Escape from Fire Mountain

Escape from Fire Mountain by Gary Paulsen Read Free Book Online

Book: Escape from Fire Mountain by Gary Paulsen Read Free Book Online
Authors: Gary Paulsen
    Nikki Roberts's green eyes flew open. The morning sun was pouring through her bedroom window. She grabbed the alarm clock and frowned. It was Monday and already after seven o'clock. “Traitor. Of all the mornings for you to fall down on your job …”
    A door slammed downstairs. The tall blond girl let the clock fall on the bed and frantically pulled on her jeans.
    A voice carried from below. “Hurry up, Nikki. We're almost ready.” It was her dad, and his voice held a note of impatience.
    Jim Roberts was a well-respected outfitter and guide in the Wabash Mountains. The family-operated Tall Pines Hunting Lodge functioned as a headquarters for his guided elk hunts. It catered to people from all over the country and was always full in the winter, with a long waiting list.
    Now it was off-season. No hunting could take place in the summer, so there were no visitors. Nikki's parents were going to the city, several hundred miles away, for a week to help her uncle Joe, who was recovering from knee surgery.
    Nikki had convinced her folks that she was old enough to stay behind and take care of things. After all, she had been raised up here, and at thirteen she was mature enough to remember to feed the stock and keep an eye on the place.
    She took the wooden stairs two at a time and found her mom in the kitchen checking for the tenth time a list of things for Nikki to do.
    Nikki peered at the list over her mother'sshoulder. “Don't worry, Mom. Everything will be fine. You'll only be gone a few days.”
    Her mom put the list back on the refrigerator. “I know. But if there is a problem, you'll get on the phone and call for help, right? The CB base radio doesn't have the range to get out beyond the mountains. “She knows all that.” Nikki's dad winked at her over the top of her mother's head. He picked up the last suitcase. “You've been over it with her at least a dozen times. Now come on. We told Joe we'd be there before nightfall.”
    Nikki walked them out to the pickup. Her mom looked around anxiously at the woodland that surrounded the lodge. The river, peaceful and reassuring, tumbled playfully under the log bridge a few yards in front of them. She sighed, hugged her daughter, and got in on the passenger side. “I put Uncle Joe's number right beside the phone.”
    “I know, Mom. And on the microwave, the TV, and the bathroom mirror. I won't lose it, promise.”
    Nikki's dad put his arm around her. “Stay close to home, kiddo. No long horseback rides or canoe trips, okay?”
    “Dad, you're as bad as Mom.”
    “Can I help it if I want my head wrangler and chief cook in one piece when I get back?”
    “What could go wrong? All I have to do is feed the horses, take reservations, and lie around and eat popcorn.”
    Her dad stepped into the truck and laughed. “Well, at least go easy on the popcorn.” He started the engine. “We should be back by Sunday.”
    “Good-bye, Nikki.” Her mother waved. The truck rumbled down the dirt drive, and they were gone.
    Nikki watched them cross over the bridge and disappear down into the valley. A funny feeling of excitement came over her. She picked up a rock and threw it as far out into the river as she could. It skimmed easily across the glimmering surface. Nikki smiled. Then she turned and raced back to the house to begin her first day of independence.

    The horses were fed, and there was nothing worth watching on television. Nikki had straightened the entire house, and it was still before noon. She pulled on her riding boots and wandered back out to the barn. Goblin, her favorite horse, put his head over the corral fence, and Nikki stroked his sleek black neck.
    “Dad didn't say I couldn't go riding, you know. He just said not to take long rides.” Nikki patted him between the ears. “Anyway, what's long to some people is really not verylong to others. Have you ever noticed that, Goblin?”
    The horse blinked his big dark eyes at her. She ruffled his

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