by Susan Coleman
His father had given him the compass before he left on his business trip, but Daniel had no idea how to use it. He stood at his bedroom window and looked out at the trees that populated his new back yard. Well, it was so much more than a back yard, it was a wood that went on for miles and miles! He had to explore, he thought, but he sure wished he had someone to go with him.
The sky was leaden as he went out. He had all of his proper gear; his dad’s camping hat pulled low over this head, his compass Waldo; his pedometer Spell, because he had won it in a spelling contest, and a long walking stick he called Hum-Drum. It reminded him of the Sword of Angst, and he thought he could use it if he got into trouble in that wood. He knew his dad would be proud of him for being brave, for trying on his own.
Because it was the Fall season, the floor of the forest was dry and brittle. He could hear twigs snapping as he walked, but otherwise it was perfectly quiet. He didn’t know what he was looking for, but as he passed fallen trees and organic goop, he kept Hum-Drum in one hand just in case something untoward came along. In his other hand he held Waldo, which, if he was reading it right told him he was heading north. That meant he would have to go south to return home. Spell was strapped to his wrist. He felt confident as he looked back over his shoulder, thinking he could still see the house. He couldn’t.
Because of that look back, though, Danny began heading west instead of north when he resumed walking. When he looked at Waldo again, still thinking he was going north, he saw his mistake.
“West? How am I going west?” He was starting to panic. The skies darkened. He kicked at the yellowing leaves on the floor of the forest, sending up a plum of broken bits into the air.
Why had his father given him the blasted compass in the first place? He was a nerd, not athletic, not in any way up to a challenge like this. A few feet away, a young deer walked by. Daniel and the deer eyed each other briefly before the creature vanished into the thickening wood.
This is my wheelhouse, he thought, flora and fauna, not this darn Waldo that can’t keep me from getting lost.
Danny checked Spell. He had gone 1.8 miles from home. He heard a heavy noise behind him and froze. What was it? His vision was getting a little fuzzy around the edges. Ponderous footsteps, more twigs crackling. A monster for sure, and he pocketed Waldo so he could hold Hum-Drum with both hands. He stepped as quietly as he could behind a wide tree and waited for his fate. His eyes closed, hands shaking, too afraid to look beyond his . . .
He opened one eye and peered out, still holding Hum-Drum.
“I’m so glad I found you,” he heard as his dad came closer. “I’ve been looking for over an hour after your mom told me you had gone into the wood to try out your new compass. I came home early from my trip, hoping to go with you. Danny, were you frightened?”
“Oh, no Dad. There was . . . I thought . . .”
“No worries, Danny Boy. Let’s go home and get some hot chocolate, huh? How does that sound?”
“Wait Dad,” he said as he pulled Waldo out of his pocket. He handed it to his father. “Show me how to use this thing!”
Dad put his arm around Danny’s shoulder, and talked to him about the different features of the device. Danny saw they were now headed south, just like he thought, to get back home. The house finally came into view and there stood his beautiful mother in the doorway, holding a box of what looked to be jewels! On closer examination, Danny found himself face-deep in chocolate chip cookies.
“Susan Coleman was born and raised in Chicago where, in sixth grade, she was taught by an nun from Ireland who was an inspiration. The nun’s merriment over Susan’s written assignments were infectious and has been writing ever since. A story about this nun resides on her website entitled “My Sister Mary Story.” (www.susancolemanwrites.com)
Susan’s education has never been focused on writing, but while studying to be a paralegal, she found research and writing to be her favorite subject. Whatever subject she took, she wanted to write about it.
She studies people, their reactions to events in their lives, how their joy expressed itself and how sadness was often overwhelming. She has taken psychology classes to understand human nature, and tries to recreate these emotions in the stories she writes.”
Susan has three publications to her credit:
(1) A story for the now discontinued magazine Dogwood Tales, called “Gone Visiting.” It was inspired by her father, who had been placed in a nursing home. The story is dedicated to him.
(2) An Amazon’s Kindle ebook: “Allegheny Shade.” (2014)
(3) An Amazon’s Kindle ebook: “Surviving Nathan: A Murder Mystery set in the Dust Bowl.” (2017)
Susan is currently working on her third novel, and short stories”
Photograph by Susan Coleman