By Jon Bishop
Outside the window of his first floor office Tom Zimmer sees a small group of kids playing on the grass. Their laughter trickles through the glass and into his ears, which pulls his lips into a smile. He stops his typing—the files and such can wait a few minutes. He hears one of them shout: “Tag! All right, you’re it. You’re done.” Air conditioners fill the office with unnatural cool air; everything just beyond the window basks in the bright heat of the summer sun. He longs to be young again—out with them, playing on the grass and on the fields until a mother, somewhere, someplace, reminds everyone that it is time to eat.
He shuts his eyes.
He is outside with his friends, engaged in a game of hide-and-seek. He ducks beneath a bush and puts his hands over his head. Its leaves rustle and some of its fruit drop to the ground, sending small plumes of dirt into the air. A slight breeze carries them away.
This noise, though slight, gets him discovered.
“Found you, Tom. Now, it’s your turn.” His friend Billy had been “it.” Now he would move to the center of the field and close his eyes, count to ten. His other friends scatter as he begins reciting the numbers.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven—
Pollen dances through the air as if it too participates in the games of the summertime. Birds in the distance seem to sing of mating and romance and of place. Dogs bark and insects chirp.
He inhales, in preparation of seeking his hidden friends.
He starts and turns around and sees his coworker, Jim, standing outside his office door.
“Hey, a few of us are getting lunch. You want to come?”
“Uh, sure. Just let me get some cash. I’ll meet you in a few minutes.”
“Sounds good. We’ll be down in the lobby.”
Jim nods and walks away.
Tom reaches into his desk drawer and pulls out his wallet. Before he leaves he turns and again looks out the window and sees that all of the kids are no longer there. They never were.