Bridge to Terabithia

by Katherine Paterson

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Chapter 9 Summary

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The weather is dismal during the week after Easter. Jesse and Leslie, disappointed that their break from school is being ruined by the incessant rain, sit disconsolately on the porch at the Burkes’s house on Monday, wondering what to do. Leslie says she wants to go to Terabithia despite the inclement weather, and Jesse responds, “Why not?” Leslie goes in to get her rain gear and to borrow a jacket of her father's for Jesse to wear. Her mother, who is preoccupied with her writing, comes out to greet them. Jesse wonders at the difference between Mrs. Burke, who creates stories in her head, and his own mother, who only watches them on television.

Leslie and Jesse run barefoot across the field with the puppy, joyfully “splashing through the puddles and slushing in the mud.” When they get to the creek bed, they are astonished to see that the normally dry gully is now “a roaring eight-foot-wide sea” that reminds Jesse of the rushing waters that decimate the Egyptians in the movie The Ten Commandments. Leslie utters an exclamation of awe. Jesse looks up at the rope and suggests that perhaps they should not cross over today, but Leslie is determined. Shoving the sodden P.T. securely under her raincoat, she grabs the rope, gets a running start, and swings neatly over the water, landing gracefully on the other side. Jesse is terrified but determined not to show his fear. He takes his turn on the rope, lifts off, and lands clumsily in Terabithia.

The rain continues sporadically over the next two days, but Jesse and Leslie return to Terabithia on Tuesday and Wednesday nonetheless. The torrent in the creek bed continues to swell, and by Wednesday the children must launch themselves from ankle-deep water to make it into their magic land. Leslie is unaffected by the rain, but Jesse’s terror grows in proportion to the amount of water in the creek. On Wednesday, as they sit in the castle stronghold, it begins to pour, and Leslie suggests that they go to the sacred grove to ask the spirits if a curse has come down upon the land, and if so, what they should do to combat it. In the eerie confines of the grove, Jesse is filled with a feeling of dread, and he is relieved when Leslie indicates that it is time to leave. Jesse is disgusted with his fear and thinks he is unworthy to be the king of Terabithia.

That night, it continues to rain, and Jesse awakens from his sleep, filled with apprehension at the thought of crossing the creek the next day. He considers just telling Leslie that he does not want to go. Although he knows she will not make fun of him, it bothers him terribly that he is so afraid. Jesse thinks that he has been made “with a great piece missing” and is unable to go back to sleep because he is tormented by his feelings of inadequacy. Jesse does not understand why he is always afraid while Leslie is so fearless. He knows that “no matter how high the creek came, Leslie would still want to cross it.”

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