“And for those of you with children – please keep them close, okay?” He glanced towards Ann. “Believe me, you don’t want to lose her down there.”
“No,” I said, “of course not.”
“That’s what I hoped to hear!” The guide winked.
On the way down Ann held my hand tightly. Except for the one light bulb right above our heads the world seemed to be made of metal bars and the dark stone of the shaft.
Not five minutes later we stood at the entrance to a vast cave that seemed to be a world of its own; heaps of stones appeared like small hills, in between them reflections revealed ponds of different sizes.
“Imagine what this kid must have felt like, when he crawled in here to discover all this?” The guide waved his hands around while he spoke. “There’s a rumor that he was fleeing from his abusive father or something of the kind, but probably he was just fooling around like children do. He must have come in somewhere near the top of the cave and then falls down right into the middle of this planet!”
Stijn scrambled out of his room into the living room and then behind the couch that I was sitting on. I noticed he had something in his hand when he came in, but he’s five now and I thought that it wouldn’t be anything dangerous. I heard him playing and laughing behind me while some soap opera played on.
“Don’t move,” he said.
That made me curious. I just wanted to see what he was playing with.
I leaned over the back of the sofa and he was sitting there with something white in his hand. It took me a moment to understand what was in front of him on the carpet; that there were the bones of a complete human leg and that he was just putting the last toe in place. Continue reading →
Marvyn stumbled into the sandpit while his sister still sat on the stones, unsure what to make of the yellow material in front of her. That day, in early March, I saw the boy for the first time. He was older than most of the other kids, maybe eleven or twelve. his t-shirt and jeans had holes.A paper hat sat slanted on his dirty blond hair.
The boy just stood at the other end of the playground, staring towards the sand and sometimes at the other kids. I remember thinking that he must be cold.
It was Anne’s first time at the playground, at least she wouldn’t remember the first time. For Marvyn it was the first time in a few months – and he was accordingly excited. Marvyn was five. Anne was only one. Continue reading →
The youth group reached Hailway Park Holiday Camp at about 4pm. 19 boys aged between 11 and 13 and two group leaders that had run the trips for the last three years. The group leaders, a protestant minister in his fifties and his 25 year old son, Chance, showed the boys how to pitch their tents. When most of the tents were standing in a semicircle Chance took two of the boys, Ian and Clancy, with him to collect wood for a campfire.
Chance, Ian and Clancy had trouble finding dry wood. By the time they returned the minister and the other boys had prepared most of the food. Chance and his father built and alighted the campfire. Like the previous years the evening was spent with food, songs and finally horror stories.
At 11pm, thirty minutes later than planned, the boys were told to go to bed. At midnight the minister went to sleep in his tent, Chance was supposed to watch the fire and make sure that none of the boys wandered into the woods. At 4am he should have woke his father to change shifts. Continue reading →
It was more than fifteen years ago and still I feel guilty. Still I sometimes cry myself to sleep. Still I wonder what in heaven I could have done differently.
It was a hiking trip. Laney loved the outdoors and I wanted to help her love it more. Laney was already in the girl scouts and loved that too but our local group wasn’t very active. I felt like it was my fatherly duty to grow my daughter’s passion for nature and exercise.
Just for the long easter weekend. I carried the tent and sleeping bags and Laney proudly carried our cooking utensils in her small dark green backpack. My then wife wanted to do the family tour with our two year old son.
I think that’s why we broke up – because she couldn’t look at me anymore without seeing Laney. She couldn’t look at me without blaming me.
The first two days everything was wonderful. We hiked mostly along a small river and sometimes through stretches of wood. Along the way I taught Laney about edible mushrooms and how to recognize fresh bear tracks and how her mother had always hated hiking. Continue reading →