Rising Tide (Chapter Two)
Illustrations By Jenny Cooper
Emmy flew through the school gate ahead of Ari, disappearing in the direction of her classroom. She’d turned five during the holidays, and she was still excited about school and what she might learn every day.
Ari heard a ball coming through the air towards him before he saw it. He jumped, heading the ball perfectly, and it soared back towards the field. He ran after it, dropping his bag by the goal as he joined the game. He was glad of the chance to have a few minutes’ play with his mates before class started.
At the sound of the bell, the kids milling about, chatting and playing grabbed their bags and headed for their classrooms. Ari’s teacher, Mrs Woods, was already there. She smiled at Ari and his friends as they came in. Ari was so used to trying not to draw attention to himself that he ducked his head to avoid her gaze, even though he’d really wanted to smile back.
The class settled and the school day began with all the usual things: maths, writing, reading groups. Today was Ari’s group’s turn to play a maths game, and the time went quickly.
The class moved on to writing next. Everyone else seemed to know exactly what to write, but Ari had no ideas. He sat chewing his pen, avoiding making a start. He shifted in his seat. He could feel Mrs Woods watching him. He didn’t want her to know he hadn’t started, so he stretched his arms above his head, trying to look as if they ached from writing so much.
After lunch, Mrs Woods reminded him for the fourth time that she needed to see the interview for his latest project. He hadn’t started the questions. He didn’t even have a topic yet – but she didn’t know that. Not yet, anyway.
He didn’t think he could keep pretending he had it all under control much longer. Even his mum was starting to nag. He would ask Koro for some ideas – his grandad knew something about pretty much everything.
So, on his way home after school, Ari went to see his koro. He’d signed out a class tablet so he could use the voice recorder function to record any ideas that Koro had. He wasn’t going to write anything down – not in front of Koro.
That was Ari’s other big secret: writing wasn’t something he did in front of other people. He didn’t do it – or reading, either, for that matter – at all, if he could help it.
As he turned into Theodore Street, Ari noticed the leaves were changing colour. He reached Koro’s driveway and stopped to pull the mail out of the letterbox. On his way round to the back door, he whistled a tune his koro often sang to him, expecting to hear Koro join in as he got closer.
Ari was surprised to find the back door shut. Koro liked to have the doors and windows open on sunny days. Ari gave the door a shove, trying the handle. It was locked.
Strange, thought Ari. Maybe Koro has gone for a walk or to the shops?
He went back down the steps and past the side windows.
He hesitated. This didn’t feel right. A nagging thought tugged at his mind, and he started to feel worried. Maybe he should just have a look for another way in …
Ari went round the back and stood on Koro’s favourite chair so that he could see through the kitchen window. He cupped his hands round his eyes and got really close to the glass.
Suddenly he heard his name.
“Ari! Ari, mate, give me a hand will you?” Koro called in a soft, tired voice.
Now Ari spotted Koro. He was lying on the kitchen floor, reaching his hand out towards Ari as if to pull him into the room to help.
“I’m coming, Koro! I’m coming!” shouted Ari.
Ari’s mind started to race as quickly as his heart. He had to find a way in to help Koro, and fast.
“Don’t panic, mate,” Koro called. “I’m not going anywhere. Can you get in a window? I can’t get up. Have a look around. Use what you can find to get in.”
Ari forced his mind to slow down.
You can do this, he told himself.
He took a few deep breaths, and looked around to see what he could use to get high enough to climb inside and help Koro. Further along the back side of the house, he spied the open toilet window. Quickly he ran to it, grasping the window ledge and trying to hoist himself up. It was no use – he was nowhere near tall enough.
He ran and climbed back on to Koro’s chair to let Koro know he was still there and that he’d be inside soon.
Koro was lying still on the floor.
The panic started to rise in Ari, and he fought to stop himself from crying.
Then he remembered. The chair! He could use the chair to get in through the open window.
Moving as fast as he could, Ari hauled the chair down the side of the house. Now he could easily reach the window ledge.
He reached inside to lift the security latch. It was screwed tight! There was no way he was going to get through that gap. The panic came again. This time, as the tears prickled, he ordered himself to breathe deeply and think. He needed a screwdriver. He was sure he could reach his hand far enough inside to unscrew the security latch then open the window wider to let himself in.
He ran back to check on Koro. He couldn’t see in the kitchen window without the chair, but he called out, letting Koro know he would be in soon.
He didn’t hear Koro reply.
Ari knew he really needed to act fast now.
Maybe I should just smash the window, he thought. But then how would he climb through without getting cut? Ari stopped. He remembered what his koro had said: “Have a look around. Use what you can find to get in.”
Where could he find tools?
He ran to the car and swung open the big back door, then lifted the cover where the spare tyre was kept. He found a jack, a crowbar, a fishing knife … and a screwdriver!
He raced back to the open window, then slipped his hand inside and found the screw with the tip of the screwdriver. At first it didn’t want to move, then suddenly it started to turn. He reached in with his other hand, and kept turning with both hands until the screw fell to the toilet floor.
Ari swung his leg up over the ledge and balanced inside the window frame. He had just a second to spot the toilet below him and hope he didn’t land in it, before he pushed himself away from the window, landing hard on the tiles.
He ran to the kitchen, and knelt down next to Koro, taking his hand. “I’m here, Koro. I’m here. What should I do?”
“Mate, you’re a little legend. We’ll need an ambulance. My mobile is on the bench. I could really do with some water too. Been here all blimmin’ day.”
Ari felt quite excited about ringing the ambulance. He felt like a bit of a hero. “A little legend”, his koro had said.
“One-one-one, Police, Fire, Ambulance?” said a woman on the other end of the phone.
“Ambulance!” Ari replied.
“Please tell me your name and the address of the emergency.”
“My name is Ari McInnis, and the address is seventy-two Theodore Street, Wai-iti Bay.”
“Please spell that out for me. We’re dispatching from Auckland. The computer’s not finding it.”
ri felt his heart stop. Why couldn’t she spell it? Why couldn’t her computer spell it?
“Ummm … T … T-H … T-H …”
Sweat was beginning to bead on Ari’s forehead. He felt Koro looking at him. Some legend I am. I can’t even get the ambulance here, he thought.
“Pass the phone, mate.”
Ari passed the phone to Koro without meeting his eyes.
“Gidday, love. Yeah, it’s T-H-E-O-D-O-R-E. He’s just a bit panicked, I think. Got himself mixed up. Yep, Banks Peninsula. I’ve fallen and can’t get up. Think I’ve broken my arm and done some mischief to my dodgy hip. Yep, I’ll get my mate here to open the door and wait for the ambulance. Thanks, love.” He hung up the phone.
Ari felt his face burn. He didn’t want to look at Koro.
“How about that water, eh, sunshine?” asked Koro. “And then you need to unlock the door and wait at the end of the driveway to wave at the ambulance. You’ll ride in it with me, won’t you, mate?”
“Of course. Of course!” replied Ari.
He got a glass of water and propped Koro up just slightly, trying not to hurt him. Koro winced and took a few sips.
“You’ve really saved me, mate. Whip down the drive now. Think I can hear a siren.”
Ari unlocked the door and went out, propping it open with his koro’s boot. Inside, he could hear Koro ringing Mum to let her know what was happening.
The siren got louder as it turned into Theodore Street.