Tag Archives: narrated

Streetlights

Here’s a short Halloween tale, something to stir the imagination. Click the arrow below and I’ll read it to you.

A howl in the night began low and guttural. It intensified like one of those hand-crank air-raid sirens out of an old war movie—wavering and climbing. Others joined in with yips and howls and you could hear a hierarchy there. It was infinitely creepier than the film I was watching—Creature from the Black Lagoon.

It sounded close, but not dangerously so. I stepped out my front door warily and stood on my Halloween doormat to study the yard and then the rest of the neighborhood. The coyotes had moved on and the neighborhood was quiet. My lamppost was the only one lit down the whole street, everyone else had had enough.

I stepped down into my yard and walked out to the street. A thin fog had settled like a shroud, clearly visible in the cone from the streetlight.

It was eerily quiet and so dark I got a sense of being the last man standing. I saw something far down the street walking into the circle cast by the streetlight; a person in silhouette. As quick as I noticed the movement, the person passed beyond the circle of light and melted into the murk of night.

There was purpose in that walk and I waited patiently for another look. I don’t know why I was so interested in the figure and I thought about going back in to catch the rest of the movie instead. Then the silhouette appeared in the cone of the next street light.

The figure was short, the legs seemed unnaturally thick, and there was a tall, wide brimmed hat. It was a boy, I thought; and he was carrying something.

I stepped back onto my lawn when he arrived at the streetlight in front of my house to give him unhindered use of the sidewalk. Instead of passing by though, he stopped in front of me. He was indeed a boy, maybe eight years old. The cowboy outfit he had on wasn’t exactly new and included boots, chaps, and two gun belts that were crossed and worn low on each hip like gunslingers in the movies. He had an old pillowcase gathered in one hand, weighted with candy. With the other he tipped his hat back.

He said, “Evenin’ friend.” His lower lip scraped his upper teeth with the exaggerated first letter of friend.

“Good evening. What can I do for you?” I asked.

He drew a six shooter from its holster and pointed it at me. A curlicue of spent cap paper stuck out from the hammer which he pulled back with his thumb. “Give me your loot,” He said. I noticed dried chocolate at the corners of his mouth when he smiled. It was a devilish smile full of menace.

I raised my hands a little and I don’t know why, but I stammered as though truly threatened and he said, “Don’t make me use this on you.” The hard iron of the six shooter loomed ominously in his hand, even with the spent cap paper jutting out. It could do some real damage, I thought.

I tipped my head back toward the house and said, “The last of my loot’s just inside the door.”

“Alright, but don’t try nuthin’” He motioned to get a move on with his gun and followed behind.

I stepped up to my door, opened it and reached in for the bowl of candy. When I turned he was holding his pillowcase out and open, the six-shooter was pointing off into the shadows—finger out of the trigger guard.

“This is all I got.” I scooped up the box of Dots and three Snickers bars and dropped them into the pillowcase. “Happy Halloween.”

He peered down into the sack and said, “Gee, thanks mister,” and reached in. Tearing open a Snickers and stuffing it into his mouth; he gathered up the sack once more, holstered his piece, and tugged his hat back down. With a mouth too full for words, he nodded once and chocolate glistened again at the corners of his mouth. Strange as it sounds, he seemed more vibrant as if fueled by the chocolate. Then he turned and walked back out to the street, continuing on his way. With distance and through the next streetlight he became a silhouette again.

Beyond that cone of light he blended in with the night. But not before I caught another look. His hat sat on a skull, bleached with time. And that skull was perched on a stack of vertebrae disappearing down the collar of his shirt. He glanced back once, and his jaw opened slightly as if in a rictus smile. A veil of fog and the impenetrable gloom of night swallowed him and I was alone once more.

It occurred to me then, when I had time to think about it, I had seen that boy before. It was last year and he was wearing the same outfit. Why I didn’t remember earlier, I couldn’t say. But there was a magic in the moment of his arrival. And giving him treats left me with a sense that I had averted some trickery as yet undefined.

I wondered about that curlicue of cap paper, evidence he had indeed used the gun. To what end? Or whose?

A chill ran down my spine and I turned off the post light.

~***~

So that’s the story, and I’m sticking to it. Give me a shout out on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, et cetera. And let me know whether you liked it or not, because comments are like chocolate to the spirit in this tale—they fuel me.

Oh, and Happy Halloween!

Eulogy for Sunny

This is a rare bit of non-fiction from me. It’s about Sunny, who has been with use since we lived in East Bridgewater. The pictures below can be viewed larger by clicking on them; they’ll open in a new window so you won’t lose the audio feed.

Let me read this to you by simply clicking the arrow below.

***

Shopping for another dog back in 1997, we came upon a Shih Tzu we named Sunny because that was the effect he had on our family.

Our other dog, Dutch, already the most facially expressive dog we had ever owned, raised one eyebrow—then the other, performed a lot of head tilting, and smiled with that long collie beak of his. All the rest of our dogs over the years showed some measure of jealousy at the arrival of the newest, but Dutch was just happy to have another buddy. His name morphed from Dutch to Dutchie-kins to simply Kins.

Sunny and Dutch played together quite a bit, and in the beginning we had to remind Dutch he was much bigger. Sometimes Sunny would stand under Dutch and taunt him by tugging on his chest fur. While Sunny was doing that and matching his moves to escape, Dutch was careful not to step on the little guy. That collie would look all around himself, trying to find a way to stop the young Shih Tzu we took to calling Punk Boy.

Once, Dutch simply laid down in exasperation while Sunny was under him tugging on his chest fur. A smile grew on Dutch—like a face being unzipped—with the realization of his unplanned success.

Our house always had toys laying around for the dogs to play with and Dutch had a hard time discerning the difference between his toys and the Barbies my daughter played with. He decapitated quite a few of those. Every dog has a favorite. Sandy—our first—had a particularly pliable parrot, green with a squeaker in it. Dutch, of course had Barbies.

Sunny loved to chase balls around.

His favorite type of ball came from those displays you see in stores; a hundred or so balls, a foot in diameter, held in a plastic framework of heavy rubber bands so you could just reach in and grab the one you wanted. Sunny loved those big rubber balls.

He’d heave his chest at it or try to bite it and the ball would start moving. He’d give chase like a soccer star all around the house. Dutch would play spectator as Sunny moved that ball around, barking as if heckling it, or goading it on. Dutch would just smile and sigh.

If you tried to take the ball from Sunny, he’d zig to your zag or he’d stop and gather the ball up with his front paws trying to hide it under him, which didn’t work as it was twice his size. The exercise would get him panting, tongue extending from his mouth impossibly long and curled upward.

We moved to Plymouth when Dutch was an old guy and the place didn’t have a stockade fence like the house in East Bridgewater. I’d like to think it was Dutch reminiscing about the adventures he had after escaping the confines of that fence that got Sunny going on his own escape attempts. We’d let Sunny out and stay with him till he had done his thing. He’d walk away from you, peering back furtively every once in a while. He’d wait until you were distracted and looking away and he’d bolt from the yard. He never got far; his little Shih Tzu legs didn’t stand a chance against his owner’s. Or our neighbors would give us the heads-up if it came to that.

One day though, just as the sky was darkening, he took off. Tail down and in a trot, thunder began to rumble in the sky above. Sunny was frightened of loud noises. Motorcycles, loud cars, fireworks, and thunder claps all scared the crap out of Sunny. Literally. I’ve seen him run off down the hall of our house after a really good thunder clap and he’d leave little tootsie rolls in his wake.

That day he got away, there was a lot of thunder and lightning. He was gone for hours and a frantic search during the storm came up empty. I can only imagine the journey that took place during that deluge. Between trying to not be caught and running from the thunder, he must have gotten enough adventure to last a lifetime. When we got him back, he was soaked to the skin, dirty as though he had hidden under every car and in every garden between us and the two young girls who brought him to our front door. They recognized him.

He was quivering uncontrollably. And he had been changed by the ordeal.

We had an invisible fence system installed so he never got out again. For years, we played loud music whenever a storm approached so he wouldn’t have the crap scared out of him.

We loved Sunny so much that when we got another dog to take the place of Dutch, we chose another Shih Tzu and named him Teddy Bear—or Ted for short. He’s my reading buddy. Later, we came across another and named him (Six-gun) Sam because he has a bunch more toes than is the norm. He’s the new soccer star.

None of the dogs we’ve had over the years has equaled Sunny for his soccer abilities, or for his stealth at escape. Sunny is fourteen now. He is blind and suffers from dementia. And now, a tumor presses against his cranial wadding, spazzing out the little guy.

The young, playful, escape artist is still in there. You can see him come out when dreams are full and the legs start moving. He runs still, if only in a world he conjures.

My greatest hope is that he goes to look for Dutch when his time comes—and that time is near. Those two, Punk and Kins—an escape artist and his mentor, have a lot of catching up to do.

***