This week, at the pep rally, Benjamin watched the JV Flag Corps do their routine.
This week, he saw her wave at him.
“Mommm! Benjamin hugged me!”
“He hugged me, too, honey. I think he hugged your dad, as well.”
Click, tap, went Dad’s typewriter. “Ten-four on that,” Dad called from his den. Tap. Click.
Benjamin didn’t care. He sat in his room and smiled and smiled.
“Okay, Bast, you approach the treasure chest. Are you going to check it for traps?”
Eury shook her head, and reached out for the lid of the toybox. Benjamin pretended to punch in some numbers on his calculator, just to make her nervous, but he had no intention of springing a trap on her.
He had a different surprise in mind.
She opened the lid of the box and gasped to find all her toys gone. In their place was an envelope with BAST printed on it in careful block lettering.
She gave Benjamin a questioning glance then, getting nothing from his poker face, opened the envelope and slid out the single folded sheet of typing paper.
“Dear Bast,” she said, sliding a finger along each line of typed text. “You are invited to join the monsters this Saturday…in a real, live game of Voidville….welcome!” She spun and faced Benjamin.
He smiled and nodded. “You’re a full-time player now. I mean, if you want — oof!”
Her wild lunge and hug almost knocked him off balance. “I thought you hated hugging,” he managed to grunt as she squeezed him tightly.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” she shouted.
Benjamin extricated himself from her, untangling limb after limb. He knelt in front of her and laid a hand on her shoulder. “But,” he said. “You have to promise me…”
“Yes,” she said. “Yes!”
“You have to follow the rules of the game. You have to do what I say. You have to work with the other players and help them out.”
“I will!” She closed in for another bear hug, but he held her at length with a strong arm.
“I’m serious, Eury. The game needs to be fun for everybody. So I need you to be a big girl and a good player, okay?”
She nodded like a Pez dispenser on overdrive. “Yes. Thank you so much!”
This time he let her hug him, and he squeezed her back twice as hard.
“Will there be any other girls there?” she asked.
“I think,” he said into her No More Tears-scented hair, “there’s going to be at least one more.”
SIDE ONE, TRACK SIX: ABRACADABRA
Eury balanced on the pegs on Benjamin’s bike as he pedaled along, the trailer bouncing and jostling on the road behind them. She had double- and triple-checked that her cat ears and tail were packed along with the all-important magic wand.
Mom had sent them on their way with pecks on the cheek, holding back Benjamin as Eury tottered to the trailer with a double armload of stuff.
“Thank you for playing with her this week, honey. And thank you for taking her along today. I’ve never seen her this excited. And I’ve seen her excited enough to trigger fault lines.” She patted Benjamin on the shoulder and sent him on his way.
“How much further?” Eury shouted in his ear. They were working their way up a hill on the highway.
“Randall’s farm is a little further down the road,” he called back. “Maybe another ten or fifteen minutes.”
“Go faster!” she shouted, not unkindly, and he grinned at her enthusiasm.
At the crest of the hill, he could see the yellow silo of Randall’s place on the horizon. He pumped the pedals as they began the downward slope, feeling the trailer thud and rattle behind them.
“I can’t go much faster or the trailer will come loose,” he yelled back at her. “We don’t want to lose your magic wand in a ditch!”
“Go slower!” she yelled with just as much excitement as before.
But they had momentum now, rolling down the hill, the trailer jouncing crazily no matter how much he applied the brakes on the ten-speed. Brother and sister whooped in unison at the wild ride, perhaps sharing memories of the family’s last trip to Six Flags and every madcap rollercoaster in the place.
They reached the bottom of the hill, the trailer having performed a small miracle by not flinging itself loose at any point. The yellow silo stood larger in the distance.
“Flat all the rest of the way,” Benjamin said. “Punch it?”
And off they went.
The mailbox — reading HART — sat at the edge of the property, with a long dirt drive leading back to the farm proper. That’s where Randall met them, at that junction of dirt and highway asphalt, waving them down with both arms as they approached like he was taxiing an airplane. Cy sat at the mailbox, his bike’s kickstand engaged.
“Hey,” Randall said as they skidded to a stop, the trailer’s load clunking. “Hey, Eury.” She waved back at him, hopping off the bike, running back to check that nothing of hers had flown free.
“Just gathering everyone here before we go up to the house,” Randall said.
“How are your brothers?” Benjamin asked.
“They’re kinda, sorta, halfway onboard,” Randall said. “But they’re not saying ‘no’ right off the bat.”
Cy had come over to get his own gear out of the trailer, and Benjamin heard Eury mumble something to him. “Well, what does the wand look like?” Cy asked her.
Randall looked up in the opposite direction Benjamin had come from. “Heeeeere’s Eddie,” he said. Their friend was pedaling his bike fast as he could. With a quick whip across the highway — Benjamin was sure Eddie would have cut across all four lanes no matter if traffic was oncoming or not — Eddie crunched to a halt in the gravel lining the mouth of the Hart’s driveway.
“If you guys have time, about a half-mile back,” and he chucked a thumb the way he’d come, “it was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. There were these two armadillos fu–” He noticed Eury rooting around in the trailer. “Uh, kissing. Two armadillos just kissing each others’ brains out.”
Today’s Words: 1050
Total Words: 15880
Notes: Started writing late tonight, so a little too tired for any notes this evening. Good night!
I’m attempting to write a Halloween-themed horror novel in October! Visit Day Zero for more information or Day One to read from the beginning, and check out Countdown to Halloween for more blogging that’s altogether ooky!
(And the cat is Valentine — I figured the presence of a black cat would make things that much more Halloween-y!)