Fear is a terrible, terrible thing. Danny was afraid of the dark and that was the truth. His mom told him not to worry. “You’ll outgrow it, honey. Someday you’ll wonder why you were so afraid,” she told him.
Well, when would that happen? He was ten years old now, almost all grown up. Moving his mouth in a silent groan, he burrowed deeper into his sleeping bag. The thumping sound was probably nothing – maybe a twig brushing against the tent. That happened once. He was so terrified, he’d screamed. Both parents came running. His dad showed him the branch hitting the house because it was windy outside. His mom hugged him and his dad prayed with him, but he still had trouble falling asleep after that.
His older brother, Aaron, used to torment him by turning the light out when he was taking a bath, and then making fun of him. Boy, did Aaron get in trouble from both his mom and dad. Now he just snickered when Danny insisted on having a nightlight in his room.
So here he was at Pete’s house. Pete, his best friend, had spent the night with Danny several times. Danny finally ran out of excuses on why he couldn’t do a sleepover at Pete’s house. When Danny arrived, Pete said he had a surprise – they’d be sleeping in his tent in his backyard. Danny would just as soon cut off his arm rather than admit he was terrified to sleep outside.
Danny shivered, his heart thumping along with the soft thumping against the tent. Occasionally there was a rustling sound next to the zippered closure. Danny felt a scream gurgling in his throat, but choked it down. Maybe a monster would get him, but he’d be brave and not scream.
Brave? He wasn’t brave at all. He’d be heroic, though. Would it make him a hero if he alerted Pete so they could both scream for help? Maybe together they could fight off the boogie-man or whatever was trying to get into the tent.
“Pete,” he whispered, barely able to make a sound. He peeked over the top of his sleeping bag. The thumping had gotten louder. “Pete,” he said, reaching his hand out of the sleeping bag to shake Pete’s shoulder.
Pete mumbled something, and then set straight up like a shock had gone through his body. Pete knew something was wrong, Danny was convinced of it.
But Pete just yawned, and stretched his arms over his head. “Man, I gotta take a whiz. You too, Danny? Come on, we can go by the tree.”
Before Pete could stand, Danny grabbed his arm. “Shush,” he whispered. “Don’t you hear that?” The thumping was louder and the rustling by the closure had intensified. We’re goners for sure, Danny thought. Whatever was out there would get them before they could scream for help.
Pete stood and was stumbling his way to the opening. “Can’t see a thing. Grab the flashlight under my pillow, will ya, Danny?”
But Danny couldn’t move. Fear paralyzed him. Pete was going to unzip the opening. The monster was making all kinds of noise now. His best friend would be torn to shreds.
“Man, oh man, what’s wrong with you, Danny?” Pete had found the opening and Danny could hear the sound of the zipper.
“No, don’t!” Danny managed to squeal.
“What’s wrong? You afraid of dogs or something?”
Danny frantically grabbed for the flashlight and in a split second, his finger flipped the switch, bathing Pete in light. Pete was bent over with his hand patting his dog’s head.
“Hey, Roscoe, good dog. You guarding the tent for us, huh? Good boy, good boy.” Pete stood and turned to Danny, putting his hand over his face to block the light glaring in his eyes. “Roscoe won’t hurt you, Danny. He’s just guarding the tent for me. Listen, don’t tell a soul what I tell ya or we won’t be best friends anymore. Make a buddy promise, okay? It’s…well, I used to be afraid of the dark, but my dad bought me Roscoe. He sleeps in my room at night, right in front of my door. Protecting me, know what I mean? I’m not afraid anymore. Was Roscoe thumping his tail and woke ya? Sorry ‘bout that.”
A dog to guard and protect him! Tomorrow Danny would tell his parents he wanted a dog, but for right now, he’d better follow Pete to that tree.
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