Posts Tagged ‘raking leaves’


Note: This short horror story is unrelated to Don’t Feed The Dark.

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Good old Sunday afternoon. There was nothing like kicking back with the boy and watching football in the fall. Especially when we had the place to ourselves. My wife, Susan, went to visit her mother in Akron.

We had all our required equipment at the ready: Popcorn, chips and salsa; chicken wings and pizza to be delivered shortly. We’d been conserving our voices all week for this one game and now we were ready to cheer our team on or heckle if need be (the Browns were notorious for screwing up a good football game). Either way, it would be a good time for us.

Brandon walked over to the window again, looked out and frowned.

“What, no pizza?” I asked.

My son considered his next words carefully and answered, “Sorry, Dad, I forgot. Now it’s too late, he’s coming over again.”

In our household there was no mistaking what was meant by “He”. It was our estranged neighbor, Mr. Thompson. “Please tell me you didn’t forget to rake the front yard this morning, tell me anything else but that,” I said sternly to my son.

Brandon’s eyes immediately rolled toward the floor. That was answer enough. “I said I was sorry. I meant to. I just got excited about the game and forgot.”

Before I could scold him further, Mr. Thompson began knocking on our front door.

I gave my son ‘the look’ and said, “We’ll talk about this later. You know I can’t stand talking to this guy.”

“So just don’t answer the door,” Brandon offered, then realized too late the folly in that suggestion. As an afterthought he added, “That guy gives me the creeps.”

My son was right, of course. Under normal circumstances his suggestion would have been sound, but Mr. Thompson was anything but ‘normal’. Last time we were graced by such a visit and tried to ignore the door, he knocked for over twenty minutes. Now mind you, it wasn’t a frustrated, angry or impatient knock, but a creepy, steady, almost rhythmic knock that suggested he could keep at it all day until we either answered it, or our heads imploded.

I remembered my irritation the last time I answered and how ready I was to chew my persistent neighbor a new asshole. Instead, I was overwhelmed by the man’s unnerving kindness and cheer as would surely be the case now. It’s hard to stay angry at someone who’s smothering you to death with platitudes and neighborly good will without seeming like the overreacting one. Besides, I knew enough about having bad relations with neighbors from previous homes that taught me the importance of maintaining diplomacy with people who lived that close to you. The alternatives were never pleasant.

Before opening the door, I joked with my son as Mr. Thomson continued to knock, “Sounds a little like a ZZ Top song if you listen to it long enough – Like he’s knocking to Velcro Fly all slowed down.”

“Dad,” my teenage son reminded me in typical sarcastic fashion. “You keep forgetting I’m not ancient like you. I have no idea who you’re talking about.” Then changing the subject and looking out the window toward our neighbor’s yard, Brandon smiled and said, “Dad, he got every single one! How does he do that? There’s not a single leaf left in the yard. You know what that means.”

Oh wonderful. This would be about the leaves again. There’s nothing like having a pre-game discussion about raking leaves before kick off. I could hardly wait for the half-time show. “Yeah, it means you should have done what I told you to do in the first place,” I barked. “And ZZ Top is classic rock which means everyone still remembers who they are.”

“Exactly my point, Beethoven,” Brandon laughed. “Classic rock translation: old-as-shit. Didn’t they play a concert after one of the first pyramids was built?”

“Funny man, keep it up,” I laughed. “Watch your mouth or I’ll introduce you to some ancient soap.” I couldn’t stall the inevitable any longer, so I took a deep breath and opened the door, hoping to get him off my porch as quick as possible.

As soon as I opened Pandora’s Box I was immediately assaulted with kindness. “Hello, Tom! Beautiful day today isn’t it? I know you and Brandon are looking forward to the game… should be a great one, too! How is everyone?”

I hated it when he called me by my first name. It somehow brought our relationship too close for comfort. “Hey, Mr. Thompson, yeah looks to be a beauty today, ” I rambled, then quickly got to the point. “Game is getting ready to start soon. What can I do for you?”

Mr. Thompson’s ear-to-ear smile could have been plastered on his face. He was a little man standing just over five feet tall. His unkempt hair was graying in several spots and his clothes always had the look of stains never quite coming out in the wash. He was a man who spent a lot of time in his yard and was always working on some home project. In fact, he had installed several flood lights strategically around his house so that he could work through the night if need be. There was nothing more bizarre than watching Mr. Thompson raking those damn leaves at night. That was how he kept his yard so immaculate and leaf proof. If one could look past the man’s obsession with keeping those leaves off his grass, it might be considered mildly amazing how Thompson managed to win the war of autumn leaves every year and keep his yard free of them. But for me and my son, we found it ludicrous and a waste of time. It was obvious why he was here. He was worried about the leaves… not his, mind you… but ours.

“You always get right to the point, Tom, I admire that,” Thompson responded. “Well, you know I hate to be a bother, but when I saw that Brandon forget to rake the leaves this morning, I just wanted to come by and make sure everything was okay. I am a creature of habit and routine and I got used to timing some of my yard projects around some of yours, namely the leaves–little buggers that they are. Not Brandon of course, but those leaves. No matter how many times you do it, seems those trees keep dropping more. No rest for the weary I suppose.” Thompson laughed. It was an eerie laugh that always sent a chill up my spine. The man was creepy. “I just wanted to know when Brandon was going to rake today so I could schedule my raking in, and knock out those leaves–little buggers that they are.”

“Mr. Thompson,” I started patiently, trying to get a word in. “My son forgot to do it this morning. Teenagers, you know how they can be. Fact is, between the game this afternoon and other plans, Brandon probably won’t get around to it again until tomorrow.”

For a moment, there was a slight crack in the plaster of that man’s smile. It was only there a second, but I saw it, and it made me uncomfortable.

“I see,” Thompson said as he looked toward the border of our leaf infested yard kissing his.

He was obviously troubled by this. I thought to say something funny to make light of the whole leaf issue, but that look that crossed his face made me think twice and I stayed silent.

Then that plaster smile returned as Thompson said, “Well, sometimes it just can’t be helped, I suppose.” He looked back at me and asked in what almost felt like an interrogator demanding an answer from his captive tone, “Will he be back on schedule with the leaves tomorrow then?”

I was beginning to get irritated by the pushy little man. However, I did not desire to start an argument about those silly leaves, and the game was about to start, so I gave Thompson whatever he needed to get him off my porch. I lied and said, “Oh yeah, sure thing. Brandon will be raking them tomorrow. Not to worry.”

That seemed to please the leaf nut as he looked back toward his yard and said, “Very good then. You know, I heard on the weather channel they’re calling for a windy evening. That’s just the kind of weather that gets all those little buggers blowing everywhere. Can’t have that now, can we?” Mr. Thompson laughed again. He had a way of speaking as if he forgot you were there and sounding like he was having a conversation with himself. He was definitely a creepy guy. Thomson finished, “I’ll get out of your hair now, I’m sure the game is waiting. Say hello to Susan for me.”

Thompson departed and I thankfully closed the door and commended myself for not losing my cool.

“What’s with those silly leaves?” Brandon asked, watching from the window.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Some people just have their ways is all. He doesn’t like leaves, like we don’t like the Ravens, now let’s watch some football!”

“Sounds good. I called the pizza guy again, they should be here soon.”

As I walked by the window, I stopped long enough to see Mr. Thompson standing at the edge or our lawns, staring up at the clouds rolling in. Again, the plaster smile was gone.

“Dad, I guess that means I’m raking tomorrow then?”

I looked away for a moment, then returned to the window. Thompson was now staring right at me with a look that could kill a man. Fucking creepy. The wind was increasing as our leaves began to trespass into his yard. Thompson noticed this, looked away, and began to scoop them up and place them in a leaf bag.

I closed the curtains and responded, “Screw those leaves! They can wait and that nut can just deal with a few of our leaves blowing on to his precious lawn.” We laughed the matter off and turned on the game.

~~~

Later that night, my son woke me from a sound sleep at 3:15 in the morning.

“Brandon, what’s the matter?”

“Dad,” Brandon whispered. “That guy’s got all his flood lights on. I can’t sleep cause one’s shining right in my window. I looked outside and all the leaves were gone.”

Rubbing sleep from my eyes and shaking off disorientation, I said, “Okay, just go down and sleep on the couch, I’ll talk to him tomorrow about the light thing. Just get some-”

“No, Dad,” Brandon interrupted. “You’re not hearing me. When I said all the leaves are gone, I meant our leaves are gone, too! That creepy guy has been up all night raking leaves in our yard as well as his. Don’t you find that strange?”

“Is he still out there?” I asked.

Brandon looked scared. He walked over to the bedroom door to grab something I hadn’t noticed before. He came back and laid it at the foot of my bed.

“Where did you find that?” I asked him as we both looked at Mr. Thompson’s rake.

My son hesitated, then whispered, “Dad, I found it in my room!”

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“Mr. Thompson’s Obsession” Copyright © 2012 Scott Scherr. All rights reserved.

If you’re new to my blog and want to read something a bit longer, feel free to check out my ongoing serial novel, Don’t Feed The Dark, and tell me what you think: DFTD Chapter 1-1: Demon Night

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