If you have a child in the 7 to 12 age group who might enjoy this and you can read it to them/ask them to read it. I would LOVE to hear any responses.
Chapter One: How the Moonstone Key Came to Jacob and Nicky
Why was Sir Gawain kneeling before the Green Knight upside down? Hastily, Jacob Hill righted his book. He glanced around surreptitiously. Had anyone noticed?
His sister Sarah played in the sand, her gaze dreamy and far away. His brother Nicky knelt over his open Spy Gear case, adjusting his motion detectors. Without his earphones, Jacob could hear their incessant beep-beep. Neither of them looked at him, nor did the old man crossing the bridge that arced over the river.
Farther down the bank, his mother talked with Mrs. Cole. Alexis Cole sat near them on a green bench reading her own book. Her wiry red pony tale stuck out behind her like a coppery bush. Alexis would have been in Jacob’s class, if Jacob had stayed in his local elementary school. She liked to read. Once in a long while, she actually spoke to him, and they talked about stories. Only Alexis thought they were talking about books.
She was not looking his way either. His secret was safe. Gratefully, Jacob donned his earphones and retreated back into the world of King Arthur and His Knights.
She was not looking his way either. Gratefully, Jacob donned his earphones and retreated back into the world of King Arthur and His Knights.
A group of rowdy highschoolers sped down the hill on their skateboards. They pushed and elbowed each other, each trying to make the other guy lose his balance. They were crazy! Jacob was glad he had his earphones in and could not hear them. He loved his earphones.
The high school kids plowed across the bridge. One big kid ducked away from his friend’s elbow and knocked into the old man who walked there. The guy did not even pause to say he was sorry.
The old man stumbled. He reached for the railing but it gave way. He and one of the pilings plummeted into the river. On the way down, his head struck the cement of the piling. He disappeared under the rushing water.
Jacob tossed his I-Pod aside and grabbed the flotation device that lay near his feet. His mother made them carry it whenever Sarah came to play at the beach. Just in case. He leapt into the water and swam toward the old man.
The current yanked at him and pulled on the flotation device, a bright orange lifeguard’s rescue tube with a trailing rope. His jeans and t-shirt grew heavy, dragging him down. Jacob did not falter.
Last summer, he had earned his Webelo Aquanaut badge. To do this, he had to swim seventy-five yards and demonstrate the four basic water rescue methods, including reaching and throwing rescues. Just like the Boy Scout motto said, he was prepared!
Only the middle of the river was much colder than the pool. The chill shocked his body. His chest seized up and refused to go out and in. He could not inhale. He could not even gasp. His limbs still moved, arm reaching, legs kicking, but he could not breathe.
Who would have though the water could be so cold in September?
Jacob kept swimming, arm flashing over arm, legs driving him forward. Arms. Legs. Arms. Legs. If only he could get more air.
Nearing the place where the stranger went under, Jacob pulled himself up onto the wide, bright orange flotation device. He peered around him, searching for some sign of a person but he saw only dark rushing water and a few sharp rocks. In the warm air, his chest released. With a loud gasp, air rushed into his lungs. Two large breaths and he dived back in. He kept a tight grip on the rope as he plunged downward in search of the fallen man.
There he was! Down by the old log.
Jacob swam. The current helped him, but it also carried the old man away from him. He threw himself forward, kicking and reaching with all his might. He had to reach the injured stranger. He just had to!
The water did not seem as cold now. He could breath shallow breaths, but his fingers and toes were growing numb. He did not have much time left.
The stranger was just ahead of him, a dark shape in the grayish water. Jacob gave his last burst of speed. Diving, he grabbed the man and tried to swim upward. But the stranger was large, and his clothes waterlogged. Instead of Jacob pulling him up, they both started down.
Jacob tried moving so that the stranger was over his shoulder, but still he was too heavy. Thinking quickly, Jacob clipped the hook on the end of the rope to the man’s belt and swam upward. Sound and warmth burst in on him. He gasped for breath.
Pulling himself up over the bright orange tube, he pulled on the rope, slowly drawing it up. He wished someone were there to help him: his father, his scout master, the highschooler who knocked into the person in the first place, but nobody came. It was up to him.
His arms were shaking now. It was hard to pull the rope with his numb fingers. Jacob’s eyes stung with tears. This was too hard. He could not do it.
Only then did he remember to pray.
Behind him, he heard the sound of splashing, but he was too exhausted to turn around.
“H-here! Let me help!” Alexis’s wiry red head came into view as she swam out from the shore. Her teeth were chattering, and her lips were blue. Jacob wondered if his teeth were chattering, too. He could not tell.
“P-pull o-on th-this,” he gasped, shoving the rope at her with his clumsy hands. “I’ll g-go d-down and p-pull him u-up.”
He dived again and swam under the stranger’s arm. Then, he swam up, pulling. This time, with Alexis’s help, they moved upwards. A splash and a gasp and they had done it! The old man’s head broke the surface. Quickly, limbs trembling, Jacob and Alexis got the flotation device under his arms.
Once he was floating safely, they gave a weak cheer. Their voices fell silent when they realized they still had to get him back to shore.
Jacob grabbed the rope and started swimming. Alexis pushed from behind. Vaguely, he was aware of shouting from the beach. His mother stood on the river bank, her face white. She looked as if she wanted to rush into the water to help him. Instead, she knelt, restraining Nicky, who was trying to jump in after Jacob. Alexis’s mother ran down the bank to keep up with them, as the current dragged them along. She talked excitedly on her cell phone. Jacob guessed she had called 911. As they came closer, she strode into the water and reached out to Jacob.
Her hand was so close, but the world – the river, the rope, the shore -- seemed far away. Jacob felt warm now. He was a Webelo. He had his Readyman badge. He knew warm was a bad sign.
It did not make sense. He could come so far and fail. He gave one last push.
Then, Mrs. Cole was grabbing him, and his mother was there, yanking on the rope. Nicky was there to, patting him on the back and saying something about how brave Jacob was and how Nicky could have been brave, too.
It felt so good to be done. To let someone else take over. Mrs. Cole’s sweater draped around his shoulders, Jacob watched as his mother and Mrs. Cole dragged the man to shore. Then, they stood there. They just stood there.
Jacob’s heart dropped. They were parents. They were supposed to know what to do.
Icy fear shot through him. A drowning victim was supposed to be turned upwards. His head was supposed to be secured. What if the man’s neck were broken, and their dragging him around had killed him?
Jacob ran forward and knelt beside the stranger. He put his hand on his wrist, but his own fingers were too numb to feel a pulse. He tried to ask someone else to do it, but the words came out slurred. Talking was just too much effort.
He tipped the stranger’s head back and stuck his fingers into his mouth, to clear his airways. Then, pinching the old man’s nose, Jacob drew a deep breath and exhaled into the stranger’s mouth.
One breath. Two breaths. Three breaths. Four.
With a heaving wheezing noise, the man inhaled. He sputtered and coughed. He lived. Sighing, Jacob stepped away. In the distance, he heard sirens.
As he waited for the paramedics to take over, Sarah wandered over, her sieve trailing sand behind her. Upon joining them, she stopped and tilted her head, regarding him. Jacob dripped and shivered, his teeth chattering madly, his numb limbs shaking. Sarah pointed at him and began giggling with delight. Her large blue eyes shone innocently, inviting him to join in the fun.
Jacob could feel something now, a pain where his heart should have been. Poor Sarah! She did not even understand that freezing and nearly drowning were bad.
* * *
Later, after he had been to the emergency room, drunk a lot of hot soup, ate quite a bit of chocolate, and been declared safe from hypothermia, Jacob got to ride in a wheelchair. He did not need a wheelchair, of course, but it was a hospital regulation. A nurse pushed him to the door, where his mother waited in the car.
It felt good to be a hero, embarrassing, too. Everyone at home made a big deal about it. Everyone was pleased, except for Nicky. As younger brother’s went, Nicky was a great one, but he had a bad temper. He threw a fit because their mother had not let him dive into the river. He kept crying: “I could have helped rescue him, too!”
Two days later, there was a knock at the door. His mother answered it, spoke for a moment, and then came to find Jacob, where he sat struggling with his homework. Nicky was practicing his Taekwondo in the living room. Sarah knelt on the rug, lining up farm animals in a row and singing. Her voice was high and odd, like a little child’s. Sarah could speak. She just almost never did.
His mother tapped on Jacob’s shoulder. Lifting up one of his earphone, she said, “There’s someone here to see you.”
Jacob took off his headphones and lay down his pencil. He shuffled to the door.
On the front stoop stood a distinguished-looking man in a suit and a long London Fog coat. He wore a black hat over his gray hair. He gave Jacob a kind smile. Jacob regarded him blankly.
“Would you recognize me better if I were wet.” The man spoke with a British accent. Taking off his hat, he used his other hand to smooth back his hair away from his forehead.
Jacob gasped. It was the stranger from the river, the man he had saved.
“You saved my life.”
“It was nothing, Sir Any Boy Scout would have done the same.”
“Still. It was my life, and you are the boy who saved it.” The old Englishman put his hat back on his head. “I want to give you a reward. Name it. Anything you desire. What do you want most in the world?”
Jacob’s chest tightened. There was only one thing he really wanted – well, two things, but the other was for himself, and one should never ask just for oneself – but there was no way that this man could give him either one.
Jacob hung his head. “What I want is impossible.”
“You would be surprised how few things are impossible.”
Jacob stepped out onto the stoop and closed the door. He blurted out, “I want my sister to speak. I want her to understand things like other children. I want her to be able to play with us!”
“What? But autism is incurable!”
From the pocket of his coat, the man pulled a long silver key. It was an old fashion key, like the one that opened the door to the attic at Jacob’s grandmother’s house, long and slender with a part that stuck out at the end. Only most keys had a loop on the other end, the part that you held in your hand. This key had a large blue-white gem set into that loop. The jewel shimmered as if it had its own internal light.
He handed it to Jacob slowly, as if he were reluctant to part with it.
“See this?” The man pointed at gemstone set into the key’s haft. “This is a moonstone. Hold the key up to the light of the full moon – only the full moon, mind you – and then look into the gem.”
“And that will cure my sister?” Jacob asked in wonder.
“No, but it will give you an opportunity. And sometimes, an opportunity is all we need to make our wishes come true.”