Amazing Kids! Magazine

Into the Thunderstorm

By Haemaru Chung, age 16, New York

 

I opened the book, and out slipped a photograph. It was an old picture with wrinkled edges and smudges of fingerprints all over it. Even the color seemed unnatural and faded. In it, I saw my parents; my baby brother, Alex; and myself standing by a lake. We all had this ridiculous smile that stretched from ear to ear, but Alex looked especially happy with his teddy bear. I remembered that day lucidly.

My family had driven to a lake a couple miles off to celebrate my ten-year-old brother, Alex’s, birthday. Just supposed to be a nice day out with cake and food. Late into the afternoon, Alex and I were fishing when we heard on the radio that a big thunderstorm was heading our way. Hearing this, our parents decided to head back home. Alex’s face contorted into a scowl when our parents told us the bad news. He did not cry, but his grimace remained fixed like a gargoyle for the rest of the car ride home.

I gazed at the dark horizon, watching the storm clouds roll closer to our house. The trees shook, and leaves whirled past the window. My parents were running frantically through the house, pulling out electrical plugs. I turned and saw my ten-year-old brother, Alex, dragging his duffel bag upstairs to his room. His eyes were downcast; and his footsteps, heavy.

“Joseph! Can you get our stuff from the lawn!” my dad called from the kitchen.

Our picnic gear was heaped in a pile, having been tossed from the back of the car. I opened the front door and was buffeted by a strong wind. With effort, I managed to drag the bags back inside. A few razor-like leaves had sliced my skin, forming thin lines of crimson. I slammed the door shut, and the howl of the impending storm was muted.

When I went upstairs, Alex asked urgently, “Hey Joey, have you seen Oscar?”

“No, I haven’t. Did you pack him when we left?”

Alex paused to think, lips set in a tight line. “Wait a minute…Didn’t I give Oscar to you before we left?”

“No, why would you have given me Oscar…?” I froze, clenching the doorknob. I remembered it clearly. Alex had given Oscar to me to pack in my bag before we left, but as I leaned to tie my shoe a moment later, I placed Oscar on the bench next to me.

“Wait here,” I ordered.

I raced downstairs and grabbed my bag. I dumped everything in it onto the living room table with a clatter. No Oscar. Sweat trickled down my neck. An image of a forlorn teddy bear in the dirt flashed through my mind. I sprinted up the stairs, almost slipping on the last step. After wobbling a bit before regaining my balance, I took a deep breath and slowly stepped into Alex’s room.

“Okay, try not to freak out. Oscar wasn’t in my backpack, and I might have left him by the lake.”

Alex was still for a moment before he realized the significance of my words. His eyes became misty and his face turned maroon. Cries began to bubble up his throat. Uh-oh. A single, fat teardrop ran down his pudgy cheek.

“I’ll get Oscar back. Don’t worry, Alex!” I declared.

Alex looked at me with his bushy eyebrows raised high.

“You’re going to run three and a half miles to get Oscar, in that storm,” he snorted.

I looked at the window with a sinking feeling. The thunder clouds were close to our house now, and I could faintly hear the raindrops against the pavement.

“Don’t worry, Alex,” I said. “Three miles is nothing. The rain will be refreshing.” A clap of thunder boxed my eardrums and shook my body.

“Alex, don’t tell Mom and Dad, okay? Tell them I’m resting in my room because I’m tired.”

“Wait, are you really going out there? I mean, it still looks pretty bad,” Alex whispered in awe.

“Yeah,” I put on a brave face. “We go to that lake all the time. I know the way there like the back of my hand. Plus, according to the weather channel, the storm will be over in less than 30 minutes. It won’t be that bad.”

I quietly stepped out of my house with an umbrella and raincoat. The rain slammed into me from above, and I fought to keep my footing on the slippery pavement. It felt as if I were pushing back an ocean wave with my umbrella instead of rain droplets. I bit my bottom lip and plodded forward, blinking in a futile attempt to clear my vision. After only walking for ten minutes, I ducked behind one of my neighbors’ houses, gasping for breath.

What was I doing? I might kill myself trying to retrieve a toy. I had to walk more than three miles, and I barely survived ten minutes. I glanced at the street sign to judge my bearings. Maple Street. What do you know. I was just a few blocks away from the scene of the accident two years ago.


Alex was getting on my nerves as we walked back home from a long day of school. I snapped at him, tired of his incessant chatter. He retorted, and before long our voices escalated into shouts. He ran ahead as I stayed behind fuming. It all happened so quickly after that. Alex sprinted across the street, trying to catch the light. A blue streak swerved around the curb, and the car barreled into Alex with a crunch.

“ALEX!”

Alex’s collarbone, ribs, and leg had been broken, but he survived. His recovery in the hospital was slow and painful. Sleeping pills were the only means to alleviate his discomfort. I sat by him during his spasms, holding his hand tightly until our hands were blotchy white and red. That was the only thing I could do. After the doctor examined Alex’s X-rays, he warned us that Alex may have a slight permanent limp and would most likely have trouble running from now on.

Two weeks later when Alex was well enough to talk, I handed him a gift.

“I got this for you. As a token of apology.”

Alex pulled the teddy bear closer to his face, studying it. It wasn’t a unique bear. It was just a brown, furry bear with massive, circular eyes, but I thought he would like it.

“It’s so soft!” Alex proclaimed. “I’m going to name it Oscar!”

As I looked at Alex playing with Oscar, I resolved that as Alex’s older brother, it was my responsibility—no, duty—to keep him safe. I would not let him down again.


I felt icy waves sliding down my neck and spine as I thought about Oscar. Those old memories rekindled each time I saw that little bear; he was a symbol. The rain didn’t seem like it would let up, but I didn’t care. After adjusting my hood, I clenched my umbrella and stepped out of the cover of the house. I staggered like a drunkard in zigzags, barely moving forward. The raindrops felt like steel pellets as they battered my skin. I kept my head down and careened forward.

The deluge lessened around an hour and a half later. The dark clouds dissipated, and sunlight pushed through. Rows of trees drooped on either side as I trod over the sodden path. Shining raindrops trickled off the tree leaves. Branches swayed gently in the breeze. The scent of pine was sharp and reinvigorating. The forest was still and quiet, basking in the final rays of the sun. The only evidence of the violent storm was the various trees that had been knocked down, their great trunks splintered. When I finally reached the campsite, I found a massive tree resting on top of the fragments of the table and the bench where I had left Oscar. My hands clenched into fists, and I trembled.

No! No! No! No!

I stumbled forward but slipped immediately. I crawled back up, my face and limbs covered in slick, disgusting mud. Suddenly my hand brushed something cold, wet, and furry. I scrambled back in fear.

Did I just touch a dead animal?

I was filled with revulsion as I clutched my stomach. I scrambled away from the mangled creature sprawled in the dirt. Its matted fur bristled with pine needles. A single, dull, black eye gazed at me lifelessly. When the green spots faded from my vision, I inched forward, inspecting the mysterious object with fascinated horror. My fingers must have touched one of its arms that stuck out of the twigs. Strange. Its limb was rounded at the end, with no indication of claws or fingers. A thought sprang in my mind, and I tore the debris off the animal, pulling it loose. It was Oscar. He was caked with mud and adorned with leaves, and one of his large eyes was missing. Oscar’s left ear was also gone, and some of the stitching in the left side of his face was nearly pulled out. It didn’t matter. I had found him. Cradling my little brother’s treasure in my arms, I collapsed, laughing with relief, delight, and perhaps a touch of insanity.

As I walked out onto the highway, a car pulled up, and I found myself face-to-face with my dad. He merely frowned when he saw Oscar and said, “That ain’t gonna be fun to fix.” He then ushered me into our car and drove me home in silence. I walked into the house without looking at anybody and collapsed on my bed. When I gained enough energy, my parents unleashed their wrath onto me for one straight hour, chastising me for being reckless. I endured the onslaught of rebukes, nodding and apologizing profusely. After they left, Alex came in to talk.

“Joey, I’m really grateful for what you did, but you didn’t have to do it,” Alex remarked. “It’s not like I can’t live without Oscar.”

“Wait, what?” I was baffled. “Are you happy that Oscar is back or not?” I asked, groaning as I sat up. My adventure had left me with serious bruises, scrapes, and sore muscles. It was a trial to even sit up now.

“Of course, I am!” Alex beamed.

“Then why are you saying that I didn’t have to get Oscar?”

“Well, I mean, you could’ve been killed out there. I need you with me.”

“Really?” I chuckled. “Didn’t you always say that Oscar was a better friend than I am?”

“I was just kidding,” Alex admitted. “Oscar’s just a toy. Who else’s gonna look out for me besides you?” He grinned.

I was dumbstruck for a few seconds as I digested Alex’s words. A slow smile spread across my face, and I reclined into the bed.

“Yeah, I’ll always be there.”

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