Part 1 Fishing
“Don’t forget about tomorrow’s spelling test!” Tristan’s mom’s voice followed him as he grabbed a banana from the fruit bowl on the kitchen table, and ran out the front door of the house, where his bike was parked.
“I won’t, mom!” Tristan called back. He fastened his fishing rod to the back of his bike, stuffed a jar of worms in one pocket, and the banana in the other, and set off down the road toward his favorite fishing spot.
It wasn’t a long ride to the river at the end of their road. And Tristan liked it because it was quiet, he could almost always sit in peace and quiet and watch for frogs and fish. He liked to think while his fishing rod hung over the current of the river, a worm wiggling at the end of the line.
That day in May, the sky was blue above him. It was warm, nearly the end of the school year, and Tristan was looking forward to summer vacation. Puffy clouds the color of cotton balls drifted to the east, and the birds were singing. Tristan leaned his bike against a tree to the left of where the river ran – he usually didn’t cross the bridge to the other side. This was his usual spot. He unstrapped his fishing pole from his bike rack and walked down a small path that was worn in the grass that grew along the water’s edge. There was a stand of trees growing there that threw shade on a spot of land that jutted out into the river. This was where he settled in, kneeling on the bank and screwing the rod parts together, listening to birds and the water rushing by.
Tomorrow Tristan had his weekly spelling test. He silently reviewed the words as he put his rod together and took his jar of worms out. Meteorology. Chimpanzee. Government. The worm was wiggling all around and giving Tristan a fight. He redoubled his concentration, trying to get the hook through the worm without piercing his finger.
Just then, there was little rustle in the woods behind him. He turned around and found himself face to face with a red fox. The fox stood staring, unblinking, unmoving, at the edge of the wood. It was like a statue. Tristan stared back, startled. The fox was only a couple of feet away from him. He tried not to breathe. He tried not to move. They stared at eachother for what seemed like a long time.
Feeling the worm wiggling away, Tristan looked down quickly, grabbed the worm, looked back up, and the fox had disappeared. Quickly, he put the worm in his jar before jumping up to follow the fox.
The woods were warm and moist, the smell of last year’s leaves strong as he slowly walked away from the river, over the small ridge the fox had been standing on. Coming down the other side of the small hill, he scanned the woods for signs of an orange tail or the twinkling eyes he’d been staring into moments before. But all was silent and still. The fox was gone.
Not ready to give up, Tristan continued walking and looking. Birch trees stood off to the right, looking inviting. He walked toward them, picking up his pace some as his comfort increased. He kept his gaze straight ahead as he looked for signs of the fox, and tripped on a root that was stretching out under the leaves, skidding forward and mowing leaves up in a pile in front of his chin. “Ow!” he said. His right hand had landed on something sharp and hard. He lifted his hand to look at his palm. There was a little blood where something sharp had cut him. Brushing away the leaves, he found the sharp object. It was a black piece of stone, carved into a sharp point.
Picking it up to examine it, Tristan realized immediately that the stone was actually some sort of arrow head; it had a notch at the blunt end where it had likely been attached to a stick. He stood up, still looking at the arrow head, when something moved at the edge of his vision. Looking round, he caught sight of the fox just as it turned away from him, and ran off. In a flash it was gone, leaving him with the arrowhead.
Part 2 — The arrowhead
Tristan rode home with his new treasure, left his jar of worms in the backyard, hung up his fishing pole, and went into the kitchen where his mother was making dinner.
“Mom, look!” he held the arrowhead out toward his mother, who stood in an apron at the stove stirring vegetables in a skillet.
“Wow, Tristan. Where did you find that?” she asked, still stirring and looking at the arrowhead.
“In the woods,” he said, forgetting about the fox.
“Show that to your father. I think it’s an arrowhead.” She said. “And please have a look at your spelling words for tomorrow’s test.”
Tristan went up to his room and sat at his desk to look at his spelling words on his computer. He placed the arrowhead carefully under the monitor of his computer. While the computer booted up, he gazed outside toward the road in front of his house. There was a man standing outside on the sidewalk, looking up at his window. He was wearing a denim shirt and blue jeans. His dark hair was combed back, away from his face. He was looking directly at Tristan.
Startled, Tristan jumped up to get a better look. He ran to his window, but when he looked again, the man was gone. Instead, he saw a fox dash across the lawn and into the woods beside his house.
“Weird,” thought Tristan. He looked at the sidewalk where the man had stood for a while. His computer finished booting up; he did his homework and his mother called him to dinner.
Pocketing the arrowhead and shutting down his computer, Tristan went downstairs. His sister Inga was setting the table and his father had come in. They sat, and as soon as everyone was at the table, Tristan told them about the man he’d seen on the sidewalk.
“He was looking in your window?” mom asked, concerned.
“Yeah. It was weird,” Tristan said. And then, remembering the fox, he told his parents and sister about the fox in the woods, and the fox he’d seen in the yard.
His parents exchanged glances. “Hmm.” said his father. We will have to keep a sharp eye out. “Let’s have a look at that arrowhead,” he said, as the family finished dinner.
The next morning Tristan took his arrowhead with him to school. He had it in his pocket when he got onto the school bus. As he rode to school, the seat beside him empty, he gazed out the window, watching houses and trees slip by. Suddenly, the man he’d seen the night before appeared, this time, standing at the edge of the woods near the river Tristan had been fishing in the night before. He stood still, like a statue, watching the bus, and Tristan in it, passing. Tristan gaped at the man as the bus drove by, unable to believe his eyes.
All day, he fiddled with his arrowhead, keeping it warm in his pocket. After school he rode back to the river where he’d been the day before, and there, the man was waiting for him. He was sitting by the river, gazing across. Tristan got off his bike and approached the spot where the man sat.
Without looking up at Tristan, he spoke. “Young man, I have a story to tell you.”
Part 3 The story
“There was a boy about your age that lived just over that ridge,” he said, pointing toward the little hill Tristan had climbed to follow the fox. “He was a strong boy, liked to fish like other kids you might know,” he said, nodding and smiling at Tristan, “And, he made that arrowhead.”
The man paused. “One of his jobs was to help with finding food for the family. One day, he made that arrowhead so that he could go hunting. While he was hunting, he came across a wounded fox. He heard some little yelps, and fond that she had kits nearby in a den. The boy felt bad for her. He did what he could to help her; he carried her back to her den and brought food for her and her kits, until the fox healed,” he paused
“The boy saw the fox and her kits often that year, and even played with the kits until they got bigger. The fox never forgot the boy and the way that he helped her.” The man paused there, and looked at Tristan. Tristan thought he could see the river’s reflection in the man’s face.
“The boy grew. He became a young man and married. One day, at just about this time of year, he went out to hunt. He had with him the arrow you are holding in your hand. He hadn’t gone very far from his home before he came face to face with a big, brown bear. Our young man froze where he stood, talking softly to the bear, trying to calm it. But that didn’t help. The bear stood on his back legs, roaring. Feeling he had no choice, the young man raised his bow, taking aim at the bear with one of the arrows he’d made. The bear was huge and he was sure that it would take several arrows to bring the bear down – if he could bring it down at all. He knew that once he hit the bear with an arrow it would be angry, and was very likely to try to kill him. But it looked like the bear was planning to do that, anyway.”
“He lifted his bow and arrow, took aim, and just as he did, a red fox came dashing into the space between the young man and the bear, charging the bears legs and barking. It nipped at the bear, causing the bear to become confused and aggravated. The bear swiped at the fox.”
“Seeing his chance, the young man turned and ran. He kept running, the cries of the fox and the roar of the bear still in his ears as he fled.”
Tristan stared at the man, waiting for him to continue. The river rushed by, seeming not to notice or hear the story that was unfolding beside it.
“What happened to the fox?” Tristan asked.
“Oh, she got away,” said the man, his eyes twinkling. “Clever, she was. Fox is always clever. And, she had repaid the boys kindness with her own.”
Tristan turned the arrow head over in his hand. “Wow. That’s pretty cool. But how did you know I found an arrowhead? And how do you know this is the same one?” Tristan asked.
“I remember it,” the man said quietly. “And you remember this: that arrowhead was a gift to you from the clever fox. She must have seen something special in you to give it to you.” He looked keenly at Tristan.
“Well, that’s my story,” the man said with a sigh, as he got up. “I figured you needed to hear it, else you wouldn’t have found the arrowhead. You take care,” he said, lumbering off and leaving Tristan on the riverbank.
Tristan turned the arrowhead over in his palm and looked up after the man. But, as you might have guessed, he was gone.
Weeks passed and the school year’s end was drawing near. Tristan looked forward to summer camp and seeing his family during vacation. One afternoon on his way home from the bus stop, he heard a strange little squeaking noise. Following it around the backside of a tree, he found a baby bird lying on the ground. All alone, it’s hungry little mouth open, it make it’s high peeps and looked at Tristan. It seemed to be asking him for food. Not knowing what else to do, Tristan gently picked the bird up and carried it home.
When he got to the front door of the house, he took off his t-shirt and gently wrapped the baby bird in it, carefully placing it on a chair that sat next to the door. He went up to his room and found an old shoebox full of army action figures. He dumped them out and went into the bathroom. He found an eyedropper and went downstairs.
The baby was still sitting waiting on the chair when he returned, and as soon as he saw Tristan approaching, his little mouth opened again. His eyes followed the boy’s every move. Tristan picked him and placed him in the shoebox and brought him inside. He thought maybe his mother could give him something to feed the bird.