The group was getting a little restless at the O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois. The traffic had been lighter than expected that Saturday morning and they had already been through check in, baggage check, and security. With the excited chatter associated with teenagers, the group was scattered around the hard plastic chairs in the waiting area, some sitting, others standing in small conversational groups and others busy with iPads. They still had an hour to wait for boarding.
They were a chess club from a local high school in downtown Chicago.
“Mr. Bailey, can I go find something to eat right quick?” asked Tim, who kept pushing his wire-frame glasses closer to his eye sockets.
“Tim do you have a watch on?” asked Mr. Bailey.
“Because it’s 9 am now and boarding starts at 10 sharp. I expect you back here at ten minutes before boarding starts. No getting lost.”
“Okay Mr. Bailey, I understand. No drama, huh?”
“Hey, can I go with him?” asked Mike, a proficient chess and tennis player.
“You’re hungry too?” asked Mr. Bailey. He ignored the rumblings that had started in his stomach.
“No, just bored.”
“Okay, both of you back on time.”
Mr. Bailey, the school’s athletically built dean of students and disciplinary officer, loved these kids but hoped he had enough chaperones. They were good kids, but got bored quickly. Their curiosity could get them in a lot of trouble. But, how much trouble could they get into on a ski resort in Denver, Colorado? He guessed he would soon find out.
Mr. Bailey and his chaperones got all the kids settled into their seats on the plane. It was quiet.
“So far so good. Tim and Mike got back ten minutes earlier than you told them,” said Rachel one of the chaperones, an 11th grade math teacher.
“Yeah, so far so good. Thanks for chaperoning,” said Mr. Bailey.
“You’re welcome besides I love skiing,” said Rachel.
They landed on schedule. The ski lodge was beautiful. Mr. Bailey got everybody squared away in their hotel rooms. That night, there was a briefing by the director of the hotel.
“Welcome to our ski lodge. We have a beginners and an advanced slope. Our rental office is open from 6 am to 6 pm every day. You can rent all your equipment from the office. There is a off limits area just west of the beginners slope. It is dangerous. And with a stern eye that canvassed the group, the director jovially said, Enjoy your weekend here.”
The next morning everyone in the group got on the slopes early. Most went on the beginners slope. Rachel and a few of the students started at the advanced slope. It was almost one o’clock when the group met in the lobby to go to the restaurant together for lunch.
As they started to eat, Mr. Bailey asked, “How was it?”
“It was fantastic. I started on the beginners slope. But after a couple of hours of practice I moved to the advanced slope,” said Tim talking with food in his mouth.
“Well, I’m still on the beginners slope,” said Mike. He looked at Tim with that a are you kidding me look while pointing to his mouth.
“Want some help?” asked Tim with a sheepish grin that conveyed a no care attitude.
“No, I’ll handle it,” said Mike.
After lunch Mike went back to the beginners slope. Glancing around, he saw a sign that said “RESTICTED AREA”. “Why not,” he thought. He waited until no other skiers were around to go into the area. Pushing open the unlocked gate with a large rusted lock that had had seen better days, he first saw an owl in a tree that he thought was sleeping. He quietly walked closer to get a better look at the owl and it opened one eye. Then it closed it. Somewhat startled, Mike started walking along the restricted area again making sure he stayed on the graveled path. Then a bird started walking behind him. He looked back, kept walking backwards, and stepped into an animal trap. He was hanging from a large, thick branch in the trap upside down, his glasses sitting perilously at the tip of his nose. The owl flew over to him. He landed to the right of him on an adjacent branch almost as large as the one that held Mike.
“Didn’t you see the restricted area sign?” asked the owl.
Mike was speechless.
Moving its head in various rotations, the owl said, “See we are the creatures that escaped man’s experiment on us. We decided to do our own experiment up here.” With a piercing look that caused Mike not to move a muscle, not that he could if he wanted to, the owl quipped, “ How many humans follow their own rules to avoid danger?”
“What, how….this is impossible. What are you going to do with me?” asked Mike.
“After we study you for awhile we will let you go. Who’s going to believe you anyway?” asked the owl.
The bird and the owl started laughing.
Trying to jerk loose, Mike somehow bumped his head. When he woke up, he was back at the beginners slope again. Did he dream it?
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