“That’s the Secret”


Lunch hour this Monday was different. They  sat at their usual table in the cafeteria, but no one was talking. They just grinned at each other. You know, the kind of grin someone gets when they think they got away with something.

Kate held out her hand. “Let’s see them,” she said. They all pulled out their lists and handed them to her.

She read Jold’s to herself first, then laughed.

“I like Baby Ruth candy bars too, but 50, that’s crazy! And if we go someplace hot, like maybe a jungle, they’ll all melt. Better take some protein energy bars instead. 20 bags of onion potato chips, really?  How about trail mix?”

“Better not put Jold in charge of food, we’ll all die from a junk food overdose,” said Willy.

“Actually, he’s perfect. Jold you’re in charge of food. No junk, it’s gotta be stuff that will keep, and no root beer, just water. We can all pitch in and help pay for it.”

“I’ll starve eating that stuff!” said Jold.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’ll live. I think we should get enough to last us for about three to five days,” said Ben.

“I don’t have much money saved up.” said Tali. “But my mom keeps a bunch of gallon milk jugs in the garage. I can fill those with water, won’t cost us anything.”

“That’ll work,” said Kate. She looked at Tali’s list next and read it aloud. “Bible, wilderness survival guide, raincoats and mosquito repellent. Sound like the things you wished for in the jungle.”

 “Yeah, for sure.”

“I like her list,” said Ben. “I’ve got a gazillion survival manuals and my dad has a bunch of old rain ponchos from the army. He won’t care if we use some of ‘em. And we need someone who knows how to talk to God. I think that should be Tali.”

“Is that okay with you Tali?” asked Kate.

“Sure, I guess so.”

Willy’s list was next up. “Drone, extra batteries, LED headlamp, extra batteries, LED solar powered lantern, no batteries, old phone to record the drone video and multi-tool. No doubt who’s in charge of the techie stuff,” said Kate.

Then she read Ben’s list. “Backpack, Bowie knife, compound bow and arrows, compass, winter coats, fishing pole, lots of hooks and lures, binoculars and fire starter. You really think we need all of that?” asked Kate.

“Yeah, if we run out of food, we might have to take an animal down, skin it and eat it. Or maybe we’ll have to catch some fish to keep from starvin’. Definitely need all that stuff.”

“Okay. On my list I have a first aid kit, sunscreen, change of clothes, shoes for hiking, soap, toothbrush, fingernail file.”

Kate looked up at the boys who were doing their best to keep from laughing. “Hey, you dog breath mongrels, get a clue. And one other thing, whistles for everyone. Just in case we get separated.” said Kate.

“Oh yeah, we need some dog food for Bandit,” said Jold.

“Well, you’re in charge of food, so bring something for Bandit too,” said Ben. “Okay, let’s get everything to the hangar Saturday and load up the Shirley Ann.”

They gathered all their supplies during the week and met up at Hangar 1 on Saturday morning. Grandpa Jimmy showed up about nine o’clock to unlock for the gang. “What’s all the stuff fur?” He asked. 

“Well, we were thinking, if the Shirley Ann takes us on another adventure, we should be prepared,” said Ben.

“What makes you think that’s gonna happen again?” asked Jimmy.

“So, you do believe she took us someplace last Saturday,” said Tali.

“Not sayin’ I do, not sayin’ I don’t. The Shirley Ann has taken me around the world. But I was the pilot then, always knew exactly where I was goin’. You’re tellin’ me she got you there all by herself.”

“We know it sounds crazy, but it happened Grandpa Jimmy, it really happened!” said Willy.

“Well, don’t just stand there, better get this stuff loaded in the Shirley Ann. Maybe she will take you all on another adventure. She is a bit magical, ya know.”

Once everything was packed into the baggage compartment of the plane the gang joined Grandpa Jimmy at the workbench. He held a cup of coffee in one hand while staring at one of his old pictures in the other. “Got a cup ready for you Tali.”

“Thank you.”

He turned the picture for the gang could see. “Thought you might find this interesting,” he said. “I took that when I flew up to Alaska in about 1951. Had to land the Shirley Ann on that gravel bed next to the river. Barely got her stopped before goin’ into the river.”

“Awesome, what were you doing there?” asked Jold?

“We were takin’ supplies to a few gold miners. They lived pretty rough; log cabins, no runnin’ water and had to hunt for their food. They got around usin’ dog sleds in the winter and walkin’ in the summer. It felt like Christmas to them when I showed in the Shirley Ann with a few needed supplies.”

“I’d like to live like that,” said Ben. “Not me,” said Jold.

“Did they find any gold?” asked Tali.

“No, not much. Most of them finally gave up and left.”

Grandpa Jimmy stood up and hung the picture back in its place on the wall behind the workbench. The pictures had hung there for so long that they had a kind of shadow around them from the wood fading.

“I’d sure appreciate it if one of ya would mow the grass around the hangar before you have your club meetin’. I won’t be around much today, got things to do. But I’ll be back to lock up about four. See ya.”

“I’ll get the riding lawnmower,” said Willy. “I’ll get the gas can,” said Ben.

While they mowed the girls decided to scrape the black paint off some of the windows in the hangar to lighten up the place. Jold was left with sweeping duties. The hangar wasn’t airtight anymore. So, when the wind blew everything got covered with a layer of dust and dirt.

An hour later they were finished. They all headed back to the  Shirley Ann and piled in. Ben took a breath, closed the cabin door and pushed the latch down. Then he took a seat, expecting or maybe hoping to hear the engines start. Nothing!

“Anybody see any fog on the windows?” asked Ben.

“Nope, na, not on this side, not in the cockpit either.” came  the replies.

“Ya think she’ll fly again?” ask Willy.

“I was hoping she would,” said Kate.

“Me too,” said Jold.

Tali didn’t answer. Instead she stood up, stepped back to the cabin door and lifted the latch.

“Where ya goin’?” asked Ben.

She didn’t answer. She opened the door, jumped down and walked to the back of the hangar. A minute later she returned with one of Granpa Jimmy’s pictures in her hand. It was the one he told them about, the one taken in Alaska.

“I have a feeling that the pictures might have something to do with this mystery. You know, I had that picture of the Shirley Ann in the jungle with me when she took us there,” said Tali.

“That’s right,” answered Kate. “Maybe that’s the secret.”

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