We hadn’t thought much of the scream until we couldn’t find him for 10 minutes. And that’s when the panic set in. 

It was 9pm on a beautiful June Friday night. Birthday party sugar rush was in full swing. Orders to brush, transfer into PJs, and settle down weren’t just being ignored, they were disregarded with impunity. Chief amongst the offenders: Henry. Third of four or more children must know, based on the sequence by which they occur from birth, that—much like royalty—their likelihood of assuming power is nil, so they might as well wreak havoc and embarrass the family. 

The other three made their way to bed and I visited the lavatory for an extended period of time, so I figured, as I normally do, that Christine would have everything in hand when I emerged from my chamber of solitude and YouTube.

The scream occurred midway through my bliss, and so I dismissed it. When I came out, Henry was not in bed. I called his name, nothing. He’d long ago cemented his claim as most mischievous and daring, so nothing seemed out of sorts. He was hiding and he’s the type that doesn’t giggle when you get closer. We have to really look. And we did. Everywhere. Opened cupboards, behind curtains, closets, every room, and we searched all those places again. We started yelling his name. Addie and Charlie, too, all yelling for him. 

I went to the garage: unlocked. I looked at the side door out to the backyard: unlocked. My mind raced back to the scream. Why did he scream? Had something/someone actually sneaked in and taken him outside? Unlocked doors convinced that they had or he had gone out there.

I grabbed the flashlight: batteries dead. *curse word* I grab my phone and turn on the light and start scouring the backyard, our barn. Everything in my way is getting turned over and tossed about. Christine screaming his name only added to this deepening fear that the worst had happened, how stupid I was. Cash and I hopped (yes, I hopped) over our fence and into the gulley filled with brush, thistles, and I was barefoot. Damon, our neighbor, popped through his gate that leads to the gulley and inquired. As I told him, I remembered he has a pool; so does Nancy on the other side. I called the sheriff’s department. Nancy heard our screams and came out. He was not in the pools, thank God. 

Pools empty, house empty, property empty. One explanation: He’s not here, he’s gone. I run to the front yard and Christine is already out there. Damon gets in his car and starts to search the neighborhood. Sheriffs pull up within two minutes and that’s when it hits me. “Oh my God, what have I done? God, what am I gonna do?” I’m on the phone with my best friend to come and help, crying like I haven’t cried before when the deputy walks up. “What is he wearing?” “I don’t know. Not PJs.” “We need to go inside and check the house?” Check the house? We did that. Setup a *cursing word* perimeter and be on the lookout for a white van.

The deputy and I walked towards the house when Charlie and Addie run screaming, “We found him! We found him!” 

Found him indeed. Earlier that night,  Henry had hidden from Charlie behind the overstuffed pillows on our bed and scared him. So what did he do? He hid there again, tucked way behind/under the pillows—leaving the bed undisturbed to the naked eye—and fallen asleep. Charlie remembered this while were out front and ran back to check. 

Moving from a feeling of stupid, awful parent to stupid dodo-head is a fairly quick process. I profusely thanked the deputies for arriving so quickly and hugged our neighbors tightly for their loving response to our panic. Finally, I stood over Henry as he slept peacefully awash in gratitude, frustration, and embarrassment. I prayed mightily for many things.

That little dickens. The stress he’s already caused. What might he do to us after this?

Also, Hank has no idea this ever happened and the elder two sworn to secrecy because, knowing him, he’d do it again just to see the sheriff pull up.

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