A hitRECord-inspired short story

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Mother Earth was just beginning to tuck in the sun beneath her mountainous quilt and kiss him yet another goodnight as Johnny disappeared around the bend. The crickets began their evening song, and the Douglas Firs gave cadence to their melody in the late-Summer breeze. Lightning bugs set the forest ablaze in the twilight. McKinley's apprehension was like a thick black veil over the beauty surrounding her.

"Johnny, Where are you going?" she cried, hoping desperately that he would reappear from behind the row of trees.

"Quit your whining, Em, and come over here!" She heard her brother like an afterthought, the fading voice of some forest spirit.

She ran, fast and hard, along the tracks. Her eyes were fixed on the ground lest she miss a step on one of the wooden planks and eat dirt, or worse, look up and find herself alone and lost in the fast-approaching darkness. Just around the bend she found Johnny squatting in the middle of the tracks. In one hand he held a small mason jar filled halfway with live worms. In the other was the toddler-equivalent of a plat, like a tiny green ember with an orange tail stemming down to its dirty white roots.

"I thought it was a worm." Johnny explained as he tossed aside the uprooted tree-child.

"Dad told us not to go this way, remember?" McKinley pleaded. "He said 'always stay to the left at the fork.' 'Don't go right' is what he said!"

"I know that, Em, but Dad and Bobby are gone, and I want to go fishing."

"Fishing? It's almost dark!"

"Dad always said night-fishing was his favorite thing in the world."

"But these tracks lead to The Falls, Johnny! Are there even any fish in waterfalls?"

"Sure there are! Big ones! And I'm gonna catch one. I've got plenty of worms."

Mckinley sat on one of the iron rails of the train tracks and buried her head in her arms. "Ew," she said softly.

"C'mon Em! It'll be an adventure! Like in that book I gave you about Huck Finn."

"I haven't read it yet," McKinley snapped. Johnny sat down next to her and lowered his voice.

"Em, don't you wanna tell your friends about how you braved The Falls at night? Or how you caught a 20-pound fish with just a stick and a worm? Sometimes it's worth disobeying dad for the stories you get to tell."

"I won't get to tell them anything if I die," she sobbed.

"Aw, c'mon! Hey, I promise I'll protect you if you come with me. I'll even show you how to make a fishing pole."

"You really promis?"

"I really promise."

Created: Jul 28, 2010

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