Happy Holidays from Crazy Uncle Matt, wishing you and yours a bountiful year ahead, with a free story for Christmas:
Kids Say The Weirdest Things
Our neighbors are nice, but a little weird. That’s okay. So are we. A few months ago, my husband and I moved into the middle of a three-unit townhouse in a little country village. Spring turned into summer fast, and I’m getting back into shape turning part of the back yard into a little vegetable garden.
The neighbors to our left are quiet and mostly keep to themselves. It’s the ones to the right that I wonder about. There’s a single mom with a teenage daughter and a cute little boy who’s maybe six or seven. The boy has a friend who often comes over and plays, a bouncy little girl his age from down the road. Some nights the lady has some friends over. They play strange music. I’ve only seen her friends a couple times, showing up and leaving while I’m out on the back porch with insomnia and a cigarette. The lady and her kids don’t look or act wealthy, but their friends must be, judging by those fine tailored black suits they always wear. Sometimes they sing along to the music. It’s muffled through the walls, not too bothersome, but I do notice. It sounds like some foreign language I can’t place. So it’s funny that they occasionally complain about the noise my husband makes when he’s up late drinking and writing.
The other day, I was out in the garden. It had been a dry couple of weeks, and I sighed in irritation at the wilting edges of the kale and squash I was trying to grow. I thought about using the hose, even though the lady next door would complain about how that drains the well. An SUV pulled into the driveway. I looked up and saw our neighbor get out. She crossed the back yard, to her back porch. Her little boy followed. I remembered them leaving earlier. They’d both been dressed up nice when they left, like they were going to some fancy occasion. I’m pretty sure the boy’s little friend from down the road was with them when they left. She wasn’t with them now. The mom was still dressed up fancy, but her son now wore plain shorts and a sports T-shirt. He ambled sullenly behind her, like he’d been bad and gotten scolded or spanked. They climbed the steps and went inside. A few minutes later, the mom came back out. She’d changed into shorts, flip-flops, and a tank-top. She started seeing to her flower boxes on her back porch. Before long, the little boy came out and joined her. He looked happier now, scampering and hopping and laughing around, enjoying life like little kids ought to in the summer out in the country, on a day like today. I glanced up with bored interest semi-regularly, from beneath the shadow of my floppy straw sunhat.
Up on the porch, the boy squealed at his mom, “Can I go out and see her?”
I glanced at my struggling crop. The leaves didn’t look half so wilted as they had earlier. Maybe it was the light, but they looked like they’d gone a few shades darker green.
I didn’t realize the kid was talking about me ‘til I heard his Mom say, “No, no, she’s busy.”
“Please? I wanna go see her! I like her!”
My husband was at work, I’d been at my gardening for a while, and I thought overhearing that was so adorable, so I went What the hell? “It’s okay,” I called out, tilting my chin up and putting on my best smile. “He can come say hi!”
His mom said something like, “Okay, you can go say hi, but don’t bother her too much.”
With a big grin on his face, he bounded down and raced out across the back yard towards me. I kept seeing to my gardening. He trotted to a halt and stood there watching me, like I was the most fascinating thing in the world.
“Hi, how you doing?” I said.
“I’m okay,” he said. “I like you.”
“I like you too,” I said with a giggle.
“Guess what! We went to church today!”
“Is that right?” Oh, yeah, today was Sunday. I hadn’t figured them for the church-going sort of family – whatever that is anymore since I was a kid – but okay.
“Yeah. Me, my mom, and Susie.”
“Is Susie your little friend I always see you with?” His teenage sister was named Kelly or something. She was out of town this week with some friends, I think I remember hearing. Spring break, or something.
“Yeah,” he said.
“What church you guys go to?”
“The one up the dirt road over there.” He pointed off to the road that ran down to the left of the house, past a few barns and houses.
“Oh, you mean the one back that way, through the woods?”
“Oh, neat! I’ve seen that place when I’ve been out on bike rides. That’s a pretty church.” It really is a lovely building, the one we were talking about, the old arching colonial sort of structure. “I didn’t know we knew anyone who goes there.”
“Uh-huh, and today the Priest had me and Susie help him with the ceremony.”
Priest? Ceremony? That was a little surprising. I guess I’d just assumed in the back of my mind that the place was something Protestant, so they’d have a pastor or preacher or reverend or whatever. I hadn’t seen any Catholic churches around here. Episcopalian, maybe?
I just said, “Wow, cool.”
“Yeah. It was a special ceremony, because it’s a special day, and the priest said we’re special. He put the high scepters at the end of big, long poles, and had us hold them, one of us on each side of him.”
“Wow, that’s really great! You must be really, really proud and excited.”
“Yeah! And you know what else? The priest asked me and Susie which of us wanted to walk in front of him and which one wanted to walk behind him. I wanted to go first, but Susie said she wanted to go first too. So I, I, I let Susie go first. Mom tells me I’m a gentleman. The Priest called me a little gentleman too, so I…I…I wanted to be a gentleman to Susie.”
“Well, it sounds like you are, and that’s good,” I said. “You should keep being a gentleman. Not enough men are.”
“Yeah. Do you want to hear about what we did at church?”
I really didn’t, but I still said, “Yeah, keep telling me!”
“The Priest, he…he…Once we walked up to the altar, the Priest had me and Susie stand…one on each side of him…up at the…the altar. The Priest read words from the Great Old Book.”
“Oh, you mean the Bible?”
“No. The Great Old Book. Anyway, the Priest had me and Susie stand on each side of him while he read the words in the Great Old Book. We were both holding the high scepters up, so the tops of them were above his head while he read. That’s a real special thing. Then because Susie walked in front up to the altar, the Priest picked her up and he put her on the altar. The Priest had me help him open Susie up and take things out of her. It was…was…It was really scary when Susie screamed. But then she went to sleep, and it wasn’t scary anymore. It started smelling bad after she stopped screaming. The…the Priest said she was asleep. I was glad she got to sleep. Oh, oh, and then me and the Priest took things out of Susie and put them all around the altar, like the Great Old Book told the Priest how to do. The Priest kept saying words from the Great Old Book while we took stuff out of Susie and we…we…spread her around.
“Then all the lights in the church went kinda dark. So did the lights in the window. The rest of the people out in the benches were saying stuff with us. There were things outside the windows. The things had wings like birds, except they weren’t birds, and they had wings like flying dinosaurs have, but they weren’t dinosaurs either. They had big wings, and…and…the big things kept flapping their wings on the windows outside. You know what else? It was really messy when we arranged Susie’s insides around. Big millipedes came out of the red mess that came out of Susie. The big millipedes took the rest of Susie away. They also took some of the people out in the benches away. The Priest said it was because their faith was weak, but that’s good the millipedes took them away too, because now the land of this town is cleaned up of them, and now the town can live on out here for another year.
“You’re gonna grow lots of good stuff in your garden now. The dirt’s gonna be really, really good all summer, because of what me and Susie and the Priest did when we stood at the altar, and the Priest said the words so the Ones Who Rule The Woods won’t be mad at us now for another summer. I’m sad because I won’t get to play with Susie for a while anymore.”
I didn’t know what to say to all that. I guess I just stared at him.
He saw me frowning, and he put his hands in his pockets, and shuffled around like he felt guilty, like it dawned on him that he shouldn’t have told me about all that. He met my eyes again, pouted for a second, then turned and ran back across the yard, up his porch, and into the house.
Not knowing what to make of all that, I took another look at my garden’s yieldings. Now that the little guy mentioned it, the kale looked twice as full as before, and my squashes had swelled and ripened already.
Kids Say The Weirdest Things, © 2018 by Matt Spencer, first appeared in the anthology X4 © 2016 Thirteen O’Clock Press. Currently available in print, along with more weird, wild tales, in the collection STORY TIME WITH CRAZY UNCLE MATT, now available in on Amazon, in e-book and paperback, from Back Roads Carnival Books.