Falling Forward – Part 32

“Yeah,” I manage, still trying to find the right surface upon which I can attempt to stand.  I reach for the flashlight that I dropped, noticing scratches on my hands as I reach out towards the light.  “I’m over here.”

I grab the light and point it out into the darkness ahead of me.  I see a reflection as the light finds a piece of metal and bounces and disappears into the sky.  I move the flashlight around until I again find the surface in the distance that allows the light to reflect: a bumper on the edge of a truck – a black truck.  The beam breaks and I lose the reflection as I see someone approaching.

“You found me!  You found me!”  The weak little voice sounds excited and I continue to attempt to stand while not taking the light off the general vicinity of the individual.  I try not to point it directly into the eyes of the person approaching me.  It’s a young boy, jeans, sweatshirt, and a wool cap pulled down around his ears.

“Hey there,” I shout back, eventually getting to my feet.  I’m unsteady, but excited to see this little face approaching me.

“Are you out here with someone?”  I ask more into the area around me than at him directly.

He would have to be, as he is obviously too small, and too young, to be driving a truck anywhere, much less in these mountains.

“No,” he answers as he gets within range so that he doesn’t have to yell.  “My Dad and I got stuck and he went for help.  Is my Dad with you?”

“No, I’m here by myself.  Are you okay?  Are you hurt?”  I should be asking myself the same thing, but I’m putting the bulk of my weight on the better foot and using the other one to steady myself among the rocks.

“No, I’m okay, but where’s my Dad?”

”I don’t know, but maybe you can start by telling me your name.”

“I’m Jacob.  My Dad is Kenny.  We were driving up here yesterday and his truck hit a big rock and suddenly a bunch of fluid was leaking onto the road.  Dad went to get help and he told me to stay here until he got back.”

“Well, Jacob, you are a smart young man.  It is a good thing you did what you were told and stayed with the truck.”  Oddly, he did the right thing, and if Kenny had done the same, they would both be found together.

“Are you hungry?  Have you eaten?”

“Not since this morning.  But I do have some water in the truck.”  He gestures over his shoulder back past where the road turns.  I cannot even see the small area of the vehicle that the flashlight caught, and I certainly wouldn’t have found his truck if I had not gotten out of my own vehicle.

“I have some snacks with me and a radio.  How about we call and let someone know that you’re here with me?”

“Can they tell my Dad I’m with you?”

“Well, Jacob, I don’t think your Dad is with them.  My team is based on the other side of the mountains, so we’ll see if my radio reaches that far.”  I want to tell him his Dad might be with the team on the west side of the mountains, but I don’t want to give my new young friend wrong information.

“Why don’t you have a seat up front with me and we’ll radio down and I’ll let my friends know you’re with me?  And we can have a snack, too.”

“Do you have any toaster pops?”

“No, I have granola bars.”

“Do you have any beef jerky?”

“No, I’m afraid not.”

“What else do you have?”

“I have a couple apples.”

“Okay.”

I probably should have brought something more, but I only stopped to grab a few items for myself before I left the cabin.  It never occurred to me that I might have to care for a kid.

I struggle to walk the handful of steps over the rocky road back to the truck.  I definitely twisted my ankle.  I try to avoid putting weight on it, while keeping the flashlight steady so he can likewise avoid tripping over the rocks.

He stops suddenly and looks back down the road from where the truck is parked.  “I didn’t close the door.”

“That’s okay, let’s get you a snack and I’ll go back and close it once you start warming up.  Aren’t you a little cold?”

“Yeah, it was really cold last night, but I put on some of Dad’s camo gear that was in the back seat and that helped.”

I limp back to Daniel’s truck, glad I left the engine running as the warmth rushes out as soon as I open the door.  I set Jacob up with some food and lean on the truck as I walk around the front to get back to my side.  I’d really like to drive ahead rather than fight the sharp ache in my leg, but I don’t want to risk the same fate to this vehicle as Jacob and Kenny experienced.

I back myself into the seat to avoid putting any weight on my left foot and once seated, I pull the door close and reach for the radio.

“Stafford, McClure, do you copy?”

I get a static response, not a reply, just the distance and space echoing back.  I try again.

“Stafford? McClure here.  Do you copy?”

I look at my watch, but it’s only a little before nine o’clock.  I doubt he’s asleep already.  Plus, I kind of thought he would keep his radio nearby until I radioed back.  There’s just as likely a chance that I’m too deep and on the wrong side of the forest to reach the repeater.

“Stafford from McClure?”  Still nothing.  I decide to take the radio with me in case I get better service down the road, but I doubt the few hundred yards will matter that much.

“How are you doing over there, Jacob?”

“I’m okay.  How come they don’t answer you?”

“The radio has a good range, but like I said, my radio is connected to the east side of the mountains, and we’re on the west side, so maybe they can’t hear me.”

“Why don’t the people on the west side answer?”  I’ll give him credit, he’s pretty practical for a kid.

“There’s a couple reasons.  One, they are on a different channel than I am.  And two, they may not be listening to the radio at this hour.”

“Even if my Dad is with them?  They might be awake if he’s still looking for me.”

I wish I could set realistic expectations for him, but I don’t know where his Dad is.  He might be somewhere safe, but until I know, I don’t know what to say.  Of course, I’m a little relieved that it doesn’t occur to Jacob that if his Dad were with them, the first thing he would have done was direct someone to where he left the truck so Jacob could be located.

When I think of where Kenny could be out in the woods, I find my adrenaline being replaced by worry.  I’m not sure what hurts more: the worry, or my foot.

“Jacob, I’m going to go close the truck door.  Is there anything you need out of the truck?”

“Can you get my phone?”  Of course.  Every eleven-year-old has a phone now.

“I don’t think it’s going to work out here.”

“I know.  I already tried.  But I want to play my games while I wait for my Dad.”

My mind creates a sketch of Jacob sitting patiently in the truck waiting for his Dad, occasionally looking out the truck window when he finishes a new level on his game.  I expect that if he didn’t have that, he might not have stayed put.

“Oh, and can you also bring the charger?”

“Yes, I can.”  He makes me smile.  “You stay here in the truck, and I’ll be back in a little bit.”

NEXT: Falling Forward – Part 33

BACK TO THE BEGINNING

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