She wasn’t allowed to leave the backyard, especially since it was getting dark early, so they kept close to the ramshackle collection of cars and oil drums, out of sight of the house. While he was off to church she took a tin can and calmly scraped out a hollow in the damp ground behind the rusted Chevy. Can by can, she moved the black dirt to the dried up flower garden under the kitchen window, being careful not to drop any. No stupid mistakes this time.
He came by after evening services, visibly anxious to start, and when he gave her an extra one hundred count to hide, she knew he had raised the stakes again. He counted too quickly. At another time she might have yelled in protest from her nook, maybe even demanded a do-over, but not tonight. Tonight she kept her mouth shut so the crisp, crumbling leaves wouldn’t get in. Tonight she concentrated on breathing slowly through her nose, and on keeping the surface of the leaves still and quiet.
Two hundred. He spun, then stood motionless for a moment or two, eyes narrowed and scanning, then crept by chanting “Come out, come out, wherever you are.” She stifled nervous bubbles of laughter and willed herself into an even smaller ball of nothingness. He circuited the yard once, then twice. She heard a note of tension, or perhaps fear, beneath his sing-song. She was going to win.
Then a whisper rose up and around her, getting louder, and she felt her blanket start to flutter and lift. The evening breeze off the lake swirled and whistled through the fallen cars and scrap metal, picking up speed and uncovering her piece by piece. She should have wet the leaves with Mamma’s garden hose.
Leaning casually against the car, he smiled. As she brushed fragments of leaves from her eyes and hair, he took a step towards her and whispered “I win. Don’t get up. Don’t get up.”