“Ready. Aim. Fire!” Thomas yelled exuberantly. He released three carefully-crafted mud balls skyward. They flew from his shovel toward the cardboard clubhouse, landing in wet splat, splunk, splats on the ground.
Daniel popped open a window to survey the results. “Some attack, Thomas!” He jeered.
Another smiling head joined Daniel’s through the jagged cut-out. “Yeah,” James teased. “Wanna move closer, baby?”
They laughed in good sport, then yelled and ducked inside as Thomas dropped his shovel and ran at them. Their door was pushed against its hinge with the force of the nine-year-old boy.
Daniel wriggled out the opening. He rose and watched Thomas and James roll about, trying to pin each other. Their errant wrestling crashed against a wall; the whole house threatened to collapse.
“Hello, boys,” a regal voice cooed.
Distracted mid-warning, Daniel turned. There stood Candy Barnes, in all her glory. He recognized her pink outfit from yesterday’s tea party; one they had been stopped from invading by a watchful mother.
“Go away, Candy,” he answered. Turning, he yelled, “Knock it off. It’s breaking!” A howl sounded from inside. A triumphant Thomas soon sauntered out. James followed, pretending a limp. They both stopped, staring.
James recovered first. “Whadda you want, Candy cane?”
She pouted. Flipping her feather boa over a puffy shoulder, she answered, “I merely came to survey my kingdom.”
All three boys began arguing. “Your kingdom?” “It’s our land.” “No one wants girls.” She ignored them, adjusted her crown, and raised her chin.
Inspiration struck Daniel. “Hey Thomas,” he said, “How are you at moving targets?”
Thomas retrieved his shovel and a leftover mud ball. Turning to Candy, he replied, “Let’s find out.”
A few seconds later, the commoners had the undeniable pleasure of watching a shrieking monarch hurriedly exiting their forest.