* * *The caterpillar inched its way across the floor. To Maddie’s delight, its body scrunched into a mini camel’s hump, then dropped back down again. So fuzzy and adorable. Taking its time and not really getting anywhere.
“How’d you get into my room, little guy?”
Of course if Reverend Drexell were here, he’d squash the poor thing in a flash. It bugged her no end last week when the reverend made fun of the actor who studied Buddhism. He’d twisted his face up like a demon and told the congregation the actor wouldn’t even kill a spider. And Maddie knew Reverend Drexell would.
Uh-uh, no way. Not in Maddie’s world. In her world, everything deserved a chance. Without a doubt, she absolutely knew God would want her to set the caterpillar free. After all, a girl’s bedroom was no place for a fuzzy critter.
She ripped a piece of paper from the printer.. Gently, she edged it beneath the caterpillar, tipping and folding it until she’d maneuvered it into place.
“Hang tight, little guy. Maddie’s gonna take care of you.” She’d learned the soothing tone from her mother. Lord knows she’d heard it enough. But it worked. She swore the caterpillar turned its head up, maybe even nodded.
A golden fire deep within her ignited her rescue mission. With a great deal of caution and a jack-o-lantern wide grin, she stood up, cautious as to not jostle her fellow traveler.
As soon as she stepped out onto the landing, footsteps tump-tump-tumped toward her. Her little brat of a brother, Brad, on the warpath, his squirt gun loaded and aimed.
“Got ya!” Brad pumped the gun, unleashing a stream of potentially devastating water.
Maddie whirled. Her back took the not-so-friendly fire. She clutched the paper. beneath her new friend. “Mom’s gonna be mad when I tell her you’re shooting your water gun in the house!”
While Brad laughed, she hurried for the stairs, her gaze locked on her companion.
“Hey, whaddaya got?” Brad ran to catch up, but Maddie was faster. She was on a mission. Nothing would stop her.
“Never mind. Go do something stupid like you always do!”
She picked up speed as she descended, outside her goal.
Hold on, soon you’ll be free.
She neared the bottom, the front door to freedom looming before her. Five more steps and out!
Her toe caught on something that didn’t belong on the stairs. Another one of Brad’s guns! She wasn’t sure, but she might’ve said one of her dad’s bad words. Fit the moment. Her foot slipped out, raking off the toy. One of her hands flew to the railing. She raised the sheet high with her other hand, hoping to keep it balanced. Gravity just hated Maddie, absolutely hated her. Both her legs slid out. She crashed onto her rear, the pain rattling her teeth.
The sheet of paper flew up. It wafted down, tilting and bobbing like a ship in a calm ocean. It drifted to the floor. Her green passenger clung to the paper, its life preserver.
She thrust her arms out to catch it. Her body followed. Crashing onto her belly, the paper magically dropped into her cupped palms. With a deep sigh, she closed her eyes, worried about the pain in her bottom. But selfish needs had to wait. She had a mission to fulfill.
Jangle, jangle…tap, tap, tap.
Uh-oh. Not out of the danger zone yet.
Nugget raced toward her, his paws clicking over the floor. His tongue hung out like a wind-dragged scarf, ready and hungry for a mid-afternoon caterpillar snack.
“No, Nugget, no!”
As usual, Nugget ignored her. Clearly thinking this a game, his wet nose slopped down Maddie’s cheek. Despite the colossal danger, Nugget’s sniffing in her ear made her giggle. Then his ears stiffened, his hungry eyes locked on Maddie’s rescue victim. “Get back, Nugget! Now!” Still cradling the paper, she locked her free arm around the dog’s neck, attempting to drag him away. Of course she was no match for Nugget’s strength, never had been. Not even the strongest of toys ever held up to his brute force. She’d have to conquer him with intelligence. “Ball! Go get your ball, boy!”
Nugget stopped in his tracks, head up, ears erect. Giving his head a slight tilt, he hit her with a “you can’t be serious” look. She repeated the order. Like a good soldier, he ran off in search of his favorite half-eaten toy.
On wobbly legs, she pulled herself up. The caterpillar had moved perilously close to the edge of the paper. She adjusted her hold slightly to make it an impossible angle for him to climb. She’d come this far, no backing out now.
I’d re-write this. It’s not important that the door is locked—not really an obstacle. Just say she unlatched the locked door and stepped out into…
Her fingers strangled the door-knob. Locked. She flipped back the dead-bolt, then stepped out into the big, beautiful free world.
A sudden wind rushed up. As if it had a mind of its own, the wind swirled. Goose bumps popped up on her arms. The wind captured the paper, rattling it like skeleton bones, or at least what she imagined skeleton bones might sound like.
“Hold tight! Just a little bit longer!”
Her hair whipped in her face, blinding her. A loose strand slipped into her mouth. She pulled the paper closer to shield it against nature. At the base of the big oak tree, she knelt, tilted the paper to the ground and held it steady until her friend travelled away and into the grass. Took him forever, too.
Exhausted, she fell back into the grass. The caterpillar inched away.
Success! Sure she had battle wounds to show from her struggle, might get in trouble, too. You never knew with parents. But she’d do it again in a heart-beat.
After all, it was her world and it was her duty to keep it safe for everyone and everything, even Reverend Drexell.
* * *
Here I am, talking about myself, pretending not to. Ah, I'm probably not fooling anyone, but play along anyway, 'kay? Just imagine Morgan Freeman narrating and we'll all get through this just fine.
For more of Stuart R. West's adult and young adult suspense tales filled with light heart and dark humor, check out his Amazon page.
And please do check out Stuart's blog featuring weekly rants, failed stand-up comedy routines and incisive author interviews: Twisted Tales From Tornado Alley
Brand spankin' new and creeptacular trailer for Ghosts of Gannaway: http://bit.ly/1Icbj0N