Thursday, October 17, 2013

"Too Far," a Middle-Grade Short Story

Douglas Winslow Cooper an Brian Maher

“Tim, my police friends tell me some kids are getting into trouble out by the lake. Remember, you are not allowed out there, not allowed out beyond the railroad tracks,” Mr. Williams told his adventurous fourth-grader son.

That had been Sunday. Now it was Thursday. What were those kids doing out by the lake? Curiosity was killing Tim. He asked his sister, Tess. She didn’t know.

“Tim, don’t forget what Dad told you. Stay away from the lake. Don’t go beyond the railroad tracks.”

Much as he liked his somewhat older sister, Tim did not like being bossed by her.

“If I go, are you going to tell on me?”


It was a beautiful day. Tim road his bike on the road toward the lake, but stopped at the railroad tracks. He looked around. Nobody was watching. He could ride up the hill some more and get a look at the lake in the distance. When he got to the top, he saw smoke…down by the lake. He started riding the bike down the slope toward the lake, saw a pothole, had to brake hard, heard a snap.

What was that? Had the bike chain broke? Yes. Bad place for that to happen. Annoyed, Tim turned around and started to walk the bike back home.

Almost immediately, a police car came from town, driving toward the lake. The officer in the car stopped, rolled down the window and said, “Tim, what’s happening down at the lake?”

“I don’t know, sir. I was just looking.”

“Good. We’ve had some trouble with teen-agers down there. Looks like they’ve started a fire. You would be safer heading home.”

“I’m going. My bike’s chain broke.”

“I’d drive you back, but I can’t right now. Stay close to the side of the road, in case more cars come by.”

“Yes, sir.”

Tim went home, a long, slow walk.

When he got home, he was pleased that no one knew he had gone beyond the railroad tracks. He still had a broken bike chain, and he was tired from the long walk, but at least he was not in trouble.

After Tim’s father came home, he told Tim to come out on the porch, as he needed to speak with him.

“Did you go out past the railroad tracks toward the lake today?”

“Um, yes.”

“Didn’t I tell you not to?”


“Aren’t you supposed to obey your parents?”

“Yes. I’m sorry.”

“Sorry is a start, but not enough. On Saturday, you are staying in the house all day, and you are going to clean up that room of yours, besides.”


“I see your bike chain is broken. Did that happen on this trip?”


“I’ll get it fixed for you but not until next week. Meanwhile, you won’t be riding it. Now, go do your homework.”


Later, Tim saw Tess and accused her of telling on him.

“I did not,” she replied.

“Who did?”

“Did you meet any firemen or policemen while you were out there?”

“A policeman…near the lake.”

“Well, they all know Dad. The cop must have thought you were too far from home and told Dad. There’s not much we can get away with in this town!” Tess said ruefully, as though she, too, had gotten into similar trouble…and she had.



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