The Last Laugh
This is a very, very short story - just for a laugh!
It was a weird, crawly, creepy, slimy thing but Harry didn't mind; he stuck his hands in his pockets even harder and laughed at it.
Harry was standing in front of his garden wall and just three feet away, was the ‘thing'. It slithered down the rough stones without making a sound.
“Hah! You don't scare me! I've won the bet. The time is nearly up and I'm not going to move.”
A little earlier he had made a bet with his sister that he would be able to stand still for 10 whole minutes no matter what happened. She had then walked towards the house with her hands in her pockets and occasionally looking over her shoulder.
“I'll be watching you,” she taunted as she slowly waked away.
Harry had started counting down the 10 minutes as soon as she left but nothing had happened till now. With only two or three minutes to go, something had appeared from the other side of the wall, had perched on top for a few minutes and was now moving slowly down the wall, inch by inch.
Harry had no doubt at all that Anne was there, in their neighbour's garden, crouching behind that very wall.
“Really Anne!” called Harry. “That is the silliest thing I've ever seen.” He laughed again and rocked back and forward a little. The creature stopped.
“I didn't move. I didn't; my feet are still in the same place. I know its you. Come out and see for yourself.” There was no answer. “Anne?” Still no answer.
“Ok then, in two minutes I am going to move and grab your silly puppet”
The reason Anne didn't answer was because at that very moment, she was being scolded by their neighbour, Mr. Potts, for accidentally trampling on his prize marrow as she crept past his greenhouse.
She had repeatedly apologized and genuinely felt sorry but Mr. Potts was delivering one of his meaningful lectures and there was nothing to do but stand there and listen.
She looked furtively past him in the direction of the garden wall. “Oh what is going on at the other side?” she was thinking. Had he moved she wondered. Had her trick worked?
The creepy thing was getting closer and Harry could now see its eyes. Two large circles that peeped out above a great round hairy head six inches or so wide, while the rest of its body slithered behind. In all it was about two or three feet long – grey and leathery. Harry looked carefully at the eyes. The eyes looked carefully at Harry.
Harry stopped laughing and called out.“Anne, are you there?” There was no answer. “Anne?” he called again. Still nothing. Then he heard the door of Mr. Potts' shed squeak open and he could hear him talking to someone.
“Off you go now and look for your ball. Be careful of the Begonias down there!”
The next thing he heard was Anne's voice and it sounded as though she was also very close to the same shed.
“I will be really careful, I will Mr. Potts. Sorry about your marrow,” came her reply
He heard a shed door being shut and footsteps running away. Obviously Anne was not pulling this thing's strings.
The noise of Anne's footsteps got louder and she was now coming clattering down the garden path on their side of the fence. The sudden increase in noise made it jump. It stopped, whirled around and shot like a streak of lightning into the bushes.
“Have you moved?” called Anne. “Bet you have.”
“No I did not,” snapped Harry angrily. “What on earth WAS that?”
“Oh you mean it actually worked?” said Anne and started laughing with delight.
She was still laughing as she walked over and picked up a bundle of fur and plastic.
“This thing?” She held it up and a battery fell out.
“I was dying to see if you would move when you saw it.”
Harry examined it carefully and began to laugh, partly with relief and partly because it looked so ridiculous.
“It didn't fool me for a minute,” he said and threw it back to her. “You will have to show me how to set it up,” he said, still a little confused as to how it could have fooled him.
Anne began to walk back up the garden path but Harry had the strangest feeling that something was not quite right. He paused for a minute for a last look around.
“Come on,” said Anne and signalled for him to hurry. He shrugged off the feeling and ran up the path after her.
As they both went, two large round eyes looked back at him from a distance but Harry didn't see them.
Nor did he hear the soft chuckling noise and the great wide grin on a round furry face as something, somewhere in the bushes, was having the last laugh.
|© Written by Ursula West at St. Anthony's House, Ampleforth, 1988|