The Pixie Game
by Anna Zumbro
The rain has stopped shortly before the dismissal bell rings, and the ground is spongy and quivering with worms. Someone taps Gage's shoulder. He spins around and sees Dasha, her mouth upturned at some private joke.
"We're playing the pixie game. Want to come?"
It's the third time someone has talked to him at this school and the first time he's been invited to do anything. He follows her, half running, to the hedges surrounding the playground.
Iver and Jack are already waiting at the greenest part of the hedge. Gage has never spoken to either of them, but he's noticed that everyone laughs at Iver's jokes whether they're funny or not, that even fifth-graders defer to him in the lunch line.
Iver nods at Dasha and turns to Gage. He grins. "Hey, new kid. You go first."
"Okay." Gage approaches the hedge, ready to thrust his hand through the branches on the count of three. "Am I going against you?"
"What? Didn't you ever play before? Show him, Jack."
Jack puts his face close to the leaves and sticks out his tongue. Gage sees a rustle and a flash of green, then a tiny figure clinging to the tip of Jack's tongue before it retracts. Jack's cheeks bulge. His closed mouth forms a crooked line of disgust as his jaw moves up and down. Then he swallows.
"You ate it?" At Gage's old school, the pixie game meant putting your fingers into the bushes and waiting while the pixies bit and latched on. When you couldn't take it anymore, you pulled your hand out. If you had more than your opponent, you won. This way wasn't really a game. It was a dare.