Play Pretend.

Frankie didn’t know how to tie her shoes. At least not yet. She figures her mom can handle it for the time being. Besides, Frankie figures she has all her life to figure that stuff out. She doesn’t have to solve every problem in her life by the age of 12.  So because of this very fact, Frankie ran out the front door of her house with her shoes untied. Each step a risk, a gamble, an adventure. Each step, childhood.

Frankie lived in a cul-de-sac with five other houses. Hers was the green one on the left side next to Little Jimmy Robinson’s house. He ate glue and spoke three languages. Little Jimmy Robinson never did come out much, his parents wouldn’t let him if he wanted to more than earshot from the house, which if you were a kid in the cul-de-sac you would know that’s exactly where everyone wanted to be.

Frankie’s other neighbor was a single father of three. Remy, Nicole, and George lived in that house. Remy and Nicole were twins. Baby twins. So, naturally, they couldn’t come out yet. However, Frankie figured once they were twelve too, she’d invite them out to play alongside their brother George.

George was the type of kid that wore gloves in the winter. Frankie and her friends never had gloves. Frankie’s parents, really all the parents in the cul-de-sac, didn’t have money for gloves. But that was fine with Frankie. She liked touching the snow with her bare hands in the winter. She made better snowballs that way. Besides, it was fun to pick on George and his gloves. The kids would raise and point their cold little fingers and laugh at George who had hands warm enough to clean his tears and chilled snot.

However, George was about six months away from wearing his gloves. It was June and George wore shorts with a blue polo. Frankie had knocked on George’s door and his mother answered. Frankie promised to be in earshot. Hopefully George’s mom knew how to yell loud.

Frankie and George walked across the cul-de-sac to Yessica’s house. It was Friday, so Yessica’s dad wasn’t home. That meant that Yessica mom would let her come and play. During the weekdays, no one saw Yessica.

Yessica came out of the house after George and Frankie knocked. Her earthy hair was put neatly into a bun. Yessica wore a yellow dress with a bumblebee etched on the waist. It covered half of the bruise on her shoulder. Yessica was really into bumblebees. She thought they didn’t get the love they deserved. It was those darn wasps. Because of them, people are scared of bumblebees too. “Just because they look kinda the same, doesn’t mean they’re like mean,” she’d say. Yessica always knew how to win an argument. She was aggressive like that. She looked and acted more aggressive than she actually was. Some kids at school wouldn’t like to each lunch with her. They must’ve known her dad. But she wasn’t her dad. Nothing even a bit.

But those were the three. George, Frankie, and Yessica. Everyone else, couldn’t come out for one reason or another. That was fine. They only needed two to play. And one to watch.

The kids of the cul-de-sac would come together and jump the fence behind Old Man Smither’s house. Old Man Smithers hasn’t been seen since the ambulance came for him two years ago. His grass has gotten pretty long. Must be pretty sick. Frankie once took her parent’s lawnmower over and knocked on his door. She thought she could make a buck or two mowing his lawn. Old Man Smithers never answered. Frankie’s mom saw her do this. She ran out to bring Frankie back home. She’s not allowed to go over again. Frankie goes into his back yard at least three times a week. Old Man Smithers never says anything.

Regardless, behind Old Man Smither’s house was an empty lot the size of baseball field. The lot itself wasn’t that big. Most hits were home runs. The bases were ten steps away from one another. The bases weren’t really bases, but water bottles and size seven shoes. However, for Frankie and the kids, the lot was the size of a baseball field and anything else they needed it to be the size of.

Today, the lot was the size of a colosseum. The latest cool thing to do in the cul-de-sac was play magic. In the colosseum, each kid was a master of the elements and magic. They possessed infinite ability and powers. They were indestructible. They could not be defeated. They could not be harmed there.

Today, Frankie wanted to shoot lightning from her palms. She also could fly.

George wanted to be strong. He also wanted to grow in size whenever he so pleased.

Yessica wanted to run at supersonic speeds and be invisible.

The point to playing magic was to beat your opponent which were the other kids in the cul-de-sac. No one really beat anyone, though. The kids flung spells and energy beams about. They hurled boulders and twirled fire between their fingers. There were no rules in magic. There was only magic in magic.

“Okay, guys. Everyone have their powers?” Frankie asked as static charges danced around her hands.

“Yeah!” said George. He grew six feet tall and flexed his biceps in unison.

“Let’s get started already!” said Yessica. She sprinted to the other side of the lot in a fraction of a second. The grass was still reeling from the wind she caused.

“Okay! Magic starts now!” Frankie threw lightning bolts around the lot. Each one that struck, a boom of thunder followed not short after. It was going to be hard to hear George’s mom.

Yessica ran laps around the lot. A small tornado formed in the middle. No one could see her. All she was was a gust of wind, never in one definite spot. Frankie and George could only catch a glimpse of where she once was.

George wasn’t satisfied at six feet tall. Soon after the start of the game, he grew three stories tall! He was the strongest boy in the cul-de-sac, maybe even in town. He heaved patches of earth in the air. They looked like rocket ships. George figured they’d stop on Neptune.

Frankie made the first move. She touched the ground and a blanket of white electricity surged on the ground. That would get the two others for sure. “Ha! I hit you with my electric ground attack!”

“No! I grew the size of the planet! It only tickled me! Ha ha ha ha!” said George.

“You can grow that big?” Frankie replied.

“Yeah, I can grow as big as I want to.”

Frankie gave a half smile. She looked down at her untied shoes. “Okay. Well, you have to tell me that next time, George.”

Yessica whizzed by, nearly uprooting the grass beneath the other two. She came bolting by again and punched Frankie in the arm. Frankie fell to her knees. She was hit.

“Hey no, Frankie. I hit you while I was running, so you have to go flying until you hit the fence.” said Yessica.

“Wait, what? Why would I do that?”

“I’m running so fast that my punch is like a super punch. It’s like 700,000 times harder than a regular punch. I was doing the math the other day, Frankie. It makes sense.”

“Okay, that makes sense, I guess. But I fly up in the air when you punched my instead of crashing into the fence. I can fly, so I saved myself, okay?”

“Okay,” said Yessica.

The three collected themselves. The magic continued.

George grew out his hands to the size of cars. He pounded the ground, letting out a guttural growl. The ground cracked and split apart. The impact would register a 7.2 on the Richter scale. Yessica had no hope. Fell right into the cracks beneath her. He supersonic speed had no use if there was no ground. Frankie managed to avoid the attack by flying higher in the air.

Yessica, however, appeared behind George through a multi-dimensional rift. “Ha ha! Nice move, George, but you can’t beat me that easy!”

“Wait, you’re supposed to fall in the cracks and…I don’t know…fall!” replied George.

“I have teleportation too, George.”

“Wait you have teleportation?” asked Frankie.

“Actually I do.”

“Since when?” Frankie crossed her arms.

“Look, I can run so fast that I can pretty much teleport wherever I want. I can run through universes whenever I want. Being fast and teleportation are related guys. They’re pretty much the same thing.” said Yessica.

“Okay, Yessica. But we get one power extra too!” demanded George.

“Okay, yeah. That’s fine, I guess.” Yessica sprinted away. “Let me know what they are!”

“I want to control fire!” George looked at his palms and balls of fire roared to life.

“I want to absorb powers!” A thin layer of transparent armor covered Frankie’s body. She had outdone herself this time, she thought. No one could beat her if she could just absorb the attack!

George shot plumes of fire around the lot, aiming for Yessica. Each one missed her by a considerable amount. Finally, George held his breath and exerted all his energy outward. He grunted and groaned until there was fire in his eyes. All at once, he let out all the fire inside him, covering the entire lot and then some. Every living cell was charred. The grass was blackened. All that was left was George, huffing in air as deep and often as he could.

However, Frankie flew back down to the lot. Yessica teleported back as well.

“Guys! I killed you!” George stomped his feet several times over. “No way you survived that one!” George could have cried. “How am I supposed to beat you!”

“I can teleport wherever in time and space, George. You just have to find a way.” Yessica replied.

“I guess I have to ask your dad. He seems to beat you a lot.” The kids stood in silence. Yessica stopped running in place.

“That’s not funny, George.” said Frankie.

“I wouldn’t say it if it’s not true, Frankie. Everyone knows it. That’s why no one invites them over.”

Yessica couldn’t bare to look George in the eyes. She instead looked down at the ground, at Frankie’s untied shoes that were now next to hers. Frankie wrapped her arms around Yessica in defense. She shocked her a little. Yessica looked down to the bumblebee on her dress. What she wouldn’t do to be anything but herself. To just run away and disappear. Her eyes stung like wasps with the tears welling in her eyes. Much like her dad.

“Don’t talk about my dad, George.” said Yessica. He turned away from George as to not let him see her cry.

“Well you guys talk about me all the time. You guys are always mean to me, so I don’t see why I can’t be mean to you. You guys always talk mean about my gloves and other things like my helmet, or my shirts, or my shoes, or my backpack.”

“At least you have gloves, George! We don’t get gloves like you do, or helmets, or new shoes every month. We get what we get, George. And stop being such a crybaby.” Frankie responded.

“At least I know how to tie my shoes!” George pointed down to Frankie’s untied shoes. The laces were muddy and wet.

“Your shoes are velcro, idiot,” Frankie quickly replied.

Yessica chuckled a little. She cried and laughed into Frankie’s shoulder. Frankie laughed too.  All she could do was laugh. George looked down to his shoes. They were velcro. All he could do was laugh. All they could do was laugh.

“George! Where are you! Didn’t I tell you to stay close?” George’s mom hollered.

“Coming mom!” George yelled back. He started running back to Old Man Smither’s house. He turned around before he jumped the fence. “Are we playing tomorrow?”

Frankie and Yessica looked towards one another. Yessica’s eyes were still fleshy and pink. She nodded.

“Yeah, we’ll pick you up this time,” Frankie replied.

George jumped the fence and walked down the cul-de-sac with his elbows out at 90 degrees. His chest puffed out almost like he was playing limbo. Frankie and Yessica split too. Yessica bolted home. She wasn’t seen the rest of the day. Frankie walked home. She took off her shoes at her door. They were still untied. She spent the rest of the evening rubbing her socks against the carpet.

The magic doesn’t dissipate. The colosseum is merely a stage for it. Frankie and the kids are the magic.

They are indestructible. They are strong. They are powerful. They cannot be hurt.

–H.G. Salas

 

 

 

 

 

 

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