Ch. 4: Do we stay or do we go?
- Ch. 1: I’ll go in if you go in.
- Ch. 2: Like a cat’s eye at night. But it wasn’t night … and it wasn’t a cat.
- Ch. 3: Into the The Heart of Parkness
- Ch. 4: Do we stay or do we go?
- Ch. 5: Just Give In
- Ch. 6: Do we dare dig ourselves even deeper?
- Ch. 7: Who do you listen to?
- Ch. 8: Lu Goes First: Aliens, Farting, and Pepper!
- Ch. 9: Li Goes Deep: A Maze, Spiders, and Pepper
- Ch. 10: Last In, First Out?
- Ch. 11: Fright at the End of the Tunnel
- Ch. 12: Hi honey, I’m home!
- Ch. 13: It’ll be our Secret
Is it worth going back in?
“But Pepper slid down before you,” I said to Li.
“But after me,” said Lu.
We all looked around, maybe Pepper had scampered into the bushes, or if he were really smart, would have run as far as possible away from the spooky tunnel. He was somewhere, just not here.
“Pepper!” we cried one by one. “Pepper! Treat! Treat!” But there was nothing, no one and eerily not a sound around.
Lu said, “He must still be in the cave.”
We all looked into the tunnel of darkness. Li screamed into the opening, “Pepper! Come on, boy! Pepper!” We waited for a response of some sort–a yelp, a cry, a bark or a whimper, but there was nothing.
Li scrambled into the cave a few feet. It was maybe three feet tall and wide. How didn’t people notice this? It was obscured by bushes, and we were over in a corner of the little city park. “Pepper!” Li called again. Nothing.
“I could climb back in,” Li said as he moved deeper into the cave. He took a few steps, then fell and slid back down. He started up again.
“Press your hands against the sides,” I suggested. He did so and moved up further a few more steps. He was making slow progress, but I had an adult thought, What are we doing? I’m supposed to be the adult here, and now my 10-year old is starting to crawl back into a dark cave where maybe our dog is. We need to stop, think, plan, call 911, or at least call my wife. We can’t just scamper back into a cave in the middle of the city. You just don’t do that without thinking.
Li was making his way in slowly, but surely. We could only see his shoes.
“I can see a little bit of light,” he said. I wasn’t sure that was a good thing or a bad thing. Was that the candle we saw before? Who puts a candle in the middle of a tunnel in the middle of … where are we anyway?
“Li,” I whispered in a quick hushed yelp. But I didn’t know what I was going to say. I wasn’t sure he shouldn’t go in. What were our other options? Go call 911? Go find some help? Were we in danger? It’s just some old tunnel, right? Maybe it was left over from a war. War? What war? There weren’t any wars in San Francisco. Who built this thing and who was inside?
“Yeah?” he answered, and I couldn’t see his feet anymore. I needed to make a decision as to whether he should keep going or we should stop, think and … do what?
“What can you see now?” I asked, apparently curious enough to forget the logical, rational parenting role and bring myself back to a young boy with no fear, no plans, and no hurry.
“I see that little light,” he said from somewhere up in the tunnel. As soon as he said that, he came sliding down into me. He was shaken, but when he saw me, he smiled his I’m-embarrassed-but-this-is-fun smile.
“Did you hear anything?” I asked.
“No,” he said, “But I saw that little light. Maybe Pepper is up there. We need to save him,” he pleaded.
We had often played hero and victim in distress, even from the bed to the floor when the boys were younger. Save me, save me! Maybe they just saw this as the same thing. Li was extraordinarily caring of, well, certain people and animals. But when he was on your side and when he thought you might be in harm’s way, he’d be in front of you before you knew what had happened.
“Pepper is in the cave,” Li said with more urgency and conviction. “We have to go back in and get him.”
I could think of one reason to go and get him but 25 to not.
“OK,” I said to Li with less conviction and more fear than when I was on their bed reaching my arm out to a much younger Li and Lu on the floor where there was molten lava and dragons. Make-believe dragons back in their cozy bedroom sounded like a great alternative to what we were about to do.
Li started climbing up.