Dougie's party wheeled onward through pinatas, play-fights, balloon animals, duck-duck-goose, apple-bobbing, games of tag, two dozen youngsters unleashing enervated laughter through heaves and heavy coughs while being chased around a home where only Dougie knew all the labyrinthine twists and turns, through parents' legs underneath the long dining room table. Fro-yo was dispensed and dished to all toddlers not otherwise engaged in a one-man go-round of Hide and Seek by local ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Frozen Yogurt Dispensaries, Sheila au Lait, who was partnering with Dougie's parents—D's 'rents both being Tourism Industry of Nova Scotia staffers keen on keeping these healthy-alternative soft-serve swirl slingers around for a few more summer seasons in the downtown core—to cater the party and also do some fro-yo promotion/informal qualitative research on some hungry sweet-tooths regarding new flavours at the newest spot on Dresden Row.
The kid's bellies filled beyond bursting with more treats than little Myles could have ever imagined up there in the quiet swathing of inky dark. Dougie got every video game, action figure and King Arthur costume accessory he had written on the rice paper insert of the birthday invitations sent out to his classmates' families. Wearing his King Arthur crown, Arthurian robe and wielding a plastic chocolate-buttercream-frosting-tipped sword, he sent the kids who only gave him a measly birthday card or winter mittens home without treat bags. He screamed from the top of a chair at the children and the lesser-fortunate parents—who shouldn't have bothered coming—that they were banished henceforth from the grounds, sans a second helping of Their Majesty's chocolate cake.
All the while, young little buddy Myles was still stowed away in the closet, all the children having forgotten that they even rid the party of him. The little boy was into his fourth hour of being crouched and tensed-up now, safe in shadows listening to all the commotion of the party downstairs, thinking, "Gee, they must really be having such a ball looking for me." Beads of sweat ran down his thigh and he thought someone was about to find him, but then he heard the upstairs toilet flushing. His hunger increased and he kept himself at bay by sucking and chewing on the sleeve of one of Dougie's mother's sheer blouses. He took the empty, rotting feeling in his belly as a mark of his Hide and Seek expertise, and wasn't going to give himself up without a fight. Six hours in, the classmates started throwing on their boots and making their way out of the house. He thought about being boastful for a brief second and yelling at the top of his lungs from the window that he knew who was just to the left of the closet, that they weren't going to find him out in the bushes, before returning to his hiding place. But when he re-adjusted himself to get ready for a two-second dash, he fell to his side and his joints felt immovable. Come the seventh hour, even the inky dark of the lightless closet made him dizzy. He had to close his eyes to calm the endless spinning sensation. He felt like he was spiraling down into a deep, black pit and worried he had fallen so far no one be able to find him again. He started to think of his mommy and how she'd need him to get her more medicine in a few days, holding his knees to his belly on the floor, his lips and eyelids swelling to cartoon proportions. He could faintly hear the sounds of vacuum cleaners and the draining of the apple-bobbing barrel in the backyard.
Myles wondered how long the kids would be outside looking for him, and fantasized about being thrown on everyone's shoulders and being given Dougie's King Arthur sword in celebration of his valour and prowess. As the eighth hour passed, Myles tried to find the handle but felt like he was in a whole different world of dark than before. He felt cold and wet. Moments were lengthened and covered all in black and his body felt hollow. He wondered when they were going to ask him to give up. He wondered if he would give himself up. By the ninth hour the yellow puddle that inched its way to the foot of Dougie's parent's bed from the closet doors caught their eye as they were changing into their pyjamas. Dougie's father approached the door with a baseball bat and his mom peered over his shoulder whispering that it better not be some welfare rat who snuck into the house through the backdoor looking to make a mommy and daddy out of them.
The new chapter of Half-heard is published in The Coast—newspaper version—every Thursday. One week later it is published here online. So it's easy to catch up online, but best to stay ahead in print.