“Bump In The Night”
I built the scarecrow out of Dad’s old clothes. This was back in Homestead, before he left for the Middle East. I didn’t tell you about that yet. Actually, there’s a ton of stuff I didn’t tell you, but that’s okay. I’m keeping it Code Red for now.
Remember that list you gave me? (The Most Amazing Books that teachers never make you read in school). I was kind of obsessed with that story about the monkeys and how they took over this kid’s backyard. Well, I’ve never seen any monkeys around here, but the raccoons are epic. I swear, if humans ever blow up earth, the raccoons will still be here, digging through our radioactive garbage.
The scarecrow was my little sister’s idea. She thought it would scare the raccoons away from our mango tree. I buttoned Dad’s faded shirt over a rake. Plopped a hat on it, Indiana Jones-style. We stuffed it with leaves and left it in the sun.
“He looks like you,” Haylie said, reminding me of my favorite new word: doppelganger. A double-spirit (it’s German, but we learned it in English class).
That night, Haylie stared out the window. She swore the scarecrow was floating around like a ghost.
“He’s made of dead things,” she said.
Haylie slept in Mom’s bed for the rest of the week. The raccoons kept invading the backyard, leaving clumps of half-chewed mangoes—dot dot dot—in the grass.
“Get rid of that thing,” Mom told me.
She shrugged. “Burn it.”
No big deal, right? I was going to dump it in a garbage can and torch it. Then Collin texted me. Some random people from school were out kayaking on the bay. And they had “mass quantities” of weed.
By the time I got back, it was almost dark. The backyard was humming with flies. I glanced at the trees. No sign of the scarecrow. It kind of weirded me out. Maybe Haylie was right. I pictured it hopping across the lawn, pogo-stick style.
Mom yelled at me for coming home so late. I wasn’t in the mood to deal with her BS so I went to bed.
A couple hours later, I woke up to police sirens.
The blue and red lights seesawed in the driveway I shoved my bare feet into a pair of Nikes and ran outside. I didn’t even bother to lace them. Mom was on the porch with Haylie, talking to Sheriff Whitt.
“…had a few drinks, took a wrong turn…” he blabbed on.
A Cadillac was sticking out of the canal behind our house. The engine was still running, the radio bleeding an oldies station. No headlights. Driver’s side door hanging open. Not a good sign.
Sheriff Whitt marched across the yard with his flashlight. He was looking for the driver, who was beyond wasted. I moved closer, but he pushed me away.
“Step back,” he said, “there’s a body.”
The sheriff nudged the scarecrow with his boot. I could tell he felt like an idiot, mistaking my dad’s ripped jeans and a bunch of leaves for a dead guy.
“This is serious,” he said, like he was trying to convince himself.
“Sorry,” Haylie whispered.
She must’ve dragged the scarecrow into the bushes. The whole situation was pretty hilarious, but I didn’t feel like laughing.
Mom found the driver—an old man in denim overalls—wandering near the canal. She invited him, along with the sheriff, inside for a cup of coffee. The old dude offered to pay for the damage. The sheriff drove him home. They left their coffee mugs, unrinsed, in the sink.
“I told you to burn that thing,” Mom said. “But no. You were too busy with your friends.”
I didn’t rat out my sister. Instead, I let Mom believe what she wanted. What difference would it make?
Mom grounded me for two weeks. I had to fix up the yard and plant new seeds. As I raked the dirt with my fingernails, I heard the raccoons scurry. I chased them up the mango tree, where they hunched, blinking at me, with the fruit in their teeth.