Brent jogged across the open field. He was almost late for dinner—and it was his favorite tonight! Lasagna, with plenty of cheese!
Plus Dad was bringing home a surprise. Not for all the kids—just for him. An early birthday present, he’d been told.
Brent slowed down and entered the woods, passing the old church. Red and gold leaves fluttered down in the cool breeze. October fifteenth was coming soon. His birthday—and his twin’s too, of course. There would still be a party. Still plenty of fun and presents, but he was getting his big present tonight!
Whoosh! The ground disappeared beneath him, and he was falling through empty space! A few seconds later, he landed hard, his foot twisted under him. A shower of dry leaves and dirt followed.
Breathless and hurting, it took him a moment to come to his senses. It was dark down here and very cold. He pulled his backpack off and felt around. Discovering a stone wall behind him, he leaned against it and straightened his leg. The pain in his foot was wearing off now, and he was relieved that he hadn’t injured it badly. It seemed he had just twisted it.
Lord, what should I do? His first thought was to yell, and he was about to do just that when he remembered that he was in the woods. There wasn’t anybody around.
I’d better see if I can climb out first, and if I can’t…He gulped at the thought.
Surely, when he didn’t arrive for dinner, they’d come find him. But would they think of the woods and this old church? They would assume he’d gone by the road or across the cemetery and around the pond, as usual. Oh, why had he come this way?
Brent suddenly froze. He sensed…movement….
He was not alone down here.
He heard a whine and relaxed in relief. It was just a dog.
Hey, boy….” he ventured.
But what if it was something else? It could be a coyote or fox. On the outskirts of a large town in Connecticut that seemed silly, but they’d been seen around here lately. He hunched up against the stone wall nervously.
God…Lord….what’s going on here?
He got up his courage and tried again, “hey, boy….”
There was the whine again. Whatever it was, the animal didn’t seem to be dangerous. He moved forward. But Brent didn’t want to do anything foolish. He knew better than to approach a strange dog, and in this case, he couldn’t even see. So he stopped, and continued to talk. About nothing special. Just keeping his voice calm and steady.
“We’re in a mess, aren’t we? How long you been here, huh? Bet you’re hungry and thirsty. I know I am. But I don’t have anything in my backpack ‘cept my school stuff. I was at Kevin’s working on a project. You’d like Kevin. He’s a good guy. And you’d like my brothers and sisters.” A great thought came to him then. “Hey, maybe you can come live with me, when they find us that is.”
A new dog! Man, he’d love that. But he curbed those thoughts immediately. First of all, he didn’t even know if it was a dog. And if so, he probably belonged to someone. And would his parents even allow it?
Brent already had a dog and several kittens. Mom and Dad were always teasing him about bringing home every stray animal he found. But they were half serious, too. It had been difficult convincing them that Scrap, the red setter who had adopted the family on vacation last summer, should really come home with them.
“Hey, we’ll get you some help, anyway. Even if you’re not a dog, Animal Rescue can get you back on your feet. How long have you been down here, anyway?”
Brent didn’t feel in danger any longer. He didn’t believe he would be attacked. It seemed as if all he could hear was the labored breathing of the animal and a pitiful yelp now and then.
“Okay look, we’ve got to get out of here,” he said with determination.
It was getting dark.. When he looked above, there was hardly any light up there. And it was cold. He was glad his mother had made them wear their winter coats. It had been mild this morning but she insisted that it would be chilly by the time the kids got out of school. Brent pulled on a hat that was in his pocket and zipped up his jacket.
He rose to his feet, stepping gingerly on his injured foot. If this was a well of some kind, he was sunk. But maybe it was a cellar. This old tumbledown church may have had a shed or even a cabin nearby for the pastor’s family. Maybe there was a root cellar or something. If so, there had to be steps or a door. He made his way along the wall in the darkness and discovered the flight of stairs.
They were crumbling old stone steps but when he finally made it to the top, the boy found a wooden door bolted from the outside. No amount of pounding could loosen it. His entire leg was throbbing now and he only succeeded in getting a sore shoulder along with it as he tried to break down the door.
He made his way back down the half broken steps, realizing that there was nothing to do but wait.
“I trust you, Lord. I know you’re with me,” he said aloud. “Thank you that I don’t have to go through this without You.” For he was starting to panic now. He was sure they would find him eventually but would he have to stay here all night? Maybe longer?
Suddenly a verse from Bible Club flashed through his mind. It was a short one, but very important. I will never leave you. One word for each finger of his hand, the teacher had told them. He felt much better as he remembered that Jesus had spoken those words to His followers. Brent knew that since he had accepted Jesus as his Savior, those words from the Bible were for him, too. He stretched his hand and lifted a finger for each word of the verse.
I will never leave you!
“Hey, boy, you still with me? You okay?”
A weak bark.
Suddenly he realized that the animal was moving toward him. He finally decided to take a chance. He inched forward as well, speaking calmly. His hand met the soft furry side of the animal. It was a dog. He drew back but the dog didn’t snap at him. He petted the animal’s side.
“You’re a collie.” His hand explored slowly. “Kind of small or are you just thin? Have you been on the road a while?” His hand came to the collie’s neck.
“You’ve got a collar. What’s your name, huh? I guess we’ll have to wait on that.”
Brent settled down with the dog, petting him and talking. Whether he was starved or sick or injured from his fall, Brent didn’t know. The animal seemed too weak to do much more than lift his head.
“Okay, boy. They’ll come for us, and then we’ll get you out of here. Lord, don’t let him die. Help us, please. Tell them where we are. Don’t let them be wasting time searching all over the neighborhood.”
He leaned his head against the wall, his fingers tangled in the dog’s fur.
And waited. And while he waited he went over and over the verse on his fingers again. I am with you always….and he started remembering a good many other verses, too.
“Don’t worry,” he told the dog. “God’s with us. He knows what He’s doing.”
And he was grateful that now that he was off the foot, it wasn’t hurting as much.
He reflected that this would have been a good time to have a cell phone but his parents didn’t think that kids his age should have phones yet. They didn’t really have the extra money either what with six children to take care of. Maybe this would change their minds, but he had to admit that down here there might not have been service anyway.
So it was quite some time before Brent heard something going on above. His glow-in-the-dark watch showed that it was nearly seven o’clock. He heard his twin’s voice first.
“I’ll bet he cut across this way! We do sometimes…”
“Bre-e-nt, where are yo-ou-ou!” It was Matt.
Then he heard Kevin—and his father—and Kelly….
“I’m here!” yelled Brent. “I fell down a hole! I’m near the church!”
It wasn’t long before his twin raced up to the edge of the hole.
“Be careful, Doug!” This from his father.
“He’s over here! Wow,” Brent heard him say. “It must have been covered with leaves. Are you down there?”
“I’m here,” The beam of an electric lantern flashed above him.
Even as he spoke, he heard more people running and lots of chatter overhead. Soon a rope ladder was being let down by a fireman. In no time he was out of the old cellar, and a paramedic was examining his ankle. In the bright light of many flashlights, he saw the dog for the first time as the fireman brought him up. Brown and white, thin, weak.
“I do not believe it!” said his father.
“Dad, I had nothing to do with it. He was down there when I fell!”
His father chuckled. “I know. But I can still say the usual—can’t you go anywhere without bringing something home with you?”
“It’s never his fault, Daddy,” said Kelly, patting the dog’s head after he’d been lifted onto a stretcher.
“I know, I know. We just can’t help teasing. Wait until your mother hears. You’re like a magnet. If they don’t come to you, you go to them, huh?”
Brent, laying on his own stretcher, laughed and tried to reach his dog. “I don’t need a stretcher.”
“Just humor us,” said the paramedic. “You’ve got an injured foot, and who knows what else.”
“Is he going to be all right?” Brent was still focused on the dog as the animal licked his hand.
“Not sure,” said the fireman. “But he doesn’t seem to be hurt. Just weak and starved.”
Brent’s family and friends surrounded him with hugs and promises that the lasagna was waiting for him. He was sure glad to hear that because he was hungry. Dad gave him granola bars and a bottle of water to hold him over since he needed to be checked out at the hospital But before he let them move him into the ambulance, he made sure he told the rescue workers all about how God had been with him, and the verse that he had remembered.
“That’s a good verse,” said one of the firemen, who told them he was a Christian, too. “I’m going to put it on my fingers, so I can remember it.”
“By the way,” said Mom….
She had met them at the hospital and sat nearby, trying to restrain herself from holding his hand—since he only had a twisted foot. But he could tell she’d been terribly worried.
Kelly and the boys had gone home, and Mrs. Schneider next door had been called to come help babysit the little girls.
“Yes,” said Dad, “by the way, if I know you kids, you haven’t forgotten that we talked about a surprise tonight.”
Brent had forgotten but that was okay.
“Well, I’m afraid it didn’t work out after all—at least according to our plans. You see, we found this dog at the shelter. And we needed to get him today….”
“You were going to get me a dog for my birthday…after all your kidding around?”
“Well, yeah,” said Dad, sheepishly. “We stopped in at the shelter one day, and saw this one, and knew you’d love him. Anyway, after all that, he was gone when I went this afternoon. Somebody else took him. But it looks like God had other plans.”
Brent couldn’t stop grinning as they wheeled him up to x-ray.
They stopped at the animal hospital on the way home. Brent limped in on crutches with his foot bandaged.
There was the dog, looking more alert already after having a good meal, and—his own rear foot was bandaged.
“Looks like he was hurt after all, but it’s not serious. You can take him home to heal if you want.”
“He had a collar!” Brent remembered as the dog nuzzled his hand. He looked at the tag.
“Corky?” He asked in wonder.
The doctor shrugged and Brent said, “okay, Corky it is.”
She grinned and placed the dog on the floor to see how he managed. He limped crookedly on three feet.
Mr. Loring picked him up in his arms. “We’ll let you wait a while on the walking. You two can heal together.”
“We checked through the missing dog files around the country and didn’t come up with anything. There’s a lot of collies missing but none quite like him, and certainly not with that name. There was no info on his tag. I’d say put it out there Online with a description, and if you don’t get anything, he’s yours. I have a feeling he was abandoned. Give it a month or two.”
It was ten o’clock by the time Brent finally got his lasagna. The little girls were in bed, but Mrs. Schneider and Kelly had made a cake to celebrate the rescue and to welcome Corky into the family—for all the kids had a feeling that this was definitely the dog for Brent.
Scrap and the kittens had certainly made friends quickly. The kittens were snuggled up close beside him and Scrap was watching over them all.
As Brent ate his piece of chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting, he was absolutely sure of it.
Thank you God. And thank you that we’re not still out there. Quietly, under the table, he did the verse on his fingers….
I am with you always.
And he knew that it would always be true.