Little Jake's tropical fruit-flavored popsicle collapsed into a sticky wet mess between the child’s fingers. The little boy couldn't maintain his frozen treat, which looked like a rainbow-colored miniature skyscraper on a stick.
But now that icy rainbow-colored skyscraper was dripping down to the ground like Little Jake’s heart. The summer heat melted Little Jake's popsicle the same way fear melted the child’s heart. Little Jake was staying in a rented cottage with his mother, father, and his older sister, Emily. Little Jake’s dad, whose name was Fred, decided it would be fun to take his children on a hiking adventure. Jake’s mom, Nancy, stayed behind at the cottage. Little Jake was happy until he saw his father fall to the ground.
The little boy and his sister were playing hide and seek with their father and the next minute, Little Jake and his big sister were standing over their father who was lying on the ground wincing and grabbing his chest.
Little Jake fell to his knees next to his father. The child dropped his popsicle when his father grabbed his other hand. He looked up at his sister, who had kneeled beside her father on the other side. The children didn’t know what to do as they hovered over their father.
A father having a heart attack in front of his kids in the middle of a forest during a summer heatwave was a worst-case scenario. Fred wanted to comfort his son and daughter, even though he was in pain. The man even felt mad at himself for suffering a heart attack in front of his children. On top of his guilt, the father felt stupid for leaving his heart medication back at the cottage.
“Daddy, I’m calling Mom, okay?” Emily told her father while reaching into her backpack to get her phone. The teenager kept brushing her fingers through her father’s hair, hoping to bring comfort to him. She lost her breath after she pulled out her phone to see that her battery was dead. Emily frantically swiped her long blondish pink hair away from her face while staring down at her phone’s black screen.
Little Jake kept his father’s hand wrapped between his fingers. The boy could see his sister holding back tears. The boy wanted to be brave, even though his mind was telling him to cry. He looked around at the vast ocean of tall redwood trees that surrounded him and his sister. Little Jake could find no familiar pathway.
“D-don’t c-cry, sweetheart,” Fred whispered up to his daughter after finding his voice. “Everything, everything is okay.” Fred stuttered. He released a grimacing moan after he spoke. The father saw tears attempting to escape from his daughter’s eyes. He refused to let a heart attack prevent him from comforting his daughter. Fred caressed his daughter’s face. He also tried to console his son by resting his hand against his little boy’s face.
“Daddy?” Emily wiped her face before placing her trembling hand on her father’s forehead. The girl watched as her father’s eyelids descended. “Daddy, wake up! Please, don’t die!” Emily lost control of her voice while yelling down at her father.
“I just need to sleep, sweetheart. Daddy’s in a lot of of p-p-pain.” Fred stuttered and stammered over his words as he whispered up to his daughter. The man lost consciousness after he exhausted himself from trying to speak through the stabbing pain in his chest.
“Dad!” Emily cried over her father. The girl placed her fingers on her father’s neck and she could still feel his pulse. “We got to get Dad to a hospital. If we don’t, he’s gonna die. I can’t call mom because my phone is dead. We’ll use Dad’s phone.” Emily told her brother while frantically digging through her father’s pockets to see if she could find his phone.
He wanted to comfort his sister, but due to a birth defect that left him without vocal cords, Little Jake could only speak to her using his eyes.
“This is the second time Dad had a heart attack. He had the first heart attack a year ago. Mom was with us when it happened. You remember?” Emily kept whispering to her brother and she watched as he responded to her with a nod of his head. The girl kept searching for her father’s phone, and she kept talking to keep herself calm. A sense of hopefulness bloomed inside Emily when she reached into the back pocket of her father’s blue jeans and felt a rectangular shaped object the size of a notepad. Emily knew it was her father’s phone and she wanted to hold on to her glimmer of hope. Finding a phone with a broken screen was just as bad as finding a treasure chest filled with dirt. Emily didn’t want to believe that her father broke his phone. The girl let out a short, frustrated scream after finding out that her dad smashed his phone when he collapsed and landed on his back.
Little Jake reached out to hug his sister when she broke down in tears. The boy was on the verge of crying himself, but he kept hearing a voice inside of him telling him to be brave. The voice sounded like his father’s voice. While Little Jake was holding his sister, he noticed something odd. The little boy made eye contact with a small bird that landed right in front of him. The bird also landed beside his father. It was a Western bluebird, and it hopped closer toward Little Jake before staring up at him.
Emily was unaware of the bluebird. The teenager had her back turned while holding her brother. She had her eyes closed with her tear-soaked face buried in her brother’s shoulder. Emily hated that she was crying on her little brother’s shoulder. The girl felt like a failure as a big sister. She wanted to be the one comforting Little Jake, but it was the other way around. Emily wanted to be brave like her brother, but all she could do was stroke her fingers through her brother’s hair while crying her eyes out. Losing her father was Emily’s worst fear. Not being able to protect her brother and being lost in a forest added more fearful baggage to Emily’s mind.
Spending a long-overdue weekend away at a cottage wasn’t turning out the way Emily hoped it would. The girl already had her share of traumatic experiences and she didn’t enjoy staying at the rented cottage. She didn’t enjoy finding a snake on the front steps of the cottage. She didn’t enjoy hearing strange animal noises outside the cottage at night. Emily also didn’t enjoy the creepy Bigfoot story that her father told her the night before. The girl had a bad feeling about the hiking trip from the very beginning. She wasn’t a huge fan of walking through wooded areas because of wild animals and the fear of getting lost. At the moment, it didn’t help that Emily was thinking about her father’s Bigfoot story. She didn’t want to think about a tall, half-man, half ape-like creature hiding amongst the trees, watching her and her brother.
Little Jake was much calmer than his big sister. The 7-year-old enjoyed nature and he enjoyed staying in a four-bedroom cottage, surrounded by trees and animals. Little Jake didn’t have a fear of snakes, unlike his sister. He also had no fear of Bigfoot. The only thing Little Jake feared was losing his father. The child wanted to hear his father’s voice again. He wanted to see his father’s smile. Little Jake held on to his sister as he reached down to touch his father’s hand. The boy caressed his dad’s hand while thinking about how he went horseback riding with his dad the day before. Jake’s dad would call his son either, Little Jake or Little Cowboy. The child thought about the first time his father called him Little Cowboy. He thought back on when his father was teaching him how to ride his bike. Little Jake remembered flying away from his father on his bike. He thought he had control, but he lost his balance and fell, badly scraping his knee on the sidewalk. Little Jake was 4 years old when this happened. Jake’s father called him Little Cowboy because he didn’t cry after falling off his bike and putting a big, nasty gash in his knee.
“I’m sorry for crying,” Emily mumbled while bringing her face out of her brother’s shoulder. The girl stroked both of her hands across her little brother’s cherubic face while gaining control of her tears. “I’m your big sister and I shouldn’t be crying like this in front of you. I have to protect you.” Emily whispered to her brother. The girl fought her fears. Emily’s fears almost subsided. The teenager almost felt calm, but then she saw it. She saw it approaching from a distance after it stepped out from behind a tree. It was forty feet away and it was huge.
Emily shot to her feet when she saw the beast approaching and heard its light groaning roar. It was walking on all fours with its eyes locked on Emily and her little brother. Emily remembered what her father told her. He told her to never run from a grizzly bear and to avoid eye contact with it. Emily’s father told her she must stand her ground even if the grizzly charges. It wasn’t fair, and Emily didn’t understand why this was happening to her and her brother. The girl felt cursed. She watched her father suffer a heart attack and now she had to stay calm in the presence of a four-hundred pound grizzly.
Little Jake saw the grizzly, but he reacted differently toward it. He had no fear of the beast. Even when the grizzly stood on its hind legs revealing its 9 feet tall physique, Little Jake stared up at the beast with fascination in his bright eyes.
It was a grizzly bear. There was no doubt about that. It was a female grizzly bear in her prime to be exact. You could see her boulder-sized muscles beneath her brown satin-like fur. When she growled, the ground trembled. Emily and Little Jake could feel every bone in their bodies trembling along with the Earth. The beast stood in the air for a minute, snorting and growling. The grizzly never took its eyes off Emily and her little brother as it waved its heavy claws in front of its chest.
Emily took hold of her brother’s hand and she held the little boy close to her side. She could feel her heart punching its way up into her throat. Every worst scenario was playing out like a movie in Emily’s head. The girl felt like she and her brother were in a scene in Jurassic Park. She saw the 9-foot tall grizzly as a T-Rex covered in brown fur. Emily didn’t want to die. She wanted to protect her brother. The girl also didn’t want the grizzly to attack her unconscious father. Emily tried to stand in front of her father and she kept seeing the grizzly charging toward her and her brother because of her sudden movement.
“Be, be calm,” Emily stuttered through a whisper. The teenager looked down at her brother and every muscle in her slender body tightened when the grizzly roared and moaned, causing the ground to tremble again beneath her feet. Emily couldn’t move, and her sweat caused her skin to itch. The girl wanted to use her blue jean skirt to wipe the sweat off the palm of her left hand, but she told herself not to move a single inch. Emily thought she had a firm grip on her little brother’s hand, but her sweaty hands made it easy for Little Jake to slip his hand out of his sister’s grip.
Little Jake freed himself from his sister and he wanted to approach the grizzly, but his arm got captured by his sister’s hand.
“Jake, no!” Emily furiously whispered down to her brother. The girl thought she had an assuring grip on her brother’s arm, but he slipped through again. “Jake, sweetie!” Emily told herself not to yell in the grizzly’s presence, but her voice exploded involuntarily when Little Jake took out running toward the grizzly bear. Everything moved in slow motion for Emily. She wanted to run after her brother, but her legs felt paralyzed. The girl watched as this little boy ran toward a beast that was the size of a boulder. Emily’s legs unlocked and she tried to chase after her brother, but it was too late.
Like her father, Emily fell to the ground, but on her hands instead of her back. The girl looked up to see her brother running into the grizzly bear’s claws. There was nothing Emily could do but watch. She cried and was gasping, but something happened that made Emily’s tears come to a halt. The teenager didn’t believe what she was seeing. At first, Emily thought she was hallucinating. She’d never seen a grizzly bear hug a little boy as if it were a human mother embracing her child. The girl slowly stood up while watching the grizzly lick her brother across his face. She stumbled backward when the huge grizzly followed behind her little brother. Emily gulped when the grizzly laid its big snout on her body, sniffing across her neck and face. What came next made Emily believe she was dreaming. The girl’s face became smothered by the grizzly’s lips and her tongue. It only took a second for Emily to realize that the bear was kissing her. The kiss was warm and gooey on Emily’s face. When the teenager opened her eyes, she saw the grizzly doing the same thing to her brother.
Emily also watched as her brother hopped on top of the grizzly’s back as if he was getting on a horse. She watched as her little brother pointed down at their father before pointing at the grizzly’s back. Little Jake was trying to tell his sister to put her father on the grizzly’s back so the bear could help carry their father.
“Jake?” Emily could only utter her brother’s name. She watched as the little boy climbed down off the grizzly, before taking her by the hand and leading her back to their father.
Nancy was sitting on the front steps of the cottage. She sipped on her cup of coffee while gazing out at the mountain landscape behind the distant trees. Nancy couldn’t stop thinking about her husband and her kids. The woman didn’t want to worry about them. She regretted not going on a hiking trip with her husband and children. Nancy wanted to call her husband. She kept track of the time, and she knew that her husband and children went on their hiking trip an hour ago.
Nancy kept thinking about her husband’s heart condition. She tried not to think the worst. Instead, Nancy tried to think about how she went hiking with her husband on their second date and how everything turned out okay. Nancy found peace again, but she didn’t let her peace stop her from calling her husband. The woman couldn’t resist not checking up on her husband and kids. Nancy reached for her phone, which was lying beside her. She was about to dial her husband’s number, but she froze when she heard her daughter’s distant voice calling out to her.
The mother bolted to her feet when she saw her two children approaching. What made Nancy drop her phone and her cup of coffee was when she saw her children walking beside a grizzly bear. The woman panicked even more when she saw her husband being carried on the grizzly’s back.
“It’s okay, mom!” Emily shouted out to her mother when she saw that her mom was about to freak out.
“Stay away from my babies!” Nancy shouted at the wild beast, even though she could see that the beast was calmly strolling beside her children. What made the woman almost fall into shock was seeing the grizzly bear carrying her husband on its back. It was something she had never seen before and probably will never see again.
“Mom, it’s okay!” Emily grabbed her mom. “The bear helped us. Dad had another attack and he passed out. We got lost and the bear came out of nowhere. Jake walked up to the bear and it showed us how to get back home. Dad’s still breathing, but we have to get him to a hospital. The bear helped us by carrying him.” Emily gave the news to her mother while hugging her.
Nancy's legs trembled after her children guided her down the steps toward her husband and the grizzly. She swallowed hard when the grizzly bear sniffed her before licking her hand.
It only took a few minutes for Nancy and her children to take her husband off the grizzly’s back. Nancy sat on the steps with one arm around her husband and her other arm around her son. The woman watched as her daughter ran into the house to call 911.
Little Jake smiled after his mom kissed him. The little boy and his dumbfounded mother watched as the female grizzly bear gave Little Jake one last look, before slowly turning around and walking back toward the vast, temperate forest.