“All is Not Lost”

Jold and Willy turned to look; they too could see the sun reflecting off something shiny. “Let’s run for it before the sun completely disappears,” said Willy.

“Yeah, run for it!” said Ben. The two of them, along with Bandit, sprinted off. Ben hung back with Tali and Kate. “I’ll carry it,” said Ben. He placed the pottery bowl on his head and took off, then stopped. This isn’t working, can’t run with this thing on my head. He sat it on the ground. Tali grabbed the lip of the pottery on one side and Ben took hold of the other. Together they could only manage a slow jog. Any faster and one would lose their grip. Tali and Kate switched out when they tired. All the while Jold and Willy were getting farther ahead. 

“If we lose sight of them, we’ll just follow their footprints,” Ben assured them. That was more wishful thinking than reality. The terrain was no longer sandy, it had turned into hard rocky ground.  

Jold and Willy disappeared over a slight rise in the terrain as the sun slipped below the horizon. Without glints of reflected light to guide them, they could easily get off course. If they headed the wrong direction, it would mean another chilly night in the desert without food or water.

Ben and the girls could only hope that Jold and Willy would find the Shirley Ann while there was still enough light to see. By the time the three of them finally reached the top of that distant rise it was too dark to see well.

“Did you hear that?” whispered Kate. “Hear what?”

“Shush, listen,” she insisted. “Is that Bandit barking?”

“It is, it is!” said Tali.

They hurried as fast as they could toward the barking. “Ben, Kate, are you out there?”

“Yeah, we’re coming, keep shouting,” she yelled.

A few minutes later, the moonlight revealed the form of a plane in the distance. “We see you,” yelled Kate, “we’re coming.

Willy and Jold had bottled water and power bars, intentionally left in the Shirley Ann, ready for the rest of the gang when they arrived. That old airplane had never looked so good.

A bite from a bar, a few sips of water and Tali was ready.  “What do ya say we go home,” she said.

“Yeah, let’s go,” Kate echoed.

They climbed aboard single file. Jold was the last in. He pushed the latch down to the lock position on the door. Ben & Willy took their usual places up front. To their surprise, nothing happened. The Shirley Ann just sat there in silence. “Kate, check the latch on the door, make sure it’s closed,” said Ben. “Yeah, it closed,” she said.

Ben and Willy looked at each other. “I wonder…” said Ben. “Willy, you know how this stuff works, try and start the motors.”

“Okay.”

Willy had done this on a simulator with other kinds of modern planes but not with one as old as the Shirley Ann. “Let’s see, mixture levers full forward, prop lever full forward, throttle one quarter, prime switch on. Well, here goes nothin’.”

Willy turned the start switch for the left engine and held it. The engine backfired as always and started up. “Wow.” Then he turned the switch for the right engine. It coughed, sputtered, and cranked for a few seconds then fired up. “Wow,” he repeated.

“Now what?” said Ben.

Willy put the flap lever in the takeoff position. As soon as he did, without any warning, the throttles moved to full forward and the Shirley Ann was rolling. A few seconds later she was airborne, and the landing gear lever moved to the up position.

“What was that all about?” asked Ben. “Not a clue,” replied Willy.

Exhaustion and the hum of the engines soon lulled all five into a deep sleep. The Shirley Ann made such a perfect landing it didn’t wake the gang. She slowed to a stop in the hangar, the throttles moved back to idle, the mixture levers to cutoff and the engines shut down. One of them let out a backfire so loud that it sounded like a shotgun had been fired inside the cabin. Jold jumped to his feet and crashed his head into the ceiling. Kate and Tali were startled but had to laugh as Jold picked himself up and rubbed his head. Ben and Willy joined in the laughter. 

Kate reached for the latch on the door and swung it open. They were back where their adventure began, in the hangar at the Buena Vista airport. She stepped out and looked around. Sitting in his usual place was Grandpa Jimmy sipping a cup of thick black coffee with a smile on his face. They all hopped out and followed Kate across the hangar to his workbench. 

Willy glanced at his watch then confirmed that time with the clock on the wall. According to both, they had only been gone for two hours. “How is that possible,” he mumbled to himself.

“How was your adventure?” asked Jimmy.

“Didn’t find any treasure, that’s for sure,” said Jold.

“Well, did ya find the old mine cave?”

“Yeah.”

“What was in it?”

“I’ll show you,” said Ben. He returned to the Shirley Ann, wrapped his arms around the old pottery bowl with the 44 inside, brought it back to the workbench and set it in front of Grandpa Jimmy. “That’s it, someone else must have found the treasure.”

“Thanks for trying to help,” said Tali, tears streaming down her cheeks. “I need to get home and see how my mom is doing, see ya later.” She jumped on her bike and headed home.

“Well, you’re all lookin’ pretty disappointed. Guess I would feel the same way…, except for one thing.”

“What’s that?” asked Kate.

“I know something you don’t.”

“That old 44 is interestin’ enough, but there’s lots of those rusted relics around. It ain’t worth much. That piece of pottery, now that’s a treasure.”

“It’s got a hole in it,” said Jold.

“I can see that, but it’s still valuable. I’ve seen pottery like that before. I’m pretty sure that was made by the Hopi Indian tribe. According to tribal history, they have lived in Arizona for over 2,00o years, and their pottery is treasured by collectors.”

“Cool,” how much ya think it’s worth?” asked Ben.

“Don’t know for sure but, I’ll take it to a collector and see what we can get, “How’s that sound?”

“You think it will be enough to save Tali’s house?”

“I’ll let ya know when I find out. Better head home before it gets any later. Help me close up and I’ll see ya when I get back from Denver.”       

Ben, Jold and Bandit went their separate ways home. Ben and Kate rode as fast as they could to Tali’s house. As hard as she peddled, Kate couldn’t keep up. Ben came to sliding stop at the bottom step of Tali’s porch. He dropped his bike to the ground. Then leaped from the bottom step to the porch with a full twist mid-air, another one of his classic ninja moves. He pounded on the door.

Tali came running, “what’s going on!” she demanded.

“Nothing, nothing, it’s all good.” Grabbing her shoulders, he grinned and looked her in the eyes, “That piece of pottery you made us keep?”

“Yeah.”

“Grandpa Jimmy says it could be worth a lot of money. He’s taking it to Denver to get it appraised. Maybe we did find treasure!”

Kate coasted up to the steps, gracefully dismounted her bike and put the kickstand down. She casually climbed the four steps to the porch. “Thanks for waiting, Ben,” she said. Then, without warning, she elbowed him in the ribs, making him gasp.“Sorry,” he whispered.

“Ben’s right,” said Kate. “Maybe it’s worth enough to help your mom keep the house.”

“Let’s tell your mom,” said Ben.

“No, we can’t, how could we possibly explain where we’ve been and how we found the pottery.”

“Yeah, she would never believe us,” said Kate.

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