Dennis looked up at the sky and realized he had been hiding for longer than he had intended, for longer than the party game required, and for longer than the party had intended to go on. The sun was behind the large red office building, like a fine bug squashed out by a bad thumb for various crimes and irritants, the thumb of a toddler much like Dennis, red all over and filled with a shame that could only be expressed in violent pressure on objects small enough to be completely disappeared, completely flattened. When he had time, Dennis enjoyed squishing grapes and plums and packing bubbles and soap bubbles and the bubbles that formed in the pancake batter when his parents were not watching the pan and stopping him from placing his pudgy hand onto that layer of yeast hardening into a layer of pancake ready for consumption. Dennis did not want to eat the pancakes, when they were already flattened, he did not want to break them apart inside of his mouth, he wanted to help them become what they wanted to become. Dennis’s parents did not understand this difference even though he explained it very clearly.
Dennis heard voices calling his name, but he had become distracted by a small animal standing just around the corner of the container that had been his home for these last several hours. It had big ears that scooped round as though it were trying to listen to something right in front of its eyes, some secret whisper. Its fur was brown and gold but going grey. Its eyes weren’t looking at Dennis, but he knew it knew he was there, that it had seen him before he had seen it. Dennis found it rude that that animal wasn’t as interested in Dennis as Dennis was interested in the animal, and so he turned and paid attention to the voices shouting in the distance.
“Dennis, where are you. We want to go home Dennis. The party’s over and we’re bored now. I give up you win the game. Please come back Dennis. They won’t let us leave until we find you.”
It was Jordan calling, Jordan who had been seeking all the hiding children, but Dennis knew that Jordan wouldn’t have given up on their own account. Not on their birthday. Not at their own birthday party. That would be a shameful start to any year, particularly such a numerologically important year as the 7th year alive. Dennis knew that Jordan’s parents were the ones at fault. Dennis didn’t understand why grown-ups were so willing to break the rules of the games they themselves placed onto Dennis and the people Dennis’s parents called Dennis’s friends. If they wanted people to play games, if they wanted everyone to focus on each other and start in on a boring group activity with stakes and winners and losers, then why would they stop everyone from playing the second someone came out ahead?
Dennis did not want to go to the party, he had made that very clear to everyone involved. But now he was here, and he would end his involvement on his own terms.