Charlie plays a game of hide and seek against his older siblings. That's when he discovers a forbidden prize.

Charlie knew only too well what a smack from Morris felt like. It was always an un-winnable attack, these smacks had varying intensity and tempo. Once up there, he’d heard himself breathing, short of holding his breath all together. He was small enough to fit up here, and the more he breathed shallow, the more his bare legs and arms sweat over mother’s pressed lemon white towels. 


It was the closest place to his own bedroom and safety. That’s how the game was played and now the stakes were higher with both Morris and Sarah diligently hunting for him. 


From a certain angle he could see the top of Morris’ bowl cut scalp only an arm span away. His bare feet touched something cold hidden under towels something glass metal.  If he couldn’t see Sarah that meant she was guarding his only haven. He could have groaned. That’s what they mean by ‘you snooze you lose”. Toes slowly leveraged towels. They’d almost been here before but Charlie noticed a new sound aside from shoes on carpet and wood.   He should have known, Morris juggled one of the ping-pong paddles between his hands.  


Looking that far down almost made his breath louder.  At his feet under the towels was  a prize: Morris’ blue gumball machine. The very same he was forbidden to even look at and now he was face to face with it.


He could hear whispers between them from his bedroom door. Entry only by window was the only way. 


it was the taste of sweet blueberry. The noise would not do and the blueberry sweetness would be wrenched from his mouth like a poison. Even if he could coordinate the gumball from down there, there would be perhaps 3 seconds, like the rodeo riders. 


His eight year old mind raced. If he could get the ball to him he could put it in his t-shirt pocket. Morris had so many, he wouldn’t miss just one, well only one he never knew was taken and even being up here could arouse suspicion. 


Morris would undoubtedly chose to deposit the paddle on his bare bottom while Sarah would giggle in his face holding him down in the humiliating ritual. Coming back here was too hard, but right now hide and seek was the perfect cover.