My mom found a big rock, put her towel down then lay on her stomach so the sun could warm her back and legs. She was a big woman and she had lots of flesh that needed to get warm.

I sat next to her, with my feet in the murky creek water. Eventually I got bored. I stood next to her, kicking and punching the air. She laughed.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Leave me alone, I’m practicing.”

“Practicing what?”

“I’m a master Ninja,” I told her. “I have to practice daily, or I will be demoted.”

“How did you have time to become a master ninja, you are only eight years old?”

I sat back down. I explained to her that I had been practicing being a Ninja since I was a fetus. I had made little fleshy weapons out of her insides and practiced in the womb. Sometimes, when she was sleeping, I would sneak out of her mouth and go on missions.

“That’s fascinating,” she said. “Show me one of you moves.”

I did a jump kick and landed in the creek. I made a big splash. When I came up she was laughing and clapping.

“That was so good. You jumped so high.”

“It takes practice,” I told her.

“I’m sure. Now go on a mission.”

“What mission?”

“Go swim down the creek to where you aunt Eleanor lives. Tell her I want to have steak, potato and corn on the cob for dinner.”

I bowed to her, Ninja style, and then headed down the creek.

It started to get shallow. The rocks were slippery and sharp. I fell and cut my let. It wasn’t deep. But it hurt. I lay there. I called out to my mom. She couldn’t hear me.

I felt stupid. Who was I kidding? No ninja would fall on a slippery rock like that. Why had I lied to my mother? I was no master Ninja. I had never practiced in her womb. What a ridiculous idea. I had watched AMERICAN NINJA 1, 2, and 3, over and over again. That was all. And that made me a beginner Ninja, at best. What must it have been like for her to hear her son come up with such a creepy story? I felt ashamed. She must have known I was lying. Still, I had to keep going. I couldn’t ask for help.

I got up and walked over the rocks. Soon I was at another swimming hole. The cold water felt good on my scrapes and bruises.

It was a long trip. But I got to my aunts before sundown. I told her what my mom wanted for dinner. She rolled her eyes and laughed. She had a great laugh. Both her and my mother had great laughs.

“That’s what I was going to make anyway,” Eleanor said. “She knew that. We had already talked about it this morning.”

I laughed. I tried to laugh as hard as Eleanor. My mission had been pointless, but I didn’t care. I felt all bruised and tough.

“You have anything you want to tell my mom?” I asked.

I was ready for another mission.