This short story is about a woman who finds herself frustrated with the changing of clocks. And she’s not the only one.
The Clocks Change
On the second day, after they change the clocks back, it starts to rain.
Claire is pissed–not about the rain–but about the clocks. “Fall back – one hour, come hell or high water,” she thinks.
“God, why do they keep doing that? Just how much more light do we need in the summer–the basis for the whole clock-change thing? Back in the day–ok– more light to plant and harvest. But now, 2015, really? Here it is fall and we find ourselves in some kind of dismal abyss, trying to adjust to the early darkness . Just leave the damn clock alone!”
“We’re all running around asking: what time is it?” She complains.
“Only seven o’clock, really? It seems like nine o’clock. Doesn’t it?”
“Is it too early to go to bed, yet?” she asks her husband. “What time is it, now? I’m not tired but I feel like I should be.”
At lunch–alone in the house–she looks at the clock. “No wonder I’m hungry; it’s one o’clock! But yesterday at this same time it was two o’clock–so by all rights I should be famished at this time of day.”
Everyone is confused. Even the Yorkie, Patty is upset. She wants her dinner at the regular time–five o’clock. But they don’t give it to her because the clock says “four.”
“Damn it all, we’re hungry, too but it’s too early to be eating dinner–besides no one has cooked it yet,” Claire frowns.
So exasperated, only two days into the “new-time”, when the rain first started, Claire breaks down–feeds the dog early–eats some cheese and crackers, drinks some wine for dinner–early–and after watching some ridiculous reality-show on T.V., is disgusted and goes to bed–early. The dog doesn’t know about the clocks and so, without hesitation, she follows Claire upstairs to the bedroom–her doggy nails clicking on the wooden stairs– clickity-click-click. Patty settles into her little bed at the foot of Claire’s big bed.
Claire slips into sleep–quietly, softly and dreams of bridges and rising water, crossing a bridge–the water so high her feet get wet and cold. She holds onto the bridge rail, with both hands, slowly making her way across. Halfway over the bridge, she wakens–with a start.
“Where is Chanticleer? Come home, Chanticleer! It’s still raining,” Claire hears herself say outloud–or did she? Was it the dream?
“How ridiculous,” Claire chides herself. One of the children named their rooster Chanticleer–after an animated film–Rock-A-Doodle-Do or something. It was about a rooster leaving the farm to crow and be the “King” in Vegas. Without him the sun didn’t rise and the rain–the relentless, cold, murky rain–kept falling.
Claire sits up in bed and looks toward the windows. Rain is streaming down the panes. The yard light is shining yellow and blurry in the distance. She lies back down on her pillow, “Chanticleer,” she whispers and closes her eyes.
~ ~ ~
The Rain Sets In
Claire sloshes through three days of rain–hard rain, sheets of rain–on errands; the bank, the grocery store, the post office. She makes soup with swiss chard, bacon, chicken and spices. No one but she will eat it.
“It smells funny,” they say. “I’m not eating anything that’s called chard.”
She makes chili for the others.
She works on her computer. The dog refuses to walk in the rain even though Claire carries an umbrella over the both of them. The yard is full of water; puddles–a foot deep in places. And although it is November, it is hot and humid and miserable.
The family watches police shows on T.V. Night comes early. As they lie in their beds in the silent, dark house –sleep eludes Claire. She hears a pat, pat noise break the silence and goes downstairs to investigate. The kitchen ceiling has begun to leak. Water is dripping through the newly repaired roof, down the rafters, onto the studs, through the sheet rock, into the hanging light fixture. The water, tinted pink from the soaking-wet insulation–falls in steady drops–onto the table then finally puddles on the pine floor. Claire goes to the garage and finds buckets.
She groans, “I’ve got myself a new roof and a six-bucket leak.”
Wide awake now at three o’clock, Claire makes a pot of coffee and settles in the rocking chair beside the living room window. She rocks and joins the rhythm of the steady pour of rain outside and the unbroken streams of dripping water inside–waiting for dawn. A certain roofing contractor is going to get a call at first light–Claire seethes.
~ ~ ~
Where Is the Rooster?
The next day, the roofer shows up. Then quickly disappears. Later his nineteen-year-old assistant arrives. Claire sees him coming up the road. A blue tarp flaps in the wind above his car. He holds onto the end of it with one hand and drives the car with the other.
“Aw, the solution has arrived,” Claire groans. She hears the assistant hammering the tarp in place on the roof. “Back, right where we started,” Claire thinks. Twenty-thousand dollars later and I have a blue tarp on the house. She stares at the ceiling–still dripping water. It will take a while before the water stops flowing, provided “the solution” works, and they’ve put it over the actual problem and not just arbitrarily nailed it up there to appease her.
Life continues. The leak in the ceiling stops dripping. The children go to school. Her husband goes to work. Claire worries. The chickens in the coup are complaining. They stop laying eggs. What was left of the winter-garden is floating in water. The pond is creeping up the hill toward the house, first slowly and then–while not really alarming–faster, steadier. It is worrisome. Everything is damp and sticky. And where is that rooster, by the way? Claire hadn’t seen him for awhile–what, for a week now? Has it been that long?
She asks the children, “Have you seen the rooster?”
They look up from their computer games and give her a look. “What rooster?”
“The rooster in the chicken coup. You know, the big chicken, Chanticleer.”
“Oh,” the oldest replies. “The big one is a rooster?”
“Well, yes. When you fed the chickens, have any of you seen him?”
They shake their heads and go back to their games.
Claire puts on a rain poncho and makes her way out to the coup. The chickens, only four of the five are perched high on a beam–silent. No rooster amongst them. They watch her as she walks around the coup. They don’t as much as ruffle a feather –just stare at her with their beady eyes. Claire sweeps the floor. She moves a wooden crate–no fifth chicken–Cilla by name and no rooster.
“They’d gotten out somehow, maybe when one of the kids left the gate open for a moment at feeding time–and they’d slipped out,” Claire reasons. She walks around the building–no evidence of either bird. She opens the gate to the fence and checks around the perimeter. No feathers outside the fence–a good sign. They are alive, hopefully, and have not been eaten by a dog or fox or something worse. Claire searches the property–four acres.
At the pond Claire hears a bark and turns to see Patty racing towards her on her short little legs–ears flatten –fairly flying. “Somebody, let you out, girl? I didn’t think you liked getting wet.” She stoops down and pets the dog. “Now stay here with me; don’t run off.” Patty has a tendency to run away and Claire, as a rule, keeps her on a leash.
“We’re looking for the rooster and a chicken. Maybe you can sniff them out.”
With that, Patty, as if on queue barks and races up the hill, away from the pond, away from house–toward the woods line.
“Hold up, Patty. Wait for me.” Claire starts after the dog, walking fast at first, then she moves into a jog and then for a while she runs at full speed. The dog disappears in the woods. Claire stops to give her knees a rest and then she enters the wood, following the sound of Patty’s barking.
A large portion of the tract of woods is her neighbor’s property–creepy, grouchy old Richard, who doesn’t like anyone to set foot on his land. As yet he hadn’t put up any “no trespassing” signs.
“Technically, I’m not breaking any laws,” thinks Claire, making her way through the bramble, following Patty’s bark. “But none the less, he will know that I’ve been here.” The children swear that he has cameras hidden in the woods and that he spies on them. “How how else does he know we’ve been there?” they protest, when Claire confronts them after one of Richard’s phone calls–complaining that the children have been in his woods.
“What’s he hiding out there, that he doesn’t want us to discover?” the oldest asks.
“He doesn’t need cameras,” the youngest says. “He’s a wizard and the owls in the forest see us and fly to him and tell on us.”
“Clearly you have been reading a little too much Harry Potter,” Claire says. “You do know that all that Hogwarts stuff is pretend–not real. The owls are not messengers, and Richard is not a wizard. He’s just a grump.
“But I’ve seen the owls flying out of the woods, carrying little packages–in their claws. And these owls are special. They don’t hoot.” insists the youngest.
“Ok, they are silent owls. Owls don’t always hoot–you know,” Claire says.
“They aren’t silent. They make a noise–like Patty–barking,” the youngest demonstrates a high pitched barking-squawk.
“You can always tell when an owl is coming, too. It sounds like a camera clicking,” the middle one joins.
“You goons,” the oldest says, pausing his computer game. “It’s a Great Horned Owl. It’s wings have special hooks so you can’t hear it coming. On rare occasion–it sounds like clicks.”
“Stop calling your brother and sister names,” Claire addresses the oldest. “And as for the owls’ packages–what you saw, I’m fairly certain, were mice or chipmunks or moles, certainly not messages. The point is children, please, just stay out of the woods.”
“And now, here I am, breaking my own rule,” she thinks. “Patty, wait up,” she calls as she makes her way deeper into the trees. Overhead she hears the rustle of the pines and the swoosh of wings. Despire the heat and humidity, Claire feels a chill run down her spine as she hurries after the sound of the dog’s barking.
At six o’clock, the house has grown dark. The youngest complains, “I’m hungry.”
The oldest, not moving his eyes from his video game, says, “Get a fruit snack from the snack drawer.”
“I did but I’m still hungry. Where is Mom?”
The middle child, turns on a lamp. “I’m hungry too. Where is Mom?” she asks. She walks from room to room calling, “Mom, Mom.”
“I can’t find, Mom,” she says to the oldest.
“Will you two chill out? She went outside to check on the chickens. She’s probably out there cleaning the coop or something,” says the oldest.
“But it’s dark,” says the youngest.
“There’s a light in the coop,” says the oldest, not breaking eye-contact with the screen. “She’s fine. Just calm down.”
The youngest runs to the window and looks out into the yard. “There’s no light on, in the coop,” he says.
“Don’t worry. Mom’s just lost track of time. She keeps complaining about the clocks lately,” says the oldest.
“Come on, let’s make a peanut butter sandwich,” says the middle one. “Dad will be home soon.”
~ ~ ~
Intent upon climbing the rather steep terrain in the woods, Claire doesn’t notice night approaching until she arrives at a clearing and it is dark. She stops and looks around. It’s not pitch dark but now the trees are only shadows and before her is a large, grey boulder in the middle of the clearing. She climbs onto it and looks around. In the distance she hears Patty barking. Overhead she hears the pine trees swaying as the wind picks up. Ever so often she hears the now familiar swoosh of wings. “Not bats,” she thinks and shivers. “Blood thirsty little mammals, with webbed wings and beady eyes–intent on flying into your hair.”
She puts her hands on her head and tugs at the hood of the rain poncho. “ Oh, that’s probably a myth. They could care less about my hair,” she rationalizes and shakes the thought out of her mind. “A hawk or an owl – maybe. The kids did say they saw owls in the woods. Probably after my chicken and rooster–and now Patty, too.”
She faces the sound of the dog’s barking, cups her hands around her mouth and calls, “Patty, Patty–come her girl.” Over and over she calls. She resorts to calling the chicken and rooster by name, “Cilla, Chanticleer, Cilla, Chanticleer.”
“It’s no use. I can’t leave the dog out here. The chicken and rooster, well they got themselves into this mess, I can rationalize leaving them, I guess–but not the family pet.” And so with that she slides down off the boulder and heads deeper into the woods, in the direction of the barking.
~ ~ ~
“Where’s your mother?”
The children look up from their computer games at their father who is standing in the doorway, rainwater dripping off his raincoat. The oldest shrugs.
“We don’t know,” the middle one says, as she refills the youngest’s milk glass.
“She’s with the chickens,” the youngest joins in.
“The chickens?” the father asks. “It’s pouring raining. Hasn’t your mother been watching the news?”
“For God’s sake, we have an emergency here, of which no one has the remotest idea,” the father says as he opens the back door and heads out to the chicken coop. Halfway across the yard, he pauses, turns around and walks back into the house.
“I want everyone, off the computers. Turn off the T.V.. Go to your rooms and pack an overnight back. We have to leave.”
The children are startled by their fathers tone. “What’s wrong?” the oldest asks.
“The frigging roads are flooded, the river is rising and we need to evacuate! So get a move on while I find your mother,” the father fairly shouts and heads out the back door.
The children rush to their rooms to pack. The father rummages through the kitchen drawers, finds a flashlight, and heads back out into the rain.
~ ~ ~
Richard switches on his computer. “Better check the cameras,” he says out loud.
His wife, Terrie, is mostly deaf and doesn’t hear him. She watches the weather news on T.V.. “Richard, the roads are flooding. Do you think we are okay staying here?”
“Hell, yes,” he says frowning. “Where would we go if we were to leave? Everything is fine. It’s just a storm like any other storm.”
With that he starts checking the surveillance cameras. The cameras record only when there is movement and the graphs show movement, on a timeline, in green. “Aw, what do we have here?” he says and clicks on the green bar.
The playback shows a flock of birds flying in unison. Richard moves to the next green-timeline, this time a fox is chasing something. “What the hell is that?”
Richard pauses the video stream–frame by frame. “Is that a chicken?”
He clicks slowly through the frames and sees, in addition to the chicken–a rooster. The fox closes in but just at the last moment, both chicken and rooster fly up into a pine tree. The fox circles below and then settles down to wait.
“My, my my,” Richard clicks his tongue in disgust. “If it ain’t the neighbor’s kids, it’s their goddamn chickens running a muck on my property.” He switches to real-time mode and checks each camera, in turn.
“Son-of-a-bitch,” he fairly shouts.
“What’s that you say, Richard?” Terrie asks looking up from the TV.
“It’s that woman from next door. She’s out in the woods–up by the shack. What the hell? Can’t they keep themselves on their own property?” Richard grunts.
“I’m getting my gun. I’ve had just about enough of this,” he says as he grabs his hat and coat and heads out the door–shotgun in hand.
“Richard, you be careful, now,” Terri calls out after him. “Don’t go catching a cold. Remember what the doctor said.”
~ ~ ~
Patty Discovers Something
The rain has let up, the temperature drops causing the ground to steam. Claire finds herself in a fog. From time to time, the clouds break, and the moon provides some light–in the now-dark woods.
“God, I wish I had my cell phone,” she says to herself, making her way carefully uphill, through briers and undergrowth. She calls for the dog. Thankfully she can still hear Patty and follows the sound of her barking. “If I had my cell phone, I could call the kids and let them know where I am. And it would make a good flashlight–which would be mighty handy,” she says as she makes her way to a clearing and what looks like a path.
“A path–maybe deer?” The path is in the direction of Patty’s barking, so she follows it. It disappears and reappears in the fog. Claire is sweating and clammy but she dare not remove her slicker. It provides some protection from the briers and thorns. Her shoes–the crocs she wears to work in the garden–are now caked with red mud and slippery. She stops and removes each, one at a time, bangs them on a tree-trunk, knocks off some of the mud, then continues up the path. Patty’s barking is louder. “Patty, P-a-t-t-y,” she calls. The fog clears and she sees something–off the path–in another clearing–the shed.
“What on earth?” Claire makes her way to the shed, a lean-to. There is a covered-porch of sorts. “What’s this doing here?” Claire knocks on the door, knowing that there would be no answer. “Hello, anyone here?” she calls out. She tries the door, but it is locked. She stoops down to peek in the keyhole–darkness. And as she is about to straighten up, something comes rushing down the path and jumps on her back.
Claire screams. She falls forward and rolls over as Patty licks her face, barking and jumping..
“Shit–you scared the bejesus out of me! Crazy dog.”
Claire sits up and reaches for Patty who alternately barks, runs to the path and runs back to Claire.
“Come here, girl. Where have you been?”
Patty allows herself to be hugged but then races back to the path and stands there barking.
“So did you find Chanticleer and Cilla? Is that it?” Patty continues to bark and hops up and down on her front feet.
“Okay, let’s go get them–good girl,” Claire stands and follows Patty up the path, further into the woods. It begins to rain, again.
Patty runs ahead turning to see if Claire is following. Just a short way from the shed, they come upon what is probably the largest tree in the forest. Patty stops short and begins whining. She looks up at Claire–her ears flat against her head.
“What is it, Patty?” Claire stoops down and places her hand on Patty’s head. “Calm down, girl. What is it?” Patty continues to whine and sits on the ground–panting hard. Claire calms the dog. The rain slows and stops, a hard wind blows, the clouds move and allow the moonlight to shine on the path and the tree.
It is then that Claire sees the fox, standing under the tree–looking up into the branches of the pine. Claire, still crouched on the path, moves her glance up the tree and sees–on the lowest branch, yet out of reach of the fox–Chanticleer and Cilla, holding on tightly.
~ ~ ~
Back at the House – A Change in Plans
Claire’s cell phone starts to ring. The middle child runs and picks it up, “Hello, Mom is that you?”
“No, it’s Dad. Your mother’s phone is in the house, then, I take it,” he says. “Get your brother on the phone,”
She runs to her brother’s room. “Here, Dad wants to talk to you,” she says as she hands the oldest the phone.
“Listen, carefully. Stop packing. We will have to stay here and find your mother. I want you to go to the kitchen and fill all the jugs you can find with water. Then fill the bathtubs with water.”
“Because the well may become contaminated, if it’s not already–we’ll have to test the water before we use it. I’m going to look for your mother but I want you kids to stay in the house. Make some soup or mac-and-cheese for dinner. Wait for me. You are in charge until I get back. I’ll call every fifteen minutes or so. Can you do that?”
The boy answers, “Yes. We’ll be fine.”
“Ok, good. Plug in your mother’s cell phone so that it will be fully charged. I’ll call back in fifteen minutes.”
“What if the power goes out?” he asks.
“Then use the flashlights in the kitchen drawer. Get the battery-powered-lanterns out of the garage, now and have them ready. When I get back I can start the generator–don’t try to start that yourself. Wait for me. Got it?”
“Yes. Ok, Dad.”
The father hangs up and begins his trek around the pond, then the outer edges of the property and finally makes his way to the woods. “Claire, Claire, where are you?” He shines his light into the woods. In the distance he sees a light, moving–uphill. He makes for the light. “Claire,” he calls. The light keeps moving, deeper into the woods.
~ ~ ~
The Shed in the Woods
Richard reaches the shed. He checks the door; it is locked. He walks around the building but sees no sign of anyone. He steps onto the porch, leans his gun against the shed wall, removes his cap and adjusts the head-strap on his head-lamp. He places his cap back on his head and rummages through his pocket for his keys. Shining the head-lamp on the keyhole, he unlocks the door and steps inside the shed and glances around the room. There is his chair and table–in the middle of the room–surrounded by shelves. He moves to the table, adjusts the wick on the kerosene lamp, removes a match from the box of matches on the table, strikes it and lights the lamp. The room lights up. He walks to the built-in shelves. He opens a drawer. The light catches on the instruments–surgical. He closes the drawer. He half turns to the shelf of books. He notices a book has fallen over and picks it up.
“Fowls, Advanced Taxidermy,” he reads out loud. He returns it to the shelf and sets it straight beside a row of similarly titled books and periodicals. He turns his attention to the other shelves and admires his handiwork–a score of stuffed birds, mice, rabbits, a beaver , a fox, three cats, a dog and a fox–in various poses, glassy eyes staring at him. Each one is costumed. Some are paired, male and female. Others stand alone, a singular, lonely creature, dressed in a non-sensible dresses, coats and hats. He picks up one of the cats–the white one–dressed in a French maid costume and sets it carefully on the table. He walks to clothes rack in the corner of the shed and slides the hangers one by one until he finds the French maid costume, in his size. He holds it up to himself and looks in the full-length mirror attached to the wall next to the rack.
“No time now,” he says as a gust of wind bangs the shed door. Richard tosses the costume on the chair and moves to the door. He hears a clicking sound, followed by a barking noise. He points his head-lamp in the direction of the sound. It is in the trees, headed uphill. He extinguishes the lamp, closes and locks the shed door–then retrieving his gun follows the sound–into the woods.
~ ~ ~
A Situation in the Woods
When she sees the fox, Claire stands but before she can shout and wave her arms to scare it off, she hears the owl barking–her wings making a clicking noise as she approaches the tree. The fox hears it too and takes off into the undergrowth–running for cover. Claire runs to the tree, Patty at her heels, “Chanticleer, Cilla,” she calls. Before she reaches the tree, Chanticleer raises his head, makes an oo-oo sound and then loudly crows. Cilla immediately leaves the branch and flutters to the ground. Chanticleer lets out another crow and flutters to the ground. Claire scoops them up in her arms while Patty barks. The owl settles on a branch high in the tree, hooting and barking.
“What a mess you guys got yourself into. Let’s get out of here before you’re a certain someone’s dinner.”
A light shines on Claire. “Well what have we here?”
At the sound of the voice, Claire screams. Patty growls and shows her teeth. Blinded by the light shining in her eyes, Claire says, “Who are you? What do you want?”
“Who am I? Who am I? Just who do you think I am? And who do you think you are–traipsing around on my property?” Richard growls. “And I see you have a couple of chickens. Where do you think you’re going with them?”
“Oh, it’s you, Richard,” Claire says relieved. I’m Claire–from next door,”
“Oh, I know who you are. What are you doing up here in the dark–snooping?”
“Would you kindly stop shining your light in my eyes.”
After a few moments, Richard moves the light from Claire’s face, but not before he runs his light up and down her body.
“And stop that!” Claire says indignantly.
“Looks who’s giving orders,” Richard laughs. “It seems you don’t understand your situation.”
“What? What situation?”
“Alone here, in my woods–absconding with my poultry.”
“Your poultry? You have got to be kidding. I only came here to retrieve my chicken and rooster.”
“Well, let’s see,” He drawls out. “Do you have any proof their yours? They are on my land and what’s on my land is clearly mine,” Richard snaps.
“We’ll just see about that.” Claire steps forward to walk around him.
Richard raises his gun. “Missy, you go when I say go, not before.” He takes a step closer to her and reaches for Cilla. “Give me that chicken. We’ll just have ourselves a little chicken dinner–or a nice stuff fowl.” He reaches for Cilla and grabs her by the neck.
Cilla squawks. Chanticleer, crows and breaks free of Claire’s grasp. In a fury of flapping wings, he flies toward Richard’s head. Patty joins in the attack and runs at Richard–growling and barking.
“Call you dog off, or I’ll kill it–right here and now. Call it off.” Richard shouts ducking his head from Chanticleer’s attack
Patty grabs the cuff of Richard’s trousers and growls furiously. Richard points his gun at the Yorkie. The rooster crows and using his spurs–attacks Richard’s head.
“No!” Claire screams and runs towards the dog and Richard. But to her surprise it is not Patty that crumples to the ground but Richard.
He lays on the ground writhing–the gun beside him. Patty races around Richard barking. Chanticleer continues to peck Richards head–crowing all the while. .
Claire kicks the gun away from Richard’s reach. “Chanticleer–good boy.” She reaches for the rooster and holds him in her arms. She strokes his feathers and crouches down beside Richard. “You’re bleeding. You’ve shot yourself in the foot. What on earth is wrong with you?”
“I was protecting what is mine and defending myself from your crazy rooster and ravenous dog,” he groans.
“No, you were taking what is mine–and being an ass, too. Who takes a shotgun to their neighbor? You’ve flipped out this time, Richard.”
All he can manage in response is another groan. “I need your head-lamp,” Claire says. She gently sets the rooster down. She removes Richards cap and then the light. She puts the light on her head and shines it on Richard’s foot. She unlaces his boot and removes it.
“Richard, I’m going to use your sock as a bandage. It looks like you’ve shot the outer side of your foot but it’s not too bad. This will stop the bleeding.”
“Oh so you’re a doctor now–who are you to say it’s bad or not bad? It’s killing me.”
“You know, Richard–I could just walk away–leave you here. But I won’t because I’m not that kind of person. So why not just shut up for awhile.”
Richard glares at her. Patty starts barking. “Oh no, now it’s that damn dog of yours–keep it away from me. You people will be the death of me. You can be damn sure I’m suing you.”
A light–from the path–shines on Claire and then Richard.
“Claire? Oh my God! What happened here?”
Claire stands and sees her husband. She runs to him and hugs him around the neck. “Am I glad to see you.”
“What’s wrong with Richard?”
“He has shot himself in the foot, trying to shoot Patty. It’s a long story. We need to get him out of the rain,” Claire says.
“Why shoot Patty?”
“Richard tried to attack Cilla, then Chanticleer attacked Richard, then Patty joined in and then Richard tried to shoot Patty but shot himself instead,” Claire explains.
“Who is Cilla?”
“Cilla’s the hen. Chanticleer is the rooster.” Claire points at the hen, then at the rooster.
“It’s all lies. It’s her word against mine. Your wife was going to shoot me and I wrestled the gun from her and got injured. You’ll be hearing from my lawyers.” Richard groans.
“Shut up, Richard! Claire, help me get him up. I saw a shed back there we can take him to. I think I can manage if he can hop on one foot,” the husband says. He pulls out his phone and checks for a signal. He calls the children.
“Hello,” the oldest answers the phone.
“It’s Dad. I found your mother. Are you guys ok?”
“Where is she?”
“She’s here with me in the woods. Are you guys ok?”
“Yes. We ate dinner. Mac-n-cheese and some hot dogs.”
“Good, we’ll be back within an hour. I’ll call you again in a bit.”
The next call was to 911. The husband spoke quietly and gave the details and location. “Yes, the gun is here. It’s on the ground. Yes, we’ll leave it there. No, there’s a shed–not too far but you might need a ATV to haul him down the hill.”
They make their way to the shed–the husband supporting Richard, Claire holding the chickens tucked under her arms and Patty trotting ahead–leading the way.
At the shed, the husband asks, “Richard, do you have a key on you for the door?”
“Never-mind that. I need to get on home, to a doctor or hospital. Let’s keep going,” Richard grumbles.
“No can do. We’re leaving you here in this nice dry shed and the EMS will be coming for you.
“No, I don’t want anyone invading my privacy. If you don’t take me down with you, I’ll sue.”
“Richard, shut up. Give me the key or I’ll search you for it or better yet, I’ll break the damn door down. It’s up to you,” the husband counters.
Richard reaches into his pocket and retrieves the keys. “Don’t break the door down. Just open it. You let me go in alone. You can leave me. I’ll wait here.”
The husband opens the door. Ignoring Richard’s instructions, Claire shines the light into the room and walks in. She places the chickens on the floor and lights the lamp.
“My, my, my—Richard,” the husband says as he helps Richard into the chair. “What have we here?”
“None of your business,” Richard shouts. “Get out. Leave me be.” He flops into the chair.
Claire picks up the French maid costume from the chair. “What’s this? Oh, my.” She drops it immediately when she sees the cat on the table–dressed in a matching outfit.
“Isn’t that the neighbor’s cat, Smokey?” she gasps.
She then sees the other animals on the shelves. “No!” Claire puts her hands over her mouth. “That’s Sammy,” she says and points to the little stuff dog dressed in a kilt. “That’s our little Sammy–gone missing.”
She stares at Richard. “Despicable–creepy–disgusting man.” Claire looks at her husband who is shaking his head.
“Well, Richard. Deacon and all–have your little secrets up here in the woods, don’t you. Wouldn’t want this to get out now, would you A regular little weirdo.”
“Look at these animals,” Claire gasps. “Who cares what he dresses up like–but these poor little creatures–he’s stepped over the line.”
“Morbid,” the husband remarks.
“Get out,” Richard yells and bangs his fist on the table.
“Ok, Richard. You sit tight. The EMS are coming with an ATV to take care of you. We need to get back to our kids. If they don’t come within an hour or so, I’ll round up some of the other neighbors and we’ll come get you, ourselves.”
“Don’t bother. Just get off my property.”
“Claire, take a picture of Richard’s wound so we can show the EMS guys. They’ll want to be prepared.”
Claire takes the cell phone and clicks off a few pictures–including a couple of the Sammy and Snowball. She picks up Chanticleer and Cilla. “Come on Patty. Let’s get out of here before you guys are turned into one of his trophies. Let’s go home.”
The husband holding onto the door knob looks at Richard. “Richard stay put. Rest yourself. Help will be here soon.” He closes the shed door. Richard growls.
“Here, I’ll carry one of those,” the husband says as he reaches for Chanticleer. Chanticleer ruffles his feathers and lets out a loud crow. “That-a-boy…let them know who’s king of the roost. What did you say his name is, Claire?”
“Chanticleer,” she says.
“What time is it anyway?” she asks as they walk down the path– toward home.
(c) Glenda Kotchish March, 2016