He buries his face in hands that press against the huge old maple and begins to count. "One Mississippi, Two Mississippi, Three Mississippi," as the kids scatter across the ancient playing fields. They run toward hiding spaces great or minimal, deep or shallow. Up in other trees, crouched behind stone walls, under the creaking bleachers, in clumps of overgrown brush. They will try their best but he will not look for them. As he moves up the number line, "Fourteen Mississippi, Fifteen Mississippi, Sixteen Mississippi," it is he that is fleeing. He imagines other places, different families, moments far away. He wishes a distant island, his father a fisherman who takes him out each morning onto the gray Atlantic. There is a warm fire on the hearth at home, and quiet, and safety. By the time he has reached the agreed upon number, "Twenty-Eight Mississippi, Twenty-Nine Mississippi, Thirty Mississippi," he has made his move. He yells nothing, and drifts gently away.
After ten minutes the kids emerge in confusion. They look for him until they get called in for supper. An hour or two later, the adults start their search.
copyright 2004-2006 by Ira Socol