The sun is coming up, the Frozen Cave Girl is melting, and Foursquare has taken charge.
This is where my version of the story takes a small break. Nina, Lee, Murphy and I took off for home. We made it back to the neighborhood before it got all the way light.
Nina split off first, to her unlatched window and a repeat performance of her “coming into breakfast neatly dressed after a good night’s sleep” act. She’s surprisingly sneaky for a nice girl.
Lee didn’t have to sneak. Shan treats him as a rational person. All she wants is to be able to tell their folks she saw him and he was fine, and to not actually be lying.
And Murph got back to his house and changed in time for us both to eat breakfast at mine in more or less the normal way. Ordinary grownups see what they expect to see, in this case two kid cousins fueling up for another day of wholesome outdoor play. My mom sent us out again with some oatmeal cookies and a can of cocktail peanuts. (Lee beat us back, though, with some leftovers from the Happy Buddha.)
The scene for the day was set when we got there: the carpet looking like a rectangular jewel, spread out to dry on the grassy bank, and a little bit downstream, under the big willow tree, the ice block sat in the middle of the creek, the brown-green water flowing a little faster on either side. It already looked a little smaller. On one bank Pounce and Lee were watching, on the other side, Foursquare and Mr. Spit. Everybody was eating apples from Bone Joan’s orchard.
Foursquare had taken off his goggles and hoodie. He was wearing that Foursquare T shirt everyone was wearing this summer, red with the Foursquare symbol on it in white. Mr. Spit, sitting next to him, was wearing a black one. Apparently, we were pretending again, pretending that Foursquare the superhero wasn’t really our friend Jack from the Junkyard, hiding in plain sight in an improvised costume, and maybe pretending about Mr. Spit a little too, like we didn’t know he was heading in the same direction.
But we didn’t have to pretend about the real adventure that was happening very slowly around us. The advance party had put the ice block in the creek so that her face was above water, and I swear she was looking up and smiling. Was she enjoying the flowing water and the sunlight on her face, dappled by the green and golden leaves of the big willow?
Lee finished his apple and waded out to put a floating thermometer in the water next to the ice block. He moved to the other side with Spit and Jack (I mean Foursquare) and sat there holding the string.
The day passed, slowly, but not in a boring way. Six watchers, three on each bank. The ice block in the water. The Frozen Cave Girl inside. The big willow hanging over everything, and the cicadas shrilling in the brush all around.
The Frozen Cave Girl’s spear fell to the bottom of the Creek, rolling across the pebbles.
It got hotter.
Nina came trotting up with three big bunches of green grapes and we sat with our feet in the cold water to eat them.
Then the ice cracked, finally, mightily, and the block split in half and zipped away downstream, one piece to the right and the other to the left.