Blades of kelly-green grass scratch at your ankles while you stand hand-in-hand in front of the little brick ranch: Doug’s house. You meet there because it’s in the middle.
There are seven of you, five on one side and two on the other. The sun is dipping below the trees and lightning bugs are in flight, flitting, blinking. Crickets are chirping, but it doesn’t stop you. There’s a game to play.
Your side is up. One more break and you win, stranding the loser on the other side. Your heart is pounding. Your hands are clammy. You haven’t been called yet, but you know it’s coming. You look across at the team of two. You’re the smallest on either side, but size doesn’t matter.
“Red Rover. Red Rover…” Your name is called.
“Shit,” you say only because your parents are inside watching Wheel of Fortune.
There is no time left to wuss up or back down. You run, slicing through the air, pummeling your bare toes into the dewy grass. Determined to break the chain, you push forward faster. You convince yourself that you are a powerful bolt of energy. Nothing can stop you. With fists clenched and teeth grinding together, you close your eyes and imagine what it will feel like to win the game for your team. Just two more steps. You lunge forward at their hands like a bull, but something stops you.
Instead of breaking their grasp in two, you bounce off. Their arms are iron poles fused together. The wind is gone from your lungs. You sail through the air, arms stretched back to brace for fall. In an unfocused instant, you see shoulders then snickering faces and a crimson sky before landing on your butt in the yard.
“Damn!” you say.
The boys high-five. Their loss is diverted – no delayed – because of you.
“Three to four,” says Josh. “We got this now.”
You stand, brushing the grass from your backside, sulking to your new team with hot cheeks. You won’t live this down for at least a week.
You grab Doug’s hand, cringing at the sticky-ness between your palms. It almost makes you vomit. Boys – eww.
Before you can call the next person, his mom swings the storm door open and shouts, “Time to come in!”
A collective groan comes from the group because you know the rest of the parents won’t be far behind. Street lamps are on.
“Rematch tomorrow?” Jess asks.
A chance for redemption!
“Rematch tomorrow.” You all agree.
Photo courtesy of Julia Raasch/Unsplash