Our escape was well-planned, but darned if she didn’t have eyes in the back of her head, something I’ve always suspected. The second she stepped into the pantry, we slithered toward the kitchen door without a sound.
But just as Greg’s hand reached the doorknob, Mom reappeared, giving us her classic one-eyed stare. “Mi hijo?” she said to me, with that one dark eyebrow raised up sky-high.
“Aw, Mom,” I shook my head. “We finished our chores.” It had taken us half the morning because of a lot of goofing off, but we were done. Well, almost. Lincoln Logs were shoved under Greg’s bed instead of being put in their box on the shelf. I hoped she wouldn’t look.
Greg took off his straw cowboy hat and gave his best hangdog look, “We did, Aunt Juana. Honest.”
“Fine,” she said and we turned back toward the door.“Wait.”
That dreaded word.
Greg and I looked at each other and shrugged, then marched to the kitchen table and began to empty the pockets of our jeans. We knew the drill: out came marbles, string, a rubber band, the bowl of a broken spoon, one dime, and three pennies. We piled them on the red Formica table. The last thing Greg pulled out was a compass. I added two small rocks with flecks of quartz, and topped the pile off with an arrowhead.
Mom picked up the arrowheadand felt the notched edges. “Comanche,” she said. “Anything else?”
We shook our heads.
“Let me see the cap gun, Bobby.”
“Aw, Mom,” I said, as I handed over my prize pearl-handled revolver. She deftly flipped open the side and pulled out a roll of red caps, the tightly wound spool of gunpowder dots that made a loud bang in the toy gun. She held them up and looked from one of us to the other.
“What did your papa and Uncle G tell you about caps? Especially after last week? What did they say?” she asked.
Greg spoke, the tips of his ears turning red, “That if they caught us using caps again, they’d tan our hides.”
I looked over at the betrayer and balled my fists.
“Well, they did,” Greg said to me with defiance.
I looked back at Mom with my own puppy-eyed look. “But we need caps to shoot the desperados, like Roy does.” Roy, as in Roy Rogers, ourfavorite TV cowboy who tackled all kinds of danger with his sidekick Pat Brady, his horse Trigger, and Bullet, the wonder dog. Yep, Roy was our hero. “Please, Mom.”
“No, mi hijo. I’ll just keep these to save you from yourselves.”
“Aw, Mom,” I said once again, hastily putting the empty gun back in my holster. We repacked our treasures and headed for freedom.
“I’ve made youa lunch. Here.” She handed a large brown sack to Greg. “Canteens full of water? Both of them?”
“Okay, don’t be out past four, you hear?”
“Yes, Aunt Juana,” Greg said, holding tight to the paper bag. “Thank you for the lunch.”
“You are welcome. Y mi hijo?” Once again her arms were crossed, her foot tapping as she gazed at me, that one eyebrow on the rise.
“What?” I said, impatient brown eyes blazing.
“Say thank you, knucklehead,” Greg whispered.
“What? Oh, yeah. Thanks, Mom.”
She smiled. “You are welcome, too, Bobby. A dónde van today?”
As we ran through the door, Greg called out over his shoulder, “The stone forest!” And then we were gone, racing across to the barn to get our horses, the Compass Boys more than ready for the first day of summer adventure.