The Hideout by David P. Cantrell
A friend challenged me to write a short story (under 950 words) using one word from each column from this graphic. I chose hideous, princess and sword. My story follows.
I love my hideout. I can spy on the kitchen and Gigi when she’s in her bedroom and my mom and dad’s bedroom too. But, I don’t spy on mom and dad’s bedroom anymore because it makes me feel bad, like when I threw a rock at a bird and hurt it.
Gigi’s different. She’s dad’s little princess and gets away with all kinds of stuff. I hate her—she’s hideous. I feel good when I spy on her.
I didn’t like our new house at first. It was old and creepy and none of my friends lived on the street. But, it’s not so bad now. I like Tommy and he’s just two doors down the block. I’m going to show him my hideout today after school and Little League practice.
“Bobby, get the door,” Gigi yelled.
“You get it. I’m upstairs,” I yelled back.
“My hair’s wet. Please get the door.”
I ran downstairs.
“You’re always wet. Wet hair, wet nails, I bet you’ve got wet pants too,” I said.
It was Tommy at the door. We ran to my upstairs room. I braced the door with my sword.
“What’s the stick for?” Tommy said.
“It’s my sword, Thunder Bolt. I’m using it to keep people out of my room by blocking the door. I learned how to do it watching TV.”
“Oh.” Tommy sat on my bed.
“I have a hideout that nobody in the whole world knows about. Do you promise not to tell if I show it to you?”
“I promise. Where is it?” Tommy said.
“In my closet.”
Tommy laughed and said, “Everybody hides in their closet. That’s silly.”
“Oh yeah. Just wait and see.”
I got my flashlight and took him to my closet. It was deeper than the one in my old house and had a regular door, not a sliding one. My good clothes hung from hangers on one side and my regular clothes were in a dresser on the other side. In the back were boxes with my little-kid toys inside. I moved the stuffed animal box and shined the light on the floor.
“See,” I said.
“I don’t see anything Bobby. You’re weird.”
“I am not. Look carefully.”
Tommy studied the floor in the corner and rubbed his hand on the floorboards.
“Why is there a cut across the boards?”
“Because there’s a secret door in the floor,” I said proudly.
“That’s so cool. Where does it go?”
“I’ll show you.”
I spit on the suction cup of my crossbow dart and pressed it to the floorboard and pulled enough to get my fingers under the edge. The hatch came out easily. The hole was big enough for an adult and easily accommodated Tommy and me. A big piece of plywood was nailed to first-floor ceiling joists just below the opening. We knelt on all fours then I shined the light around.
“Bobby you’ve got the best hideout ever.”
“Thanks, Tommy. It is real cool. Look, there are trails that go to different parts of the house.”
* * *
Plywood paths followed electrical and plumbing conduits around the crawlspace that had been built during the addition of the second-floor decades earlier. None of that mattered to Tommy and Bobby—they were in heaven. They spent many afternoons hiding from pirates and evil witches in the hideout. Sometimes they spied on Gigi through a tiny hole and listened to her talk to her friends on Skype. They pretended they were FBI agents gathering evidence against terrorists. Once they giggled when they saw her kiss Jordon Bronson. She looked at the ceiling and scared them away.
The boys had great fun until the exterminator came. It was the last day of summer vacation. Bobby’s dad took a day off to deal with the problem that had bothered his wife and daughter for months—a critter in the attic was the presumption. Bobby and Tommy lay on their plywood perch over the kitchen and listened.
“My wife and daughter have heard creaking sounds and chirps in the ceiling. I heard it once and it didn’t sound like the settling noises that come with an old home. I want you to kill whatever is up there.”
“Sir, we are a humane service and do our best to relocate the offending creatures. But, if necessary, we’ll use lethal force,” the exterminator said.
Bobby and Tommy freaked. They scurried back to the hatch, but Tommy’s pant leg got caught on a nail head.
“Help me, Bobby. I don’t want to be relocated.”
Tommy wanted to help him get loose but couldn’t reach the snag. He had to make a decision: save Tommy or confess his spying. He decided to save his friend. He scrambled out of the hatch and ran downstairs to the kitchen.
He stopped at the doorway. His mom and dad were sitting with Gigi and Jordon at the kitchen table drinking coffee.
“Where’s the exterminator?” Bobby asked.
“Right here,” Jordon said and raised his hand.
Bobby gaped at the scene for a moment before he understood what had happened.
His dad said, “Son, it’s not nice to spy on people, particularly your family.”
“I’m sorry dad. I won’t do it again.”
Everyone laughed when they heard Tommy’s muffled promise: “Me too.”