written at 17 years of age.

Shemer Ziz looked at his assignment with tired eyes. In the beginning, he had thought it would be an easy job, but a ten year old boy is a handful, even for an angel. It seems that boys will get into everything, never look where they are going, and do almost anything on a dare.

At the moment, Shemer’s assignment had dozed off and was sleeping peacefully in the limb of a tree. He would have rolled off if it wasn’t for the angel’s foot propped on the side of the tree, keeping the boy on the limb.

The little boy’s name was Lyle Jakey. He was considered to be a good little boy by most of his friends and relatives. However, it seems that good little boys have just as much energy as bad ones, and tend to be more creative, have more energy, and more friends. So, Lyle’s PGA (Personal Guardian Angel) was kept on his toes and did not have much time for rest and relaxation.

Not every boy has a guardian angel. In fact, very few are watched over as carefully as Lyle Jakey. For months before he was even born, Lyle’s mother and father had begun to pray for him. They watched him too, and taught him how to be tough and obedient. But God had sent Lyle an extra measure of protection in the form of Shemer Ziz.

“Hey, Lyle!” A voice below the tree rang out. Lyle awoke as quickly as he had fallen asleep. His bright blue eyes glanced around, wide and confused for a moment.

“Lyle!” the boy under the tree shouted again, “you wanna go cave-exploring?” Suddenly Lyle was scrambling down the tree as fast as he could swing from limb to limb, so Shemer climbed down out of the tree as well, keeping one hand on Lyle’s overall straps, just in case.

“You sure shake that tree a lot,” commented Lyle’s friend Donny, the chief instigator of more than half of the scrapes Lyle got into.

“I gotta go ask my Mom first,” the boy told his friend, “and get another flashlight.”

“Nah,” said Donny, “I was already there and told her all about it. And. . .(he whipped out a five dollar plastic torch) I got a good flashlight we can share.”

“Wow,” returned Lyle, impressed with his friend. “What did Mom say?”

“She was making cookies. I think she wanted us to come back and eat some after we get done caving.”

Shemer and Lyle both felt a moment of questioning at Donny’s evasive reply, but he was already trotting off in the direction of the cave and there was nothing to do but follow.

Soon, the boys were peering into the dark opening of a large cave that was known to go all the way through the mountain ridge. Cold spring water seeped out of the opening and lay in a large, still puddle covered in shadows. The water was so clear, some city-slickers were known to have walked right into it without realizing it was water instead of just a low area.

Shemer Ziz shook his head. The things little boys did for fun! But he followed the boys inside, and quickly checked around for loose rocks and snakes. His eyes could see in the dark just as easily as the light. “All clear,” he said aloud to himself, and turned to follow the boys down the largest tunnel.

The cave was pitch black and damp. The floor was muddy at times and uneven rocks at others. There were rock ledges to bump your head on and narrow cracks to squeeze through. One spot required crawling on your hands and knees for at least 30 yards. Even though the angel was invisible, he still had trouble fitting his large form through the tight spots as fast as the two boys. They always seemed in a great rush to get through every adventure as fast as possible.

“There’s a ledge up here somewhere,” Donny’s voice floated back. “Here it is! Be careful, Lyle, this is a dangerous spot!” Donny sounded more excited than scared, but he also wasn’t sharing his light as generously as he had before. Lyle was guided more by Shemer Ziz’s hand on his shoulder than he was by Donny’s flashlight.

The tunnel opened up into a large room. The depth and size of it could not be clearly seen or appreciated by the light of Donny’s puny flashlight. The two boys and the angel inched their way along a ledge on the wall of the giant room. Thirty feet below them the cave floor was covered with enormous fallen rocks.

Lyle wondered briefly if his Mom would have given permission for him to go if she had known just what the cave was like. Shemer Ziz wondered briefly if Lyle’s mother had actually given permission.

A bat fluttered through the light of Donny’s flashlight and he cried aloud in surprise.

“Hey! A bat — it’s flying all around us. . .” His light careened back and forth, trying to follow the bat’s motions. Lyle watched the light and grew dizzy. He took another step and his foot landed on a round pebble. As he lost his balance and began to fall, he reached out and grabbed Donny. Both of the boys screamed. The flashlight went tumbling down into the darkness, smashing on the rocks far below.

Quick as lightening, Shemer Ziz reached out and grabbed both boys by the back of their clothing and pulled them to safety on the ledge. Lyle and Donny sank to their knees, clinging to the wet, rock wall while they gasped and thanked each other for saving them.

Then silence covered the boys as thickly as the darkness. The only flashlight was gone, and they were in the middle of a large, complicated cave system. Shemer Ziz winced and sighed. What now?

“Donny? You wouldn’t happen to have another flashlight, would you?”

It took Donny a few seconds to find his voice. He was so scared he was trying not to cry.

“N-no, that was it,” he answered in a weak whisper.

“What are we gonna do?” Lyle asked.

“First, back your way off of this ledge,” Shemer Ziz suggested. Lyle could not hear the angel with his ears, but he did hear him in his mind.

“Let’s back our way off of this ledge,” he told Donny, and began to crawl backward, one careful step at a time. Donny followed Lyle silently, still too scared to speak.

Lyle reached the opening of the big room, backed his way over a big rock and into the safety of the tunnel. Soon, Donny was standing beside him. The boys were not about to hold hands, even in a life-and-death situation, but they stood close enough that they kept bumping into each other, and neither one of them seemed to mind.

“What now?” Donny whispered at last.

“I’m thinking,” Lyle whispered back.

“Why are we whispering?” Donny whispered again. At this, both boys laughed and the sound of their own voices made them feel better.

“We’re not that far in. Maybe we could feel our way out. Do you think we could?” Lyle asked.

“Maybe,” Donny replied with less confidence. “I can’t even remember which way to go from here.

“I do,” said Lyle. “At least, I think I do.”

“You might as well try,” Shemer Ziz told him, and then added, “work your way right, and stay near the wall.”

So Lyle began inching his way along the wall to the right with Donny following. It seemed like an eternity before the tunnel opened up and it was time to make a decision. The boys paused and Lyle felt overwhelmed with the empty space in front of them.

“Across this room is the little tunnel you have to crawl through,” Shemer told him. “Just walk slowly until you run into the wall, and then get down on your hands and knees and feel around with your hands.”

“Wh-what are you doing?” Donny asked in alarm when Lyle stepped away from him. His hands shot out and found Lyle’s shirt.

“We have to cross the room and find the crawl tunnel,” Lyle explained. If we can find it, and crawl through it, we might see light on the other end. Ready?”

“Ready,” said Donny.

The boys crossed the room, and ran into the wall on the other side. Then, as Shemer guided them, they got down on their hands and knees and crawled around in the mud and sand looking for the crawl tunnel.

At first, Shemer was guiding them perfectly, but on second thoughts, he decided to let them work hard and worry a little. Maybe next time they wouldn’t be so dumb as to take only one flashlight.

When the crawl tunnel was finally located, Lyle and Donny began to make their way through it, crawling on two knees and one hand. The other hand had to be kept out front to feel the way and save their heads from getting bruised on unexpected twists and turns.

At last they were through that tunnel as well, and able to stand up again in the dark, open space of a larger cave room.

“I don’t see light,” Donny said. “Lyle! I don’t see any light! Maybe we went down the wrong tunnel. Maybe we’re lost!”

Lyle hated to admit it, but he was worried too. The glow he had hoped to see was not there.

“My mom knows where we are,” he told Donny, “when we don’t show up to eat cookies, she’ll know we got lost and then Dad will come looking for us.”

Donny did not answer this reassurance and his silence sent a wave of alarm through Lyle.

“Donny? She knows where we’re at, right? You told her, didn’t you?”

Donny was still silent so Lyle reached over and grabbed him. He shook Donny’s arm and demanded,

“Mom knows we’re here, doesn’t she?” Now Lyle was as scared as Donny, and Shemer Ziz was shaking his head again.

“Maybe,” Donny answered. “I didn’t actually tell her we were going today.”

“But you told her about this cave, right?” Lyle pressed.

“Well, not exactly,” Donny replied hesitantly. “She was busy.”

“But she said to come back and eat cookies when we were done, didn’t she?” Lyle’s voice broke on a high note and Donny was silent again.

Silence filled the damp, blackness around them. Lyle sat in stunned disbelief. His parents didn’t even know where he was. They had no idea. If he ever got out of that cave alive, Lyle promised himself he would never trust Donny again.

When Lyle’s mind had calmed down enough to hear him, Shemer Ziz spoke again, “You have been going the right direction. It isn’t far now. Get up, and work your way to the left now.”

Lyle got to his feet and spoke firmly in the darkness, “Come on, Donny. We’ve got to find our way out of here. Let’s keep going. We might be close.”

Lyle wasn’t waiting, and Donny wasn’t staying behind alone, so both boys stumbled forward in the darkness with their hands out in front to feel the way. Lyle instinctively veered to the left, but did not collide with anything in his path.

Suddenly, the ground fell away under their feet and both boys lost balance and rolled head over heels down a mud slope. At the bottom, they groaned and sat up to check for damages. But any small bruises and scrapes they might have incurred were immediately forgotten.

“Light!” both boys shouted and leaped to their feet.

Shemer Ziz stood on the slope and laughed. This day’s adventure was almost over. The boys were scrambling toward the light, turning the last corner and splashing into the nearly-invisible pool of water in the opening.

They threw themselves onto the green grass of the pasture beyond the cave, and Shemer Ziz came out behind them. He stretched his body upward, to his full height, and raised his hands to praise the Almighty God for delivering Lyle Jakey and his friend Donny once again.

“Thank you, God.” Lyle said, from where he laid on the grass, looking up at the bright, blue sky. Donny rolled over and propped himself on one elbow.

“Hey,” he said, “your Mom really was making cookies.”

The End

“Shemer Ziz” is Hebrew for “Guardian Protector.”