I slid my plastic cup across the scuffed wooden table. Making room to open the playing board. Chairs scraped over the floor as my sister and a friend took their seats. The window behind the table open. Facing the front yard we’d just left. The tangle of branches from the dogwood still playing in my hands, the breeze carrying the outside in.
In the game, I became a grown-up. More than that — I became a spy on the run. My feet in buckle sandals tucked under my knees, my hair in braids, yet my hands holding sturdy cardboard game pieces assured my competency at flying through the streets of London on taxis, busses, and trains. Totally self-sufficient. Elusive. An awe-inspiring afternoon to a nine-year-old girl with sunkissed freckles in the tidy kitchen of a friend’s house.
The world lay before me on the board of Scotland Yard.
My sister and our friend teamed up to chase me down. Rules of the game: one Mr. X and the rest seekers to track him as he leaves a mysterious trail using public transportation.
I took a sip of lemonade. Steadying myself for the hunt. The plastic glass slippery from the humidity. My mind whirring and plotting the course. Wondering if I would escape. Relishing in past victories remembered. The innocence of my young self envisioned cobblestoned streets devoid of rubbish, instead gleaming. Enticing. I was Mr. X, hopping toll bars in the subway and darting into waiting taxis, then lumbering along on the dreaded bus routes — the slowest — the scent of hot exhaust and the rumbling engine right there in the room.
From the moment I heard the squeak of the game box opening, part of my mind leapt to London. Leapt into the web of false clues and honking horns and people on my tail.
I’d started the day as an American girl making her bed. Tucking my Holly Hobbie sheets around the wall in a rush to get out the door and hop on my banana-seat bike. Mid-day, I’d found myself caught up in a tangle of hope and last-second evasions so serious, so full of risk and oh, the consequences — Mr. X couldn’t be caught! Some days I escaped, breathless and free and full of triumph as I knocked back the rest of my lemonade. Some days I fell prey to the system. All days I folded the board, tucked it away into the box, and upon its closing I opened the door back out into summer. Back into that dogwood tree. My mind ready to be wherever I was at the moment.