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Sometimes I'm seven years old again. When I close my eyes and it's quiet like this, I remember things.

Like the time there were only two of us left: Patrick, the neighborhood bully with his brown freckles and shifty eyes and ruddy cheeks, who had a handful of stones; and me, who had just one. But it would take only one to hit the knotty wart in the middle of the massive oak tree and prove who had the best aim in the whole neighborhood.

The swamp reeked like rotten compost, thick and humid, and the sludge slipped beneath our sneakers as we crept to the murky water's edge - as close as we could get to the tree, jutting up from the bog at least fifty yards out.

"Show us what you've got," Patrick said with a smirk, glancing over his shoulder at the rest of the kids above us who leaned on their handlebars and watched us from where the sidewalk was dry.

I nodded and eyed the knot, whipping back my arm to hurl my last stone as hard as I could - so hard that I lost my precarious balance and fell headlong with a slimy splash.

My stone hit the target dead center, the other kids told me later, but Patrick insisted I'd cheated, giving myself an unfair advantage. So sopping wet, cold, and stinky, I agreed to a rematch.

I remember like it's yesterday. Only a yesterday without bills to pay and terrorists and oil spills. Without regrets and darkness. Yesterday, tomorrow always seemed so bright.

I can't give up now. That would be cheating.

Story by:

Milo James Fowler

submitted at 12:07am

6 March 2011

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