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I use my fingernail to cut out a heart shape from the ancient rhododendrons surrounding the house. Later, I point it out to the children. By now it’s brown around the edges (they won’t suspect me). “Look, a message from the Leafmen,” I tell them. They gather around excitedly to discuss it before returning to their search for moths and sow bugs among the mint leaves.

I’d barely made it in the door that morning before I’d heard they’d found a passel of “thwaps” in their yard the day before. We’d been reading Peterson’s “At the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness,” and they’d gotten a kick out of the garden-robbing creatures. “Well,” the eldest informs me, “they’re actually dandelion heads, but we call them ‘thwaps.'” I nod knowingly.

The following day when I’d reached their door and knocked, a sporadic knocking on their other side had greeted me (the door remained shut). I smiled and played the game of back-and-forth knocking until the door had finally opened to admit me to their kingdom. I then got to hear about the new game they had invented (they invent at least five a day, I swear), and all its levels. It’s a bit like Calvinball, usually. You can never use the same rule twice.

Just another day of summer.

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