His feet black with mud, he walked heavy across the creaking floor. From my vantage point under the bed, I could observe only dirty toenails, the jagged hem-job of dirt-streaked jeans, and the marbles dropping one by one from the table to roll dangerously toward me. In my chest, my lungs strained to work properly, but the breaths caught like tennis balls in my larynx. He clucked his tongue in regular intervals, pacing the room, calling my name.
He opened the closet and stood for a moment peering in. From this perspective, I could watch him press his hands against the doorframe, his chest heaving. He turned suddenly. His eyes travelled across the wall, to the fireplace, to the bed. As he drew nearer to me, I shifted. The floor groaned with every budge of muscle, and I trembled in an attempt to keep absolutely still.
Cluck. Cluck. Cluck.
Our breathing grew heavier, the search intensified. He knew I must be in this room. “Alice, come on, why are you hiding? You’re—come on.” He laughed to himself in that maniacal way he could, the humor observed with overtones of hostility. “Are you in the fireplace? Behind the bed? Under the bed?”
I squealed. His head appeared, and he reached beneath the bed to pull me out. His hands groping. “No, no, no.” I kicked against him, rolling out from the bed, staring at the ceiling. His face above mine, smirking, his black-mud-coated feet parenthesis to my cradled head.
“There you are. You’re It, Alice. It’s my turn to hide next.” He helped me to my feet, and I skulked out of the cabin. “Come on,” said my brother. “You have to help me find the others, come on.”