Short Stories

   We lived in a small village, just about eighty homes up in the mountains. My childhood was like a combination of a Norman Rockwell painting and a Maxim Grunin landscape. There were some characters that lived up there with us; some of them seemed like they belonged on a sitcom: a lonely old a lady; a neighborhood menace; and a biker with two large dogs, a moustache, a bandana and a nickname. Others seemed like characters in a movie that opens up in muted colours with the sound of a squeaking screen door in the background. There were two scientologists who had a truck in their back yard, packed to the fullest with survival materials, ready to go in the event of the end of the world; a woman who spoke to dogs; and an old lady who was married to a curmudgeonly old man. The old lady was nice enough; she had hair the colour of sand at night and wore glasses that looked like she worked in IT in the 70’s. The old man was the neighborhood spook to kids. He wore plaid shirts, griped under his breath and threatened to kill my dad when our tree’s roots trespassed an inch or two onto his property. All the kids believed- and I did too at one point-that he beat his wife, especially during Christmas.


   I moved away from the village as soon as I turned nineteen but I had lived there my whole life. Me and a group of neighborhood kids used to make cookies with our moms and hand them out in packages at Christmas time. None of us ever wanted to give the old couple any cookies because we were scared to go up to their house. It always took a lot of coaxing from our moms and a group of at least four of us to get the job done; but one Christmas we all agreed we had heard arguing coming from their house so no amount of persuasion from our moms could convince us to walk within ten feet of there. But I felt bad. The old lady was nice enough. She didn’t deserve to not get any cookies just because of her husband. I decided to go (alone of course; none of the other kids would go with me).


   My light pink boots complimented the snow, I thought as I walked towards their house, trying to distract myself from the perilous mission I had decided to commence. I flinched as a snowflake parachuted onto my eyelash. I walked up the steps and knocked on the door. I stood in front of the house for a few minutes. I had planned to wait just a few seconds, pretend I had waited for an eternity and say they didn’t answer but my good nature won out-or I was paralyzed out of fear- and I stayed. I finally heard something.


       “Come in,” I heard the old man say. It sounded like he had something stuck in his throat.  I opened the door before I knew what I was doing. I pushed it open all the way while looking at my boots. I saw a shadow, floating on the scuffed hardwood floor.  I felt the cold of outside rush into my stomach, a flurry of snowflakes in a frenzy like a snow globe in my head and gut. A strand of fairy lights hung from the beams of his ceiling and the end of it was looped around his neck. His face was red like the changing lights around his throat. My knees twitched like his feet as my stomach felt like it turned to liquid and shot to my head. He was staring at me, grimacing; but I swore that underneath his the contorted face he was grinning.


   My head felt like it was scorching, my temples swelling with stress. I heard a door close from the back of the house. The old man turned his eyes backwards towards the sound for just a second. They were bright red and I was scared they would squeeze their way out of his head and shoot out at me like missiles. The door slammed shut after bouncing against the frame a few times and it looked like even though the old man was dying, he relaxed.


   His body went flaccid and so did my knees. The Christmas lights twinkled in rhythm, his spasming body no longer matching their pattern. I looked behind me to see if the other kids were waiting, I didn’t want to look back into the house, half expecting him to be just a nose width away from me, bearing his teeth in mirth. I looked back anyway. He was still swaying up above me. I couldn’t stand so I just scooted out the door and down the steps. I sat in their front yard, staring at the still open door. I could see the Christmas lights throwing festive colours onto the wall, throbbing like his heart had done, just minutes before.



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