Johnny, my equally dirty playmate, met me at the end of their driveway, his grin gaping where his big brother, Eddie, had accidentally knocked out his front teeth with a nine iron.
"Let's check out those tunnels Eddie built last night," he demanded. The thought held no appeal for me whatsoever, but rather than show my reluctance and chance losing my only playmate, I pasted on a big grin of my own and followed him. We climbed the sloping lawn to the barn's entrance, where the doors, which were a color somewhere between grey and brown, stretched, from my viewpoint, to heaven. Johnny pulled on one door with all the strength in his puny body, but it refused to budge until I added my strength to his. Slowly, ever so slowly, it groaned a horrid sounding groan while begrudgingly swinging enough for us to squeeze through, scratching both stomachs and backsides in the process.
The smell of the barn struck us a terrible blow after the air of the summer outside. The stench of horse-flesh and manure filled the air, accompanied by the smells of overly-sweet straw and pungent leather harnesses. The stenches filled our noses and pe...
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...ever built!" Johnny cried. I was amazed to see his flushed face devoid of any sign of illness or relief, but full of some fanatical form of worship for the maze which had nearly killed us.
"Let's go through again before supper," he demanded.
"I can't," I replied, pulling stray wisps of straw from my hair. "I have to be home early today."
"Well, okay, I guess," he sulked, "but tomorrow for sure. Come on, I'll race you down!" And he was off in a flash toward the ladder. I let him win, just for good measure.
The sun was overly bright to my contracted pupils, but I didn't notice. I was trying to think of a reason not to go through that particular version of hell again, but a reason wouldn't come, and I knew that when tomorrow got here, that's exactly where I'd be. Maybe Johnny would even let me go first.
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