Saturday, July 28, 2007

Priorities Change

The other day I came home and was greeted by my wife, dressed only in very sexy underwear and holding a couple of short velvet ropes.

"Tie me up," she purred, "and you can do anything you want."

So, I tied her up and went fishing.

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Sofa Cars

Sofa Cars (Funny pics)

Sofa Cars (Funny pics)

Sofa Cars (Funny pics)

Sofa Cars (Funny pics)

Sofa Cars (Funny pics)

Sofa Cars (Funny pics)

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Blonde Handy-Woman

A blonde, wanting to earn some extra money, decided to hire herself out as a "handy-woman" and started canvassing a nearby well-to-do neighbourhood.

She went to the front door of the first house, and asked the owner if he had any odd jobs for her to do."Well, I guess I could use somebody to paint my porch," he said, how much will you charge me?"

The blonde quickly responded, "How about ?50?"

The man agreed and told her that the paint and everything she would need was in the garage.

The man's wife, hearing the conversation, said to her husband, "Does she realize that our porch goes all the way around the house?"

He responded, "That's a bit cynical, isn't it?

The wife replied, "You're right. I guess I'm starting to believe all those dumb blonde jokes we've been getting by e-mail lately."
A short time later, the blonde came to the door to collect her money.

"You're finished already?" the husband asked.

"Yes," the blonde replied, "and I had paint left over, so I gave it two coats."

Impressed, the man reached into his pocket for the ?50.00 and handed it to her.

"And by the way," the Blonde added,

"it's not a Porch, it's a Lexus.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

One Thousand Dragons

Master chao rushed forward like a tidal wave, heedless of what lay in his path. Like a tidal wave, he crashed into the shore. In this case the shore was a plaster wall. He fell with little "Oh!" as if surprised.

The old servant called Matron flew to him like a black crow landing on a helpless gray mouse. "Aiyeeeee!" she shrieked. "Aiyeeeee!"

Ling froze, paintbrush in midair, the tip of her tongue pressed against her upper lip in concentration.

Master Chao lay motionless on the ground. Slowly he opened his eyes. Did he shout or curse? He did not. He laughed.

Matron plucked him to his feet. She hovered about, brushing the courtyard's yellow dust from his silken robes. The more he laughed, the more she scowled.

Master Chao regarded the wall. On it was a mural of a beautiful garden: silvery green willows reflected in shiny, dark water--shapely rocks among pale purple flowers--a charming pavilion.

The artwork shivered with life. One could almost hear birdsong and smell a cool, green breeze. A bee buzzed toward the flowers. Was the bee real, or was it a clever dab of paint? It was real, and it hit the wall again and again in frustration.

The painting had fooled Master Chao, too. His mind on other things, he had tried to enter the painted garden smoothing depths.

"This looks like my prize student's work," the master said. "Ling, did you paint this?"

Matron cocked her head and gave Ling a sharp look.

"Yes, sir," Ling said, stepping forward. She bowed so low that the ends of her pigtails swept the ground:

"The student surpasses the teacher," Master Chao cried. Then he hugged Ling so hard she thought his brittle bones would break.

"You have sent your spirit into this painting and brought it to life," the master said. "I have taught you much, but this cannot be taught. It is a gift of the heavens. I am proud of you."

Master Chao was the finest artist in all of China and the emperor's favorite. Praise from him was like a rare pearl.

In pleasing him, Ling had done more than please a revered tutor. She had pleased her mother, father, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and holy ancestors, all in one.

For Ling had never known her real family. She had been left on Master Chao's doorstep as an infant ten years ago. The master had raised her, loved her, and turned her into an accomplished artist.

He taught her everything he knew--except how to paint the pupils in a subject's eyes. "Eyes are where the soul lives," he said. "You will learn to paint them when you are ready."

Ling's work was always remarkably lifelike. When she was five she painted a wasp that practically hummed. When she was six she painted a dog that almost growled,

When she was seven she painted a portrait of Matron, all sharp black angles and angry lines. She captured Matron's beaky nose, waxy skin, and lone chin hair.

Matron had never forgiven her.

Now Master Chao was doing a little dance, holding Ling by both hands. "The painted garden is your masterpiece. Let us celebrate!" he said, dancing her into the house.

Master's happiness stuck in Matron's craw, "So the little dabbler brought a painting to life?" she cawed. "What skill does it take to fool an old man?"

But Matron was worried. I suppose I will have to wait on Ling hand and foot from now on, she thought. And what if the emperor hears of her talent and likes her better than Master? If Old Chao loses favor at court, I lose, too. ..FT. Then Matron hatched a plan that would solve the problem of Ling for good.

"Ling's paintings trick and mislead," Matron cackled to anyone who would listen. "She is a danger to the emperor. His enemies may use her powers against him … unless he gets to her first."

Rumor flew to the emperor's ear as if on blue-black wings.

One day four imperial soldiers appeared at Master Chao's gate while the master was away. Matron knew why they were there.

"We have come for the girl called Ling," one of the officers proclaimed.

Matron plucked Ling by the sleeve and handed her over. "You are going to the emperor," Matron told her. "Do his bidding without complaint."

Ling cried out for help. Master Chao could not hear her.

The soldiers hurried Ling through town. They entered the imperial palace and passed through several chambers. Finally, they entered the imperial room and dropped to their knees, pulling Ling down with them.

Before them sat the emperor on a huge throne. He was a fearsome sight, until Ling looked closer. Here was a small, soft man in big, stiff clothes. The emperor's robes were padded. His shoulders were comically broad. His lavishly styled hair nearly doubled his height.

This mighty Son of Heaven looked like a little boy wearing his father's garments--a cruel little boy with a rattail mustache.

"I would not ordinarily trust an important task to a female, and certainly not to a child," the emperor said, "but only you have the necessary skill. You will paint one thousand dragons on the wall that surrounds the palace. You must make them so real that my friends will faint with awe, my enemies with dread."

"I am honored," Ling replied, choosing her words carefully, "but I still have much to learn from Master Chao. When will I see him again?"

"You may return to him when you have completed the thousandth dragon," the emperor said, "but that may take a long, long time, and Master Chao is a very old man."

Then to the soldiers he said, "Take her away."

I will never see Master Chao again, Ling thought. The emperor means to hold me prisoner forever.

The soldiers hauled Ling outside and chained her to the palace wall. Within her reach were paints, brushes, a ladder, a lantern, and a cloth to keep spatters off the stone pathways.

One soldier stayed to stand guard. He brought Ling a bowl of rice and sat on a stool nearby to eat his own supper. Soon he was snoring.

Now I am alone, Ling thought, with an empty wall of many miles and the spirits of one thousand dragons waiting to be born.

Ling heard a noise. She spun around. There stood a beggar with a mud-caked face and tattered muslin robes. She knew at once it was Master Chao in disguise. He wrapped his arms around her.

"You say I have a gift from the heavens," Ling said. "Help me use it to satisfy the emperor and regain my freedom."

"The emperor forbids me to see you until you have finished," Master Chao whispered. "But I have a plan. By day, you will draw outlines of the dragons on the wall. By night, when the guard sleeps, I will help fill the outlines with paint. The work will go quickly. Then we shall open a few eyes."

Master Chao kissed Ling on the forehead. "Sleep now," he said. "Our work starts tomorrow. I will return tomorrow night."

He vanished, slipping into the shadows. Ling folded herself into the cloth and slept. Dragons slithered through her dreams.

The next morning, Ling began to draw. She drew dragons with camels' heads and snakes' necks, fishlike dragons, horned dragons, winged dragons, and the five-toed dragons said to be the emperor's ancestors.

That evening when the watchman fell asleep, Master Chao reappeared. "You have been busy, little artist," he said. "Now I will take over." The master tucked Ling safely into her makeshift bed. She gratefully fell asleep.

In the morning, Master Chao was gone but the dragons shone with color.

The days passed, and Ling's army of dragons grew. They looked so real, they caused a bandit to die of fright and sent a band of rebels screaming into the hills.

Ling and her secret helper, Master Chao, grew thin and pale from their toil. Only Matron grew fat on the emperor's gratitude. No longer welcome in Master Chao's home, Matron had moved to the palace. Now servants waited on her.

The emperor was amazed at Ling's progress. He would soon need another way to keep her busy and out of his enemies' hands.

The dragon mural would be finished on New Year's Day. There would be a grand celebration with music, food, and fireworks. Master Chao was invited to attend, along with all of the other royal artisans. Ling could not wait to be reunited with Master Chao, but also feared what might happen.

The night before, as always, he came to the wall in his beggar's disguise.

Ling confided her fears. "The emperor may not keep his word and set me free," she said.

"Do not worry," the master told her. "The dragons have a surprise in store for him … and for you. Sleep well. I will finish painting the thousandth dragon tonight and see you at the festivities tomorrow."

Ling awoke at dawn and walked as far as her chain would permit. Over the past months, she and Master Chao had painted their way around the palace wall. Their first dragon stood to the right of the main gate. Their last dragon stood to the left. The dragons were so real that their manes seemed to blow in the breeze, their tails seemed to snap like whips.

Even Ling was astonished by their work. What was that flapping noise? Was it a flag flying over the palace, or was it a dragon's wings? What was that burnt smell? Was it goose fat sizzling on a merchant's stove, or was it a dragon's hot breath?

A guard interrupted Ling's thoughts. He unchained her and took her to a small room inside the palace. After several hours, a servant entered.

"Come meet your admirers," the woman said and guided Ling to a platform near the dragon wall.

The emperor and his courtiers were already there. An excited crowd had gathered. Master Chao was there, too, calling Ling's name, arms open wide.

Ling walked toward him. The crowd cheered.

"Behold the dragons," Master Chao shouted. "Do they not seem real?"

"Real!" the crowd yelled. "So real!"

"They are more real than you imagine," Master Chao continued. "Ling has an eye-opening demonstration for you."

He turned to Ling. Quietly he murmured, "Look at the dragons, little artist. I did not paint their eyes. I left that for you. You are ready. Take this brush. Climb the ladder. Open the dragons' eyes."

Ling obeyed, putting a shiny black pupil in the first dragon's eye. The dragon blinked. The painting shimmered, and the dragon shook itself like a wet dog. Then, incredibly, it climbed down from the wall.

Master Chao moved the ladder to the next dragon. Shaking, Ling raised her paintbrush again. When she put dots in its eyes, it flapped its great leather wings and flew into the air.

Each dragon escaped the wall as Ling opened its eyes. Finally, one thousand dragons were gathered around the platform. All of the spectators had fled.

The cruel emperor looked for his courtiers, but they, too, had deserted him. There was only one thing left for him to do. He ran for his life. One thousand dragons gave chase.

If he had looked over his shoulder, the emperor would have seen a dragon flying away with something struggling in its jaws. Was it a fat black crow? Was it Matron, screaming, "Aiyeeeee"?

Master Chao and Ling stood alone. Dust and debris settled around them as the flapping of wings died down.

I am afraid, Ling said, clinging to the man who was her mother, father, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and holy ancestors, all in one.

"You have no need to be," the master said. "The emperor cannot harm you now, and the dragons are your friends."

"But, Master Chao," Ling said, "it is this power of mine that frightens me."

"You have power," the master said, "but you will also have the wisdom and strength to control it. I will guide you. Then one day you will guide me."

The air stirred with a blur of colorful wings. The thousandth dragon had returned for Ling and Master Chao. It landed and bowed at their feet. They climbed onto its back and flew home.

By Patricia Bridgman


Saturday, June 02, 2007

Separate but Equal? Single-Sex Classes Make Waves

The girls at the Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women's Leadership School in Dallas feel that they accomplish more without boys around. "Here, you don't have guys, so you pay more attention to your classes, and you Ye more focused," eighth grader Yadira Perez told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram of Texas. Rangel is one of about 240 public schools offering all-boys or all-girls classes.

Single-sex schools and classrooms are becoming more popular. The US. Department of Education recently relaxed the rules surrounding Title IX, a 1972 law that prohibits sex discrimination in public education. Now it's easier for school districts to offer single-sex education.

Supporters of single-sex education say boys and girls can focus better on schoolwork when they are separated. But some people disagree, saying single-sex education is discriminatory and unrealistic.
Better Learning

Boys and girls have better results in separate classes, some educators say. "We have found that the kids get more involved if we segregate them by sex," Mike Durbin, the principal of Gaston Junior High School, told The Oregomian of Portland, Ore.

Teacher Kristi Anderson of Ronald McNair Middle School in Lake City, S.C., says she uses a competitive team-based approach to teach her boys-only math class. "It gets them excited about learning," Anderson told The Tampa Tribune. "They love the competition."

Some students, including seventh grader Gabrielle Buffington, say separating boys and girls into different classes works. She told the Detroit Free Press that she was skeptical when her school began separating classes but changed her mind after a few classes. "We have our attention on learning. Our grades have gotten better," Gabrielle said.
Inherently Unequal?

Equality advocates, such as Emily Martin of the American Civil Liberties Union Women's Rights Project, say supporters of single-sex schools use faulty research. "The regulations give the green light to schools to develop programs based on … junk-science stereotypes, with the real potential to harm boys and girls." Martin says.

Other opponents say single-sex classes don't prepare kids for real life. "The real world is an integrated place where men and women compete for jobs, time, attention, and power," wrote Jennifer Bovair-Danulevicius of Arlington, Va., to the Free Press in response to an editorial about single-sex education.

Some students don't like being separated by gender. Ed Wilson, a student at Brandon Alternative School, told The Tampa Tribune that he doesn't like the lack of interaction with girls. "It doesn't feel right. It makes me feel like it's jail or something."

What do you think? Take part in an instant Current Events poll on this news debate at and make your opinion count!

Current Events

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Nice animals

Very lovely

Very lovely

Very lovely

Very lovely

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Just the Facts

Indicate the answer that best completes each statement or answers each question by writing A, B, or C in the blank.

1. Approximately how many children work in India? (A) 12,000, (B) 120,000, (C) 12.6 million

2. India (A) has the world's fastest-growing economy, (B) ranks last on the United Nations Human Development Index, (C) has the world's highest concentration of poor people.

3. What 1938 US. law banned children under 16 from working in hazardous jobs? (A) Family and Medical Leave Act, (B) Fair Labor Standards Act. (C) Occupational Safety and Health Administration Act

4. Title IX protects public school students and employees from (A) gender discrimination. (B) overcrowded classrooms, (C) racial discrimination.

5. Supporters of single-sex schools say they (A) don't prepare kids for the real world, (B) help kids focus more on schoolwork, (C) develop interpersonal skills.

Current Events


Thursday, February 22, 2007

What Do You Think?

Separate Boys and Girls?

The U.S. Department of Education recently decided to relax the rules for creating all-boys and all-girls schools and classes. Some educators think kids learn better in classes that include only boys or girls. Others feel that boys and girls learn best when they interact with each other. What do you think? Should boys and girls be educated separately?



Boys and girls should be separated in school because sometimes [when they are together] they can't concentrate and can't do their work. [Having separate classes] can allow kids to concentrate better and more can get done.



I don't think boys and girls should be separated because they can be really good friends. They should not be separated just because they are different. It would be boring without girls in class.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Unicorns On Octavion

By O'Neil De Noux

Along the farthest reaches of the Milky Way hovered a sun-kissed planet of brightly colored oceans, vast forests, and plateaus that stretched as far as the eye could see. When humans first came to Octavion, they were amazed, like children in a toy store, and named all the places for their vivid colors: the Sapphire Sea, the Copper Plateau, the Indigo Forest.

Many people settled on Octavion, bringing with them their machines and computers, their ideas and books, even their plants and animals. Soon the inevitable clash of worlds began, and Earth's creatures--cows, horses, cats, dogs, and fish--edged aside Octavion's native species. After thirty years and a million human inhabitants, the Indigenous Creatures Act was passed to protect Octavion's wildlife. No longer could anyone import creatures from other planets.

One summer evening, as the huge Octavion sun hung just above the horizon, a twelve-year-old girl named Dana learned what the Indigenous Creatures Act was all about.

Sitting on a bench beneath a towering spearmint tree, Dana spied a movement beyond the low stone wall at the edge of the campgrounds. Something stepped up from the Charcoal Plain. The waning sunlight glimmered on its silver horn, and its golden mane flowed in the warm breeze. Dana knew it was a unicorn, and her heart beat furiously. The unicorn poked its nose over the wall and nibbled the coral leaves of the bush just inside.

Dana sat frozen, afraid to blink, and gazed at the graceful creature. It ate every leaf it could reach before turning and moving away. Crouching, Dana hurried to the wall and watched the unicorn disappear into the growing darkness.

The bell rang. Suppertime at Mrs. Miniver's Summer Camp for Girls. Dana hurried to the dining hall, the last to arrive. Her heart thumped with her secret safely inside.

Her friend Joanie ran up to her. "Dana, where have you been?"

"Reading," Dana answered.

"Reading at summer camp? What fun is that?" Joanie said. During supper, Joanie talked about sports and her friends back home. Dana only half listened, thinking about the unicorn. She imagined it racing between the dark gray rocks of the Charcoal Plain, rearing on its hind legs and snorting, then scratching the ground with its front hoofs before stepping over to let Dana pet it.

Tomorrow, she thought. Tomorrow I'll gather as many leaves as I can. Then I'll pile them on top of the wall and wait.

The next day, all the campers went swimming at Lake Robin. While Joanie splashed and laughed with the other girls, Dana sat with Mrs. Miniver, who told her that the lake water matched the color of a robin's egg. Dana had never seen this kind of egg, nor a robin for that matter.

Dana and her big brother, Vincent, had been born on Octavion. Their mom and dad had come from Earth, and they'd often said how lucky Dana and Vincent were to live on a planet without pollution. Like most native Octavions, Dana had seen many things from Earth, like unicorns, only in photographs-until the previous evening. But it wasn't even a photo of a unicorn she'd seen before--it was a drawing. And Vincent had said that unicorns didn't exist.

Turning to Mrs. Miniver, Dana asked what she knew about unicorns.

"There are no unicorns," Mrs. Miniver said. "There never were, not even on Earth. They are mythical creatures, like mermaids and fairies."

Joanie splashed water on two other girls, who screamed. Dana closed her eyes and imagined mythical creatures, mermaids and unicorns, splashing together in the shallow end of Lake Robin. A spray of water in the face, from a giggling Joanie, brought Dana out of her daydream.

"Come swim with us!" Joanie said.

With a sigh, Dana walked into the pale blue waters of the lake.

That evening, Dana was putting coral leaves on the wall for the unicorn when Joanie came looking for her. "What are you doing?" she asked.

Dana looked around guiltily and tried to think of something to fool her friend, but there was no way to make Joanie leave.

"Can you keep a secret?" Dana asked. Joanie nodded, and Dana led her friend to the bench. They sat together in silence. "What are we waiting for?" Joanie asked. Dana shushed her. "You'll see."

As the sun was about to set, Dana spotted the golden mane and the gleam of silver. The unicorn came out of the dimness, walking toward the leaves on the wall.

Joanie let out a long breath, and Dana shushed her again. Noises behind the girls, some of their friends horsing around, made the unicorn lift its head twice, but it kept moving along the wall, eating.

Dana didn't see the second unicorn until she heard it whinny. It stepped up to the wall, where it joined the first in nibbling the coral leaves. Joanie grabbed Dana's arm and squeezed. Dana hoped her friend could keep quiet.

The second unicorn was slightly smaller than the first. Dana thought it was a filly and the other a stallion.

The unicorns finished eating the leaves, then turned and moved away. Dana ran to the wall, with Joanie right behind, and they watched the smaller unicorn nuzzle the bigger one as they disappeared into the gathering darkness.

A few minutes later, the girls sat back down on the bench. "What's wrong, Dana?" asked Joanie. "You look so sad."

"What if someone wants to catch them--or even hurt them?"

"Why would anybody do that?" Joanie's voice caught. Dana could see the worry in her friend's eyes now.

"Maybe that's what happened to unicorns on Earth," Dana said.

Joanie nodded slowly. "But I heard Mrs. Miniver say there weren't any unicorns on Earth. Ever. "So she had been listening.

"But they're here, aren't they?" Dana said.

"Yes, and we need to protect them. What can we do?"

If only I could talk to Dad, Dana thought. He was out "in the field," as he put it, not at his office or at home. He had given Mrs. Miniver an emergency contact number, but she would want to know why Dana needed to talk to him.

"You know," Dana said after a few minutes of silence, "these might be the last unicorns in the universe." She felt a sudden chill, and the hair stood up on the back of her neck.

At breakfast the following morning, Dana sat with Joanie. She felt nervous and frustrated. Her father would know exactly what to do about the unicorns. If she could keep anyone else from finding out about them until then, everything might be O.K. But she had to do something.

As she pushed her food around on her plate, a plan began to form. "I think we should follow them," she told Joanie.

"Follow them? Onto the Charcoal Plain? But that's dangerous!"

"They must live close by," Dana said. "We can bring flashlights and water bottles and food." Then she explained that, if they could show her father where the unicorns lived, he could find a way to protect them.

"Your dad? How can he protect them?" Joanie asked. "That's what he does," Dana said with pride. "He's a ranger. Like a police officer, but out in the wilderness. He helps animals as much as he helps people. He puts poachers in jail."

"So we follow the unicorns tonight?"

"Yes," Dana said. "We follow them wherever they go."

The unicorns came early that evening, and Dana worried that someone else might see them--but all the other girls were busy rehearsing for the camp play or bouncing basketballs in the gym.

The filly came first, with the stallion right behind, and they nibbled the leaves on the wall. Dana found she was holding her breath as she turned her head to make sure no one else was watching.

When the unicorns moved away, Dana picked up her knapsack. Then she and Joanie climbed over the wall and started out onto the darkening Charcoal Plain.

Twelve-year-old Dana has lived on the planet Octavion all her life. While she's at Mrs. Miniver's Summer Camp for Girls, she sees a pair of unicorns, creatures she's always heard did not exist. Dana and her friend Joanie fear that someone else will discover the unicorns, maybe even harm them. Because Dana's dad is a ranger--a person who protects Octavion's natural wildlife--she believes that he'll be able to keep the unicorns safe. She and Joanie decide to find out where they live and tell him. Before sunset, the girls slip away to follow the unicorns onto the darkening Charcoal Plain.

The unicorns moved across the plateau at a leisurely pace, twisting around the dark gray rocks and occasional boulders. Their trail wound its way toward the Cranberry Hills. Dana and Joanie followed close behind. Darkness enveloped them as they neared the first hill, but they could still see the white unicorns up ahead.

A high-pitched howl made Dana jump. Then the girls heard footfalls behind them. Joanie grabbed Dana's hand.

"What's that?" Joanie whispered. Dana heard a low growling, followed by more footfalls.

"Come on." Dana pulled Joanie along. Joanie tripped over a rock and fell. Dana helped her up as the unicorns seemed to vanish straight into the side of a hill.

"Where'd they go?" Joanie asked.

Dana took a hesitant step forward, reached into her knapsack, and pulled out the flashlights. She passed one to Joanie.

It took them ten minutes of frightful to find the entrance to a cave.

"I don't want to go in there," Joanie said.

"Then stay out here by yourself!" Dana stepped into the cave mouth and shone her light around the dark red walls. She didn't want Joanie to know how scared she was, so she clenched her teeth to keep them from chattering and continued walking into the cave. Joanie followed.

Swinging her flashlight around, Dana could see the cave was so wide, the beam barely reached the walls and the ceiling. Something small scurried past, making Dana jump and Joanie screech.

"Was that a snake?" Joanie asked.

"There are no snakes on Octavion," Dana said. "There aren't supposed to be any unicorns, either." Dana swallowed and paid more attention to the floor as they inched forward. She didn't realize that she was hearing something until the sound grew louder. Running water. The girls swung their beams around, but there was no water in sight. It took a few moments to decide that the sound came from up ahead.

They made a turn to the right, and suddenly their beams seemed to go on forever, without hitting any walls. Dana focused on the floor again and saw that, just a few footfalls away, the ground sloped downward. They had reached another opening into the cave.

The sound of water was louder now, coming from below. "There must be a stream or river down there," Dana said.

"What do we do?" Joanie's voice broke.

"We wait until morning.

"All night--in here?"

"Do we have a choice? We don't know, what's out there. And I don't want to go back across the plain at night. Do you?"

Joanie shook her head.

Dana moved to a cave wall and dropped her knapsack, then reached inside for the fire log and lighter. "This fire should last eight hours." She assembled a circle of rocks around the log. It ignited slowly, but once aflame, it filled the cave with light. The girls settled with their backs against the wall and watched the flickering shadows dance.

"There's no way I can sleep," Joanie said with a sigh. Ten minutes later, she nodded off, still sitting Up.

Dana closed her eyes and listened to the soothing sound of the gurgling water. When sleep finally came to her, she dreamed about the unicorns. She saw them playing in a stream, bouncing and rearing up, then racing across a wide plain.

Paul, Dana's dad, stood at the summer camp wall, a powerful flashlight in his hand. Seeing nothing, he looked back at the girl standing next to Mrs. Miniver. "What did Joanie tell you?" he asked.

The girl spoke quickly, explaining how Joanie had bragged about a secret she and Dana discovered out on the plain. "I think it was some kind of animal," the girl said.

Pointing the flashlight back over the wall, Paul spotted footprints in the charcoal dust. Two sets of prints led across the plateau. He climbed over the wall and crouched low, looking at the ground. There were other prints, too. Hoofs. Turning to where his fellow rangers were assembled, Paul said, O.K., they walked off this way."

A worried ranger stepped forward with her flashlight. "They crossed the plain by themselves? At night?"

"It certainly looks that way. Come on." The other rangers followed Paul on the trail of the footprints. He didn't have to say that the rescue mission couldn't wait until morning. Not with two young girls lost on the Charcoal Plain.

Paul forced himself to remain calm. He would find Dana and Joanie---he'd never stop looking until he did. He whispered a silent prayer that the girls hadn't stumbled upon anything dangerous. He also told himself that Dana was smart enough to be careful.

Locating the footprints through a patch of overgrown weeds was difficult. Suddenly there were other tracks--large, lizard-like ones. Paul felt his heartbeat rising as he swung his flashlight around, then pointed it back toward the ground. He couldn't identify the tracks--could they be a predator's?

"Oh no," he said, picking up his pace. The plain became rockier, and there were no more tracks. The other rangers stopped walking and gathered around Paul, who immediately called for reinforcements on his radio. Then he turned to everyone else. "We need to spread out in twos. Keep in touch by radio and move south by west."

As the team split up, Paul thought to himself that, as soon as it was light, he'd call for a hovercraft; then the rangers could look for the girls from the sky.

Worried now that he'd never find Dana and Joanie, Paul continued walking in the direction their last tracks seemed to lead.

A feeling of warmth on Dana's face woke her up, but it wasn't the fire log, which had gone out. It was sunlight streaming into the cave. She stood, shielding her eyes from the golden glow--a shimmering that bounced and danced outside the cave opening. It was something magical.

Dana hesitated, then reached out, her hand moving toward the brightness. She took a deep breath and forced her eyes open --and before her was an incredible sight. It took a moment for the dazzling colors to register.

A trail led out of the cave, down to a silver river so shallow that she could see the bottom. There were emerald boulders and fields of lush grass separated by stands of indigo trees and long rows of coral-leafed bushes. As she looked around, Dana saw that the cave opened onto a deep valley surrounded by the Cranberry Hills.

And, grazing on the grass, just ahead of her, stood a herd of unicorns. Two foals raced each other, rearing and shaking their heads, golden manes flowing in the warm early morning air.

Dana sat down and watched the unicorns. Joanie soon awoke and joined her. They didn't say anything for a long time.

At last, Dana spoke. "We can't let anyone see this. If we do, they'll put the unicorns in zoos or kill them for their horns."

"It'll be our secret," Joanie said.

Three unicorns moved to the river and drank, then began playing in the water, bouncing and s with a stomping of hoofs. They were joined by the foals, and the play continued until all settled down and began to nibble the grass again. Some ate the coral leaves off the bushes.

"I'm hungry," Joanie said, digging into the knapsack. She pulled out some protein bars and two bottles of water.

"Bet that water down there is cooler," Dana said, then froze as she heard footfalls behind them. The girls turned and looked into the cave.

A man and a woman in ranger uniforms rounded the last turn inside the cave and stopped. The woman took another step forward and squinted, having trouble seeing through the shimmering light.

"You wouldn't happen to be Dana?" the woman asked. Dana nodded. The woman pulled a radio from her belt and spoke into it. "Paul, I found the girls. They're both fine. We're in the southeast cave."

"Oh, thank goodness!" Dana's dad said. "Stay with them till I get there."

"Will do." Putting the radio away, the woman turned toward the girls. "You are all right?"

Dana's chin sank, and she left it to Joanie to say, "Yes. Are we in trouble?"

The woman smiled and looked down at the valley. "Lovely, isn't it?"

"Yes," Dana said. "I've never seen anything like it."

It took Dana's dad ten minutes to arrive. He rushed into the cave and stopped a few feet away to put his hands on his knees and catch his breath. A bunch of men and women stopped behind him.

When he stood upright, he opened his arms, and Dana moved toward him. He hugged her harder than she'd ever been hugged before. Then he brushed her hair from her face and asked if she and Joanie were all right.

"Yes," Dana said. "It was my idea. We stayed here all night. Joanie wanted to go back, but I wouldn't let her."

"Whatever possessed you to cross the plain like that?" His eyes narrowed.

Dana shook her head, grabbed her dad's hand, and pulled him over to the cave opening. Then she pointed down at the unicorns. "We followed them from camp.

Her dad called back to the other rangers, and several came forward with tools in their hands. I

"What are you going to do?" Dana asked.

"We' re going to seal off this cave and two more that open onto the valley, to keep the unicorns from getting out on the plain again. That's what we've been doing these last few weeks, preparing to set it up."

"Set what up?"

Her father looked back at two rangers carrying a large piece of clear plastic.

"Come on, let's get out of the way." Dana's dad led the girls back through the cave.

Dana suddenly stopped. "I'd like to tell the unicorns good-bye."

Her father smiled. "What for? As soon as they set up the viewing station, we can come back and watch them any day."

"Viewing station?"

Her father prodded the girls along. "It's a miracle we've kept this a secret. The only way we can protect the unicorns is to keep them in their valley and let people watch them from the caves. Nobody goes in, and nothing comes out."

"So you won't take them to a zoo?" Joanie asked.

"No. And no one will hurt them." I

They stepped from the cave, passing more rangers carrying plastic sheets. Dana took her dad's hand as they moved toward his Land Rover. "They are the most beautiful animals I've ever seen," she told him.

"Yes, but that big lizard whose tracks followed you two from camp wasn't very pretty."

"What big lizard?"

Her dad stopped and pointed to the tracks next to his vehicle. The girls looked at them and shuddered.

Before climbing into the Land Rover, Dana glanced back at the cave. She closed her eyes and imagined the unicorns again. Their silver horns glowed in the morning sunlight, and their golden manes danced as they raced across the grass. She smiled, knowing that now they were safe-v-and that she'd be able to see them whenever she liked.