Darrel started walking into the jungle. He didn’t know where he was going, but he wanted to get there. Soon Darrel was walking near the place where Steve fell over the cliff. “Why did I let him go alone?” Darrel said to himself. “If I had gone with him he’d be alive today.”
He was looking at the ground watching his tears make little puddles in the dirt. He took a few more steps and then he saw Steve’s shoe that had come off when he fell down into the valley. Darrel picked up the shoe, thinking that Steve must have lost it while being chased by a wild animal. He looked at the sky and yelled, “Do you see me, God?” Do you see what you’ve done? Look at what you’ve given us to remember Steve with!” Darrel was now crying as he yelled. “One lousy, stinking, torn-up tennis shoe, that’s all! How could you do this to him? Why, why, why?!” Darrel’s voice lowered. “I’m sorry, Steve,” he said. “I’m really sorry.” Darrel hung his head as he walked back to the hut, his shoulders shaking, crying out loud and unashamed. Had Darrel only looked in the right place, he would have seen Steve trying to get his attention, in vain.
When Darrel got back to camp he found Cari and gave her the shoe. “I found it while I was walking by the cliff,” he told her.
Cari took the shoe and put it in her lap. She tried to laugh, “Look at me,” she said. “Here I am looking at an old shoe and trying to pretend it’s Steve.”
Cathy took Darrel aside for a minute. “Did you say you found the shoe by the cliff?” she asked him.
“Yes,” he answered. “Why?”
“Is there any chance his body might be in the valley?”
“I suppose so,” he said.
“We should go and see,” Cathy said. “Then we could give him a proper funeral.”
“Stephanie, Brent,” Darrel called. “Come here.”
Darrel told Stephanie and Brent what they were going to do.”
“We’ll be back in a little while,” Brent called to the others as the four started into the jungle.
“Where are you going?” Candy asked.
“Just don’t worry about us,” Stephanie said. “We’ll be back soon.”
The search party slid down the cliff. Everyone wanted Steve’s body to be found, but they all wanted someone else to find it.
“You look over there,” Brent told Darrel and Stephanie. “We’ll look here.”
Steve had crawled under a bush to get some sleep, and he heard their voices.
“Help,” he tried to call, but his throat was so dry he could barely whisper.
Cathy was standing about twenty feet away from where Steve was.
“Cathy,” he whispered. “Cathy.”
Cathy, who thought the voice was Brent’s said, “What is it Brent?”
“I didn’t say anything,” he told her.
“I guess it was the wind,” Cathy said to herself.
Steve’s throat was too sore for him to talk anymore, so he pulled his aching body from under the bush. “Cathy,” he groaned.
Cathy turned just in time to see Steve’s head drop as he fainted.
“Oh my God!” Cathy said. “It’s him. It’s Steve.”
“Wake up, Steve,” Cathy said, patting his hand softly.
“It’s no use, Cathy,” Darrel said, putting his hand on her shoulder. “He’s dead.”
“Come on, Cathy,” Brent said. “You can’t make him come alive.”
“He already is alive!” Cathy told them. “He called my name and them he fainted.”
“You must be imagining,” Stephanie said softly. “This hot sun can make you see and hear things.”
Steve groaned and opened his eyes.
“See,” Cathy said. “Now we’re all imagining that he opened his eyes!”
“Steve,” Brent exclaimed. “You’re alive!”
“Barely,” Steve whispered, as he again slipped into unconsciousness.
Brent and Darrel carried Steve up the steep embankment. Stephanie and Cathy walked ahead and got all the sticks out of the way. When they got to camp everyone else was sitting down by the water, and they didn’t see Stephanie. Darrel, Cathy and Brent brought Steve into the hut.
“Give him some water, girls, and put him in bed,” Brent said.
“Cari,” Darrel said as he came up behind her.
“I didn’t realize you were back,” Cari said, her voice flat and low.
“Come up to the hut,” Brent said. “The girls fixed a nice lunch.”
“I’m not hungry,” Cari told him.
“You have to eat something,” Kris said.
Cari got up and walked with Darrel to the hut. At first she didn’t see Steve in the corner.
“Cari,” he said in a hoarse whisper.
Cari looked over at him. “Oh my God,” she said in disbelief. “Is it really you?”
She rushed to his side and pushed the hair back out of his face. “I thought you were dead,” she sobbed.
Lance stuck his head in the doorway. “It’s Steve!” he told the others. Everyone came rushing at the hut, but Kris stopped them.
“I think they want to be alone,” she said to them, as she peeked in. “Now I know they want to be alone.” And she pulled the door shut.
Lance was positive Steve’s knee was broken. He had to reset it and put a bamboo splint on Steve that went all the way up his leg. After Steve had rested for a while, Lance and Kevin brought him outside to sit around the fire. He told them about falling, and the heat, and the snake he killed. “I could see Darrel up there yelling,” he said. “I tried to get his attention, but he didn’t see me.”
“We all thought you were dead,” Candy said. “It was terrible.”
“Kevin and I were even looking for you in the quicksand,” Lance said. “All we found was a dead pig.”
Cathy and Kris walked up to the fire. They both had handfuls of food. “We have a special treat for dessert,” Kris said. First she gave them each a bamboo cup full of coconut juice and a straw to drink it with. Next Kris gave them all a bowl of her special salad. Coconuts, pineapple, banana and sugarcane with coconut juice dressing,
“I must say,” Steve said. “This is a heck of a lot better than eating leaves, like I was doing before.”
“Just one thing,” Kevin said. “Next time you make this salad, be sure what you’re putting in it. This isn’t sugarcane. It’s bamboo!”
To be continued …