fiction

Flash Fiction: The Hiding Place

“I ain’t ‘fraid of the dark.”

“Me neither.”

“Don’t be stupid, Brucey, everybody knows you are.”

“Well, I ain’t!”

Kip rolled his eyes. Brucey had moved so close in the dark Kip could feel him shaking. “Git off me, then!” Kip elbowed his brother aside, but there wasn’t much space and Brucey just shifted back onto his arm. “You’re such a baby.”

“I am not!”

Kip sighed. He was hot. Well, it was late summer, they’d been hiding practically forever, and what did he expect? Brucey was hot too, and two hot bodies in a small space was just darned uncomfortable. He swiped at the sweat on his brow and tried again to straighten his legs out against the door. It didn’t budge.

“You think they’ll find us?” Brucey whispered.

“Never,” Kip laughed. “We’re safe in here.”

Brucey swatted at a sweat droplet. The Big Boys were after them again, but this time Brucey and Kip had found the best hiding place ever. If only it wasn’t so darned hot.

“I hate the Big Boys,” Brucey declared hotly. “Why they always wanna beat us up, anyway?”

“Dunno. Just ‘cause they can, I guess.”

“They’re just bullies –“

“Sh! I hear something -”

Outside, they could hear faint laughter. Kip and Brucey held their breaths. Last time the Big Boys had got hold of them, Kip had nearly been drowned in the creek and Brucey got farted in the face. They were never going to get beat up again. Ever.

The laughter eventually faded, and Kip felt pretty sure they could get out now. It must be near dinnertime. He hadn’t eaten since breakfast. He was awful thirsty, and it was prob’ly safe to open the door. At least, he hoped it was.

“C’mon, Brucey,” he whispered, “help me push the door open.”

“Ok.” Brucey was tired and his legs were cramping up anyway. “I’ll help,” he said.

“Ow! That was my foot –“

“Sorry Kip –“

“Right. Let’s push. One… two… ”

Brucey yawned. “I’m so tired, Kip –“

“That don’t matter! Just help me push! On three, then. One… two…. THREE!”

His little brother straightened his chubby legs out and they boys commenced pushing. They pushed hard. So, so hard. But not so much as a crack of light showed around the door. Kip mopped his forehead again and leaned back, panting.

It was black as a pocket, and he discovered that Brucey had slumped over into his space again.

“Git over!” he moaned. He would have shouted, but couldn’t seem to catch his breath after all that pushing. He elbowed His brother again and Brucey pulled himself upright.

“You’re s’posed to be… helping!”

Brucey was silent for a long moment, dragging in breaths rattly with snot. “I’m wore out,” he finally whispered. “Must be ‘bout midnight now…”

“It is not!” It just couldn’t be! Kip took one deep breath after another after another and saw shooting stars spinning in the darkness. “Look, Bruce,” he whispered, “stars…”

Brucey opened his eyes and searched the blackness for Kip’s stars. He couldn’t see any and wanted to say so, but then he lost his train of thought. Closing his eyes, Brucey slumped against his brother’s shoulder. “I wish momma was here…”

Kip wished so too. But wishing wouldn’t get them out of there. So, between the stars and the breathlessness, Kip was formulating a plan. “We gotta… we… we gotta make noise, Brucey.”

“Mm hmm,” was Brucey’s only reply. He rolled his head away from his brother’s shoulder until gravity took it back.

Kip kicked at the door again and again – THUMP… THUMP… THUMP… but the effort only brought on more stars and a pain that knifed its way through his temples. He shifted to his knees and beat on the door with his fists until they bled and his entire body was wracked with cramp. Kip began to howl in pain and frustration. He wanted his momma. He wanted to cry. It was late and dark, and he didn’t feel at all brave. And he had to pee so bad he hurt.

The howling revived Brucey, who rose to his knees and wrapped his sweaty arms around his brother. “Kipper! Kipper… Kip – don’t – don’t cry!”

Gasping, Kip slung his arm around his brother and unleashed a rush of dry sobs into the top of Brucey’s head. “I’m not crying,” he said. “It’s just… it’s just I got a Charley horse…” And a headache. And I can’t breathe…

But Kip was crying, He was really crying, coughing and gasping into his brother’s wet mop of dirty hair.

“I want momma,” Brucey whimpered, holding his brother tighter still. “Momma… momma… momma…” his words trailed off into a high, keening wail that sank into the vacuum of darkness.

“She’ll come,” Kip sniffled. “She’ll come, Brucey. She’ll come. Here… let’s sit down and wait for her.”

“K,” whispered Brucey, and the boys collapsed back against the wall.

“She’ll come,” whispered Kip, settling his brother within the bony circle of his arms. “She’ll come…”

Kip closed his eyes and watched the stars fade on the inside of his eyelids, listened to the hot buzzing in his ears and drifted off. She’ll come. She’ll come, and she’ll skin us alive for worrying her…

He pictured his mother in her pleated Sunday dress, standing on the front porch. She shaded her eyes against the setting sun and called to her boys. Kipper! Brucey! His mother was calling their names over and over, a frown pleating her pretty brow. Now, she was walking down to the barn, running, holding a heavy, silver flashlight… Kipper…

“I gotta pee,” slurred Brucey into the darkness.

“You can’t pee in here, buddy…” As he spoke, Kip he felt the stinging rush of urine pooling around his legs. He wasn’t even sure whose it was. “You’re such a baby…” His words were little more than a sleepy whisper, but they wouldn’t matter.

Brucey couldn’t hear him anyway.

Mother Hen

NOTE: As a child growing up in the 1960s, I recall my mother telling me to never, EVER play in or around old refrigerators or freezers. When prompted for a “why,” Mom reported that a friend (or relative?) had discovered her two little boys, wrapped in each other’s arms, dead inside an abandoned fridge. It is a story that has always haunted me. Prior to 1958,  “Refrigerator deaths” were apparently so common that a law was eventually passed in the US to enforce a change in the design of refrigerators and freezers to magnet latches, able to be opened from the inside. And Amen to that, I say.

© motherhendiaries 2017, all rights reserved.

15 replies »

  1. After reading ‘He swiped the sweat off his brow and tried again to straighten his legs ‘, I got a sick feeling as to how it was going to end. I too had known about those old fridges as a kid and wouldn’t even look inside an abandoned one. I felt the same about car trunks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is a horrible fact of reality that if there is a dangerous place, some poor little kid will find their way into it. Like kittens and puppies, they are too curious for their own good. However, I’m grateful to my mum for painting the ugly truth – all my old relatives had fridges, freezers and unused car trunks, old bailers and hay forks crawling with rust and potential tetanus… the fact any of us survived is probably down to true but horrible cautionary tales. Well, and possibly a dash of common sense…

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  2. The sense of foreboding you’ve created in this story is excellent. I had a growing feeling of dread as I read and, while I anticipated the tragic ending, it still had a sickening punch to it.

    I remember those stories too about not hiding in certain places and never drinking anything from a bottle without checking with an adult too. I know modern parents get a lot of flack for being overly-vigilant and there’s definitely a happy medium to be found but I’m glad certain safety standards have improved.

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    • Thank you, Laura… it is a little homage to my aunt’s sister’s boys (my mum just informed me). Poor little mites… and yes, like you o believe in happy mediums as well. Mu own grandsons are always digging holes and climbing trees and swinging from ropes, chasing sheep. trampolining, playing cricket in their underpants (!!! DANGER WILL ROBINSON!) … they are blessed with opportunity and a family that understands kids need to be kids! But when their dad found out they were climbing the ladder to the grain silo?? Discipline and a good scary home truth has kept them from attempting that little adventure again!

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  3. I didn’t even notice the picture, but I assumed halfway through that they’d shut themselves up in an icebox (As we like to call them in my hick town). I remember us leaving an old fridge outside and Dad having to turn it around towards the house so none of us kids would do something stupid. Hey, I once trapped myself in the ice bag freezer at the grocery store when I was a kid and was shocked that I couldn’t get the door back open…. I know from experience it can happen!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It surely can, squirrel… just be glad you weren’t alone at the grocery store! Just think of all the cartoons you would never have been able to share! 😘. This really did happen to my auntie’s sister… the story alone traumatised me as a child, bit it kept me out of the icebox…

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    • Thank you – and you are quite right, Craig. In the US and Britain there are a fair few rusting hulks just waiting to be hidden in. And oh, all those little ones… it makes me sick to think of it. But the inventors of the first “ice boxes” couldn’t possibly have anticipated the allure a “perfect” hiding place holds for children. I remember searching Mervyns department store for close to an hour when my 3 year old son decided to hide inside a clothing rack… another family I knew had a full blown police search and rescue operation going on for their missing daughter who, during a game of hide and seek, had zipped herself into a clothing bag in their closet and fallen asleep… Thankfully, all lived to tell.

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