By The Moonlight (A short story by Tyler Scott Hess)
“Over here, Alex!” Hudson shouted from the top of the hill. “Come on! I know the way now!”
He didn’t. But he thought he did and for the time being that was enough for the two of them to continue their pursuit. Without a trail to guide their way, the moonlight was all they had going for them, but the clouds coming in from the east dared to cost them their adventure.
For boys of their age, Alex being twelve and Hudson a week shy of being the same, they had packed reasonably for the occasion. Each of their bags contained water, backup batteries for their flashlights, and the necessary tools for the job. It may have had something to do with replicating the preparations from their favorite television show down to the color of their hiking boots, but it was a masterful job nevertheless.
“You know mom’s going to kill us when she finds out,” Alex reminded his brother. He always was the worrier of the family, though being a natural follower led him out there with his younger sibling, even if he was terrified of all things that creeped and crawled.
And terrified he was to say the least. “What was that? Something’s got my leg! Hudson! Hudson! Something’s got my leg!”
His brother rushed over to him with the stick he’d been carrying around, which he called his walkin’ stick, though it was hardly more than a fallen branch he’d found earlier than the day. He gave the offending beast a solid whack, then another, before laughing without restraint.
“What?” Alex shouted, unamused. “What’s so funny? Did you get him?”
“Oh, I got him alright,” Hudson squealed. “I got that poison ivy real good. It wrapped right around a root sticking out of the ground and reached up to grab you. At least you won’t have to worry ‘bout getting grounded. You’ll be in bed for a week anyway.”
“That’s not funny,” Alex whined as he shuffled his feet down the steep hill. He knew it to be accurate, if any got on his skin, but he still found the humor to be wanting. “Hey, slow down! Wait for me!”
“Shhhhhh!” Hudson hushes his brother. “There it is! I told you I knew where I was going.”
He didn’t, but there was no way for Alex to prove otherwise, though he had no reason to complain considering the treasure presented before them.
“They weren’t lying after all,” Hudson cackled. They, of course, were the older boys at the campsite who had mentioned the treasure to them, saying there was plenty enough for everyone, as long as no one let their parents know about them.
Alex quickly picked one diamond up at a time and placed them in a sandwich bag he’d emptied earlier in the day. “Get the big ones,” Hudson reminded him. “They’re worth more.”
Dried out leaves made noise around them, but they were not accompanied by flashlights. “Probably nothing more than a raccoon or a skunk,” Alex reminds himself, counting each diamond one by one, checking them in the light for quality. “How much for each rock, ya think?”
“Oh, lots I suppose,” Hudson figured. “Ten bucks each? Maybe twenty? I knew I should’ve asked when I had the chance.”
“Boy, mom sure is gonna be surprised when we have brand new bikes and the receipt to prove we didn’t still nothin’.”
“Won’t even have to ask for it for Christmas again this year,” Hudson agrees. “Let’s get going before they notice we’re missing.”
The boys, who by this time had more than used up their allotted time to use the restrooms, knew they would be missing as they scrambled back up the hill. In the distance they could see the campfire was still roaring and Uncle Bob was at it again, telling one of his over the top stories. They enjoyed them when they were younger, just as the little ones still do, but they had heard them all before. This was, after all, not their first family camping trip.
“Quick, wash your hands!” Alex reminds Hudson. “There’s a faucet right here. Don’t want them gettin’ spicious.”
But that would be there undoing. “What do you think you boys are doing?” their mother scolds them. “The restrooms are over the other way. Where have you been? And what happened to your pants, Alex?”
“Nothing,” he says.
“What do you mean, nothing?”
Alex looks back at Hudson, who mouths “don’t tell” to his brother.
“I don’t know.”
If there were ever two answers a boy would give his mother when being caught up to no good, “nothing” and “I don’t know” have proven themselves to be rather high on the list. But crafty mothers know where to find answers.
First, she searched the boys’ pants, which proved nothing other than Hudson forgetting where he stuffed a frog earlier in the day and that Alex’s jeans had been stained from this evening’s escapades.
The backpacks were next, and wouldn’t you know it, Hudson volunteered his first, as they both knew the diamonds to be in a secret compartment in Alex’s bag. What they didn’t know is that mother’s inspect every nook and cranny of the those things they purchase for mischievous boys.
“All I see here are flashlights and crystals,” she groans. “You boys better tell me what you were up to or there’ll be no s’mores for you tonight.”
“Crystals?” Hudson snickers.
“She thinks they’re crystals,” Alex whispers in his brother’s ear. “Just let her think that.”
“We were just wandering out in the woods, mama,” Hudson confesses. “We’re awful sorry. Can we have s’mores now?”