“Loofer, look what I found!” Eva called to her brother.
“Is it another leaf?” Luther groaned.
“Her name is Mabel!”
“Terrific,” Luther breathed. “Now don’t put this one in your p…”
Eva stuffed the leaf in her sweatshirt pocket.
“Great. Thanks Eva.”
“You’re welcome!” Eva bounced boulder to boulder, dancing to the tune of chirping birds. A spring breeze carried her with ease along the shallow creek.
“Eva, get over here.” Luther trudged on the trail behind her. “I’m not explaining to Dad why you’re all wet again.”
“Otay, Loofer!” Eva spun about and skipped back to her brother. She outstretched a hand towards him, but Luther kept his hands buried in the pockets of his jeans and pressed onward.
Eyes bearing down the path ahead, Luther noticed a couple of fellow hikers approaching them. “Eva, put your mask on.”
“I don’t has it.”
“What?” Luther sprang back towards his sister. “Why don’t you have it?”
“I gave it to a stwirl.”
“And, why did you give it to a squirrel?”
“He looked like he wanted it. And it was itchy.”
“Oh my God,” Luther breathed, digging into his back pocket. “Here, we’ll put on mine.” Fighting against the shrub of brown curls, he was able to stretch the straps about Eva’s head and secure the mask over her nose and mouth.
“It smells funny.”
“You smell funny,” Luther retorted, returning to his feet.
“Heehee.” She began to take exaggerated breathes. “I’m an ascot!”
“Ya sure are.”
Eva proceeded to hop on ahead, one foot at a time, as if she was stuck in low gravity. “I’m an ascot!” she announced to the passerby.
“Sorry ’bout that.” Luther shot passed them after his sister. The couple courteously smiled and waited for him to pass before returning to the path.
“Eva, quit playing in the dirt.” Luther caught up to her in a clearing. He removed his mask, which was left draping over a low-hanging branch, and returned it to his pocket.
“I’m looking for the heart of the forest.” Eva was on her hands and knees, pawing through the stones that littered ground.
“Of course you are.” Luther added under his breath, “God, I’d almost rather be at school.”
“But ya can’t,” Eva remarked, unflinching in her search. “Cuz there’s a bionic pancake.”
“Uhh, okay. First, and this is might be a stretch, but I think you mean bubonic plague. Second, that’s not what this is, Eva. Where do you even hear about this stuff?”
“Daddy was talking to the computer about it.” She bounced up and ran over to her brother. “How about this one?”
“It’s… a rock.”
“Otay!” She threw the stone over her shoulder and continued her search.
“Look, Eva. We should get home. Probably almost dinner time.”
She didn’t respond, lost in her task.
“It’s gonna get dark soon. Come on. Let’s go.”
“How about this one?” She eagerly ran up to her brother, a second stone in hand.
“Would you quit picking up rocks?”
“We gotta find it.” She collapsed to the ground, restarting her search.
“Eva, stop it! What’s so important about these damn rocks?”
She stopped and looked up at her brother. “We need the heart of the forest to stop the bionic pancake. Then everyone will get better. And then Mommy can come home.”
Luther squatted down and watched his sister tirelessly survey the ground. His hand found the smooth surface of a pebble resting beside his foot. “How about this one?”
Glee overtook Eva’s face. “It’s perfect!” She took out the bundle of leaves she stashed away in her pocket and carefully wrapped the delicate stone inside.
“Mmhhm,” She nodded as they both returned to their feet.
“Alright. Better keep it safe, and we can show Mom when she gets home in the morning. Okay?”
“Otay.” Eva smiled.
“Alright. Come on. Let’s get home.” Luther gave his sister his hand, and the two made for home.
Brendon Arnold is an engineer in Arlington, VA with a passion for creating stories that people can enjoy.