When I was five I met my grandfather for the first time. Since he'd been dead for seventeen years meeting him came as kind of a shock to say the least.
I was in Grandma's front yard rocking on and pretending to fly the giant pink flamingo that had pride of place in the flower border. Technically the bird was just for decoration, but it was big enough for me to ride and Grandma encouraged me to play on it. I think she may have been hoping that I'd break it since she wasn't a fan of kitsch and Uncle Bill seemed hell bent on regularly sending her tacky gifts instead of calling or visiting. I think he secretly knew that she secretly hated the things that he sent. But he kept sending them and she kept displaying them and sending him photos. They had been going on like this for years and at this point it was pretty much a stand off. To say that their relationship was complicated would be an understatement of gigantic proportions.
So there I was, happily soaring and swooping the flaming pink flamingo through the brilliant cerulean sky when out of nowhere a small pebble bounced off of my knee. I looked around for one of my cousins but didn't see anyone. I shrugged and went back to rocking and pretending to fly through the clouds hot on the trail of evil doers, only me and my bird up to the task of saving the planet from complete and utter annihilation when another pebble took me out of my imagination by grazing my shoulder. I brought the bird in for a landing and got off to go investigate.
The stones seemed to be coming up from the cellar stairs.
Grandma's cellar was built in two parts. Half of it was enclosed under the house and half of it was open to the air under the porch. I had been playing in a trunk that I'd found in the enclosed part of the cellar earlier in the day and Grandma had given me permission to wear a really cool hat that I'd found.
Curious about who was in the cellar pitching pebbles at me, I pushed the hat rakishly to one side like Bogart in a movie, cocked my finger gun and wandered over to the top of the cellar stairs to smoke them out. A stone flew up from the cellar and knocked the really cool hat right off of my head. I ducked around the corner and tried to see who was down there in the gloom throwing rocks at me.
It was a bright sunny day but the cellar looked murky. I could make out the shape of a person, but no details. The shape was too big to be any of my cousins. And no uncles were visiting. I knew it wasn't Grandma because I could hear her singing off key over the hum of her sewing machine going full bore in the sun room at the front of the house.
And besides, Grandma would never throw a rock.
Puzzled, I stood there and called out "I've got a gun, come out with your hands up or I'll shoot" just like I'd seen the cops do in all the gangster movies that Grandma and I watched when we snuggled together on her couch in the evenings.
There was no response.
I waited a bit and then cautiously retrieved the hat and stuck my handsomely haberdashed head back around the edge of the stairwell. No further rocks sailed up so I crept closer. When I got to the top of the stairs I saw a glowing form at the bottom of the stairs raise its right arm. I was yanked off my feet into the air of the stairwell and without touching a single stair somersaulted to a flat on my back bone jarring landing on the concrete at the bottom of the steps.
My right arm took the brunt of the fall and I heard it snap as I hit the floor. When I rolled my throbbing head to the side to look at it I could see the white bone sticking out at a funny angle.
I smelled pipe tobacco and cologne as a shadow leaned over me and plucked the hat off my head.
"Sorry about the arm kid, you need to learn to take a hint. You really don't look good in a hat."
This week's list of 57 stories at Mad Utopia