19:00 Joey’s mom drops him off at my house. We had planned the mission in school earlier that day; drawn out in Joey’s science notebook. Mom let us play video games until 20:00 before sending us off to bed. While we waited for my father to finish watching television we changed into our pajama pants for better mobility. When the house fell silent we put on our slippers and grabbed our flashlights.
By 20:30 we felt safe to start our descent.
I turn back to Joey.
“Ready?” I whisper.
He nods and opens the door to my bedroom in one swift silent motion. Joey is a good soldier. He holds onto the banister as he steps over the top one that always creaks. I let my eyes adjust to the darkness before stepping out after him. In under a minute Joey had made it to the base of the stairs, past the basket filled with toys. It is always nice working with a pro.
At the door to the living room we pause. Joey clicks the flashlight once. Just for a second to reveal any unexpected obstacles. Then, with nothing but memory and practice, we cross the living room in the blackness. Not a sound. I can’t help feeling scared of the dark. I want to flash the light once more just to make sure there is nothing waiting to grab me but, I don’t. I am a professional.
We crouch at the door to the kitchen. It is just across the hall from Mom and Dad’s room. We know we can’t risk the flashlights again. I feel for Joey in the dark and tap his shoulder.
“Now.” I whisper as soft as I can. Joey moves to the middle of the kitchen. In one swift movement I pass him. He waits. I peel open the fridge and slip my hand in side. I can feel the giant plastic bowl filled with strawberries. I grab it and pull it out with one hand, pass it to Joey. He is waiting at arm’s length and grabs it. I close the fridge. We wait a few seconds to make sure the house hasn’t woken. Silence. I hear Joey start to move and I follow. All the way to the stairs. With the strawberries in one hand Joey dodges the basket and takes the stairs by two. I keep close behind him. Too close. A rookie mistake. Joey stops as he reaches the creaking stair. My face hits his back and he slips. I try to steady him but he takes me with him. As we fall I see the faint outline of strawberries flying into the air and cascading around us as we tumble over each other into a tangled pile of limbs and crushed fruit at the base of the stairs.
I see the lights flare up in the hall. I can feel that nothing is broken. Joey groans and looks up at me. We know we are in trouble. I hear Mom and Dad running from their bedroom. My Mom gasps as she turns the light on in the stairwell. I look around at Joey and I. We are covered in red blood-like juices. My Mom lunges down at me.
“Oh god.” She says as she rolls me over looking for the source of all the blood. When she finally realizes we are okay she hugs me, a bit too tight. As she does I look around and notice that someone had cut the bottoms off of all the strawberries after I had already gone to bed, just like I like them.