For the children at heart. If I have time I may actually complete with Illustrations - I know what they would be should I add them.
Kaori gripped the edge of the cliff face with one hand and sprung upwards with her other. Savannah, a faster climber, stood wither her feet planted firmly on top. Their hands met mid air and they held onto each other’s wrist. Kaori felt Savannah pulling her and walked her feet up the incline to help. Just one more step and – Kaori pulled Savannah into a tight hug and looked out at the view. To Kaori the trees looked like saplings from up here, and her dad, sitting on the bench, was so small Kaori was sure that if he stood in front of them she would tower over him by half a foot. Kaori and Savannah dangled their legs from the edge of the big rock.
“Dragons, princesses or pirates?” Savannah asked.
“We always play those.” Kaori said. “This rock is getting kind of small for that – we need a bigger cave, a cooler castle and a stronger ship.”
“Yeah,” Savannah said. “We could play on the playground?”
Kaori wrinkled her nose. “No – It’s not the same. What we need is a bigger rock.”
Kaori pointed across the park, past her dad reading the news, to where three rocks stacked higher and higher until they were the same height as a nearby tree.
Savannah nodded to Kaori and sprang off of the small rock. Kaori carefully climbed back down.
Together they sneaked and crept and tiptoed towards the really big rock. When they neared the bench where Kaori’s dad sat they hid in the heather someone had planted in a flowerbed and bounded from bush to beech tree around the bench. When the girls had gone far enough past her father, they raced out into the open and ran to the rocks. The lumps of stone loomed above them and, from up close looked much taller.
Savannah couldn’t wait to climb it. Kaori could wait a few more minutes.
“What are you waiting for?” Savannah said, fumbling halfway up the first rock.
“Nothing,” Kaori said, glancing past the grass behind her to the bench. She turned and watched Savannah traverse the terrain to the ledge.
“Come on Kaori! It’s only a bit bigger than our small rock.”
Kaori fit her right foot into a crevice and began to climb. Soon, she too stood on the smallest of the really big rocks, grinning from ear to ear. The new rock was longer on top and flat and the girls planned out where they’d put things on their new play pirate ship.
“This would be the bow and the back part, where the other rock starts would be the stern.” Said Kaori.
“We could sleep over there and one side of the rock could be port, and the other starboard and they could switch every other day.”
“Nuhuh,” Kaori said, giggling. “’Port’ means left in sea language, and ‘Starboard’ means right. You can’t just switch them.”
“That makes sense.” Savannah shrugged organizing the sticks she found on the ground and picking the longest one she liked. She tossed another twig to Kaori who caught it.
“I challenge you to a duel” said Savannah.
“A practice duel?” said Kaori.
“Of course. We’ll practice and whoever wins gets to be captain.” Said Savannah. The girls pulled from their pocket the goggles Savannah’s mom had made. Kaori and Savannah knew how to be responsible pirates. Kaori brandished her twig and lifted it over her head. Savannah bent her knees and got down low. The twigs hit each other with a thwack-tick-tack. Kaori tried not to hit Savannah but swung at her stick as hard as she could. Both sticks broke at the same time, and the fight was over. Savannah picked up her stick. Kaori held her own.
“I guess we’ll have to be captain together.” Said Savannah.
“Partners.” Kaori agreed.
“You’re the only person I’d partner with for Piracy.”
Kaori smiled at Savannah. They held hands as they chucked their broken twigs in the woods.
“Ahoy, Matey.” A deep voice called from below.
“Ahoy,” called the girls.
“The park is closing soon. It’s time to abandon ship!” Kaori’s dad stood below the rock with his arms open to catch them. Savannah jumped the rest of the way down. Kaori climbed the whole way herself.
When Kaori was alone in the car with her dad, after they dropped Savannah safe on her street, her dad scruffled her hair but gave her a stern look.
“Next time you go to the really big rocks,” he said, “Bring me along.”
“Ok dad.” Kaori said.
“And I don’t want you climbing any higher than the second rock, alright?”
“But Dad!” Kaori said.
“Not until you’re older.” Said Dad.
“Alright,” Kaori said, smiling as her dad started the windshield wipers. Sprinkles of water dotted the glass, but Kaori didn’t care. She would turn seven next week. Then maybe she’d be old enough to climb the really really big rock.
Kaori looked out the window. She watched the raindrops race along the pane of glass and cheered for the ones that finished first. The car’s slow humming made her feel sleepy. She closed her eyes and thought about the games she and Savannah always played.
Of course they played pirates. They did not like to plunder from people but they liked tracking treasure with maps they drew and wandering through the park. Quartz and pyrite were worth real gold and they kept a small pile hidden in a hole in a tree trunk.
Other times they pretended to be bears or lions or more often dragons. They would roam their rock on all fours and growl and hiss and paw at the rock when someone approached. They were smart lions though, and sometimes they’d curl up and read a book or draw with chalk. They’d have more space to draw now that they had a bigger rock.
A few days later Kaori and Savannah went to the park again. Kaori still wanted to climb the really big rock. She tugged and pulled her dad’s arm toward the towering boulders, and when they reached the clearing before it, he spread out a blanket, pulled out a book and sat down to watch them.
Kaori and Savannah hadn’t played princess in a while, mostly because neither of them wanted to be the knight protecting the castle, or the princess who got to be beautiful but was stuck in the tower. Instead, they decided to both be princesses who protected the castle while the Knight sat in the tower. It was more fun that way.
First they needed a Knight. Kaori turned to ask her father to play the scared Knight but when the girls peered over the edge of the rock, he lay stretched out on the blanket, asleep.
Kaori thought about tickling him to wake him up. Savannah thought about poking him with a stick. Then the girls looked at each other and thought about the really big rock jutting up behind them. But the rock was so inviting and the girls turned around without noticing an extra companion following behind them.
There was enough space on the really big rock for the two girls to climb side by side. They pointed out hand and foot holds to each other and after an easy climb—right hand, left hand, right hand, left hand—they pushed themselves over the edge of the really big rock. The girls sprawled upon the reddish brown stone, laying on their backs and staring into the open sky. They turned over and picked out the sparkling pyrite, milky quartz and rusty garnet. Then they stood up and felt the wind rise underneath them and as they gazed over the park they saw the tops of the trees and a bluebird returning to its nest to feed its babies. On the far side of the rock a shallow cave created a perfect shelter. The girls stuck their heads into the entrance to look and saw stalactites dripping from the ceiling and their twin stalagmites waiting to trip them on the ground.
Suddenly they heard a sound by where they had climbed up: a cracking sound, a muffled thud and the unmistakable sniffle and wailing of a child. Savannah and Kaori ran to the ledge and peered over. A boy, a couple of years younger than the girls, sat on the second rock, clutching his knee with fat teardrops running down his face. He had tried to climb the really big rock and scraped his knee!
Kaori and Savannah scrambled down from the really big rock. When they reached the little boy, they held his hand and helped him down from the big rocks to the ground where Kaori’s dad was waiting. Kaori’s dad did not look angry but helped get the little boy off the rock and cleaned his knee with antiseptic. He let the little boy choose his favorite band aide while he sent Savannah to find the little boy’s mother. He and Kaori told the child jokes and by the time he left with his mother he was smiling again.
Savannah’s mother parked near the pond. While she and Kaori’s dad talked, Kaori and Savannah silently stood near the water and tossed pebbles onto lily pads. When the parents finished talking, Savannah waved and wandered to her mom’s Subaru leaving Kaori alone with her dad. Kaori started onto the path to their own parked van. Her dad didn’t follow. He called her back.
“Kaori, I told you not to climb to the top of the rock,” said Dad.
“I’m sorry, Dad. I didn’t mean to disappoint you,” said Kaori.
Kaori’s dad crouched down with his head bowed.
“I disappointed you too. If I had watched, no one would’ve gotten hurt,” said Dad.
“I guess we both need to work harder,” said Kaori, hugging her dad. Without warning he picked Kaori up onto his shoulders. Kaori screamed then giggled.
“I have an idea,” said Dad. “But first we need cake. Someone turns seven tomorrow.”
Kaori woke up minutes before her alarm clock went off but she waited for it to play her favorite song. After shutting it off she ran down the stairs and found, waiting at the bottom, a helmet, a harness, a metal clamp and some rope. A note left on top was attached to a big green bow. It read:
Something to help you climb to even greater heights. Head in helmet, put on your kneepads, clip the carabineer (the round circle of metal) to your belt, and remember to carry the rope and harness when you come to the car. Meet me outside and we’ll really reach for those rocks at the Get a Little Boulder rock climbing gym.
Kaori ran outside and hopped in the car. Kaori wished her dad would weave between the traffic to get there faster but she made sure to give him kisses and thank him endlessly. Soon, Kaori held the heavy door open for her father and rushed in behind him. The view inside took Kaori by surprise. Walls jutted from odd angles. On the sculptures and walls and even on the ceiling colorful handholds were tightly fastened.
“Howdy there, you must be Kaori!” A tanned and tall man with long hair in a ponytail came from behind the counter. “My name is Chet—Are you ready to rock?”
Kaori nodded with as big a smile as she could make. Her dad, their gear on his shoulder, followed them to the cubbies.
First Chet talked Kaori and her Dad through putting on their gear.
“Make sure this big loop goes in front and that your leg holes are snug.”
“Legs are snug! Loop in front!” Kaori giggled as Chet had to help her dad turn his harness around.
Harnessed up and ready, the group marched over to a rock wall with a rope hanging from the ceiling. Chet showed Kaori how to tie a figure eight knot and leave a strong loop, and how to clip that loop through her carabineer and onto her harness.
“Remember to always clip in so that the carabineer scrapes your belly!” Chet said. “And always twist it and lock it tight. Squeeze it not once, but twice.”
Then it was Kaori’s dad’s turn to learn. Chet gave him a small piece of metal that he called a belay device.
“When belaying someone, remember that you are the climber’s safety net. When you pull in rope, never let go with both hands.” Kaori’s dad practiced pulling in slack, keeping at least one hand always on the rope.
Kaori was getting excited to climb, and when Chet said they were ready, she rushed to the wall and started to put a foot on the prettiest orange foothold. Chet called her back.
“Always make sure everyone is ready.” Chet spoke in a solemn voice.
“Repeat after me.” Chet said, pointing at Kaori. “Belay on.”
“Belay on.” Kaori said.
“Ask the person belaying this before every climb so you know they are ready to catch you with the rope if you fall. Ask every time.” Then he turned to Kaori’s dad. “When asked, if ready, you must respond with ‘Belay is on.’ If you are not ready, tell them that you are not ready. Now practice.”
“Belay on?” Kaori said.
“Belay is on.” Kaori’s dad replied.
“Now,” Chet said, looking at Kaori. “Ask if you can climb by asking ‘May I climb?’ and then the person belaying responds with ‘Climb Away.’”
“May I climb?” Kaori said.
“Climb away,” Kaori’s dad said with a smile.
Kaori put a foot on the pretty orange foothold again, reached for one above her and started to climb.
When she had climbed to the tippity top a few times, she asked Chet what all the tape was for. Chet laughed.
“When you get more experienced, you can learn to climb routes. To climb a route, follow the color.”
After a few more runs, Kaori’s dad was tired and stood at the store to sign up for classes. Kaori wanted to climb as much as she could.
On the way home, Kaori fell asleep in the car. When her dad parked, he carried her from the backseat, up the stairs and let her fall asleep on the couch. Before he walked away to cook dinner, Kaori took his hand.
“Thanks dad. I love you.” She said.
“I love you too.”
Kaori knew she would practice what she learned at rock climbing class every day. It wasn’t long before she convinced Savannah to sign up. Kaori climbed safely. She would clip the carabineer towards her stomach and lock it and check it twice. She would shout “Belay on!” and wait for the reply and wait till her partner said she could climb. She would start on the smaller walls and start climbing routes and one day, when she was really big she would climb rocks even bigger than her really big rock. Maybe she would climb cliffs or swing from stone arches or pick her path up an ice incline. Someday she would touch the sky.
©2015 Lex Vex
©2015 Lex Vex