Out on a Limb

By Debbonnaire Kovacs

Kenya Jayne Washington gazed eagerly out the car window. “I see it! I see it! It’s just like a castle! I wonder when it will be finished.” Mike’s Aunt Rose was taking him and his friend Kenya out to Susannah’s farm to visit. Kenya was looking out the window at a new house being built near Susannah’s place.

Mike turned his head toward Kenya. “What does it look like? Susannah said it was huge.”

“It’s bigger than your church! It has a million windows, and funny-shaped roofs sticking out all over. It even has a tower! I wish we had a tower at our house!”

Aunt Rose turned into the gravel lane that led to Susannah Farmer’s house. “There’s another big building going up behind the main house. Not as big, Mike, and not fancy. Just long and rectangular, but with lots of big doors.”

“A garage?” Kenya wondered out loud, craning her neck to see as they turned a corner to get to the drive up to Susannah’s house.

“A building that big would hold a lot of cars!” Aunt Rose exclaimed as she stopped in front of Susannah’s. “Here’s an army waiting to greet us.” The racket of shouts and greetings they could hear as soon as the engine stopped certainly sounded like an army.

Mike laughed. “It’s just Susannah and her brothers. Are they all here?”

“I think there are a hundred of them,” Kenya said, trying to count the kids that swarmed around them as they got out of the car. “Plus a huge dog!”

“That’s Moose. He wouldn’t hurt a flea.”

“Hi! I thought you’d never get here!” Susannah took Mike’s arm and turned to lead him up the lane. “Hi Kenya. I’m glad you could come to my house. Settle down, you guys! Kenya, do you remember my brothers? Johnny, Luke, Mark, and Matt.” She pointed to each blond, freckled boy as she said a name. “They’re two, four, six, and eight,” she added.

“Two, four, six, eight, who do we appreciate!” shouted the one Kenya thought was Mark. Mark, Luke, and Johnny raced away, chanting silly rhymes. Moose ran with them.

“Whew! That’s better! Aunt Rose, Mom is waiting for you in the work room. Kenya and Mike, let’s climb the hill. I know where you can see a great view of the castle,” Susannah said.

“That’s what we call it—the castle,” Matt said. “It’s so cool! There’s a great big swimming pool with a waterfall in it. I wrote a letter to my pen pal, Joseph Donetti, telling him all about it. I want to get close enough to take a good picture to send him.” Matt waved his camera.

“You know Mom said not to go close,” Susannah said. “Step carefully here, Mike, it’s rocky.”

Kenya took Mike’s other arm and helped to guide him up the hill. “Do you know who is building it? Have you seen them?”

“No, we have no idea. What I can’t figure out is why anyone with that much money would want to live here! There! Isn’t this a great view?” She began to describe the scene below them for Mike’s benefit.

“What’s that other big building?” Kenya asked. “It couldn’t be a garage, could it?”

“We think it’s a stable. And I’m sure that place where the bulldozers are making a big, flat space will be a riding arena.”

“Wow!” Mike and Kenya said at the same time.

“Where’s Matt?” Susannah asked suddenly.

Kenya looked around. “He was right here.”

“He went that way,” Mike said, pointing. “I heard him go a few minutes ago.”

Susannah and Kenya looked in the direction of Mike’s pointing finger, and Susannah called, but no Matt appeared. “If he went to the site to get a picture, he’s going to be in big trouble,” Susannah said. “Wait here and I’ll—” She was interrupted by a scream.

Three heads turned in terror toward the sound. “There!” Kenya gasped.

There was a crackling sound and a wail of fright. “Hang on, Matt! I’m coming!” Susannah shrieked, racing down the hill.

“What? What’s happening?” Mike shouted.

Kenya turned suddenly, realizing that Mike couldn’t see what she could. “Matt’s hanging by his hands from a really high tree branch! And the branch is breaking!” She tried to speak calmly, but her voice sounded high and strange. “Susannah’s there—but what can she do?”

There was another crackling sound. “Run for their mom!” Mike cried.

“No time!” Kenya was thinking fast. “Listen—his feet aren’t too terribly far from the ground. Maybe, if we all stand under him and try to catch him—can you trust me to go really fast?”

“Of course!” Mike stood up and held out his hand. “And let’s pray too!”

Kenya had never paid so much attention to her feet in her life. She tried to race over uneven ground, clinging to Mike and telling him of every bump. Meanwhile, they both kept gasping, “Please, Jesus, please, Jesus!” over and over.

It seemed like an hour but was really just moments before they skidded to a stop under the tree. Matt was crying, and Susannah was trying to comfort him and not cry too. The branch had dipped lower, but Matt’s feet were still yards above their heads. In a rush, Kenya explained her idea, and the three linked arms and stood directly under Matt.

“Listen, Matt,” Susannah called in a wobbly voice. “You have to let go and drop. We can’t catch you, but we think we can break your fall.”

“No!” Matt wailed. “I’ll hurt you!”

“We’ll be OK. We might get bruised, that’s all,” Kenya said, trying to sound calm.

“Shut your eyes,” Mike called. “Pretend you’re blind, like me, and just have to trust your friends.”

“And Jesus,” Susannah added. “He’s here, and He knows we can’t leave you and go for a grown-up. He already kept the branch from breaking. It’ll be all right, Matt. On three, OK? One, two, three, now!

In a second, the kids were a tangle of arms and legs on the ground. There were definitely going to be bruises! “Out of the way!” Susannah yelled. “Here comes the branch!”

They managed to limp, hop, and roll away. The branch hit the ground with a crash, just missing them. For a second there was silence.

“I didn’t go near the construction site,” Matt said, sniffling.

Susannah giggled a little shakily. “No, you obeyed.”

“I climbed the tree to get a good picture. I thought it would be safer,” Matt explained. “Where’s my camera?”

“Under the branch, I think,” Susannah said. “But at least you’re not under it!”

“Thank You, Jesus!” Kenya whispered.

“Amen!” everyone chorused, and they helped each other up to limp home.

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