Got a writing compliment at work today.. wasn’t for this story, but I like this story — date in my notebook is Feb 2016, and I still throw stories into it as I get creative.
The house had been boarded up a decade ago, maybe two. Most of the neighbouring houses were owned by young fixer upper couples who never knew the original owners of any homes on their streets so knew no history of it.
Kids had stories that it was haunted. Kids always do.
Tim and Kenny thought it would be cool to spend a night in the haunted house but, being twelve and seven, it was an adventure they’d never get to have, thanks to their parents.
“I’m sick of playing Trouble,” grumbled Tim as his younger brother won his third game. “I’d rather cause some.”
“Yeah,” Kenny laughed. “Like that’s gonna happen. Dad would kick your behind.” Kenny reset the coloured game pieces in the matching home spaces and boxed up the board to put away.
Tim rolled over onto his back and stared at the ceiling. He found his mind drifting to the school assignment he was supposed to finish on Christmas break but hadn’t started yet. The assignment had to do with the history of First Nations and he didn’t have a clue what to write about. He said as much to Kenny.
“What kind of games did those kids play with their little brothers?” Kenny asked.
“I don’t know.”
“If you found out, you could write about it.”
Sometimes Kenny seemed smarter than Tim and in those moments Tim just scowled at Kenny like he was a doofus.
As Kenny tried to balance the Trouble board on his head and walk around the living room, Tim left him to it and wandered into the kitchen. Mom and Dad had gone to some kind of soupy-goupy romance movie that afternoon and were taking themselves out for supper, leaving Tim in charge of feeding Kenny and himself. Being winter, the days were short and the sun was already down before he finished cooking the hotdogs.
Kenny chatted his way through supper but Tim barely paid attention. Their dining room window opened out on the curved road and down the hill a ways, where the one dark house still seemed to stand out beside all the cheery, festive lit ones. But tonight it looked like the house was a bit lit, too. Like with a flashlight, maybe.
Tim tapped Kenny’s shoulder and pointed out the window. “Get your coat,” said Tim. “There may be trouble.”
Kenny’s footprints trailed Tim’s in the new snow and he wished he could keep up easier. They hadn’t bundled up the way Mom always insisted before going out and he hadn’t remembered mitts or a toque. Tim was in too big a hurry to remind him, too.
“What if Mom and Dad come home and we’re not there?” Kenny’s breath puffed out in small clouds as he asked.
“You don’t know!”
“I’ll tell them we saw a stray cat in Mrs. Alberton’s flowerbed and chased it away. Now hurry up!”
The windows of the old house were too high for Kenny to look into and they were boarded up anyway. It was hard to see how anyone would have seen a light in there, but Tim shushed him when he brought that up.
“This isn’t a fairy story, Kenny. I didn’t make it up. I saw a light in there.”
Tim scurried around to the side of the house where an old tree had tipped its roots. It was leaning toward the house and tall enough that branches were scraping the shingles and siding each time the wind picked up. Kenny followed. He could see Tim’s thinking, but no branches were low enough to grab and swing up on like they would on monkey bars at school.
Tim took off behind the house but Kenny didn’t follow any further, choosing instead to perch on the rickety stairs out front and wait. He tried to curl up into his battered hand-me-down coat like a frozen turtle. He was shivering and his teeth were chattering something awful.
Tim came around to the front again moments later, looking dejected. “Let’s go home,” he said.
Kenny was too cold to cheer. They hurried back up the street and as Tim opened the door they could hear the phone ringing. Tim launched himself across the doorway and scampered to answer it before the ringing stopped. Kenny could hear Mom’s voice clear through the handset, chewing Tim out for not being close to the phone.
Kenny took off his boots, hung up his coat and gladly sat down on the kitchen floor register which had just started blowing warm air.
“I don’t think she bought the cat story,” said Tim a few minutes later. They both stared at the muddy tracks Tim had made over the living room rug on his way to the land line.
“I don’t think she’ll be glad you ran to get the phone, either,” stated Kenny.
Tim scowled at Kenny like he was a doofus.