“Look what I found,” Max says, his big brown eyes wide as he peaks out from behind a Cherry Laurel.
“What is it? Eke and I ask in unison. “A lizard? A frog?”
“No,” Max replies and rushes over with something hidden in his hands.
He opens his dirty fingers slowly and mud drips onto the rod-iron table, then he proclaims excitedly, “Slugs!”
“Ahhh! Says his mother V in disgust and shudders at Max’s findings.
This is typical in a day in the life of Max, a bright 7-year-old with an imagination that never ceases to amaze. Max never shies away from a little dirt and in fact prefers to have it all over him. He’s also fearless, which constantly worries the heck out of his mother and me, but luckily it’s been a while since his last spill. He’s also always very active and since there aren’t many kids in the neighborhood anymore, most of his best buddies are 30-year-olds.
“Did you really make that shot? That was a tough one,” I say, and he immediately goes on the defensive.
“Dad you never believe that I can make tough shots,” Max says with a serious scowl, his face reddening.
“Yes I do. Just make sure you’re not sneaking one past me. Cheaters never win.”
Max rears back and slams the ball, which goes sailing across the yard, knocking over a candleholder and clacks hard against the fence.
“Dad. You made me do that,” he screams at me.
I shake my head and get ready to hit the green ball through the same wicket Max just went through. It’s a difficult shot from where I’m standing, but I’d made it before. Determined, I set up, swing the club back, but at the point of impact Max screams out, “Eyyyyyaaaaaaawhooooo!”
I side-swipe the ball, which spins wildly out of control and ends in a thick bed of lilies and roses out of sight.
“Max! I can’t believe you. Why did you do that?”
He laughs maniacally and gets ready to hit his ball, which is in an impossible place stuck in a low spot next to the fence. He turns the mallet over to use the handle, but when he hits the ball it barely moves.
“That’s not fair. How am I supposed to hit that?”
“I don’t know. Figure it out.”
I take another swing at mine and something loud and incoherent shrieks from the side of the yard where Max is conveniently standing.
The mallet swishes over the top of the ball, barely knicking it. It doesn’t move more than an inch.
“You hit it. It’s my turn,” Max says giggling.
“That’s not funny Max.”
He tries the handle-shot again and this time the ball somehow slips right through the wicket—an incredible shot.
All I can do is shake my head in disgust.
Max is now singing and dancing around, “’A’ is for apple. ‘B’ is for booty. ‘C’ is for constitute. ‘D’ is for dumb.”
“’C’ is for constitute? Where did you hear that?”
“I don’t know…constitution, to constitute…you know. Whatever”
Max has another shot, takes it and leaves himself perfectly set up for his next shot, which will win the game if he doesn’t miss it.
It’s my turn and despite Max’s yells, the ball flies through the wicket and lands close to the next wicket.
I feel pretty good. That was a heck of a shot, something I could never repeat if I practiced.
The next shot is not nearly as challenging. I rear back to hit it through, and just before the mallet hits the ball, I hear, “Dad…bellybooollyboohooyeaooow!”
The ball misses the wicket completely and ends up underneath a rusting Red Ryder Wagon, which is caked in mud and in a twisted pile of toys under Max’s dilapidated playhouse.
Before I can protest, Max hits his ball through the last wicket, which hits the post, ending the game.
“I won. I won. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.”
Max is dancing around wildly and yelling for his mom to tell her about his victory.
“Oh well. I guess cheaters do win sometimes,” I say and plop down on the hammock in dismay.