By Bill Myers
"No, Winnona! No, girl!”
Before Nick could stop her, his family’s chimpanzee stuck her hand into a banana split, pulled out a ball of half-melted ice cream and flung it across the counter. Not a problem . . . except for the ice cream that hit Nick smack-dab in the face and oozed down his cheek.
“Gracious me,” Mr. Whittaker said, trying not to laugh. “Does she do that often?”
“Only with people she likes,” Nick sighed as he grabbed a napkin and began wiping his face.
“Well, it looks like she has a real crush on you,” Mr. Whittaker chuckled. “Let me get a cloth so you can clean up.”
A moment later Mr. Whittaker returned with a damp washcloth and gave it to Nick. Winnona had found the banana in her bowl, which she seemed more interested in eating than throwing.
“So tell me,” Mr. Whittaker asked, “how’s everything going with the magnificent Mulligans? Is your family still opening that wild animal park?”
“Yeah,” Nick said, “but the flood last month was a doozy. It set back opening day a few weeks.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Well, at least one good thing happened because of it.”
“Really?” Whit asked as he pulled up a stool. “What’s that?”
“You know how you’ve been telling me I should start trusting God and everything, and how I’m supposed to have faith in Jesus?”
Whit nodded. “Trusting Jesus to forgive your sins is the most important thing you’ll ever do.”
Nick broke into a grin. “I’ve gone and done it.”
“No kidding!” Mr. Whittaker laughed. “That’s terrific, Nick. Congratulations!”
“So tell me what happened. What led to the decision?”
“Well, ” Nick leaned back and folded his arms. He loved telling good stories, especially if he was the star. . . .
It all began when the levee by the river was about to break. That’s when Uncle Mike decided to let the animals loose and herd them up to the highest hill. Giraffes, kangaroos, llamas, Gus—our baby elephant. You name it, we herded it.
Each of us had an assigned animal. Being the oldest and most mature, I was in charge of the ostriches.
“Yah, yah,” I shouted, doing my best to drive them up the hill. Yes, sir, I was feeling like a real cowboy, er, I guess that would be birdboy.
Suddenly, Samson, our baby mountain goat, panicked. He broke away from Jessica, our newest foster kid, and started back down the hill.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, Jessica took off after him. She has a real thing for Samson. Unfortunately, since the levee had just broken, it looked like she had a real thing for death, too.
“Jessica,” Uncle Mike called. “Jessica, come back!”
But she wouldn’t listen. She went right on slipping and sliding down the hill after the goat.
Uncle Mike shouted to me over the rain. “We’ve got to go down and get her.”
“But the levee,” I yelled. “The water will—”
“We have a couple minutes before the water gets here,” he interrupted. “Nick, we’re the only chance she’s got!”
Being the heroic type, I agreed to help. So with great intentions and not-so-great athletic skills, the two of us tumbled down the muddy hill. When we reached the bottom, we looked like a couple of chocolate-covered peanuts.
“Jessica!” we shouted. “Jessica, where are you?”
But it was impossible to see or hear her through the rain.
“Look at that!” I pointed to the creek. “It’s really rising.”
Uncle Mike nodded. “And it’s going to get worse. It’s going to . . . ”
Suddenly, he stopped. Off in the distance, we could hear someone shouting. “Help me! Somebody help me!”
Uncle Mike was the first to spot her. “Over there!” He pointed 20 feet upstream. “It’s Jessica!”
She stood on a little island, holding Samson in her arms.
“Jessica,” Uncle Mike shouted. “Jessica, are you all right?”
“Mr. Mulligan, the water! It’s getting higher! I’m stuck!”
“The levee’s given way,” he yelled. “It’s going to get worse.”
“What should I do?” Jessica screamed.
Uncle Mike turned to me. “It’s too deep to wade through, and there’s no way she can swim in that current.”
“What are we going to do?” I asked.
“Grab hold of me.”
He turned to face the stream. “Take hold of my belt. I’m going in.”
“Are you crazy?” I asked. “The current will wash you away!”
“Not if you hang on.”
Before I could argue, he waded into the water. I grabbed his belt and hung on for all I was worth.
“Jessica,” he shouted. “Jessica, I need you to step into the water. I need you to wade in, then push off toward me as hard as you can.”
“But I can’t swim!” she cried.
“You don’t have to. Just keep your head up, and the current will carry you to me so I can catch you.”
“What about Samson?”
“You can hang on to him,” Uncle Mike shouted. “Just push off nice and hard so I can catch you.”
“I know you are, but you have to trust me. I won’t let you go, I promise.”
“I can’t. . . .”
“Jessie,” I yelled. “You love Samson, right? And you wouldn’t let anything happen to him. You risked your life to save him. That’s what Uncle Mike is doing for you. He’s risking his life to save you. Come on!”
“It’s getting deeper!” she cried.
“You’ve got to trust him, Jessie. There’s no other way.”
I could see her hesitate. Then after taking a deep breath, she leaned back, closed her eyes and leaped into the water. But in all of the panic, she forgot to push off.
“She’s not going to make it!” Uncle Mike yelled. “I won’t be able to catch her!” He began wading deeper, pulling away from me.
“Uncle Mike,” I shouted, trying my best to hang on to him. “What are you doing?”
“Let go!” he yelled to me. “I’ve got to save her!”
“Uncle Mike, you’ll . . .”
“Let go!” With a sudden lunge, he broke free of my grip.
The current swept him away. He swam for all he was worth until he was directly in Jessica’s path. Now she was headed straight at him at a gazillion miles an hour until finally—she slammed into him.
They both were coughing, choking and almost drowning. But Uncle Mike spotted a fallen tree and swam toward it. He grabbed the branches, pushed Jessica and Samson on top of it and worked his way back to shore.
“Jessica,” he asked, “are you okay?”
“I was so scared,” she sobbed.
“I know,” he said as he hugged her. “But you’re safe now.”
“Don’t let me go,” she cried. “Please don’t let me go.”
“It’s okay,” he said. “I won’t leave you, Jessie. I’m here. I’ll always be here for you.”
Putting It Together
“Wow,” Mr. Whittaker said. He took a deep breath and slowly let it out. “That was quite an adventure.”
“I’ll say,” Nick agreed.
“But how did that help you make the decision to follow Jesus?”
“Oh, that’s simple,” Nick said. “I realized I was just like Jessica.”
“My not trusting God was just like her standing on that island,” Nick said. “She would’ve drowned if she hadn’t trusted Uncle Mike enough to leap into the water. The same would’ve happened to me and my sins if I didn’t trust Jesus enough to leap into His arms. And you know something else?”
“He’s a pretty good catch.”
Mr. Whittaker chuckled. “Yes, He is. And that’s some pretty good thinking on your part, Nick.”
“Hey, I figured if a guy has all my brains, he ought to put ’em to use.”
“I see,” Mr. Whittaker smiled. He realized Nick still had a few wrinkles to iron out—especially in being humble. But at least he was on his way.
And as Whit looked down the counter, he saw God working on the boy’s pride. Because there, standing on the next stool, was Winnona. She held a can of whipped cream in one hand and a bottle of chocolate in the other.
Nick saw her, too. “No, Winnona. Nice Winnona.” He threw a glance to the door, hoping to make a run for it. But he was too slow.
Winnona opened fire. Instantly, Nick was covered in chocolate and whipped cream.
“Mr. Whittaker!” he cried. “Mr. Whittaker, do something!”
“What would you like me to do?” Mr. Whittaker laughed. “Throw in some nuts and a cherry?”
Nick sighed as Winnona finished emptying the cans. “Very funny.”
From Vol. 13, No. 3 of , a publication of Focus on the Family. Copyright © 1999, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.