A New Story
Searching For Dad
Begins in 3 Days
A New Story
Searching For Dad
Begins in 5 Days
Chapter 20 – It’s Marathon Day
Lisa and Nicole planned to get to bed early. Like most plans, life gets in the way. After all, who could sleep with the excitement of seeing each other for the first time in four months and the Thanksgiving Marathon tomorrow? Lisa and Nicole stayed awake until eleven catching up, taking turns describing each of their races, and talking about the marathon, strategy. They made plans to hang out together the entire time Nicole was home. Lisa didn’t fall asleep until 12:30. Her mind kept playing how Nicole and she would run in the marathon.
Sunrise was at 7:10 a.m. The race started at 9 a.m. Nicole’s coach told her that she and Lisa needed to have a powerful breakfast four hours before the race. It meant they had to be up early. They asked their mom to get them up at four thirty so they could eat the race day breakfast meal Nicole’s coach suggested.
Lisa was up at 4:15 and in Nicole’s bedroom shaking her. Nicole opened her eyes and looked at Lisa, “You’re already dressed? What time is it?”
Before Lisa could speak, their mom’s alarm went off.
Lisa said, “I heard mom making breakfast in the kitchen. I knew I wasn’t going back to sleep for 15 minutes, so I got up. Can you smell the bagels toasting? I’m starving. Hurry up and get dressed. Remember, your coach said to eat four hours before the race?”
Nicole gave a big yawn, sat up in bed, and stretched her arms out over her head. She looked at Lisa, “I’ll meet you in the kitchen in ten minutes.”
“I’ll wait in my room. Get me when you’re ready so we can go to the kitchen together,” Lisa said.
When Lisa and Nicole walked into the kitchen, they already had their sweats on. Their mom said, “You girls are ready to go. Breakfast will be ready in five minutes. I squeezed fresh orange juice, it has a lot of potassium and I read online where that is very good for runners.”
Lisa and Nicole fist bumped their mom, then sat at the table. They drank their orange juice without taking a breath. Their mom brought two plates for them. Toasted bagels were on the plates surrounded by raisons, and sliced bananas. A large jar of peanut butter was open.
“Girls, I read online about breakfast and I’m going to make sure you eat enough to make it through the marathon. No skimping,” the mom said.
Lisa said, “If I overeat I’ll have to go to the bathroom during the race.”
Nicole gave Lisa a gentle push with her right hand, “Mom’s right Lisa. You’ll run great for the first ten or so miles, then you’ll bonk. You won’t have the energy left to make it. Do it for me, okay.”
“Okay Nicole. I hope you’re right,” said Lisa.
“Don’t worry about that, there will be plenty of Porta Potties at the park. We can use them right before we enter the corral,” Nicole laughed.
At 8:00 a.m. the sisters hugged their mom and dad and started off jogging the two miles toward Nickerson Park. The designated parking lots were already packed. Runners were warming up on the streets. They arrived at the park at eight twenty and checked in. Three trips to the Porta Potty later and Lisa and Nicole headed to the corral.
Nicole said, “We’ll line up with the runners who are aiming for three hours.”
Lisa frowned, “Come on Nicole. I bet we can do a two forty-five easy.”
Nicole put a hand on each of Lisa’s shoulders, “We promised Mom to take it easy and make it a fun run.”
Lisa said, “Okay, okay, you’re right. But if we feel good at mile fourteen can we pick it up a bit? Please?”
Nicole said, “We have to both feel good. And, if we need to slow down we’ll cut it back a bit. Deal?”
Lisa fist bumped Nicole, “Deal.”
Love to Run ~ A Story of Two Sisters
Chapter 5 ~ She’s A Natural
Coach Kappa parked on Lawson Street, a short distance from the bridge. She got out of her car and walked to where she had a view of the river trail, but remained unseen by anyone on the trail. She looked west toward the running trail on the East side of the river. Coach Kappa saw three bicycle riders, riding single file on the west side of the river. The second and third riders were drafting of the the lead rider. Coach Kappa thought they were trying for a PR. She saw a woman walking a Brittany on the east toward the direction she expected to see Lisa. The Brittany was tugging at the leash and pulling the woman onto the grass. Two early morning joggers came into view, they were running at easy pace talking with each other. They skirted around the woman with the Brittany.
Coach Kappa waited. Five minutes later, she caught sight of Lisa. Coach Kappa looked at her watch, smiled and then looked back to Lisa. It was a bit over a mile from where Lisa entered the trail to where Coach Kappa spotted her. She studied Lisa’s form. Lisa was running effortless, her arms swinging in perfect form and rhythm. If Coach Kappa didn’t know the difference, she would have thought she was looking at a shorter version of Nicole. Coach Kappa had a gut feeling Lisa was a natural. Her job was to help Lisa reach her potential.
Lisa didn’t see Coach Kappa watching her. Everything changed for Lisa after Coach showed her the text message from Nicole. She felt something inside her change when she left Coach Kappa and headed toward the river trail. She remembered her first three strides on the river trail where she repeated Nicole’s words, ‘Make me proud.’ She kept repeating the words with each stride. It wasn’t long before she forgot about Nicole leaving for college and only thought of running to make Nicole proud of her. She couldn’t wait to text Nicole and tell her about her run.
The Lawson Avenue bridge was the half-way mark where Lisa left the river trail and began her loop toward home. When she reached the bridge, she bounded up the steps, two at a time, to the road. She turned left on Lawson and headed for the high school athletic fields a mile and half away.
Coach Kappa anticipated Lisa’s route, it was Nicole’s favorite early morning run. She often told Coach Kappa about it. Coach Kappa got in her car, and drove over to Maple Street, just down from the entrance to the faculty parking lot, but with a good view of the athletic field. She got out of her car and walked a short distance to where she could get a view of where she expected Lisa to come out of the high school athletic fields and head home. It wasn’t long before Coach Kappa saw Law come through the far gate near the softball field and begin her run around the perimeter of the field.
Coach Kappa watched Lisa glide along on the back side of the field following the fenced in boundary. Lisa came up the west side of the field behind the football stands and passed through the gate near the teachers’ parking lot behind the high school. She crossed through the parking lot, and took a right onto the high school driveway. She turned out of the driveway onto Maple Street. Coach Kappa stood next to a large maple tree on the opposite side of the road out of Lisa’s view. When Coach Kappa caught sight of Lisa, she looked at her watch and absentmindedly nodded approvingly.
A New Story, Love to Run – A Story of Two Sisters, begins Tomorrow
Chapter 33 – A Secret Revealed
Grace stepped out of the hospital room into the corridor when asked to by the nurse. Jane was standing outside the door. “How is he, Grace?” she asked.
“They’re cleaning Brad. He’s still unconscious. They’re trying to get his body temperature up. He made Matt wear the space blanket and he gave Matt the last bit of food and water. Matt wouldn’t have made if it wasn’t for Brad. And, now, I don’t know if Brad will make it. He’s listed in critical condition.”
“He’s strong, Grace. He’ll make it,” said Jane.
“He’s been out for two days, Jane. The doctors don’t know when or if he’ll regain consciousness, they said it’s unpredictable. I want to stay here for a few more days. I know Larry has to get back to work and you have things to do. I’ll be okay. I’d send Matt back with you, but he’s adamant about staying here. He’s even willing to skip basketball camp and you know how much he loves basketball. He went to the cafeteria to get a bite to eat.”
Jane looked at Grace, “Are you taking care of yourself? When was the last decent meal you’ve eaten?”
“Jane, I couldn’t hold anything down even if you force fed me. My stomach feels like its still in the middle of that storm.”
“You’ve got to eat. What will Matt do if you end up in the room next to Brad? Please, Grace,” begged Jane.
Grace took a deep breath, “I know you’re right. I promise I will eat something tonight.”
“I’m going down to the cafeteria now and I’ll bring you something to eat. I will stay with you until you finish every bite,” said Jane.
“You’re treating me like a child, Jane.”
Jane didn’t answer. She gave Grace a hug, turned and headed for the elevators. The nurse walked out of the room. She nodded to Grace and said, “You can go in now. He’s clean and resting.”
Jane walked into the room and stood by the side of the bed. She bent over and kissed Brad’s forehead, and told him thank you for saving Matt’s life. It was a ritual she performed each time she entered the room. She sat down in the chair next to the bed and placed her right hand on top of Brad’s left hand. It was the same chair Grace slept in the past two nights.
Grace felt exhausted. Her eyelids felt as if they had ten pound weights pulling them down. She started to close her eyes and she forced them back open. Once her head bobbed when she dozed and she pulled it straight up. The harder she fought sleep, the harder it became for her to stay awake. Her right leg twitched and her head bobbed. Maybe if I close my eyes for a moment until Jane comes back with my food. I won’t sleep, I’ll just close them and relax. It won’t be long, she thought. She closed her eyes and fell asleep.
Grace’s subconscious didn’t allow her to slip into non REM sleep, the deep sleep stage where the body begins to repair itself. She remained in the REM stage where dreams most frequently occur. Grace found herself on Indian Trail, Brad was lost, she had to find him. She looked at a hand drawn map Matt gave her. She came to the fork in the trail leading to the summit or further up Indian Trail. She heard Brad’s voice, “Over hear. I’m over hear.”
She looked around. She didn’t see him, “Brad where are you? Where are you? I don’t see you.”
“I’m here. I’m right here.”
Grace left the trail and ran through the thick underbrush, falling, hollering, “I’m coming, Brad. I’ll find you.”
Grace suddenly woke up, only she and Brad were in the room. She looked at Brad and said, “I had a nightmare, Brad. I dreamed you were lost and you were calling me. I couldn’t find you. It was horrible.”
Grace felt Brad’s hand move, he moved it out from under her hand and placed his hand on top of her hand and squeezed. Grace stood up, “Brad, Brad can you hear me?” She felt another squeeze on her hand. She bent over and kissed his forehead.
“I won’t leave you, Brad. I’ll be right here when you open your eyes. I promise,” said Grace, tears were rolling down her cheeks.
Brad rolled his head toward Grace and opened his eyes, barely audible, he mouthed the words, “Thank you.”
“You’re awake. Thank God, you’re awake. Oh, God, thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
A small smile formed on Brad’s lips. He whispered, “I have to talk to you.”
“It can wait, Brad. You rest. We will have plenty of time to talk.”
Brad shook his head, “No. I need to talk now.” He squeezed her hand again.
“Okay, Brad. But, please don’t wear yourself out, Matt and I want you back.”
Brad managed another smile. He said, “My wallet?”
Grace opened the drawer on the small dresser next to his bed. Brad’s brown leather wallet was sitting among a few other personal effects. She picked it up and wondered about the wallet. The leather was soft and worn. It looked like it had been hand crafted and had carried it for years. She turned and faced him. “I have it.”
Brad said, “Open it.”
Grace laid the open wallet flat across her lap. “It’s open, Brad.”
“In the sleeve on right side, reach in and pull out,” Brad’s voice becoming weary.
Grace reached into the sleeve on the right and there was nothing there. She realized she was confusing her right hand with Brad’s right hand. She placed her fingers in the other sleeve and pulled out three items. She didn’t look at them, she said, “I have three things, what do you want me to do?”
“The photo, look at the photo.”
Grace moved an insurance card off the top, then a roadside assistance card, and then she came to the photo and gasped, “That’s, that’s Matt. Where did you get it?”
Brad’s turned his head slightly towards Grace’s voice. He struggled to keep his eyes open, “When I was deployed. They needed a fourth person for a dangerous mission, I volunteered. I only knew the other three by first names, that’s all. It started out well, we met with a native of the region who was supposed to help us. He set us up. Two of our group were killed in an ambush, one was wounded badly. I wasn’t hit. I carried the wounded soldier for two miles and scaled a cliff to escape. A helicopter came in to rescue us. The soldier’s name was Mike. That’s all I knew. He was in bad shape. The medics were working furiously on him. One of the medics looked at me and shook his head. Miked grabbed hold of my hand, he asked me to reach into his shirt pocket. I did. I pulled out this photo. He asked me to find his boy and mother and make sure they were okay. He died in my arms.
I didn’t recognize Matt at first and how many Mike’s are there in the service? I was telling you the truth when I said I didn’t know Mike. Later, after I passed the football with Matt, something about him started nagging at me. I couldn’t put it together. It wasn’t until after we swam that I looked in my wallet and pulled out the photo. I knew. I just didn’t know how to tell you.”
Brad closed his eyes. He held Grace’s hand tight. He breathed deeply, then he said, “Mike was a lucky man. You’re a special woman and Matt’s a special boy. When I get out of here, I’d like to know you both better.”
Grace’s face was streaked with tears. She whispered, “Yes, Brad. We want to know you better, too. I’d like nothing better.”
A NEW STORY BEGINS IN 4 DAYS
Today’s Quote by Gandhi on Relationships
Relationships are based on four principles: respect, understanding, acceptance and appreciation. ~Gandhi
Chapter 26 ~ Friends Count When The Going Is Tough
After Brad disappeared into the forest, Grace began knocking on cabin doors. She counted forty-seven cabins. She and Brad already spoke to Jane about Matt, and if she discounted her cabin and Brad’s cabin that left forty-four cabins. After having no answer to first five cabins, she decided to go back to the Ranger station and find out which cabins had occupants.
Grace jogged over to the Ranger station. Ranger Stone was at the counter, he looked up at Grace, and said, “Any word? Where’s your friend?”
Grace shook her head, “Brad went into the forest to search for Matt. I wanted to know …”
Before Grace could finish, the ranger interrupted Grace, “Your friend Brad has made the problem worse. If your son is missing, we’ll have two people wandering around in a national forest where nature doesn’t take prisoners. One mistake and it is often the final mistake. It takes lots of training to survive in this country. Everybody thinks they can watch a reality show and survive under the conditions you find out here, most of them don’t. That’s the sad part. Do you have any way of contacting him before it’s too late?”
Grace fixed a glare on the ranger, “Brad can take care of himself, he was with the 82nd Airborne.”
“Ma’am. That may be the case and he may have survival skills. Was he aware of the cold front coming in here tomorrow bringing torrential rain, potentially large hail, and significant lightening? That’s frightful for even the most experienced woodsman. He may be a former 82nd Airborne soldier, but unless he is prepared for this kind of weather, he’ll have a tough time of it if he doesn’t return. Please try to contact him and have him return. I promise you, I will be in this office at dawn and if Matt has not returned, I will put everything in motion to start the search ASAP. I’ve already alerted all the key people to be ready to go at dawn if they get they call.”
Grace was taken aback. She thought the ranger was an obstructionist, and now knew he was on her side and was doing everything within his power to help. She said, “Thank you, Ranger Stone. I really appreciate your help.”
Grace lifted her cell phone, she checked her text messages. There was none from Brad. He forgot to text her his extension service cell phone number. She looked up at the Ranger, “Brad works for the extension service. He was going to use their cell because it has better service. He forgot to text me the number. I don’t know how to get in touch with him. He’ll be okay. I know he will.”
The ranger took a deep breath, he waited a moment, “Is there anything else I can do for you ma’am?”
“Yes, can you tell me which cabins are occupied? I want to ask them if they saw Matt after we left.”
There are only three cabins occupied this weekend, ma’am because of the trails being closed due to the mountain lion and black bear scare. We posted it on our website. That’s where all the reservations are made.”
Grace felt a panic attack coming on, she remembered Brad’s advice to her to focus on what she can do not on what ifs. She looked at the ranger, “What can I do to help?”
“Whatever you do, don’t go looking for either of them. Stay with your friends. You need support. I promised you I will be here at dawn. Stay inside a cabin tonight, it’s quite common to have wildlife come into the campground at night scavenging for food.”
Grace nodded, she knew the ranger was right. At the moment, she couldn’t stand the sight of Jane. She didn’t want anything to do with her. All Jane thought about was Jane, a voice in Grace’s head said.
Grace looked at the ranger said, “Thank you, Ranger Stone.” She turned and walked out of the ranger station.
Grace walked slowly back toward her cabin. She passed Jane and Larry’s cabin. The door was closed. She smelled wood from the burning fireplace behind their cabin. She heard no sounds. She assumed they ate and were sitting in the cabin relaxing. Grace reached her cabin, walked up the few steps to the small porch, and placed a hand on the door nob. She took a long look to where Brad entered the forest, said a silent memorized prayer twisted the door nob pulled the door open. She stopped when she heard …
“Grace? Grace? Wait a minute, please?”
She turned and saw Jane running toward her. Jane was wearing jeans and Texas Women’s University sweatshirt. Jane stopped at the foot of the stairs. She looked up at Grace, “Grace, I’m sorry. I was a jerk. I made a fool of myself. I hurt the best friend I had in the world. Please forgive me. And, have you heard anything about Matt? I want to help. I really do.”
Grace paused for a moment, let go of the door nob, and hurried down the steps. Jane and she embraced. The stayed that way for minutes.
When they broke the embrace, Jane wiped tears from her cheeks, and said, “Look at us? No, don’t look at us. We’re a sight. Do you forgive me, Grace?”
“There’s nothing to forgive, Jane. It’s already forgotten. The ranger told me he’ll organize a search at dawn. You can bet I’ll be in his face at the first peak of sun. Brad went after Matt. The ranger said Brad’s in severe danger because a big cold front with torrential rains, hail and dangerous lightening is coming in tomorrow afternoon. I’m scared for Matt and Brad, Jane.”
Jane squeezed Grace’s hand, “Stay with Larry and me. We’ll all go to ranger station at dawn.”
“I’d like that, Jane,” said Grace.
Chapter 25 ~ Brad Races Against Time to Find Matt
Five minutes later, Brad came out of his cabin, he wore a gray zipper hoodie, lightweight waterproof hiking shoes and dark lightweight stretch pants with zippers at the knees to convert the pants to shorts. He carried a backpack in his right hand. He stopped by his pickup truck, opened the tailgate, and climbed in the truck bed. He slid a key into a lock on a large metal chest that was fixed against the cab. He took the lock off the hinge and opened the metal chest. Brad followed a simple principle he learned from a friend in 82nd Airborne. His friend called it the survival triangle. He knew if the weather turned bad, you could die in three hours, you could survive three days without water, and if you were lucky enough to have good weather and water you could survive three weeks without food.
He set his backpack down and picked his extension service cell phone out of the chest. He turned it on and checked the weather forecast for Big Elk State Park with the U.S. Government Weather Service. The first thing he saw was a red alert highlighted on the website. A cold front was pushing down from the northwest and was expected to hit Big Elk around five the next afternoon. The temperature was going to drop from 70 degrees F to 53 degrees F. The temperature drop didn’t bother Brad as much as the forecast for violent thunder storms and torrential rains causing flash flooding in mountain areas.
Brad moved a few items around in the chest and took a personal locator beacon known as a PLB. When activated, the PLB could signal a satellite even if there was no cell phone service. Brad picked out a space blanket, a first aid kit, a large, machete-like knife he strapped to his belt, water proof matches, a signal mirror, nylon braided line, high protein energy bars, and three liter water bottles.
Brad strapped the backpack shut and slung it over his shoulders. He closed the metal chest and placed the lock back on it. He jumped down from the rear of the cab and lifted tail gate back into place. He turned toward Grace’s cabin, and waved. He started jogging west around the lake following the path where earlier he and Matt ran.
Grace was standing in the doorway, she returned Brad’s wave. She didn’t say anything. She watched Brad jog until he slowed to a walk when he reached the edge of the lake and the forest. He stopped and faced the lake. He closed his eyes and quieted his mind shutting out all sounds. Grace wanted to scream at Brad to do something. She forced herself to push her anxiety away. She watched and waited.
What seemed an eternity to Grace was no more than two minutes. Brad opened his eyes and ran parallel to the lake until he reached the trailhead a hundred and fifty yards ahead. When Brad reached the trailhead, he noticed the sign warning of mountain lions and black bears. He looked at the ground for some sign Matt had come this way. There were several footprints in the ground. He didn’t pay any attention to Matt’s running shoes and the prints they’d leave. The footprints were not help. He ducked under the metal pole and turned back toward the cabin where Grace still stood, arms folded across her chest watching.
Brad stepped back three paces and looked toward the cabin. Again, he closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them. He walked to the metal pole guarding the trail, bent over and saw a tiny piece of cloth, from a white t-shirt clinging to a metal barb on the pole. The same color t-shirt Matt was wearing when Grace and he left for the coffee shop. He pulled the small piece of cloth off the barb and tucked it in his pocket. He glanced at the sign again, Indian Trail. He turned and headed up the trail.
Brad kept a steady jogging pace. His eyes constantly searching for more evidence of Matt. The trail continued to wind and climb until Brad came to a fork in the path and a sign pointing one way to Strong Summit and the other to the continuation of Indian trail. He walked a dozen feet toward Strong Summit, turned around and returned to the sign. He walked further up Indian Trail. Ten feet up the trail, he stopped and picked up a small branch, it was snapped in two holding together by the strands of its bark. He held the small branch in his hands and stared up Indian Trail. He dropped the branch and began to jog up the trail.
Brad scrambled up a rocky slope looking more like an orangutan than a human. When he got to the top of the slope, he again broke into a jog. He stopped suddenly when he saw a deer carcass off to his right. Most of the deer was consumed. He knew it was a relatively fresh kill otherwise smaller animals would have cleaned the carcass and left only the bones. He stopped and studied the ground. He found the path the mountain lion dragged the deer across the trail. Brad thought it was unusual for the mountain lion to drop his prey where he found it instead of taking it to his lair. He wondered if the mountain lion’s attention was drawn elsewhere.