He crept stealthily through the woods, stopping every few feet to listen. Patches of light filtered through the leaves of the old oak trees, casting a golden haze into the shadows. Dust danced lazily in the light and a thick layer of last year’s leaves carpeted the ground. The earthy smell of the woods filled his nostrils and he breathed deeply. He was as certain of his safety in the woods as he was at home in bed at night. They’d never find him here
The creek was low for this time of year. He rolled his pants legs up and waded across, carefully avoiding the soft mud at the edges. Ordinarily he relished the squish of mud between his toes but today he couldn’t afford to make a mistake that would get him caught. Leaving one print in the mud was one print too many.
Once he was safely across he crouched and looked around for his pursuers. He heard a crack behind him and turned his head. A white tail doe sniffed the air cautiously. She blew heavily a few times and stomped her hoof, turned and bounded back the way she’d come. A knock sounded overhead. He glanced up and around and spotted the tell-tale red head of a woodpecker. It flew from tree to tree, hunting its lunch. He told himself he could even hear the small oak snake making its scratchy slither up the dead tree to his right. But maybe that was just his imagination.
A few feet away from the creek bed, he found a blackberry patch. He took a handful of berries, ignoring the scratch on the back of his hand. The purple juice tinted his hands and chin. Nothing was better than the tangy sweetness of fresh blackberries.
Enough. He’d be caught for sure if he stayed here eating berries when every minute counted. They’d be here soon and he had to get away.
That’s when he heard it. A voice called out. “Braedon! Where are you?” The voice paused for a moment. “You better get here before I count to three! One…”
Uh oh. “Coming Mama!” he called, running back through the woods. He splashed through the creek, getting water and mud all over the legs of his overalls.
There was the edge. He burst through the edge of the woods. “I’m here Mama! Don’t say three!” He stood in front of her, his small chest heaving with gasps for air.
“There you are. You’ve been playing in the woods again.” She looked at his hands and the purple stains on his chin. “And eating blackberries.” She shook her head and pushed his tawny hair out of his eyes. “You know what I told you about eating blackberries before lunch. Go wash up. Your cousins are going to be here any minute.”
“Aww, Mama,” he griped. “Those silly girls probably just wanna do stupid girl stuff, like play house or school or something. Don’t they know a boys gotta have a‘ventures?”
“You can have all the ‘a‘ventures’ you want when your cousins aren’t around. But they’re coming today and you need to be nice.
“Yes ma’am” he muttered as he walked towards the bathroom.
“And put on a clean shirt!” his mom called out.
“Stupid girls. They don’t like dirt or nothing!”
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