Mom was right all along.
She had been telling Davey for years not to cut through the woods on his way home from school.
“It’s dangerous in there,” she’d said. “Gullies and fallen trees and sinkholes everywhere … and panthers. Why, those big cats would like nothing better than to gobble up a tender little boy like you!”
Davey had heeded her warning for a long time, but as he grew and made friends, peer pressure inevitably led him into the woods.
Nothing ever happened.
By the beginning of fourth grade, he was so big and bold that he took the forest path even when he walked alone.
And so it was that one warm afternoon in early September, Davey was strolling through the big clearing in the middle of the forest, alone, when a huge panther sprang from the shadows and pounced at his feet.
Davey shuffled backwards, turning to run, but he tripped over a boulder and sprawled on a carpet of pine needles and jagged sticks. The panther roared and tensed its muscles, preparing to pounce again. Davey closed his eyes and hoped it would be over quickly, at least.
Suddenly, a low rumble filled the air, and Davey looked again just in time to see a gigantic bear stomp into the clearing. The panther crouched on its haunches, ears pinned back. The cat seemed powerless to move as the towering beast picked it up with mighty claws that moved like hands, and tossed it deep into the dark forest.
Davey scrambled to his feet, and the bear turned toward him. Its eyes sparkled as if they were filled with a million stars, and the same sparks danced around its head like a cloud of fireflies.
After a few seconds, the bear disappeared in the direction from which it had come, trailing sparks that flitted around the clearing.
Davey turned and ran for home as fast as he could, not daring to look behind him. Normally, he would have never admitted having cut through the woods to his mother, but he was so excited about his adventure, he burst through the back door and began yelling.
“Mom! You aren’t going to believe this!”
He dropped his school bag in the hallway and sprinted into the kitchen.
His mother was chopping tomatoes on a cutting board, and little sparks flitted from the knife’s blade.
“What’s all the excitement, Davey?” his mom asked, looking up at him, smiling.
And, for just a split second, Davey could have sworn her eyes twinkled silver like the night sky.