“Wanna play?” Eli asked. He didn’t wait for a response then said “What’s your name?”
“Chrissy,” the girl replied. Eli took that as confirmation they were now playing together.
“Come on,” he shouted as he ran towards the playground. He looked back over his shoulder and saw Chrissy look at her dad, who nodded.
“Okay,” Eli said taking charge. “The first one to the top of the mountain is the winner.”
“What mountain? Chrissy looked around.
Eli eyed her as if she had just asked where the sun was. He threw his arm out in the direction of the big bales of hay, stacked high enough for playful climbing, but not too high for catastrophic falling.
“Oh,” said Chrissy. She stood there as Eli charged her. She shrieked, then stepped aside.
“No, no, no,” Eli told her. “You’re doing it all wrong. You’re supposed to stop me. Where’s the fun in you just stepping to the side.”
“I dunno,” shrugged Chrissy.
“Okay, we’ll try it again. Let’s start back here.” Eli grabbed her arm and pulled her maybe 20 yards back near where their parents were sitting on benches. Eli noticed Chrissy’s father staring at them and he waved, then turned his attention back to Chrissy. “Ready, set, go!” he took off like a rocket.
It only took Chrissy a moment to get her bearings then she tore off after him. Eli was nearly to the haystack when Chrissy caught up with him. But she was not faster than Eli, who with the finesse of a panther had already jumped up two bales, so Chrissy just stood there and watched.
“Come on!” Eli prodded when he noticed she had stopped.
“I can’t catch you,” Chrissy said.
“So? You can at least try!” Eli jumped down from his bales of hay. “Let’s try one more time,” he said, dragging her back to the benches.
When they got there, Chrissy’s dad was waiting for them. “Mind if I give Chrissy some pointers on this go around?” he asked.
Eli shook his head. Chrissy’s father pulled her to him by the elbow and then whispered something in her ear. Her eyebrows inched closer together until they almost looked like one long caterpillar. “Are you sure?” she asked her father.
“Definitely,” he said.
“Ready?” Eli asked her and then he counted “One, two, three, GO!” This time they took off for the haystack together, but Eli again got there first. As he was just about to jump up on the first bale he felt Chrissy come up behind him. WHOMP! Chrissy tackled him into the hay so they bounced off and tussled to the ground.
“Yeah! That’s the way to do it!” Eli shouted. He hopped up and grabbed her hand. “What’d your dad tell you?”
Chrissy smiled. “He said I should imagine what you would do if you were the one running behind me and then just do it.” She seemed really pleased with herself.
“Good,” Eli said. “So now that you really know what you’re doing, let’s do it for real this time. All the way to the top. First one is the winner!”
Eli and Chrissy ran back to the benches where her father stood smiling. “I’ll count,” he told them. “Three, two, one, GO!”
It started out with Eli in the lead, then Chrissy grabbed his arm and threw herself forward. Then they were neck and neck. Finally, Eli broke free and in three, two, one, he had scrambled up the hay bales, leaving Chrissy in his wake on the ground.
“I’m the winner!” came his cry of victory. Then he held out his hand to Chrissy.
“I can’t come up there,” Chrissy told him. “You’re the winner.”
Eli shook his head. “Just because I won doesn’t mean you can’t come up here, too. Besides, then we can be explorers.” As he said this he circled his hands together and held them to his eye as a telescope.
Chrissy climbed to the top of the haystack. They stood together looking out around them. “You’re right,” she said, making her hands into her own telescope. “We’ve got a lot of exploring to do.”