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Chris, Kurt, and Abigail had a little in house competition to lead the charge. Our February prompt? “And the Children Shall Lead.”
Chris took third place for our February prompt with his story “Gregore Wins the Day”
by Wilson Geiger
Gregore sprinted down the hill, his arms swinging wildly. He kicked up grass and dirt as he ran, and more than once he almost lost his balance and threatened to go down. And that wouldn’t feel quite so hot, rolling down the hill, stone and branch digging into his back.
Or his head.
Don’t fall then, he thought. Like it was just that easy.
He skidded to a stop past the oak tree in Misses Jerlins’ yard and ducked behind it. He put a hand to his chest and tried to relax his breath. But then the pounding thud of his heart made it worse, so he just threw his hands down by his side and closed his mouth. He looked at Misses Jerlins on the porch, but she never said a word anymore. She just sat there on that wooden rocker of hers and watched.
Running his thumb down the uneven bark of the tree, Gregore scrunched his eyes shut and began to count upwards. By the count of ten or twenty, he thought, he’d be in the clear.
No way they’d—
“Psst,” a voice hissed beside him. “Greg.”
Gregore nearly pissed himself, right there on the spot. He felt his feet leave the ground and a split-second later he found himself on his stomach, his hands covering his head. Someone giggled over him, and uproarious laughter carried down the street.
That was it, then. He’d lost to Max again.
He rolled over on his back and stared up at Maxwell Burgan’s face. Max, to his credit, was trying to hold it in. His face blossomed a nice shade of red, but in the end he couldn’t help it, no more than Gregore could. He started laughing so hard that his belly shook, his pudgy hands struggling to contain all that damned mirth.
Gregore sighed. “Jeez, it’s not that funny, Max.” He grunted and rolled over onto his knees. He pushed himself up to his feet and rubbed his hands clean.
“Oh…oh, man, you shoulda seen the look on your face,” Max said, tears crowding around his eye lids. “Scared you shitless, buddy.”
“I told you, it’s not that funny.” He aimed a kick at Max’s shin, and cracked a triumphant grin at Max’s sharp intake of breath as Gregore’s boot caught Mr. So-Not-His-Best-Friend-Right-Now.
Gregore’s favorite part of the game was changing the rules.
He stepped around the tree and figured he’d let Max rub his shin and whimper on the ground for a minute. He scanned down Murphy Street, his eyes narrowed as he looked for the third member of their little game. His gaze trailed past the row of cars on the side of the street, and he thought maybe he’d seen a shadow by Mr. Watson’s truck. He stared for a second, then cursed. Nothing there but the old man sitting in that half-rusted Chevy of his, the truck’s bumper crumpled up like aluminum foil and three of the tires as flat as Gregore’s poor sister’s chest.
Gregore wasn’t sure why the old man bothered. He couldn’t remember the last time Mr. Watson had got that truck started.
No, wait. There! He thought he caught a flash of movement behind the bush sitting in the middle of the yard across the street.
He looked over his shoulder at Max and put a finger to his lips. He winked and tiptoed across the street, careful to avoid the cracks. This time, he’d get the bastard, and then Max and Jobe would have to catch up to him.
He took a ginger step onto the sidewalk and scrambled on all fours towards the bush. He couldn’t believe it. Jobe could usually hear him coming from a mile away, but not this time.
The smell stopped him, and he wrinkled his nose. He should’ve known better. Not Jobe at all, but that smelly Howard Linkletter, taking a nap again in his own filth.
Gregore turned back towards the street and he couldn’t help the sudden smile on his face. Jobe sprinted past Max, shoving him aside as he raced for the safety of the trees.
Jobe saw that he’d been spotted and he stopped mid-step. His shoulders slumped and he rolled his eyes.
Gregore let out a loud whoop. Jobe knew he couldn’t outrun him. There was more to the game than being a shifty sneak. This time, anyway.
“Finally, Gregore Seckman takes the lead!” He put his hands around his mouth and mimicked the sounds of a raucous crowd.
“Whatever, Greg,” Max said.
Max always pouted when he wasn’t the one winning. Served him right for winning so much.
“Shut your face,” Gregore said. He glanced at Jobe. “So, new round?”
“Nah, I’m tired,” Jobe said. He closed one eye and shielded the other with his hand. He looked up at the sky, at the sun that settled over the western edge of town. “Gettin’ late anyway, so I’ll just head home.”
Gregore nodded. “Yeah, we can just pick it up again tomorrow.”
“Alright then, jerkfaces, I’ll see you tomorrow.” Max gave them both his infamous one-fingered salute and headed down the street.
Max was the worst sore loser Gregore had ever seen. Even worse than his stupid sister, but luckily for Gregore she didn’t seem to come out too much anymore. She didn’t really even talk to him, just sat on the couch and stared at the TV. Like all that static was fun to watch or something.
He’d just figured it was a teenage thing.
Gregore watched Max walk down the street, and a sudden thought struck him. He cupped his hands over his mouth. “Hey, Max!”
Max stopped and turned around. He shrugged and raised his hands in the air.
“Tell Misses Jerlins that we’re done for the night, will ya?” He sort of felt bad, her sitting out on that porch all alone.
He wondered how the old woman ever got any sleep.