While spending long summer days at an abandoned farmhouse, six-year-old Mara Summers and her brothers attempt to fight their boredom by trapping birds under an old hackberry tree. Just as a stray bullet from a nearby hunting camp almost strikes Mara, the trap slams shut. The children celebrate, thinking they have finally caught a bird and that Mara's life has been spared. But when the box slowly opens and reveals a beautiful and mysterious child named Iliana, their lives begin to change.
As the children lead Iliana home with them, they soon realize that she is an angel sent to protect Mara. When the angel reveals that she has no idea where she lives or how she got into the trap, the family has no choice but to take in the magical little girl, who is blessed with special powers. As she connects with Mara and her brothers in wonderful and exciting ways, all seems well-until a fierce late summer storm brings a tragedy of monumental proportions.
Angel Trap is the charming and inspirational tale of a tiny guardian angel and the family she swoops in to save, offering a simple message of faith, hope, and love.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.35(d)|
Read an Excerpt
By Dale Cumberland
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Dale Cumberland
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Trap
"Do you see one yet?" Mara asked in a hushed voice.
"No – not – yet." In his two years, Aaron had learned enough words to get by on, but he had not been able to put his words together. He talked in long, measured pauses, as if carefully considering his thoughts. Peering intently, Aaron's body froze as his eyes darted back and forth, watching for movement in the shadows. His deep brown eyes met thick, sandy hair, barely peeking out from under his long overdue haircut. Mara, already six, was better at studying her ever observant younger brother for signs of the prey than keeping an eye out for herself. Somehow, Aaron's keen observation never missed a single movement.
Nearby, Ben, nine, the oldest of the three children, let his tousled blond hair lay back in the dust as he watched the late summer clouds aimlessly drift overhead. Finger wrapped tightly with the end of the string, he waited for word that the quarry was nearing the trap. His mind drifted with the clouds but finally settled on the approaching first day of school He wondered what it would be like to ride a school bus for the first time. He decided that he would rather sit in the front of the school bus where he might catch a breeze. The summer had been a hot dry one, without even a hint of rain in weeks. In the distance, he could hear a truck and men laughing down on the bumpy, dusty road that ran past the hunting camp up and on up to the school.
"Here – comes – one!" whispered Aaron, drawing everyone to immediate attention. Ben turned over to his stomach excitedly, his eyes searching for the prey, tensing his body to jerk the string at the right moment. Slowly, the small bird made its way toward the trap, following the trail of sorghum seeds that had been carefully laid on the ground. Seed by seed, the quail pecked toward the wooden box being held up precariously by the forked branch that Ben had so carefully balanced. Ben sat up and held his breath as the bird almost disappeared into the shadow of the box. Cautiously, he took up all slack from the string.
"Now!" yelled Aaron, and Ben jerked on the string as hard as he could, falling over backward as the string flew toward him and tangled at his feet.
"Pull – Now!" shouted Aaron again, thinking that his previous command had been ignored.
"Mara!" Ben hollered, and quickly the brown haired girl stood up, realizing even before Ben called her name that she would bear the brunt of the blame if the quail escaped. She raced toward the box, hoping to retie the knot before the bird could escape. As she passed the end of the slack string, she saw the quail peek out of the box, check out the commotion, and then, with a rush, fly away toward the underbrush.
"Mara!" yelled Ben again, jumping to his feet, "I told you to tie that knot good, and now the only quail we saw all day is flying off." Mara took the end of the string, and hurried to retie the knot to the still erect stick holding the box. Determination covered her small tanned face as she twisted the string around the stick, hoping that this knot would hold against the next pull of her brother.
* * *
It had been a slow afternoon at the camp, and with sunset approaching, the hunters returned, anxious to clean the day's six doves and get to the serious business of emptying the cold cans of brew stored in the ice chest. The long drought had left the ground dry and hard baked, and there was little water to attract the birds. Even the pond at the end of the creek had dried, leaving only hard squares of greenish colored clay where the water had once stood. Though disappointed with their meager results, the hunters were still happy to be out at the camp, away from the responsibilities of their jobs.
They drove near the old house that had been abandoned for years, not noticing that this year the windows had fresh drapes and a mowed lawn. They never saw the kids hunched down in the grass under the hackberry tree by the edge of the camp. Loudly, the hunters emerged from the new Ford that had been rigged out for hunting, and tossed the bloody doves up on the porch of the camp. The noise of the hunters unloading their guns flushed a single quail, which, startled by the commotion, had flown down toward the old hackberry tree for safety. With a move trained by instinct, one of the hunters snapped his barrel shut and swung it up high and through the flushing bird. As the bird lowered toward the fence, the hunter fired and cursed, missing his prey for the last time that day.
* * *
Ben began to make his way past Aaron, still hollering at Mara when he heard the shot ring out. Freezing, he saw his sister fall in a heap, dust rising as she collapsed on the ground, her foot knocking over the stick holding the box.
"You – got – it!"
"Mara! Oh, Jeez, Mara!" Ben tried to rush to his sister, but froze in his tracks, unable to move. "Mara! Mara!"
"You – got – it!" Aaron cried out again.
Ben suddenly found his feet and rushed toward his sister. "Mara! Mara! Are you shot? Oh, please, God, don't be shot. Mara!" By now Ben was crying, and bending over his sister. He grabbed her and turned her over.
"You – got – it!" screamed an increasingly agitated Aaron. "You – got – it!"
"I'm okay. I must have just tripped over the stick and fell down." Mara, seeing her brother's tears, confused them with anger and tried to soothe his temper. "Don't be mad at me, I was just trying to tie the string again."
"You're not shot? You're okay? Oh, man, thank goodness. Mom would be really mad if you were shot and killed, and it'd be all your fault for not tying that string right anyway." Ben paused, and looked at his sister very hard. "You sure you're not shot?"
"You – got – it! You – got – it! You – got – it!" Aaron's excitement had finally gotten their attention, and they both turned to face him. Aaron was approaching slowly, his arm and finger pointing straight to the box. Turning their gaze from Aaron to the box, they were startled to hear a slight commotion coming from inside.
"You – got – it!" By now, Aaron had reached the box, and gaining Mara's and Ben's attention, had a very satisfactory look on his face.
"We got the bird?" Mara asked both hopeful and astonished.
"All right! Way to go Mara! You did it!" With the look of a conquering warrior, one hand on Mara and the other raised in the air triumphantly Ben shouted, "We did it!"
"No – not – quail, – something – else." Aaron's eyes were big and round, staring intently at the box, which had become very quiet.
Ben and Mara turned to look at the box and then turned back to Aaron. "What else?" Ben asked, searching his brother's eyes for a hint.
"Big – bird!" Aaron replied, still staring at the box.
"How big?" Ben became excited, having never known his brother to make up a story, being too young to lie yet.
"Big! With – wings!"
Ben and Mara both excitedly reached to lift the box, carefully, at the same time. Raising one corner, they peered under the box, lifting it just high enough to not let the bird escape. Aaron stayed back, eyes wide, anticipating seeing the bird that he had just barely glimpsed as the box had come crashing down. The box was quiet as they raised it higher and higher, ever watchful for movement that would indicate imminent escape. Finally, the box was fully lifted. Ben and Mara stood silently, mouths open, too surprised to move.
"I – told – you. You – got – it." Aaron was staring at the open trap, mouth open, moving slowly toward the scene in front of him. The children stood quietly in front of the box, waiting for movement, for sound to come from the creature standing before them.
Aaron was the first to be able to speak. "It – not – bird."
Standing before the three children was the most beautiful little girl that they had ever seen. Aaron was right; she sure wasn't a bird!
Standing upright, she returned the children's gaze with bright blue eyes, unblinking behind thick, dark eyelashes. Her hair, the color of wheat after it had dried in the spring, moved softly in the wind. Her skin was so light colored that the children felt they could almost see right through her. She somehow seemed to be powerful, but at the same time, as frightened and confused as a child. Mara was the first to recover her senses.
"Who are you?" she asked the childlike figure standing in the box, who seemed to be very much her own size.
"My name is Iliana." The words sounded like a musical instrument, something like the combination of a harp and a flute, blowing gently in the wind and yet hovering for moments after they were spoken.
"Do you live around here?" continued Mara, still trying to understand what she was seeing.
"How did you get in the trap?" Ben asked, finally regaining his senses enough to speak. He still couldn't believe what he was seeing.
"Trap?" Iliana asked, looking at the box that had been lifted over her head. "I don't know. I saw you, Mara, and I was afraid that the bullets would hit you and you would be hurt, so I rushed to push you down. The next thing I remember, I was under that ... trap."
Mara looked at Iliana even more confused. "How do you know my name? I didn't see you push me down." Mara's mind was spinning, trying to understand what had happened. "Where did you come from?"
"I don't know, I don't know!" Iliana cried out softly. "I don't think I'm supposed to be here, and I think I should go back."
Ben saw tears gathering on Iliana's cheeks, and she appeared more confused than ever. She seemed unable to answer the questions, and glanced around as if she were looking for help. "I'm sorry that we trapped you," Ben spoke apologetically. "We were just trying to catch a bird, and the trap must have fallen on you by mistake. I don't know where you came from, but I think we ought to go see our mom. She'll know what to do, and she'll help you get back home."
Mara and Ben each took one of Iliana's hands, and began to lead her back to the old farmhouse, with Aaron following closely behind. They couldn't quite understand what Aaron was saying behind them as they made their way, watching Iliana's every step.
"No – catch – bird, – catch – angel. No – catch – bird, – catch – angel." Aaron muttered, over and over to himself.
Micah was standing at the kitchen sink, finishing the supper dishes, watching for her children's return from playing down by the shade tree. She neatly stacked the plates behind the glass doors in the kitchen cupboard, closing the doors carefully so the panes with the missing glazing would not fall out. The old farmhouse next to the hunting camp had been vacant for years, and the paint had begun to curl on the wood siding, needing to be scraped and repainted. Micah reached up, adjusting her thick brown hair caught up in a pony tail. She had worried about her children moving to the old house, hoping that the adjustment to the new school would be somewhat easy. They had all been very comfortable in their big, new home at the edge of the town where they had moved from, just a short walk from Mara's school. She missed her home, and prayed that the children didn't become angry from having to leave all of the things that they had loved in their previous home. If only their father hadn't ...
The children returning from play suddenly caught her attention, and her thoughts focused on the image approaching her. Where in the world had her children found a friend way out here? Something about their gait made her worry, and she sensed that her children were anxious. Maybe it was just about their new acquaintance.
She laid her cup towel down and moved to the screen door and out on to the back porch. Carefully, she stepped over the rotting second step, and walked to meet the approaching group.
"Mom! You're not going to believe this!" shouted Ben. "We found someone, and I think she's lost, and you have to help her get home!"
"We – caught – a – angel!" Aaron was churning his small short legs as fast as he could, running ahead of his brother and sister, anxious to be the first to tell the news.
"Well, who do we have here? My, you sure are a pretty thing." Micah thought to herself that she had never seen such a beautiful child, and was astounded that she had wandered out to the isolated farmhouse. Her eyes fell to the young girl's dress, a beautiful silvery white gown that fell almost to her feet. She wondered how the child could keep her dress so clean, out here with all of the dust, and she wished to herself that she would be able to keep her own children so neat and clean looking. "Come on in, and let's give your parents a call." The children and their new friend were up on the porch. "Don't you worry about anything, honey. Everything is going to be all right."
Micah bent down to comfort her children's friend, and for the first time, got a good look at her face. The little girl was extraordinary – and those eyes. It was as though Micah could see herself in their depths.
"You okay? Let's get you inside. Are you hungry? Have you had anything to eat? What's your name, honey?"
"My name is Iliana." The voice replied so softly, so sweetly.
"Iliana, where are you from?"
"I don't think I'm from around here." Iliana seemed confused as she gazed into Micah's eyes.
"Well, are you visiting someone around here? Up at the hunting camp maybe?"
"No." Iliana paused and squinted her eyes as though she was trying to remember. "I was just watching Mara. I was trying to protect her."
"Protect her! Mara needs some protecting all right, but I don't know if you're the right one to do that! Come on in, and let's get you something to eat while I figure out how to get hold of your mom and dad." Micah wondered what Iliana had meant by protecting Mara, but brushed it aside in order to get to the business of finding the young girl's parents.
The three children and their new friend came through the back door and settled around the kitchen table. Unlike the house, the table was sturdy, but set unevenly on the rolling linoleum floor. Micah took four glasses from the cupboard, filled them with fresh lemonade, set them before the children, and searched the pantry for the cookies she had put away for the first day of school. Opening the fresh pack of cookies, she counted out two for each of the children.
"Gingerbread Man cookies! I love Gingerbread Man cookies!" Mara picked up her two cookies and set them before her neatly, laughingly anticipating the sweet, spicy treat. Aaron picked up his two cookies and began a conversation between the two of them, while Ben excitedly chomped off the head of the first cookie, wondering what part of its body the decapitated man would sacrifice to his taste buds next.
Iliana stared quietly at her cookies, as though she was unsure about what to do with them. Finally, sensing the joy of the children eating the cookies, she took a small taste of the Gingerbread Man, nibbling gently on his foot. "Mmmm, this is very good!" Iliana smiled and seemed totally absorbed in the taste of the gingerbread.
"Why, thank you, Iliana. Gingerbread's one of my favorites, too." Micah smiled at Iliana, drawn to the small girl's enthusiasm for the cookie. She reached over instinctively to brush Iliana's golden hair from her face, and tucked a lock gently behind her ear. "Iliana, where do live? I bet your parents are worried about you. Let's give them a call."
"I don't know," said Iliana softly, turning her head as if trying to remember. Her answer seemed genuine, as did her confusion about the question.
"Well, that's okay, Iliana. Lots of kids your age don't know where they live. We just moved here ourselves, and I bet Mara hasn't learned her new address yet either." Micah smiled at Mara, and wondered if she was right. Mara looked up from her cookies and smiled, not admitting if her mom was right or not.
"I know!" shouted Ben. "Route 1, Box 28 on Farm Road 119 in Hondo, Texas!" Ben plopped the headless, armless, legless body of his last Gingerbread Man into his mouth, and grinned proudly. Micah smiled at him approvingly and turned her attention back to Iliana.
"What's your last name? We'll give your mom and dad a call. They'll be glad to know you're here, all safe and everything."
"Last name?" Iliana seemed confused. "I don't think I have a last name; I'm only Iliana."
"Everyone has a last name, Iliana. Ben and Mara and Aaron's last name is Summers. Your mom and dad have last name, like 'Mr. Applebutter' or 'Mrs. Figwhite.'" Mara and Aaron giggled at hearing the names their mom had read from the story at bedtime last night. Micah wondered if Iliana lived with both her mom and dad, or ... "Iliana," Micah asked softly, "Do you live with your mom, or with your dad ..." Searching Iliana's eyes, and seeing no response, Micah continued, "or with someone else?"
Iliana looked confused, but seemed glad to be able to give an answer. "I live with someone else." She smiled happily, and hoped that the information was enough to please her host.
Micah gazed at Iliana, and her mind drifted to her own children, and how they missed their own dad, and what it would be like to miss both parents. She was reluctant to press on with her questions for fear of upsetting the beautiful child, but she knew that she had to get to the bottom of this mystery.
"Who else? Your grandparents, an aunt and uncle?" Micah searched her own mind for the possible whereabouts of the girl's family. All that she found, though, was Iliana's own searching eyes staring back, looking deeply into her eyes for a clue of her own.
"She – from – heaven. She – a – angel!" Aaron had finished his last gingerbread man cookies, and had decided to help out. "She – got – wings!"
Excerpted from Angel Trap by Dale Cumberland Copyright © 2012 by Dale Cumberland. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsI. The Trap....................1
III. The Sheriff....................25
VI. The Lizard....................71