(Best Read to Your Younger Child)
“That’s it!” Silver Sue Needles huffed with loud voice at her older brother, Ray. “I’m not cleaning up after you ever again.” Ray whirled around, smiled and patted his sister’s head. On the oval rug by the front door long smears of cat feces stained it, smelling rank. Ray had stepped in cat poop and brought it into the house.
Silver’s stomach was “delicate,” her grandmother often said, as if it were something to be proud of. And it was true, she couldn’t stomach unpleasant odors. Why, she couldn’t even watch animal or human throw up without her gagging and often throwing up as well.
“Look, Bunny Face, I’ve got to get to work. Clean it up, okay.” He tried to pat her head, missed and caught her ponytail, tugging gently. “Here take my quad this afternoon. Clean my shoes too, okay? I’ve got to shave.” Just as Ray shut the bathroom door, Gleason, the small family dog, sniffed gleefully the shoes and rug, then set to lapping them clean with a long, pink drippy-tongue.
Silver was thankful her brother had not seen Gleason’s work. He would have taken the quad keys back, since she had not done the foul job of cleaning as agreed.
Fifteen-year-old Silver, bounced the quad keys in her hand while she shoved her feet into her boots. Gleason whimpered crazily. He was hoping he’d be allowed outside. “Okay come on.” Silver patted her thigh as she held the front door open. Gleason, shaking all over with doggy happiness, followed and then bounded ahead.
The well-maintained quad roared to life. Gleason jumped on the platform behind Silver. The dirt road to the barn and pasture beyond was spongy from the dirty slow-melting snow left from last week’s blizzard. The temperature was hovering near freezing. Crackly-thin sheets of ice covered shallow puddles, breaking with a crunching noise as the machine raced through them. A dark bird launched itself skyward from a moss-topped fence post as the happy pair passed.
Silver’s own quad was in the shop. It had been for several weeks now. Ray had never before today let her take his machine. A Black Angus calf bellowed just ahead. She couldn’t see the animal but could hear it. Something about the situation didn’t seem right. The hair on her arms and back of her neck stood up. Silver stopped the quad and went looking for the animal.
She, with Gleason far ahead of her, walked the wire fence line. Still she couldn’t find the calf. Tall weeds circled the pond just ahead. Deep mud sucked at Silver’s boots. Gleason barked wildly. The calf was on its side all four legs deep in the mud at pond’s edge. It looked as if it had intended to drink from the pond, got stuck in the mud and fallen to its side.
Silver clicked her tongue at Gleason, meaning for him to come to her. She could see that the two of them might just as easily as the calf, get stuck. She turned, pulling her boots from the mud, and carefully made her way back to the quad. She searched for a rope to pull the calf free. She found none.
The quad leaned to one side. It could be stuck, she thought. The ground was ruffed up as if something had circled the machine several times. She had not walked around the quad. Strange, she thought to herself. When she’d gotten off the quad she’d gone straight to the calf where Gleason barked.
The little dog barked frantically now. He sniffed the quad and took a low stance, his belly in the mud. Barking madly, he rose abruptly and ran back down the path toward the barn. He was running for home.
Where the calf was stuck, the tall weeds swayed and splashing water was loud, drowning out the calf’s bellows. Good, the calf was fighting its way out of the mud, Silver said aloud to herself.
She called for Gleason to come back, turned and parted the grass to return to the calf. There it was high, on the pond bank, standing free of its mud trap. Grayish-black mud dripped from its legs and belly.
Just as Silver laid a hand to the top of the animal’s head a black blur caught her eye at the other end of the pond. Something huge, a bear she guessed, scrambled up the pond bank into the tall weeds and trees beyond.
Silver snapped photos with her phone. She wasn’t surprised to see a bear near the pond. But what did surprise her was the one huge, human-like footprint in the smooth mud on the north side of the standing calf.
She ruffed up the footprint. Oh, she had heard of bigfoot all right, but she didn’t intend to tell anyone. It was obvious to her that the bigfoot had rescued the calf, pulling it from the pond. But she was also thinking of her best friend, Lilly and how she without fail pulled unbecoming faces each time bigfoot was mentioned in conversation.
Lilly May Smith was the most popular girl in Silver’s grade. Silver sure didn’t intend for silly smiles and sly laughs to be directed at her because of an unknown, undiscovered animal. Life was difficult enough, being the second most popular girl in the ninth grade. She would keep the photos of the bigfoot and look at them once in a while.
Since she now knew that bigfoot existed for sure, she’d be the one to smile knowingly when next Lilly honked out an un-lady-like laugh at the mention of bigfoot. Oh, Silver would laugh all right, but her laugh would be aimed at Lilly and the circle of smug friends that thought they knew it all.