________ Woods: A Short Story

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I remember the Creek. That’s what it was always called…just…the Creek. We didn’t come up with fancy names for places back then. The Creek was a gateway, a threshold, to a different world. Cross that threshold and you entered the Woods…just…the Woods. But they weren’t just woods, they were a kingdom. A kingdom with forts, highways, secret paths, magical hideaways, and…tyrants.

His name was Joe…just…Joe. He held his kingdom tightly with an iron fist, his kingdom, Joe’s Woods he called it. He earned it, well, sort of. He was the oldest kid in the neighborhood. Long live the king. Like a twisted King Arthur and his Court, Joe had his knights, always on patrol, banishing anyone seen as unworthy.

Then there was me and Wesley or…just…Wes. We were brothers, not in blood but in bond. A bond like steel, forged and refined in the furnace of fierce conflict—on the preschool playground. Bitter enemies transformed into a band of brothers. We few, we happy few, we…

Banished. Cast out. But that was the Creek! Those were the Woods! That was our land! Our home! That place raised us. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, the rhythms of the seasons taught us the rhythms of friendship, of brotherhood. We couldn’t abandon it. We wouldn’t abandon it. We snuck in like bandits, but only when we knew the king and his knights were away. These were still Joe’s Woods. We didn’t have the courage to confront the tyrant. Nevertheless, what courage we did have inspired others. Those like us, castaways, trembling in fear of the wrath of Joe stepped into the sun and back into the Woods. We two, the boys from Robin Hood Drive and Friar Tuck Road, were leading a quiet revolution.

Maybe it was recklessness, perhaps it was fate that led us to that day. We crossed the Creek, Wes and I and our ragtag band at high noon, to early to be safe, and we knew it. We were growing bolder. “Hey! What are y’all doin’ here?” The voice had to be at least 10 years old. There was no else it could have been. Our eyes were drawn up the hill; Joe the tyrant was rushing down upon us with fury. The other kids scattered in a panic. God, he was giant! A glance left and right. We were alone. Wes and me. Alone.

I was turning to make a run for it, Joe’s palm caught me in the chest first. I was grounded. My mind raced but my body couldn’t follow. I looked up, certain that I was going to stare into the face of my doom. What I saw…was bravery embodied. I saw Wesley leaping from the crest of a fallen tree, arms spread wide like the wings of a bird of prey, descending onto the back of the tyrant king. Fingers like talons sunk into his shoulders. With a battle cry resounding through the forest and a cry of shock and pain resonating in our ears Joe was made mortal. Wes took Joe to the ground. The fallen one clawed at the earth to regain his footing, not to turn and face us but to turn and flee.

These were Joe’s Woods no longer. The impostor had vacated. No, these were, and always would be, Wesley’s Woods. That name sounded way cooler anyways.

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