Chapter 25 Wednesday, 1600 hours (4 PM)
The sun was low in the sky and the cub scouts clad only in thin sweatshirts and underwear were beginning to feel the effects of the October chill. After their recapture, they were placed in the snow leopard enclosure along with Jeffrey who had been nabbed earlier. Jeffrey, although sad that the scouts had been caught, was really glad to see them. He was seriously lonely, and the batteries in his TV set were almost dead. Jeffrey could watch TV now for about a minute at a time before the set clicked itself off. A wait of at least five minutes would allow the batteries to recover enough to give him another minute or so of viewing. It was very frustrating, and as the batteries continued to fade, the wait became longer. The scouts came just in time. Jeffrey caught them up with the news, much of which they didnt believe, listened in turn to the story of their capture, and then they played.
Jeffrey and the scouts were playing a running game, previously out of pure joy but now, with the cold working up from their bare feet, also to keep warm. Jeffrey felt a little guilty as he alone was fully clothed and wearing shoes. They were playing a game akin to soccer, using Jeffreys rolled up jacket as a ball, but in the cold, it was the waste of a good jacket. Kit, slight as he was, was beginning to turn blue so Jeffrey gave him the jacket to wear. They continued playing soccer, this time with an imaginary ball.
In their play, they didnt notice the zoo cart until it was almost upon them. When they did notice, they stopped in their tracks, and then moved back up to the rear of the enclosure. They watched as the zoo cart with a single occupant drove up. Jack got out and fetched a large filled garbage bag from the deck of the cart and carried it up to the bars. The scouts and Jeffrey watched wordlessly.
"Look guys, Come on over," said Jack. "I want to talk to you."
The kids, Jeffrey especially, did not want anything to do with Jack. They stood silently looking at him from as far from the front bars as they could get. They stood motionless, except, now that they were not moving around, some were shivering from the cold.
"Come on. Im not going to hurt you. I promise," continued Jack. He opened the bag and pulled out a handful of blue cloth.
"Look. Ive brought your uniforms. Come on. You guys are going to freeze out there."
The scouts looked from Jack to Kit. Kit walked slowly forward with as much dignity as was possible considering his attire. Jeffrey and the rest of the pack followed a few steps behind. The ground directly behind the bars was wet so Jack could not simply empty the bag on the ground. And the bars were too close together to pass the whole bag through, so Jack took out each item, piece by piece, and passed it through the bars. As each item was recognized by a patch or stain, a scout took it and put it on. The process gradually transformed the group of near naked kids back into a sharp looking Cub Scout pack. Kit straightened his neckerchief and then obviously the leader both by his cords of rank and his demeanor examined his pack, straightening the occasional neckerchief as appropriate.
"Thank you very much, sir," said Kit. Back in uniform Kit talked to Jack, an adult, the way he was trained to. Jack, although a young college student, seemed very much an adult to the young Kit. That Jack was not a very nice adult, and might even be dangerous, added to Kits stiff formality.
Jack was not used to such formality and was a little unnerved by being called 'sir'.
"Um. Youre welcome," he said. "Look, could you guys go away please while I have a little talk with him," said Jack pointing to Jeffrey, the only boy not in blue uniform. Jeffrey backed up a few steps, and Kit extending the protection of his leadership even to Jeffrey walked to stand between him and Jack. Jack craned his neck, trying to look around Kit.
"Please, Im sorry. I just want to talk to you," he said. "Whats your name?"
Jeffrey moved tentatively forward to stand next to Kit.
"Jeffrey," he said cautiously.
"Look Jeff," said Jack. "Im really sorry I hit you. Ive really been a megadork."
Jeffrey giggled at the word.
Jack sat down on a bench in front of the bars and he and Jeffrey had a talk. After a glance from Jeffrey, Kit moved his pack away. Jack apologized again, and almost because of the previous brutality, there seemed to be a bond between them. Jacks beating had really hurt, but Jeffrey had reserved his hate for Joshua who as an older adult, should have been his protector.
Jack talked to Jeffrey almost as if to a kid brother. Jeffrey who, as a lonely only child, would have killed to have an older brother, for the moment was happy to regard Jack as one.
"I guess that was the worst licking youve ever had," said Jack conversationally.
"Yes sir," said Jeffrey. "the only one."
"Your parents never hit you?" asked Jack with some envy, "and just call me Jack, not sir."
"No, they never hit me," said Jeffrey, and then almost to himself said, "I sometimes wish they would though."
"What? Hit you? Why do you say that?"
"Well, its almost like they arent really my parents. They dont seem to care. They never hit me, never, you know, hug me," said Jeffrey. "They dont touch me at all."
"Thats really tough, Jeff."
As they talked human to human Jack felt some of the heaviness lift from his spirit. They continued talking as the sun went down and the bright blue uniforms of the distant pack turned gray.
"Why cant you let us out?" asked Jeffrey.
"I dont have the key. Besides, where would you go? Youre probably safer in here."
"Cant you get us out of the zoo?"
"Mr. Cave wont let you?" asked Jeffrey.
"Joshua? No he wont. You really are safer in here."
"Yeah, I guess," Jeffrey agreed. It was better to have Joshua on the other side of the bars.
"Do you need anything, you know food?" asked Jack.
Jeffrey thought. "Yes," he said, "food and specially cans of soda, enough for the pack."
"Sure. Ill bring the stuff later tonight. Ive got to go now though."
"Thanks Jack," said Jeffrey as Jack stood up to go.
"Oh," said Jeffrey suddenly remembering something. "I need some batteries."
"Batteries, OK. What kind?"
"AA, alkaline. I need four of them," said Jeffrey.
"OK, Bye Jeff."
Jack waved to the Kit and the pack, and returned to his electric zoo cart.