Denny yawns, opening his eyes to see if it is daylight yet. From his top bunk he peeks through the window curtain; the sky is just beginning to turn light. This is a big day; his eighth birthday!
“Ben, wake up!” Denny whispers to the sleeper beneath him, his six-year-old brother. “Come on, Ben, remember what today is?”
With a moan, then a groan, Ben replies, “Is it time for school?”
“No goofball, this is Saturday. You’re coming to my birthday party!”
“Hey, you know what Denny?”
“Yesterday you were my big brother; today you are my REALLY BIG brother. A whole year older. Will we play games?”
“Of course,” Denny replied. He suddenly felt two inches taller with Ben’s remarks. “So this is what grownup feels like,” he thought.
They clamber to the kitchen for breakfast expecting to see a cake already decorated, but there was none in sight. “Mommy, have you made the cake yet? The cake for my birthday?” Denny asked. “I’ve been so busy, Hon, I haven’t had time,”his Mom replied, giving him a side glance. Cereal is eaten in silence. Today was just not starting out the way Denny had thought it would.
“C’mon Ben, let’s do chores.” Outside, Ben asked, “Hey, you think Mommy will get the cake made today?” “Well, I hope so. She must be pretty busy, this just isn’t like her. Daddy isn’t even here either.” Denny thought maybe if they were out from under foot, their Mother would be able to make the cake; his favorite: chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.
“Ben, remember seeing that cave opening on the other side of the hill behind us? How about we make sandwiches and explore the cave?” “Wow, that would be fun. Let’s go!” Ben exclaimed. “Better bring your bat, just in case we surprise something in the cave,” Denny advised.
“Bye, Mommy. We’ll be back later,” the boys called. Lunch snack and bat in hand, off they headed for the hill. Denny had learned from his teacher at church about praying to Jesus, and he said it could be at any time, for any reason. He thought this was a good time to try. “Jesus,” he prayed as they walked, “I don’t know why my Daddy isn’t here for my birthday, or why Mommy is so busy, but would you help them today? And please help us to be safe at the cave. Amen.” Denny’s spirits were lifted a little after silently saying his very first prayer, all on his own. Another feeling of being ‘grownup’ swept over him as they scurried toward the cave.
Denny and Ben pause at the cave entrance, taking time to observe the unfamiliar surroundings. After a moment Denny said, “The grass is up and doesn’t look like anything has walked over it. Maybe we will find the cave empty.” “Yeah, Denny, I’ll follow behind you,” Ben replied, feeling he would be safe for sure behind his big brother.
Inside, the boys found that the cave was not very deep. Another opening at the back narrowed to about the size of a kick ball, but they had no idea how far in it went. They enjoyed sitting in the cave and settled down to tell stories. Sometimes their made-up stories were a little scary, but always exciting.
“Denny, can we eat our sandwiches now; I’m hungry,” Ben asked. “Me too,” Denny agreed. Full tummies made them drowsy; they soon fell asleep. Neither one was prepared for what it was that woke them.
“Ee-ee,” came screeching from the back of the cave, then a whooshing sound as one after another, bats came flying from the hole, right over the boys’ heads. Denny yelled, “Ben, bats, bats; run!” Grabbing nothing, they ran as fast as they ever did in their lives, all the way to the house.
Bursting through the door, excited to tell what had happened, “Surprise! Surprise!” yelled the group inside, with Mom and Dad beaming. “We were thinking you boys would miss the party. Denny, this is for you,” his Mommy said as she presented his beautiful chocolate cake. “There’s homemade ice cream too!” echoed his Dad. The boys had a filled and satisfied audience ready to listen to their tale of caves and bats.
That night, Denny lay in bed, remembering all the events of his best birthday ever. “Jesus, thank you for being with all of us today,” and drifting off to sleep.....”I’ll talk to you again.”
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