Scouting in the Woods
Stella watched as Mrs. Morgan broke limbs into the approximate length to be fishing
poles. Seconds of hand waving cleared off any branches. The string came next. One
end went around the pole. The other end went around a hook on a bobber.
Mister Morgan settled on the ground next to the small lake where he had guided the
campers. His hook was on the water. Ruff lay beside him, using him as sort of a
pillow. One hand petted the dog as he waited for the fish to bite.
“What’s the point of this?,” asked Mark. He stared at the pole in his hand.
“It’s to relax,” said Mister Morgan. “It’s to be still and watchful. Fishing is about
waiting for things to happen so you can take advantage.”
“Sounds boring,” said Mark. He looked at the lake with a frown.
“It’s also about being silent so you don’t scare the fish,” said Mister Morgan. He
reeled in his line and recast with a flick of his wrist.
Mrs. Morgan cast her own line and then settled next to her husband. She carried
herself just as alert as she always seemed to Stella. Maybe this was her relaxed state.
Stella looked for a spot for herself where the sun didn’t directly shine down. She cast
her line out. She didn’t really think any of the fish were going to bite. She liked just
sitting and letting her mind wander.
She found that fishing didn’t take much effort on her part, just relaxing in the shade
was good for her mind, and it was an activity enjoyed with similar mindsets around.
Mark and Melinda were trying too hard to catch fish. Their impatience impinged on
her ability to relax.
Bond almost vanished behind a set of numbers. She glanced over at where he sat by
himself. He stared at the water, but he seemed to be seeing invisible factors in the
She wondered about that, but didn’t want to ask. He would know she was peeking
into his mind. And she had learned that some people didn’t like that violation of their
She glanced at the Morgan siblings. They were at the other end of the pond from their
parents and guests. They seemed to be having a contest to see who could flick the
hook on their makeshift poles the fastest.
She shook her head. They were supposed to be taking it easy. She supposed the
children wanted to be chasing something rather than sitting still.
Mark flicked his wrist. The string snapped forward and snapped. His hook and bobber
flew along the lake, skimming the surface. It embedded itself in the bank of the pond
on the other side.
Mister Morgan clapped his hands slowly. Then he went back to taking it easy.
Mark made a sound of disgust before stomping around the lake to retrieve the hook.
He glared at his family. They mostly stared back, but his sister laughed at him.
“We should have left the kids,” said Mister Morgan. “Maybe some hard work will
grind down this hatred for taking things easy.”
“Barry?,” asked Mrs. Morgan.
“He would love some assistants,” said Mister Morgan. “Corralling some weird
experiment would let the kids know that just hanging out and smelling the roses is a
“It would cut down on the whining,” said Mrs. Morgan.
“I can’t really argue with that,” said Mister Morgan.
Stella felt her line pull on her pole. She looked around. She seemed to be the only one
with a bite. She hadn’t expected to get something. She started pulling on the pole,
trying to lift the fish out of the pond.
“Do you need help, Stella?,” asked Mister Morgan. He made no move to join the
“I think I got it,” said Stella. She pulled on the limb until it bent and then released it,
and then pulled on it again. She could sense the fish not liking what she was doing.
She thought about letting it go.
Mark appeared at her side. He tugged on the string and the fish flew out of the water.
He caught it before it hit the ground.
“What do I do with it?,” asked Mark. The fish flapped in his hands, trying to escape.
He exerted a small amount of pressure to shock it into being still.
“Put it in the fish bucket,” said Mister Morgan. He indicated an empty cooler beside
where he sat.
Mark dropped the fish into the bucket. He rubbed his hands against each other.
Finally he resorted to washing his hands in the lake. He shook them dry.
“Good job, Stella,” said Mister Morgan. “See if you can catch another one.”
“I don’t think I like fishing all that much, Mister Morgan,” said Stella. She didn’t
want to explain the feelings coming from the fish as she struggled with it. They knew
about powers, but she didn’t want to reveal her own until she had no choice.
“It’s fine,” said Mister Morgan. “No one has to like everything.”
“I got one!,” shouted Melinda. She yanked the pole backward so fast the fish had no
choice but to fly to her hand. “I caught one.”
“Put it in the bucket,” said Mister Morgan. “A couple more and we’ll have the making
Melinda dropped her catch in with the other. The fish flopped around inside the
bucket. She stepped back, a sad look on her face.
“I don’t think I like fishing either, Dad,” she said. “I can’t explain it.”
“That’s fine,” said Mister Morgan. “How would you guys like to go play? I think I
can catch dinner by myself.”
“No more fishing?,” asked Mark. He looked around at the unexpected freedom of
movement he had been given.
“No more fishing,” confirmed Mister Morgan. “Don’t wander around and get lost.
Stay in sight.”
“We can do that,” said Mark. “Come on, guys. No more gross fish for us.”
He waved his arm for the kids to follow him away from the water.
“That boy,” said Mister Morgan, shaking his head. “Go with them, Ruff. I don’t want
to have to search for them for days because they went off the trail.”
Ruff grumbled as he got to his feet and fell in behind the children. He walked up
beside Stella with a wag of his tail.
Maybe she would give him some scratchings. He liked those when he could get them.
Stella wondered what they were supposed to play if they couldn’t leave the trail.
Mark wasn’t too afraid of being out in the wilderness. Melinda and Bond didn’t like
it. She didn’t mind it one way, or the other, but preferred her own room with her
books beside her.
Ruff settled in so he could watch them. One ear listened for anything bigger than a
squirrel that might be coming their way. Experience had taught him that Mark would
be the bigger troublemaker if there happened to be a problem.
Stella settled in beside Ruff. She rubbed his fur at his shoulders. He wagged his tail
to show he liked it.
“We’re going to play hide and seek,” said Mark. “Ruff will be home base. Let’s draw
to see who’s it.”
“Dad said not to leave the trail,” said Melinda. “I don’t think we can play hide and
seek and stay on the trail. Maybe we should do something else like Pirates.”
“Pirates?,” said Mark. He looked around and picked up a short limb. “I’m Captain
“I’m Barberrossa,” said Melinda. She grabbed another limb to act as her short sword.
“I’m the scourge of the Barbary Coast.”
“I’m Captain Decataur,” said Bond. He picked up his own sword. “I killed all the
pirates in my day.”
“What about you, Stella?,” asked Melinda. She waved her imaginary sword as a
rallying gesture. “What kind of pirate do you want to be?”
“Sitting here with Ruff is good enough,” said Stella. She moved to sit with her back
to a tree. Ruff moved with her, settling at her feet. “We’ll watch out for you until
Mister Morgan gets done fishing.”
“All right,” said Mark. “How do we do this?”
“Hand over your treasure, you cowardly coward that cowers,” said Melinda. She
pointed her sword at Mark. “The better captain is here to take it.”
“Both of you heave to under the command of the United States Navy,” said Bond. He
alternately pointed at the siblings with his sword. “I’ll be putting you both in prison.”
“Blackbeard will never see the inside of a prison, you scurvy cur,” said Mark. He
waved his sword around. “I would rather go down fighting.”
“What he said except for Barberrossa,” said Melinda. She grinned. “I would rather eat
grass than give up my ship to a spineless spine such as you.”
“Really? A spineless spine?,” said Bond. “Couldn’t you think of something more
“You’re breaking character,” pointed out Mark. “Come on with the comeback so we
can have a duel to the death.”
“I don’t think I know any comebacks other than die fiendish knaves like the vicious
animals you are,” said Bond. His delivery came with a look of puzzlement. He smiled.
“Die fiendish knaves like the vicious animals you are!”
“That’s what I’m talking about,” said Mark. “On guard, running dog of the oppressor
Stella shook her head. She rubbed Ruff’s neck. He barely moved. A faint wagging of
his tail told her he liked the attention well enough.
The other three kids mock sword fought up and down the trail. It was mainly Mark
against Bond. Melinda attacked both sides, usually when one side looked stronger
than the other.
Stella noted that the Morgans slowed down to let Bond have some moments in the
sun. She didn’t know if he knew that. He seemed content enough as he chased after
And she didn’t want to spoil that feeling.
Ruff looked up. The fur on his back stood straight. He vanished into the woods
without a sound.
Stella stood up. She brushed off her pants as she looked around. She saw something
on the edge of her senses. They weren’t alone on the trail. That must have set Ruff
“Hey guys!,” she called. “Ruff took off.”
The fighters froze in mid-motion. Mark looked around. He waved Bond and Melinda
over to where Stella stood. He joined them silently.
“Ruff doesn’t usually do that,” said Mark. “I think we need to head back to Dad and
Mom. They’ll want to know about this.”
Stella looked around. She spotted Mister Morgan’s thoughts about fishing in the
distance. They were close, but still out of sight.
“They’re that way,” said Stella. She pointed at the direction of the thoughts.
“All right,” said Mark. “Lead the way, Stella. Keep an eye out, Lin. Ruff might need
help if he went after some animal he didn’t like.”
Stella set off for the pond. Mark didn’t think Ruff had taken off after any animal. She
could see it in his thoughts. Bond followed her. His hands glowed as he walked. She
didn’t know what that was about, but felt it had something to do with his mother.
Melinda vanished into the brush as they went. Stella wanted to call out, but didn’t in
case there was trouble on the way.