Saturday 24 June 2023

'Mississippi Counting' by Gail Warrick Cox

Billy-Jo was sick, couldn’t come out to play with me and Molly-Mae, and the other neighbourhood kids, so we left her home, all tucked up in bed, awaiting our return.

‘Let’s play hide and go seek,’ Elijah shouted, ‘you can be it, Cora.’
I closed my eyes, began to count, the other kids scooted off to hide.

‘You count too fast,’ Molly-Mae complained, still there on the sidewalk beside me. ‘Don’t you know to say Mississippi after each number, that’ll slow you up.’
I covered my eyes, counted again. ‘One Mississippi, two Mississippi…
ten Mississippi. Here I come. Ready or not!’

I looked in all the usual hiding places. Found Elijah squatting in the empty barrel behind Hunter’s store. He always hides there. A couple of the other kids were in Jackson’s barn under the old wagon, shushing and giggling so loudly they gave themselves away. Mary was holed up in her mother’s outhouse. I swear that girl prefers spiders to people. Just Molly-Mae to find. I asked the other kids to help, but they shrugged their shoulders and headed home.

I scoured the streets, checked backyards, peered in porches, under verandas, behind hedges and in outbuildings but Molly-Mae was nowhere to be found. Something was wrong. She’d vanished. I needed to tell Momma before she was gone for ever.

‘Molly-Mae’s lost,’ I panted, when Momma opened the front door. ‘We were playing hide and go seek, she hid so good I can’t find her now.’ Tears sprang to the rims of my eyes.

‘Well,’ Momma said kindly, ‘perhaps you’ve outgrown your imaginary friend.’
The tears spilled. I bolted upstairs to tell Billy-Jo all about the Mississippi counting and missing Molly-Mae.

‘Cora.’ Momma’s voice came sternly from the bottom of the stairwell. ‘Just who are you talking to up there?’

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