Jason woke to the pre-dawn chorus of the birds, and sat up in his sleeping bag. There was a soft breeze blowing, and the sky in the east was aglow with gold and deep pink, presaging the rising of the sun. For a few minutes, he sat there, gathering his wits, and his courage. Finally, giving himself a shake, and running his hands over his face and hair, he crawled out of the bag and stood up. From this vantage point, he could see the skyline of the city against the glowing sky. Slowly, as the sun rose, the colours of the buildings appeared. “I have to get there today,” he thought. “I don’t even know if I have enough food and water for that long. After that…..well, I just have to hope I have enough money on me. Not only for food, but for bus fare. If I can find a bus there that goes close to home.” He sighed, picked up his backpack, and sat down again.
He remembered that he had picked up a lot of small stuff from the bottom of the boat, and put it in the front pocket. He unzipped the pocket, and proceeded to empty it out onto the sleeping bag. The first thing he found was a small container of trail mix – about three quarters of a cup. “Ok, that’ll make a passable breakfast,” he thought, and he put it aside. Then he found a Ziploc baggie with a strip and a half of beef jerky in it. “Lunch for on the way, and maybe, if I’m careful, something to stave off starvation for a little while longer.” That went aside with the trail mix. What about water? He remembered that he had an insulated bottle in its special pocket. Yes, there it was. He took it out, and was surprised at its weight. He shook it, then opened it. It was almost full! What a great piece of luck. He knew he could do without food far longer than he could go without water, especially if he was exercising a lot. And a walk of ten miles or so was fairly strenuous exercise.
He ran his fingers lightly through the rest of the stuff, and noticed something shining. He dug it out and lifted it; it was a round, smooth stone, medium blue speckled with deep green. “Wow!” he thought. “I promised Betsy I’d bring her a surprise, and here it is! She’ll love it. I remember it from the museum – it’s called Chrysocola” He set it in another spot on the bag, and stirred the rest of the things around. There was another stone – no, three more! One was sort of cup shaped, the top jagged like a piece of crystal, with a deep purple glowing from the centre. A piece of amethyst, he thought. It joined the first stone. The third one was shades of brown in layers, shading into yellowy amber tones. He remembered seeing something like it in a museum, too. It was a Tiger Eye and could be polished and shaped. Maybe Dad would take it somewhere and have it made into a pendant Betsy could wear. The last one was shining black, with white markings. This was something else he remembered from that museum visit – a Snowflake Obsidian. He couldn’t remember picking any of them up. “I wonder if the Dove left them for me?” he mused. “I’ll never know, but I’m pretty sure he did; one more thing to thank him for.” Again, very faintly, he heard that cooing chuckle. Other than a very big white feather that was stuck through a strap, that was all that was of any use. He brushed the rest off the sleeping bag, rolled it, and hung it from the bottom of the backpack. Time to go.
He set out at a good walking pace, and was soon at the edge of one of the fields. Bulging pea pods hung from the plants, and as he made his way carefully between the rows, he picked the ripest looking pods, a few here, a few there. Soon he had about three good handfuls tucked in the front of his shirt. He walked on, and by noon he was into a field of potatoes. Halfway across there was a tree, and he sat there for a while eating the fresh peas, and shoving the empty pods in the front pocket of his backpack. Half an hour later, he was on his way again, walking easily and enjoying the mild weather
About two and a half hours later, he was at the beginning of the suburb. There were scattered houses in big lots stretching out to either side as far as he could see, with occasional shopping malls, warehouses and service stations scattered among them. He walked on until he came to a service station, and asked to use the washroom. He took the chance to wash his face and hands, and run a comb through his hair while he was there, brushing some of the dust off his clothes, too. He asked the attendant directions to the intercity bus terminal, thanked him, and set out again Another half hour found him in the busy downtown area, walking along familiar streets, and enjoying the thought that soon he would be home again. He was very surprised when a voice hailed him. He looked around and saw Sally Anne Hansen a few steps behind him.
“Hello, Jason, what are you doing here? I thought you folks never came to town in the summer.” She said.
“Yeah, that’s right, we never do. But I’ve been off on my own, sailing on the river, and hiking, exploring places I haven’t seen before. I just got here, and am heading for the terminal for a bus home. Or at least, as close to home as the bus goes.”
“Wow!” Sally Anne’s eyes were round in awe. “What did you see? Anything interesting? Did you have any scary adventures?”
“Well, I did see a big rock that looked like a cupped hand on its side. The river went right into it, and the current was really fast. I thought for a bit I was going to crash into a cliff, but there was a passage through, and I came out into a lake. That’s where I had to start hiking.” He smiled, thinking of the Dove, and the part of fairyland he had been in.
“That is scary!” Sally said. “I am very glad that you weren’t hurt, or killed. I’d have really missed you at school.” She smiled back, and he suddenly realised that she liked him – she actually liked him! Wow! He’d been admiring her in secret all through the past school year, but she was so popular, he didn’t think he stood a chance.
“Thanks, Sally,” H smiled at her again, then said “I was going to go to the bus terminal and get something to eat there. Can I treat you to a burger, or something?”
“Gee, I’m sorry, Jason. I’d love to, but I’m on my way to dance class. Maybe, when school starts again, we can go to the Greek place near the school and have lunch. I love Greek food.” Jason grinned, and agreed. “So do I, Sally. It’s a date!” They both laughed, said goodbye and went on their way.
When Jason got to the bus terminal, he looked at the schedule. The next bus going his way didn’t leave for three hours. That meant it would be getting dark by the time he got home. But that didn’t worry him, as he knew every foot of the laneway from the bus stop. He went into the restaurant, ordered a Hamburg, bought a Science magazine, and settled down to while away the time. For a while, as he ate, he thought of Sally, and dreamed of having lunch with her. Maybe they could even manage a movie sometime.
Eventually the bus was announced, and he went out and joined the line to board. During the trip, he thought of all the things that had happened to him on his adventure. He had promised Betsy that he would be back in a week, and much to his surprise, he realised that he would make it. ‘Will they believe even half of what I tell them?’ he thought. Betsy would, she believed whatever he told her. He often had to tell her he was just kidding, or making up a story for her. But Mom and Dad? That was the big question. They knew he never lied to them. If he did string a tale, they knew by his voice and expression that that was what he was doing. This time, though – well, he’s just have to wait and see.
He walked up the lane to the warm glow of the lighted window welcoming him home. Betsy was on the porch and saw him. “Jason’s home!” she shouted, and flung herself down the steps and into his arms. “Hi, pipsqueak,” he said as he hugged her. “Been a good girl while I was gone?” She nodded, grabbed his hand, and dragged him up the steps to the porch. Their parents were both at the door, looking out.
“Welcome home, son,” his Dad said. “But you should have told us you were planning to go off on your own. Mother got very worried when you didn’t come in for dinner, and Betsy told her you had gone off.
Come in now, and tell us all about it. You don’t seem any the worse for whatever adventures you had. And dinner is just about to go on the table. You can entertain us as we eat.”
It took Jason the entire meal time, and an hour or more after to tell it all, and answer all the questions. “And I met Sally Anne Hansen in town, and she’s agreed to go to the Greek restaurant with me for lunch one day after school starts!” By this time, it was the most exciting event of the whole week in Jason’s view. Mom and Dad laughed.
“I’ll see that you have enough money to treat her, at least once,” Dad said. “She’s a nice little girl.”
“Gee, thanks Dad!” Jason grinned.
“Jason,” Betsy said. “You promised to bring me a treasure – what did you get me?”
“Hang on,” Jason jumped up and ran to get his backpack. He opened the front pocket, reached in, and started lifting out the stones, placing them one at a time in front of her.
“Oh, Jason!” she exclaimed, wide-eyed. They’re beautiful!” Both Mom and Dad bent to look at them.
“That is a treasure indeed,” Dad said. “They are museum quality. Tell you what, Betsy; I’ll make a box so you can display them.”
Jason looked on. He had had the adventure he had dreamed about, and returned safely home. And now he had a special reason to look forward to going back to school. He leaned back in his chair and sighed. It had been exciting and scary, but worth it. And he was very happy to be home again.