“Pow-pow-pow-pow,” Jimmy imitated machine gun fire and ducked behind a log.
Sam returned fire, unloading his weapon before he jumped back into the scotch broom bushes. “I’m empty, Jimmy.”
“Ok.” He stood and held his super-soaker steady, sighted down the length of it and hollered, “Hey Sam, check it out.”
“What?” He stepped out into the open.
Jimmy unloaded the last of his water and doused him. “Yer such a sucker.”
Sam sauntered towards Jimmy. He casually pulled his spare pistol out of his waist band and drenched Jimmy’s face.
Jimmy sputtered and grabbed Sam, knocked him to the ground, sat on his stomach, and pinned his arms above his head, all in one swift move.
“Did ya really think I’d let you win?” Jimmy laughed and rolled off his buddy. They lay in the tall grasses of the empty field behind their homes and stared into the deep blue summer sky.
Jimmy picked a wide blade of grass and stretched it between his thumbs, cupped his hands, and blew across the blade. Sam lay on his back with a long stem of grass stuck out of his mouth.
Beep-beep-beep. The back-up signal of heavy machinery nearby brought the boys back to reality.
“I hate those apartments,” Jimmy protested in disgust. “I wish Old Man Jack hadn’t died. His kids are stupid.”
Sam sat up, criss-crossed his legs and plucked a wide blade of grass for himself. “My dad said Jack didn’t have any money but he left his kids his land; fifteen acres. Dad said they’re making a ton of money now.”
“I know,” Jimmy conceded. “Did you know both of our places were supposed to be his sons?”
“Mom said Jack hoped that one day they would build homes and run the small farm they grew up on.” Jimmy turned his head and spit. “But they went off to the big university and never came back except at Christmas time. My mom took care of Jack when he got old.”
“My mom said Jack was a cantankerous old man and your mom is a saint.” Sam shook his head and laughed.
“I liked him. He was just lonely,” Jimmy swiped away at a near-tear before it could form and pretended to swat at a bug.
“There’s a bunch of people moving into the first batch of apartments. I wonder if there are any kids in our grade.” Sam smoothly changed the subject. “You scared about starting middle-school?”
“A little bit. Lots of changes going on this year,” Jimmy rubbed at his leg and laughed. “Mom teases me ‘cause my legs are getting hairy.” He raised his arm and stretched the sleeve of his t-shirt. “I got hairs starting in my arm pits, too. See?”
Sam pushed his friend over, “Gross. And you stink, too.”
Jimmy looked out towards the small forest. “Let’s go hunt for snakes in Jack’s woods.”
For the next hour the boys rolled logs and counted field mice that scattered away. They poked at big juicy beetles, and hunted for garter snakes.
“Whoa, look at this one,” Sam held a fat, red-striped snake by its tail.
“Can you hear that?” Jimmy tilted his head and listened.
“Not last night but the night before, twenty-four robbers came knocking at my door…” Four girls chanted in unison to the rhythm of the jump rope slapping the sidewalk.
Both boys looked at each other…the snake…towards the girls…and smiled. Jimmy took the snake from Sam and wrapped its body around his hand and let the head poke out between his thumb and fore-finger. They emerged from the woods and he held the snake behind his back.
“Hi.” He waved at the intruders into his world. “I’m Jimmy, this is Sam.”
The girls abruptly stopped jumping and stared at the smelly, dirty-faced boys. “Eww,” one of them blurted out.
Jimmy shrugged his shoulders and pulled his hand out from behind him. “This is Stinky.”
“Eeek!” Three of the four girls screamed and ran away.
“Wow,” the adorable red-headed, freckle-faced, turned-up nose, green-eyed, slightly developed girl came towards Jimmy. “Can I hold him?”
She expertly removed the snake from Jimmy’s hand and held it up to her face for inspection. “I’ve never seen a red-striped snake before.” Her eyes sparkled in wonder. “I’m Tera, by the way.”
Jimmy’s mouth gaped open, too stunned to speak.
“Well…Stinky’s red alright.” Sam stated the obvious.
“He’s awesome,” Tera smiled.
Jimmy swallowed hard, leaned towards Sam and whispered. “I think I’m in love.”
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