Amazing Kids! Magazine

Friends for Life

By Sean Traynor, Editorial Adviser and Contributing Writer

 

Brandon grasped onto the rocky ledge, his legs beginning to shake from the 70 minutes he had been clinging for his life inside this deep cavity. Clothed in his hiking shorts and t-shirt, the cold from the darkness of the cave began to seep into his bones, making him feel a chill down his spine. He hoped it was not a foreboding of what would happen to him. Even with his injuries from his fall, he mustered up every ounce of determination he had to continue to grasp onto the sharp jutting rocks that were allowing him to clutch onto life instead of plunging into the dark hole below him. He could not see the bottom of the pit, but hearing the rocks hit the bottom of the pit that he had kicked from his ledge, he guessed it was another 40 feet below to the bottom. He took in a deep breath to calm himself, smelling the musty, chilled air of the cave. Although warm during their hike, the dark hole was chilly making the trickle of water from the surface meandering down the dark, smooth surface of the rock walls cool to an almost freezing temperature. By the time the water dropped from the ledge above Brandon’s head to slip, drop by drop, onto his back it stung like a fresh Popsicle on a parched tongue. The drops came down in a rhythm so that Brandon was anticipating each drop before they hit his back. In a way, it calmed him, knowing that time was still clicking by. His fingertips were raw, as he had to keep shifting them on the rock ledge to keep the circulation going. His hiking books were wedged between rocks to hold up his weight. The pain from his skinned knees was manageable but occasionally it would sting as if a thousand bees were swarming them. He had to mentally concentrate to not shake them to push away the pain. With the wet rock surface, one false move and he would be sliding down the slimy walls to the dark hole below.

Brandon looked above, seeing the sliver of white light from the fading sunlight. By looking at the angle, he was able to gauge the amount of time that had passed since his fall. Only a little over an hour ago his best friend Kyle had met him at the entrance of the wilderness park. Map in hand, they had so much confidence in their path that they had whistled and chattered the entire way. Kyle physically looked much different than Brandon. Kyle had light brown hair while Brandon’s was jet black. Brandon was also a head taller than Kyle. However, when they were together, people thought they were brothers because their mannerisms were identical and they walked in sync as if they had been born twins. Being best friends since kindergarten, they could complete each other’s sentences and invisibly telegraphed their feelings to each other. As they strode down the windy path together, Brandon would clear the debris in their path so that Kyle could keep up the pace with his shorter stride. They decided to cross through an old mountain trail on the map to another hiking trail to shorten the time it would take them to get to the lookout point. As he relayed another story about the prior day to Kyle, Brandon turned his head and stepped forward. The ground gave way and he found himself being pulled into an open mouth in the ground. Previously covered with vines, the invisible opening got bigger and bigger, engulfing his entire body. The last thing he saw before his head slipped completely into the gap was Kyle lunging forward, coming just inches from grabbing his wrists before he went down.

Sliding deeper and deeper, Brandon frantically moved his arms and legs along the sides, trying to find anything to grab on to. Gripping a jutting rock, he swung his legs until he was able to wedge his shoes into the wall, adding a little bit of stability. Stunned, he let out a little yelp of pain.

“Brandon! Brandon, are you okay?” he heard from Kyle up above in a high-pitched breathy scream.

“Kyle,” Brandon yelled as loud as he could muster. ”What happened?”

“It looks like this might be an abandoned well that was covered over with debris and vines. How far down are you? I can’t see you from up here?”

“I think I am down about 20 feet or so. I’m holding on but it is slippery. Can you find anything to get me out?”

“Let me check. Hold on,” Kyle yelled down trying to sound calm.

Five minutes later he came back and threw something down the opening. Trying to reach it, Brandon found his hold on the rocks loosening and his heart started beating rapidly. Kyle had scoured the area for loose vines, which he had tied onto strips of his clothing. Still the lifeline was out of his reach.

“Kyle, it won’t reach. If I move at all I’ll slip down. Run and get some help,” Brandon shouted, trying to sound confident.

“Okay, hang on buddy,” Kyle yelled, before he disappeared out of the sliver of light.

He calculated the time in his mind. Running back to the start of the reserve would take 20 minutes and there would be another 10 minute jaunt to the ranger’s station. Calling for help and getting them to respond would probably take 10 minutes and then to get back here, another 30. It was about time for them to arrive. At least Brandon hoped it was, for his fingers were getting numb and he was not sure how much longer he could hang on. The only thing keeping him focused was thinking about his best friend, Kyle.

Like a movie in his mind Brandon remembered meeting Kyle in the cafeteria the first week of Kindergarten. Sitting across from him, he noticed that he, too, had moved his broccoli off to the side.

“This is the better way to do it,” he whispered to Kyle as he shoved the uneaten broccoli into his empty milk carton. They laughed together and knew they would be good friends.

From that day on they joined little league together, soccer, and even made their choice of high schools together.

What made him such a good friend? Brandon wondered. Why was it that he knew deep in his soul that Kyle would do everything in his power to help him?

Brandon thought long and hard about the traits of a good friend. In this moment of life and death he knew it wasn’t the things they shared in common. Sure, these things made their times together fun, but it was more than that. Through the years they had learned that they could trust one another no matter what. Kyle had taken the blame for the baseball through the neighbor’s window and had claimed that he had hit the ball himself instead of Brandon hitting his pitch with his new aluminum bat. Kyle had to work after school for three weeks to pay for the window. He had never expected anything in return.

Brandon also knew that a friend offers support when it is needed. Kyle had always been there if he was having a hard time with homework or another activity. He would offer help and advice without doing the problems for him, making sure he learned.

Truly good friends encourage each other to be their best. Kyle had always encouraged him when he could not do something. He never laughed or rolled his eyes when he admitted he could not blow bubbles with gum. Kyle always encouraged him and cheered him on to help him persevere through tough situations. The trust that was built between them allowed each to be open and accepting of one another knowing that quick judgments would not be made about their opinions or actions.

Kyle had always been there when needed, and if ever there was someone he could trust to help him in a jam, it was him. He was there when his grandmother died, offering support, knowing that he did not need any words, just someone to sit with him. He also was there to stand by his side when their other friends wanted to exclude a new boy from joining their group of friends because he was an immigrant. With Kyle by his side, they convinced the group to include the new boy as one of their friends. Together they did not have to compromise their beliefs.

Sure, they had arguments and sometimes went weeks without speaking. But their friendship always shined through causing one of them breaking to break the silence and admit their mistake. Brandon had learned from Kyle that loyalty and understanding would let them sail through the tough times.

Kyle made him laugh. Even thinking about the funny times they had together in the past managed to put a smile on Brandon’s face now. He remembered the time they tried tying a tire onto a tree to swing into the lake. While trying it out, the rope broke and sent Kyle flying through the air. The look of surprise on Kyle’s face was hilarious. When he came out he said, “Well, that was one wild ride!” and they both broke out in laughter that made them gasp for breath.

Brandon felt a wave of comfort for he knew that he had been a true friend to Kyle also. They had given each other an equal amount of support, fun and respect to allow each to grow as a person. He knew they would be lifelong friends. He just hoped that Kyle would arrive soon so that the friendship would last a little while longer. That thought made him laugh now because he knew that Kyle would come through with the help he needed. Even while he was away, Kyle was helping him to hold on.

Brandon heard some rustling from above. “Brandon?” a deep bellowing voice called from above. “How are you doing son?”

Brandon cleared his throat and shouted, “Still hanging on. Is Kyle there?”

“I’m here Brandon. Just hang on. I told them you could do it! The opening is too unstable for them to come down to get you. They will throw a rope ladder down. Be careful climbing up because it will be slippery.”

“I will be careful, Kyle.”

“You ready son? Be careful, we’re throwing the rope down now.”

“Wait!” Brandon shouted.

“Yes, son?”

“Can I talk to Kyle again?”

A few seconds later Kyle yelled down, “Hey Big B!”

Brandon smiled hearing the nickname that Kyle gave him when he was in sixth grade. At that time Kyle was taller than him and he called him “Big B” as an encouragement to get him to be a better basketball player. Whenever he yelled that in a game, Brandon would get the extra determination to make the basket. They never thought to change the nickname when Brandon passed Kyle up in height.

“Kyle, I just wanted to say thanks for helping. You are a great friend.”

“Big B, you’re my brother. Everything will be alright, you’ll see!” Kyle yelled with hope in his voice.

“Okay, I’m ready.”

The ladder was dropped down and Brandon had to concentrate to hold on when the ends slapped against his back. He carefully turned his head to gauge his next steps. First he released one hand and grabbed the ladder. It set his body swinging to one side and he thought he might lose grip on his footholds. He took in a deep breath and clenched his eyes closed for a brief second.

“Hang on Brandon. You’re doing great!”

The sound of his friend’s voice prompted Brandon on. He swung the ladder in front of his body and grasped the other side of the ladder with his left hand. The motion swung his body backward, making his feet pull out from the wall.

Frightened so much he was afraid he would lose his handgrips, Brandon let out a short “Ah!”.

“Brandon, remember the fitness tests at school? Just use your arm strength to pull yourself up!” Kyle coaxed.

Brandon was brought back to the fitness tests at school where the kids would coax him on. He could climb a rope to touch the ceiling and complete the most pull-ups of anyone in his class. Confident once again, he reached up with his right hand, swinging his feet back and forth to gain momentum. In rhythm with his legs, he pulled up a rung with his left hand. Two more times he pulled upwards until his feet found the bottom rung of the ladder. Although his hands were burning from the friction, he knew he was home free. Climbing rung by rung while concentrating on keeping steady footing, Brandon made his way up to the top of the opening.

Large arms reached down at the end to pull him out. Once on solid ground all he could think of was his friend. Kyle pounced towards him and mowed him down with a great bear hug. They laughed and cried as the tension was released. Finally, sitting on the ground next to each other, they looked at one another and smiled. They did not need to say another word because they knew that even though they had lived through a traumatic event, they were there for each other. The importance of their friendship had helped Brandon make it through the ordeal. He would value his friendship for hopefully a long, long time.