Just so you know this is not the story of how Spongebob lost his pet snail, Gary.
This is a story of how we lost Uncle Gary while playing a game of Hide-and-Seek.
I was just a kid of around twelve, and my brothers, cousins, parent, and other relatives, were playing a grand game of Hide-and-Seek. Now since we lived in the woods—we lived in a little junction between towns—there were plenty of places to hide. We always made sure that everyone knew the radius of the circle in which we were to hide, so that no one went farther and got lost.
It was a warm summer evening and after dinner someone mentioned the game and everyone decided to join in. The Seeker started the countdown and everyone else found a hiding spot to hide. We were all pretty good at choosing hiding spots and there were plenty of great places to hide: in between wood piles, the outhouse, in the nooks and crannies of the sheds, old car wrecks—there were half a dozen of those—not to mention in alders and tree tops. We kids were all master tree climbers, even the adults found tree climbing fun. I don’t remember who the Seeker was but the way we played, when the Seeker found someone then that someone would join the Seeker and so on until everyone was found.
Now it happened that darkness came on and people started going inside, even though the game was not yet finished since not everyone was found. The Seeker yelled for the hiders to give a hint as to where they were, but nobody did, so it was just assumed that everyone was found and had gone in. The Seeker gave up and everyone had gone to their respective homes.
The next day, we kids were talking about getting everyone together to play another game. My mother’s boyfriend came over to where we were and asked if we had seen Gary, my mother’s brother. He was supposed to help our step-father repair the fence. We all thought about it and answered no. We went on with our day, doing what kids do, and thought nothing of it. Gary was the kind of guy who just disappeared sometimes.
Later that evening I heard my mother, her boyfriend, another uncle and his wife talking about Gary. They were speculating as to what could have become of him and where he could have gone. Nobody had seen him since the game of Hide-and-Seek. Needless to say, the adults didn’t join in our game that evening.
The next day, relatives came to our house asking about Uncle Gary. Soon, the house was filled with everyone asking, “Where’s Gary?”
I was outside with my brothers and cousins and now we were asking the same question. We speculated as to what could have happened to him. And we didn’t have any real answers, we were just kids after all, but we had better imaginations that the adults, so we decided to have a game of Find Gary.
Our radius was much bigger than the one in which we played Hide-and-Seek two nights before. We knew our surroundings; we knew where all the paths in the woods led, we knew the rabbit holes and the beaver ponds, we knew the logging zones, we knew the terrain, and so off we went in search of Uncle Gary.
We searched high and low and in every corner of the region until evening forced us to head back home. When we got back home the adults were outside smoking and chatting. It wasn’t quite dark yet so everyone started looking in the immediate area again. It was almost dark when I started yelling for everyone. I had found Uncle Gary.
I had been nearing one of the old car wrecks when I heard a low groaning. As I got closer to the upside down car I could hear the sound coming from the trunk. I shimmied my way into the broken windshield and crawled to the back where I heard the sound. The back seat was completely gone—it was at the side of the house—and there was a criss-cross of steel. I couldn’t see clearly so I stuck my hand in and felt around. When I pulled my hand out it was full of blood. I crawled back out and started yelling.
Everyone came running. My mother’s boyfriend and other uncle got a crowbar and managed to open the trunk. There was Gary in the fetal position with blood oozing out of his head. He had found a great hiding spot, but unfortunately he had hit his head on a huge piece of steel and fell unconscious. The blood loss had made him weak and he was barely able to make a sound. The men pulled him out of the trunk and got him to the hospital.
After a few days in the hospital Uncle Gary was back and good as new and playing Hide-and-Seek once again. However, from that time on, there was always a head count before and after each game.