Title: The First Somewhat-Annual Snipe Hunt
Author: Caitrin Torres
A/N: Written for Yuletide 2010 for rose_griffes.
There was a light shining in his face. Carl pulled his pillow over his face and rolled over to get away from it. Then he froze. Why was there a light shining in his face?
Oh. "El? Whatimezit?"
"Early." Of course it was. "But that's okay! Morning's the best time to catch them!"
Catch- huh? He let his pillow fall to the side and sat up in bed. Ellie was standing next to him, holding a flashlight and bouncing from foot to foot in excitement. He fumbled for his glasses and glanced at his alarm clock. Four thirty. "Catch what?" he asked, still not quite awake.
"Snipes, silly. Now c'mon! We gotta go!"
Carl trundled out of bed and had one shoe on before Ellie's giggles brought him up short. "What?"
She gestured towards him, but it took a moment before she was able to collect herself enough to speak. "You should probably get dressed first," she said, smirking.
He looked down at himself and saw that he was still wearing his blue striped pajamas.
Soon after, Carl followed Ellie out his bedroom window and down the trellis, and together they set off for the park at the center of town. After a few minutes, Carl - never a morning person, much less an early morning person - had woken up enough to ask the question that was foremost in his mind. "Ellie? What's a snipe?"
"You don't know what a snipe is?" she replied, incredulous. Carl shook his head wordlessly, and Ellie patted him on the arm. "I didn't either until my daddy told me about them. A snipe's a bird."
Carl thought that at nine years old, he'd grown pretty familiar with all the birds and animals in the area, but he'd never heard of that one. "What sort of bird is it?"
"A big one, I bet," Ellie replied.
"Like a goose?"
"Yeah! Or like an ostrich, even. But they're sneaky. Reeeeallly sneaky. And they like to hide. A lot. And they run fast. Daddy says it's almost impossible to catch one unless you know the trick."
Ellie looked at him expectantly, and Carl obligingly asked the question. "What's the trick?"
She beamed. "You've gotta lure them out."
"With what?" Carl wasn't sure what big birds liked to eat. Probably not birdseed, he thought. The pieces would be too small. They didn't eat meat, did they? He hoped not.
"With your hands! They like noise." She clapped her hands together three times. "See? If there are any snipes around, they'll hear the clapping and come out to see where it's coming from." She demonstrated again - clap clap clap. "Now you try."
Carl clapped three times, hesitantly. "No, louder!" Ellie said. "How are they gonna hear you if you use little claps like that?" He stopped to hop up on a high curb, and tried again as he walked along it like a balance beam. Clap. Clap. Clap. "Now you've got it!"
They searched all over the park for a snipe. There weren't any by the creek, or in the trees. They thought they might have found one under the seesaw, but it was just Mrs. MacDougal's old cat, who ran away when they tried to capture it.
Dawn was breaking as they circled around again and found themselves at the base of their favorite hill. Some days the hill was a castle to be stormed or a mountain to be climbed, but today it was a welcome place to rest. They'd looked for two whole hours, but there were no snipes to be found that morning. Halfway up the hill, Ellie stopped and shimmied out of her knapsack, then started to pull things out of it. She produced a picnic blanket and spread it out on the ground with a flourish before dragging Carl down to sit next to her.
"I'm sorry we didn't find anything," Carl said.
"It's okay," Ellie replied. "It was an adventure! It was fun, right?"
He still wasn't happy about being woken up, but he didn't have to think hard before answering. "Yeah. Yeah, it was."
Ellie grinned. "Good. And besides," she said, "not finding one this time just means we'll have to try again later on. Right?"
She sounded excited about the prospect. It was easy to be excited when Ellie was. "Sure. Just... not tonight?"
Ellie rolled her eyes at him. "Well, of course not tonight, silly. It's your birthday party tonight! We'll be too tired to go snipe hunting again. And- oh! That reminds me!"
"It's just supper with my family. It's not a real party," Carl muttered, but Ellie was suddenly busy digging through her knapsack.
It wasn't long before she tossed the bag aside once again and presented him with the object of her search: a cloth napkin wrapped around something. Something... lumpy. "Well? Open it!" Carl took the napkin from her and carefully unwrapped it to find two of her mother's cinnamon buns. "Happy birthday!" Ellie shouted gleefully.
Carl smiled widely. He loved cinnamon buns, especially the icing. And these, even ignoring all the icing that was stuck to the napkin, were practically dripping in it. He handed one back to Ellie and took a big bite out of the other. Delicious. "Thanks, Ellie," he said after he'd swallowed. "You're the best."
They finished their rolls quickly, hungry after their early morning adventure. When they were done, Carl knew that they should head back home before their parents noticed they were missing, but he wasn't ready to go just yet. Instead of getting up, he stretched out on the blanket and contemplated the sky.
"You know..." Carl said, pointing at a cloud with particularly wispy edges, "that one sort of looks like a snipe."
Ellie stretched out next to him on the blanket and followed the line of his finger until she, too, found the cloud. "You think so?"
"Yup. See its little feet? And the tail?"
"Hmmm." She studied it for a moment, and grinned. "Ooh, yeah, it does. And there's its beak, over on the right." She sat up suddenly and planted a quick kiss on his cheek. "Told ya the morning was the best time to find snipes."
Carl blushed and didn't say anything. Settling down beside him again, Ellie stared up at the sky. "What about that one? I think it looks like a fire truck."
"Could be. Or ma-" he stopped and cleared his throat. "Maybe an elephant? The hose could be a trunk instead."
"Yeah, an elephant! Hey, what about that one over there?..."