By Aleyah N. Landis
Have you ever had an extremely bad feeling about something right before something bad happens? My Grandpa calls that "the gift," and growing, up all of us kids were blessed to possess it.
We’d be biking up a hill and someone would scream, “Guys! Turn around! I’m getting the sense of the gift!!”
Then, sure of some wild animal, likely a bear, jumping out at us, we’d all turn around and bike as fast as the bike could go until we safely reached the refuge of what we considered a safe place.
Now, you might be thinking a safe place as in a house or a cabin, but to us, a safe place was anything with walls.
We were camping one time and we kids went on a bike ride. We were about two miles from our campsite, biking on a trail, when the first in line said, “I’m getting the sense of the gift.”
That was all we needed to hear, and now it was every man for himself. In our panic to get to a safe place, we raced pell-mell and one crashed and was run over. The rest of us, concerned only with finding a safe place from the lurking bear, totally ignored our fallen comrade and left him lying in the dust.
We came upon this miserable little hut and all seven of us who remained jumped off our bikes and took off in a sprint. When we were all safely inside, we slammed the door. This safe place turned out to be one of the worst smelling places any of us had ever been in. It was an outhouse.
Usually, we had to stay in our safe place for about 45 minutes in order for the sense of “something bad’s going to happen” to pass. We knew our parents wouldn’t be concerned if we were late - they knew all about the gift and our safe places.
We had only been in the outhouse for about 30 minutes when we heard a sudden and frantic knocking at the door. The bravest of us cautiously opened the door and peeked outside.
His head met something solid and he let out an ear-piercing scream, thinking it was surely a bear.
As a practiced reaction to the scream, one of my siblings yanked him back inside while I slammed the door. The act usually worked flawlessly, but this time it didn’t.
The door hit his head with a resounding "bonk." He fell to his knees with his head in his hands.
“Holy Smokes,” I said, “I’m so sorry!"
“That’s okay," he declared. "I’m fine, just a bit lightheaded.”
With that over, we again turned our attention to the banging, which had frantically resumed.
“That can’t be a bear” the oldest and wisest of us exclaimed. We once again sent a scapegoat to open the door.
“Jumpin' Jehosaphat!” was her shout. “It’s not a bear -- it's a fat man!"
This brought us all to the door. Sure enough, standing in a big yellow puddle was the biggest guy I had ever seen. He looked at us in surprised terror (there were seven of us in that tiny outhouse, after all), then he waddled out of there as fast as his pudgy legs could carry him.
The sight of him set us to laughing so hard we were crying.
Finally, the laughing fits calmed to an occasional titter, we decided that our time was up and there was no possible threat to our well being anymore. We went out and jumped on our bikes, all of us now wondering what awful fate had befallen our fallen comrade. It wasn't a bear that surprised us, so surely he must have eaten Ben.
We hoped Mom and Dad wouldn’t be too upset that another one of us was lost to the bears. They had already lost three that way and we didn’t want them to have broken hearts again. This thought in mind, we soberly pedaled up to the tent.
We were shocked to see supposedly dead Ben sitting in a chair quite alive, tire marks livid across his face.
We stared in shock.
“The Gift doesn’t work,” he said.
We were all dismayed to learn that all those hours we spent in “safe places” hiding from bears and doing nothing had all been wasted. Heartbroken, we sat down to lunch.
It was only a year later and we were once again cruising on a popular biking trail. Ahead of us was a group of people walking while we were on our bikes. All of a sudden we heard “I’m getting the sense of the gift.”
“You can’t be!" the rest of us said in unison. "There is no such thing as the gift!”
But secretly in our hearts, we were doubting that the gift didn’t exist. Almost on impulse, we all turned and it was again a mad rush to get to a safe place. The people ahead of us stared with puzzled expressions on their faces.
“You’d better get out of here ... something bad’s going to happen!!” Ben howled over his shoulder.
Convinced we were crazy, they just laughed and kept on walking. That was just before they were attacked by the mountain lion.
Aleyah N. Landis, Kalispell, is columnist Mike Ashby's granddaughter and "The Gift" is her first published story. Today is her 13th birthday.