a trick on his bike, and didn’t notice the car beside the road. He only received a few scratches and a couple of bruises from that one. The second time he was at an intersection, stopped at a four way stop. The lady in the car had looked at him and waved for him to go. At the same time, he waved for her to go. They both went. She bumped him just enough for him to lose his balance and fall over. He had hopped up and high-tailed it home. That lady knew his mom. She followed Tyler home. She was scared and angry all at the same time. Mom had understood. She usually did when it came to Tyler. He had been wearing his helmet and that was important to her. She spoke to the lady and calmed her down. They were laughing by the time she climbed into her car to leave. She looked at Tyler and told him to be more careful in the future. If only he had listened.
The ambulance reached the hospital pretty fast. He never felt them stop once. He was pretty sure they had run some stop signs and maybe a red light. This made him feel pretty important. Tyler almost never felt important. The ambulance backed in and the two men unloaded and wheeled him through a big set of door that had the letters ER painted on them.
Mom, Dad and Macy rushed through the door right behind him. Dad must have run the same stop signs. Tyler was rolled directly to a room. Every other time he had been to the ER he had to wait a long time in the waiting room. Not this time! They jumped him right to the front of the line! They lifted him to a different bed. He really wanted off that board. His back was starting to hurt now.
“How you doing buddy?” asked Dad. Tyler just gave him a weak smile.
Mom had stopped at the desk to fill out forms and Macy was using mom’s cell phone. She was calling people to let them know where the family was. Her first call was to Kevin’s mom. She was supposed to make sure Kevin had gotten home. He had and had already told Aunt Karen about the accident. Aunt Karen was Dad’s sister. She was tall and had sandy blonde hair, just like dad and Kevin.
Mom and Macy walked into the curtained room at just about the same time the nurse did. She asked all the same questions the ambulance guys did. She took his temperature, as if being hit by a car was going to give him a fever. She told them the doctor would be with them in a few minutes.
“Do you think I can get off this board?” Tyler asked quietly.
“Sorry hun.” The nurse said. “That’s a nasty bump you have on your head. We have to make sure your neck is ok. You have to stay put until we do that. K?”
Tyler wanted to tell her that it wasn’t ok. His back was killing him now and he just wanted to move a little. He tried squirming but mom put her hand on his arm and said, “Yep, he understands.”
He didn’t really understand, but the look mom gave him meant that he was to lay still. So he did. That’s when the waiting started. Minutes turned to hours. Hours turned to days. Days turned to weeks. Well, at least that’s what it felt like laying on that board. Finally a doctor came in. He leaned over Tyler and said, “Well young man, did we learn a lesson about riding a bike without a helmet?” He was looking really close at Tyler’s eyes with a little light.
Tyler looked at him and started to try to explain that he had just jumped on the bike for a minute when all of the sudden it happened. His stomach felt funny and he threw up! It shot up, hit the doctor, came back down and landed on Tyler. There was nothing he could do about it! He couldn’t even move to get out of the way. This was supposed to be the beginning of the best summer ever. Here he lay, covered in throw up strapped to a board. Awesome.
Macy was cackling loudly. He thought she was going to wet her pants she was laughing so hard. It would teach her to laugh at him if she did. Dad had grabbed the board and pulled Tyler up on his side so he could at least spit the nasty stuff out. The doctor stood there in shock for a second.
Then he grabbed a blanket and hollered, “Nurse! Nurse! Come in here and help clean this kid up!”
The doctor was using the blanket to try to clean Tyler’s face off while Dad held the board up, just in case he got sick again.
“Oh my goodness,” said Mom. “I’m so sorry!”
Tyler didn’t throw up on him on purpose. Mom was always apologizing to people for him. Usually he wasn’t sorry but she was.
The nurse came in and took over for the doctor. Tyler heard the doctor tell the nurse to “send the boy up to x-ray and cat-scan”. She cleaned him up the best she could. She called him “hun” a couple more times and left to make some calls to other departments.
“How are you doing now Ty?” Dad asked. “Can I put you back down now? Are you going to be sick again?”
“Yeah dad, I’m ok now I think” answered Tyler. He could tell from the way his dad called him Ty, that he was really worried.
Dad gently lowered the board back down. Tyler saw him look at mom. It was a funny look. He wasn’t sure what to make of it. The nurse walked back into the curtain room with another man.
“This is Dave. He’s an orderly.” said the nurse, “We’re ready to take Tyler up to x-ray. I’m sorry but only one of you can go with him. Mr. James, I think maybe you should go in case he gets sick again.”
“That’s fine” said Mom, “Macy and I will try to call Grandpa while you are gone. We’ll be right here when you get back.”
Mom leaned over to give Tyler a kiss. Tyler was glad that Dad was going with him. He wanted to cry. He knew if he were alone with Mom, he would. He hurt from head to toe and now he smelled super gross. He just wanted to go home and get in his own bed and snuggle down with Digger. If he could just feel his soft golden fur on his cheek, everything would be fine. But Dad was the one walking out of the room next to Tyler’s rolling bed. Since Tyler was Dad’s big strong boy, he knew he couldn’t cry. That’s just how it was with dads and sons.
As they were leaving he heard Macy say, “Stay tough little man!” She wasn’t always a terrible sister. Tyler smiled and closed his eyes. It had been a long day.
Their first stop was the x-ray room. The man in the little room looked at Tyler and said, “My name’s Chad! I’ve been doing this for a long time so there’s no need to worry!”
Tyler grinned at him. He’d had x-rays before. He wasn’t worried about that. He just wanted off that board. Chad and Dad positioned Tyler on a table and left the room. He heard a couple of buzzing noises and that was it. The x-rays were done. Off they went to cat-scan, whatever that was. Tyler was a little scared about that. He wasn’t fond of cats.
The cat-scan people were just as nice as Chad had been. When Dad wheeled Tyler in a lady said, “Whoa! What’s that smell?”
Dad explained the whole throwing up incident. They got a good laugh out of it. Tyler couldn’t figure out why grown ups laughed at kids when something like that happened. They explained to Tyler that he was going to be lying on a table and going through a big machine. That’s it. All he had to do was lie still, as if he had a choice.
It would have been painless, if Tyler hadn’t been strapped to that stupid board. He had been on that board for a very long time now. He wanted to get up and move. He needed to move around. And that was generally what got Tyler into trouble, his need to move around.
The man who had pushed Tyler up to x-ray came and wheeled him back down to his little curtain room. Macy came and stood by Tyler. She was drinking a diet soda. Tyler would have given anything for a drink of something. His mouth tasted terrible.
“Well squirt,” she said, “Grandpa said he would go to the house and feed Digger. He said to be tough and he’d see you when you get home. I bet he’s going to buy you a present for getting hit by a car! You know how Grandpa is about Nature Boy!”
Sometimes Tyler thought Macy was jealous of his relationship with Grandpa. He was amazed that she didn’t know how Grandpa always talked about his smart, talented pretty granddaughter. He was always showing people pictures of her. Grandpa just didn’t know how to say it to a girl. Tyler knew that Grandpa loved him without either one of them saying it. He taught Tyler about fishing and hunting. He taught Tyler how to identify animal tracks in the snow. He even bought Tyler a book about how to tell trees apart. Grandpa knew that Tyler loved everything about being outside. That’s why he called him Nature Boy.
The doctor came back in, wearing a clean blue shirt. He looked at Tyler and told him he was a lucky boy.
“Well,” he began, “Nothing is broken. Your leg is pretty bruised. You have a mild concussion. That means you kind of bruised your brain when you hit the car. That’s why you got sick. Your neck is fine. I think we can take that off your head now.”
He smiled at Tyler and took the strap off his head. He let Tyler set up slowly.
“Mom, Dad,” he said, turning to look at them,” You need to keep him quiet for the rest of the night. Have him put that leg up and ice it a bit. I’ll have the nurse give you some pills in case he has any pain.”
“Thanks a lot Doctor.” said Mom, “And once again, I want to say how sorry I am about Tyler getting sick on you.”
“Don’t worry about it.” He said and winked at Tyler.
Just like that he got to get up and go home. He limped out of the ER and out to the car. He and Macy climbed into the backseat. She was holding her nose.
“Drive fast Daddy,” She said. “Tyler smells terrible! I don’t think I can stand it! I’m going to be sick!”
“That’s enough Macy,” snipped Mom, “It’s not like any of us are enjoying the smell. Crack your window a bit and be quiet.”
Macy made a big show of sticking her nose as close to the window as possible. Tyler’s stomach growled. He was hungry. He looked at the clock on the dash. It was 8:00. They had missed dinner. He had been at the hospital for almost five hours! That was a record for him!
“Well, I guess we can order pizza when we get home,” Dad suggested. He must have read Tyler’s mind. “But Tyler, first thing you need to do is take a shower!”
That was fine with Tyler. He wanted to shower, eat and then sleep, in that order. He couldn’t wait to see Digger either. Poor Dig had probably been wondering why he never came home to take him for a walk. He hoped that he wasn’t too worried about him. Tyler laid his head back and closed his eyes for the rest of the ride home. He was looking forward to a nice quiet night.
Tyler must have dozed off. The last thing he remembered was Macy complaining about the smell and Dad talking about getting pizza. Now they were in their driveway and Dad was saying, “Come on Ty. Let’s get you in the house.”
He looked out his window. What was going on? There must have been 10 cars in front of his house. It looked like all the lights were on in the house.
“What in the world?” said Mom?
They all got out of the car. Dad bent over and picked up Tyler. He hadn’t done that in a long time. Tyler didn’t care. He was sore and tired and it felt good to be carried. He laid his head on Dad’s shoulder. Dad smelled faintly of hospital, throw up and Aqua Velvet. Tyler didn’t care. He closed his eyes and tried not to cry. He couldn’t stop the tears. They were hot and prickly at the corners of his eyes. Dad patted his back as he carried him up the steps.
“It’s ok champ. It’s been a really long day for all of us. You’ll feel better after a shower and you get some food.” Dad said into his ear.
Dad carried him past all the relatives who had come to the house to check on Tyler. He took him straight to the big bathroom off mom and dad’s bedroom. It was the bathroom that he and Macy were never allowed to use.
Dad started the shower and said, “Have a good soak!”
That’s what dad always told him when he really needed a shower. Tyler hopped in the shower and let the hot water wash away the day. It stung all of his scratches and cuts. But that was ok. He stood there for a long time. He didn’t feel like facing his family. He felt silly. He felt like he had let his family down. It seemed like he was always making things complicated for them. Once again, he wondered to himself why he couldn’t just be a normal kid like Kevin. Things like this never happened to him. They always seemed to happen to Tyler.
“Tyler, you ok in there?” It was his mom. She was shouting through the door so he could hear her over the shower.
“Yeah.” He hollered back.
“Well hurry up. It’s late and people want to say hi before they go home. Plus, the pizza will be here any minute. Let’s get moving!” She was still yelling over the sound of the shower. “I left some clothes on the bed for you. Get dressed and come on out.”
Tyler hurried the best he could. His leg was stiff and every time he bent over, the bump on the front of his head throbbed. He hopped out of the shower and dried off. As he did, he finally got a good look at the damage he had done. Not too bad if he did say so himself. There was a nasty looking cut and bruise on his shin. That one would leave a scar. He had a nasty patch of road rash on his other thigh. That would heal up just fine. He wiped the steam from the mirror with his hand. His mom would probably get after him later for that. But he needed to see the bump on his head. He looked in the mirror and grinned at himself. Above his right eye was a lump the size of a golf ball! Holy cow! It was huge! No wonder Dad and Mom had that sick look on their faces. Kevin was going to freak out when he saw that. He was probably going to be a little jealous too.
He left the wet towel and throw-up covered clothes lying on the bathroom floor. He dressed himself and walked out to the living room. From the hallway he could see who was there. Kevin and Aunt Karen were sitting on the couch. Grandpa was in the big comfy chair. Other various relatives were milling around, visiting with each other. Grandpa noticed Tyler standing in the hall.
“Hey Nature Boy, there you are!” Grandpa said, getting everyone’s attention.
Everyone came over and checked out Tyler’s big bump on his head.
“OH Wow!!” said Kevin. “Look at that goose egg!” Tyler was right. He was pretty sure he saw a little bit of jealousy in Kevin’s eyes.
“Tyler James! Do you know how lucky you are? You scared us half to death! You are so lucky you didn’t get hurt any worse!” said Aunt Karen as she grabbed him and gave him a hug.
Tyler wanted all of these people to go home. He didn’t want to tell one more person how he happened to end up in the middle of the street on his back. He felt pretty silly for not knowing about hand brakes on a bike.
The door bell rang.
“Pizza,” shouted Kevin as he ran to the door.
Dad paid for the big stack of pizzas. That stack indicated that they would not be eating quietly or alone. Everyone grabbed a paper plate from mom and dove into the pizza. Tyler made sure Grandpa had a couple slices of his favorite kind.
“Thanks Nature Boy.” said Grandpa, taking the plate from his hand, “you’re always looking out for old Gramps!”
Tyler looked for someplace to sit but all the seats were taken. He tried to sit on the floor but it was hard. He had to keep his injured leg straight or it hurt. Tyler’s head really started to hurt. It started with a little thumping and ended up pounding. He sat and ate in silence not really listening to what everyone around him was saying.
Mom noticed how quiet Tyler was and how miserable he looked. She stood up in the middle of the living room and said, “Ok everyone. Thanks for coming to check on Tyler but it’s been a long day for him. He needs to hit the hay.”
Tyler was never so happy to be sent to bed in his life. Everyone started moving toward the door. Grandpa was the last to leave.
“Well Nature Boy, take it easy for a couple of days and then you can come to the farm to fish the pond. Sound like a plan?” He said as he gave Tyler half of a hug.
“Yeah, sounds great.” He replied.
Tyler was finally able to hop into bed. He heard the backdoor open and the familiar sound of doggie nails on the kitchen tile. Digger came bounding through his bedroom door. Digger was the biggest softest golden retriever Tyler had ever known. He flopped onto Tyler’s bed. He licked all over Tyler’s face. He was extra careful when he got to the big bump over Tyler’s eye. Tyler grabbed the dog’s face and looked deep into his big brown eyes. He could see how much Digger cared about him. Digger wiggled free and let out a big dog sigh and stretched out on the bed next to Tyler. Tyler buried his face in the soft golden fur on Digger’s neck. Everything would be fine as long as he had Digger by his side.
Tyler did just what Grandpa said. He hung out around the house for a couple of days. Everyone was extra nice to him. Even Macy took time out of her busy talking on the phone schedule to play checkers with him. Grandpa called a few times to check up on him. By the fifth day, Tyler was ready to go nuts. He was tired of lying around and doing nothing. If there was one thing Tyler was really bad at, it was relaxing!
“Mom,” he said one afternoon, “I think I’m ready to go outside!”
“Well Tyler,” mom said “why don’t you play in your dirt pile?”
The dirt pile was just that, a big pile of dirt. The people who lived there before them had it on the very edge of the yard. They were going to do something with it but never did. So Tyler claimed it. When he was a little kid, he played with trucks and cars in it. He built roads and hills and canyons. He would sneak forks and spoons from the kitchen for construction purposes. He always meant to take them back, but usually he forgot and left them out there. Since he was older now, he didn’t play in it very much. He had kind of outgrown it.
Tyler wandered out to the dirt pile. Digger followed him. Tyler stood and dug around in the dirt with the toe of his sneaker. Nope. This was not what he wanted to do.
“Hey Digger,” he said “want to go check out the frog pond?”
Digger tilted his head and raised his ears just a bit. He knew what frog pond meant. It meant getting wet and muddy. Of course he wanted to check out the frog pond. They took off running toward the back fence. Digger went under and Tyler went over. The frog pond was not actually on their property. It belonged to their neighbor Miss Maggie. She was Tyler’s friend. Miss Maggie didn’t mind if Tyler and Digger checked out the frog pong as long as Tyler’s mom knew where he was. She also had other rules about the frog pond.
“Tyler,” she always said “You can play with the frogs but you must never take them away from the pond. This is their home. It wouldn’t be nice.”
He was also not allowed to be mean to the frogs. Tyler would have never been mean to a frog even if Miss Maggie hadn’t made it a rule. Tyler loved watching them and listening to their croaks. He loved their smooth wet skin. He loved them so much his mom had made him a frog shaped birthday cake last year. It was the best!
Tyler sat in the cool grass and looked around. He could hear a couple of frogs in the pond. Digger sat right by the edge of the pond. He was wiggling on his haunches, waiting for Tyler to say it was ok to go in.
“Go ahead!” said Tyler, “Hop on in!”
And boy did Digger hop! The pond wasn’t deep at all. It came right up to Digger’s belly. He ran and splashed in the water and mud. Tyler laughed and laughed at his silly dog. Digger ran over to Tyler and shook his wet muddy fur all over the place. This made Tyler laugh even harder.
“Digger you goofy dog” he howled “Stop it!”
But Digger just wanted to play even harder. He jumped right on top of Tyler. The two of them rolled down the hill away from the frog pond.
“Tyler! Tyler, where are you?” Oh man. It was mom yelling from the back deck.
“Up here on the hill mom! I had to come chase Digger. He wanted to go to the pond.” He hollered back. He looked at Digger. “Sorry boy, mom won’t be as mad if she thinks I had to come get you.”
The two of them ran back to the fence. Over and under they went. Mom had her purse and car keys. She looked at Tyler and Digger.
“Well, I was going to see if you two wanted a ride to the farm. But neither of you are getting into my car like that!” Mom said after she saw that they were both covered with mud.
Tyler hurried to his room and changed as fast as he could.
“Put those clothes in the laundry room.” hollered mom.
“Ok” he hollered back.
He grabbed an old towel and dried Digger off the best he could. Mom made Digger ride in the way back of her car. Usually Digger got to ride in the seat next to Tyler but today, he had to sit on a blanket in the back. That was ok with Tyler. He was going fishing!
On the way to the farm, Mom went over the rules again with Tyler.
“You have to wear you lifejacket! Don’t take it off not even for a minute. No going in the pond! Even if your line gets caught you cut it and put a new hook on. Do you understand?” Mom was looking in the rear-view mirror at him as she talked.
Tyler nodded his head. He could hardly wait. Grandpa’s farm had two wonderful ponds. One had brook trout in it. The other, well, that one didn’t have any fish worth fishing. It usually had snapping turtles and some snakes. Tyler liked to go to that pond just to investigate. Today, however, was dedicated to the fishing pond. He always fished on what Grandpa called the “catch and release program”. That way there were always fish to be caught. Sometimes when Dad or Grandpa came with him, they would wander farther down to the river. They caught bigger fish there. Sometimes they caught rainbow trout. Rainbow trout were about the biggest fish Tyler could imagine. Tyler loved going by the river. Digger liked to splash along the banks. Sometimes Digger would kick up a deer but he would never chase it as it ran off. He was a pretty smart dog. He knew his job was to hang out and watch over Tyler.
“Well here we are” said Mom as they drove up the long driveway. Grandpa lived on the top of a big hill. The ponds and the river were on the other side of the hill. That’s right where Tyler planned on going.
“Not so fast” said mom as Tyler started to get out of the car. “You make sure to go in and say hi to Grandpa before you head out.”
“OK” said Tyler. Why didn’t moms understand that it was hard to be polite when there was fishing to be done?
Tyler ran towards the big green house. It was fitting that the house was green. Everything on the hill seemed to be green, except the tall white flagpole right in the middle of the yard. Grandpa was a veteran and proudly flew the flag every day. Two little grey rabbits ran out of the garden as Tyler and Digger ran by. Digger stopped and gave them a quick bark. They hopped off into some long grass. Digger chased after them.
“Grandpa we’re here!” Hollered Tyler as he burst through the door “I’m ready to fish!”
“Are ya now?” asked Grandpa. “Are you sure you have everything you need?” Grandpa had that funny twinkle in his eye. He pulled a fishing pole from behind the couch. “Here Nature Boy, I thought you could use this for your first time fishing the pond on your own.”
“Oh Grandpa thank you!” shouted Tyler. He hugged his grandpa and carefully took the pole. Grandpa smelled like he always did. A little like Ben Gay and sauerkraut. Grandpa had already strung the line for him. It was all set and ready for fishing. “Gee, this is great!”
“Oh Dad, you didn’t have to do that!” Mom said as she came in the door. But she knew that Grandpa loved doing stuff like that for his grandkids.
“Go out to the barn and get your life jacket and tackle box and you can head down the hill. You have to be back in two hours. OK?” she said to Tyler. She handed him a little pocket watch. He had never seen it before. She must have bought it for him just for fishing.
Tyler went and grabbed his fishing gear.
“C’mon Digger let’s go fishing!” He yelled and started down the hill.
The sun was shining and there were no clouds in the sky. He was on his own. He started to whistle a bit. Digger fell into step beside him. Tyler almost forgot about his sore leg and the bump on his forehead. This is where Tyler felt like he was normal. No grown ups making him feel like he couldn’t do anything right. He knew the rules of fishing. He knew how to cast his line and reel in a fish. Tyler could sit on the little dock at the pond and fish for hours. Mom and Dad couldn’t understand how he could sit so still and be so patient when it came to fishing, but couldn’t sit still for ten minutes in class without fidgeting. Tyler couldn’t explain it. There was no pressure at all when he was fishing. His mind was free.
Tyler fished for 45 minutes without much luck. He caught one small one and threw it back in. Digger was sitting with him and looked bored. Usually Digger found a goose or a duck to harass. But today it was really quiet at the pond.
“Hey Dig, I have an idea” said Tyler. “Let’s go check out the river. We won’t fish. Let’s just go look. It’s hot here and the river is in the shade. How about it boy?”
Digger looked at him and lifted one ear, just a bit.
“Oh don’t give me that look. Mom never said we couldn’t go to the river.” Tyler said to Digger. And it was the truth because Tyler had never really asked her about going on to the river today. “Besides, it’s not like we are going to stay there. We are just going to look around and head back.”
Tyler picked up his pole and headed down the path to the river. Once they got into the woods, it was shady and cool. Tyler could hear the gurgle of the river. They hurried along the path until they reached the river bank. This particular spot in the river was not very wide. Tyler could throw a rock all the way across. Sometimes he threw sticks across for Digger. He decided not to today. He didn’t want Digger all wet.
They sat quietly on the bank watching the river flow by. It was very relaxing to Tyler. He let his mind wander. He thought about the past school year. He tried to figure out why other kids liked to try really hard to get him into trouble. He tried to think about why Kevin was invited to all of the other kid’s parties, but he was only invited to two. He thought about why parents acted like he was going to make their kids be bad like him. He didn’t stink, he took showers. He wore clean clothes. He brushed his teeth. What was it that made other parents think what they thought about him?
Just then a big splashing noise interrupted Tyler’s thoughts. He sat up straight. So did Digger. Tyler thought maybe a big buck was in the river. Tyler looked at Digger. Digger was standing now looking up river. Tyler scooted to the edge of the river as close as he could without actually getting in. He craned his neck to see what was up the river. He was careful to not make any noise. He didn’t want to scare off the deer. Tyler looked. Closed his eyes and opened them to look again. In the middle of the river, splashing around was a big black bear.
Tyler knew not to make any noise. Tyler knew not to run. He knew not to let go of Digger’s collar. The one thing Tyler didn’t know was what he should do. There was a bear less than 50 yards away from him. Tyler sat, watching him in amazement. It was a beautiful creature. His sleek fur was sparkling in the sun light. He was the biggest animal Tyler had ever seen in the woods. The bear was splashing around the river. Tyler didn’t know if he was looking for a fish, or just cooling off. Either way, he was pretty sure the bear was making enough noise in the river that it would be safe to back away from the edge. He did just that. He scooted as quietly as possible holding onto Digger’s collar. Digger was excited and breathing faster than Tyler had ever seen him breathe before. Tyler was so scared that Digger would bark. He didn’t. He backed up quietly with Tyler. Once Tyler thought they were safely where the bear couldn’t see them, he stood up and started walking as fast as he could back up the path towards the pond. Digger kept looking back.
“C’mon boy” he whispered, “We’ve got to get out of here without that bear seeing or hearing us.”
Once he was at the pond. Tyler gathered his fishing gear. Digger kept peeking back down the path. Tyler kept imagining a rampaging bear running up the path at them. But it didn’t happen. Tyler picked up all of his stuff and headed up to the house.
“Good boy Digger.” He kept saying. He wanted to keep Digger’s attention on himself so he wouldn’t take off down the hill.
Finally they reached the barn and Tyler put all of his fishing stuff on the shelf. He hung up the new pole beside his other poles. He stopped and caught his breath. He could feel his heart pounding in his ears.