SEE BOBBY LAUGH
Bobby raced through the piney woods, shrieking in laughter. His feet pounded the pine needle carpet , rat-tat-tat, as he made his escape. Behind him, scattered shouts urged him to an even greater effort.
The game started out as Tag, with the Benson twins, Kelly, her sister Mary Jo and roly-poly Melvin getting the jump on a summer day. By the third go-around, the four Vincent kids had joined in and Team-Tag was the game, though the teams seemed to change every other moment, mainly to keep Melvin on the other side.
When lunch rolled around, old Mrs. Harper had handed out like a million hot dogs to the growing pack of kids, telling them she was leaving for Florida the next day and she was making sure they’d never forget her. Because their mouths were stuffed with meat by-products, fleshy bread and ketchup, no one told her she’d be cheered for being gone.
With a “Wait at least an hour before doing anything strenuous,” the kid tribe, now joined by Benny, Lars and Christine from over by the old Harper store, started a fast game of Prisoner, with Bobby chosen as the first one. Bobby was fast, but not so fast that Kelly or Lars couldn’t catch him. And he was fun to chase because he started laughing as he ran and usually ended up laughing so hard he’d pretty much collapse and be caught. They always caught him because Bobby always laughed.
After the joke of having Melvin be Prisoner and caught within ten seconds of leaving Jail, Bobby was picked again, although Mary Jo, the freckled whiner that she was, wanted to be picked Prisoner at least once. Bobby laughed and when the rest started laughing, he took off.
The wind raced past his ears and his lungs heaved as he sped through the trees, kicking a pine cone. He looked behind him and saw Kelly, pigtails flying, racing past the big walnut stump he’d jumped a few seconds before. He laughed. He couldn’t help it. Running was fun!
Over to the left, Lars was zipping through trees like the football player he was, avoiding the unmoving trees like they were Carson Junior War Eagles. The Panther star was on Bobby’s trail and Bobby just laughed harder.
An abrupt cut left Lars behind the kudzu bog, that swampy bit of the woods where the trees had become vine-covered poles. Hidden, Bobby changed direction, running closer to Kelly. He laughed and was delighted to hear her laugh, too.
Kelly almost grabbed him, her tanned arm a streak that Bobby barely avoided. He twisted to the side, almost crashed into a gnarly pine tree and giggled his way back up to speed. “Over here!” shouted Kelly and Bobby laughed short and hard, breathing deep for a major-league sprint.
Taking the soft rise on slick pine needles, Bobby saw the old walnut stump ahead. Almost six feet wide and two feet high, it sat like a flat-topped frog in the woods, the bark all craggy and mossy and wet even in the hottest summer day. Bobby knew he needed to run faster, before Lars caught up with them. He giggled, laughed and giggled again as he turned to see how close Kelly was.
Very close! Her pretty face was set in a frown of effort, but her eyes were shiny with glee. Her pigtails bounced and her long legs pumped easily, closing ground.
Nearing the stump, Bobby laughed, the musical trill that made chasing him so much fun for the kids. Mouth open in delight, he soared over the stump, then slowed to a stop.
A smiling Kelly ran close to the old walnut stump and jumped.
The huge scaly claw whipped up from the stump and slammed around Kelly, crushing her in an instant. The claw retracted like a whip into the stump, slime drops spraying at Bobby’s feet.
Laughing, Bobby turned to race through the woods. He’d be caught, he knew. After looking for Kelly, the kids wouldn’t play for a while, but one day Bobby would laugh and the kids would laugh and they’d chase him again through the piney woods. Next time, the stump would catch Lars.And then, nobody would catch Bobby again, no matter how much he laughed.