Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Hide and Seek (08/07/08)
- TITLE: Broad River Dash
By Patrick Whalen
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Hot summer heat in the stones was still being released into the night and she gasped at the sensation. Her soft feet slapped on the stones as she began to run. She reached the front of the lawn, pushed open the gate and ran through, forgetting to close it behind her. It slammed with a loud crack and a dog began to howl. Her fists tightened at the mistake.
As she approached the namesakes of Twin Oaks Plantation she spun her head around and noticed a dim light appear in the upper window. She snapped her head forward again and hurried her pace. A dark figure darted out from behind one of the trees and she stumbled. Before she hit the ground a strong hand grasped her skinny arm. She gasped at a sharp pain in her ankle but another strong hand silenced her cry.
“Shhhh! Keep quiet Linda. Da master waked up so we gotta be outta here real quick!”
With big, bright eyes that sparkled in the light of a half-moon, Linda caught her breath. She realized who had caught her and she threw her arms around him. “Jim!“ The burly black man released his grasp and held out a small pair of shoes.
“You didn’t think I’d let you go by yo’self? I know’d where you was goin’. Your papa’s been sold off and my Betsy’s gone so’s I nothin’ to lose but these chains”
Linda tightened her embrace and Joe felt watery tears fall on his scarred chest. The howling grew louder and another glow lit up a window on the first floor. “They’ll be coming for sure now. We gotta run fast.”
Linda put on the tiny leather shoes and the two fugitives fled into the wooded darkness. A short distance into the trees Linda fell. The loud boom of a shotgun reported from behind. Linda cried. “Joe, I think I hurt my ankle. I can’t stand up no more.” Joe hurried to her side and with his brawny arms lifted her onto his back.
“Don’t you worry none. We’s gonna make it tonight!”
He lit off like a majestic deer through the thick wood, hopping over fallen trees and splashing through the shallow water of Shadow Creek. The howls behind them grew louder.
“Sounds like foreman Sam’s joined in with Masta Burke.”
“Joe, you can’t make it with me on your back. Drop me and find the station. Master Burke will punish me for sure but you’ll hang from a tree.” Joe tightened his grip on the girl as he felt her trying to let go. “They ain’t catching us tonight. I been prayin’ ‘bout this since Betsy went to da Lord.”
The man and his bundle scurried up a slight rise then down the other side. Joe tripped on a root and the two rolled and bounced until they splashed into Broad River. Linda spit out the vile taste of dirt and sand. Joe grabbed her up and placed her in a wooden boat.
“Joe, what’s this?”
“I told you da Lord would make us a way. We rolled down dat der hill and my head hit on dis here boat. God gonna set us free.”
Joe grabbed up the two oars and tensed his broad shoulders. The boat lurched forward.
As they reached the middle of the gently flowing current of Broad River, the distant howling changed to a high pitched moan. A light appeared over the crest of the hill and Joe could see Master Burke holding a shotgun to his shoulder. He let go of the oars and dove on top of his passenger as a flash came from the barrel. Pellets struck the wooden boat with a dull thud. Another boom and the pellets splashed short of the boat.
“We gonna make it now.” He pointed out a small wooden shack on the other side of Broad River. “That there’s the station and we’ll make it before them.” He grabbed up the oars again and tugged at them with all his might.
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