This is one of many of my favorite parts of the book.
If you have been around kids as much as I have, you will appreciate this.
-Excerpt from Trail Swap by Michele M. Reynolds
This scene takes place after Swap and Levalot take refuge from the rain by sleeping on a playscape.
“She’s not DEAD,” a whispered, little voice projected over Swap. “If she were dead her eyes would be open. “That is how my grandfather looked when we found him in the living room.”
“No, she would be in a black bag or have a sheet over her face like this,” a loud girl screeched. Swap woke to three little kids hovering over her and to a fourth one rummaging through her pack.
“Good morning, sleepy head,” a little red headed girl hugged Swap tightly. The morning air smelt wet.
“We thought you were DEAD!” the boy exclaimed.
“No, I didn’t,” the screechy voice with blonde braids made clear.
“Oh, um,” Swap was very aware that she was pantless. “Good morning.” She smiled. She was usually good with children, but in this situation it was a bit awkward.
“Excuse me,” a boy stepped over her and started to steer the playscape helm. Swap hoped he was voyaging for the trail and could drop her off.
“Are you a bum?” the boy who thought she was dead asked.
“No, not a bum that is not nice,” the red haired girl scolded. “She is HOOOME less.”
“Are you?” screechy blonde asked.
“Well,” Swap grabbed her soaked shorts off the floor and pulled them into her sleeping bag. “Actually I am homeless at the moment.”
“She’s homeless,” the fourth boy at Swap’s bag yelled down to the playground floor. Swap became aware of the giggles, running, vast squeaks of swings and realized that her visitors were not limited to these few kids. It only made sense knowing that she was on school property. Swap slipped her legs into the shorts and pulled them up. She buttoned them and started stuffing her sleeping bag into its sack.
“Honey,” Swap motioned to the fourth scavenger. “Can you please put that stuff back in my pack.” She needed to recruit some help for a smooth escape. He nodded and complied. She rang her socks and then slipped her aching still pruned feet into them and then into her boots.
“You leaving?” the red head asked. “If you stick around you can have my snack.”
“Yeah, there is a homeless person sleeping up there,” a group of children could be heard whining. It was in a tone that Swap knew well. They must be tattle-tailing to an adult. Swap peeked over the edge and saw two adult women with dropped jaws staring back.
“Oh great,” Swap said as she sat back down and tied her boots tightly. She wondered if Levalot was having a similar experience down on the next landing. She wondered how the kids had gotten passed his enormous body and made it up here.
A little boy ran up the stairs, “They’re calling the police,” With that, Swap’s sleeping bag went into her pack. Within a minute a siren was heard in the distance. She saw the woods close by to disappear into. She exited the cathedral and sat down at the top of a brown, spiral slide with her pack on her lap. As she sat there her four-alarm-clock children gave her a shove.
“Bye,” they yelled. As her feet hit the ground she saw that the teachers had quietly taken to rounding up the children. They looked like mother hens trying to protect them from Swap the hawk. She ran toward the road and her little leeches followed.
“Janie, Zack, Ben, Sandy, Maria,” a frantic voice called and was followed by a stern, “Stay here!” They stopped at the road.
“Leave her alone she is just a nice bum,” a boy yelled back to the frantic voice.
“Hope you find a home!” the red-headed girl called.
The sirens and “hope you find a home” rang in her ears as she tripped over dead, fallen branches, and exposed rocks. The woods grew thick and served as her coverage as she forged in a diagonally straight line into trees, rocks, and nothingness. She jogged with her lopsided pack and came to a small clearing. There she stopped and peered back to the woods she had just exited. No blue bobbing uniforms and no sound of sirens. She looked down the clearing and saw it was a path. She naturally walked north using the newly risen sun on her right as a guide. She came to tree bearing the tattoo of a white rectangle. She was home, on the trail. With each step she shook off the paranoia of policemen jumping out of the forest, restraining her to the ground and cuffing her. She could hear the court case, “Young lady did you sleep half-naked in a playground in the presence of children?” She would plead guilty and spend the winter in jail. It was a gamble each town she visited to see how they treated hikers. Most were welcoming as long as you did not stay for long. She was trespassing on school property and she was sure that would not go unnoticed.