Daring to Try
by Lisa Hart
A soulful pair of mismatched eyes, one blue and one brown, stared out from behind cage bars in the poster reading:
Help save the animals!
In desperate need of extra funds the Humane Society was reaching out to the community for help by holding a skipping marathon. Years of being just Dr. Winter's daughter or Madison's big sister made me want to help. Looking at the homeless dog on the poster I knew I needed to help.
Talking Dad into letting me volunteer might be tougher than the marathon. My Dad works as a vet like his father and his grandfather, so he likes animals. The problem? Dad specializes in treating working and farm animals.
"Ooh . . . I don't think so honey."
"Please Dad," I pleaded. "I really want to try the marathon."
"There are so many worthwhile things for a girl your age to get involved in. What's so important about this
. . . thing?"
Absently switching his pen in the air as if conducting a miniature orchestra, Dad's eyes never left the paperwork spread across his desk.
"But Dad, you're the one who always says the world revolves around more than just us and we need to learn to help others."
"Quoting what I always say hardly seems like a fair way to argue with your father." Stopping work long enough to glance at me over the top of his reading glasses he sighed. "Very well, if it's really that important to you, go ahead."
"Thanks Dad, love you." Slipping around the desk I wrapped him in a quick hug before racing upstairs. I found Madison standing on the landing listening and waiting to pounce.
"You compete in a marathon. What a joke! How long do you think you will last?" Madison competed at track, basketball and swimming, I had set in the stands through all her games and meets. Ribbons, certificates and team photos covered every surface in Madison's room.
"The only winners in this marathon will be the animals. It is a fund raiser not one of your competitions." How I wished I felt as confident as I sounded.
Down the street a surprised Mrs. Benson wondered why my Dad allowed me to participate in such nonsense. Did she only pretend not to notice her husband slipping me a donation as I left?
A grateful and generous Mr. Mitchell explained the Humane Society returned his runaway dog Brutus last summer. Mrs. Sullivan from the brick house on the corner just wanted me to go away.
On Saturday morning I watched the sun slice holes in clouds of chocolate whipped cream. Nervous nightmares woke me up long before the ringing phone.
"Emily, I need to call on a farm outside of town. I'm not sure how long I'll be."
"But Dad . . . what about the marathon?"
"You'll ride your bike to the fairgrounds and tell me about it tonight at dinner."
I remember Madison's coach talking about the importance of a good warm-up. I doubt a twenty minute bike ride crossed his mind during the lecture.
Clouds faded over my shoulder as I cycled to the fairgrounds. Warm sun became a magnet, drawing in bodies. As crowds gathered people called greetings to friends and neighbors. A table offered information about the Humane Society and their services. Mrs. Lane waved to me from across the field.
I turned in my sponsor sheet and pinned a paper number to my sleeve. The crowd grew until finally a horn called everyone's attention to the group of volunteers. Rope in hand I took several deep breaths as the countdown began . . . three . . . two . . . one. The pop of a starter's pistol set the skippers in motion.
How do you measure time in a marathon? How many jumps in a minute? Mr. Mitchell stood at the sidelines cheering me on. One minute Brutus sat calmly at his side and in the next, slipping his collar the dog barreled across the field towards one of Mrs. Lane's cats hunting in the ditch on the far side of the road. The endless time that once stretched before me suddenly began to fly like a movie in fast forward.
Dropping my rope I took off after Brutus, a new found energy pounding through my muscles. A full body tackle brought the German Sheppard to the ground with a yelp. We lay tangled on the ground close enough to the road to feel the breeze from a passing truck. I had not noticed Dad and Madison show up to watch but they beat Mr. Mitchell in a race across the field towards us.
So, just as Madison predicted, I didn't last long in the marathon. What if I had accepted her idea of my limitations? Daring to try put me in the right place, at the right time to save Brutus. Daring to try put me in the right place to discover a whole new side of my Dad as he carefully checked Brutus over, assuring Mr. Mitchell all was well.
"That's my girl!" Dad proclaimed lightly tossing an arm around my shoulders. Madison stood watching me with a smile beaming across her face. Funny how her looking up at me that way made me feel a little taller. Maybe it's not so bad being just Dr. Winter's daughter or Madison's big sister? I wonder what else I can dare to try.
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About the Author:
After several years of working to earn her stripes as a children's writer Lisa's first passion remains nonfiction. Imagination Cafe provided a wonderfully supportive opportunity to stretch her skills. As well as being published in such magazines as Boy's Quest and Hopscotch you can find more of Lisa's work at The Cafe in Doggy Bag and the History features section.