The following is the second part of the short story “Lost and Found.”
Even as he recognized the awful sound, Henry’s legs were already turning in the direction it came from.
“It’s Alice! Go get Mr. Harrison!” he yelled over his shoulder to Danny and Fred, before sprinting into the trees.
“Alice!” Henry shouted.
His feet waded in leaves, and broken sticks made him stumble. The noise of running feet didn’t seem to get any closer, but then, after several minutes of racing in what he thought was the right direction, Henry heard a sharp cry just as he skidded to a halt in a clearing: Alice was on the ground, crying and gasping as she clutched her ankle.
Alice was panting hard from her run. Thinking about the snake that she had seen beside the stream still sent shivers down her spine. Then she heard something large crashing through the leaves. There was silence. She considered letting the bear just eat her; then she changed her mind. Her two tentative, teary eyes looked up.
“Oh, Henry!” Alice exclaimed.
Henry ran forward and grabbed his little sister to keep her from falling.
“Are you all right, Alice?”
“I guess so. Other than my ankle – I fell over a tree root – and that s-s—snake I saw,” Alice stammered.
“Here, sit down.” Henry took charge of the situation, lowering Alice back to the ground and then slinging his backpack off his shoulder and digging items out one by one.
Henry took the sock and shoe off Alice’s hurt foot and wrapped the sprained ankle – well, he thought it was sprained – rather haphazardly in some springy gauze, which he taped with Band Aids. Then, he pulled Alice’s water bottle from her backpack and handed it to her. After completing these tasks, Henry sat down beside Alice and drank some of his own water. The liquid was cool and sweet on his tongue. As he rested, Henry strained his ears to hear the stream, but all he heard were the noisy songbirds and squirrels and the wind in the trees. Henry peered hopefully into the forest in the direction he had come from, hoping to see the glint of the stream in the slanting late-afternoon sunlight. No stream appeared.
“Are we lost, Henry?” Alice asked.
“Uh, I’m not sure.”
“Doesn’t ‘I’m not sure’ mean that we are lost?”
“Yes, we’re lost.”
“Well, how do we get un-lost, Henry? What stuff do we know?” By we Alice meant Henry, of course.
“I’m not sure, other than that moss grows on the north side of trees.” Henry couldn’t help laughing at how stupid his words sounded.
“What did you learn from being a Boy Scout? I thought they taught boys how to get un-lost,” Alice said, wrinkling her brow.
Henry frowned in thought, “Well, Mr. Harrison said that we’re supposed to stay in the same place and yell for help. Let’s try yelling!”
Alice energetically joined Henry as they both shouted “HELLLPPP!!”
“Stop shouting. Let’s listen,” Henry cut Alice off breathlessly, and they both became very still.
After a minute of concentrated listening, Alice whispered, “I don’t hear anyone. Do you, Henry?”
Henry waited for a minute more. What can we do? he worried.
“Why don’t we eat something while we wait. They’ll probably find us in a minute or two, anyway,” Henry suggested.
Despite his optimistic words, Henry didn’t feel very certain that they would be found soon, but he realized that Alice needed his encouragement. All the leaders in the books he had read focused on keeping their companies’ spirits up. That’s the least I can do to help, Henry thought. He rummaged through the pack and produced a couple of peanut butter sandwiches Mom had made for them earlier and handed the one with Alice’s name written on it to her.
“Thanks, Henry.” Alice accepted the sandwich gratefully after dusting some of the gritty brown dirt and bits of leaves from her palms.
Soon, the pair was munching happily away. It was almost as if they had both forgotten being lost, Alice’s hurt ankle, and how lonely and scared they felt.
“Wonder what Mom’s making for supper?” Henry mused aloud.
“I think the menu said gumbo and French bread,” Alice answered.
“That sure does sound good.”
Alice murmured her agreement, staring at the leaves that littered the warm ground.
“Shouldn’t we try to find the path or stream now? It could be a while before they find us, and I sure don’t want to miss the gumbo.” Alice felt her optimism blooming now that she had eaten.
“Sounds like an idea to me,” Henry concurred, taking the empty sandwich bag Alice gave him and stuffing it in the backpack with his own peanut-butter-smeared bag.
Henry closed the backpack. Shouldering it, he stood and gave Alice a hand to help her stand on her good foot.
“I’m sorry for sending you back alone to Mr. Harrison,” Henry apologized as he helped Alice stand, putting her arm around his shoulder for support, “Did you see the snake when you were walking back?”
“Yeah. I thought it was a coral snake, and so I ran away from it,” Alice admitted. “I’m sorry for getting you lost with me.”
“It’s not your fault,” Henry mumbled, turning red at Alice’s apology. He felt that it was all his fault they were in this fix.
“Oh, just a minute.” Henry remembered something and slung his backpack to the ground.
“What is it, Henry?”
“I know where I entered this clearing, and I want to use my compass to figure out which direction it is.”
Facing the direction from which he had come, Henry began muttering to himself, “All right. That way’s north.” He pointed to his right. “So that means we came from the west.” Henry waved his hand at the woods he had traversed a few minutes before.
“Therefore, to find the stream, we need to head west,” Henry finished, slipping the compass back into his pack and swinging it onto his shoulder again.
The brother and sister began trudging west, stopping occasionally as Henry tried to find significant signs of where he had crashed through the underbrush. An exclamation of “I think it’s this way” broke the silence every once in a while. Ten minutes later, as she was leaning against the rough bark of a pine which chafed her resting hand uncomfortably, Alice suddenly exclaimed:
“Henry! I hear the stream!”
At Alice’s words, Henry hurried forward, and in a moment he broke out of the trees and beheld the glistening stream. Running back, he helped Alice, and they both stood in front of the stream, smiling with relief that they had found it. The wind carried people’s yelling voices to them, and the pair began to shout excitedly, “We’re here!”
A great crashing noise grew louder every second with nearing yells, and a moment later, Mr. Harrison and the Boy Scouts broke into sight coming up the stream bank. The spikey-haired boy spotted Henry and Alice and let out a wild yell.
“There they are, Mr. Harrison!”
Then there was mayhem and a stampede that even wild buffalo might have trembled at, as the relieved group burst upon the newly-found children.
Five minutes later, Alice and Henry, half-crushed from energetic hugs of relief and back-slapping, stumbled out of the forest cover onto the path near the bridge.
The boys laughed and cheered so uproariously, that it took all of Mr. Harrison’s vocal power to be heard over them.
“Quiet, young men!” he yelled as they stopped on the path. Then he turned to Henry and Alice. “Please tell me exactly what happened.”
Alice looked at Henry. He took the hint and began to talk, “Well, Mr. Harrison, I told Alice to go back to you, and she was walking back along the stream when she saw a snake and became so scared that she forgot about staying by the stream and ran off into the woods. I found her right after she fell and sprained her ankle. We waited a few minutes for you to find us, and then I decided to find the stream, and that’s where you found us.”
“You did a good job of keeping calm, Henry. I’m proud of you. Next time, though, both you and Alice need to be a bit more careful and not forget my orders,” Mr. Harrison cautioned. He turned back to the rest of the group and barked, “All right, let’s head home now!”
And so, with Henry and Mr. Harrison helping Alice along, the group set off down the trail, towards home and gumbo and a life that would never quite be the same again.
Alice looked up at her older brother. His brown hair was plastered to his hot face and his blue eyes were tired, but when he saw Alice looking at him, their eyes met, and they both smiled. They understood that while they had been lost they’d found something else: friendship.