It’s too late to turn back.  The empty lot, muddied
by spring rain, is slowly sucking us in.  Each step layers
more and more muck onto our shoes.  Our eight-year-old legs
are soon unable to lift up and out of the mud.  Between sobs,
and screams for help, the two of us swear to:
                                                 never take this shortcut again, ever!
We can see the shape of Nancy’s house just up the road.
The sun is sitting right on top of its roof.  Dinnertime.
Why didn’t we save some of our Dime Store candy?

Long shadows stretch out across the field.  The sun has dropped
to eye-level, its warmth in retreat.  A night chill is oozing up
from the mud.  Fear shivers our bodies, chatters our teeth.
The dark is coming.  Will we have to spend the night here?
                                                                                Sitting ducks?

On the horizon, backlit by the setting sun, a figure lurches
towards us.  Our screams strangle in our throats.  But wait.
The monster is laughing.  He calls out our names.
It’s Nancy’s dad!
His strong arms free us, one by one, from our mud shackles.
Both pairs of shoes are lost, sacrificed to the underworld.

A warm bath, hot chocolate, the comfort of light allows us
to giggle again.  But later, in my dreams, the hungry earth
swallows me.  The dark closes in.