With the fuzzy, blue blanket in my arms, I stepped onto the lighted, back porch and into a barrage of swarming June bugs. Several brown bugs lost their spiky legs that hot summer night in Phoenix as I raced to the swing set, ripping them from the blanket.
Barry stopped playing tug of war with our German shepherd, Princess, and sneered. “I’m not helping you make a tent.”
He could be mean, but I was six and determined.
My first attempt at throwing the blanket over the top pole failed. I glanced at him, frowning but he ignored me. I climbed on the crossbar and hoisted the blanket on top, then spread it out so the sides draped over the gondola seats.
With a victorious grin, I jumped down, snatched four clothespins from the clothesline, and secured the corners. Suddenly, the front two pins popped off.
“Hey, stop it!” I peeked around to glare at Barry, but he was playing with Princess.
A gust of wind whipped through my hair and rustled the tree limbs. The leaves twirled upside down and fear gripped my stomach. “Is there lightning?”
Barry ran barefooted up the slide and peered beyond our yard.
I climbed on the crossbar and watched the sky. Silvery streaks flickered from distant clouds that sailed across a full moon. I jumped down, wide-eyed and breathless. “This is the kind of night Mary Beth said…”
“That was just a story.” Barry laughed. “I told her you would be scared.”
Before I could argue, the clippity-clop of a trotting horse sent me into the tent. I wanted to run into the house but was too afraid to move. I yelled at Barry. “Come inside, so he won’t see you.”
“I’m not afraid. I want to see what it is.”
“No. He’ll take your head.” I sobbed.
Barry’s laugh caused me to peek at him from the tent.
“Come out, scaredy-cat. It’s just two soda cups blowing down the street.”
Barry ran to the picket fence. “Hurry, come see.”
I sprinted from the tent in time to see the cloppity cups tumbling passed our house.
I laughed in relief then ran to the swing set and jerked the blanket down, still scared. “I’m going in before the real Headless Horseman comes.”
Momma stood at the screen door. “Come inside now, I heard thunder.”
Barry followed me into the house chiding, “Scaredy cat.”
“Not either.” But I was.
*Dedicated to Mary Beth, wherever you are.