My imaginary friends and I invented a game we called Gout. We got sick of Mother’s chronic pleading, “Go out.” It served two purposes for her. One was relief from incessant questioning. The other was the dutiful forcing of fresh air and sunshine on young’uns like me.
Being fed up with the hassle, we decided we might as well make the most of it and invent some game. Since ‘Go out’ was reverberating in the ears, Gout it was. Feather and River (my imaginary friends) were always keen to join me, but if we needed a fourth, we had to stop by the diamond and pick up Misser, (another of the invisible gang) for he rarely strayed away from his place behind home plate. Such a loyal playmate, always there, like Skipper the dog when you got home from town.
“You wanna come play a new game with us, Misser?” asked River.
“Sure,’ said Misser. “Jai hasn’t been around for awhile, and I’m getting bored. Maybe the season is over and he forgot to tell me.”
I almost cried when I heard him say that. “I’m so sorry, Misser. If you want to, you can go south again until next year. I’m sure there’s some kid in Puerto Rico that needs a catcher. Maybe he’ll take you to a game and see Clemente play in the winter league.”
“You sure?” he asked, loyal to the bone. “Maybe I’ll catch a cloud tonight then. But this afternoon I’ll come play Gout.”
The four of us headed for the bush with the cousin initials carved on trees. Gout was simple, other than their one obvious advantage – imaginary guys were hard to spot. We’d gather near a pair of trees. Whoever was It would yell, “Gout!” and then we’d scramble to hide in the bushes. Some dubious doubters might say it was a loner’s version of hide and seek, but River would argue that until Misser caught his cloud.