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“So, is Caitlyn coming, Molly?” Lindsay looks around at her as we sit on the stoop picking teams for the game.
“Naw, she’s not home,” says Molly adjusting her dark blue hoodie.
“Mary, is your sister coming?” Lindsay says as she pivots to question me.
“Yeah, she is just putting on a sweatshirt,” I relay to Lindsay, who is making strategic marks on the bricks of the steps.
“O.K., good that means we have ten playing tonight,” she sums up looking at her tallies.
My eyes flash around to count each person.
John is looking at Lindsay like a puppy looks at their master. He and Lindsay will be on the same team if Lindsay has anything to say about it. One. Molly, John’s sister, is gazing off in another direction, no doubt thinking about Kimmy Gibbler or some other sitcom character. Two. Sitting to the left of Molly, I am racking my brain, where am I going to hide tonight? We have been playing Manhunt every night this summer; it’s hard to think of a hiding spot I have not used. Three. On my left side, Ryan, is distractedly digging so far in to the dirt that she may soon hit China. Four. David, next to her, is looking particularly pale this evening in his white short shorts that accentuate his tall lanky body. He taps his foot to the new show tune he is humming. Five. Anthony, David’s half brother, is watching Lindsay adoringly; reminiscent of the way John looks at her. He is bragging about his new Game Boy to us all. Six. Maureen, buffing her fingernails absentmindedly. Seven. Rachel, Lindsay’s older sister, a step above on Lindsay’s right side, is twisting a strand of her hair. Eight. Rough slaps against the sidewalk sound behind us as we all look to find Isabel, my older sister, climbing up the shallow slope of Lindsay’s lawn to join us. Nine. Lindsay, now standing, ready to address the group, she flips the waistband of her mesh shorts over one more fold. Ten.
“Okay, we got everyone? Good!” Lindsay says as she steals everyone’s attention from the newcomer. “Lets go over boundaries, in order. My house, the front yard” she says as she points at the ground, “the side yard and back. Then across the street, Anthony and David’s, Ryan’s, skipping over Lilyana’s to Maureen’s.” We can’t hide in Lilyana’s yard because her mom has about a billion flowers that cover the entire back lawn. Once, when we hid back there a flower got crushed.
“And no hiding down in yards she didn’t say. Last time it took an hour and a half to find you.” Molly glares at a sniggering Lindsay and John.
Lindsay again takes the floor and the rules continue: “Your hand has to be on the person as you tag them and say ‘one, two, three, Manhunt’, and no hiding inside any houses. Me, John, Ryan, Maureen, and David are on one team. Isabel, Rachel, Molly Mary, and Anthony on the other, now go hide.”
With that we run off into the dusk.
“One, two, three, Manhunt.” Lindsay yells triumphantly as her arm stabs my back like the blow of a sword.
“Damn it!” I yell, as I shimmy out of what I think is a superior hiding spot. A tall bush covers the skinny space in the fence, making it impossible for anyone to see the person it is concealing.
I say, “How did you see me?”
“I saw the white on your shoes.”
“Aw, I thought I covered them up”
Holding my arm firmly as she drags me, through Anthony’s yard, across the street, over to the “jail” or Lindsay’s front steps.
Lindsay says, “I got another one for you.” Maureen greets us with a grin but continues filing her nails. I look up from where Lindsay’s hand has my arm in a death grip, now losing circulation. When I see Molly and Anthony, they are sitting on one of the two benches that flank Lindsay’s front door; I deduce that our heavy weights, Isabel and Rachel, are still hiding. Lindsay gives me one last “Ha, Ha, I caught you!” before setting off to find others.
As a “Prisoner of War” I must do my only job. Distract the enemy. There is a rustle in the bushes nearby, a teammate coming to free the jail. From the looks on Anthony and Molly’s faces I can tell they hear our teammate approaching too. All of a sudden we are very interested in everything Maureen has to say. I look away from Maureen for one second and I see Isabel’s face, approaching from behind a bush. If someone from my team tags part of the jail without being tagged themselves, then everyone in jail is free. “Hey Maureen I love your shoes they are real pretty,” Molly lies. Isabel takes this opportunity as Maureen reaches down and lovingly brushes some dirt off of her flip-flops. Isabel’s hand slaps the bench I am sitting on and we are all free.
Molly, Anthony, and I disperse in different directions.
I can hear the panicky shouts, “I need back up. They escaped!” Two sets of sneakers gallop in my direction.
I can’t hide in Anthony's yard again and anyway, his house and yard scare me because supposedly his father is in the mob. His father is always on their cordless phone, standing right inside their glass storm door, watching us as we walk home or come to play in Lindsay’s yard.
Decreasing my speed as I round the back of Anthony’s house and inch through the trees in to Ryan’s yard. I’ll stay here until I think of another spot. “Mary.” There is a whisper to my left. “Mary, get out of here, this is my spot,” Isabel sighs harshly.
“Yeah, I know, I need another spot, but where?” I say incredulously, trying to make out where her face is in the dark.
“Try Maureen’s yard, but remember, don’t go through Lilyana's yard.”
“Okay.” I slink off to find a spot I can stay in for the rest of the game, laying low as I run through Ryan’s yard. At night her yard is eerily quiet to run through, especially since her yippy dog is not scurrying to attack. My shoes slap against her driveway and I lean against Linyana’s trellis for a minute to catch my breath. Being extra careful to stay between Lilyana’s house and the hedge, I travel over to Maureen’s yard and remember that spot under their hedge by her front door. I settle in there. Even though this spot is not very clever, it’s safe in its noncleverness. Who would ever check such an obvious place, like under Maureen’s hedge by the door?
I am found again, so much for a safe spot. The round ends and a new one starts as we begin tripping over our feet in the pitch-black surroundings. My team is together again and it’s our turn to count. “Rachel, where were you hiding, it must have been an awesome spot, because you were the last one caught,” I say looking at her in admiration.
“Well you know those white rocks by the side of Ryan’s house, they are the same color as my sweatshirt. So all I had to do was lay down with my hood up,” Rachel announces proudly.
“Wow that’s perfect,” we all say.
“Yeah, like five people walked right by me,” she chuckles.
“So then how were you caught?” questions Anthony.
“John tripped over my feet,” she says with an, oh well, shoulder shrug.
“Come on, it’s been 100 seconds.” Isabel says waving for us all to get up. We start out together, but I don’t really want to find anyone because I want to keep playing all night. We are all different ages and have different bed times, but it’s the summer and nothing, not even a bedtime can stop us. Or so I think.
“Ryan it’s time to come in, RYAN!” Her father shouts from their dimly lit porch.
Everyone stops in their tracks and lets out a disappointed sigh. The other team starts coming out of their hiding spots like ants from under a rock. Isabel and I wave to everyone, not to say goodbye, but see you later because tomorrow we will play once again.