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Child's Play

Hide and Seek...A Trick or a Treat? a Short Story for Halloween

Lucy’s dangling up side down from the window seat in the playroom when the higgledy piggledy pile of washing up starts singing that really old song again. Her arm is sticking out from her head and it looks all weird. “Do you remember me and Daddy singing this?” I ask, shoving her toe away from my nose. “We wore the same suits, the same sunglasses and everything.”

Lucy flops down onto her bottom and her poofy, yellow dress scrunches up around her knickers. She looks like that doll at Granny’s - the knitted one that hides the loo roll, except Lucy’s not hiding nothing. Her eyes go all crinkly and she pokes her tongue out as if she’s trying to catch the memory like a snowflake and taste it all over again. “Uh huh. Mummy laughed so much she spilled her wine. She said you were the coolest peas in the pod.”

“We were!” Daddy is drinking his coffee in the kitchen and writing. I give him a double thumbs up and he sort of looks at me, but I can tell he’s busy.

“Why won’t he come and play?” says Lucy. “What’s he doing?”

“I dunno. Maybe he’s getting ready for work.”

Daddy’s job is really important. He delivers pharmaceuticals – that’s like medicine, I know cause Daddy told me. He has a Sat Nav and everything but he’s always losing his temper with it, especially when he gets lost on the country lanes. “I can’t ever be late,” he’s said. “Sick people really need my help.” That’s why Daddy always writes down where he has to go and how he is going to get there. “To be on the safe side,” he says.

So me and Lucy wait. The clock ticks in time with the chorus of the song coming from the kitchen sink and Lucy jumps up and makes some pretty good trumpet noises. Daddy jumps too but he drops his mug and makes some pretty ugly faces and says some very naughty b-words. The mug doesn’t just break, it smashes into a million pieces as it bounces and explodes on the tiles. I’m never gonna drink coffee, not until I’m probably 21, which is eleven years away and even then, if it still smells like burnt chocolate, then I’m definitely not drinking it ever. Right now though, the only thing I can smell is really strong cough sweets and them nasty liquorice laces.

Sometimes, me and Daddy like to dress up as warriors, but right now, as he tries to pick up his broken mug, he looks nothing like a Jedi with his dirty, bare feet and smelly dressing gown that Mummy hated so much. And, yuck! He doesn’t even notice when the fuzzy tie bit dangles in the dark brown mess as he walks to the bin. “Not long now,” he says.

Good. I smile at Lucy and press my nose to the window. It’s got really dark outside. The sky looks like an overflowing pot of cloudy porridge and even the streetlight’s come on. Lucy says it’s nearly bedtime but that’s stupid, cause there’s a fuzzy, button shape peeking through the porridge and I’m sure it’s the sun - only it’s not yellow and it’s not really shining. It’s turned the garden a funny colour, like a photo from a very long time ago. Maybe the world is going to end. Brown, twirling helicopter leaves tap on the glass. Jack meows. Next door, a dangly skeleton rattles on the letterbox. Lucy fiddles.

Off. On. Off. On.

Come. And. Find. Us.

Off, on, off, on, off, on, off.

We’re tired of waiting, watching, listening.

Daddy folds his piece of paper in half and stands it against the bottle on the table. “Job done,” he says and then he leans forward and rests his head in his hands.

“One. Two. Three…”

You know, you never can tell with Daddy, he can be doing one thing and then the next second he’s like – BOO! GOTCHA! “Quick, Lucy! Hide!” She’s got bambi legs but it doesn’t stop her running in and out of the shadows and into the room where Auntie Jo sometimes sleeps when she and Mummy have drunk too much giggle juice.

“Five. Six…”

My cloak catches on the little desk calendar in the hall and sends the months flying. March lands by my feet. It has a picture of pretty bubbles and two wonky glasses that are about to bash together with the words ‘sip happens’ underneath and I can see the big KAPOW! that I drawed on top of the number two to remind me to get my Batman costume ready for World Book Day. I touch the bit of my face beside my eye with my pinky finger and then wink real slow. My skin feels all tight and crispy but at least it’s not burning anymore.

“Sev…”

I’m right behind Lucy as I dive into the squidgy pile of unicorns, pugs, dragons, bears, pandas, and tigers. This is our favourite place to hide cause we know Daddy will find us eventually, even though he pretends he can’t. My six-pack is digging into my armpit, or is it something else? It hurts, whatever it is.

“Eight... Nine...”

“Pooh!” says Lucy, “You’ve trumped.” I haven’t, but I sniff anyway. “It stinks like rotten tomatoes in here,” she says as she tries to pinch her nose and huggle Darth Vader at the same time. She doesn’t look very comfortable, but then my Darth Vader clock is really too big and plasticy for huggles. I can tell what she means about the pong though. Oh my days, it’s a bit like when you get a whiff of all the empty baked bean tins in the recycling bin. Stinky sweet. Sickly. I gulp on my own spit and tell Lucy to hush. It’s real dark now but if I stare hard, I can just see Lucy. She’s glowing all red and baby shadows are creeping up her neck and messing with her hair. Her tiara is all lopsided and the diamonds and the rubies and all the eyes are twinkling. Is it because she’s accidentally pressed Darth Vader’s head and made his tummy light up? I try to see what the time is, but I don’t know. I think there’s only zeros.

“Chen…”

Lucy becomes nothing more than a ghostly blob. It’s time.

“Ready or. Not. Here. I come…”

Daddy’s words sound stuck and too far away. I wish I was that cartoon kid off the telly, then I could magically stretch my ears out and make them go round corners, and under chairs and through widows. Jeez, I could even stick my eyes out on stalks if I wanted too, then I’d know exactly what’s going on. With powers like that, I’d be the perfect spy. The best superhero. The winner.

There’s a scratchy thud. No swear words this time, just a ‘ungh’ that makes me want to laugh. I think he’s bumped into the toy box which means Daddy must be getting warmer. I bet he’s pretending to be a zombie or something. Once, he covered himself with a blanket and nearly fell down the stairs. “You’re demented!” Mummy had said, “Never mind a dementor.” She wouldn’t let us play that game again.

“Is that Daddy?” whispers Lucy. Her eyelashes brush a tickle spot on my cheek that I didn’t even know I had. I think I’m going to burst. “Yeap, and he’s sooo warm,” I say.

The plates and cups are really rocking now and Daddy falls in a heap on top of us. He’s burning hot. His hands crawl like spiders around the horns and the paws. They brush over the tails and past the wings to rest in between our fingers.

“Found…you…”

It’s not so dark now that Daddy’s here. I pull off my sticky Batman mask and let my eyes close. At last we can all go. Just me, Lucy and Daddy. I don’t care about the others – the others who will still be waiting for their medicine that will never arrive. 

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