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  • Writer's pictureAnita Tosh

Beth Chapter 3

I froze. When I thought it was safe, I forced my achy body to move. The long ride of the night before had taken its toll. Squatting down behind the tree almost brought tears to my eyes. I wobbled back to our tent.

I heard Carl’s sleeping bag rustle as I unzipped the door. Carl stirred and smiled up at me as I stepped into the tent. I zipped the door and crawled toward Carl to tell him my news.

“Good morning beautiful,” he said, and reached for me. In an instant I was drawn into an embrace that took my breath away.

It was hard to talk but I managed to gasp out, “Carl -- a drone!”

His eyes popped opened, and his grasp slackened. “What? When did you see it?”

“Just a couple of minutes ago.”

He looked at me and began to talk fast, “We are going to stay out of sight right here till it gets dark. Do you know where a pen and paper are? We need to time these drones and see if they are spaced like the ones in the city.”

“I wonder if they only run in the daytime.” I pulled at my earlobe as I pondered.

“That’s a good question. There weren’t any last night so we don’t know if they just started today or if they only patrol during daylight hours.”

I found paper and pencil and we began to record each drone pass.

It was a long day.

After a half hour we had the timing. These drones were on a slower timetable, ten minutes between passes. Now we just had to wait for nightfall and see if it continued. If we make a mistake about this, it would be the last thing we ever did.

We napped, ate and talked. Carl told me about the time in Junior High when two bullies jumped him. “They came up from behind me. I still don’t remember exactly what happened, but I surprised myself by whipping them both. It won me a lot of respect at the school from the other kids, but not form the teachers.”

I told him about the time I challenged a cocky third grader who was beating up kids. “It made me so mad when I saw what he was doing, I stepped into the ring of kids without thinking. I was only in first grade and he was twice my size. He was so surprised to see scrawny first grade girl.” I had to laugh at the memory. “Then he sprang into action, grabbed my arm and twisted me around so fast it made my head spin. He held one arm behind me and the other arm in front of me. I was in a bad way, but his arm was right there in front of me-- so... I bit it. He let go of me and went away squalling. I won, but I got sent to the principal’s office because the big baby complained!”

“Looks like I’m going to have to watch my step,” Carl teased.

We exchanged more childhood tales, and when we peeked outside we saw the sun had dipped low into the western horizon. Thick smoke still hung in the air and ash covered everything.

The sunset was an ugly grayish orange.

It began to cool off, so I put a sweatshirt over my shirt. My throat was dry and raspy, but I thought it was from talking so much.

As dusk faded into night, we continued to hear the high-pitched hum come and go every ten minutes until the starless sky was ebony.

Then silence.

We both let out a sigh of relief at the same time which made us giggle. Carl gave me a hug and said, “We have to be cautious. They may have put them on a slower schedule or something. Let’s wait another hour. We have to know before we make a move.”

“What will we do if they run all night?”

Carl looked up and pointed to our backpacks. “That’s what those are for.” I don’t know what my face looked like, but Carl gave me a squeeze and said, “Don’t’ look like that. We’re going to beat this thing!” I nodded, took his hands and we began to pray.

The drones slowed down to every thirty minutes then stopped at midnight. Thank God we had begun at midnight the night before or we would already be history.

Now we had a plan. My body ached from our first night of bike packing, but we packed up and hit the trail for our second night of the same. God help me.

I would not complain.

Just before we left, a thought occurred to me. “Carl, what if they are not completely stopped but only slower, like every hour or two?”

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