The following excerpt is taken from the book, Return to Sawyerton Springs, by Andy Andrews. It is published by Hay House (November 2009) and available at all bookstores or online at:

Chapter 11

“I’m not a kid, you know. I am nine years old.”

Those were the last words I said to my mother before I ran away from home. I don’t remember the specific crime she had committed that precipitated my leaving, but I am certain—even now— that she was being unreasonable.

I was mature. I had a girlfriend. I was learning to burp like my dad. I had even smoked a cigar once. Okay, it was made out of rabbit tobacco and a piece of grocery sack and it made me sick, but my point was this: I was in the fourth grade. I had been around.

But my mother treated me like a kid. I couldn’t believe it! So I decided to run away.

It was an adult decision. I carefully considered it for five minutes. I had the time. It was Saturday, so school wasn’t a problem.

The thing about running away is that if it’s to be any fun at all, you have to have someone to run away with. Mike Rawls was visiting his grandmother, so he was out. Mike’s little brother couldn’t keep a secret anyway, so it was probably just as well. Sharon Holbert would’ve been good, but she was a girl, and I wasn’t about to run away with a girl. I liked Sharon, though. She could run faster than I could, and for a girl, she was a pretty good guy.

The obvious choice that day was Kevin Perkins. There were three reasons. First, his parents worked on Saturday, so they weren’t home. Second, he lived on Cherokee Avenue, which was on my side of the four-lane highway I wasn’t allowed to cross. And third, he would do what I said. This, I figured, was a very important quality in a partner. After all, whomever I took would almost certainly have the opportunity to “spill his guts” to my parents if we got caught.

I still can’t recall what my mom had done that made me mad that day, but as I left the house, I gave her “that look.” Even now, as I write this, I don’t know exactly what that look looks like. All nine-year-olds did it. They still do. That look is a combination of anger, disbelief, and fear that will appear on a kid’s face as a reaction to something a parent has said. Parents don’t like that look; therefore, when they see that look, they usually content themselves by saying, “Don’t give me that look.” That’s what my mother said that day. “Don’t give me that look.” And I got on my bicycle, giving it to her for all I was worth.

Kevin came outside as I pedaled into the carport. I had playing cards in my bicycle spokes, so he had heard me coming. When I told him my plan, Kevin was all for it. He said he had been thinking about running away for several weeks anyhow.

The first thing we had to do was gather food for the trip. The absence of Mr. and Mrs. Perkins lured us to their kitchen. We were conscious of packing light; therefore, we took only staple items: dill pickles, potato chips, a pack and a half of Oreos, one loaf of white bread, a plastic bag of chopped and pressed ham squares that cost seventy-nine cents then and still does today, a bag of marshmallows, four boxes of matches for starting a campfire in case we had to sleep outside, a box of toothpicks for putting in our mouths while we sat around the campfire in case we had to sleep outside, and two cans of bug spray to use around the campfire in case we had to sleep outside.

As we left, Kevin also grabbed three wax harmonicas left over from Halloween eleven months earlier. As I recall, those bright orange wax harmonicas were the only luxury items we allowed ourselves, and Kevin talked me into taking them. He explained that we could chew one of them and play the other two around the campfire in case we had to sleep outside.

It was almost two-thirty in the afternoon when we left the Perkins’s house. We would have been gone by two o’clock, but Kevin had to find his dad’s poker deck so he could put playing cards on his spokes. We rolled out of the driveway and down the big hill on Cherokee Avenue as the fifty-pound packs of food propelled our speed to upwards of twenty miles per hour. With our banana-seat bikes sounding like Harleys and the wind whistling through our crew cuts, we yelled. It was a yell of freedom—a yell of sheer joy! So this was what it felt like to be on your own. It was great!

About thirty seconds later, we ran smack-dab into one of life’s ugly metaphors. Just when the going was easy—just when everything was downhill—we had to go up the other side. I could feel the romance leaving this adventure. There we were, two mature nineyear- olds with one hundred-pound packs, pushing our bicycles up the other side of Thrill Hill. The cards on the spokes weren’t buzzing with the same intensity. Pop . . . pop . . . pop . . . . Was this what it felt like to be on your own? It wasn’t so great.

We stopped to rest at Bobby Dale’s Lake. Gratefully, we slid the two hundred-pound packs from our shoulders and collapsed under an old pine tree. Not a lake in any sense, it would have been more accurately named Bobby Dale’s Area of Standing Water, but it harbored vicious hand-size bream and the occasional water snake. So to a fourth-grader, it was a pond. It was also on the other side of the four-lane highway that I wasn’t allowed to cross; however, Kevin had insisted on choosing our direction of travel. So much for my being in charge.

About the time we finished our last potato chip, we realized that we had nothing to drink. I immediately began daydreaming about my parents finding me dead of thirst in this wilderness and very much enjoyed that vision. Kevin shook me back to reality with one of his bright ideas.

“We could chew pieces of wax harmonica,” he said excitedly. “That would work up the saliva!” (I think Kevin used the word “spit.”) “And anyway,” he said, “that’s what the Indians did.” Right! I was beginning to think Kevin wasn’t taking this whole thing very seriously. Even I knew Indians didn’t have wax harmonicas!

Suddenly, we heard a car engine. As I looked up, my blood turned to ice water. It was . . . my mother.

“Uh oh,” Kevin whispered, “she has that look!”

“That look,” as it appeared on my mother’s face, had a totally different meaning from the that look discussed earlier. And just like every child since time began, I knew exactly what that look meant: I was dead. I was a goner. Outta here. A ghost. History. Vapor. Mist. A memory.

She stepped from the car, and the first thing I noticed was the manner in which she approached us. She was . . . well, she was calm. Calm?! Oh God, save me! My mother was so mad that she was calm! Goodbye, Kevin! Goodbye, world!

“Put your bicycles in the trunk,” was all she said as she picked up the three hundred-pound packs (one in each hand!) and started toward the car. She swung them effortlessly into the back seat, tied down the lid of the trunk, and escorted Kevin and me to the front seat, conspicuously neglecting her usual encouragement to “buckle up.” All my mother added to the otherwise silent vehicle was the promise she always made when I was in trouble. “When I get you home, you are going to get a talking to.”

As Kevin got out at his house, he never said a word to me. No “see ya later . . .” No “had a great time . . .” Nothing. I’m pretty sure he was too concerned about his own skin. He was afraid his mom was going to get “a call.” A call is just one more thing kids have to worry about. It’s the way one parent gives spy information to another parent. We were always caught in the middle. The way we usually heard the bad news was something like, “I got a call from Mrs. Jones today . . .” At least that’s how the bad news would start.

The rest of the way to our house, my mother never spoke. She never even looked at me.

She allowed me several years that afternoon to contemplate my fate . . . and finally started the trial.

“I want you to know,” my mother began, “that I am totally shocked by what you did today.”

No surprise there, I thought.

“I can’t believe,” she continued, “that you would have such a blatant disregard for my feelings.”

I wasn’t certain what “blatant” meant. Wasn’t that a cuss word?

“And to think that you took Kevin Perkins with you! Or maybe it was the other way around? Either way, you know better. I’ll give Mrs. Perkins a call tonight.”

So far, she hadn’t thrown me any curves. It was all the usual stuff. Pretty soon, she’d be telling me what her parents would have done if she’d pulled some crazy stunt like this.

“Young man!” She was really getting wound up now. “Do you know what my parents would have done if I had crossed a four-lane highway?!”

Whoa! Hang on! Wait! Stop! Back up! I wasn’t sure I had heard that last part correctly. Did she say something about a four-lane highway? I listened more carefully.

“You could have been hit by a car!”

Yesss! I couldn’t believe it! What incredible luck! There I stood before her, a runaway, a fugitive from parental justice, captured and being tortured by “a talking to” and all she was going on about was crossing some dumb highway! Why, she didn’t even know I’d been gone! I was blessed. That had to be it. It was a miracle from heaven!

Thinking fast, I ducked my head to hide a smile and tried to force a tear to my eye. Gladly, I would take the rap for highway crossing. Every kid in the world knew how low on the punishment scale that indiscretion ranked compared with running away. Now if Kevin would just keep quiet about what we were actually doing (and I knew that would be no problem; remember, he would do what I told him.) I was home free!

The rest of the afternoon and on into the evening, the world was a brighter place. My dad shot a few baskets with me when he got home, supper tasted good, and my sister actually verged on “human.” Sometime around eight o’clock, my sister and I were playing Monopoly. Dad had even joined us. He usually played solitaire on Saturday nights, but he said some of his cards were missing. My mother’s absence had barely been noticed when she entered the living room. She lingered in the doorway. My sister saw her first and quietly slipped away. I noticed my father looking at my mother. Then I noticed my mother looking at us. Wait a minute, she wasn’t looking at us. She was looking at me! And she wasn’t just looking at me. She was looking at me with that look!

“Young man,” she said, “Mrs. Perkins just gave me a call.”

Author's Bio: 

Hailed by The New York Times as someone who has “quietly become one of the most influential people in America,” Andy Andrews is a best-selling novelist and in-demand speaker for some of the world’s largest organizations. The Traveler’s Gift, a featured book selection of ABC’s Good Morning America, has been translated into more than 20 languages and was on every bestseller list in the country for months. Learn more at

Hay House was founded in 1984 by Louise L. Hay as a way to self-publish her first two books, Heal Your Body and You Can Heal Your Life, both of which became international bestsellers (You Can Heal Your Life has sold more than 35 million copies worldwide) and established Louise as a leader in the transformational movement. Today, Hay House is committed to publishing products that have a positive self-help slant and are conducive to healing planet Earth.

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