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Up An Ending"
Denver Rocky Mountain News story contest
Wayne Faust's part of the story, 2007 by Wayne Faust
All rights reserved
Wayne Faust's part of the story,
2007 by Wayne Faust
NOTE: Readers of the Rocky Mountain News were invited to submit their own endings to a story setup that appeared in the newspaper near Halloween. The submitted writing had to be 300 words or less. Wayne's entry was one of the winners, and appeared in the Rocky Mountain News. The original setup appears immediately below, and Wayne's ending follows.
Rocky Mountain News
Rocky Mountain News
It wasn't dark. It wasn't stormy. It wasn't even night.
If that wasn't insult enough, it was a bright, sunny day. The sky was clear, and the foothills were postcard-perfect, even through the grubby picture window in the suburban Denver home.
Frank Nelson Stein knew it was going to be a bad day.
And his wife wasn't making it any better. Frank wondered if she was going through that stage of life he'd read about, when a woman hits around 450 to 500 years and has mood swings. But she was a youthful 400, so surely it was just the lovely weather getting to her.
"Frank!" The shrill voice reverberated off cobweb-adorned walls. "Those children at night school have been a horrible influence on Drake."
Oh, yeah. Cleo was on a roll.
"He wiped the mud off his shoes before he walked in the house. And he wouldn't touch his blood pudding."
Frank sighed. It was going to be a long day.
"Well, I can't exactly drag him out of his casket to have a father-son chat until nightfall," Frank said. "He's 120. It's a stage. It will pass."
"Hazel made her bed and cleaned her room," Cleo said, voice shaking. "She crashed last night. Lost a good third of the bristles on her broom."
"She's a kid," Frank said. "Be thankful she didn't hurt herself. Last I checked, every wart was intact."
"And the baby," Cleo said, choking out the words. "He won't hold anything down."
Frank sneezed and tripped over a black cat on his way to comfort his wife, who was now sobbing in the kitchen. Those soggy cloth strips would take days to dry.
He hugged his bride, who was becoming a bit, well, unraveled after the difficult day. "Junior can't hold anything down because he doesn't have a down," he said, wiping a tear from her bright blue eye. "He's just head and shoulders. He's a Thirdling. No guts, but he'll have glory, never fear."
The doorbell rang, which was odd on a weekday. Or a weekend. Really, any time. The neighbors were a tad standoffish.
"Is this the home of Mr. Stein?" A dapper man in a crisp black suit peered cautiously over Frank's shoulder.
"It is indeed," Frank said, extending a scarred hand. "How can I help you?""I'm Larry Smith, and I represent the neighborhood homeowners association. We've had some complaints."
"Complaints?" said Frank. He knew what was next. He'd had a lot of experience with neighbors. They didn't like tombstones in the yard. Or howling. Or the smell. Why, back in Salem...
"You're the only family that hasn't participated in our Adopt-A-Street program," said Larry. He produced an official-looking document. "This very street, Mockingbird Lane is still available. Can we count you in?"
Frank scratched his head and shook loose an enormous cockroach. "For what?" he sputtered.
"The usual," said Larry. "Spread some trash along the curb. Plant more weeds. That sort of thing."
"No thanks," mumbled Frank, attempting to close the door.
Larry Smith kept the door open with his elbow. Behind him, the sun set in the west, over Lakewood. Hair began to sprout from beneath his starched, white collar.
"According to Section 666, all residents of Dante's Acres are required to do their part in keeping away mortals. Some of us have been here since 1861, when Denver was nothing but a pimple on the plains. Prey was hard to come by in those days. And now look at the place. Do you know what property values are, this close to Lodo? And with the Rockies going to the playoffs, well, I don't have to tell you that before too long, real estate agents will be like bloodsuckers around here, pardon the expression. We can only prey on so many before we're simply overwhelmed. We need to keep our neighborhood the undesirable place it's always been."
Frank shook his head and something rattled. "No thanks," he said again.
"Fine," said Larry. "Then I will invoke Subsection 6.66B."
"What's that?" said Frank warily. It was getting close to Halloween and even a seasoned guy like him was prone to the heebie-jeebies.
"We can force you to move. To Philadelphia."
Frank tried not to scream. He failed. The Phillies played in Philadelphia. And they'd been swept in three straight games.
"Cleo!" he shouted. "Grab the kids! We've got work to do!"
Larry smiled and his teeth grew into fangs, as the full moon rose in the east, over Aurora.
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