It was hot inside the closet, but it was still the best hiding place around. Crouching on his knees, he contemplated the sticky sap in the knot-hole on the door with his fingers before leaning back, careful to let the coats behind him absorb his weight soundlessly. Breathing in, he held his breath for a moment as he listened intently to the living room and beyond. Nothing. Ryan and Curt must have gone to look in the bedrooms. He sighed then, letting his breath out loudly. Feeling sweat trickle down his forehead and gather at his elbows and knees he relaxed as best he could; letting his knees jutt up against the door and his arms fall to his sides. He waited a long time, feeling sleepy in the heat. Where were they? Edging up again onto his haunches he pushed against the closet door and peered cautiously out into the living room. Nothing. He let the door bump closed, and sat, staring into the inky blackness. They'd probably gone outside. Or gone home. Crossing his arms, he felt tears prick his eyes and he closed them; feeling ashamed. It didn't matter. He didn't like Ryan or Curt anyway, but Dad said it would be good for him to play with them. Make new friends. Sinking back into the coats, he left his eyes closed and sniffled as his chest tightened and he tried to hold it in. Boys weren't supposed to cry, he told himself sternly. Dad said so. He stared into the darkness resolutely until his tears dried; until his sleepiness overwhelmed him and he fell asleep.
He woke when the closet door was yanked open, and cool air washed over him in sharp relief. He blinked sleepily when Dad stared down at him, his brow furrowed. Dad didn't say anything for a minute, but grabbed his ankle and hauled him out of the closet with a yank that left his leg aching and his back stinging with carpet burn.
"What the hell did you think you were doing? Those boys have been looking for you. You get out there right now and apologize to those boys for running off."
"I didn't—" he started to say, but bit his lip bravely and nodded silently. It was always his fault, he knew, for hiding so good. Nobody else wanted to look that hard. "Yessir."
With Dad behind him, he made his way outside. While he'd been hiding the sun had started to set, and it was mercifully starting to cool. Ryan and Curt were still out in the yard, playing with trucks in the garden patch when he descended the stairs; both boys stared at him as he dropped to his knees beside them and mumbled an apology for Dad to hear. Dad nodded, and clapped him on the back as he walked away; back to join the grown ups on the patio. Greg reached for one of the trucks laying the dirt only to find Curt vrrrroomed it away from him before his fingers could grasp it. He sighed then, and rolled to his feet. With a wary eye on the patio, he moved to the edge of the yard and surveyed the field beyond dispassionately. Here and there he could see lightning bugs moving in the grass. He cupped his hands together and lunged for one, unsurprised when he found them empty. Lightning bugs were hard to catch. Standing on the edge of the yard, he put a foot into the field and glanced at the patio again, noting the way the sunlight made the water droplets on Dad's beer bottle glow. Dad wouldn't come after him while he still had a beer, and the water drops meant the bottle was full. Satisfied that Dad was busy, he turned into the field and followed the lightning bugs intently, lunging for several and coming up empty. He paused then, sitting with his knees pressed into the dirt clods and the drying grass. All around him, crickets hummed and birds called; and the lightning bugs went on their merry way. The way to catch a lightning bug was to watch it, he decided. Learn what it did, and where it liked to go. He scooted closer to a clump of grass, and waited intently. One of the lightning bugs landed on the wide blades of grass and fluffed its' wings, folding them out of the way as it scuttled down the stalk. Greg followed it with his eyes, holding his breath as the bug descended beside him. Reaching out with a deft hand, he cupped it over the bug swiftly and was rewarded; feeling the bump beneath his hand as the bug tried to escape. He brought his other hand beneath and lifted them together with the bug trapped between. He peered into the small hole between his fingers, smiling as the bug bumped and buzzed; the little light flickering intermittently before it went out completely. The bug hated being caught in the dark little world between his hands; it wanted to be free. He considered bringing it back to the house and finding a jar—but then the other boys would want it. Dad would never let him have it. No, he decided. This was something he could only share with the lightning bug. No one else would know what it was like to be trapped somewhere you didn't want to be. No one else would ever understand what it was like to hold a little life in his hands and then give it back. With some reluctance, he opened his hands and felt the bug scramble over his fingers; opening its wings in eager flight as it sped away. Staring into the approaching darkness, he watched until the bug's little light faded; until the only light in the field was from the bug zapper on the patio. He turned then, moving cautiously through the tall grasses until he felt the hummocky ground give way to the cushion of the lawn. He could hear the grown-ups laugh at something, the whine of the bug zapper and the scraping sound of a metal lawn chair pushed back over the concrete. He studied the invisible line between the easy road and the hard road and resisted the urge to lose himself in the enveloping darkness of the field, without so much as a little bug light to show the way.