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|Charlie MacDuff and the Test of Time|
by I. MacPenn
Charlie, Alice, George, and Jane were each sinking in the quicksand. They were each screaming and desperately trying to get away. They were soon hip-deep in the quicksand.
Jane shouted, "Don't thrash about, it only makes you sink more quickly. Move very slowly, relax your muscles, and lie back. That way, your body will move into a floating position. Spread your legs and arms out from your body, and try to float on your back, like you're in a swimming pool."
The kids did what Jane suggested, but the quicksand seemed to be pulling at their legs. They moved in slow motion, but it wasn't their choice. Each movement was a tremendous effort. Jane's ideas did seem to help slow down their sinking. But they were still stuck in the quicksand."
Alice said quietly, "I sure hope the crocodiles don't notice us."
"How could they not, with all the noise we made," said George, "I'm trying to decide if I'd rather die in the quicksand or by being eaten by a crocodile."
Charlie said sternly to George, "Don't think like that. Concentrate on how we're going to get out of here alive. I know we can do it."
Jane said, "I think we can float towards those trees and escape the quicksand. It's like floating in wet concrete, though -- go very slowly and paddle very slowly."
Jane's method of floating in the quicksand worked, and they were making progress.
Jane spoke to them, trying to keep them calm, "Quicksand is just ordinary sand that is saturated with water. The water decreases the friction between the particles of sand to almost nothing, so it behaves like a thick, soupy liquid. And vibrations will make it even more liquid, and you'll sink more quickly."
George answered, "I remember reading about quicksand a few years ago. It seemed so cool then. I never thought I'd be stuck in it one day and be crocodile bait. This is too weird."
Charlie said, "We're halfway to the trees - we can make it." They were lying on their backs, floating on the quicksand and slowly propelling themselves head first to the nearest group of trees. They had about 10 feet left to go, but it seemed like miles. They each kept one eye on the river, watching for crocodiles.
A low roar came from the direction away from the river. Everyone immediately turned their head and looked in that direction. They saw a large jaguar crouching at the edge of the sand. The wild cat was only about fifteen feet from Charlie and was ready to pounce. Charlie screamed.
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The jaguar is a large, spotted wild cat from South and Central America.
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