They were shouting and laughing at each other, as if they were running away from the scene of some mischievous prank, which they were, as if they were being chased, which they were, and were fleeing to a safe refuge to wait out the temporary ire of their hapless victim, which they were. They careened wildly around various residents of the lane with little regard for their or the residents’ safety, as the young invariably do. Most just grunted or smiled in annoyance or bemusement, but some shouted reproaches at them or tried to reach out and grab them short with no success. When at last they reached Liola’s home, they were short on breath, but giggling all the same. They made their way around the pink pelican statues, down the path along the side of the house, around to the back of her house, past the back door that never opened and into the barely discernible hole in her hedgerow.
There was a hollow in the center of the bushes that lined most of the back fence that connected from bush to bush, and here was the favorite hideout of the youngest Murphy boy and Bobby. It was here that they planned their adventures, it was here that they hid their treasures, and it was here, in the hidden hollow, that they sought refuge from the adults who did not care for their childish escapades. The birds and squirrels had long ago ceded the whole hedge to the two boys. This was their refuge and their fortress. The bushes had served duty as a pirate ship, a castle, an underground cavern, a courtroom, a spaceship, and at all times a tunnel into another world that only they could see and visit.
Once secure in their hide-away, the youngest Murphy boy and Bobby chattered away in whispers, lest they be heard by their imagined pursuer, whispers far too loud to be stealthy, but quiet enough that none listening could possibly discern anything meaningful. Not that they discussed anything meaningful to anyone else, as they excitedly retold the events they had just experienced, misremembering and embellishing every detail, until their latest amusement was of the greatest magnitude with the highest of stakes and the fraughtest of perils. The erstwhile neighbor they had forayed against became a terrible dragon whom they had vanquished with a mighty spell, which happened to take the form of a water balloon, atop a high mountain in the forests of suburbia. Even woeful Leo Tuttle was transformed in their retelling into a mighty guardian troll they had deftly flanked as they crossed a rickety bridge spanning a yawning chasm without bottom that still somehow held a fearsome river filled with piranha and lava at the same time.
The boys stopped their narrative dialogue suddenly when they heard a creak and scrape of wood from the fence next to the hedge. There was only silence, as much as there ever is silence in a world filled with birds and insects and squirrels and other varieties of life. The two boys held their breath and listened intently, suddenly wholly convinced that they had been found out and their secret lair was about to be exposed to the world at last. Long moments of tension and worry held them captive, but the sound did not repeat. Finally, when they could hold neither their breath nor their tongues any longer, they burst into a frenetic whispered debate as to what had caused the sound or if they had heard any sound at all. They came to the mutual conclusion that they had imagined it, then subsequently decided that they had hidden long enough and the world outside was safe once more, so they peaked out of their hole in the bush before creeping out into Liola’s back yard.
Laughing and chattering once more, the pair dashed around the house, not hearing the boards behind their hideaway creak and scrape once more.