“A little to the left!” 

“Ih thi goo?”


Ih thi goo!

“I can’t understand a word you’re saying!”

Sam stood in the grass, head tilted up, mouth wide open, his face covered in sticky, red blotches. Approximately twenty feet above him, was Tony. One arm wrapped around a thick branch of a tree, and the other outstretched, holding a melting popsicle by the stick. A drop of liquid fell, and with a little plink made its landing below. The summer heat beat down on the boys and the frozen dessert. Every few seconds, the popsicle would squeak and slide down a fraction of an inch. They had only seconds.

“Dude, hurry! A little bit further to the left!”

Sam stepped to the side.

“No, my left!”

Tony’s arm started to shake. Sam stood underneath, eyes closed against the bright summer sun. Then, with a slip, the popsicle melted off the stick and hurtled down. Tony meant to say  It’s coming! or Watch out! but his brain’s wires got crossed and he only managed to gasp, “IT’S WATCH!” 

Somehow, Sam understood. He planted his feet and stretched out his neck. Time slowed. The popsicle shrunk in Tony’s eyesight until it was nothing but a red dot as it went down, down, down. Then with a final, and oddly squishy, SPLAT the red dot turned into a red circle as it landed directly on Sam’s forehead.

Tony slapped the tree and howled with laughter. He nearly lost his grip on the branch and hugged it tighter with his other arm. Below, Sam keeled over in his own set of debilitating guffaws, and let the last bits of icy, red liquid fall off his face. Wiping his brow, he made his way to the shade of the large oak and plunked down on the grass. Tony slid down the trunk of the tree and plopped down next to him. The two boys crumbled into a pile of giggles, sweat, and sticky frozen dessert. Sam raised his hand and Tony met it with a high-five of, not success, but perhaps the acknowledgement of a day well spent.

“Man, I really thought we had it that time,” said Tony. He pulled out a popsicle wrapper from his pocket and tossed it onto a pile of what looked like 10 other identical wrappers.

“If you’d just been a few inches over-”

“If only the sun wasn’t in my eyes!”

“You should have seen your face-”

“We could have had it.”

The boys laughed again and Sam punched Tony playful in the arm. For a moment they sat in silence, coming down from the high of their most recent adventure.

“What’s next on the list?” said Sam.

Tony pulled out a crumpled piece of notebook paper and a pen from his pocket. He sat up and, using his knee as a makeshift desk, he crossed out “catch a popsicle with your mouth from over 15 feet in the air.” Above that one were a series of other challenges, all haphazardly crossed out in pen, pencil, crayon, or whatever it seemed the boys could get their hands on at the time. One challenge was simply torn out, in lieu of a nearby writing utensil.

“Well, we’ve already tried ‘crush as many apples with your bicep as you can’...” said Tony, tapping the pen to his chin. Sam absentmindedly rubbed his upper arm as a memory flashed across his face.

“And we did ‘eat a bowl of pasta as fast as possible’ last week,” added Sam.

“6.2 seconds,” Tony declared.

“Hmmm,” the boys said simultaneously, furrowing their brows. Then, as if on cue, they gasped and pointed at each other.

“Shoot an arrow as far as you can!” They blurted out at the same time. Both boys jumped to their feet and sped off in opposite directions. Sam ran behind a shed and pulled out an old bow he had found in his dad’s garage. He blew some dust off it, tested the string for tension and held it up close to his eyes, inspecting it (though what exactly he was looking for remained a mystery). Satisfied, he stood the bow up. At its full length, it was a full head taller than Sam.

“Okay, so, I couldn’t find an arrow, but I found this rock and it’s kind of sharp so I think it’ll work exactly like a bow,” Tony said as he ran back to meet Sam. Sam took the rock in his hands and inspected it much like he inspected the bow.

“It’s perfect,” he replied, and an excited grin spread across both their faces. They high fived again and Sam motioned for Tony to follow him to a small boulder in the ground nearby. 

The boulder was short, but it had two prongs sticking up on either side. Sam was able to use the prongs as leverage, putting the bow over it so the contraption looked a bit like a slingshot. He put the rock on the string and pulled back, using both his feet against the boulder for support. He angled the rock down. Tony stared in anticipation. Then, with a deep boing, the rock flew across the field in a big arc, landing about 50 feet away.

“That was awesome!” Tony yelled, throwing his arms up. Then, as an idea struck him, he gasped.

“Wait right here.”

Tony ran back to the shed and pulled out a trash bag full of empty soda cans. He grabbed as many as his arms could carry and ran to where the rock landed. Carefully, he lined them up so they were standing in neat rows of 3. He cupped his hands over his mouth.

“Bet you can’t hit these!” he yelled to Sam, who was still sitting with his bow. Tony threw the rock as far as he could back to Sam (though it didn’t quite reach him so Sam had to go get it halfway). Tony took several steps back behind the cans to observe.

“Bet I can!” Sam responded. And he took his position back at the boulder. As before, he fastened the rock to the string and pulled it taut, shutting one eye to aim. With another boing he released the string and the rock flew, farther this time. It arced up high, higher than before. Adrenaline rushed through Sam as he watched it fly, exhilarated at the distance he managed to get. Tony also looked up, shielding his face from the sun with one hand. That’s when Sam’s blood ran cold, as he realized the rock was on a direct path to hit his friend.

Everything happened in slow motion. The rock reached its peak and began plummeting down with great speed. There wasn’t enough time for Tony to move out of the way. Sam only managed to yell out the first syllable of Tony’s name before deciding it was too late for warnings. Sam choked out a gasp as the rock made its landing.

It hit the ground, only inches from Tony.

Tony gasped and started. He managed only to stare at the rock at first. Then he peeled his eyes away and met Sam’s gaze, who had been staring wide-eyed from across the field. Sam broke first, with a half-sigh, half-laugh of relief before getting up and running to meet Tony.

“Dude! If you’d just been a few inches over-”

“If only the sun wasn’t in my eyes!”

“You should have seen your face-”

“It could have had me!”

And the boys collapsed in a pile of relieved sighs and laughs. 

After a few moments, Tony pulled out a crumpled piece of notebook paper and a pen, and crossed something out before he turned to Sam with a smile. 

“What’s next on the list?”

August 08, 2020 00:29

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