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November 2012 Volume 14 , Issue 11 submit to us!
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Secret+Hiding+Places
by Frank Hardy -- Contributing Author [Email This Story]

"Mom, can I go outside?" I assume to know the answer and start opening the backdoor before she responds.

"NO!" my mom snaps in a half-shout sort of way. She changes her volume, "I mean, not right now. Why don't you go downstairs and watch some TV for a lil' bit, till lunch time even."

The coffeemaker shows that it's only 10:04 and I think, two hours of watching TV! What is going on? No time to ask questions though, don't want her to change her mind and I can't remember the last time I was allowed to watch a full two hours of TV on a Saturday morning!

"Okay," I say, trying to hide my excitement, and slam the door to the uncut grass, shining sun, and the somewhat familiar looking man walking through our backyard, Is that Mr. Clinton?. Doesn't matter if it is, cause it's TV TIME! I run downstairs; "Dukes of Hazard should just be starting," I whisper and grab the remote and jump on the couch.

A few minutes later my mom yells from the top of the stairs, "Hey Chris?" "Yeah Mom?" I say but not really listening - the General Lee has just jumped over a small creek . . .  awesome.

"I'm going to be in the backyard for a little while. Just keep watching TV until I make your lunch at twelve, okay?" she says.

"Okay." The cop car tries to follow but ends up landing in the stream. The sirens make their weird broken-noise; sound and steam comes out of the hood . . .  awesome!

For the next hour, I am totally into Bo and Luke and super hot Daisy Duke. But then I start to get hungry. I know mom said she was going to make lunch at 12, but I'm starving and I know where she has some M&M's stashed in the kitchen.

I jump up the flight of stairs and pull out the hidden treasure that even a child could find; they are just under the oven mitts in a drawer but for some reason Mom never thinks I can find her hidden candy. Throw'n a handful of M&M's in my mouth, I look out the window to make sure she can't see. I don't see her anywhere so I eat some more and keep my guard up.

Our backyard is huge. The town bike-path runs right behind it and the high school football practice field is right after the bike trail. It is bigger than any of my friends' and it has some really tall Cotton Woods in the back that are perfect for building forts. Two Easters ago, my dad hung a tire swing on one of the Cotton Woods and I can see it hanging as I look out the kitchen window.

Our pop-up camper is still in our backyard from when my older sister came home over the summer. She didn't want to share a room with my other sister who is in high school so my parents let her live in the camper for the summer. She went back to school three weeks ago.

Still no sign of mom though and I realize I have already eat'n too many M&M's. I put them back in the "secret hiding spot," afraid Mom will notice that the bag is half empty, and get the milk from the fridge.

Still can't find mom, but I do notice something in the camper and think, "Oh, she's probably cleaning out the camper and getting it ready to pack up." I drink the rest of the milk and hop down the stairs to watch more Dukes of Hazard.

But then I begin to think, why didn't Mom want me outside? And then it hits me, like a fat lineman falling on me during practice, "Was that Mr. Clinton that I saw walking in our backyard? And if it was, what was he doing? And why can't I go back there?"

My mind begins to ask a hundred more questions. Twenty minutes of the show goes by and I have no idea what trouble Bo and Luke are in -- nor do I care. I am totally thinking about where my mom is, why I'm not allowed outside, and why Mr. Clinton was walking in our backyard?

My heart starts beating like it does after I run sprints in football and the adrenaline makes my hands tingle. I jump to my feet, "I gotta check this out."

From the basement, I go through the mudroom and into the garage. Then, I sneak around the back, walk along the three tall pine trees and start inching toward the camper-- as easy as taking M&M's from the drawer.

I am now feet away from the camper and can hear muffled sounds coming from the camper and I get scared. No, that's not true, I get terrified, like shit-in-your-pants terrified! What if I really do find what I think is happening? What do I do then? Do I stop them? Do I sneak away and pretend like I don't know anything? What do I do?

Frozen in fear, I suddenly wish that my dad were home and not working his side job that he took in order to pay for my sister's college and that keeps him out late every Saturday.

Without Dad there, I decide I don't want to know what's going on, I just want to know if Mr. Clinton is in there. So I make my presence known by hitting the branches on the pine trees with a stick, like I am bored and just trying to be destructive or something. It works. My mom suddenly appears through the window, coming up from the floor (or maybe the bench?) and shoots out of the camper like my cat from tub when I try giving her a bath.

"Chris, what are you doing out here!" I can tell she's pissed. "I told you not to come outside! Get back in the house!"

I obey.

I turn and run straight to my room and shut the door, sit on my bed, and just stare at the floor; numb and confused.

About fifteen minutes later, Mom comes in the house and resumes life as normal; she makes my lunch (which I'm not hungry for anymore), puts in a load of laundry, and then starts grilling dinner. She even makes a cherry pie -- my dad's favorite. I hear the crinkling of the M&M bag as she snacks from her secret drawer.

When dad gets home, we eat dinner as a family. My sister is at a friend's house for the night so it's just me, my dad, and Mom. I have nothing to say.

At night, I struggle to sleep. I keep thinking about the camper and all that I didn't see. A big part of me is glad I didn't see anything, but a bigger part of me now wishes I had because my mind is going crazy with imagination. I fight against myself, "I'm just making a big deal out of nothing. I bet Mom really was cleaning the floor of the camper and Mr. Clinton was nowhere close to our backyard."

My mind is spinning and don't know what to believe. I decide to talk to my best friend Kevin tomorrow and see what he says. "I bet he will say it's nothing," I tell myself. And with that, I fall asleep.

"Hey, Kev!" I run down the hall and he stops to wait for me. "Hey, I gotta question for ya." I stop running and we walk to lunch. As eighth graders we don't have to rush because we can cut in front of most "sevies" and still have plenty of time to finish before the bell.

"What's up?" Kevin says.

As quietly and quickly as possible I tell him all that happened the day before an then ask, "So what do you think?"

"What do I think? Dude! Your mom is skrew'n Mr. Clinton!" He then yells at a friend to hold open his locker and then takes of down the hall and puts his books in the locker.

I stop walking.

Stunned.

My greatest fear has just been screamed and I can hear it echo through the eighth grade hallway, the seventh grade hallway, and all the way down to the music room. Everyone must have heard it I think to myself, and now everyone knows -everyone except my dad.

Before the school year started, I was excited for eighth grade to come. I was excited to play eighth grade football and to not be a sevie. But now, as my dad picks me up from practice, I realize I hate eighth grade. And when he asks, "How was football?" All I can say is, "Fine." And I say the same thing when he asks me how I like the eighth grade, "Fine" I say. But that's not true. I hate it. I hate it almost as much as I hate Mr. Clinton.

 
 
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Features -- November 2012 -- Beginning Month Issue