A cricket was with him. Black against the green brown of the field. He thought of it as a field but it was, in fact, nothing more than an overgrown vacant lot. He did not know its history. Had anything ever stood in that place, big enough to hold a house, two, perhaps, if the homes and the yards were small. Or had it always been empty. A vacancy amongst a neighborhood that had raised many a generation. A handful of one such generation now hid in this lot, this field. Matt and five friends– all of a similar age, he the second youngest. The sixth of their group, Chris, was on Watch. He was “it”. While the others hid and moved about on belly or knees through the tangle of weeds, he stood tall and kept a vigilant watch. If he should spy a sway, he would thunder toward it, intent to spot a glimpse of one of the Hidden. If spotted and identified, the Watcher would cry out their name and the Hidden would stand. There was no cheating– no falsification of a spotting and no one hiding arguing that no they had not been seen. The Rules were adhered to. Such was their way and the way was agreed upon. There was no pact made. It just was.
The cricket paused in its walking across a blade at eye level with Matt, as if surprised to find such a large intruder. Matt slid his hand slowly toward it, offering it a new place to perch. Elsewhere in the field, Chris, the Watcher, wandered, seeking to stumble upon someone in hiding. That was Chris’ way. Wander around blindly and hope to spook someone into moving. From the sound of the whispering foliage, Chris was not near Matt.
The cricket raised one little, thin leg and looked as if it was going to accept the offer, but then there was a rustle in the grass and the cricket scurried away, down, deeper into the tangle. Matt looked up. It was Tracy, green eyes wide with surprise, the first of the summer freckles faint on her nose and cheeks, and a variety of pollen and small twigs clinging to her dark curls. Matt raised a finger to his lips in a shushing motion. Tracy laughed and visibly relaxed.
A sudden yelp in the distance and a thrashing of feet meant Chris had stumbled upon someone’s nest and was now in hot pursuit. “Stephen! I see Stephen!” was the shout a moment later, followed by a chorus of laughter and more brush thrashing as Stephen sprung up in defeat. The other Hidden– Matt’s sister, David, and Pat– took this opportunity while Chris was distracted with a minor victory to scurry to new locations. Catching a ripple out of the corner of his eye, Chris sprung into action, egged on by Stephen. “Get out of there!” Stephen shouted, “He’s coming! He’s coming!” His voice rang out like a science-fiction action hero.
But in Matt’s little pocket of the field, all was quiet. It was just he and Tracy. Tracy with her freckles and dimples, dimples that were now on display as she smiled at Matt and said in a hush, “We should move. They’re coming this way.” And, Matt, in a hush of his own, replied, “No, let’s stay. They’ll pass us by.”
[20 Minutes is a self-imposed ritual in which I write, uninterrupted, for 20 minutes a day. No self-editing is the goal. Just 20 minutes hammering on the keys. After the 20 minutes, I am allowed to clean up spelling and grammar errors, but the rest must stay as is. 20 minutes a day. Every day. Today is day 1.]