It was almost a miracle that Cameron was not killed when he fell twenty feet down a rock face next to a water fall. His sister thought he was dead and even now will not talk to me about it. I thought it was she who screamed his name over and over.
The trip had not been wonderful. Both kids wanted to go home early and were feeling done with the camping trip by Saturday afternoon.
Ok, I said, let's just take this one hike to see the old bear cage and then we'll go home. I secretly planned to lure them into the Cascade restaurant with the promise of lobster dinner.
We couldn't find the bear cage. Erin was angry and stomped ahead of us and Cameron said he felt like the cage was on the spur the headed to the right. We followed Erin into a big field with tall yellow weeds and oily railroad ties and a chain link fence.
Let's try Cameron's way, I said, but now Erin was behind us, busy with her cell phone.
Cameron has always been an alarmingly anxious kid. Frantic. He didn't want to be lost.
We made the right hand turn and there was the empty cage where the State of Maine used to keep a bear for the entertainment of tourists. We waited there for Erin to rejoin us. And then there was the brook and it was cool and sweet and I thought I'd redeemed the trip. Both kids were smiling. We hiked up one side of the waterfall and then back down, and then crossed a falled tree where Erin squatted down behind her little brother so they'd be the same height for a photograph. Cameron's smile is wide and he is wearing dirty basketball shorts and hiking boots.
We began hiking up the other side of the waterfall: no real trail on this side but more of a wide flat swath. Erin lagged behind and I led the way. The artery was covered with dead orange pine needles and a useless thick wire rope twisted on the ground beside us.
I was looking at my own shoes when Cameron said, "Mom."
I turned around and all I could see were the tips of his fingers stretched out to me.
I dropped the piece of lichen I'd been carrying and ran back down to catch him before he hit the bottom. I must have been screaming his name. CameronCameronCameron! I was not in time to catch him. He was flat on his back on the rock, looking up at the sky. He opened his bloody mouth and said, "I just want to go home."