In the Quiet of a Thicket

By Ray Goldrup

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(A true story)I [God] will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost (D&C 8:2).

My brothers, Billy, Tommy, and Jimmy, and I were gathered in the living room for family home evening. Father was talking about the importance of always prayerfully considering our actions before they become acts—thinking before doing. He said that Satan would rather we act on impulse, just like a fly that buzzes blindly into a spider web hidden in the shadow of an overripe July melon.

I guess that makes sense, I told myself. But what could possibly happen to a twelve-year-old boy like me?

Two weeks later, my brothers and I were sitting atop a huge rock on the crest of one of the forested hills behind town. The dry wind blew across our sweaty faces as we drank from bottles of water we’d brought in paper bags from home. After taking a swallow of cold water, Tommy thoughtlessly dropped his bottle back in his paper bag that was sitting near the edge of the rock. The bottle broke, its water spilling out. We all laughed, except for Tommy who glowered at the rest of us.

I lay back on the rock and gazed up at a buzzard that was circling high above. I wish I could fly, I thought. I also told myself that I was getting bored. To wish to do something I knew that I couldn’t do meant that I was running out of real things to do. I knew that my brothers were bored, too, because they were staring at the same buzzard and wishing that they could fly.

“Let’s play a game,” my oldest brother, Billy, said.

“What kind of game?” Tommy piped in crossly. “If it’s a running-around game, you can count me out. I’ll get thirsty, and I don’t have any water!”

“You can have some of mine,” Billy offered, “if you play.”

“What kind of game is it?” I asked.

Billy sat up. He took his water bottle out of his bag, slid down off the boulder, picked up a stick, and broke it in four pieces, each a different length. Then he dropped them into his bag and closed it up.

“Are you going to tell us about the dumb game or not?” my youngest brother, Jimmy, snapped impatiently.

“It’s kind of like tag, but different,” Billy explained as he picked up a small branch. “The one who draws the shortest stick from the bag is ‘It.’ He has to sit on this rock and count to fifty while everyone else hides. We can hide anywhere from up by the quarry down to the old graveyard.”

“What’s so different about that game?” Tommy asked.

“Well,” Billy went on, “the one who’s It uses this stick to tag with. Then the person tagged gets a stick, too, and he and It look for someone else together. Then—”

I sat up, my excitement growing. “Oh, I get it!” I interrupted. “Then they tag the third guy, and they all go after the last guy!”

Billy drew the shortest stick and started counting. Everyone else scattered.

About a half hour later, I was hiding behind an old shack. I saw Billy, Tommy, and Jimmy above me on the top of a hill, looking down on the dumped rocks from the quarry. We knew the area well because a lot of blue-belly lizards lived in those rocks, and we often tried to catch them. Anyway, now I knew that I was the last one left to be tagged! It was kind of scary in a fun sort of way because they were all after me! It would only take them a minute or two to see me and scurry down those rocks and tag me with their sticks.

I turned and bolted away. I looked back once and saw my brothers already close to the bottom of the hill. They had spotted me!

I lunged through the trees, jumping over rotting logs. I glanced behind me. I couldn’t see my brothers. For the moment I was safe from their sight, but I soon found myself in the middle of a clearing. They would spot me unless I lost myself in the tangles.

Suddenly I was face-to-face with a wall of thick brushwood. I’ll hide there until I can catch my wind, I thought as I protected my face with my hands and leaped through the dense undergrowth, not knowing what lay beyond, and not taking time to even think about it.

Everything beyond the wall of brushwood was a good ten to fifteen feet below me! I fell hard through its brittle branches and landed on my back.

The rest of the world above me was spinning—the sun, the clouds, the twisted tops of the towering oaks. And my wonder at what had happened. Rising between my right arm and side, protruding like a great spear with a big, ugly point, was the shaft of a long, iron spike from an old graveside!

I felt a stinging sensation on my arm and discovered that the point of the huge spike had torn my shirt and scraped the inner side of my arm. If I had landed few short inches farther to the right, the spear would have pierced my chest and my time on earth would have been brought to an immediate end.

I lay there listening to the sound of my pounding heart, glad it was still beating. Glad that when my brothers found me, after coming the long way around to where I lay in the old graveyard, it would be a happy tagging. As I waited, I remembered my father’s words at family home evening two weeks before. He had said that we should prayerfully consider our actions before they become acts. That we should let the Spirit, instead of blind impulse, be the guiding force in our day-to-day living. My father always said that it’s in our hearts and minds that God speaks to us.

In the quiet of the thicket that day, I promised Heavenly Father that from then on I would try to live as my father had counseled. As I gazed up and again caught sight of that buzzard high above me, I was glad that it was circling something else and not me!

Illustrated by Brad Teare