Mark James Wooding

Seven-year-old Tommy pushed open the screen door that led to the backyard. His parents would have said that he had pushed it too hard, but Tommy thought it was just hard enough. The door swung open as far as it could, then sprang back.

Tommy carefully timed his leap. He jumped from the kitchen doorway into the backyard, almost getting hit by the returning door. Almost.

It closed behind him with a satisfying slam.

Tommy put his hands on his hips and looked out over the backyard. This was his personal domain. His kingdom.

Tommy glanced at the kitchen window on the side of the next-door neighbor’s house. A very pretty girl who was his own age lived there. He didn’t see her looking out at him, but there was a curtain that was partway closed. The pretty girl could be watching him intently, and he wouldn’t know it. One of her pretty friends might even be visiting her, and they could both be watching him.

The thought inspired him into a burst of athletic activity. He ran as fast as he could to the swing set. There was an empty space between the two swings. He jumped for the top bar above the empty space, and he grabbed it with great strength and skill.

The whole swing set rocked a little when he grabbed it. His parents would have yelled at him had they seen him do that, but he felt that he had just made a great demonstration of strength and power.

He glanced at his neighbor’s house again. The window was open, and the curtain moved a little in the breeze. But it could have been that the pretty girl had been holding the curtain back while she was looking at him, and she let it go when she felt he was going to look at her. That would explain the movement.

Was the curtain hiding her pretty face? Was it hiding the face of one of her pretty friends, too?

Tommy looked away casually. He reversed his grip on the top bar of the swing set. It was time for a chin-up. He pulled with all his might, and he could see his biceps straining under his t-shirt. And then he did it. Of course he did it. His chin was over the top bar of the swing set. He was strong. But he didn’t want to do another one. One was enough.

He let go of the bar and dropped to the ground. His gaze drifted to the neighbor whose house was directly behind Tommy’s house. They had four windows facing Tommy’s house. He couldn’t see inside any of them. That meant that there could be a pretty girl watching him from there, too.

Tommy saw the red kickball in the middle of the yard. He ran to the ball at top speed and he kicked it as hard as he could. It sailed up into the air and struck the wooden fence on the other side of the yard. If this had been the Kickball Olympics, there would have been a giant crowd. And the crowd went wild! They screamed his name! Tommy! Tommy! Tommy!

He ran the imaginary bases. When he rounded third base he put his arms up into the air. The crowd was still cheering! Tommy ran to the spot where he had kicked the ball, and where the imaginary home plate would have been. He jumped on top of it in triumph. Score!

The crowd went crazy!

Tommy quickly glanced at the house behind his, then over at the house next door. If any of the girls had seen that, they would have been very impressed.

There was a tree by the wooden fence. It was a perfect tree for climbing. He ran to the tree and quickly climbed up. If the girls were watching him, they probably couldn’t even see him because of the leaves.

They might be worried about him. He didn’t want them to worry. He jumped out of the tree.

It was a perfect landing. Just like in the Olympics. Now the girls wouldn’t be worried. They would probably be amazed at how well he’d jumped down.

There was one last obstacle: the metal clothesline pole. Tommy was out of breath. But he was a champion. Nothing could stop him now.

He ran again. Full speed. He jumped at the round horizontal bar, but he couldn’t hold on. It was too thick.

Reacting quickly, he spun around in the air and landed in a crouch. He then stood up as if what he had just done was exactly what he had intended to do.

The imaginary crowd went wild again! The judges gave him a 10!

Tommy was sure that if the girls had seen that, they would have thought it was very cool.

The screen door opened. It was his mother. “Tommy! Supper time! Wash your hands!”

The screen door closed again.

The world’s greatest athlete had an impulse to look at the house next door, or at the house behind his, but he decided to play it cool.

He looked straight at the back door, then ran there as fast as he could. It was a new world’s record! The crowd was on their feet!

Tommy pulled the door open as fast as he could. He jumped across the doorway and landed in the kitchen. The door slammed closed behind him. The show was over.

He stood there for a moment, catching his breath, imagining what the girls who might have seen him were thinking now. If they weren’t talking with each other about what they’d just seen, they’d probably soon be on the phone telling some other pretty friend about it.

As they should.

Copyright 2018 Mark James Wooding

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