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Part 19: The Beast of the Forest
Jimmy's parents find out about his plan to go get Leo... Will they make him call it off?
Welcome back for a new part in The Beast of the Forest. The final is getting close!
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Jimmy stepped inside the house to the very familiar scene of his mum and dad staring him down. He felt the metaphorical net trap fall down from above and ensnare him. Except there wasn’t any anger on their faces. There wasn’t even disappointment. There was something much scarier – concern.
There was no squabbling, no shouting, no “What do you think you’re doing?”. His dad simply gestured silently for him to take a seat.
There was no use putting up a fight. Jimmy sat down at the kitchen table and his mum and dad sat down across from him.
“We just had a talk with one of your friend’s parents,” said Jimmy’s dad, Henry. “I think you can guess what the topic of discussion was.”
Jimmy looked down at his hands on the table like a dog in trouble.
“What’s going on?” his dad said, concern in his voice. “We heard you want to go back into the forest.”
“I’ve never heard anything so foolish in my life,” Jimmy’s mum, Pam, added.
“You guys don’t get it,” said Jimmy. “Leo saved my life. I need to know if he’s ok. I need to help him the way he helped me. You need to let me do what’s right.”
Jimmy looked down again. There was a long pause as each of Jimmy’s parents were deep in thought.
“I’m going to go with you,” said Jimmy’s dad finally.
Jimmy suddenly looked up from his hands on the table.
“And me,” said Jimmy’s mum, as if it were obvious.
Jimmy’s dad took a breath in like he was about to respond, but then he stopped and just smiled at her.
“Wait,” said Jimmy. “What about all my friends?”
“Out of the question,” said Henry.
“We’ll need their help,” said Jimmy.
“One kid is risky enough. I’m your father. I accept risk for you. You’re our responsibility. I understand what this means to you. But I won’t take anyone else with us. I won’t accept the risk for anyone else’s child.”
Jimmy had an idea. He sparked up.
“I know what to do!” he said. “We’ll have a town meeting. Everyone can talk it over. It will be up to them. No one will go with us without their caretakers. They deserve a chance to do good as well.”
The idea stopped Jimmy’s dad in his tracks. He thought it over. It was a good point.
“Ring the bell,” Jimmy’s dad said simply.
A big smile took over Jimmy’s face. Without another word, he bolted out of the house and ran up the street. He raced across the town square and up the hill towards the town bell. At the bell tower, he scrambled up the steps. He grabbed the rope attached to the bell and heaved it down with all his weight. Its song sounded out across the whole town.
Night set in and the town hall filled up with people. Every seat was taken, with folks standing along the sides as well. Community meetings were rare. No one wanted to miss the show. Gossip about why the meeting had been called was being spread around with varying amounts of truth. For once it was the adults in the dark.
Jimmy’s dad, Henry, stepped up to the podium. The crowd went quiet.
“First off, thanks for coming, everyone,” he said. “As all of you will know, my son recently went on a little trip into the forest. An astoundingly foolish little trip…”
Some of the crowd chuckled.
“And while he was gone, many of you in this very room went with me to try and find him,” he went on. “So thank you. I will always be grateful and indebted for that. But I have an announcement.”
There was a long pause.
“We’re going to go back into the forest,” said Henry.
Immediately, the crowd broke out in chatter.
Henry waited for everyone to settle down.
“Let me explain,” he said. “While my son was in the forest, he was taken hostage by bandits who were going after the Beast. There was another hostage with him -- a man named Leo. And that man saved my boy’s life. As a family, we need to repay that debt.”
He had to briefly pause because of all the talking.
He started again. “Since Jimmy got back, I know there have been a lot of rumours about the so-called Beast of the Forest… It turns out the rumours are true. The Beast is real. And there’s more than one of them.”
The crowd was like a classroom of kids flipping out.
“As for why I’m telling you all this…” Henry eventually continued. “I want to send out an open invitation to join us on our mission. It won’t be easy. It will be dangerous. I know that a lot of Jimmy’s friends have already said they want to go, but that will be up to their caretakers.”
There was new stern silence in the air.
“We’re going to step outside now and give you all some time to think,” said Henry.
With that, Jimmy and his parents went out the door behind the stage and waited together outside under the night sky.
They waited quietly for several minutes, until Jimmy’s mum and dad nodded to each other to go back inside.
Jimmy and his parents walked back into the town hall and there was still the low buzz of conversation. A few more last murmurs of chatter fizzled out as Jimmy’s dad stepped up to the stage.
“Who’s in?” he asked simply.
Frank and his dads were the first to stand. Next was Cal and his mum and dad. A few more of Jimmy’s friends and their parents began to stand, as well as others. In the end there were a couple dozen volunteers. There was a mood in the air of nervous excitement.
People were calling out comments and questions at Jimmy’s dad up on stage.
Through the noise there was the question, “When do we leave?”
Jimmy’s dad turned to Jimmy. “Well, when do we leave?” he asked his son.
Jimmy stepped up to centre stage.
He told the crowd, “We leave tomorrow.”
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