Joy. Exhilaration. The unbridled freedom of a summer day and no more chores. The dusty wooden plank floors in the kitchen had been swept. The animals were feed and watered. At age 6, Bobby was happy he was too small to do the big chores like milking cows or driving the tractor across the field like his father and his older brother. He knew his mother would call him back in the afternoon to pick peas and shell them for dinner.
But for now – Freedom! Slamming the screen door, he pulled off his shirt and kicked off his shoes, leaving them in a heap on the stoop. Then he leapt off the porch and raced across the long grass punching his fists in the air, his face split by a wide grin that revealed a missing front tooth, a sprinkle of freckles across his cheeks. The grass smelled sharp. It was drying in the summer sun. Grass wasn’t a crop, so it wasn’t important to keep it watered or cut. The blades scratched his ankles as he pumped his legs and sprinted across the yard.
He was a wolf chasing a deer. He was a lion racing across the plains towards an antelope. He had seen pictures of lions in one of his books.
He smelled the lake, dank, slightly rotten, a little green. Like fish. Cool. His legs didn’t slow as he reached the edge. He ran straight into the water, kicking up drops, splashing, scattering the tiny fish that swam near the shore. Annoyed ducks quacked and scolded as they flapped their wings to fly away.
Stopping, Bobby squished his toes in the cool, soft mud. He liked the way the mud felt between his toes. He squatted so he was up to his shoulders in the water, leaned back, and spread his arms. He floated, looking up at the blue sky. A few fluffy clouds floated by. Shade from the nearby trees filtered the sunlight o the water. The surface sparkled. He was a pirate and the lake was his treasure chest of twinkling jewels.
After a while, he got bored.
Flipping over, Bobby looked for fish under the surface. If he was very still, the fish would swim near. Maybe he could catch one. He let his arms dangle in the water, small hands ready to grab a fish.
Bobby looked up at a sound. A plop in the water. A bull frog. Bobby kicked his feet and chased the frog. It was no contest.
He waded out of the pond and flopped down in the grass. The sun felt good on his chest and his face. He spent all afternoon daydreaming.
“Bobby, time to come home,” his mother called. “I need help picking peas. If you pick some cherries, I’ll make a pie.”
Bobby loved cherry pie.
He was called Robert now. He sat at his desk and stared out the window, daydreaming about that perfect summer day when he was 6, topped off with warm cherry pie and ice cream. He sighed.