"Come on Shakey! Climb faster!" The boys scrambled up ahead of me flicking dirty rocks and moss up from their heels. It wasn't like I was in any danger, but it always felt like it when I got looped in with the Largen's identical triplets. There was hardly any decipherable difference between the three of them save that each one had freckles on their faces and if you studied them hard enough you could tell that the dots clustered around a different part of each of their noses. Jack had freckles around the bridge of his nose, whereas Jesse had them more on the tip of his nose and Johann had what I'd consider an even smattering. Anyways, we were moving as fast as our tiny legs could carry us to the middle of the dark and ominous forest glades. Sometimes if you were quiet you could see all sorts of wild things busily making their homes or scurrying along in the dense sword ferns. My favourites were the fox family who lived close to our secret tree fort. "The Fort" as we called it. Looking back I'd say we probably just picked the first thing that came to our minds.
"AH!" I shouted as I tripped headlong over an extended root. My palms hit the soft forest floor as I tried to barrel roll over a cluster of rocks. Now, I don't want to write a tome about how many times I have tripped over that very root, but let's just say it's been a lot.
(We have run that exact route to that exact place probably every day of our lives up until we turned 16 and it changed to every other day, which probably totals to be more than 4,000 times that I have tripped in that exact spot. It's not that it didn't cross my mind to take a different way every time it's that we had forbidden each other to come any other way than that exact way. Nor would I say I forgot about trying to anticipate when that root was going to come so that I could lift my feet a little higher than I normally would, it just became tradition and members of The Fort were VERY traditional. Obsessive some might even say, but it suited us just fine. Well I should say it suited the triplets just fine.)
In The Fort we had a rather large sign, written in red pencil crayon and all capital letters depicting all matters from how to woo a girl all the way to wry description of my once very descriptive ode to my cat, Shakey. Hence why I have been mocked since they day that song was discovered. Apparently real men don't write poetry to their cats, which I now realize to be an utter falsehood. Needless to say the girls came in droves after that was posted all over the school halls. They came to throw things at me and post cat pictures on my locker that is. I didn't mind the latter so much.
"Shakey! To the Hub you beggarly toilet-minder!" yelled jesse through scrunched up angry eyebrows while he vigorously pointed towards the open and worn area that looked much like a crow's nest from a pirate ship. My knees were a little bit wet from my fall in the woods and my green corduroy shorts stuck to my legs in odd places. We all assembled in a tight circle, pulling tuna sandwiches from our back pockets. Jack had pulled out our crudely drawn map that we'd pasted onto a flat piece of scrap wood that had been salvaged from the dump-yard we so often visited in search of treasure.
"Now, the trees at the south end protect us from being spied by the Crows from most angles, but we're all open at the back where them Yellow Snakes (our sworn enemies) could waltz right in and robs us whenever they feels like it!" Johann yelled, even though we were all sitting quite close. His speech launched us into an afternoon of fort protection planning that passed by in the blink of an eye as we sat in the hot sun drawing out plans and collecting pieces for our inelaborate conjunctions, first and foremost a moss and rock gilded tole depicting the very rested assurance that this was property of The Fort and if Gus or any of his men decided to even set foot in our area they would be attacked by droves of wild pigeons and dragged into the ocean by the soles of their feet.
Those were they days when the gang was together.