She runs inside to where I am at the sink, washing the endless dishes. I hear her fling her shoes off and soon she’s before me in a puff of anxiety.
She’s breathless and wild-eyed.
“Mom? Is my head going to fall off?”
I know who this is coming from, and I’m gonna kill him.
“Has Garth been telling you stories again?”
“No. Well yes. But he said that there’s a little red string connecting my head to my neck and it could break if I move my head too fast.”
“That’s not true, honey. There’s a lot of thick muscle and strong bone connecting your head to the rest of your body.”
She sighs. “Well what about the people in Mexico?”
I sigh too. “What people in Mexico?”
“The ones who steal little girls and cut their heads off and stuff tennis balls down their necks.”
I wipe my hands on the dish towel.
“Where is Garth?”
I take her hand and head out the front door to confront the nine-year-old neighborhood storyteller who keeps my daughter up at night with his tall tales. He’s sitting on his bike, watchful eyes darting, waiting for the next gullible fish. I don’t mean to, but I yell a little bit: “GAAAARRTH!”
“Yes?” He says it innocently, sweetly, respectfully.
My heart melts just a little. I like storytellers after all.
“Tell Toots that you made up those stories, please. You’re scaring her.”
“Which one? The hatchet one?”
I’m instantly intrigued.
“What’s the hatchet one?”
He leans in while I listen, rapt.
“Well, just down the street there was a little boy who kept bugging his neighbor, who was an old man. The man was real mean and lived alone and hated kids. So one day, after the boy knocked on his door and ran away before the man answered…the old man chased the kid down, cut his head off with a hatchet and put the boy’s head on his parent’s front lawn.”
Really? I’d never heard of a murder on our street.
“At the end of the cul de sac.”
“Wow! Come on sweetie.” I pull Toots back inside the house and find The Rock. He’s working in the office and is a bit non-plussed. I interrupt him and tap my foot in the doorway.
“Honey!” I yell. “Guess what happened on our street?!”
I barely see him shoot past me, but a scant two seconds later I hear: