mikidemillion

The Taking of the Square

In Random Posts, The Taking of the Square, Uncategorized, Writing - Novel Chapter Posts, Writing - Short Story Posts, Writing - Work in Progress on March 13, 2010 at 9:51 pm

The Taking of the Square by mikidemillion

Draft – 1st STORY SECTION

*

Maddie lies on her side, her cheek presses against warm sidewalk.  The neighborhood sounds different with one ear cupped to the ground.

The skin of her face wobbles, ever so slight, then a low rumble, deep underground, follows.  It soon morphs into a car sound, passing by on Elm Street.

Maddie closes her eyes, soothed to sleepiness by sun on her face and gentle bumps from concrete-covered earth.  Another car approaches.  The clink of a bike chain, louder and louder, overpowers her uncovered ear.  Maddie sits then leans back at once when a chocolate, panting Labrador nuzzles her shoulder.  She smiles.

“Hey, I was still playing that,” she tells her friend.

“You were lying down.  You weren’t playing anything,” Adam says, dropping the handlebar of his bike.  Tilted low already, the bike clatters onto its side and covers the pink chalked outline of a misshapen hop-scotch game spread over three sidewalk squares.

Maddie guides the dog away from her face.

“Ranger, get over here,” Adam says.  Ranger leaps backward.

“Can’t you see my rock on square five?”  Maddie points down at the bike.

“You were over there, nowhere near the rock.”

“So?”

“So, how was I to know?  You didn’t look like you were doing anything.”  Adam stays next to his bike, grabbing onto a handle, as if to move it.  “What were you doing?” he says, emphasizing were.

“Trying to get through three-sies with my lucky rock.”

“Not that, I mean – “  he pauses. “I just rode past old man Johnson’s garage and he’s in there.”

“Working on the – “

“Yep.”

Maddie walks over and picks up the used piece of chalk near Adam’s foot.  He pulls his bicycle higher so she can reach under for her lucky rock.  She slips it into the pocket of her jeans.

It’s no secret old man Johnson’s been building a rocket ship in his garage.  He’s been working on it for years.  Although she’d never seen it, even as a ten-year-old Maddie knew it was strange that an adult thought he could fly into outer space after slapping together odds and ends from the junkyard.

She’d mentioned it to Adam soon after he’d moved to the neighborhood.  From the moment Maddie said it, Adam was on a quest to peek into old man Johnson’s dark garage.  He must have assumed Maddie wanted to see what was in there as much as he did, seeking her out before every attempt.

“He’s got some kind of tin hat on,” Adam whispers.  They are seated on grass at the side of the road in front of the Johnson house.

Adam rotates his bike chain, tapping on it and shaking it.  His shoulders hunch while his eyes stay on the lower half of the wooden garage door a distance away from them.  The garage is deep in the interior of the yard, beside the house and partially hidden by a gigantic tree on its other end.  Maddie pats Ranger’s back.  Her bike lay on the slope of the ditch, close to the edge of Johnson’s dirt driveway.

The garage door, opened to the height of Maddie’s knees, reveals a dirty cement floor underneath, spotted in light where the afternoon sun creeps in.  Johnson’s black boots appear on the sunny cement and disappear backwards into the dark.  Maddie flattens her palms to the ground, ready to push fast, get on her feet and run.  Two squirrels high-tail down the tree and onto the edge of the garage floor cement.  Their sudden high-pitched chattering makes Maddie nearly spring up but she freezes.  From behind, Johnson has bent for something on the garage floor.  Big, black work gloves grope the ground.  There is a silver flash when his head hits sunlight and then it’s gone.

Adam pushes a finger into Maddie’s side.  “Told you,” he mouths.

“Let’s go.”  Maddie says it quick.  She wanted to say let’s get the heck out of here now before Johnson sees us.  Then she has another chilling thought.  What if he’s looking at them now, hidden by the darkness inside that garage?

A loud clatter brings Maddie to her feet.  A tool, like a wrench, flys across the garage floor.  The squirrels race for safety.  Maddie reaches for the handlebars of her bike.  A chain rattle sounds behind her.  Maddie presses hand to beating heart.

“What are you doing?” a voice demands.

Maddie’s hand drops and she breathes out, sinking her shoulders.  She glances at Adam.  His arms had stiffened to a fighting stance.  His chest lowers then relaxes.  He looks at Maddie.  Smiling, he shakes his head back and forth ever so slightly.  Maddie grins agreement.

“Fixing my bike chain,” Adam says to the two girls, classmates from Truman Elementary.  They’d stopped on the roadside, holding onto bicycles, one foot anchored to the ground and the other resting on a bike pedal.  Both giggled in an annoying cutesy style of laughter.  Neither one looked in Maddie’s direction.

“Want to go to the playground?  There’s a big four-square game going on.”  The girl, Sharon, asks Adam.  Her teeth glint in sunlight.  She smooths her hair back behind her ears.

“Sure,” Adam says without hesitation.

If he’d punched Maddie in the gut it would have hurt less.  Was he really going to abandon her and go off with these girls?  Maddie stares at the ground.  There is no way she’s going to acknowledge their victory.  She pulls her bike to the road and points it in the opposite direction.

Adam rolls his bike off the grass, “Hey, Mad, you coming?”

“No, you go,” she says.

He doesn’t even protest.

Maddie presses down on her bike pedal.  Maybe she should go play four-square just to try to beat those girls at their own game.  She’s a good enough player, sometimes dominating the Server Square, or King position.  But, right now, she doesn’t feel like playing anything.

“Maddie!” Adam calls to her.  Her heart lifts.  She stops her bike and looks back.

Adam’s bike is turned in her direction.  He glides closer, pushing forward with his feet from the ground.  Facing her, in front of old man Johnson’s, he skids to a halt and says, “Where’s Ranger?”

They both turn at once to the Johnson yard.  Near the bottom of the garage door there is a flash of silver then bang, it closes with such force the door shakes and rattles.

They look at each other, neither speaks.  Adam’s eyes have a  helpless look that makes Maddie turn away.  For the first time, Maddie is determined to find out what’s behind that door.  No matter how scared she might be.

NEXT TIME: Will Maddie and Adam discover the secret rocketship?  Will they find Ranger?  What about those other girls?  Find out, next time!

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