Chapter 6 Summary

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Brian remembers a time when he and his friend Terry had gone to the park and pretended they were lost in the woods. They had discussed what they would need to do to survive and concluded that building a lean-to would be one of the first things that must be done. Brain decides this is what he should do now, and he sets out to find a good place to build a shelter. Wanting to stay by the lake so he will be visible should rescuers arrive, Brian explores the stone ridge to his left. On the ridge’s north side, he discovers a “scooped-out” area in the stone under a ledge; all he will have to do is wall off part of the opening, and he will have the perfect shelter.

When he begins to gather pieces of wood to close up the opening, Brian is overcome by weakness. He realizes that before he attempts to do anything else, he will have to find something to eat. He tries to remember anything he might have read or seen about foraging for food in the wilderness, and he recalls a show about a survival course taken by a group of air force pilots. One of the pilots had found beans on a bush, which she had cooked with lizard meat to make a sort of stew. Brian does not think there are beans where he is, but he conjectures that there must be berries.

Stepping outside, he notes that the sun is high and decides it must be early afternoon. At home, his mother would be getting ready to go see him—the man his father does not know about, whose presence was behind the divorce.

Brian sets out to find some berries, observing his surroundings carefully so he will not get lost. He walks slowly up the lakeshore for about two hundred yards, toward a stand of brush that seems promising. He sees a flock of “reddish orange birds” flying into the undergrowth. When he looks at them more closely, he finds that they are eating berries.

The berries, which are half as big as grapes and grow in bunches, are different from any Brian has ever seen. Famished, he grabs handfuls of them and stuffs them in his mouth; they are bitter and have large pits in them, but he is so hungry that he eats great quantities, pits and all. He eats until his stomach is full then makes a pouch out of his torn windbreaker and gathers more berries to take back to the shelter. As he retraces his steps along the lakeside, he notices there is driftwood everywhere and wonders how he might eventually be able to make a fire.

Strengthened by the nourishment he has received, Brian drags sticks up from the lake and weaves a wall across the opening of his shelter. When he is finished, the entire front of the area under the overhang is covered except for a small doorway on the right side, nearest the lake. Brian surveys his abode and is pleased to see that it is roomy—“almost fifteen feet long and eight to ten feet deep.” As darkness falls, he wraps himself contentedly in his windbreaker and settles down for the night, but sleep is slow in coming. Finally, with his stomach churning annoyingly, he drifts into a fitful slumber.

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