Zeke Anderson glared at the kid kneeling next to
him. He was sure
Dale didn't know what he was doing, but arguing
with him had
"You stay here, make sure they don't try to sneak
away before we get
around. And keep an eye on them," Dale ordered,
pointing to the
huddled together behind Zeke, "don't let them get
us into trouble."
Zeke watched Dale move away with his group
tailing warily behind him.
He didn't really mind that he'd been left behind
to baby-sit. The
was leading his guys into an ambush, Zeke was
sure of it, so he'd
as soon be out of the line of fire. It bothered
him, though, that
the disaster that was about to happen could've
been easily avoided if
Dale would have just listened to him.
"What you thinkin?"
Zeke started. He'd been so focused on Dale, he
shuffle up next to him.
"Come on! What's the plan?" the kid asked
A smile crept across Zeke's face as he looked
into the trusting eyes
of the youngster. Looking past Cameron, he
scanned the eager bunch
faces huddled together in an attempt to keep the
crisp air from
through their clothes. Despite their cold, they
were ready to
up as soon as Zeke gave the word. These kid's
would do anything he
asked him to do. Their eyes practically begged
him to ask them to do
something - anything but sit here waiting.
"Were going up, gonna them hit from behind,"
He felt the nervous energy rippling through his
body in anticipation
of the coming assault. His guys felt it, too,
and began fidgeting
it infected them.
"Settle down, now," Zeke whispered, "they're
nestled down nice and
snug in front of this hill figuring we ain't
gonna try to climb it,
but it ain't that steep, we can be up it easy
before Dale finishes
circling around. Cameron, you're with me. Pete,
you and James flank
right. Mac and Nick, you two flank left. Wait
for me to fire first,
that'll be your signal," he paused to make eye
contact with each kid,
waiting for a nod to make sure the plan was
understood, "all right,
Mac and Nick moved out first, followed by Pete
and James, while Zeke
waited with Cameron. Zeke figured he'd better
give the kids a good
headstart. He didn't want them climbing too fast
trying to beat him
to the top. The icy breeze ruffled through his
clothes and Zeke
shivered. He tried not to think about what could
happen if one of
"Ready?" he whispered to Cameron, turning to
begin the ascent before
the kid could respond.
The going was slower than Zeke had expected. His
fingers were stiff
from the cold, making it difficult to keep his
handholds. He paused
to make sure Cameron was still behind him. The
kid was really
struggling, but managing to keep up.
"Nearly there," Zeke mouthed as the youngster
looked up at him.
Turning back, Zeke tried to catch sight of the
others. The fear of
one of them falling nagged at him as he moved his
hand upward to
his next handhold. Shifting his weight, he felt
his foot slip, but
managed to hold on. Steadying himself, he
reached up with his other
hand and with one final movement was peering down
on the enemy.
Waiting silently for Cameron to arrive, Zeke
chose his first target
and prepared to fire. Feeling the kid slide up
next to him, Zeke
barely paused. His first target was down and he
fired again, before
the enemy had time to react. Responding to the
pained yells beneath
them, the right and left flanks opened up,
pummeling the enemy below
"Come on Cameron! Fire!" Zeke yelled to the
kid next to him.
Cameron rose to get a better angle on targets
that were now
straight into the oncoming charge of Dale and his
guys. He fired,
missed as the target below him slipped and fell.
Preparing his next
shot, Cameron spotted a figure flattening himself
against the hill
almost directly below. Rising up further, he
leaned forward, trying
to get an better angle.
"Cameron!" Zeke screamed as the kid toppled over
the edge, landing
with a sickening thud within feet of his intended
"Cameron! Cameron! You all right!" Zeke
hollered as he threw his
feet over the edge and made a semi-controlled
groaned as Zeke knelt beside him.
"Go get one of the Sisters! Hurry!" Zeke
shouted to Cameron's
As the kid hurried away, Zeke realized he was
still clutching the
snowball that he'd been preparing to fire just as
dropped the icy ball, feeling ashamed that just
moments before he'd
cared about nothing but defeating the other kids.
out the corner of his eyes, he looked up.
"Stop!" Zeke ordered Nick as the kid prepared to
slide down the
to help, "go back the other way, it's too steep!"
He didn't want to
be responsible for anyone else getting hurt.
Zeke sat on the steps staring mournfully at his
"Ezekial? Why are you out here so late?" Sister
on the cold steps next to him, "your gonna catch
your death out here.
"I'm so sorry, Sister. I didn't mean for nobody
to get hurt," Zeke
whispered as he wiped away fresh tears.
"Come now, Ezekial," the Sister soothed, "it was
just an accident,
wasn't anyone's fault."
"Yes, ma'am," Zeke responded apologetically,
"but I knew we weren't
supposed to climb the snow mounds. Yesterday
when we was watching
snow plow pack them higher and higher, Sister
Bernadette told us they
were too dangerous to play on, so it IS my fault.
have climbed up there on his own."
Sister Agnes peered down at Zeke's guilt-stricken
little face. She
knew there wasn't anything she could say that
would make him feel
better. Although high-spirited, Ezekial was a
good kid, always
watching out for those around him. She supposed
it was just
something in his nature that motivated him to
"mother hen" the other
children. He'd have felt responsible even if it
hadn't been his
to climb up the mounds of snow. As it had been
his idea, there was
nothing that could be said to stop him from
blaming himself for
Cameron's broken arm, so she decided to try a
different approach in
comforting the child.
"Well then, Ezekial," she asked matter-of-factly,
"if you knew it was
dangerous, why did you climb the mounds?"
Zeke hesitated, shifting around nervously before
finally turning his
head up to meet her gaze.
"I wanted to win the battle, ma'am," he
"And you did. Was it worth it?"
Zeke nodded his head negatively as he wiped away
"Perhaps next time you'll pause long enough to
decide if the victory
is worth the price 'your men' might have to pay
for it," Sister
stated, pausing afterward to let her words
"Come in now, Ezekial. Cameron will heal and I'm
sure you'll take
better care of 'your men' from now on.
She could tell by the resolve spreading across
the child's face that
there'd be no more children climbing the slippery
piles of packed
this winter. Ezekial was a natural leader. As
the Sister had
him grow, she often worried into what sort of
trouble he would lead
those around him. She'd worry less, now.
Ezekial had gained a new
perspective on the responsibililty that
accompanied leadership. It
had been a painful lesson, but she was sure it
would serve him well