Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Escape (01/02/06)
TITLE: Flying Escape
By Beth Muehlhausen
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We lived in our own paradise - an old brick farmhouse - and shared a kindred spirit unknown to those with shallow dispositions. Her name was Katie, and this summer marked the fourteenth year of our special love affair. Although I fought identity issues because of my slight build, aging body, and graying hair, she always knew how to make me feel like a king. I was her one and only.
I woke one August morning to find myself alone in Katie’s second-story bedroom. Panic clutched my heart as I rattled the door. It wouldn’t open. “I’m trapped,” I thought, as I paced the floor and tried to make sense of things.
The hours seemed to crawl, and my own hunger and thirst cornered me toward evening. I lay on Katie’s bed, patiently waiting for her familiar voice. Nothing. Silence hung in the stuffy room.
Evening light crept across Katie’s walls; gradually the hall tree’s shadow became a giant praying mantis that threatened to jump off the wall and devour me. Finally night fell, and with it the realization that perhaps I had truly been abandoned for good.
As the sun rose the next morning, I reminded myself that I’d always been an optimist. The cheerful early morning sunlight reminded me of Katie’s unconditional loyalty, and my heart leapt at the possibility of her return.
I tried to rationally explain her absence. It’s true that she had seemed stressed recently; the phone rang constantly. Still, why would she leave without saying good-bye? And why would she lock me in her room? It made no sense. No sense at all.
Even though my stomach finally decided to stop growling, I desperately needed water. For the hundredth time, I walked to the closed door. It didn’t budge.
It must have been midnight when I confronted my need to escape. There was only one possibility - the window. While standing on Katie’s hope chest, I repeatedly pushed and shoved in an attempt to open it. Slowly and deliberately, I eventually nudged the lower pane open until finally I thought I might slip through.
But no, a stubborn screen stood between my disappointed face and the sultry summer night! Frantically, I tore at the screen – clawing weakly with every ounce of energy I could muster.
All of a sudden the screen ripped just enough so that I could force my head through the slit. Inky darkness filled the space between my head and the ground below. Gradually I pushed with my legs; eventually my entire upper body squeezed through the screen.
As I looked down, I thought, “Man, you must be crazy! It’s not possible to survive a jump like this at your age!” Still, I felt I had no choice. With a final shove, I found myself falling, falling, sailing through the darkness….THUD.
When I woke, it was morning. Was I alive, and was that the old maple tree next to me, or was this heaven? A couple of cheerful robins sang from somewhere above as I tried to stand, but couldn’t. I felt dizzy, and the blackness returned.
The sun rose higher in the sky, and when I awoke again the heat seemed unbearable. “I must find protection…” I thought to myself. Slowly and painfully, I began to crawl on my belly toward a bush. Inch by painful inch I approached this refuge from the summer sun until finally, I lay in the shade, panting and gasping for breath.
Two more days and nights passed there under the sweeping branches of the juniper bush, and still there was no sign of Katie. “I must find something to drink – I must.” Staggering from beneath the bush, I glanced toward the house, and then cautiously made my way down the sloping driveway toward the creek.
* * * * *
Three days later, Katie drove up the driveway in her white mini-van. “Here Tyler, here boy! Where are you, buddy, I missed you! Florida was great! It was so fun to see Emily before – well, before I get married next month and leave home for good. ”
I gallantly trotted to her side and licked her hand. It would be a few hours before she would discover her shredded curtains and torn window screen, and fully appreciate my forgiveness.
Author’s note: This is a true story! Our aging, 14 1/2-year-old Australian Shepherd mix was mistakenly locked in the house last summer when our daughter left town for a week and no one else was home. He brilliantly managed an escape from a two-story window with no major injuries.
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