Jack and Randy caught several crayfish, then Randy’s foot slipped down a moss-covered rock and slid into the water.  Green slime oozed between his fingers. “Oh yuck”! He slung his hand in disgust.

Jack bent forward laughing.

Randy grabbed a handful of slime and lunged toward his friend, but Jack ran for the bike. He stopped in surprise.

“Hey Man! Where’s your bike?”

“My bike!” Randy wailed. “Where’s my bike?”

The boys looked all around, but didn’t find Randy’s bike.

“Awe, come on Jack, where can it be?”

“Someone must have taken it.”

“Oh sure! Someone snatched it right from under our noses without leaving a clue. Now how am I going to explain this to my dad?”

“Hey! Maybe they did leave a clue.”  Jack bent down by the fence. “Here are some broken weeds, this could be a clue.”

 Randy looked at the weeds tangled in the fence with interest. “It looks as if these weeds were deliberately twisted around those wires.” He squatted down and looked more closely.

The fence was made of tightly stretched barbed wire. It completely enclosed the big house on the hill and the surrounding acreage.

Jack and Randy walked along the fence a few feet searching for further clues but found nothing more.

 “Let’s check the second-hand bike shop on Fourth Street,” Randy suggested.

“Good idea,” Jack nodded. Old John might be able to give us some help.

Old John was working on a bike when they arrived. He hadn’t heard anything, but he said he would keep an eye out for Randy’s bike.

“What are you going to tell your dad?” Jack asked.

“I’ll have to tell him the truth! He probably won’t believe me. Man I’ll be grounded for years. I’ll rot away in my room,” Randy moaned.

After lunch the boys went back to the creek to look around. They followed the fence farther and found some recently turned over stones. A few yards farther on there were foot prints and bike tracks leading away from the fence.

The tracks led toward the house on the hill. Folks lowered their voice when they spoke of the stranger who’d moved in there. No one knew much about him.

Randy said, as they walked along, “I don’t like the direction we’re going.”

“We’re going toward Spooky Manor.” Jack teased in a low shaky voice.”

“Cut it out Jack, that’s not funny! Look! There’s the house.”

The boys cautiously approached the house, their attention centered on the door. The door opened and a smiling young man came out to meet them.

“I’m sorry about the bike. It was a mean trick, but I wanted to get your attention,” he said. No one ever comes near the house. When I saw your bike I just couldn’t resist.”

He extended his hand. “I’m Bill Kindle, won’t you come inside and have a cold drink?”

The Truth about Sidney

          Telling the truth is very important thought Sidney, as he flicked his long furry tail nervously. I know Aunt Jenny would say so too.  I must tell the truth no matter what.

         “But remember Sidney,” said a tiny voice inside him, “you can always tell just part of the truth. There’s no point in unloading everything you know; besides, maybe no one will notice, and you won’t need to say anything at all.”

“Fat chance of that,” Sidney said to himself. No, he would have to tell the truth, the whole dumb truth. Telling only half of the truth was too much like telling a half-lie. Sidney knew it took two halves to make a whole. So, with only one half of it being a truth wouldn’t the other half of it be a lie?

         He could hear Aunt Jenny’s soft voice and see the seriousness in her black eyes looking straight into his as she said, ““telling the truth is very important Sidney, always remember that.”

         Sidney sat a while longer on the branch of the large sycamore tree. It was autumn and the gold; red and brown leaves now covered the ground like a big carpet.

         He flicked his bushy tail once more and scampered down the tree. “No point in putting it off any longer,” he said to himself, “it’s time to face up to my mistake and get it over with.”

         His thoughts went back to the day it all began. It really started out as a big joke. He and Kenny, his best friend, had worked hard for almost a week gathering nuts for the winter. They had joked and played, teasing each other, pretending to argue and fight over which one had gathered the most food.

         Kenny found a tree with extra-large, juicy nuts. He gathered and stored them in a special place where they would be safe. He was especially proud of them.

         On Thursday, Sidney took some of the large nuts when Kenny wasn’t around and hid them under the roots of an old tree growing on the bank of a small stream.

         Everything went wrong after that. Thursday night it rained and rained. When Sidney woke up Friday morning it was pouring down. It rained all day Friday, and no one could go out to work or play. It rained Friday night, then finally this morning the sun came out. Sidney rushed outside to see how everything looked. He could hear a loud roaring coming from the direction of the stream. He ran down to see, and sure enough that small stream was now a roaring river. So much rain had brought the water almost over the banks of the stream.

         Sidney stood looking down at the swirling muddy water, then he turned away sick. The place where he had hid Kenny’s nuts was now a tumbling mass of water. No one needed to tell him the nuts would be gone by now.

         Sidney started running. He ran and ran until he stopped from exhaustion. Then he just sat and thought about the bad thing he’d done. Would Aunt Jenny ever forgive him?

         He remembered all the times she had cautioned him about playing jokes. Sidney could almost hear her voice as she said, “Someday your jokes may backfire on you and then you’ll be sorry.”

         Sidney never knew exactly what that meant, but he thought that whatever it was it must have happened this time, for he was sure sorry.

         His tiny feet moved with such speed that soon he came near the big oak tree where he lived with Aunt Jenny and his brother and sister.

         He slowed his pace and paused for a moment. Standing on his back legs he stood tall and straight. His nose twitched as he sniffed the crisp fall air. He stayed there, very still, until he felt sure no danger lurked near the big oak. Then suddenly he sprang forward, dashed into the tree and disappeared from sight.

         Aunt Jenny was reading. She glanced up at him over the rim of her glasses.

         “You’re pretty late getting in aren’t you,” she asked. “The other children have been home for quite a while.” She nodded toward the corner of the room where Nibbles and Scamper lay fast asleep tired out from a busy day playing in the forest.

         Sidney dropped his head in shame as his eyes met Aunt Jenny’s and he stepped a little closer to her as he mumbled “Yes ma’am, I’m sorry, I had some thinking to do.”

         “Some thinking, huh!” Aunt Jenny’s dark eyes flashed. “Might I ask about what?”

         Sidney walked around her and sat on the footstool at her feet. He swallowed hard but the knot still stuck in his throat. When he looked up at her, his eyes brimmed with tears.

         “Aunt Jen,” he said, using his special name for her, “There’s something I have to talk to you about.”

         She leaned forward and kissed him on the forehead. As she straightened up, she folded her paper and put it to one side. Turning her full attention to Sidney, she said, Yes Sidney.”

         Suddenly it all came pouring out. He told her about how he had meant to play a joke on his friend, Kenny, but he didn’t mean to cause any harm. It was only a joke.

         Aunt Jenny sat listening quietly and now she reached over and brushed the tears from his eyes.

         “You see, Aunt Jen, what a terrible thing I have done. I have brought shame to our home. Can you ever forgive me?”

         Her eyes softened, “What you’ve done is very bad, that’s true.  I expect you’ll have to work hard to repay the food you’ve wasted of our neighbors. You’ll need to tell them what you did and ask their forgiveness.

I am certain they’ll forgive you for your thoughtless deed. However, you didn’t mean to do any harm. I know you’re truly sorry, so let’s be thankful that you’ve learned a good lesson.”

         Sidney kissed his Aunt. “Thank you, Aunt Jen, I love you. I never meant to make you sad. I don’t want to ever hurt you,” he said.

         It felt like a giant boulder had been lifted from his heart. He knew he had to face Kenny and his family and tell them. But now that he had told Aunt Jen, he knew he could get through everything else okay.

         He turned to go outside again. “Might as well do it now,” he said. “The sooner I tell them the better I’ll feel.”

“Sidney!” Aunt Jenny spoke. He stopped and turned to face her. “I’m quite proud of you dear,” she said. “You made a mistake, but you told the truth about it, and for that I am proud of you. Telling the truth is very important, always remember that.”

         “Yes, Aunt Jen.” Sidney smiled and went out the door.