My Sandpit Home This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     It was a typical summer day as I walked down the gravel road to the lake. The sweet smell of sun-ripened strawberries floated through the steamy air. Shouts of families getting ready for weekends in their cabins could be heard throughout the area. Before reaching the end of the road, a small, dilapidated building came into view through the overgrown trees, and my mind faded to a simpler time ...

***

“Andy! Andy! Andy! Come on!” I pleaded. “You never, ever do anything with me!”

“Stop it!” my older brother shot back. “Just play by yourself for once. Cole is coming over today, and if you dare come near us, we will send the Tickle Monster after you tonight.”

As soon as he shut his mouth, I could sense the warm tears welling in my eyes. He had just spoken the two most frightening words in my five-year-old vocabulary. I ran to my bedroom and burrowed into my mountain of stuffed animals. I wished I didn’t have an older brother; he never did anything I liked. I wished there was some way I could get rid of him. I rubbed the tears, because they were beginning to make my cheeks stick to the fur of my animals. I needed to get air.

As I reached over to move my raccoon Thomas, an idea struck me: I would move out! I’d be just like that girl in the movie who lived in a tree and made friends with a bear cub. Boy, that would be a lot of fun. I could go to the loop! It would be a perfect place; there certainly were plenty of trees and holes to choose from. After contemplating my plan for a few seconds, I made up my mind. The time had come for me to leave the nest.

I squirmed out of my animal pile and began collecting what I needed to survive in the woods. I grabbed my favorite tote bag, which had my name painted on it in bright orange letters, and loaded it with my Strawberry Shortcake penny-purse and Flopsy, the stuffed dog that was so loved it hardly qualified as stuffed. After adding a half-eaten bar of chocolate, I figured I had everything.

As I reached for the knob to my bedroom door, a thought hit me. What about Mommy? Who would take care of her if I left? Maybe I should leave her a note. Since I wasn’t able to write yet, a drawing would have to do. I pressed the blue crayon stub and drew a big circle, the loop. On one side was a square representing our house. On the other side I drew an “X,” then finished by connecting the two with a dotted line. I carefully folded the note and set it on my bed. With all of my affairs in order, I grabbed my tote, slipped on my favorite purple tennies, and tried to sneak out the back door, only to hear it snap shut behind me.

My adventure began as I swung my bag around my hand, amazed at the fact that nothing was falling out. As I skipped from puddle to puddle, I began to plan my new life. First, I was going to have to find a good place to set up camp. It couldn’t be too far in the woods, though, the boogey monster might get me. As I neared the road from our seemingly endless driveway, I came upon what appeared to be a perfect place on the loop. How could I have forgotten the sandpit?

Andy and I had played here every day until he was “too old” to play with a bulldozer in the sand. My bag seemed to have gained weight since I left the house, so I cleared a place on a rock to set it down.

“That will be my table,” I said out loud, talking to myself as I often did. I then dusted off a slightly larger boulder and sat. “This will be my chair. Now all I need is some stuff to make into a house.”

Starting down the gravel road, I remembered that there was a store at the resort nearby that sold everything. I knew that was where I needed to go.

“Hello there, Elyse. What brings you over yonder today?” the old man asked. “Is your dad with you? I need to ask him about a few things.”

“Daddy’s still working, but I came here to buy stuff for my new house,” I said.

“You guys got a new house?” he asked with a confused expression making wrinkles on his forehead.

“Just me,” I replied. “I have my own home now. I just moved into the sandpit.”

“Oh ... I see. Aren’t you gonna get tired of living in a sandpit?”

“Why would I? All I need I have in my bag, and I have gobs of money, so I can buy stuff here.” I glanced at the ice cream display. The rainbow of colors made my mouth water. It also made me think of what I would miss if I never went home.

“We just got a new flavor in today called Neapolitan,” he mentioned

“Napoleon?” I questioned.

“No, it’s Neapolitan. It has strawberry, chocolate and vanilla.” The man smiled as he slid open the frosty lid. Fog billowed out of the freezer as he asked, “Would you like to try some?”

“No, thanks. I don’t like more than one taste in my mouth at the same time. Only Andy likes that. That chocolate looks really good, though.” I pulled my coin clutch from my tote and set it on the counter. I spread my pennies across the counter, staring at the cute little faces on each. “Is this enough?”

His face opened into a grin as he slid the pennies into his palm. He must have counted out 15 cents when he said, “That is the perfect amount.”

My mouth watered as he took the scoop from its warm bath and slid it over the smooth surface of the ice cream. It formed the most perfect ball as he dropped it into the cone. After several more scoops, the cone looked absolutely divine.

“Thank you!” I chirped as he handed me the waffle cone. I had to grip it with two hands so it wouldn’t fall. Even though I was only five, I knew that the five-second rule didn’t apply to ice cream.

“Maybe Andy would like a cone too?” the man asked, as though he could sense that something was awry between my brother and me.

“He really would like that napoleon flavor, I think, but I don’t have any more pennies,” I explained. Our fight had left my mind as soon as I saw all the wonderful flavors.

“For you, I have a special price. If you let me walk you home and promise not to leave again, I will give you that cone for free,” he said kindly, as he began to make the new one with several scoops. “Have we got a deal?”

“We sure do! Andy will be so happy that I got him a cone!” I excitedly stated. “He’ll owe me big!”

“He sure will. Now let’s get you and this cone home. I’m sure your mother’s wondering about you.”

The man removed his apron and took my hand as we walked out of the store. After putting the “Out to Lunch” sign in the window, we strolled into the bright afternoon sun. The walk to my house wasn’t long, so the delectable ice cream didn’t melt before we reached my front door.

“Thanks, mister! I’m sure Andy will say thanks too as soon as I show him this!” I said. I had already finished my cone.

“It was nothing. Now stay at home where your mother can watch over you. No little girl should have to live alone in a sandpit,” he said, turning to walk back down the driveway. “Have a nice day, Elyse, I’ll see ya again!”

“Bye,” I said, flashing a chocolatey smile. I opened the door, leaving sticky fingerprints on it. Mom would certainly get me for that later, but at that moment I didn’t care. I was just happy to be home again.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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