by Hannah Stein
This is a book about a 14 year old girl who saves her little brother from a house fire.
|I glance behind me at my house, now completely engulfed in bright orange flames, then down at my 3 year old brother in my arms, who is looking up at me worriedly, and then I begin to run. I run away from my house, away from my life, away from any possible chance of having a future. The situation that I am in right now can be traced back to about a week ago. It was early October, and the leaves were just beginning to fall from the trees…
My dad had made the whole family (my brother James, my dad, and me) move away from our home to almost the middle of nowhere far away from town. I realized a change in dad as soon as we moved here. The stress of his work finally got to him, and he started getting home late at night if at all, and ignoring my little brother, who still desperately needed him, as well as almost forgetting that I existed. I had to do something for James, he deserved something better than this, but I was out of ideas. Then, today had happened. Dad was actually awake in the morning today, and he offered to make breakfast. As he was cooking pancakes, I was in my bedroom on the second story and James was playing in the backyard. Soon, I smelled smoke.
It got thicker and thicker, until every breath I took hurt. I ran to the kitchen to find dad, paralyzed with fear, still standing by the stove, which had caught on fire somehow and he started screaming for me to get out of the house, saying that he would find me later, after he had gotten rid of the flames. But I knew that my dad was no fire fighter. I ran outside to the backyard, grabbed James, and climbed over our fence. I started running towards the street, and standing on the sidewalk about ten yards down the street left me where I was now. I had a choice to make. There were only two options, either going to a neighbor’s house, or staying there until the fire department (who the neighbors had already called) showed up, or run away with James, to keep him safe from both the flames and my father, who was slowly going crazy. And that was how I came to be where I am right now, which is running as fast as I can into the woods near my house.
I run until I can’t run anymore, and I sit down on the ground with James in my lap. I can’t see the flames anymore, since I am concealed by the thick layer of tall green trees all around me. When I have to start moving again, I start out walking, then jogging, and finally running again towards the center of town. After what seems like forever, I am standing half in the woods, half in town, on the top of a small hill that over looks the whole town. I start to descend the hill and I make my way to the park. I sit down on a bench and rest for a while.
After I’ve rested, I realize that I need somewhere to go. All I need now is a place for James and I to live. As I’m thinking, I see a small girl sitting on a bench by herself, crying. I stand up and walk over to her. “ What’s wrong?” I ask. She says, “ My mom took me here, and said that she couldn’t take care of me anymore, and then she left.” Making a quick decision, I say, “ You can come with us.” I explain our situation and a little while later our group consists of James, a three year old boy, Nicole, a nine year old girl, and me, Madison, a 14 year old girl.
James can sort of walk so we start out walking, headed back towards the woods, where they have free campsites available to everyone. Once we arrive there I tell Nicole to gather some firewood and things like that. I am able to start a fire using the rubbing two sticks together method. I find an old fishing net near our campsite and I go a little deeper into the woods to find a pond I saw on our way to the park. Finally, I am glad that I learned how to fish when I was in girl scouts a long time ago. I actually catch one small fish, and I bring it to our campsite, where the fire is still burning. Nicole, who apparently was also in Girl scouts and had taken a survival course, has found an extremely sharp rock that can be used as a knife. I prepare the edible parts of the fish and put them on a stick that I hold over the fire until it cooks and then I split it up between us. It isn’t much, but it’s something. We all eat in silence until finally I say, “ Well, we can probably gather some stuff here too.” Yet another useful skill learned in girl scouts.
Nicole says, “ I know some things about gathering, but eventually we will have to buy food you know.” I do know that, but I was trying to avoid the topic of the future, since I don’t even have a plan for the next five minutes, let alone the next few days or beyond that. What was going through my mind while I was running away from my house? I think to myself silently. Nicole apparently has gone camping a lot in this area, and she shows me a small patch of raspberry bushes that is far way from our camp. I worried about leaving James alone, but I didn’t have many options. After telling Nicole to gather all of the raspberries she could carry, and grabbing all that I could hold, I go back to our campsite.
A miracle occurs right then and there when somebody that works at the campsite comes over to greet us and offers us a tour of his or her grounds, which I quickly decline. I make up some stuff about James and Nicole being my cousins that were visiting town, and how they said that they love camping, so we’d come out here. Mentally I make a note to tell Nicole that she’s supposed to be my cousin when she got back. The miracle was the park ranger giving us a sort of welcome basket that they give to everyone who says that they will stay at their campgrounds for more than a week. He leaves after I thank him and I look inside of our basket.
There is the basket itself, a brochure about the woods we’re near, and a small blanket with their logo on it, and a flashlight. This is perfect, I think. I fill in Nicole when she gets back, and we empty the basket and out all of the raspberries in it. That night, I lay out the blanket for us to sleep on, and we eat some of the raspberries we gathered, and I keep the fire burning throughout the night for warmth, since this is one of the coldest Octobers on record.
We all wake up at roughly the same time the next morning, when the sun is just beginning to peak over the mountaintops and fill the sky with a soft gray/orange glow. I tell Nicole to watch James while I fish again and repeat the cooking routine from yesterday, and we have fish and raspberries for breakfast. Hey, I never said I was a genius chef. My big discovery of the day is that Nicole’s mom had left her about ten dollars to use, that Nicole hadn’t spent yet. She gives me the money and offers to watch James while I shop. I go back into town and buy a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, a jar of jelly, and a small pack of plastic butter knives. I have two dollars left over and I manage to buy a 12 pack of bottled water. Afterwards, there is no money left at all, but I carry everything back to camp. We all get one bottle of water and I suggest that if we all get one bottle of water every twenty-four hours, it will last us for four days. Nicole agrees, and James nods. I add that we also can boil water from the lake and fill the empty bottles, and that would last for practically forever as long as we kept boiling water.
Lunchtime comes, but I skip lunch and let Nicole and James finish up the gathered raspberries while I grab the basket and gather every last raspberry in that small patch. The fish will have to be eaten immediately after we catch it, so I decide that we’ll use up the bread and peanut butter and jelly as well as the raspberries first. So basically, I’ll fish once we are completely out of food. That night at midnight, we are all fast asleep when we are all waken up by the howl of an animal that is not so far in the distance