Wednesday, May 04, 2005

 

the child, fifty-seven


The first ones to the bottom of the slope did not wait for the rest; they made the sharp left turn and charged up that small valley alongside. As Starr had predicted, this way gave them a safe (if brush-strewn) passage straight to the fallen pair.

James sprinted along, dodging among the many stunted trees and brambly bushes, with Jack and Lucy right behind him. And in just minutes, they came to the spot.

Here was Forest, lying upon a pile of rubble. And near him was Joy, lying partly under the rubble. Both young people painfully turned their heads at the sound of their rescuers' approach - and Joy began to weep.

'Thank God,' she whispered. 'Thank God you're here!'

James threw himself down at Forest's side and grabbed the boy's hand. 'You all right?' he asked.

'I'll be fine. Just get me up,' said Forest.

'No, he isn't!' put in Joy. 'He's been trying to get up since he landed there. And he can't. Someone better tie him down, before he really hurts himself!'

'What about you?' Lucy asked, kneeling next to Joy.

'I'm not sure,' said the girl. 'All this stuff landed on me when Forest fell, and I couldn't get it off me.'

'You barely tried,' Forest muttered.

'She fell off a cliff! What do you expect?' exclaimed Jack.

And cliff it was. It towered above them. Looking up, the first three rescuers got queasy knots in their stomachs, to see how far this pair had fallen.

Lucy began pulling at the straps of Joy's backpack. 'Let's at least get this off you, so you don't have to lie on top of this bulky thing,' she said.

'No!'

Everyone turned at that shout of command. It was Linda! Mousy, shy Linda - but she came roaring in now. 'Don't move her!' she ordered. 'Don't move either of them! They need to be checked for broken bones first.'

Lucy scowled. 'I'm just trying to make her more comfortable!' she argued.

'Your making her more comfortable could make any broken bones she might have even worse - including maybe leaving her paralyzed. So don't touch her!'

'I'm not going to hurt her!' Lucy fumed.

'Then don't move her!' Linda retorted. 'We've got to check her for broken bones first!'

'I'll do that,' Malachi volunteered quietly. He and his companions had just arrived, with Stone and Starr not far behind them. Morgenstern and Maccabees moved to check Forest, and there was silence for some time as the three cherubim worked. Lucy and Linda continued to glare at each other from opposite sides of Joy. Stone and Starr stood hand-in-hand, softly praying.

Malachi sighed and sat back on his heels. 'She is badly scraped, and those scrapes need to be cleaned and bandaged. And what isn't scraped is bruised. But nothing is broken.'

Many sighs of relief. 'Let's get her up then,' said Jack.

Lucy shot a smug smile in Linda's direction as she now finished releasing the straps and took the girl's backpack off. Linda snorted in return and helped the girl to get up. Joy leaned heavily on Linda, tears slipping down her cheeks as she gingerly attempted to put her weight on her feet.

'Now get me up!' Forest demanded.

'No hurry,' said Morgenstern. He laid a hand, gently but firmly, on the boy's shoulder to prevent him from stirring. Maccabees was still checking Forest thoroughly. He had begun at the young man's head, checking for any fractures of his skull, and had made his way down, till now he had reached the level of Forest's knees. As the cherub's gentle fingers probed Forest's left shin, the boy suppressed a sharp hiss, closing his eyes lest anyone see the tears of pain that overbrimmed in them just then.

But they did see. Morgenstern and Maccabees exchanged glances, and Maccabees checked further.

'What is it?' said James, who had been watching closely and had also caught the tiny signs Forest had tried to hide.

The boy was gritting his teeth to keep from crying out now, as the angel continued to inspect his leg. Shortly Maccabees finished the exam and looked up.

'His lower leg is broken,' he reported. 'We'll have to set it.'

'Broken...' James closed his eyes. Starr gasped and turned to Stone, who looked ashen. Jack's face was drained of color as well.

Forest only looked impatient. 'Well?' he said. 'Let's set the leg and get moving!'

Moving! James actually laughed. 'Boy, you're not going anywhere for a long time. Weeks, I would say. Jack, you get everyone started on setting up the tents. Stone, Mac, you help me.'

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