“Oh, me?” I suppose I do have a scary story I could share with you.” Edwin and Scarlett snuggled in closer to me. Their faces lit up with anticipation, giving me the hint to spill the beans. I chuckled as I remembered their mom telling me specifically not to tell them anything scary. “Well, your mom wouldn’t be too happy with me if I told you a scary story. Remember last time?”
Edwin lifted the blanket to his chin as his cheeks turned the color of the tomatoes in my garden. Scarlett, ever the best big sister, argued his case. “Grandpa, Edwin was little then. He’s big now. We can handle it.”
I situated my glasses that were hanging from the end of my nose. Then I leaned forward, elbows on my knees, and made these two kiddos a deal. “Okay. Do you two promise that you won’t be needing to sleep in your parents bed for the next year straight if I tell you?”
Scarlett leaned forward, elbows on her knees in her usual mimicking fashion, and spoke with force. “Edwin can sleep with me if he gets scared.” My eyes danced over to Edwin as I looked for a silent agreement from him. The blanket was still held up to his chin. I could see the reflection of Scarlett, and I distorted like a mirror in a fun house in the round glasses that balanced on his tiny nose.
A stutter left his mouth, and he spat out a response in perfect little brother fashion. “I don’t need to sleep with you, Scarlett! I don’t get scared at stories that aren’t true!”
I leaned back into the couch and diffused the fight that was ready to ensue between brother and sister. “Well, this is a true story, Edwin.” Both of them shut up immediately, shock spread across their face for a split second. Then they leaned back into me with little smiles on their face, even more eager than before to hear the story. It made me smile. To be young and excited over a scary story from their grandpa made my heart warm.
I lifted my chin and the room was silent. Their little eyes glowed back in wonder as they waited for my response. “Okay, I’ll tell you. But…this story stays here. Got it?” They both perked up and in unison said, “Got it!”
“Okay. This story is about my dad and me. I was a little boy, about seven years old—your age, Edwin.” Edwin perked up at that. If something scary happened to his grandpa at the same age, and he lived to tell the tale, then he could definitely make it through this story. I took a swig of water to wet my whistle, then began.
* * *
It was a summer night. My mom and sister were inside making dinner when this storm came out of nowhere. Now, as a little boy, I loved storms. I loved playing out in the rain and listening to the thunder. So, as soon as the waves of rain started pouring down, I ran outside and let the wetness enthrall me. After playing for some time, I sat under a tree and found some dandelions to play with.
It was in that moment that I saw my dad walking towards me. Oh, I still remember how happy I was in that moment to see my dad walking towards me in the pouring rain. Neither of my parents ever played in the rain with me when it was downpouring. They’d watch me from a window or from the bench under the overhang, but they’d never risk getting drenched.
He had on his usual attire—jeans, a red t-shirt, and a black windbreaker. He looked like he had jumped into the lake by the time he reached me, it was storming that badly. He came up and sat right by me under the tree. “What are you up to, Josh?”
* * *
Edwin interrupted the story before I could finish. “Wait. He called you Josh?”
I patted Edwin on the back. “Yes, that’s my name.”
Scarlett had her two cents to share on the topic. “Duh, Edwin. Did you think his parents named him grandpa?”
Edwin’s little cheeks grew red once again as he pouted his lips at his sister. I knew the steam was about to blow out of his ears when he whipped back at his sister. “I knew that! I just forgot!”
Scarlett rolled her eyes and flipped her braid over her shoulder. “Can we please get back to the story?”
The room was dark, and the flames in the fire pit cracked. Shadows danced over the kids faces as the silence drew them in. “Ok. Since you said please. As I was saying…”
* * *
I held up both hands and showed him the dandelions I had collected. Two yellow flowers held straight up between my thumbs and pointer fingers. “I got these plants! Now I’m looking for bugs to eat them!”
He looked at the dandelions inquisitively. “You know, I bet a lot of the bugs are hiding from the rain. I’ll help you find some once it stops raining.” A low rumble of thunder rolled through the sky from the distance. My eyes landed on his, waiting for him to tell me it was no longer safe to play outside. Instead, he surprised me with his answer. “I don’t see any lightning. We can play a bit longer.”
My dirty blonde hair was matted to my forehead by this point. It was raining hard. A huge smile spread from ear to ear as the words my dad said registered. He was being awesome! He sat with his legs crossed in the grass and leaned forward. His eyes darted around the yard, then they lit up as he spotted something. His thumb and pointer finger dug down between the blades of grass and out popped a worm.
The brown thing wiggled and writhed as he held it up in the air. Black clumps of wet dirt fell off the slimy creature as it danced in the summer rain. “Woah!” I dropped the dandelions to fall back to the Earth.
“Do you want to hold the worm, Josh?”
I reached out and grabbed the thing with one hand. Each end of the worm swayed from the top and bottom of my hand. It tickled my palm as I held it tight which made me laugh.
“Hey, I tell you what. How about you and I go down to the lake? We can hold it in the water and see if a fish comes up to eat it.”
I scurried to my feet as fast as I could. “Cool!” The biggest grin still stretched across my face. My dad was letting me do things he normally wouldn’t. For a split second, I wondered if my sister would want to come down to the lake with us. She would think it was interesting to see a fish eat a worm right out of my hand, after all. I looked up to the house to see if she was near the window so I could wave her down.
What I saw instead still terrifies me all these years later.
* * *
At this point, Edwin sprung up from the couch, throwing the blanket off of him. “No! I don’t want to know!”
Scarlett, annoyed as ever shot back at him, “Edwin! You baby!”
He stood in the middle of the living room, stoic. He was a black silhouette staring back at us as the flames and shadows danced around behind him. “I don’t care what you say! Grandpa said this really happened! I don’t want to know the end.”
I scooched to the end of the couch, leaned my hands on my knees and stood up; each bone in my back cracked as I straightened out. My house coat fell and draped at my knees. “Okay, kids. I probably should have used better judgement in telling you this story. We are done for tonight. Let’s go get a bowl of ice cream and think happy thoughts, then we’ll head to bed.”
Edwin fell fast asleep. He was pretty worked up from the story. I probably kept him up a bit too late past his bedtime, which contributed to the meltdown. It was nothing that a little rocky road ice cream couldn’t fix, though.
Scarlett laid in bed, her braid laying perfectly over her right shoulder and her little hands folded tightly over one another on top of the comforter. “Goodnight, little girl.” I leaned down to give her a kiss on the forehead.
I sat on the edge of her bed and peered down at her. “What is it, honey?”
A tired yawn escaped her lips. “I want to know the end of the story.”
I hee-hawed over whether I should tell her or not. “Oh. I don’t know, honey. I really shouldn’t be telling you these kinds of stories. Especially right before bed.”
She situated herself under the covers and turned to her side. Her little hands came up to the side of her face in a prayer position and she beamed up at me. “Please, grandpa?” A little sideways grin lay on her face. I sighed and decided against my better judgement, to continue the story.
“As I was saying… I looked up at the window to see if I could see my sister. I knew she’d want to come down and check this out.”
Scarlett’s eyes were wide and glued to me. She was invested.
“That’s when I saw my dad in the window staring back at me, panic written all over his face.”
* * *
The rain pittered and pattered against the window, and it distorted the imagery, but there was no denying that my dad was now in the house. I looked back through the yard and saw what looked to be my dad standing by me. Except now, he had his hand out and was more persistent about going down to the lake. “Josh, come on. Take my hand. Lets go check out the fish.” There was an eager edge to his voice that wasn’t there before. It made me have a nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach.
My eyes shot back up to the house, and there was my dad using big, frantic arm motions, waving me inside the house. Fear in his eyes. The dad who stood outside with me was even more persistent now. “Josh. I said, lets go. Now.” He had a tone to his voice that had somehow become unfriendly and not-so-inviting. My intuition told me something was off about this, but my eyes were confused. How could my dad be outside and inside?
I decided to tell my dad to wait a second, and that I wanted to get sissy from the house to come down and watch the fish with us. Before I could wait for his answer, I darted back to the house as fast as I could, worm still in hand. When I walked through the front door, my dad ran for me as fast as he could. He scooped me up and locked the door. Mom was crying in the kitchen, and my sister was sitting at the kitchen table hyperventilating.
The worm still danced in my hand, and unbeknownst to me, they were upset over who I had been talking to the in yard.
“Sissy, want to go down to the lake with daddy and I?”
My sister stared back at me from the kitchen table with a petrified look on her face. “Josh, that isn’t daddy outside.”
Confused, I looked out the window and then I saw it. Horror washed over me as I came to the realization of why everyone in the house was so scared.
Standing in the yard was a black, lanky, human-like creature. It held two dandelions in its hand and its head turned to look at the house. It had no eyes or lips to cover its mouth. We could feel the pain of this creature all the way from inside the house. The thing peered at the dandelions in its hand, then slowly dropped them down and slithered down to the lake to never be seen again.
* * *
Scarlett’s eyes were open as wide as they’d go, little black dots staring back at me in the darkness. “Grandpa, that really happened to you?”
The bed squeaked as I sat back. “It was a long time ago, honey. I might not have remembered it correctly.”
She looked back at me, not with fear in her eyes, but with fascination. “You hate storms, grandpa. Is that why?”
I looked over at Edwin’s bed. He seemed to still be fast asleep. Silence surrounded Scarlett and I while the darkness hung over us. “Well, my theory is that it came with the rain. Something to do with the rain opening a portal for it to escape out of the lake.”
She whispered in an attempt to not wake Edwin. “I think it wanted to bring you down into the lake with it. I think it was lonely.”
I whispered back to her in a more husky voice. “I think you could be right. It’s time to go to bed, though. Okay, honey?”
Scarlett smiled and another yawn escaped from her. “Goodnight, grandpa.”
I walked to the door and turned to tell her I loved her and goodnight. She had already drifted off to dreamland by the time I turned around, though.
I shut the door to her room and found myself surrounded by complete silence now. A roll of thunder filled the sky, and the pitter patter of rain fell against the tin roof. I went to the window to look out at the storm that was rolling in and a thought crossed my mind. Lightning struck and the night sky lit up, giving a quick yet clear glimpse of what was going on in the night. I brushed my hand from my forehead down to my lips and shook my head. Maybe another night when the kids weren’t here. I locked the door, shut the blinds, and laid in bed while I listened to the rain hit the roof.