FOOTSTEPS TO NOWHERE!
By Camille LaGuire
|The wind was so cold it made
Lynn's face sting. She liked snow, but this blizzard was too much. She
turned around to let the wind hit her back instead. She held her hood
close to her face to keep warm.
She was only going to her best friend Ann's house, not to the North Pole! It was right next door! She turned around and looked at Ann's house. She was only half way. She would never get there at this rate. They would come out and find a Lynn-shaped ice cube. She ducked her head in the wind and started to run, leaping over the snow, ignoring the gusts of ice and the cold, jagged breaths of air in her lungs. She leaped up on Ann's porch and pounded on the door.
Ann's mom, Mrs. Ibsen, threw open the door right away. She looked worried.
"Did you find him?" she asked.
"Find who?" said Lynn, as she gratefully stepped inside. The warm air of the house seemed to burn her cold skin. She rubbed her cheeks with her hands and took off her coat. Mrs. Ibsen did not answer because she was busy putting on her boots in a big hurry. Mr. Ibsen was wrapping his scarf around his face and Ann was getting flashlights out of the kitchen drawer.
"What's wrong?" asked Lynn.
"Nick's gone!" said Ann. Nick was Ann's four-year-old brother. Just then Ann's older brother Josh came in and knocked snow off his boots.
"I went out to the kennel," he said, breathing hard. "There are footprints that go out over the hill toward Swanson's farm."
He rushed back outside, and Ann's parents got up to follow.
"Ann, you stay here," said Mrs. Ibsen. "If he comes back, turn the porch lights on and off several times so we can see it."
They ran out into the snow, and the girls were left alone. Lynn turned to Ann.
"Why would Nick go to Swanson's in the middle of a blizzard?"
Ann groaned and sat down on a kitchen chair.
"It's all my fault," she said. "Mom and Dad got him a pony for his birthday tomorrow. They were keeping it over at Swanson's so it would be a surprise...but I blabbed."
"You think he went to see his pony?"
"I know he did! He was so excited, he didn't want to wait. We could hardly get him into bed." She put her head in her hands and moaned. "It's all my fault!"
This was terrible. Poor Nick lost in the snow. And Ann would feel guilty for the rest of her life. Lynn turned to look out the window at the cold, drifting snow. Something bothered her. "It's so cold out," she said. "Even Nick would realize after a few steps that he couldn't make it all the way to Swanson's."
"He's only four," said Ann. Lynn shook her head thoughtfully.
"It doesn't matter how old he is. It's so cold it hurts. He would notice that."
"My poor brother."
"I want to look at those tracks," said Lynn, putting her coat and scarf back on. "Maybe he circled around and came back."
"You think so?"
"I would if I were him. Wouldn't you?"
The girls each grabbed a flashlight and went out to the yard by the kennel where the Ibsen's raised Saint Bernard show dogs. Near the door of the kennel, they could see a set of small boot prints leading out, around the corner and up the hill toward Swanson's farm. Unfortunately, the wind drifted snow over the trail, and the prints vanished about halfway up the hill.
Lynn shone her flashlight all around the door.
"There are no footprints going in," she complained.
"He probably went in before the snow fell," said Ann.
"Maybe." Lynn frowned and shined her flashlight across the yard. "There aren't any prints of him coming back." She sighed. She looked up at the hill, wondering where else he might have gone for shelter. Some place he could see from the hill, probably. She started walking up the hill. Ann followed, and the wind buffed them from behind. Both girls bent over and pulled their hoods around their faces.
"Why did he go into the kennel in the first place?" Lynn asked.
"Because it's cold, like you said. Maybe he went in there to warm up along the way." "But if he went in before it snowed, it would not have been so cold."
Lynn stopped at the top of the hill and watched the people searching across the field below. Their flashlights danced back and forth across the sparkling whiteness like fireflies. Lynn could see nothing that looked like a place for a little boy to go for shelter.
"Did he go out before the storm?" she asked. "Wouldn't somebody have noticed if he was gone that long?"
"We thought he was in bed. We didn't know!"
"I'm sorry," said Lynn. She could see Ann was very upset. "I guess I'm just making up problems again. Let's go back and make some hot chocolate for when they come back." They started back down the hill, but halfway down, the wind sent up another heavy gust, sending sharp flying crystals into their faces. Both girls automatically turned away, closing their eyes and covering their faces. They stood with their backs to the wind for a second.
"I've got it!" said Lynn, wheeling around to face the wind. It froze her face immediately, but she ran into it, down the hill. Ann tumbled after her.
"You've got what? A crazy spell?"
"Your brother. He did get too cold," Lynn called over her shoulder. "He DID come back."
She raced into the kennel and flipped on the light. There, in the middle of a warm pile of Saint Bernards, was Nick.
"Nicky!" cried Ann. She grabbed up her brother and hugged him.
"Is my pony here yet?" he asked sleepily.
They hurried him inside, and Ann made hot chocolate. Lynn flipped the porch lights on and off to signal to the searchers that they had found Nick.
"How did you know he was in there?" asked Ann, as they sat down to wait. "There were no tracks going in. Only going out, like you said."
"Those WERE tracks going in," said Lynn. "They were just backwards. When the wind got so cold, Nick did just like we did. He turned around and walked backwards so he wouldn't have to face the wind."
Ann turned to her brother, who was happily drinking hot chocolate. She tousled his hair.
"You're smart," she said.
"I'm smarter than Mom and Dad," he said. "They're still out in the cold."