Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Hide and Seek (08/07/08)
TITLE: Bottom of the Barrel
By Anita van der Elst
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Mamie slips into the cavernous old hay barn. Dust dances in streams of morning sunlight; roof repairs are not a priority. “Should I hide in the haystacks, where I hid last time? No, too easy to be found!”
Big brother, Del, emerges from shadows. “You’d better find a hiding place quick,” he urges, “or Byron’ll find you first!” He heads out into the sunlight.
Mamie lets her eyes rove, hoping for inspiration. Her eyes pop wide. “The grain barrel! I’ll bet it’s empty,” she thinks, investigating. The barrel edge is at a level with her eyes and her suspicion is confirmed.
Delight becomes disappointment as she realizes she’s not strong enough to hoist herself up and over into the barrel. A wooden apple crate leans up against the barn wall. A new “light bulb” flashes. Mamie pushes the box next to the barrel, climbs on it, rests her tummy on the barrel edge, flings her legs over and drops down out of sight. Brushing a few stray grain kernels aside so they won’t crunch underneath her, she settles down on her bottom.
Mamie contemplates the rafters high above. Cooing comes from pigeons roosting in one corner. From the pens on the other side of the haystacks, munching, as the calves enjoy their day’s hay ration. A pleasant private place is this barrel. “No one teasing me or telling me to do chores,” she thinks. “The best hidey-hole ever!”
Distant laughter floats on a lazy summer breeze. Byron has found the first hider. “Sounds like Jerry,” Mamie chuckles inside. “He’ll never find me!” One by one the others are found, Beverly, Sophia, Tony, Birdie. Even Del, Mamie realizes in astonishment! Del always finds the best hiding places and is always the last one found!
Mamie waits…and waits…and waits. The children’s chatter fades. Her tummy growls—breakfast was a long time ago. “Why hasn’t Byron come to find me?” Shadows lengthen; Mamie knows she is forgotten.
Her dilemma rushes in on her. “How am I going to get out of this barrel?” There is no handy apple crate inside with her.
“Oh, why did I ever think this was a good idea? And why did everyone go off and leave me? But that’s just it—they don’t know I’m here! What if no one ever finds me? I’ll probably die here and nobody will even care.” Despair threatens, self-pity reigns, tears fall. Now she doesn’t mind if she’s heard and she gives way to heart-rending sobs. The only answer given is a low “moo-o-o”.
Mamie catches her breath, hiccups. “It’s my own fault. I didn’t think this plan through. Even if I am only eight years old, I know enough to make better plans. I was just so excited about finally being better than everyone else that I didn’t really think.”
Mamie bows her head, “Dear Jesus, I’m sorry that I thought I could be better than everyone else. Next time I’ll just be glad that I have my brothers and sister and friends to play with. Please send someone to find me. Thank you. Amen.”
Mamie stands up, eyes peeping expectantly. The only creature to meet her gaze is the gray striped barn cat, staring back unblinking, tail switching.
Mamie tires of the useless waiting.
She yells repeatedly, “Help! Anybody? I’m stuck in the grain barrel! PLEASE SOMEBODY, COME GET ME!” Again sobs overtake her. Weary from emotion, she sinks into a heap and cries herself to sleep.
“Mamie, where are you? Are you lost?” Del’s voice intrudes into Mamie’s slumber. “Mamie! Answer me!”
“Here I am!” Mamie brushes fresh tears, grain dust and damp tendrils of long hair from her cheeks. Will turns and grins.
“There you are, you silly! We wondered where you wandered off to.”
Weeping turns to laughter. “I guess I did find the best hiding place, didn’t I?”
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