|by Donna Earnhardt|
Come over here kid, that’s what they say when they call me, not boy or girl, just kid because they don’t know which. That’s fine by me, don’t care really, people can think what they want. Mom wants me to start wearing dresses. She says I’m too old to be running around in overalls with the boys, getting dirty and coming home looking like a pig after a long hot day in the mud. I don’t care, that’s the best part about there being no school to go to, getting outside and getting dirty. But she don’t see it that way at, can’t understand why I’d spend all my time running and getting sweaty, rather I stay at home and learn to sew or cook or maybe even how to grow flowers “if you’re so set on getting dirty Helen” as she says.
But that’s not for me, and I told her that and she got real upset, crying, her tears coming down all black from that gunk she spreads on her eyes. Made me feel bad, what’s wrong with it? Mom told me just to go, get out, “run with the boys and see where that gets you” she told me, still crying. So I left, mad, might’ve called my mother dumb, I don’t know, I was mad, just put on my hat (she hates that hat) and slammed the screen door back behind me.
No one’s out today though, town’s still sleeping it seems even though the sun is almost as high up as its gonna get. Rode my bike to Joe’s and waiting on him now to wake up, sitting on that nice rocking swing they got on their front porch. Rung the doorbell but no one answered, I know his mom works all day out at the truck stop on route two but he should be awake by now. Knock on the door real loud, to wake him up, hear his stupid little dog start to bark, little white fluff ball, nasty little thing will bite at your legs if you don’t watch out. I just kick it but Joe’s mom gets mad at me when I do it. Where are you Joe, damn, it’s gonna be a boring day if no one comes out.
Back to sitting, chewing on a piece of hay I found lying on the step, gonna wait a little bit more before going off on my own. We had a plan, we were gonna go off exploring out past the woods east of town. Were gonna do it yesterday but I said I couldn’t, had to go to the stupid dentist, found six cavities he said. Both Mom and Dad weren’t happy about that, took away all the sweets out of the house, outta my room but they missed my secret candy box. They’ll never find it.
Mailman comes driving by in his truck, smiling at me, nods and I nod back, like adults do that don’t want to talk. Puts the mail in the box and shuts it then gets a strange look on his face, calls out to me: “Hey, you ain’t waiting for little Joey Gunter, are you?” I yell back that I am and what’s it to him. “Well didn’t you hear? He went missing last night, never came home, him and another boy, Evan Belstra, police out looking for them right now.”
Well that just figures, two dummies got themselves lost without me. Figure Evan’s dead, got eaten by coyotes or bunnies most likely, scaredy boy jumping every time a tree branch cracks, thinking it’s some monster coming out to get him. But Joe’s alright, probably just lost because he don’t pay attention, too busy staring at stuff on the ground before he knows where he’s going. Police won’t find him, they don’t know our places. Guess I gotta do it.
Jump off that swing and step down, little dog still yapping like a squeaking rat from inside. Mad because Joe went off without me, probably went where we’d said we’d go together. Now it’s just me, one-girl search party. That’s just fine, I like going alone, more fun with another but no one to slow me down if I go out exploring alone.
I bike all the way to the edge of town, my Stetson almost flying off my head while I ride so fast down the big hill in the road but I hold onto it good. Go past the last houses on the last street and ride straight into the trees, see the tire marks we’d worn into the dirt over the last two summers. Their bikes are still in the hiding spot, Joe’s and Evan’s, far enough from the houses that they couldn’t be seen no more through the woods, stuck behind a dead branch hanging off the big tree, hide my bike there too with theirs.
Put my finger in my mouth to get spit on it, hold it up to the wind to feel where the breeze is going like you see in the movies. Don’t know why I do it but it makes me feel cool, like some old-time adventurer on a journey. I got two dumb lost boys to find and a whole forest they could be hiding in. Footprints in the mud tell where they went and I follow, walking crouched down like a trapper, a hunter, I’ll find those boys and bring them home to their mommies. I’ll be the town hero, they’ll make a parade and a statue for me in the park that I’ll drag my mom to and she can see, then she can see, that running around in the dirt got me plenty.