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How can something so small contain the promise of something so wonderful? What Readers Are Saying About

The Ruby Float “This captivating tale takes the reader on a voyage full of adventure and critical truths. The Ruby Float is an innovative and refreshing piece of children’s literature that is written in a spirit unmatched since the days of C.S. Lewis.” —Karisa J. Peer, Teacher, Student, Avid Reader “Awesome book! Always made me come back for more!” —Sakai DeHerrera, Young Reader, Book Lover “A refreshing story of adventure and hope that lifts your spirit and fills your soul.” —Dave Cuff, Pastor, Calvary Chapel MidValley, Encino, CA “The Ruby Float is a captivating story about redemption and hope in which the author brilliantly illustrates God’s grace in redeeming us from our fallenness.” —Frederick White, Poet, Novelist, Professor of English “For those who see good Christian literature as an effective evangelism tool, The Ruby Float is a must-read, a must-pass-along!” —Andrew Cuff, Poet, Literature Buff

Dancing Pen Books

The Ruby Float Have you ever searched for hope in a hopeless situation? Where do you begin looking? How can you distinguish between what is true and what is false? Nate and Samantha suddenly find themselves in a world without hope. Someone they dearly love is gravely ill and another is terribly depressed. Though they desperately want to help, there seems to be nothing they can do. Then, one day, they find a strange object floating in the sea. It is a small, hollow, glass ball the color of a beautiful red ruby. So deep is its redness that it appears black, like a highly polished black stone. But when Nate and Samantha hold it up to the light, not only does it reveal its breathtakingly beautiful ruby-red color, but something that will turn their whole world upside down. Come along with our two adventurers as they set their sails for the incredible world of The Ruby Float.

The Ruby Float: A Tale Of Hope Copyright Š 2011 by Rick Nau Published by Dancing Pen Books

Cover by Bettina Meyburg Nau

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the author, except as provided by USA copyright law.

First Kindle Edition: October 2011

The Ruby Float A Tale Of Hope

by Rick Nau Illustrations by Sukwan Myers

Dedication For Bettina, The Love Of My Life


“Hello to you, dear reader. My name’s Daph. That’s my brother, Josh, sitting next to me. Together we make up the welcoming committee for The Ruby Float. As some of you may already know, The Ruby Float is a story that our great grandfather first told when all books were made of paper. Now, as you can see, everything has changed. I’ll let Josh tell you about that.” “Hi, I’m Josh. If you’re listening to my voice as you’re reading this, it is most definitely not me. This will not change the story, however, which is all about Nate and Samantha and their grandparents, who are Hank and Harriet. My sister and I like this story very much, so much so that when our great grandfather first told it, we interrupted him constantly, so often that the publisher of the paper edition of the story took out almost everything that we had to say. As the story wasn’t about us, we didn’t think much about it, but when our great grandfather saw it, he was quite upset. ‘You must put them back in right now,’ he said, ‘or that’s it.’ It is a crazy story, as you can see, especially the explanation for why they did it, which I’ll leave to Daph.” “Yes, it was a crazy explanation. For one thing, they said that people would mix us up with Nate and Sam, which is absolutely ridiculous. Second, they said there would be too many quotation marks. People would see them and say to themselves, ‘Yuck, way too many quotation marks,’ and not read the story. But or great grandfather stood

firm. ‘You shall not only add back the quotation marks, you shall add back what is between the quotation marks, which happens to be my favorite great grandchildren, Daph and Josh.’ And so here we are, not only between the quotation marks, but in front of the whole book, welcoming you to one of the most wonderful stories you will every read. Well, that’s it for me. How about you, Josh?” “That’s it for me, too, except to say, please accept our most cordial invitation to the wonderful world of The Ruby Float. All you’ve got to do to enter is turn the page.” Thanks so much,

Daph & Josh

Our Invitation To You

A boy and girl went to the sea In deep and dark despair, When something dancing on the waves Sent sparkles through the air. They plucked it from the water’s edge, A sphere of deepest red, And found within amazing words That chased away their dread. So come with them as they do raft Across the bounding main, In search of One who promises To heal them of their pain.

The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned. Matthew 4:16

Chapter One

An Outing On The Lake

Our story begins on a Sunday. It is a gorgeous spring afternoon on a small, Texas lake with tree-lined shores and dark, glistening waters. Jesse is at the oars of a bright red rowboat. His two great grandchildren are riding in the stern with their feet dangling in the cool waters. Fishing poles, tackle boxes, life vests and a large picnic basket indicate the nature of their expedition, one that takes place every Sunday afternoon at this time. These seemingly routine outings allow the children’s parents to be alone together for a few hours of dearly needed peace and quiet. At this moment the boat is but a short distance from Shady Point, so named by Jesse and his great grandchildren. Here a great willow tree leans over the lake, casting its shade upon the water and offering protection from the burning rays of the sun. It is here that Jesse and his great grandchildren picnic and fish. But most of all, it is here that Jesse tells them his many tales. “I am not sure where to start this story,” Jesse said as the boat entered the shade of the great willow. “I mix things up at times, you know. Not the facts, mind you, but the order in which the facts occur. Don’t

The Ruby Float ask me to tell a tale straight out in the order it happens.” “Please, oh please, Grandpa,” Daph said. “Do get on with it. You say this every time about your stories and every time they turn out just fine.” Daph is Jesse’s great granddaughter, a spunky young girl with blue eyes and an ever-present smile that belies her love of pushing an argument to the limit. Though her reply to Jesse’s disclaimer regarding his tales is correct, it is true that he worries about such things. He is getting up there in years, as some say, evidenced by his grey hair, distorted hearing and eyesight so poor that it fills bare trees with leaves and leaves evergreens with no leaves at all. Nevertheless, his imagination is young and vibrant. You should be cautioned, however, that his tales, as does this one, often take place in earlier times, so do not be surprised if a tall sailing ship or men on horseback suddenly come into view. “I will be talking about far-off places and of things uncomfortable to the comfortable,” he said, bringing the boat to a stop with the oars. “You always say that,” said Josh. Josh is the older of the two siblings. He has short brown hair, dark eyes and is a bit stout for his age. Like his great grandfather, he has an adventurous spirit. He loves to fish, not for the sake of catching the mostly tiny bluegills that thrive in this lake, but because he loves being on boats and dreams of one day sailing across the open sea. As does his sister, he also likes to argue. He can become belligerent when he feels offended, a trait of character which Daph’s argumentative and sometimes self-righteous attitude is capable of bringing to the fore. “Don’t interrupt,” instructed Daph. “It’s not polite, as you should know.” “Let’s not start that,” said Jesse, wanting to head off the first quarrel of the day. “I can’t tell a story with you two going at each other. Besides, you’ll scare off the fish.”

Rick Nau Jesse waited as the two children baited their hooks with worms and dropped their lines over the side of the boat. He had taught them how to fish in the old-fashioned, sentimental way, with bamboo poles and brightly colored bobbers that dance up and down in the water whenever a bluegill is on the line. A good day’s fishing would bring in twenty or thirty of these tasty little fish, so we shall not interrupt Jesse’s story to provide details on these catches, which Daph and Josh find to be very exciting. “I’m ready for the story,” said Daph, now that her line was set. “Me, too,” said Josh. Jesse rested his back against the large, wicker picnic basket and formulated his thoughts. The children quietly waited. Bright green dragonflies circled the boat and near the shore the water gliders sent small, dancing ripples through the beautiful waters of the lake. “There was once a young boy and girl,” he began. “If I remember correctly, the girl’s name was—” Jesse pretended to be searching for her name. It was a game especially concocted for Daph, who never tired of it, though Josh considered himself too old for such nonsense. “Could it have been Alice?” asked Daph. “No. It wasn’t Alice.” “Chloe,” chimed in Josh. He knew this could not be her name. It did not sound like a name in one of Jesse’s tales, which is why he had suggested it. “No. It wasn’t Chloe.” “Susan,” said Daph, exhaling the word into Jesse’s face with such force that it ruffled the gray hair on his head. This did not faze Jesse in the least. He was quite accustomed to the constant battering that children give to adults. “No. It wasn’t Susan,” he answered. “Susan is close, though. It was

The Ruby Float Samantha, actually, now that I remember. And the boy’s name was Nathaniel, though he liked to be called Nate. “Like you, Nate and Samantha were brother and sister. Nate was Samantha’s older brother. Or, if you’d prefer to have it the other way around, Samantha was Nate’s younger sister. Samantha usually went by Sam, whereas Nathaniel, as I’ve said before, liked to be called Nate. “These two energetic siblings lived in a beautiful town by the sea that was like ours in many ways. Its people ate the same kind of food that we eat, celebrated birthdays and weddings and holidays, just as we do, and wore the same sort of clothes, though their winter wardrobes were sparser than ours due to the exceptionally mild climate in that region of the world. There were no automobiles, however, though there were plenty of bicycles, which allowed everyone to get around quite nicely. “Whenever Nate and Sam biked down the town’s main street they’d see Crazy Al’s pet store on the left and smell chocolate coming from Aunt Wanda’s House of Fudge, which was right next to it. Across the street they’d see the library, which was constructed of beautiful finished pine. Their grandfather built and designed this gorgeous structure. His name is Hank. We’ll meet him a bit later in our story. “A little farther down the street they’d pass their school. A white picket fence was at the front, as well as a flagpole and a small rose garden. Then came the fire station, the police station, city hall and a dance hall. Eventually they’d arrive at a small harbor overflowing with sailing vessels of every size and shape. From there they’d take a right and head up the last side street that paralleled the coast until they reached the prettiest home on the block. You wouldn’t need a degree in architecture to recognize that their grandfather also designed and built this beautiful structure. “So far, it looks like Nate and Samantha live in an idyllic seaside town that has everything, save for a lot of cars and modern sailing vessels. But if we probe a little deeper, beneath the surface of this seemingly peaceful community, into the hearts and minds of its people, we’ll find waters that are dark and disturbed. We’ll find something miss-

Rick Nau ing, something that no town or person can exist without.” “What is that?” asked Josh, suddenly becoming much more interested. Jesse leaned forward and withdrew the picnic basket that his back had been propped against. “How about a bite to eat?” he said with a twinkle in his eye. “Then you’ll tell us what is missing?” asked Daph.

Chapter Two

Dreams Of A Raft

Josh and Daph spread a blue picnic blanket across the center plank of the rowboat and carefully set out a wealth of the most fantastic edibles you will ever see—potato salad with pink potatoes and sweet pickles, chocolate brownies loaded with black walnuts, freshly squeezed lemonade brimming with ice, marinated chicken roasted to golden perfection, oven hot bread, and gigantic, homemade garlic dill pickles. Who had prepared this luscious, mouth-watering spread? None other than Grace, the beautiful woman to whom Jesse has now been married for nearly sixty-five years. “Here’s a big drumstick,” said Josh, handing it to Jesse. “Not so fast,” said Jesse. “Aren’t we forgetting something?” Daph was already digging her way through the pink potato salad. Josh had a large hunk of chicken jammed into his mouth. Daph immediately put down her food and looked sheepishly at Jesse. It was too late for Josh, however, who uttered a series of indistinct, short phrases punctuated by intervals of chewing, which sounded like “already . . . silently . . . to myself . . . you go ahead.”

Rick Nau Daph followed with a prayer containing so many sweet references to her great grandfather that a red flush came to the skin beneath the grey stubble covering his cheeks. “Good,” said Jesse. “I think we’re ready to continue our story.” “Oh yes,” said Daph. “We want to know what’s missing.” Jesse turned his gaze toward the opposite shore. Though the bright, mirrored waters of this small lake reflected a clear blue sky, Jesse’s failing vision perceived the low, scudding clouds of a quickly advancing storm. “Over there,” he said, stretching out his hand toward the west, “far beyond the other side of the lake, far beyond the westernmost shore of our land, on the other side of an ocean or two, is the beach where Nate and Samantha used to have their Sunday picnics. Just as you do, they spent them with their grandfather, the same Hank who built their home. They enjoyed delicious food, glorious picnic lunches prepared with the utmost love and affection by Harriet, Hank’s beautiful wife. Though Harriet and Hank had not yet been blessed with an event that would allow them to add the word great before grandmother or grandfather, in the eyes of Nate and Samantha they were the greatest grandparents on earth. “During these seaside picnics Nate and Samantha spent many hours combing the sand for exotic treasures. They found sharks’ teeth and cuttlebones and fishermen’s nets and countless pieces of oddlyshaped driftwood. They found brightly colored cowry shells and sea urchin skeletons and spiny starfish and the jawbone of a whale. “Samantha was mainly attracted to seashells, of which she had a fantastic collection in all shapes and colors and sizes. Nate, on the other hand, was on the lookout for the beautiful glass spheres that fishermen in some countries use to keep their nets floating in the water. These hollow glass orbs of blue and purple and green most often washed ashore in the stormy months of what they called the wet season. “Hank took great delight in watching his grandchildren search for

The Ruby Float these treasures, laughing to himself as they’d scamper across the sand and leap for joy with each new find. For hours he’d bask like a lion in the warm sun, inhaling the fragrance of the sea as he listened to the roar of the waves and the sweet sound of his grandchildren’s voices. “Toward noon, just about the time the sun was reaching its zenith, Hank would open the big yellow beach umbrella, lay down a blanket and spread Harriet’s feast upon it. A moment later the two hungry treasure seekers would arrive, eager for lunch and a story, especially one of Hank’s stories about the raft.” “What raft?” asked Josh, growing more excited. “Let me revise my statement,” said Jesse. “They weren’t exactly stories, they were musings, like daydreams. Hank often spoke about building a raft for the three of them and of sailing it across the ocean. He’d go into considerable detail in describing his plans for the expedition. They’d build the raft of logs hewn from special trees that grew in the forest high in the hills above them. They’d lash these logs together with rope to form a deck and hull and build a cabin atop it containing all the comforts of home. They’d fully stock the larder with goodies prepared by Harriet and bring charcoal, too, and catch delicious fish and shrimp and squid and roast them over an open fire as the wind whistled past their ears. The raft would have a beautiful sail that Samantha and Nate would decorate with bright colors. They’d construct a rudder with which to steer the vessel and bring along a sextant and star charts and maps of the currents of the world. They’d sail to distant lands and savor exotic foods and learn of new customs and bask in the warm rays of the sun. “Although Hank had never built and sailed an oceangoing raft, he spoke with such conviction and authority on the subject that the children were firmly convinced such a trip was possible. In fact, they so trusted their grandfather that they believed there was nothing in heaven or on earth he couldn’t do. If he’d talked of building a rocket ship and flying it to the moon, they’d have begged to come along. “It’s true that Hank believed you could do almost anything if you set your mind to it. He gave the children no reason to doubt that they

Rick Nau could build a raft together that would take them around the world. What our adventurers did not realize, however, was that he omitted a few important details whenever he spoke about the raft, such as the dangers of traveling across the sea on an untested, self-constructed vessel. He failed to mention these hazards for the sake of those he loved. He was not the sort of person who delights in filling you with hopes and dreams only to dash them to pieces once you begin to believe in them. “‘When are we going to build the raft?’ Nate would ask repeatedly. “‘Soon,’ Hank would answer. ‘When you’re both a little older. You’ll need your parents’ permission, of course.’ “‘How old?’ asked Nate. “‘I’ll let you know when you’re ready,’ he said. ‘You’ll have to trust that Grandpa will know when his crew is old enough to set sail.’ “If the children trusted anyone, they trusted Hank, right down to the twinkle in his eye. He gave them hope and joy and urged them to seek after wisdom, telling them of the importance of obeying their parents and of telling the truth and of doing well in school, prerequisites for the crew members of a worthy and noble craft. “Then, one day, something didn’t happen.” “Didn’t happen?” asked Josh. “That’s right,” replied Jesse. “And what didn’t happen led to something that did.” “What was that?” asked Daph. Jesse fell silent. A light breeze had come up, rustling the graceful leaves of the willow. The fishing lines bowed slightly and the bobbers danced up and down as the bluegills below stole their afternoon lunch from the ends of Josh and Daph’s hooks.

Chapter Three

Why Hank Didn’t Come To Breakfast

“It didn’t happen on a Sunday morning. Oh, what a glorious Sunday morning it was. The sun was shining, casting its warm, bright rays through the bedroom windows of the children. The birds were singing and a gentle breeze was rustling the curtains of the open windows. Coffee was brewing and eggs were scrambling and bacon was popping in the frying pan. Freshly squeezed orange juice was filling glasses and milk was flowing and clocks were chiming, telling Samantha and Nate that Hank would soon arrive to have an enormous breakfast with the entire family, after which he would lead them off to the beach for another expedition. “The children crawled out of their sleepy beds, pulled on their beachcombing clothes, scrubbed their faces, washed their hands and hurried into the kitchen. Never had they missed a Sunday with Hank, so when the food was set upon the table and their parents were seated they immediately knew that something was terribly wrong.” “What was that?” asked Daph. “Hank was not there,” answered Jesse.

Rick Nau “Not there?” asked Josh. “That’s right. Nor was a place set for him at the kitchen table. Furthermore, when Samantha and Nate looked out the kitchen window, they saw the small path to their house filled with chirping birds and glorious sunbeams and insects buzzing to and fro, but they found no sign of Hank. Even more alarming were the strange, fearful expressions they saw written on their parents’ faces. “They waited in silence for several minutes—though Nate was certain it was several hours—not touching their food, not even sipping their milk, for a Sunday morning without Hank was impossible to imagine. Then Nate bolted through the screen door. Samantha followed, making it through before the spring could slam it shut. You can be sure that their parents called after them, setting their eardrums into mighty vibrations, but their minds were so full of worry and confusion that calling after them was like hollering during a thunderclap. “Samantha and Nate had never run so fast. It was a good country mile to their grandparents’ home and if you’d timed our speedsters with your watches, you’d have found that they covered the distance in under seven minutes, which is incredibly fast, even for long-legged adults. “They found Hank sitting alone on a swing on the front porch of the small white cottage that he and Harriet called home. Morning glories shaded the old-fashioned porch, which had a wooden deck and a white railing around it. The swing was big enough for three and looked out toward the distant sea. Though Hank’s face was hidden in the shadows, the darkness did not conceal the fact that this most cheerful and most enthusiastic of all grandfathers looked greatly troubled. “As girls are sometimes better than boys at understanding what cannot be put into words, Samantha was the first to recognize Hank’s condition. “‘Grandpa,’ she said, jumping onto the swing beside him. ‘What’s wrong?’

The Ruby Float “‘Nothing’s wrong with him,’ said Nate. ‘He’s just tired of going to the beach with us. You can see that.’ “‘No, he’s not. Tell him it isn’t true, Grandpa. It isn’t true, is it?’ she asked in a pleading voice. “Hank did his best to pull himself together. ‘No,’ he said, embracing his grandchildren. ‘It isn’t true.’ “‘You still love us, don’t you, Grandpa? We love you,’ declared Samantha. “‘Of course,’ said Hank. ‘I’ll always love you.’ “‘Then why didn’t you come this morning?’ asked Nate. “Hank struggled to find the right words. He did not know how to be unhappy around children and believed it his duty as a grandfather to be joyful and exuberant. Children were allowed to be sad, but only until they could be cheered up, for Hank believed that they should be spared troubles and grief. He’d had his own share of troubles and grief as a young boy, the worst of which was having his heart broken, and he wasn’t going to let the same thing happen to Sam or Nate.” “Where did he get that idea?” interrupted Josh. “From his own life,” said Jesse. “As a young boy Hank was always having his heart broken. He decided he wasn’t going to let the same thing happen to Samantha and Nate, not if he could help it.” “What happened to him?” asked Daph. “Well,” said Jesse, “it seems that when he was growing up no one showed him any love. Like an orphan, he had to fend for himself. He never had the things that you or I had as children. There were no toys, no trips to the beach, no incredible lunches packed by his grandmother. There was just one thing—work.” “Work?” asked Josh. “Work,” said Jesse. “From the time he was a little tyke, Hank had to work. He worked in the fields, hoeing and weeding row after endless

Rick Nau row of crops. He worked in a factory making mile after mile of baling wire. He worked on a street corner selling newspaper after newspaper. He worked hard at every kind of tough job you can imagine, hoping that if he was a good boy who worked hard to help support his family, he could earn the love of his mother and father. It didn’t seem, however, that he could ever do enough.” “Didn’t they love him?” asked Daph. “Oh, they loved him. But they thought it wise to keep their love for Hank hidden away, deep in the recesses of their hearts, for fear of spoiling him. What was missing for Hank was something sweet to balance the toils of life. ” “That’s terrible,” said Daph. “Not so terrible as you would think,” replied Jesse, “for when that sweetness finally came into his life, he knew exactly what he had and resolved never to let it go.” “What was that?” asked Daph with an especially keen interest. “Harriet,” answered Jesse. “But she must be very old,” interjected Josh. Jesse leaned forward in the boat and looked with his kind eyes into the faces of his grandchildren. “Yes, she was old,” he said, “as old as Hank was and as I and your great grandmother once were and as both of you will one day be, God willing. Nevertheless, she was very sweet, as sweet as she was on the day Hank first met her. She was also extremely beautiful in those days, and if the truth be told, when Hank first saw her in that beautiful, white flowing dress on that warm summer day which he shall never forget, she took his breath completely away. She was so beautiful and so wonderful that Hank could scarcely believe that the world could contain such a woman, let alone that such a treasure as she could care for him. Yet she did; and at first sight. After a few short weeks, against the advice of his parents and her parents and the mayor and the fire chief and the other grown men and women of the community that two weeks was

The Ruby Float far too short a time, they were married. “Well, Harriet and Hank proved everyone wrong. On the day Hank did not come to breakfast they had been married for more than fiftytwo years. Not only this, they were so much in love that you could not find in their town, or in any other town or city of the world, two people who loved each other more than they.” “Wow!” said Daph. “That’s a lot.” “Yes it is,” said Jesse. “So when Hank received the news, he became so sick at heart that he could not hide it from Samantha and Nate.” “What news?” asked Josh. “Don’t be stupid,” said Daph. Can’t you tell that something’s happened to Harriet? That’s why Hank’s so depressed.” “You’re the stupid one!” shouted Josh in return. “I know very well that something’s happened to Harriet. I just wanted to know what, that’s all.” Jesse paused a moment, sensing that his justifiably angry grandson was doing his best to control his temper. “As you two have correctly concluded,” he continued, “something had happened to Harriet.”

Chapter Four

A Time Of Sadness

“The situation was grave. Harriet’s heart was failing. The doctor told Hank that he didn’t know how much time Harriet had left, only that it wouldn’t be too long. “Hank was devastated. He had known that this day would someday come, but had always driven the thought from his mind. Instead, he had replaced it with a dream, the dream that his days with Harriet would be as countless as the stars. Now he could see that his dream was only an illusion. Harriet would soon be gone. Once again, just as it had been when he was a young boy, he would be alone. “No!” said Daph at a loss for words. “I’m afraid it’s true,” replied Jesse. “It was a terrible blow to Hank and Harriet. Neither of them could imagine life without the other. As for Nate and Samantha, their entire world had been turned upside down. Never before had they seen their grandmother so deathly ill or their grandfather in such a confused and depressed state of mind. Until now, they had not realized that the joy and exuberance of their grandparents grew out of their tremendous love for each other. Though they were too young to comprehend this incredible

The Ruby Float love, they had no trouble understanding the sadness that was overwhelming the lives of their two, dear friends.” “There must be something they can do,” said Josh. “That was Nate’s first thought,” said Jesse. He simply refused to believe that the situation was hopeless. Eleven years of regular exposure to his grandfather’s boundless love, exuberance, imagination, and encouragement had taught him never to give up hope. There had to be a way to change the terrible situation, some action that could be taken to restore joy and happiness to their grandparents’ lives. “Such things are more easily imagined than done, however. Nate had never tried to make an unhappy person happy and didn’t have the faintest idea about where to begin. He first attempted a few of the things which many people try in similar situations. For instance, he worked at convincing Hank that Harriet would get better. He thought that by repeatedly insisting that Hank not lose hope in Harriet’s recovery, the problem would be solved, as if by sheer force of the human will a person could be cured. “For a while the strategy seemed to work. The real truth, however, was that Hank, not wanting Nate and Samantha to be sad, pretended to be hopeful. Though this trick may have fooled Nate, it did not fool Samantha, who insisted that the happier Hank appeared to be, the sadder he was, and that the worst thing Nate could do was to try to give Hank hope when there was none.” “Did Samantha think it was hopeless?” asked Daph. “She didn’t,” replied Jesse. “She only meant that it was wrong to give false hope. Either way, it seemed she was suggesting that her brother was making a mistake, something that usually precipitated a violent reaction from him. This time, however, he did not grow angry, but began to dwell on his sister’s words, so much so that he, like Hank, sank into a deep depression.” “How so?” asked Josh.

Rick Nau “He couldn’t sleep,” said Jesse. “Very late, in the dead of night, he began to slip out of the house to be alone with his troubled thoughts. He would walk through the darkness to the beach and sit in the moonlight under the stars and watch the waves as they crashed endlessly onto the shore. He felt terribly lonely, the way that Hank had felt as a child, and yearned desperately for a love that could take the loneliness away.” “Didn’t his parents love him?” asked Josh. “And Hank, too?” added Daph. “Oh yes,” said Jesse. “Nate was loved very much, just as you are. Yet he was longing for a love much greater than this, a love that he could not express with words, a love that would bring joy and happiness to his grandparents and to everyone else he loved, a joy and happiness far beyond anything he could ever hope for, one that would last forever.” “He felt all that?” exclaimed Daph. “Of course he did!” Josh said excitedly. “I didn’t ask you,” Daph said sharply. “I asked Grandpa.” “Well,” said Jesse, taking his usual long pause after uttering this oftrepeated introductory word, “it was only later in his life that Nate was able to translate this longing into the words we have just heard.” “Like from another language?” suggested Josh. “Precisely,” said Jesse. “Right now, he could only think in the language of his heart, not of his mind, for he was, after all, just a young boy. He had not had the practice with words that we adults have, which might have been a good thing, because if Nate had found the words he might have asked questions of the wrong people and gotten the wrong answers. Instead, he kept journeying down to that beach where he looked at the vastness of the dark heavens and stared into the moonlit surface of the wide sea and yearned for the fulfillment of the unspoken desires of his heart.”

The Ruby Float + “It was not until Nate had made thirty lonesome, nocturnal trips that Samantha discovered him slipping out the window. As many sisters would, she resolved at once to run to her parents and reveal to them the strange event which she had witnessed. But at the moment her fingers touched the knob of their bedroom door, curiosity got the best of her. She turned and slipped out of Nate’s bedroom window herself. “As she tiptoed down the dark path she could see Nate in the distance. He was clearly discernable in the moonlight and easy to follow since he was walking so slowly. No other soul was about, not even a prowling cat. “When she reached the spot where the path wound through a patch of woods, it became spooky, the darkness so complete that she could see nothing. Nevertheless, though she was barefoot and cold, though her mind was filled with visions of hideous monsters leaping out at her from the inky void, she kept going, for if there was one thing she had which was more powerful than fear and curiosity combined, it was courage.” “Wow!” said Daph. “That’s a lot of courage.” “Yes it is,” replied Jesse. “And it must be said that if Samantha had given up at this point, our story would have turned out differently. But follow him she did. And when she reached the other end of the woods she was shivering with cold and fear and had stubbed her right big toe on a fallen log and was wondering through her pain why her brother was sitting on the beach, staring off into the blackness. “‘Nathaniel!’ she hollered, approaching him from behind. ‘Whatever are you doing here?’ “Samantha’s voice, coming out of the quiet, scared Nate half to death. “‘Sam,’ he exclaimed, ‘what are you doing following me?’ “‘To find out where you are going,’ she answered smartly. ‘Why else

Rick Nau would I follow you?’ “‘Well, go home,’ he said. ‘I want to be alone.’ “As you would expect, Samantha had no intention of going back, certainly not alone through the pitch black woods and certainly not if commanded to do so by a brother. Instead, she dropped down on the sand beside him. “‘Nope,’ she said. ‘I’m not going anywhere till you tell.’ “‘I told you I want to be alone,’ he said. He stood up, walked a dozen paces and plopped back down on the sand; whereupon Samantha stood up, traced the same dozen paces, stretching out her legs to fit her feet into her brother’s footprints, and plopped down beside him. Nate stood up again, trudged another dozen paces, and sat down again; whereupon Samantha jumped up, followed Nate’s trail in the sand, and sat down beside him. This cycle was repeated six times, causing Nate to cry out in exasperation, ‘Don’t make me crazy!’ “Ordinarily, Samantha would have replied to this with a smart remark, but as Nate was now allowing her to sit beside him, she elected to keep quiet and exult in the triumph of her persistence. As she did she took note of how beautiful the sea and the sky and the sand looked at night. Everything was scintillating in the moonlight. The waves were glistening and the little grains of sand were sparkling and the stars were twinkling in the heavens. “‘It’s so glorious,’ she said, more to herself than to Nate. She did not notice that his cheeks were also glistening, something which cheeks don’t ordinarily do except when moistened by perspiration or raindrops or teardrops. Instead she saw something small and round dancing on the waves, something which now and then reflected a flash of moonlight to her curious eyes. “‘Look there,’ she said. ‘In the water.’ “Nate saw it too, a small, sparkling object that disappeared and reappeared each time it was overtaken by a wave. It was not far from shore, whatever it was.

The Ruby Float “When it reached the first line of breakers, it disappeared into a white cloud of churning foam. Samantha sprang up and ran to the water’s edge. In a moment she spotted the object again. “‘It’s a fisherman’s float,’ she hollered back to Nate. “Nate did not respond. In his dark state of mind, he’d lost his interest in such silly things. In fact, everything seemed meaningless. He’d once liked school, but now his grades were falling off a cliff. He’d once liked to read books about great adventures, like the exciting stories told by his grandfather, but now such things bored him. He’d once loved to eat mashed potatoes and gravy, but now everything was bland. He’d once loved to swim in the ocean and to dive deep beneath the water to see what was hiding under the rocks, but now he could care less. He’d once dreamed of faroff places and of places in the past and of places in the future, but now the dreams were gone. Everything was now and now and now. “As Samantha walked back from the water’s edge with the small glass ball clutched in her hands she was not aware of how her brother had changed. She was only aware that his eyes were sparkling in the moonlight. It took her a moment to realize the cause of this. He was crying. “Samantha had never witnessed such a scene before, her older brother crying without being punished. The effect upon her was immediate and spectacular. Her heart, which could be steely at times, melted in the twinkling of an eye. Dropping to her knees, she threw her arms around Nate. She said nothing, for the sadness she felt was overwhelming. A month had passed since they had been hit with the depressing news about their grandmother. Now, at last, they were comforting each other as they cried over the hopeless plight of the two friends whom they loved with all their heart and soul.” + Jesse made a noise which sounded to Daph and Josh like a sigh. It also looked to them as though his cheeks were glistening in the brilliant light of the afternoon sun.

Rick Nau “Are you all right?” asked Josh. “Fine,” said Jesse. “Though I could use a nice stretch. Perhaps you wouldn’t mind if we moved our picnic onto the shore for a while.”

Chapter Five

The Silhouette

Jesse awoke to the impish stares of his grandchildren. He had taken a short nap under the great willow tree, usual for a Sunday afternoon, and was feeling wonderfully fresh and alive. “You told the rest of the story in your sleep,” said Daph. She and Josh immediately broke into laughter. “I did?” asked Jesse. “Yes,” said Daph, trying her best to keep a straight face. “Good,” said Jesse. “Then I can go back to sleep.” He lay back down, closed his eyes and pretended to be slumbering peacefully. Though Daph and Josh had played this game a thousand times, they never tired of it. After thirty seconds, a seeming eternity to our two listeners, Daph poked Jesse in the stomach, which was of a fairly generous size due to Grace’s good cooking. “What happens next?” she asked. Jesse sat up and rested his back against the trunk of the willow. “You

Rick Nau want me to go on?” “Of course we do,” said Josh. “You can’t just leave them stranded there.” “Who stranded where?” he asked, pretending to have forgotten the story. “Nate and Samantha,” said Daph, again poking Jesse in the stomach. “On the beach. They were hugging each other.” Jesse rubbed his eyes and scratched his gray head in several different areas. “Yes,” he said, “it is coming back to me now. In fact, while we were resting they left the beach and walked back home together.” “While you were sleeping?” asked Daph. “Yes,” he answered. “They certainly did. And if the truth be told, well, they felt very close to each other that night, closer than they had ever felt before.” + “The following day was a Sunday, much like the Sundays on which Hank would come to breakfast. The morning sun was shining through Samantha’s bedroom window, casting its glorious light upon the small fisherman’s float she had placed in the center of her dresser. Though she had never had the same interest in these floats as Nate, she found this one to be especially attractive. It was much smaller than the floats in Nate’s collection, no larger than a hen’s egg. It’s color was also unusual. While Nate’s floats were various shades of purple and green, this one was deep red, the color of a beautiful ruby. So deep was its redness that it appeared black to Samantha when she’d plucked it from the sea. Even now, when viewed from the distance between her bed and dresser, it looked like a highly polished black stone.” “Like those in Grandma’s necklace?” asked Daph. “Why yes,” said Jesse, “It’s the cross decorated with stones called gar-

The Ruby Float nets. If the light is low, the garnets will appear black; but if the light is very bright and strikes the garnets at just the right angle, the jewels will suddenly change to a beautiful shade of the deepest red. “Samantha observed this same phenomenon when she took the float from her dresser and began to play with it. The hollow, glass orb felt almost weightless in her small hand, not much heavier than the empty shell of a hen’s egg, the slight increase in weight being due to the thickness of the glass. To her eye, it was perfectly smooth and spherical, not bumpy and irregular like Nate’s floats. And when she held it up to the bright rays of the sun to behold its breathtakingly beautiful ruby-red color, she got a tremendous shock. “‘Oh my!’ she said to herself. ‘What is this?’ “Samantha had never been so excited in her entire life. She bolted straight into Nate’s bedroom, making such a racket that she scared him half to death. “‘Nate! Nate!’ she yelled, tugging on his bed cover. ‘Wake up! Wake up! Something’s in the float.’ “Nate, who had been soundly sleeping, awoke to the sight of the float hovering over his nose. It looked to him like a smooth, round, black egg. “‘Come outside,’ she said, pulling him by the arm. ‘You can’t see anything in here.’ “The garden was extremely bright, especially for Nate, whose sleepy eyes had not yet adjusted to the sunlight. “‘I don’t see a thing,’ he complained, staring blankly at the float. “‘You’ve got to hold it up to the light,’ instructed Samantha. “Sure enough, when Nate held the orb between his eyes and the sun, he saw a dark, squarish silhouette inside. “‘You’re right,’ he said. Cupping the orb in the palm of his hand, he let the light fall on the float from above. An object came faintly into view. ‘It looks like a piece of paper.’

Rick Nau “‘Let me see,’ demanded Samantha, most proud of herself for having made such an exciting find. “‘Wait,’ snapped Nate, still gazing into the float. ‘I see writing.’ “Moving the orb about in the sunlight he tried to discern the words. “‘I can’t make them out,’ he continued. ‘We’ll have to break the float.’ “Samantha immediately snatched the orb from his hand. “‘Don’t you dare,’ she warned. ‘It’s too beautiful to break. Besides, it’s mine.’ “‘But it might be something important,’ said Nate. ‘A message or something.’ “‘I don’t care,’ said Samantha. ‘I found it and you didn’t want it, so it’s mine.’ “Under normal circumstances Nate would have launched into a convincing argument on exactly why it was urgent that the float be cracked open immediately. He had read many adventure stories in which important messages were conveyed on notes sealed in glass bottles. The messages were usually desperate pleas for help and the bottles the only possible means of communicating with the outside world. In this case, however, it was the recipient who was in distress and he was in no mood to engage in arguments. It is not surprising, therefore, that Nate gave up without a fight, leaving Samantha to stew in the heat of the garden. “‘Have it your way,’ he said, turning and departing. ‘I don’t care about anything.’ “The sun was warm and radiant upon the flowers and all about was the buzzing of the bees. But Samantha did not hear the buzzing or even see the flowers. Instead, she was examining her own heart, which, for a moment, she was likening unto one of Nate’s fishing floats—big, but empty. It was an image she did not like. Wanting to change it immediately, she rushed into Nate’s room where she found him in bed on his back staring vacantly at the ceiling.

The Ruby Float “‘Let’s break it open,’ she said, out of breath with excitement.

“Nate did not move a muscle. He was like a dead man. “‘Nate?’ asked Samantha, speaking in an imploring tone that would break even the hardest of hearts. “Though Nate did not answer, it was obvious to Samantha that he was alive. His eyes moved ever so slightly, as did his chest when he breathed.

Rick Nau “‘Please don’t be angry with me,’ she begged. ‘I’m ever so sorry. It’s just that the red float is so beautiful and I have never had such a beautiful thing before. But I do want to break it open to see what’s inside. I really do.’ “A quiver went through Nate’s lips, so slight that Samantha thought she was imagining it. She decided that only a drastic action would convince her immobile brother of the sincerity of her words. Lifting the float high above her head, she hurled it to the floor to be shattered into a million pieces, whereupon Nate sprang out of bed and caught the plunging orb in mid-air. “‘I’ve got an idea,’ he said. “Now, if there was a gift that Nate possessed to an unusual degree, it was ingenuity, not born of genius, but of tenacity, for he was not a boy who gave up easily when confronted with a problem. He was determined to find a way to read the note without destroying the orb. “‘It’s all right,’ said Samantha. ‘It really is. Someone could be in great trouble and in need of being saved. We don’t have the time to try other things.’ “‘Maybe you’re right,’ answered Nate. ‘But I don’t happen to think this is that kind of message.’ “‘Why?’ asked Samantha. “‘Because whoever made this float obviously took a lot of time and care in doing it. They needed a furnace and glass blowing equipment and pigments and a lot of other tools and materials. If they were in distress, they’d just stuff a note in a bottle and drop it into the water.’ “‘Then what kind of message could it be?’ asked Samantha. “‘Something important,’ replied Nate, ever so solemnly. ‘Something very important.’ “‘Oh!’ exclaimed Samantha, beside herself with excitement. ‘Let’s do break it open. I can’t wait to find out what it says.’”

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