Author : J. Eckert Lytle
Ten year old Danni stepped cautiously from a pine needle carpet to stones smoothed by eons of rushing water next to the quiescent pool of a peaceful stream. Her and grandfather’s stream. It meandered amid lofty, sweet smelling ponderosas–endlessly battling for the morning sun.
Why did I come, she wondered, he’ll never show.
Her grandpa had sent a letter to her that read, “Dear Button,” he’d always called her Button, “I’ll be home this Friday and meet you at ‘our’ fishing hole around nine a.m.” And although they’d held services for him last week, she still had the faith of a priest.
She’d received the letter Monday from the planet where he’d been working installing thermo-couplers on a massive terraforming reactor. The reactor exploded and vaporized everything within a fifteen mile radius. The obligatory funeral for him was just a formality since no body had ever been found.
Her mom told her she shouldn’t go this time. There were bears and cougars and it was no place for a little girl all alone. She told Danni that he’d written the letter long before the explosion. But Danni answered, “We always went fishing when he got back from his work.”
Her mom responded softly with tears in her eyes, “He’s not coming back from this one, sweetie.”
When she said that, Danni‘s insides turned to putty, her chin quivered, and she struggled to hold back her own tears.
Sadly she picked up a pebble and tossed it into the stream, dink! and watched the concentric ripples spread. Grandpa never made a promise he couldn’t keep, she reasoned, but perhaps this’ll be the first.
She hopped from rock to moss covered rock across the brook until she came to their last fishing spot. It’d been a hot day and grandpa had taken off his shoes and soaked his feet in the cool, clear water. She could still see his footprints in the mud. Her eyes teared.
Now she was all alone. Who would ever take her fishing again? Who would ever bring her gifts and play tickle monster with her again? Who would ever love her like that again?
Gloomily she lowered her head and accepted the fact. She slowly turned to start her trek back home.
She heard a twig snap behind her. Her mind raced.
Was it a bear?
Was it a mountain lion?
What should I do? She summoned all the courage a little girl could muster, picked up a stick, and slowly turn around. Twenty feet from her was a big black bear. She screamed and froze. The sun glistened off its matted fir as it stood on its hind legs and roared. Should she run or stay put. Grandpa had told her what to do in such an emergency, but she couldn’t remember.
The bear stepped her way. She cowered helplessly. He looked to be ten feet tall as he hunched and tottered toward her. Danni held up her stick and waited terrified for the end. Suddenly the bear scampered off. She narrowed her eyes and stared after it. The bear was gone, but she could see shadows from a flickering brightness behind her. Slowly she turned around and saw a large, radiant shape of a man standing behind her.
All she could do was gape at the beautiful, shimmering illumination.
“Hello, Button,” said the glow.
She extended her hand toward the light.
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