Come Out and Play
A short story
I never had a girl in my bedroom until the day Maggie Stienwick climbed through my window. She entered with such grace I didn’t notice her until she knocked over a stack of thick hardcovers.
I jolted awake, looking around my room for the intruder. Instead of a burglar clothed in black as expected, my next-door neighbour was sliding the window shut. She was wearing mismatched socks and had a sloppy ponytail in her hair.
“What are you doing here?” I demanded.
“Come out and play hopscotch with me and the demons.” Maggie bounced on her toes.
“Um Maggie, I don’t know how to put this, but there is no way demons are outside in my front yard playing hopscotch.”
It was a well known fact that Maggie was the weird kid at school. She was crazy, schizophrenic, constantly looking over her shoulder because she swore they were following her. No one knew who they were, but it was collective knowledge to just leave Maggie and her hallucinations alone.
Maggie looked out the window and waved. “Yes, they are, come and take a look Theodore.”
I didn’t want to egg on her fantasies, but maybe appeasing Maggie would get rid of her. “Fine, I’ll check. But if I don’t see anything then you have to leave.”
She nodded ecstatically and bounded over to my bed. Flinging off the heavy blankets, I climbed out of bed and padded barefoot to the window. Praying there weren’t actually demons on my property, I took a look.
A few leaves floated in the breeze, and there was the drone of a lawnmower a couple of doors down. But no supernatural beings in sight.
Sighing of relief, I turned to Maggie with a pointed look on my face. “The street was empty. So goodbye.” I pushed her towards my bedroom door, ready to usher the unwanted guest away and return to my warm bed.
Just before my hand turned the knob the door flew open. Mom stood before me, arms crossed and a stern expression on her face.
“Theodore, what have I told you about having friends over?”
“To ask first.”
She raised a brow.
“And to not have girls in my bedroom with the door closed. I know what this looks like, but it isn’t. Maggie just climbed through my window and-”
Maggie cut me off. “Theodore agreed to play with me for the day!”
A low moan escaped my lips. “I did nothing of the sort.”
“Has he now? And why haven’t I heard of this agreement?”
There was no backing out of it. I was trapped with Maggie and her fiery friends for the day. “We were just about to ask you.” There was no way to describe the feeling of regret I got after sentencing myself to this fate. Mom knew- everyone knew- how much I hated people. They were so nosey and loud and opinionated. Plus you never knew when a person might stab you in the back. The comfort of music and solitude made for better companions.
After much discussion and a quick breakfast, a handful of granola, I was walking down the driveway with Maggie. There was a crispness to the air that only autumn held. A few puddles left over from last night’s rainfall dotted the cracked pavement.
Maggie ran and shattered the smooth water. I jogged to catch up with her. “So where are we going?”
“I need to get some things for the day and you my wonderous friend will tag along.” An insane grin spread across her face.
A car whizzed by, honking and missing us by inches. I pulled Maggie to the safety of the sidewalk. We made our way down the sidewalk towards downtown. Praying no one would recognize the boy walking beside Maggie, I put in my earbuds and turned the music up.
Maggie paced herself, jumping over each crack. Unfortunately this sidewalk was a spider web of eddies and cracks, and she was making herself dizzy with all the bouncing around.
“What are you doing?” I asked, taking one earbud out and fumbling with the wire. “Just step on the cracks and move along.”
“I can’t do that.” She crossed her arms and scowled. “Austin told me that if you step on a crack you break your mother’s back. And I don’t want to hurt my mom.”
Sighing, I dragged a hand down my face. “Austin is a jerk for telling you that. Your mom will be fine regardless if you step on the sidewalk crevices or not.”
Maggie seemed unsure, but tentivally placed the toe of her shoe on a break in the sidewalk. “See,” I encouraged her, “everything will be fine.” Shaking her head, Maggie quickly withdrew her foot.
“No. No, I can’t do it. They’ll find me.”
“Who’s going to find you?”
“The evil ones. They told me that if I hurt someone I’ll melt away.”
“Who?” I insisted.
“I can’t tell you who or else-”
“You’ll melt away. Okay fine, I won’t press the issue.” Throwing up my hands, I continued on my way. Maggie walked at an impossibly slow pace. If we walked any slower I’d be standing still. Trying to keep my cool, I focused on the steady beat of my music.
An hour later we arrived at the grocery store. Taking a deep breath, I hoped I wouldn’t see anyone from school. “Please,” I whispered to myself, “I don’t want to be the star of a new rumor.”
“Come on Theodore,” Maggie was already climbing into a steel cart. “Push me around like the captain of a ship.”
Saying nothing, I steered the cart through the automatic doors. We entered the supermarket, large stacks of colorful flyers welcoming us.
Well aware of the stares from the customers, I tried to ignore my reddening cheeks. A middle aged couple leaned in and whispered. They were talking about me, I knew it. They were probably the parents of a freshman. Then the whole school would know I was hanging out with Maggie and then I’d be disowned and I couldn’t handle that. My thoughts raced from one tragic fate to another.
I would drop out of high school because of humiliation and never get a job. I’d become the laughing stock and no one would like me. People would think I was friends with Maggie Stienwick, the crazy demon girl.
My hands slid off the plastic handle of the shopping cart. They fell to my sides, trembling and shaking. I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t handle it. My fingers refused to move and I fumbled with my earbuds until the music was turned up so loud the pounding bass hurt my head. If I couldn’t hear the thoughts I would be fine.
I pulled the hoodie strings tight until the grocery store was replaced with black cotton. I couldn’t do this. I was having a mental breakdown in the salsa and sauce aisle. See Mom, this is why I don’t go out and instead stay in my room with headphones on. Because then I end up crying on the floor at the Shop and Save.
Arms wrapped around my shoulders and hugged me tight. Maggie took my hoodie off and with sorrowful eyes said something to me. I could clearly read her lips. “Don’t let the evil ones get you to Theodore.”
Pulling my knees up to my chest, I broke down in silent sobs. It felt nice to be embraced, to know someone cared about me. The song ended in my earbuds and the next one kicked in, screaming bass and pounding drums.
We sat there for who knows how long, Maggie’s head resting on my shoulder and me trying to calm down. I knew how it looked to the passerbyers, who cast pitiful glances down at us.
Suddenly, a scream rang through the air. It was so loud I could hear it over my music. Yanking on the cord, I ripped the earbuds out of my ears and sat up.
Maggie was cowering against me, pushing herself into the jars of Jose’s Authentic Mexican Salsa. Looking around to see what she was distressed about, I saw down at the end of the aisle Austin and his goons.
Austin’s hair was slicked back in such a way he resembled the weasel from The Wind in the Willows and had a sweater neatly rolled up to his elbows. On either side stood Marcus and Kyle, Austin’s cronies.
Kyle had a bad buzz cut and slippery sneer on his face while Marcus had sloppy black hair that hung past his chin and a dangerous smirk. The three boys were the bullies of the school. Kyle had the most school suspensions and Marcus held the highest record of fights won. Austin, well, he got away with everything.
“The- the- the evil ones are coming to get me!” Maggie wailed, pointing a shaky finger in their direction. I shushed her, hoping that the three boys were just doing some early morning grocery shopping.
Unfortunately to my dismay, Austin locked eyes with me and smiled a sinister smile. The threesome swaggered over to us. Protecting Maggie, I put my arm around her and stared coldly up at Austin.
“Looks like the hermit is cuddling with his crazy girlfriend. Aww, how sweet.” He and his buddies sneered like they had just told the funniest joke. Then as quick as a whip his hand struck Maggie’s cheek.
Her cheek bloomed bright red and tears started to roll down her cheeks. I couldn’t stand by and let this happen. All feelings of helplessness vanished, replaced by anger and vengeance. It didn’t matter that Maggie and I didn’t know each other that much, it was my duty as a friend to help her.
Getting to my feet, I tossed my earbuds and phone aside. “You had no right to hit her! Can’t you see she’s harmless?” I slowly shuffled sideways until I was standing between Maggie and Austin.
“Pfft, she’s as pathetic and gullible as they come. That girl definitely has a few screws loose.” Kyle scoffed.
“Quit it, quit it right now. I won’t have you insulting my friend.” My voice rose several dicobles. A few passing shoppers stopped to see what all the commotion was about. I knew what this looked like and I didn’t care about their stares anymore. The only thing that mattered was sticking up for Maggie.
Austin chuckled, winked at his two buddies, and suddenly barreled forward. My shoulder and back thudded painfully against the shelf with cans of pasta sauces. The three of them jumped on me, throwing punches that knocked the wind out of me.
Lashing out with my feet, I caught Marcus in the chest. He let out a big oof and stumbled backward. Kyle pounced on me but I rolled out of the way, knocked over a cardboard stand displaying the two for one sale on hot chili salsa. Crumpled the cardboard sombrero wearing man, I scrambled onto my knees and grabbed an armful of the glass salsa jars.
Now, I was no Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle, but I had good aim when needed. Armed with four jars of Juan’s Hot Chili Salsa, I took my best shot.
The first jar hit the floor and shattered into a million sparkling pieces. The second jar caught Austin in the arm. It burst open, tomato chunks and watery sauce spraying his face and clothes. I was just about to launch the third can when a tall girl with the floserent green Shop ‘n Save apron leaped in the way.
“I’m sorry boys, but I have to ask you to clean up this mess and leave the store immediately.” The worker folded her arms and stared Austin in the eye. “And you three,” She pointed to Austin, Kyle, and Marcus, “the manager would like to have a word.”
I was granted the duty of cleaning up the salsa, which pales in comparison to the punishment Austin received.
While rolling the mop and bucket down aisle seven, Maggie bounded up to me. She held up a box of sidewalk chalk with a picture of children playing hopscotch on the label. “Theodore, can you buy me this?”
I know we’re in the midst of Camp NaNo, hurriedly trying to finish up our writing goals. But I thought I’d just drop by with fun short story I wrote for English. I ended up getting a pretty good mark on it, so let me know how you enjoyed it.
The thought of me probably never crossed your mind, but I’m not one that likes to be forgotten. So of course I’m going to grace you with snippets and writing things in the next few weeks. Just wait for my Camp recap, oh how I have enjoyed myself this month!
But for now this short story will have to suffice and maybe it’ll motivate you to write the last 5k or something.
Have a wonderful day and stay alive frens!