This is another piece from One Month’s 30 Day Writing Challenge. The assignment was to write a story about an eight-year-old and an eighty-year-old. Again, it’s a bit of a risk to share my writing, but I want to ship it and see what people think. Thank you for reading.
I tiptoed across the carpet of crisp pine needles. Each step filled the dark cathedral of trees with a terrifyingly loud crunch. Once there had been grass and flowers, but the undergrowth had scaled the trees blocking all possible sunlight. It was only fifteen feet from the sidewalk to the front door, but once I entered the canopy of shrubs and trees I was alone with the house. The street noise disappeared. I crept forward. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.
I had never seen Mrs Blackholler before. I had only heard the rumors about her haunted house on the corner in the middle of an otherwise unhaunted neighborhood. She was 80, 90, maybe even 100 years old and nobody had seen her in years. We knew she was in there because her children (who looked to be in their 70s) visited occasionally. Neighborhood dads loved to pile it on about her eating children and burying them in the yard. Kids shared those stories and embellished them further. Some heard screams in the night. Others told tales of disappearing kids. Bad juju. Most people under 14 or 15 would walk to the other side of the street or dash by quickly, particularly if they were alone.
My mom asked me to take her a plate of cookies.
What? I shrieked. Are you crazy? Her house is haunted, she eats kids, nobody get outs alive, I will never come back, you hate me, why, why, why, the horror, the horror!
Nodding slightly as if she understood my reservation, but standing firm in her demand that I take her the cookies, she repeated the request.
After delaying with every possible ruse, trick and deferral technique in my 8 year old playbook, I grabbed the tin of cookies and slowly walked the long hard slog to the sidewalk kitty corner from her house.
In the hot late morning summer sun her lot was a dark blot on a bright, cheery block. The blue sky and blooming flowers seemed to stop at the edge of her property. I surveyed the entrance to her yard from every angle. I walked up the sidewalk on the opposite side listening carefully for creaks, screams or howls. It was quiet. I counted to 30. Not quite ready. I counted to 45. Nope, still not ready. I started to count to 60. 1…2…3…4…5…6…7…
My mom stepped out the front door and yelled for me to get a move on.
I looked both ways in hopes of many cars to impede my progress. Nothing. One tentative step into the street. And another. My breath was short. My heart beat a fast rhythm in my chest. Even a drip of sweat rolled slowly down my forehead.
I put one foot on the sidewalk in front of her house. A car whisked by and honked. I started and stumbled up onto the walk. I was so close I could smell the bodies buried in the yard. Was that a scream?
The 15 feet to the door seemed impossibly distant. That was 180 inches of potential mayhem and even death. Her front door was a blurry gaping mouth in the still darkness of the yard.
Inching closer I could hear the blood pounding in my veins. I tried to hold my breath. The snapping pine needles were oh-so-many tiny breaking bones. Minutes…hours…days seemed to pass and the door was still miles away. Left. Right. Left. Right.
Three small steps led to a tiny porch of peeled paint and splinters. Creak. Croak. Crack.
I help out my hand.
tap. tap. tap.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!
A shadow passed behind the curtain. I swallowed hard holding the railing with white knuckles. I could feel myself starting to weaken. My stomach churning. My knees buckling.
The door opened with a long, sustained cry.
A tiny little voice whispered hello?
The tiny little voice came from a tiny little woman.
I’m I’m I’m I’m B B B B B B illy from m m m m m ac c c c c rosss the street, I ha ha ha have c c c c c c ooookies for you.
Come in dear.
Mothballs and grandma perfume filled my nostrils. She grabbed my free hand with a tiny little scale of a hand and tugged me gently inside.
So nice to have a visitor. I love visitors. She whispered. And I love cookies.
I sat in a very ornate fancy chair covered in afghans. Two or three cats lurked in the gloom. I searched the room for weapons, anything to defend myself.
She shuffled off into another room and reappeared with the cookies on a plate and a glass of milk.
Do you like milk?
Poison. I assumed.
It’s so nice to share cookies with you. She dipped hers in a cup of tea.
I watched her closely for fast movements and nibbled warily on a chocolate chip cookie, assuming it was safe since my mom had made it. My dry throat was getting drier and I could feel it closing up. In desperation I sipped the milk knowing that I would either choke to death or die of poisoned milk in that dusty, dim parlor.
She talked about summer and flowers and her children and growing up in that house, laughing and becoming more animated as the minutes passed.
I sipped the milk again and told her about baseball and the Beatles and Batman and my brothers.
She offered another cookie and I gladly accepted. Her cats sauntered out slowly and rubbed against my legs. Tin Man was silver and Freckles was a tabby. I scratched their heads and both jumped in and out of my lap at times.
Another cookie. Another glass of milk. More conversation.
A clock struck. I realized I needed to leave for baseball practice. I excused myself and the look of disappointment was clear. I told her I would be back with more cookies soon and she said she would make sure there was plenty of milk.
I held her hand as she walked me to the door. Goodbye. Thank you. And a big smile from her tiny face.
My brothers were shocked that I had lived. I told tales of cobwebs and bats and rats and bones and buried bodies. I trembled and shivered in mock terror, making sure they would never step foot near her property. Ever.
Why ruin a great friendship and a new cookie supply?