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Last Memory

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One'two'three'scurrying frantically in and out of rooms, looking for the perfect spot, a spot that will guarantee victory'four'five'opening cabinets, looking under beds, but no, none of them will do'six'seven'peeking into obscure rooms, at the outskirts of the house'eight'nine'
there! spotting the space of my dreams, just big enough for me to fit, a place where no one will ever look'ten'diving in and letting the door shut behind me'eleven'panting'twelve'panting'thirteen'
panting'fourteen'

I sat there, curled in a ball, knees tucked to my chest, completely still, grinning hugely behind a mask of darkness. I found you! What? I thought that was a good hiding spot. I listened to the commotion outside, heart beating fast with excitement. I heard footsteps, footsteps getting closer, the door creaking as it opened, voices. 'Maybe she's in the dryer,' a young girl suggested, as someone opened the washing machine only to be greeted by nothing, no hiding child. 'No, probably not,' a boy answered. 'There's no one here. Let's move on.' I stifled a giggle as I heard them exit the room.

The noise receded to the other side of the house, leaving me to sit there on top of the world in my own victorious bliss. They would never find me. Ten minutes passed. I could hear laughter and shouting as kids were discovered throughout the house. Twenty minutes passed. My excitement and happiness began to dull with time. Thirty minutes. The horde of kids wandering around the house, searching and searching, began to grow tired and frustrated.

'Where's Frina?' someone complained, surprisingly near. 'She's the last one. Maybe we should just give up and stop looking.'

STOP LOOKING? Then it dawned on me. What if they couldn't find me? How would I get out? The door, upon my entering, had swung closed on its own. Now I pushed it gently, hoping it would swing open just as easily. It didn't budge. However, as these thoughts hit me, I felt not scared, but stupid. How could I have jumped into the dryer so hastily, without even having considered how I would get out? I remembered the car ride to the party, being told it was a New Year's party. The adults would sit together, play cards, and chat, and I would play with the kids.

'You're the oldest, so just try to be creative and make sure everyone's having fun,' I distinctly recalled my mom saying, trusting that I would know right from wrong and keep everyone out of trouble. After all, as a fifth grader, I would be the only middle school student there, mixed in with a group of rowdy elementary school kids. How could I of all people be the one to get stuck in the dryer?

For now, though, I closed my eyes and hoped that they would fin''COME OUT, COME OUT WHEREVER YOU ARE!''I never thought the high-pitched holler of a seven-year-old could foster such disappointment. Seeing as I was incapable of coming out, I didn't have much of a choice. I could either scream for help and humiliate myself in front of everyone or sit in the dryer and hope someone would open it before I suffocated and died. I could just imagine the scene, three days later, when Mrs. Zhang, the hostess of the party, finally decided to do the laundry. I could picture her nonchalantly opening the dryer to put the clothes in and shrieking in horror at the sight of a blue-faced, oxygen deprived corpse. It was now or never. I just had to find the courage to scream for help. I took a deep breath, filling my lungs with what air was left in the tiny compartment. 'COOOOMMMMMEEEEE! DRYYYYYYYEEEEER!'

I braced myself for the humiliation to come as the loud patter of feet approached. It sounded as if the entire world were racing into the laundry room to witness my disgrace. I heard the click of the dryer door opening and was instantaneously blinded by the bright light flooding my vision. As the view came into focus, a mass of seven and eight year olds leaning their faces in to examine me, as if I were an animal at the zoo, appeared. Behind them, I could make out a group of adults, including my parents, laughing amongst each other.

'I couldn't get out,' I muttered quietly, hanging my head in shame and averting the many pairs of watchful eyes as I hoisted myself out; the cluster of kids automatically backed up and parted to let me through. I retreated to a corner of the room, but was hardly alone. My dad walked over, still chuckling as he went.

'Couldn't get out, huh?' He strolled over to the dryer, closed it, and then opened it again. He did this several times, his laughter stopping for a few seconds as he concentrated on the mechanics of the dryer door. 'I think you could get out if you pushed pretty hard,' he concluded. 'How about I try?' he asked suddenly, sticking his foot out as if he were going in and laughing hysterically at his own joke. All the adults laughed with him. I edged even closer to the wall, trying to become invisible, trying to drown in their laughter.

I stayed there until everyone left the room, until the roar of the adults playing cards resumed, until the new year began, hoping that the next year's memories would be better. Much better.



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