We played hide and seek every night that summer. Soon as it was dusk and the first lighting bug sparked to life, when all the critters started chirring and the front yard became magic, it was time for a game. We had a few rules and even fewer hiding spots. Mainly that you couldn’t leave the yard. But that night I wanted something better.
It was Jay’s turn to count. And since he was known to cheat sure as the Yankees were known to win, Dorinda stood behind him, making sure he had his back turned and his eyes covered. I was darting around like a chicken, looking for someplace special when I saw Billy duck under the woodpile. Then I saw it. Preacher Willis’ truck up on the hill by the roadside.
Mama thought Preacher Willis was too young for preaching. Said she didn’t trust a young man preacher, so she always stayed inside when he came around. But Mama wasn’t home that night, and the preacher was around back visiting Papa, who was fixing the tractor. Papa sounded like he could use God’s help, going by the language back there.
With all that going on, no one paid notice when I climbed onto the bed of his pick-up truck. I wasn’t dressed for the occasion, being barefoot and shirtless. Like I said, Mama was working late, cooking and cleaning and doing laundry for the Irby’s and was too preoccupied with cursing the tractor for us kids. Lying on my back, the metal of the truck bed was still hot from a days’ worth of sun.
Jay called out “Ready or not, here I come.” I couldn’t help my smile. I knew I had this thing won. He quickly found Dorinda, though, probably hiding in her favorite bush. From where I was I heard a commotion, then the usual shrieking and hollering and I could guess the chase was on.
I laid still, stifling my own giggle, or moving an inch. At least ‘til Mr. Willis hopped in the truck and fired it up.
I nearly screamed. I suppose I still had a chance to leap out I suppose but it was hard to get moving. Then I felt the growl of the truck in my bones. Then we were off, shooting down the road, the wind swooshing down but I wasn’t too worried. The preacher only lived a few houses down so I was figuring to walk back after Jay and Billy and Dorinda had given up. No one would ever find out where I’d been hiding.
We started down the road. Slow at first, but where his house was up ahead on the right, he took a left and I was soon hanging on so that I didn’t go sliding around the bed of his pick-up.
Then I was in for it. We picked up speed, dust flying, gravel kicking, as I lay back breathing in the wind, taking in the ribbed clouds and catching the last pink slice of the day as we flew down the bumpy road.
We ended up near the river, glittering with the last of the evening sun, to a cabin sitting right off the rocks. But night was dropping quicker between the hills, and the water was rushing over itself like it was in a hurry to get downstream. The preacher leaped out of the truck, a whiff of sharp cologne I hadn’t noticed before. I peeked up to watch. He strode up the dirt path to the porch. It was almost like a dance, his steps light and there was a devilish tune to his whistle. But I forgot all about his walking and whistling, because woman who greeted him at the door with a kiss fit for a movie was my own mama.
The screen door slapped shut. And I sat far away from home, in the hills, waiting on my mama to come out. For her to tell me why she was in some cabin, or why she’d kissed that too young preacher. I waited for a while, then I waited a while longer. Until it was clear no one was coming out, and I didn’t want to hide anymore. So I hopped out of the truck and started running towards home.
Towards that last sliver of daylight slipping through the trees.
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