I was following the small pack of girls scampering into the night when whumf, the solid ground upon which my tiny feet had been galloping moments earlier suddenly vanished.
I had fallen into a small gap between the back door and the deck's edge.
I wasn't hurt. For a fleeting moment, I thought I could wrench myself free before anyone noticed.
But my leg wouldn't budge. Besides, I was already too late. Eight-year-olds have extraordinarily keen senses. Their ears prick up at the first sign of misfortune.
Mrs. Tiffany's Mom rushed outside and examined my leg. I can only imagine what she must have been thinking at that moment.
I sat helplessly as the girls crowded around me, fascinated. At that moment, a strange calm washed over me. My sobs subsided. What was happening to me was so bizarre, so entirely unexpected and unprecedented, it had exceeded my mental and emotional capacities entirely.
At first, the girls pelted me with eager questions.
Then they became overly solicitous, as though they were competing to determine who could be most attentive to my needs.
Then, sensing that no one was in immediate mortal peril, they got bored.
The sleepover resumed inside, at first in a subdued, deferential tone, until the girls simply could not contain their natural eight-year-old mirth any longer. After a while, the indifferent voices of the Spice Girls blared from the living room, mingled with tiny stomps and gleeful shrieks, while Mrs. Tiffany's Mom and I sat in the dim glow of the porch light, waiting for her boyfriend to bring his truck.
Eventually, the boyfriend arrived and, after an agonizing period of fiddling and calculating, fastened his rear fender to one of the deck posts with a rope. The girls gathered quietly in the doorway as his engine roared and his tires squealed in the mud.
To my astonishment, the deck really did lurch incrementally forward, just enough to free my leg.
I was led like a war hero into the master bedroom. Parents' bedrooms are the forbidden paradise of sleepovers, and I felt like a pauper in a palace as I washed the small cut on my leg in the garden tub. Tiffany's mom insisted I lie down for a while in her water bed. The girls lined up to pay their bedside respects before being ushered to their sleeping bags on Tiffany's bedroom floor. And the sleepover was done. As I sloshed gently under the blankets, I contemplated the enormity of the night's events.