by Pam Sears
Kids playing pretend that gets a little too real for a time...
|“We are a’splorers of the great un… un… of places nobody’s been!” Addie declared, pushing the pole she was holding against the ground, trying to make the tub they were in move.
It had rained heavily last night and the dirt road in front of the shanty homes was flooded to the delight of the children and annoyance of the adults.
“I wanna be a pirate! Not a a’splorer.” Todd grumbled. He leaned over the edge of their bucket, holding a board. “I has a plank an’ I wanna make someone walks it. I’m gonna be Cap’n Bluebeard!”
“Silly.” Sniffed Jennie. “There’s no such thing as a beard what’s blue. ‘Sides, you don’ got a beard.” She was holding a little porcelain cup that, if her mother had seen it, would have caused a heart attack.
“Todd scowled. “There is. Or there would’n be stories about ‘im. What’s that’cher got?
“Well, if we’re gonna be a’splorers then I’m th’ sign’tust and this will help with sign stuff.” She dipped the off-white cup into the dirty water and pretended to examine what was inside.
“Adam, you c’n be my sistant. Come over here an’ lemme see wha’s in my sight’fic cup.” She demanded.
Adam frowned, his feet and pant legs already wet from jumping about in the muddy water. Their tub was too heavy for the water flow to move it with the others in it but he’d seen it rock a little as the water pushed at it.
“Adam!” Jennie demanded, frowning.
With a frown of his own Adam slogged to her side of the bucket. “Wha’cher wan’ me t’do?” He grumbled.
“Put that nasty can down an’ hold out’cher hands.” Jennie instructed.
“If’n you has a sight’fic cup, this is a sight’fic can and it can help.” Adam declared. He’d planned to play kick-the-can later and didn’t want to lose it.
“Ooh, tha’s a good idear.” Jennie nodded. “Ok, hold it over here an’ lemme pour my cup into yourns an’ we’ll see what comes out. Hold steady, Addie.”
“Tha’s Cap’n Addie ‘cause I’s in charge of this espadishun.” Addie declared, still pushing against the ground with her pole as if she were moving a great ship.
The tub rocked again.
“Hol’ steady!” Jennie declared, carefully pouring her “find” from her cup into Adam’s can.
“Wanna be a pirate.” Todd grumbled under his breath, glaring at both girls. “Pirates ‘splore the wild oceans. Wanna ‘splore where there’s treasure.”
“A’splorers find treasure, too.” Addie declared, giving another rocking shove.
“Hey, was that a worm?” Adam shoved aside Jennie’s hand and peered into his tin.
“Wait! We’re not done!” Jennie declared hotly.
“It’s my can. We’re done if I says so. An’ I want the worm so I says so.” Adam declared, turning his body to shield his can from Jennie’s grab.
“I’m th’ sign’tust so I’m in charge. Come back here with my sign’tiffic find!” She shrieked.
“No!” Adam scowled, backing away.
“This is.. is.. mute’nee!” Jennie declare.
At that, Todd perked up. “Mute’nee?” He repeated, then grinned at Addie. “I’m’a stage a mute’nee and take over the ship. We’s gonna be *pirates*!” He declared, snatching at the pole.
Addy, forewarned by Todd’s reaction to the word “mute’nee”, held on tight. “No! It’s MY pole so it’s MY ship! Let go!” She screeched.
“Never! It’s a mute’nee!” Todd hollered back.
“Come back with my sign’tust find, Adam!” Jennie shrieked again.
Adam kept backing up, eyes widening. The water in the street had sped up, rising as the nearby creek became a small river and overflowed its banks. The tub was rocking violently from both the water pushing at it and Todd and Addie’s fight over the pole. As he watched, the tub gave one more heaving rock and slowly began moving away from him.
“Stop backin’ up, Adam. Bring that sign’tiffic a’scovery back to me!” Jennie cried, tears of frustration beginning to form in her eyes.
“I ain’t movin’, Jen. Honest.” Adam swore.
Jennie’s eyes widened and she glanced about, working to remain upright as both the water and Addie and Todd’s fight jostled her.
“We’s MOO-vin’!” She screamed. “Adam, help us!”
Adam promptly turned and bolted, yelling for his pa.
Addie and Todd were still wrestling over the pole and who would be “Cap’n” but at Jennie’s scream they both froze and looked up.
“What happened?” Addie demanded, grip on the pole loosening as she realize they really *were* moving.
Whooping with glee Todd yanked the pole away and shoved it into the water. “Now I’s the Cap’n and what *I* sez goes!” He declared.
“But, Todd, we’s moo’vin. We ought’n’a be.” Addie was scared. It had been fun pretending but she didn’t *like* the way their tub rocked with the water. She wanted out and she wanted her Momma and her Daddy.
Jennie began to cry in earnest. “I doesn’t wanna play no more. Make it stop, Todd.” She demanded.
Face whitening, grip on the pole tightening, Todd firmed his stance by spreading his feet. “Both of ya sits. On the bottom of the bucket. I’ll try to push us ta shore.”
Before he could make his attempt the bucket hit a rock and spun, rocking crazily. Both girls screamed and dropped to the bottom of the bucket, holding each other. Todd knew it was up to him.
Leaning over the side, causing the bucket to tip slightly, he shoved the pole through the water and at the bottom as hard as he could.
The bucket spun again and tipped over, sending all three children shrieking into the cold water.
Suddenly large, firm hands gripped the arms of each child and lifted them to their feet. The water surged around their knees as those hands steadied them and moved them out of the water to sit on dryer ground.
“Now, Addie, would you like to explain what happened?”
Addie looked up into the face of her father, Todd’s dad hovering nearby with a hand over his mouth as he scowled at the three kids. Addie could tell her pa wasn’t angry but she could also see that he *was* annoyed and worried.
“Well… we was playin’ a’splorers, Pa.” She began.
But Todd stood up, chest out manfully, and spoke over her. “It’us my fault, Pa, Mr. Parks. I staged a mute’nee and took over the ship and it sank ‘cause’a me.”
Todd’s pa made a muffled sound while Mr. Parks pulled his lips in, biting them to keep from laughing, then he gave the children a stern look.
“It ‘pears like we’re gonna have to have lessons on water safety ‘round ‘bout here.” He managed to keep his tone stern but wanted to laugh at the woebegone looks in front of him. Jeb’s muffled chuckles weren’t helping, either.
Then Mr. Parks got a look at what Jennie clutched and shook his head.
“Jennie-bird, you’re gonna have a time explainin’ to yer Ma why her best jewelry cup is out here, covered in mud, rather than on her dresser.”
Jennie gave up the attempt to be brave and began to bawl. Shaking his head, amusement finally winning out, Mr. Parks ruffled Jennie’s hair. “I’m sure she’ll forgive you.”
He stood and clapped his hands. “Alright, you three, let’s get you back and dried out.”
He glanced over at the battered wash tub that the kids had been using as a ship. It lay on its side, rocking and inching along as the water continued to push at it. He really was going to have to convince the other men, if not the company foreman, that they needed to raise a levee along the creek bank if they didn’t want to keep fishing adventurous children out of watery mishaps.
Laughing to himself, he herded the bedraggled group back to their mothers who waited in exasperated patience.
Just before they reached their moms Todd leaned over to Addie. “Wanna go on another ‘splorin’ adventure tomorry?” He whispered and she grinned.