Two young children, a boy and girl. Neither could be older than five or six and both blond like the Swedish Bikini Team. They live next door and were playing ball on the street in front of their house while I sat on our front porch reading a book. I could hear them talking and laughing, as kids will do; kicking, shouting, footsteps…
…and suddenly, silence.
Turning in the direction I expected them to be, I was initially taken aback by the sight of them, lurking at the end of our driveway. There they stood, like two wily horror movie villains, with Charlie’s car standing between us, their faces tinted green from the glare of the vehicle’s back window. No sound, just a static and suspicious gaze.
They looked like something out of Children of the Corn.
“What the hell are they doing?” I thought to myself.
Their vacant stares then seemed to develop into concern followed by an argument of sorts which went something like this:
“We have to get the ball.”
“You get the ball.”
“No, you get it!”
Finally, without explanation or agreement, they both turned away from our driveway and ran home.
“Did what I think happen, just happen?” I wondered.
Did these two little blond kids accidentally kick their ball into my dad’s yard and were too afraid to retrieve it? Is this what Charlie has become? The scary old man in the creepy house with the un-mowed lawn? When I’m not here, do the neighborhood children dare each other to ring our doorbell and run away? I had to investigate to be sure.
With a keen eye out for their return, I wandered over to the spot where they stood not a minute before and turned back around towards our house. And there it was: a little red, white, and blue mini-basketball wedged under my dad’s car.
Good God, Charlie is Boo Radley.
Shaking my head in disbelief, I pulled the ball out from under Dad’s car and walked over to the end of the neighbor’s driveway looking for any sign of the kids. A few seconds later, the girl, the older of the two, popped out of her garage, her short curls skipping down the driveway towards me. I think she recognized me from our porch as I held up the ball.
“Did you guys lose this?” I asked, knowing the answer.
“Yeah, I was just about to come over and get it,” she lied, though I’m sure relieved as well.
As I bounced it back to her, she gave me a grateful grin and scooped it up in her arms before going back to play in the street.
“If it comes over again, it’s okay. Just come on over and get it,” I advised. I didn’t want her to be afraid, so when she replied, “Okay” I patted myself on the back for managing to purge at least one unnecessary fear for the child.
“The boogieman isn’t real.” Good on me, right?
While walking back to our front porch to return to my book, I continued to reflect on my generous offer to the little girl. No need to be afraid. “Just come on over and get it,” I’d said. Why would it be a problem otherwise?… Hmmm… Then it hit me.
“Good lord. What have I done?”
Abruptly, my self-congratulatory celebration was interrupted by images of the scenario unfolding without me here as a buffer.
- Innocent child kicks ball into Dad’s yard.
- Child walks into yard (as directed by me) to retrieve ball.
- Charlie spots unknown child walking into his yard.
- Charlie attempts to defend territory like a rabid cocker spaniel.
- Traumatized child runs screaming from the scene.
And somehow my good deed had become an invitation to terror, phobias, and years of therapy. Damn. That little blonde girl and her brother were clearly already smarter than me by standing steadfast at the end of our driveway.
Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. But Charlie’s real too so if you see him, run, run like the wind!
Would you live next door to Charlie? Do you have your own spooky neighbor story? How about these creepy neighbor classics?