The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

On The Way To The Creek

By Virginia L. Kroll © 1988

Issue: April, 1988

A Special Read Aloud Story For Children

Seth tiptoed down the stairs, quietly collected his fishing gear, and silently shut the door. He took a deep breath of the dawn air and met Bill and Terry at the end of the driveway.

The three boys fished together every week. On Saturday their routine never varied. They awoke before dawn. Having packed three baloney sandwiches as usual, Bill set out to meet Terry, who always brought a jug of lemonade. They both arrived to meet Seth, who always brought dessert, at precisely 6:00 a.m. for their trip to Eighteen Mill Creek.

They weren't the only creatures of habit awake before sunrise. They could always count on old Mr. Zimmerman to be standing in his front picture window like a sentinel. His house was immaculate and his yard was exquisitely landscaped. He became angered at anything and anyone that interfered with his perfectionism. And nothing, but nothing, escaped his notice.

Every kid in the neighborhood was afraid of him because at one time or another, everyone had been the object of his reprimand. He had no patience with kids and seemed to generally dislike them. Last summer, Bill was the unfortunate batter of a ball that shattered Mr. Zimmerman's garage window. When Bill paid the grumbling Mr. Zimmerman for the damage, he had boldly asked him, "How come you get so mad? Weren't you ever a kid?"

Mr. Zimmerman had gruffly replied, "Yeah, back in the days when kids were decent."

From that day on, everyone tried extra hard to stay out of Mr. Zimmerman's way and indeed out of his sight.

"Single file on the sidewalk past Mr. Z's manor," mocked Terry, stepping behind Seth. "We wouldn't want to graze a blade of stray grass."

"Fall in!" said Bill sharply joining in the sarcasm and marking time.

Seth stopped abruptly and the boys collided. "Look," he said. 'Mr. Zimmerman's not in his window, and the drapes are still shut."

"How'd we get lucky?" asked Bill.

"His kitchen light isn't on either," noticed Terry.

"Maybe he slept in," suggested Bill.

"I doubt it," said Seth, noticing a pale glow coming from the living room through the closed drapes. "His television's on."

"So what?" asked Bill. "Is there a law against watching TV?"

"No, but he never watches it in the morning. Anyway, he would have opened his drapes," answered Seth. "Something's not right. We ought to go check."

"'You crazy?" Bill grimaced. "He'd have us arrested for trespassing!"

"Are you two going to argue all day, or are we going to go fishing?" Terry interrupted.

"We're going," replied Bill, and Seth followed along.

Seth's intuition kept tugging him in another direction. When they had almost reached the creek, he announced, "You guys go ahead. I'll catch up later."

Terry and Bill looked at each other and shrugged. "I still think you're crazy!" Bill yelled as Seth broke into a jog.

If Seth had really thought about what he was doing he would have chickened out. But he acted on impulse. He knocked on Mr. Zimmerman's door.

There was no answer. He rang the doorbell, and there was still no response. Seth could hear the TV faintly, but otherwise there was silence. Seth looked into several windows. Mr. Zimmerman was nowhere in sight. Finally it occurred to him to try the door. It was unlocked. Cautiously he opened it a crack. His mouth went dry and his heart raced, afraid of what he might find. He called, "Mr. Zimmerman? Anybody home?"

"Down here," groaned a muffled voice filled with pain.

Seth found Mr. Zimmerman at the foot of the steep cellar steps.

Before bed the previous night, Mr. Zimmerman had decided to bring up his hedge cutters for trimming the bushes the next day. He had slipped and broken his leg and hip. Unable to get back upstairs, he had lain there all night, hoping that someone would discover his plight.

"I'll get help right away," said Seth, dashing breathlessly upstairs to the phone. He called the Emergency Squad number that he had memorized long ago. Within minutes the rescue truck arrived and transported Mr. Zimmerman to the hospital.

Seth slept well that night, happy that he had trusted his intuition.

One Saturday several weeks later, Seth opened the door as usual to wait for Terry and Bill. He gasped with delight. Leaning against the back stoop was a marvelous, brand new fishing pole, along with a shiny green tackle box. Seth couldn't believe his eyes.

Like every other detail he recorded, Mr. Zimmerman had not failed to notice that although the other two boys had tackle boxes and new fishing poles, Seth's rod was worn and old fashioned, and he carried his lures and bait in little plastic bags.

Seth opened the tackle box. Inside was a note that simply read : "Seth – Thanks a million."

"You're welcome, Mr. Zimmerman!" Seth exclaimed smiling, knowing that his fishing trips would never be the same.