AP Lang. Narrative Assignment

I just wanted to leave, to run, to get away as fast as possible. The cold air gave way to light rain that began to pepper the leaves of the gnarled trees, beating a soft rhythm on Liesl’s windbreaker as she and Dad peered at the maps held between them. Jens, then six, groaned with boredom, half-heartedly hopping from one old gravestone to the next in an attempt to alleviate his symptoms. I couldn’t understand why on earth my family was staying put when there was a storm coming. Could they not hear the thunder, rolling like empty barrels through the ancient churchyard? Were they not aware of the dangers of that sound? Did they feel the fear, like a hurricane inside one’s stomach? I had made attempts to plead my case for an exodus, but all had failed, so I simply stood under a gnarled old tree and tried not to whimper too loudly when the thunder came rumbling through the ancient graveyard.

We were in Ireland, our summer trip the year I turned eight, and while the lasting impression I got from that country was wonderful, these few hours in an old graveyard were not. We had been searching for what seemed like years, though it probably amounted to less than an hour, and we still hadn’t found the Geocache. Admittedly it should have taken less time, but my mood left room for neither searching nor caring about which rotting headstone might be hiding the unknown plastic bag or old cookie tin. I just wanted to leave. I sniffed - the cold wind made my nose run - and shifted to a less rainy spot under the tree.

Mom paused in her photographic documentation of our search to sternly say “Buck up! You’ll be fine its only thunder!” But she didn’t understand. How could she? The irrational fears of an eight-year-old are as alien and ancient to adults as pterodactyls. I suppose her annoyance with me wasn’t completely out of line; I was being disruptive in a way, and I wasn’t helping in the search.

I’m not sure where or when my childhood fear of thunder began. Even the slightest smell of rain or smallest shred of distant thunder and I would shove my fingers in my ears to the point of pain, and throw myself into the nearest couch. But no such refuge presented itself; just soggy patches of un-mowed grass and scraggily bushes.

After about forty-five minutes of quiet suffering I did the only thing I could: I “changed my state,” a saying my mother loves to bark at people in my family who are being grumpy, morose, or otherwise in a bad mood. Usually this only serves to send the sulking person deeper into their bitter mindset just to spite her, but on the odd occasion that someone does change their state the whole family ends up much happier. The latter was the case here. As my mother’s stern words forced my mood to change, the thunder seemed to fade like smudges on a window being wiped away.

I soon joined Jens in his game of leaping from one spongy looking gravestone to the next, pretending that the grassy ground was some sort of photosynthesizing lava. This soon dissolved into just chasing each other around and slipping on the wet grass under our feet. But after maybe ten minutes of this, Liesl, who was twelve at the time, drafted us to help in the search for the Geocache. On hunts such as these we were normally much more eager to search, but the thunder had ruined my appetite for adventure, and Jens usually went along with what I was doing. If I wanted to search, he did too; if I didn’t, he got bored quickly. However, my recent change in mood had breathed life back into our questing spirit and we eagerly fanned out amongst the gravestones. All three of us set to work; we flipped over rocks, scaled trees, stuck hands underneath oily and rotting tombstones, and dug around in bushes.  

 After a half-hour we were triumphant. Dad had spotted the Geocache underneath and old headstone that was flush against the ground, like a plaque. Liesl and Dad both tried to fit their hands in the small gap between the stone and the slick ground but had failed. Jens had refused to try because of the space’s musty odor and unappetizing appearance. So it was left to me to retrieve this long awaited treasure. My forearm grew goose bumps as I rolled up my sleeve in preparation; I took a deep breath and plunged my hand and arm under the headstone. The ground beneath my hand was soft and slimy, I could feel worms and bugs wriggling and scuttling away under my questing fingers. The stone above my arm was both rough and slippery at the same time, a disconcerting feeling to say the least. After a few disgusting seconds, I felt the familiar texture of a plastic bag under my hand. With a grunt of exertion I pulled it out and as the plastic bag exited its hiding place, beetles fell off its surface. It didn’t matter we had the Geocache.  Jens did a little excited jig as Dad opened the bag to claim our treasure: a battered old Smurf keychain and a few “Welcome To Montana!” fridge magnates.