My Day as a Spy
"Just ask one, Elise!" Mariel threw the pieces of lint she had collected from her blue sheets and focused on me.
I searched the room as if it contained a suitable question for truth or dare. A tube of lip balm sat on her nightstand. "Who would you most like to kiss?"
Mariel's eyes drifted to the poster on the wall. "Roger Moore."
I crinkled up my nose. "He's kinda old."
"Well maybe if you had seen For Your Eyes Only."
Mariel liked to taunt me every now and then for not being able to see it. My mom thought it too "grown up" for me. Mariel told me that she meant "sexual." Here I thought it was about spies.
"It's your turn."
"Do you think you'll be kissed in middle school?" Mariel grabbed a note pad and pen and waited in journalistic fashion.
I twisted my short red ponytail and stared enviously at Mariel's long blond locks. Where my legs were hairy and covered in mosquito bites, hers were smooth thanks to a mom that let her shave at the beginning of the summer. She would probably be kissed in middle school. I feigned the self-confidence. "Yeah, of course."
Mariel raised her eyebrows in disbelief, but said nothing as she wrote down my response.
"I don't want to play anymore." I sat up on the bed, my back hot and sweaty.
Mariel nibbled her bottom lip. "We could go use your pool."
"We can't. Nobody will be home. My mom took my brother and a friend to the Madison Zoo and my dad is going on a house call."
"A house call? Who gets sick in the summer? Kids should know that colds are only for when you have school."
I shrugged. This summer my dad had made at least ten house calls, all in the neighboring town. Prairie du Sac.
"So who is it? Do we know them?"
I shook my head. "I don't think so. I only heard him talking to the mom today, Nadia something."
Mariel perked up. "Sounds Russian."
"It might be."
"What if your dad is actually working for the Soviets?"
I rolled my eyes and sighed. "He's not working for the Soviets."
"Well you haven't seen Bond. It's never the ones you think."
I laughed, but stopped as I realized Mariel was serious.
"Being a doctor is a good cover."
My dad did work odd hours. He was gone most weekends and some evenings. The respect he had in Sauk City made up for his absence; I didn't want to be robbed of that.
"Alright, Bond. We could spy on him."
Mariel gasped. "I'm not Bond. Call me Melina." She feigned a French accent.
"So who am I?"
Mariel glanced me over. "Hmm, maybe Moneypenny."
"Yeah, I'll just be Elise. So if we're gonna follow him, we should leave now."
"Operation Nadia is a go."
We mounted our bikes and headed toward my house. Though it was only a block away, we had to ride fast to catch my dad.
"Car's still here. We'll have to hide and wait." Mariel ducked behind a bush in my neighbor's yard, laying her bike down in the grass.
"You know Ms. Frey doesn't like people on her lawn."
"You're going to compromise the mission. Hide."
I looked at Ms. Frey's house, certain I could see her disapproving frown in the window. I hesitantly sat down beside Mariel. "I hope you feel dumb when you see a sick kid."
Mariel held her finger up to her lips. "Target is in motion.
I moved onto my knees to see for myself. "You mean my dad."
My father was walking to our new beige station wagon, grooming his thick brown hair across his head. Mariel tapped my shoulder and motioned to the bikes. Crawling on our hands and knees we reached our bikes and waited for my father to pass by before following.
Keeping up proved to be more difficult than I imagined. We were usually one street behind him, seeing his next turn right after we completed his last. At least Sauk City was flat; no rolling hills to lose us on.
"He's going to the Piggly Wiggly," I shouted to Mariel and motioned to the right. We entered the parking lot and parked our bikes along the side, out of site from my father. We peeked around the comer and watched as my father got out of the car and walked towards the entrance.
"Hide!" I grabbed Mariel's shirt and pulled her back.
"You have to let me look. How will we know when he's left again?" Mariel brushed my hand away and looked back around the comer. "He's already in the store. Now we have to wait."
"So do you think he's selling the Communists secret plans on how to build a Piggly Wiggly of their own?" I teased.
Mariel raised her eyebrows, as if considering this possibility. "Probably not, but he could be using the copy machine to copy top secret documents."
I wiped the sweat from my forehead, desperate for water. The Piggly Wiggle was not even a half mile from our house, but the heat of the day made the waiting unbearable. At least bike riding provided a breeze.
"There he is," Mariel whispered. "He's got flowers. I'm not sure why the Soviets would want flowers, but I'm working on it."
"It's probably for the sick kid. Mariel, you really need to stop watching Bond."
She flashed me a dirty look. "We need to move now if we're gonna keep up with him."
We continued after the beige station wagon. The flowers had severely damaged Mariel's claim. I felt more confident we would not be witnessing any KGB activity.
Another half mile and we crossed into Prairie du Sac. The five and dime was crowded with children spending money hard earned from mowing lawns. My throat was parched and I eyed the sodas. There was no time to stop, not today. My father pulled off the main street down a winding neighborhood road. Children dashed between parked cars as he drove through, anxiously waiting to resume their water balloon fight. When the street was clear, they emerged again in full force, making the street impossible to navigate.
"It's an ambush! I've been hit!" Mariel called from behind me.
I screeched to a stop and turned around. Mariel was sitting on the street, bike down, hair and clothes drenched with water. Blood trailed from her knee down to her ankle. The children ignored her and continued with their fight.
"You go on without me. I'm not going to make it." Mariel lay back on the street, arm dramatically tossed over head.
"Mariel, we don't have time for this. We're going to lose him." I got off my bike and walked over to her. I pulled at her arm, but it went limp with each tug. "I'm not gonna leave you here on the street. Get back on your bike."
"Elise, is that you?" With eyes half closed she reached up to my face.
I batted her hand away and looked up the street. He was already out of sight. I squatted down beside Mariel. "He's gone already. Let's go get sodas."
Mariel sat up. "I'm feeling better. It's a miracle. Do you want to know what it's like to be near death?"
I sighed and pulled her to her feet. "Not really."
We got back on our bikes and rode to the end of street, not backtracking to avoid the water balloons.
"Well it's cold and kind of wet. And there's this beautiful... ..hey isn't that your dad's car?"
It was. He had not driven out of site, after all. He had just parked. I pedaled closer to the house, trying to see the address.
"Stop, Elise. He's still in the car."
I braked immediately and stared into the car from the passenger's side. There in the driver's seat was my dad. Nothing was blocking his view of me. I held my breath for fear he would see me.
"Move!" Mariel quietly screamed while franticly waving me over to a hedge across the street where she had already taken cover. I dropped my bike to run and join her. "No, no, bring the bike!"
My dad had apparently not seen me. He was focused on the rear view mirror, once again playing with his hair. He reached over and picked up the bouquet of what I could now see were red roses. He smelled them and then opened up the car door. Mariel screeched and ducked her head down, but I was hypnotized by his movements wondering whose house it was.
"He's gonna see you." Mariel pushed on my head.
"No, he's walking to the door."
Mariel popped her head back up. My father knocked at the door, smelling the flowers yet a second time before tucking them behind his back. A young woman with straight brown hair answered. He produced the flowers from behind his back and the woman smiled and threw her arms around his neck.
"Well maybe she's so happy he's bringing her sick kid flowers." Mariel had her hand on my shoulder.
My father returned the hug by placing his hands around her waist then bringing his lips to hers.
Mariel inhaled as if to explain this, too, but I stopped her. "There isn't a sick kid. You were right."
Mariel bit her lip. "Not really. He's not a Communist."
I could feel my bottom lip trembling and the tears building up in my eyes. I wiped them away, not wanting Mariel to see. My father disappeared into the house and I finally pulled my eyes away. I grabbed my bike and pedaled furiously down the street, not caring that I was heading back to the water balloons. Mariel called out after me, but I ignored her. I had been horribly wrong about my father. Here I thought it was about spies.
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Stephanie Hopkins is a graduate of the University of Washington. As a Biology major, she did not get to do much fictional writing. She found herself going back to school last fall to complete requirements for post-graduate education and while doing so happened to find a new creative outlet.