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Arl woke up earlier than usual. He washed, brushed his teeth and instead of eating breakfast slowly like he usually did, causing his mother, Briza, to say, “Stop dawdling, Arl!” he gulped it down. Then he put on his clothes with a speed that surprised even him.

“Wow, I’ m a lightingspeedman!” he said.

And usually, Briza would have to say, at least two or three times, “Come on, Arl, you’re going to miss the bus!”

Today was different. It was the third week of June and it had been two weeks since school ended. Arl and his grandpa Toke were going to pay a visit to Mother Nature. They wanted to be away from everyday things, where few other people could be seen and heard. And where was that? Well…a small lake, a dirt road, and a forest nearby. And that was just part of the beautiful scenery. There were also a bunch of soft, round hills that surrounded the lake.

The lake had been created a long time ago from underground spring water, but now it depended only on the rain. One day, the water might pop up again like a big fountain, but it seemed like that would have to be a miracle, because there had been so much dry weather of late. Shaped like a kidney, the lake was really a heart for the people of Krasta, the city where Arl was born and lived. It gave them a place to go to, have fun, have picnics and play games like baseball, softball, and toss horseshoes. From the northeast side of the lake, only two hundred feet away, was a forest of poplar and plane trees. A dirt road, extending three and half miles from the city of Krasta, separated the lake and the forest. This road branched out from the main asphalt road just outside the city. Cypress trees, which looked like antique statues of goddesses with their straight trunks, stood tall and proud on each side of the this dirt road

It was a long time since Arl had been at the lake. He had been busy with school, and also, his dad, Kent, was on a job assignment in another state, where he was on a geology expedition, trying to find some rare fossils. That doubled his mom’s work, making less free time for her, and Grandpa Toke wasn’t getting any younger. Arl’s Grandma Elise, as they told Arl when he was in preschool, had gone to the sky, in a special place, and they were going to meet together again someday. At first, Arl was very angry and couldn’t understand why she had left them, but as time went by, the anger passed and he just missed his grandma a lot. But when he mentioned her, he always looks up toward Heaven and was sure she heard him.

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