Bagger’s feet slapped the rooftop, the impact shaking his knees as he landed crouched. Without looking behind him, he scurried across the flat surface to a squat chicken coop, rounded the clucking wooden shed bursting with feathers, and pressed his back against the wall in the shadows. His breathing came labored as he started to settle himself. Each inhale a short drag before exhaling. Within seconds he slowed his breathing and grinned.
Licking his lips, Bagger inhaled deeply through his nose and rolled his body across the wall of the chicken coop to peer around the edge in the direction he’d come from.
A couple feather shot out of the lattice side wall and seesawed slowly down through the air.
The rooftop was empty.
He wiped his brow. His dark hair stuck to his flesh as he moped his vision.
Scanning the surrounding buildings he saw no movement. In a couple windows people were shaking out wet clothing, pinning garments to lines for drying. But the higher rooftops remained barren.
Where did they go? Bagger considered mentally. His heels still stung from the nipping that had driven him this direction.
Two stories up, from the top of the building directly opposite of Bagger’s hiding spot, came a plummeting shadow.
The shadow landed with a roll not far from where Bagger hid behind the coop.
Did Redman see him?
The boy in a red jumper, slender like a whip, stood straight in a flash. His red hair flew in the wind as he turned back the way he came, searching.
Another shadow fell from the same building and Redman darted into a sprint, rushing past the chicken coop, arms pumping, legs a blur.
The second shadow caught up to Redman before he hit the edge of the roof, before he could vault over and get away.
The shadow tagged Redman and in elation declared, “Tag!”
It was Kara in her flamboyant pink boats, green jumper, and red headscarf keeping her brown hair away from her eyes. She and Redman were in front of Bagger and he without any cover now.
Kara turned quickly, bent low and reversed her course.
As she neared the coop, she saw Bagger and grinned.
“Well. Well. Aren’t you lucky, Bags?”
She tittered, leaped at Bagger, and used his head to propel herself higher to clear the top of the coop.
“Ouch!” Bagger rubbed his head where Kara had used him as a stool.
“Thank you much, Kara!” Bagger called after her. He snapped his mouth shut quickly but not before his folly had caught up with him.
“You owe me a drink later at sundown… If you make it till then. Hah!” Kara’s voice trailed off.
Bagger’s eyes rose out of his momentary reeling just in time to see Redman running toward him. Impish delight burned in his eyes, matching his flaming hair. He was a foot from Bagger before the latter thought about dodging out of his crouch and too safety.
Bagger ducked instead, narrowly missing a slap to the shoulder. He felt a breeze pass over his head.
Undeterred, Redman lunged, both arms out, fingers splayed and ready to grab Bagger.
Spinning and pushing to his right, Bagger rolled away from the coop as Redman collided with the bird enclosure shoulder first. Feathers exploded from the latticework. Angry squawking made the flamed haired boy shudder and recoil.
Temporarily, only for a fleeting moment, Redman forgot about Bagger.
Bagger scrambled to his feet on hands and knees, feeling his feet graze harshly against the roof’s rough surface as they failed to find purchase. “Shit. Shit. Shit.“
“Hey! Bagger, where you think you’re off to?” Redman cackled. Bagger couldn’t see him but he felt his presence looming.
Finally on his feet, Bagger took off like a shoot across the roof, angling for a taller building to climb. He needed to get some distance between himself and Redman.
Bagger leaped across the narrow space between the buildings and grabbed grooves in the taller, neighboring structure. His eyes turned up, Bagger started frantically scaling the building, pulling himself up onto shelves, windowsills, sprinting along ledges, all the while his body in a tight sense between panic and acceleration.
Hanging a corner of the ledge, Bagger jumped, twisted in the air back toward the building’s wall and grabbed for another ledge. Not far from him was a ladder to the roof. Every other rung Bagger ignored on his way up, placing a hand on the lip of a railing along the roof and jumping into a crouch.
The roof was empty except for dozens of poles sunk into the plaster, lines strung between, and the linens hanging and drying on those lines. The billowing cloth obscured Bagger’s line of sight but he was sure he was alone.
A quick look back and down found no Redman. Maybe he’d run into Sorry and decided to go after her?
Bagger jumped off the railing to the roof and carefully made his way among the flapping sheets.
Shades of white sailed across his vision. Above the sun slipped across the material brightly to create a stinging glare. Bagger hissed. He batted away the sheets as he advanced across the roof, staying low to mix himself up within the laundry.
A single sheet shot out in front of Bagger, wrapping itself around his face. He hastily ripped the sheet away, pulling the sheet down, tangling it in his legs. He hopped and skipped to keep himself from falling flat on his face and to disentangle himself. When he did free himself finally from the bounds of sheet, he chucked the sheet away in a fit.
Bagger was breathing heavily. Not paying attention.
Another rogue bed linen kicked up by stray wind forced itself in front of Bagger’s way.
This time Bagger’s arms came up and his hands caught hold of the sheet and yanked it off the clothesline. The pins holding the sheet snapped and bounced into the sky with a click- click.
He balled up the sheet, rolled his arms in a circle, turned his hands over, and tossed the sheet down like a defeated animal.
Redman’s face was there when Bagger looked up to where the sheet had hung.
The fire haired jumprunner extended a finger and poked Bagger in the brow.
“Your turn, Bag!”
Then the redhead darted across the roof, jumped off the edge, and disappeared before Bagger could react.
Bagger let out a suffering sigh. His shoulders slumped. He blew out a breath. He kicked the wadded ball of cloth, called it names. The sheet didn’t deserve such treatment. Bagger should’ve never walked into the valley of sheet and blinded himself.
He looked up to see a flash of red bobbing in the distance. Redman. Not far away. Not yet…
If I move quickly I can catch–
Sorry appeared from between two sheets, tossing them back and away from her. She nearly ran into Bagger, not seeing him. She was out of breath. One of her striped socks hung limp about an ankle, down over her boot.
Seeing Bagger she jumped back in surprise, ready to retreat from him. When she saw he was not who she expected–likely Kara–she pitched forward, hands on knees, and exhaled with relief. She pulled down the headphones from around her ears, down to around her neck, and looked at Bagger. She smiled.
“Hey there, Bags! You seen, Kara anywhere? I lost her awhile back but you can never be too sure…”
Bagger rubbed his itchy fingertips together and licked his lips. In a smooth motion, as if he were going to clap Sorry on the shoulder all friendly-like, Bagger instead slapped her bicep and declared, “Tag! You’re it.”
Then he was off again, putting distance between himself and Sorry. He heard her curse him and he laughed while diving off the roof and to the next building below.