☰ Small Bones

She called about tiny bones being stacked against her window sill.

"I want them gone," she said.

Clara Guthrie was not a happy woman. In fact, she seemed livid. "These damn neighborhood kids. Screwing around, pushing tiny parts of mangled chipmunks through my windows at night." Miss Guthrie huffed. "If I could catch them, I'd spank 'em. I'd take the lawsuit that followed."

When she was finally done with her speech, I asked her what it was she actually wanted us to do.

"Seal if off!" she practically yelled it. "Seal all of them off!" She motioned towards the windows with an angry hand, gave Sam and me one last shitty look, and left us to work.

It had been a while since Sam and I had encountered anything strange on the job, but our streak in the normal world obviously ended today.

The house was a large one, and it had many windows, three floors and a large screened-in back porch that encapsulated a bay window.

Sam was happy for the work, his wife had passed away a few months ago and he was just looking for something to do to keep him busy. He'd known it was coming, she had been sick for a while, but it didn't make Sam's heart break any less. I think things were getting better for him, but I didn't have the nerve to pry into his personal life.

Since Sam had come back to work, he and I had fallen back into a comfortable rhythm. I wasn't willing to upset that. I was confident that if Sam needed something, if he wanted me to do something, he would tell me.

"Well, that one's got a lot of attitude." I commented.

Sam frowned at me. He didn't like it when I bad-mouthed customers, even when it was true.

We went back to the truck and got the caulking guns. Miss Guthrie didn’t want to hear about having new windows installed in her home. She didn’t want to look at all her options; she didn’t care about weatherstripping her windows, she just wanted them sealed shut. Nailed first, then caulked.

We worked on her job all day.

The first four hours weren’t so bad, but after the fifth and sixth one, it began to get boring as hell and monotonous. Sam continued wordlessly working and I excused myself to take a late lunch break.
Miss Guthrie had already given us another speech about how we should stagger our breaks. We told her we don’t usually do that, but she said she didn’t want to risk being charged for us eating lunch. Of course we acquiesced.

Miss Guthrie was not really the type of person I wanted to argue with. She was on the rude side, and way too froggy for my taste. I wouldn’t put it past her to take a baseball bat to someone one day.
I was two bites into my sandwich, minding my own business on the tailgate of the work truck when I heard a rustling in the grass.

I figured it was a small animal. Mildly interested, I got up to investigate. I walked back towards Ms. Guthrie’s house where I’d heard the noise.

Right below the window.

I didn’t see anything.

I shrugged and took a step back. All I saw was grass and leaves and the side of her house, but it sounded like rodents fighting, just underneath her window.

My palms started to sweat at the first sign that this day was going to end up being another “Have Tools, Will Travel” story I’d end up telling you guys about later.

The truth is, after all of the letters from people reaching out, asking for advice and help with their paranormal problems, I’m more than washed out of the subject of unnatural happenings. I think about those letters all the time. Now that my eyes are open, I can’t close them again. Now that I know what goes on in this world, (both seeing it with my own eyes and reading true accounts sent to me by my readers), I can’t shake the paranoia that comes with it. The constant worry that something else is going to happen.

Then, there are days like today when things do happen, and I have to be honest with you, it scares me more and more every time it happens. I’m beginning to think I’m a magnet for this kind of thing.
As I headed back to the truck, I heard feathers flapping in a fast and panicky way. I whipped around to see what it was.I nearly dropped my sandwich when I saw the white, spindly way-larger-than-it-should-have-been hand reach out from the side of Miss Guthrie's house and grab a bird right out of the air. The hand was the same color as the house, a pale, bleachy ivory white. The hand had talons, or long fingernails, rather. The fingers were gnarled at each joint, and disgustingly thin and bony. It squeezed the struggling bird, some of its feathers fell off and floated into the yard. One of its wings was bent the wrong way.

I yelled and jumped back.

I watched the house’s hand silently disappear back into the painted siding. The house rippled like water as the unnatural limb disappeared back into it. I dropped my sandwich in the yard and ran inside to tell Sam.

I didn't think it was safe to be inside the house, but I wasn't about to leave Sam inside with no idea as to what kind of danger he was really in. I found him upstairs, finishing off the last two windows. I couldn't help but sigh in relief that we were almost finished with this God forsaken job.

“Sam, we need to leave.” I said, breathlessly after climbing two flights of stairs. I could hear Miss Guthrie downstairs, no doubt bitching under her breath about invisible dirt I’d tracked in.

Sam’s whitish, caterpillar-like eyebrows raised. “What now?”

“It’s one of those jobs, if you know what I mean…” I didn’t want to come out and say it. I knew Miss Guthrie was probably listening; for that matter, if the house had arms and hands, who’s to say it didn’t have eyes and ears?

“What’d you see?” he asked. I could almost hear the alarm going off behind his eyes.

“A hand.” I whispered. “The house has arms and a hand. It ate a freakin’ bird.” I imitated the same motion the hand protruding from the side of the house had as I showed Sam how easily it plucked the bird out of midair, squeezed it. “Grabbed it , like it was nothin.”
Sam waved a hand in the air to calm me. “Alright, alright.” He brushed a few strands of straight white hair out of his eyes. “Two more windows and we go.”

I nodded, helped him nail and caulk the last two.

When we were done, we packed all of our crap back up and Miss Guthrie did a walk through.

Inspected everything.

Finally, she was pleased.

For the moment.

I didn’t want to tell her that her problems wouldn’t be solved with a few nails and some caulking. Truth be told, I didn’t like her. She was a mean person, unnecessarily rude.

I didn’t tell her about what I’d seen, even though she would have thought me completely insane. Sam didn’t say anything either. He told me I was the one who’d witnessed the arm, the death f the bird and so on. He said he wouldn’t speak on something he didn’t know himself.

I suppose he might have wanted me to tell her. Maybe he didn’t, but when we got in the truck and started to drive off, I realized I’d made a mistake.

When got back to the office, to clock out, Maria was already gone. I turned in our work order and stood there looking at it for about ten minutes.

I thought about calling her, but that’s not something you tell someone over the phone.

She would probably just think I was being a little shit. Trying to get even with her for her curt behavior and clipped responses.
On my drive home I thought about her.

When I got there, I told my girlfriend about her. She suggested I call the poor woman and give her a heads up. I just couldn’t do it. Miss Guthrie had been living there for the better part of twenty years, or so she’d said. I talked myself out of taking action.

I’ll never forgive myself for staying silent. For neglecting to overlook small childish grudges and indifferences. For being too much of a pussy to tell someone the truth, even if it made me look like an ass.

About two weeks or so later, I’d nearly forgotten about Miss Guthrie. Well, not forgotten, but I’d forced myself to believe that everything would be fine where she was concerned when my girlfriend came running into the living room of our apartment one Saturday morning with the local newspaper in her hand.

I felt a sinking feeling before I even read the words.
“Local woman killed under mysterious circumstances in her own home” was the headline.

A large grainy, black and white photo accompanied the text along with an article I couldn’t stomach reading.

I recognized the house.

The windows in the photo were familiar. The same nails and caulking I’d hammered and laid myself just a few weeks ago.

It was blurry, but if you knew what you were looking for, you could just barely make out the small bones near the window sill.



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My novel, Trigram, is in the works, but in the meantime, I'll probably be working on short stories such as the ones on Wicked Shorts. (Wink)

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