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Hide and Seek
by Lynn Miclea
Benjie kept his eyes covered as he sang out. “… 6 … 7 … 8 … 9 … 10. Ready or not, here I come!” He dropped his hands and opened his eyes, taking in the back yard. His eyes roamed over the swing set, the picnic table, the big oak tree with the tree house, and a few smaller trees. But no Stevie. Where did he go?
Benjie knew he didn’t hear Stevie climb the ladder to the tree house, but maybe he’d check anyway. He ran to the oak tree and climbed up the ladder. At the top, he leaned forward and peeked into the small, square, wooden room. A few coloring books, a box of crayons, and two juice boxes. But no Stevie.
He climbed back down. Where did his friend go? He ran around the back yard. “Stevie?” No answer.
A creaking sound made him turn toward the back of the yard. The gate was open. Did Stevie leave and go into the woods?
He knew they weren’t supposed to leave the yard, as they were only six years old, but maybe that’s where his friend went. He glanced back at the house. No one was visible. He knew his mom was inside making dinner. He wouldn’t be gone long. A quick look and then he’d be back.
Benjie pushed open the squeaky gate and walked into the wild brush that grew up above his knees. Was it safe out here? He felt a little nervous. He had never been back here by himself. But he wouldn’t go far.
“Stevie?” He looked at the tall trees. Maybe his friend was just a little farther in, behind one of the trees. “Hey, Stevie, answer me.”
He nervously glanced behind him. He wasn’t too far from home. He’d be okay. He’d find Stevie, they’d laugh, and then they’d go home.
He walked farther into the woods. A path became visible on his left. Maybe he’d follow the path for a bit. Maybe that’s where Stevie went.
Benjie walked for a while, looking at the trees and listening to the chirping birds. A sudden cold wind cut through his thin t-shirt and he shivered. How far had he walked? Where was he?
He turned in a circle. He was on a path surrounded by tall trees and thick underbrush. How long had he been walking? He felt cold and hungry. His mom would be mad at him. Leaves rustled behind him and he jumped. He heard a thump. What was that?
Shivering with fear and the cold, he ran off the path and hid behind a tree. Silence settled around him, but his belly churned with fear. His hands shook. Panic rose in his chest and he tried not to cry. Where was he? Which way was home? He wasn’t even sure which way he had been walking anymore.
He sat down in the dirt near a bush covered in thick leaves and shivered. Looking up, he saw the sky getting dark. How would he get home?
“Mommy?” he called out into the trees. He started to cry and wiped his nose with the back of his hand. Then he broke down in choking sobs.
Footsteps and men’s voices startled him. What if they were bad guys? What if they killed him? His mom would never find him.
The heavy panting of an animal filled the air, and he heard the pounding of running paws on the ground. Benjie gasped and pulled in closer under the leafy bush. No!
The men’s voices got closer. “Abby!” a man’s voice called out.
“There she is,” another voice said.
Benjie’s eyes grew wide as the animal crashed through the trees and stopped next to him. A large German Shepherd sat down in front of him and barked. “Woof!”
“Good girl, Abby!” Two policemen stepped off the trail and stood next to the dog.
One of the cops peeked under the bush. “Are you Benjie?” he asked.
Benjie nodded and wiped tears off his cheeks.
“Benjie, we’re cops, and we’re here to help you get back home. I’m Sam, and that’s Mike.” The boy stared back at them, shaking. “Your mom called us. She’s really worried about you.”
Benjie sniffed and turned to look at the German Shepherd.
Sam kneeled down next to Benjie. “And I see you’ve met Abby.” He stroked the dog’s fur. “This is Officer Abigail, our K-9 officer who helped find you.” He looked at the dog. “Good girl, Abby,” he added and pulled a dog biscuit out of his pocket, holding it out to the pooch. Abby wagged her tail and took the treat, chewing noisily.
Sam looked back at the boy. “Are you okay? Are you hurt?”
Benjie’s eyes met Sam’s, and he shook his head. “I’m okay,” he whispered. “I’m cold.”
Sam spoke softly. “Let’s get you home. Can you get up okay? Can you walk?”
Benjie nodded and stood up, brushing dirt and leaves off his dungarees. “Is my mom mad at me?”
“She’s worried about you. We’re gonna call in and let your mom know we found you and that you’re safe, so she won’t worry anymore. Then we’ll take you home. Okay?”
Benjie ran up the steps to the front porch of his home and rushed into his mother’s arms, crying. “I’m sorry, Mommy,” he choked out.
She scooped him up and hugged him tightly, rocking back and forth. “It’s okay, pumpkin. I’m glad you’re home and you’re safe.” She kissed his head, breathing in his scent. “Where were you?”
“Out in the woods.”
“You know you’re not supposed to leave the yard.”
I … I know,” he stammered. “I was looking for Stevie and couldn’t find him. Where was he?”
“Stevie was hiding behind a trash can on the side of the house. Then he got worried when you didn’t find him, and he came inside and got me. We searched the yard, found the back gate open, and I called the police.”
Benjie sniffed. “Their dog Abby found me. She’s a good dog.”
His mother turned to the officers who were waiting patiently on the porch. “Thank you, officers. I really appreciate all your help.”
“Our pleasure, ma’am. We’re glad this one had a happy ending.”
“Me too.” Her voice caught in her throat. “Oh God, me too.”
The officers and the K-9 turned and walked to their squad car. Benjie looked up at his mom. “Mommy?”
“I like Abby. Can we get a dog?”
His mom laughed. “That’s not a bad idea. A dog might help keep you safe.” She kissed Benjie’s cheek. “Are you hungry? Let’s go in and have dinner.”
“Okay. I’d really like a dog. And I know what I want to be when I grow up.”
“A policeman. Just like those nice men. And I’ll have a big dog just like Abby.”
“That sounds nice. Now go wash your hands for dinner and we can talk about it, okay?”
Copyright © 2019 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.
Please also visit Lynn’s blog, like the story there, and follow her at – https://wp.me/p4htbd-oi
Please also visit Lynn’s website for more information on her books – https://www.lynnmiclea.com/