Uh oh, MOM ALERT.
I hurled myself out of the window with a speed generally associated with converting most carbon-based life forms into some type of liquid upon impact with Mother Earth. However, I was ten and was possessed of the two most powerful and inexplicable pieces of wisdom to ever be conceived in the mind of a child: a firm belief in my own invincibility that carried me through childhood relatively unscathed, and the knowledge that Mother Earth would mete out a much kinder fate than Mom would, if the latter caught me playing on the scaffolding again.
Throwing my shoulder towards the ground, I turned my headlong dive into a beautiful tuck-and-roll, landing on one of the scaffold platforms and rolling off the edge. I fell briefly before I snagged one of the cross braces with the ease of long practice and hung, dangling, out of sight of the window.
My siblings were huddled on the platform below me, suppressing snickers. "Was Mom up there?" Nemesis (6 at the time) stage-whispered.
I swung myself back and forth to get the necessary momentum to direct my fall to their platform. "Yeah," I snickered, landing with a heavy thud next to the 8-year-old Quill. "I think she and Dad were going to check out the living room."
Quill's eyes lit up. "We could try to get past them into our room by climbing over there--" she pointed to the kitchen, "--and then going straight up!"
"What about Squirrel?" I asked. The youngest of our group at 4 years old, Squirrel possessed all the daring of her namesake but lacked the climbing ability; the scaffold between ground and first floor was all the higher she could go, and that was with some generous boosting.
"She can stay and guard," Quill suggested. She turned to Squirrel. "If you hear Mom going upstairs, hit the post here."
"Like this?" Squirrel inquired, whanging on the member with a discarded stick she had found.
"SHHHH!!!" I hissed. "Only if Mom goes upstairs!"
"Oh, okay," Squirrel replied cheerfully, ceasing her infernal racket.
Staying low, I led the way to the edge of the platform. Swinging around the leg, I snagged the ladder, climbed halfway up to the next level, and jumped across the gap to the other ladder, shinnying through it to get to the platform across from the one we had just left. Like monkeys, Nemesis and Quill followed my lead. We quickly traversed the next section similarly, crossing underneath the gaping windows of our unfinished house and out of sight for the parental unit.
Once we reached the edge of the scaffolding that was over by the kitchen, I grasped the ladder and crept up it slowly, taking great care to scan the inside of the house. It was buzzing with the pleasant noise of construction, workers playing radios and banging on things. Dad sometimes gave us jobs to do to help out, like drilling holes for electrical cords and suchlike; but since he was discussing boring stuff with Mom (like "Where should we put the piano?"), it was more fun now to sneak around on the scaffold like miniature spies. Dad didn't really care if we hung out on the scaffold (as long as there were no workers on it for us to annoy), but Mom had the certainty that no doubt comes with watching us fall out of everything that could potentially support our weight that we would end up paralytics. I'm not sure it crossed her mind that the metal scaffold was considerably sturdier than most of the trees we climbed, and a lot easier to hold on to as well.
No sign of Mom. I shot up the ladder, passing the first floor in a dirty flash. (I'd recently held a dirt war with my siblings, and the results of my hard-earned victory were evident.) I was concentrating so hard on listening for any shouts of discovery that I forgot to pay attention to where I was climbing, with the result that I brained myself on the underside of the second-story platform.
Rubbing my head ruefully, I pulled myself up on top of the plank I had brilliantly climbed straight into and sat down to wait for my siblings. Quill showed up first, of course, choking with suppressed laughter. I gave her the evil eye as Nemesis followed suit. Forestalling any teasing, I pointed to the open window of what would soon be Squirrel's and Quill's bedroom.
"What should we do in there?" I asked.
Nemesis gave me a wide grin, itching the band-aid on his leg (slight accident over at the barn foundations; was NOT my fault). "Let's spy on Mom and Dad from the landing!" he proposed.
Imaginations fired, we raced across the platform and leapt through the window, pausing to pick up discarded pieces of wood for a quick duel. Then, holding our makeshift swords, we crept out the door and to the edge of the landing. I peeked over.
Seeing the floor that far away always made my feet feel funny. Ignoring the tingling, I listened to Mom and Dad discussing furniture placement and snickered with my siblings over the supposed obliviousness of the parental unit. Then--
I wasn't sure if Squirrel was bored and giving us a false alarm, but Nemesis and Quill were clearly not interested in taking chances. They bolted towards the bedroom and the scaffold retreat. I gave it a moment--almost a moment too long, as Mom and Dad crossed into the entryway and started to glance up. I leapt back like a scalded frog and tied my siblings to the window. There was a brief traffic jam before we sorted out the exit order and departed to get Squirrel to stop beating on that post already seriously ONCE WAS ENOUGH...
Panting, breathless, and flushed with victory, we sat on the platform for a few moments...well, my siblings sat on the platform; I perched on the cross-brace above them like a bird on a power line.
"Now what?" Nemesis asked.
I shrugged. "Another clod war?"
"No!" they all chorused.
"You're boring!" I flicked a piece of dirt at my brother.
"We could get our swords and go knock down corn stalks in the front yard!" Quill suggested eagerly.
The plan met with assent all around, and our wooden swords were soon shoved through belts or shorts as we set out for some "sword practice."
Yeah, pretty much the best summer ever.