The school bus stopped half a block from Bentlay's house. Billy and Jannie Bentlay ran home. It was the last day of school before the spring-break. Both were curious to know if their parents have planned to take them out the next morning.
Frank and Helen Bentlay were working outside the garage. He was cleaning the engine of the motor-boat, and she was dusting it. "Are we .... going .... fishing, Dad?" Billy asked pantingly. "I want to go camping" Jannie said hastily.
Frank was concentrating on cleaning, he did not answer and continued to whistle. "Last time you wanted to go to the zoo, and I had to go there" Billy said. "You had fun there, Didn't you?" She replied abruptly, "I don't like fishing, you have to sit for a long time".
"It is not fishing that you don't like, but you are afraid of the water". Billy said calmly. "No, I am not afraid of the water". Snapped Jannie. "Yes, Yes you are, that is why you don't want to learn swimming". Said Billy. " I will learn swimming, when I get to be your age", Jannie yelled.
"Stop yelling Jannie". Helen said firmly. She was aware that Jannie has started yelling at Billy lately.
Billy was two years older than Jannie. His eleventh birthday was celebrated just two days ago. Helen invited Billy's friends, and he received many gifts, but he especially like the Tackle box. He was looking forward to using it.
Jannie became more resentful towards Billy since his birthday party. "I want to go for camping", She said again in a subdued voice.
"Go change your school clothes. Your Dad and I will decide, where we will go", Helen said. "But, I don't want to go fishing", she whined, and dragged her feet, to go in.
The parents decided to take the camper with the boat.
Billy changed his school clothes and came out with his tackle box. "Where are we going for fishing, Dad? He asked emphasising his desire for fishing. He knew several places where he had been with his Dad.
Jannie heard him and came rushing out, wearing one shoe and holding the other in her hand. "I don't want to go for fishing". She said, "We will go to the Columbia river, there is a camping ground near by", Frank said.
Jannie paused for a minute and said, "Mom can I ask Sue to go with us?"
Sue's parents were good neighbours, but Helen was not sure whether they would allow Sue to stay over night for camping.
"I will ask her mother", Mom replied.
Jannie was excited that Sue could go with them. "Sue and I can sleep in the tent, Daddy", She suggested.
Frank was getting life jackets for every one. "Bring your sleeping bag and I will bring the tent for you", He said.
It was a beautiful crisp morning. Helen packed the food supply. "Tell Sue that we are ready to go". She told Jannie.
Jannie ran out leaving the door wide open behind her, which closed with a loud bang.
"Sue, we are ready to go", She shouted.
"I am coming", Sue's voice echoed inside. She came out quickly, with her sleeping bag.
It took more than one hour to reach the camp ground. The dock was one quarter of a mile from there.
"Let us take the boat to the dock before it gets too crowded there", Helen suggested.
Frank drove and stopped the camper about twenty yards from the dock. "You three can get out and take your life jackets with you", He said.
Helen stayed with Frank to help him. Three of them ran holding their jackets. They waited on the high ground about fifteen feet from the river. The boats were leaving the dock, one after the other.
Billy noticed , only one boat was left at the dock. "Let us go down, it is Dad's turn next", he said and started walking down.
Jannie and sue followed him. They were standing very close to the water. Billy was watching the boats and started to put on his life jacket. Jannie and Sue were facing Billy. It was the first time for Sue to wear a life jacket. So Billy helped her. He noticed that Jannie was still struggling with her's. He took a step closer to her and stretched his hand. "Let me help you" he said. "No, no, I can do it myself", Jannie said. She took several steps backward to avoid his hand.
"Watch out, Jannie!", He yelled to warn her.
It was too late! Jannie fell backwards in the river. Her head went under water, she threw her hands upwards and struggled to raise her head. The water was deep enough to cover her. She was moving into deeper water. The life jacket was floating on her right side.
Billy realised instantly that Jannie was in trouble. He looked around, and jumped in the river.
Jannie drifted away from the shore. Billy had to swim vigorously to reach her.
"Hold my hand, Jannie", He said loudly. She tried, but her hand slipped. He moved closer to her, put his right hand around her waist, and struggled to pull her toward the shore.
Sue told their parents. They arrived there when Billy was trying to pull out of the water. Jannie coughed out some water and started crying when she saw her parents.
Helen hugged her, "you are alright, dear", she said.
"Well done! Son", Frank patted Billy's back. "You have saved your sister';s life".
They postponed the boating trip until after lunch. Helen made sandwiches and all sat down for lunch. Every one was quietly pondering over the storm that had passed. Jannie sat close to Billy. Suddenly she looked at him, put her arm around his shoulder and said, "You are the best brother in the world".
*A Narrative by Late Mrs. Rashida Doris Barar.
Location: Molalla, Oregon, USA.