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A Ragged Bunch and A Motley Crew

by Echo Lewis

illustrated by Elaine Blier

A serialized story for the summer of 2003

Chapter Eight

"Time out for food!" Davey yelled at the end of the fifth inning. "Let's get those hamburgers under way!"

"Great idea," Uncle Don agreed. "We need some nourishment."

He and Davey headed toward the grill to get the charcoal under way.

Everybody seemed to know what to do next. Aunt Amelia began unpacking the picnic hamper. Jennifer wiped down the table and started setting it. Christine began making juice and iced tea. The twins gathered up the bats, balls and mitts hastily tossed toward home plate.

Laura wasn't sure what her job should be. So she sat on the little grassy hill not too far from the picnic area. She quietly watched all the activity, not as part of it, but not altogether removed. It was all right just to watch. Somehow, sitting here quietly watching all the activity reminded her of her spot under the porch in the desert. She hadn't thought of her secret place for a long time. In fact, she was surprised she remembered it.

"Laura," called Aunt Amelia. "Would you carry these hamburgers over to Uncle Don, so he and Davey can get started with the grilling?"

Laura, once more called out of her daydreaming, turned in the direction of he aunt's voice. Aunt Amelia was at the station wagon pulling food out of the big cooler lodged in the back end of the car.

Getting to her feet, Laura went over and accepted the plastic container of meat from her aunt. It was heavy, but she didn't have far to carry it.

Walking across the grass, Laura kept a sharp eye out for stones, so she wouldn't trip. Concentrating on raised objects that might get in her way, she didn't see a sharp dip in the ground several inches deep.

Covered with grass, it was hardly noticeable. Laura, totally unprepared, stepped right into the hole.

The jolt threw her sharply forward onto the grass. The plastic container flew out of her hands and hit the ground a split second later.

Jumping wildly to her feet, Laura ran over to the container and stood staring down at it. The lid had bounced off and half the hamburgers lay on the dusty grass.

"Oh, no!"

Panic seized the child's heart.

"Laura!"

Her uncle's voice sounded as sharp as a whip in Laura's ears. He had seen what had happened and was coming toward her.

Laura looked up from the disaster at her feet - the disaster that she, herself, caused. Uncle Don was moving closer and closer.

Abruptly, without thinking, without planning, she began to run. She ran away from her disaster, away from Uncle Don, away from the twins, away from her failure.

She ran and ran - through the grass and down the dirt road that wound around the lake, past cottages and houses, lawns and trees.

She had no idea where she ran. She only knew she had to get away. She had to escape Uncle Don, his anger at her and all that would follow her terrible accident.

Laura ran with all her might, as fast and as far as she could go. Her lungs felt like burning coals in her chest and her throat grew dry and raw. Still she ran.

Suddenly, the road under her feet disappeared, giving way to a large clearing and a boat launch at the lake's edge.

Empty and still, the whole area sat barren and desolate. Not even one boat was tied up at any of the moorings along the big dock that stretched far out over the water.

Far to Laura's left, behind a fence, sat an old summer cottage, still boarded up against the winter winds. To her right, the forest loomed - dense, dark and frightening. Which way should she turn?

"Laura!"

Uncle Don! He had followed her!

Wasting no more time with indecision, Laura bolted for the dock. She ran to the very end. There she stopped, panting, looking desperately out at the huge lake. Unless she jumped into the deep, freezing water she had no way out. She was trapped.

Read Chapter Seven again.

Read on to Chapter Nine

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