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The Hill

Bob's family had just moved into Hillville. They spent the whole first day unpacking. The next morning Bob went out early to explore his new neighborhood. At the end of the block, he found two boys playing catch. Soon the three of them were chatting.

"What's there to do around here?" Bob asked.

"Well," one of the boys began, "there's the movie over on Center Street. And the ball field. And ..."

The other boy nudged him in the ribs. "Hey, Chuck, you forgot the Hill." Both boys began to giggle.

"What's so funny?" Bob asked.

"Come on over with Ernie and me," Chuck said, "and you'll see."

All the way over to the Hill, which stood just outside of the little town, Chuck and Ernie kept bursting into peals of laughter. But they wouldn't say anything about the Hill.

"Okay," said Chuck when they reached the foot of the Hill. "Now climb it!"

When Bob was halfway up he turned around and looked back. Chuck and Ernie were still standing at the bottom of the Hill. Their eyes were opened wide, and their mouths were gaping in amazement. "What are you doing?" Chuck gasped.

"I'm climbing the Hill," Bob shrugged. "Come on up." Chuck and Ernie started toward him. Then at a certain point near the bottom of the Hill, they could come no farther. Though their legs moved up and down and they strained toward Bob, they could not move any closer.

Bob raced down to meet Chuck and Ernie.

"Nobody has ever been able to climb this hill!" Chuck exclaimed. "Nobody even knows what's on top. See how misty it looks up there?

When airplanes fly over, all they can see is fog."

"Yeah," Ernie chimed in. "That's why they call the town Hillville -- because of this hill."

"Let's see you do it again," Chuck challenged.

Bob turned around and started up the Hill again. This time he did not turn around. He climbed higher and higher. As Chuck and Ernie watched, he disappeared into the mist.

For hours they waited for him to come down again. But Bob did not appear. Worried, they turned and raced back to town. Word spread quickly in Hillville that someone had climbed the unclimbable Hill. Soon a large crowd gathered at the foot of the Hill.

Bob's parents tried again and again to force their way up the hill after their son. But they could not move an inch closer. There was nothing they could do but wait and hope. They watched and waited. Through the night they waited.

The next morning TV cameras arrived. Helicopters hovered overhead, but they could not see anything.

Official cars arrived from all directions. State police surrounded the area. The Governor put the militia on standby alert. The President demanded a briefing and was astonished that no one on his staff had known about the Hill until that very day. Scientists and military men worked out plans for testing the strange force on the Hill with every kind of instrument known.

Back at the Hill, the sheriff of Hillville grew suspicious. He went over to Chuck and Ernie and confronted them angrily. "Are you sure you're not making all this up?" the sheriff asked the boys. "If you are, you're going to be in a lot of trouble."

"Honest," Ernie cried, "he really did climb the Hill." "He went right up that way," Chuck pointed.

As the sheriff looked up in the direction of Chuck's pointing finger, there was a murmur from the crowd. He squinted and looked harder. Was that a flash of light at the edge of the mist? Something white appeared and grew larger.

A shout went up. It was Bob! He was coming down the Hill at last. He looked all right. In fact, he was wearing fine new clothes, and he was carrying a bulging bag. The reporters and cameramen gathered around him. "What happened? What's up there?" they asked.

But Bob just smiled and shook his head. He showed them the treasures he had brought back with him -- a little gold train that ran around a track of silver wire, an ark with tiny animals perfectly carved from precious stones -- but he would not say what he had seen on top of the hill. "They said that these are the rewards for the one who dared to try the impossible," he said. But he would not tell even his parents who "they" were.

"Hey," shouted one of the townspeople, "let's go up and find out ourselves. If he climbed the hill, we can too! "

There was a sudden surge of people bursting up the hill, eager to claim their own rewards. And this time, there was no barrier. The people ran up the hill, and as they reached the mists, they cleared. Everyone could see the top of the hill plainly now. And -- there was nothing there at all.





©1973, 2013 The Silversteins