(A collaborative effort of Ryan Dex and Aunt Mary Sue.)
“Dylan, come in, please. I need you to do something for me,” his mom said through the screen on the sliding glass door to the backyard.
Dylan was practicing his soccer moves for the next day. It would be the last game in the regular season. Dylan played center-midfield in his summer league, and the team was counting on him to help secure a spot in the playoffs.
“Dylan, I need you to watch your sister Abby and her friends Cami and Mia for a couple of hours. I have a Zoom conference call for work this morning. Why don’t you take them to the park?”
“Why can’t Zoey do it? They like her better than me, and besides, what do I know about girls?”
“You have two sisters, one older and one younger. You know more than you think. Besides, Zoey has to work at the animal shelter today.”
“Why can’t the girls stay home and play in the yard? You can keep an eye on them from the office window?”
“You’re fourteen, and I need you to help out now and then. You can practice your soccer moves and watch the girls at the same time. Remember, they are only seven. Keep your eye on them and make sure they stay together. I will pick you up after my call, no later than noon.”
“Can I take Buck with me?”
“You’ll have your hands full, watching three girls. Buck would have to stay on his leash, and that would drive him crazy. Besides, I could use the company while everyone is gone. Buck stays with me.”
Dylan rolled his eyes, tucked his soccer ball under his arm, and grabbed his cell phone. “Let’s go, girls.”
Abby, Cami, and Mia followed Dylan the five blocks to the park, giggling and whispering all the way. Cami and Mia had a crush on Dylan. He had grown taller over the summer and was tanned from fishing and swimming in the lake behind his house.
“He’s so cute,” Mia said to Cami.
“Mm Mm,” was all Cami could say.
“Get real!” Abby said out of the side of her mouth.
I look like a mother duck and her ducklings. Maybe I can pretend they aren’t with me, Dylan thought, trying to ignore the girls.
Once they reached the park, the girls went straight to the swings. Each girl tried to swing higher than the other two.
Mia leaned back. “Look at that cloud. What do you see? I see a poodle.”
Abby and Cami agreed, heads back, their feet pointed toward the sky.
Dylan sat in the shade under a tree and played Among Us on his phone. He looked up now and then to make sure the girls were still in sight. He thought about Buck. Buck would love it here. Maybe I can bring him next time.
The girls moved to the climbing wall and jungle gym area. Dylan put his phone in his pocket and followed them. This is a disaster waiting to happen, he thought.
Dylan started practicing tricks with his soccer ball splitting his attention, making sure he knew where all three girls were at all times. He was super close to learning how to do the V-pull.
Dylan’s phone beeped. One of his friends sent him a text. We need U at practice. Why are U at the kiddie park???
Exactly, Dylan thought, then he heard his mom’s voice in his head.
“You are the big brother. I am trusting you to keep an eye on the girls. It’s a big responsibility. I’m counting on you.”
Maybe I can do both?
Dylan looked around to see if he recognized a mom or an adult to watch the girls while he joined his team. Not finding anyone, he wondered if he could convince the girls to watch the soccer game so he could keep an eye on all three and practice.
It took a little convincing and some whining from the girls, but Dylan talked them into watching one 20-minute period then back to the playground.
Fifteen minutes into the period, Dylan noticed one of the girls missing from the sidelines. He signaled his coach to replace him and asked Abby where Mia went.
“She got bored. I think she wanted to go back to the climbing wall.”
Dylan’s heart dropped as all of the bad things that could happen ran through his head. He grabbed Abby and Cami by the hand and ran across the park to the playground.
“Slow down. We can’t run that fast,” Abby shouted.
As the climbing wall came into view, Dylan slowed down. He saw Mia sitting at the bottom of the wall rubbing her knee. Dylan was relieved to see Mia but worried about what happened to her.
Out of breath, he yelled, “Stay right there, Mia.”
Mad at himself for not following his Mom’s instructions, Dylan tried not to yell at Mia for running off on her own. He knew it would be his fault if anything happened to the girls.
Some big brother I am.
Mia looked up at Dylan, “It’s just a little scrape from one of the rocks on the wall.”
“It’s almost noon. Try something a little tamer till mom picks us up.”
The girls went back to the swings.
Dylan’s phone beeped again, “On my way, see U soon.”
“Mom is on the way. Who’s ready for lunch?”
When Dylan’s mom arrived, she noticed his team practicing on the soccer field.
“Do you want to join your friends for the end of practice?”
Dylan slipped into the front seat of the SUV, “No, I’m good.”
After lunch, Dylan put his soccer net up in the back yard. “Are you girls interested in playing three-on-one?”