Suddenly, I saw the dreaded light come around the corner of the chicken coop. "No!" I silently cried, "go the other way! Please, please, please don’t come in this direction!" A blade of grass tickled my nose as I tried to lie as still as I could, hunched down on my knees. At the same moment, the annoying hum of a mosquito buzzed by my ear and I quickly slapped it away, hoping it would not settle on my neck for an evening snack.
“Ah ha! I found you!” Jack shouted, shining the beam straight into my eyes. “You can come out now! You’re It!”
“Oh, rats! Why do you always have to find me first?” I asked as I made my way out of the grass. “I hate being IT!”
“Your bright shirt gave you away,” he commented. “Wear black next time.” He handed me the flashlight. “We better call the others so they can come out of their hiding places,” Jack said. As we walked back up to the front of the house, he cupped his hands over his mouth and shouted, “Come out, come out wherever you are! Karina is It!”
Slowly, like cockroaches coming out of the woodwork, the others appeared one by one as they came out of hiding and into the shadows of the dim embers of the bonfire that was slowly dying in the middle of our dirt packed basketball court. Tyler and Marcus laughed and joked about some furry creature they had seen in the woods while they had been hiding.
“Good thing Jack found you,” my brother Tyler said poking me in the arm. “Any longer and the skunk I was petting would have sprayed me!” He glanced at his watch. “It’s almost 10:00, guys. We have time for one more game of Flashlight Tag before we have to go inside. Karina, you’re it! Go into the garage and count to 100. Make sure you shut the door and count slowly! And,” he added, “no peeking out the window!”
With a sigh, I entered the garage and closed the door. The bare light bulb that lit up the room overhead seemed extra bright to me after coming in from the pitch black night. Our black and white Springer Spaniel wagged his tail and gave a little whine as he licked my hand. He did not like having to remain a prisoner in the garage when we played our games, but he did not make a good hiding partner when you wanted to remain inconspicuous in the dark of the night. I sat down beside him on the wrinkled orange carpet he used for a bed. “Hi, Jake,” I said as I began counting in my head, “I wish I could bring you outside to help me find the others, but they wouldn’t like it very much. You would give away their hiding places too quickly. They probably would not let me play next time if I did so I can’t take that chance. Flashlight tag is so much fun, but I hate when I'm It.”
I felt something moving on my neck and lost count as I touched my neck. What was that thing? Oh, I hoped it was not a creepy crawly! As my hand brushed the strange invader, I felt something cold and slimy. In a panic, I jumped up, quickly brushing at the back of my neck like a dog trying to scratch a flea. Leaping and hoping around like I had just stepped on some hot coals, I finally managed to shake the THING off onto the cement floor. I stood looking down at the creepy, brown, bumpy, slimy, nasty caterpillar that had just been on my neck. Shuddering with disgust to think such a horrible creepy crawly had been on my body, I quickly ran to the other side of the garage and leaned against the big door.
I wondered where I had left off in my counting, not sure how much time had passed since I had stopped. Hearing Jake’s chain collar rattle, I glanced up and saw him sniffing the caterpillar that was making its way across the floor. Suddenly, Jake decided it looked good to eat and gobbled it up. I had seen enough! It did not matter if I had given them 100 seconds or less to hide. I was going out to find them!
I quickly opened the door. I had to hurry while Jake was distracted with his so-called snack, so he would not try to come out with me. I quietly shut the door behind me, hoping it would not squeak and alert everyone that I was out searching. I had more of a chance finding someone if I could sneak up and overhear them chatting, or making some kind of noise. I went over to the short, wooden bridge that spanned the shallow stream and strained my ears to listen for any suspicious noises. All I could hear were the normal night sounds of a country home. The water below my feet bubbled and splashed across the rocks that lined the stream bed. It was a peaceful sound, one that I never tired of hearing. Here was where I had spent many hours playing with my "little people" and figurines - pretending the stream was a raging river, sometimes unintentionally losing a person over the edge of the stream that led down the hill and into the woods. A few crickets chirped in the bushes behind the old woodshed on my left, and the glow of the bonfire embers behind the woodshed emitted a soft light on the trees, making them look like tall monsters reaching out long skinny arms.
This was the part I hated most. All my friends could be hiding just about anywhere and it was up to me to find them. Alone. In the dark. Over two acres of land, filled with trees, trees, and more trees, yet, all I had to do was just find one person. Only one and the game would be over. Something moved in the woodshed and suddenly I was filled with hope. Maybe it would be easy tonight. I hurried to the door and found it locked. Surely nobody was in there, unless one of the others had locked them in to make it look like nobody was inside. Deciding to keep going, I hurried into the open section of the woodshed. Rows of wood lined the back wall, drying out for the long winter that was most assuredly going to arrive in a few short months. I shined my light into the recesses of the neatly stacked wood, enjoying the fresh smell of the newly cut wood. There was nothing to indicate that anyone was hiding there, so I stepped down and began making my way across the driveway. I looked in each of the car windows. I had to make sure nobody was hiding in the back of one of our station wagons. There was no sign of life anywhere. I made my way up one side of the driveway and down the other, shining my light into the woods that filled the gap between the long hills that led up to the dead end dirt road we lived on. I checked my pine tree, hoping I might see the sneaker of my friend Jim. We had spent many hours having rubber band fights in that very tree, so he knew it was a great place to hide, but still nothing. It was time to go around back and brave the woods at the bottom of our sliding hill.
“Maybe I should check around the other side of the house first,” I thought, hoping with all my might that someone might be in the friendly woods between our house and the Womack’s. I went along the side of the house and was starting to walk around the next corner near the steps that led down to the chicken coop when suddenly my foot stuck something rather large in the path. I fell against a warm and quite large 'thing.' I screamed as my flashlight rolled out of my hand and I heard a chuckling sound. I quickly rolled away from whomever I had tripped over and tried to still my beating heart. Without the use of my flashlight, my eyes slowly adjusted to the dark, and I could see the dark figure slowly rise up.
“Did I scare you?” I heard my brother ask me. “Did you think I was a dead body in the path?”
“Don’t ever do that again!” I hollered at him. “You scared me half to death!”
“You were taking so long to find us that I had to do something,” he commented. “We need to go inside. Go tell everyone to come out of hiding. It’s past 10:00.”
Very relieved my hunt was over, I ran around to the front and called to everyone to come out. Most of us were gathered at the bonfire, getting ready to say goodnight when another scream pierced the night. A few minutes later my friend May came running up to us and said, “I tripped over a dead body by the side of the house! It scared me so much!”
I smiled at her. “That wasn’t a dead body,” I giggled. “That was just Tyler.”
She rolled her eyes. “I should have known!” she groaned.
It had been an awesome night and I looked forward to many more nights like this one over the summer.