Things seem to be going pretty well in the land of Say Uncle.
Let’s hope they stay that way as Micah goes on his date with Alice.
Catch up here:
“Why are you combing your hair?” Rudy asked from his perch on top of the dining room table.
I raised my eyebrows at him, shrugging as I pulled the comb through my hair again. “Everybody combs their hair. I don’t need a reason.”
Rudy wrinkled his nose.
I took a look at his hair and remembered who I was talking to. The world would end in a ball of fire before Rudy would willingly comb his hair for anything.
I put the comb down on the table next to him. “Wasn’t Fnu gonna do some game with you guys or something?”
“Yeah, he said we were gonna play twister.” Rudy kicked his feet back and forth. “Are you really going on a date with the girl next door?”
“Yep,” I popped the P on the end of my word and started into the kitchen to get a drink of water.
Tiny bounced in front of me, clasping her hands. “A date? You’re going on a date? When?”
As much as I wanted to be annoyed, I was honestly pretty excited too and couldn’t help a little smile at her enthusiasm. I edged around towards the sink. “Mmhmm. In just a little bit.”
Tiny’s smile faded a little bit. “You should wear fancythings to a date.”
I filled my cup and turned around, leaning back against the counter. “Oh yeah?” I took a drink.
Tiny looked worried as she looked down at my band t-shirt and jean jacket. “That’s . . . not fancy.”
I shrugged, swallowing down my drink and swiping my wrist across my mouth. “We’re just going to a movie, Clementine. And Alice probably doesn’t expect me to show up in a tux anyway. It’s fine.”
She still looked doubtful.
Penrod poked around the corner. “Tiny! Rudy!”
Tiny turned and Penrod gestured frantically for her to come.
Fnu’s singsong voice rang from the living room. “Twiiiisteeerr! Come one, come all!”
And there went Tiny and Rudy, off to twist their bodies into weird shapes to touch colored dots. This was definitely something good for Fnu to do with them instead of me.
I checked my watch. Supposed to pick up Alice in five minutes. Close enough, right? She’d probably be ready.
I pushed off the counter and shuffled over to peek into the living room, where the sounds of chaos were already starting, and peeked around the corner. “Hey, thanks again, Fnu.”
Fnu looked up from the little spinner and grinned at me, giving a salute. “No problem, dude. Have a good time.” He turned back to the kids. “Alright, now that’s left foot on blue . . .”
I went the other way to the front door, and could hear the laughter and squeals in the background as I closed the door behind me. I just stood there on the porch for a second, thinking about the moment.
Exactly how bad this had started out. Everything that had gone wrong.
And now here I was, about to go on a date with the cool girl next door. With my friend here to hang out and help with the babysitting. All the kids happily playing a game and not being little beasts.
And I was finally getting some sort of payback from all this . . . a little bit of enjoyment.
I took in a deep breath and let it out in a satisfied sigh before heading down the steps and over to Alice’s house. I stuck my hands in my pockets as I walked, watching the door. She wasn’t out yet so . . . I should probably just hang and wait for her to show up.
I sauntered across their lawn, heading up to stop by their porch. Just as the door creaked open.
Alice slipped out, wearing a shirt with a skull on it, ripped up jeans and combat boots. She raised her eyebrows and gave a peace sign in greeting. “Hey Ringo. Ready to go?”
I snickered. “Whenever you are. My car’s at the curb.”
She clomped down the steps and we walked over to my car.
I glanced over at her. “So do you know what movie you want to see yet?”
“Chill out. It’s better picking spur-of-the moment at the theater.” Popping open the passenger door on my car, Alice slipped inside. I went around to the driver’s side and got in, dropping down into the seat. Sticking the keys in, I started up the engine.
The radio clicked on and I turned it down a little.
Alice wrinkled her nose slightly, squinting at the radio. She looked over at me and pointed to the radio. “Hey, mind if I . . .?”
I frowned. I thought she . . . liked this sort of stuff?
But I still shrugged. “Yeah, sure.”
Alice fiddled with the radio as I pulled out from the curb until a chorus of violins came over the speakers. The classical music station.
She smiled and sat back.
Whoa. She . . .?
I blinked at her. “You . . . like this stuff?”
Alice gave me a similar look. “And you don’t?”
“Well I . . . I mean, it’s not usually my thing but it’s not bad, I guess,” I stammered. I didn’t hate classical music, really. But it really wasn’t my first pick either. And not what I thought Alice liked after what I thought I’d put together about her. “I just . . . sorta didn’t think that was your thing.”
Alice gave me another curious look. “What did you think was ‘my thing’?”
I shrugged a little, getting my eyes back on the road and shifting in my seat. “You know, I thought maybe . . . just since I saw that first night you had an . . .” I gestured to one of my shoulders. “You had this AC/DC patch on your coat?”
“Oh, man. That’s my dad’s old coat.” Alice snickered. “Can’t believe you picked up on that. Yeah, rock was . . . more of my dad’s thing. I don’t mind it, but classical’s better. I play a lot of it on the keyboard.”
Huh. Guess you . . . can’t tell everything by appearance.
I’d have to beef up my classical music knowledge. And drums and piano didn’t really go together very often, I wondered if that was a thing . . .
The car was quiet for a few minutes except for the sound of Alice conducting along with the music. Then a slight break as the radio went to ads.
Alice turned it down a bit. “So this whole babysitting thing. Is it a regular gig for you? You like kids?”
I snorted trying to keep from bursting out laughing. “Good grief, no. I’m horrible with kids. This is my first time even trying something like this.”
Alice smirked and gave a one-shouldered shrug as she looked back to the road. “Well . . . can’t say I didn’t guess something like that. But I mean, I gotta say I’m impressed.”
My eyebrows went up. Not exactly what I thought would impress her . . . I frowned, looking over. “With what?” I skimmed over in my mind all the times she’d seen me babysitting. Drumming too loudly in the garage. After I’d gotten my face smashed with a UFO. Coming back from the PTA meeting . . .
Alice didn’t look like she was thinking of any of those. “The kids really seem to like you. I couldn’t manage that in a million years if I was in your spot.”
Well. What do you know?
“I . . . well . . . thanks.” I drummed my fingers against the wheel as we stopped at an intersection. “Hasn’t been easy but . . . they’re family, you know.”
She gave me an odd look. “You don’t strike me as a big ‘family’ guy.”
I shrugged a little. “I’m honestly not. But I guess . . . I dunno. Some kids kinda grow on you after a while.”
Fnu would have been disappointed to miss the movie if he knew what it was about. Alice picked some fantasy action thing about aliens invading.
It was cheesy. Cool effects and all, and wasn’t the worst. But it was cheesy.
And I almost liked it better for that because Alice and I were able to elbow each other and mock it almost the whole way through. It ended up being more of a comedy for us and we got shushed quite a few times.
We both walked out of the theater laughing, so I’d say it was a pretty successful date. Especially after knowing how much of a deadpan personality Alice had most of the time. Laughing was even more of a victory.
And honestly, on the car on the way back was probably the happiest I’d been on this whole trip. Both of us still making fun of the movie and laughing at quips we’d traded while watching it. The radio still playing in the background as we drove back, squinting against the angled sun coming in through the windshield
Alice dropped her head back against the seat, snickering again as we drove up. “Well, I think we at least learned one important thing from that movie.”
I looked over at her as I cut the engine and pulled out the keys. “And what’s that?”
“You’re picking the movie next time.”
My grin widened, especially at the bit of “next time”. Oh yeah, this was a success.
I nodded. “Let’s make it happen. I promise, I’ll pick something a lot better.”
“I’ll hold you to that.” Alice popped her door open and stepped out and I followed suit.
I could see the lights shining out from inside Henry’s house in the partial, dim light. Even if no kids showed at the windows right now.
Well, no little spies then, that’s nice. Fnu must have them pretty involved in whatever they’re doing.
Alice and I both walked slowly on the side of the road, then up into Henry’s lawn, since that was closer.
I stuck my hands casually in my pockets while we walked, slowing down and coming to a stop on the stretch right between our two driveways.
“Hey, thanks for coming with me,” I said, breaking the silence.
Alice nodded, smirking sideways at me. “Yeah, well thanks for paying.”
I made a bit of a face.
She turned to face me for a few seconds, her hands in her pockets as well. She raised her eyebrows. “Next time it should probably be a superhero movie or something.”
“Definitely. Better track record than alien movies.” I grinned.
I heard the front door to Henry’s place squeak open before slamming shut. “Uncle Micah! Nextdoor girl!”
Penrod’s voice. And Tiny’s squeaking in an echo of the same words. And that sounded like three sets of footsteps pounding down the front stairs.
Nice timing, kids.I sighed and gave a small chuckle, shaking my head. “Well, it’s been fun and . . . guess I’ll see you . . .”
“You’re just in time!” Tiny’s voice broke in from behind me again. “Gerald needed to exercise and we’re going to race him down the driveway!”
Alice was looking back over my shoulder and laughed. “Oh, look what they’ve got there.”
I turned around before I fully realized who that was.
Gerald was the snake. And Penrod was the one grinning and holding him right up next to Alice and me.
Gerald moved his head a little, flicking out his tongue in my direction.
It’s really, really hard to control your reactions in the moment when someone shoves one of your phobias in your face.
So I didn’t really have a lot of time to reconsider what reaction I was making in front of Alice before I made it.
I screamed and scrambled backwards, just trying to put as much distance between that snake and myself as I could.
I mean . . . somewhere in my mind I knew that snake was harmless. Knew that it couldn’t be poisonous or dangerous if the kids had it as a pet. But you know, memories from getting bitten by an actually poisonous snake when I was little tended to cloud that when I had the snake literally right in my face. It was reflex more than anything else.
The kids and Alice just stared at me.
The door squealed open again and Fnu went leaping out, his hair streaming back, waving his arms. “Kids, kids don’t . . .!” he trailed off as he saw our group, hopelessly dropping his hands. Charley trailed out curiously after him.
My heart still slammed against my ribs, about triple time to my usual heartbeat. I had a hard time getting my breathing even enough to speak, and when I did, my voice cracked.
“I . . . don’t l-like snakes.”
Rudyknew that. He knew and . . .
I glanced over at him. The three of them. Looking suspiciously innocent.
Fnu clutched his hands in his hair. “Dude . . . I’m sorry, I was setting up cartoons for them and didn’t . . . I didn’t see they’d left . . . and I didn’t know they had a snake . . .”
Alice’s look – which just a minute ago had been just a little bit admiring – was now a mixture of disbelief and amusement. She raised an eyebrow at me. “It’s just a snake. Here . . .” she turned to Penrod and motioned for him to hand it to her.
He did. The snake partly wound around Alice’s arm, flicking its tongue in and out.
My heart skipped a beat again and I took another step back without meaning to.
“See?” Alice held it up. She looked the snake over. “Yeah, sorta like the one I used to have. Corn snake, right? What’s his name?”
“Gerald,” volunteered Rudy.
Alice tipped her head to look into the snake’s beady demonic eyes. “Looks like a good snake. He’s not poisonous either. I mean, c’mon look.” She started to move him towards me.
I put my hands up and stepped back again, wincing. “No, Alice just . . . please . . .”
Alice looked even more unimpressed, but shrugged and gave the snake back to Rudy. “Alright then, jeez. You’re scared by snakes. New fact. Well . . .” she dusted her hands off and gave a shrug. “Okay. See you later then, I guess.”
And without another word, she went off for her house.
I stood there, still back from the snake. And with a slow, sinking feeling in my stomach. Flinching as her door slammed shut behind her.
It had been going so well. It was perfect. And it would have ended just perfectly. But I had to scream at a snake in front of her and . . .
There went the one good thing I’ve been able to get out of this whole thing.
I took a slow breath, clenching my fists as I turned over to the kids. “Put that snake back where it came from.”
Penrod shrank back. Tiny hesitated, her eyes wide.
“But Gerald still needs his exercise . . .” protested Rudy.
“Well he can get it later!” I snapped back.
The kids hurried back inside, looking guilty. I clomped up the steps after them, Fnu trailing behind me and muttering quietly.
Everything was going sowell. And if they’d literally come out with anything else . . . at any other time . . . but no.
Just . . . wow. Wow, kids.
I sat down hard on the couch with my head in my hands, my nails digging into my scalp. Clenching my teeth and trying to push down the mix of disappointment, anger and embarrassment.
A minute or so passed with even Fnu just leaving me alone. Then I could almost sense the kids crowding around nearby. The quiet whispers as they edged closer.
Then Rudy’s voice. “Uncle Micah?”
I closed my eyes for a second. “Yes?” I ground out.
“What can we do for . . .?”
“Rudy!”Penrod’s voice hissed.
Oh, so here they were askingfor something. Probably some snack or whatever. Of course. Because Uncle Micah only lives to serve.
I clenched my teeth and dropped my hands, getting to my feet again and pacing over to the window. “My gosh I hate babysitting,” I muttered. I took a breath before turning around, trying to keep my voice even. “Guys, this was . . . literallythe one enjoyable thing I’ve had this whole time. The onething that I did for me and not you guys. One night with Alice! And Rudy I toldyou I didn’t like snakes!”
Rudy weakly started to protest.
I held up a hand. “You knew, okay? And that was just . . .” I raked my hands through my hair with an angry groan. “All this time! Every day! I’ve had problem after problem after problem to deal with. Allergies and lullabies and stupid science experiments and pranks and running away and braiding hair and . . . and you kids just expect me to do everything and I can’t have onething to myself down here!”
Silence from the kids.
“This whole family . . . just . . . how can literally everyone in this family be so freaking selfish all the time! First Ingrid and then Mom and Dad and now you guys are . . . augh!” I dropped my head back to stare at the ceiling for a second, gritting my teeth. “Just this . . . this is why I don’t visit or get involved with all the stupid family problems. This . . .” I rubbed my hands over my face and groaned, my voice dropping in volume. I hadn’t realized I was yelling before. I muttered my last words.
“This is why I should’ve just stayed in the stupid basement.”
I didn’t want to stay and hear the arguments from the kids in response. I stormed out of the room. Past the kids. Past Fnu, who was right outside the room, wincing and who tried to catch my sleeve on the way past. Like he was going to yet again tell me how everything was fine and it was just the alien’s fault or whatever his usual junk was.
I went to the garage. I put in my earbuds, turned the volume all the way up, and picked up the drumsticks.
I just needed to hit something.
I blew off some steam for probably a little over half an hour. Just slamming my sticks into the drums and pretending that somehow fixed something.
Usually it helped at least a little. This time . . . I mean, it cooled down my temper a little bit, but my muscles stayed just as tense and . . . everything with the snake and Alice and everything I’d said to the kids just seemed to pound in my head with the beat.
Should I . . . go apologize or something? Everything I said was true, though. And seriously, with that snake and . . .?
I smacked the sticks against the drums again and stomped on the kick hard.
There was some weird sound.
I stopped for a second, my mind going off my problems for a bit. I listened, wondering if it was some glitch in the music playing. I tapped on the kick again. Maybe it was something in the drums.
No, the sound didn’t repeat.
Weird . . .
I paused the song and pulled my earbuds out.
There were footsteps slamming somewhere in the house, coming towards the garage. A voice yelling “Micah!”.
I frowned and stood up just as the door from the inside to the garage swung open, letting in a frantic looking Fnu. He was breathing hard and fixed wild eyes on me. “Micah, I just . . . I saw out the window before I could . . .you gotta . . . oh jeeeeez the kids were right, they were right . . .” he groaned and tugged the ends of his long hair.
I stared at him. “They were right about . . .?”
Rudy squeezed past Fnu into the garage, looking just as panicked, if not more. “That black car, Uncle Micah! The . . . the kidnapper, he . . .” he swallowed, for once looking about to cry. “He took Penrod and Tiny.”
Okay, so here is where things pick up. And I am going to start posting on Sunday as well! So you won’t have to wait so long for the cliffhanger to be resolved. -jazz hands-
See you guys on Sunday!