Once again, Chuck Wendig has a fabulous exercise for all writers out there. This time, he has chosen 14 opening lines, culled from submissions posted this past week. He came up with 3 best lines, but everyone could use any of the 14 lines for their story.
Here is my tale, based on this opening line, submitted by Cat York: “I never trusted that statue in the garden behind the house.”
Let me know what you think. And thank you for reading!
I never trusted that statue in the garden behind the house.
Ever since we moved into the house, something about it had bothered me. I didn’t quite know what it was. Something about its shape, its size, its eyes. Human-like. Staring. Staring at me. It made one feel a tad uneasy.
I hadn’t noticed it the first time our realtor took us around the property. But then we hadn’t really seen the back yard. This time, though, since we were serious about buying, we wanted to see everything.
She seemed hesitant at first to show us, as though something back there shouldn’t be seen. Reluctantly, she had led us along the narrow cracked cement walkway. Grass sprouted along the fissures, and thick blossomed boughs of a neighbor’s cherry tree arched over our heads like a redolent bower.
At first I didn’t see the statue. The yard itself was rather pleasant; not too small, not too large, some nice plantings scattered about, a few trees and flowers in bloom, and a small fieldstone patio with wrought-iron chairs and table. Nice. Quiet. Comfortable.
And then I saw it. Tucked in the far corner, beneath a canopy of oak, huddled in the gloom, barely visible. It startled me, its ghostly strange visage peering out of the dark. Staring. At me.
I looked back at the realtor. She seemed a bit edgy, nervous, as though spooked. I could tell she didn’t want to linger. Her body language said everything.
We turned to go. Hurriedly, she led us back down the path. I turned and looked at the statue, at its haunting outline nestled deep in its darkled niche. I picked up my pace. I didn’t want my back to it for too long. Still, that prickly fear washed over my nape. I thought the statue would be the first thing to go. If we bought the house.
That was four months ago. And now, as I stand in the kitchen, washing the dishes from dinner, I can see it, out there, in the gloom. Watching, as though waiting for the right moment to…to do what? ‘Christ, get a grip,’ I thought. ‘Do you even hear yourself? Jesus!’ But still, it was unnerving. I decided then and there that tomorrow would be the day. Tomorrow I would get rid of the damn thing.
Now, you may believe me or not, but I’m telling you, that very next day—a bright, beautiful, sunny Saturday—after breakfast I went out back to dispose of that statue once and for all.
But it was gone. I paused and looked around, at the ground next to where it should have been. It had rained overnight, and around the oak and podium the ground was wet and puddled, muddy and undisturbed by footprints, no tell-tale sign that someone had made off with it.
But the damp soil was disturbed; by paw prints. Prints and long claw marks that lead from the podium itself, prints that disappeared into the grass. I turned around, casting my eyes over the entire yard. The statue could be anywhere. The chill of terror returned, along my neck and wrapping itself around my face.
I scanned the grounds once more, my body tensed. Nothing. No sign of it. It could be lurking anywhere. Goddamn it, I knew I didn’t trust that statue. I knew there was something to it. Something…malevolent. And now it’s gone. Somewhere. Hiding. Maybe, right now, watching me. Damn it.
The scream from my four year old broke my spell. I ran past the patio, through the French doors and bounded up the stairs. I raced into Tommy’s room, expecting the worst.
“Daddy! Daddy! My foot! Daddy, it hurts!” he wailed.
My son had stepped on a tack. That was all.
“It’s ok, Sweetie. Now be brave, and I’ll pull it out, ok?” I knew a fresh bout of screams was about to happen. Then I noticed mud tracks near his bed, claw marks of dirt that led to the half-opened window.
I pulled the tack out and crushed my son close to my chest, pressing his tear-stained face against my shirt.
“Don’t worry, Tommy. It’s going to be ok,” I said, and went to shut the window. Why was it open? Who the hell opened it? And those tracks.
“C’mon, Tommy. Let’s go downstairs and I’ll make you some breakfast, ok?”
I sure as hell wasn’t going to let my son out of my sight. I sat him down with a bowl of Cheerios, and went over to the window, the one beneath Tommy’s room. Sure enough, there were tracks there, too, dragged through the flower bed. A broken stem of a daffodil lay in the grass.
Keeping a wary eye on Tommy, I went back out through the French doors. I left the doors open, just in case. I stood on the fieldstones, and surveyed the yard. Nothing. Now I was getting scared. And where the hell was Margie? She said she’d only been gone for twenty minutes. How long does it take to get more bread and milk?
For all I knew that damn statue was staring at me right now. Somewhere out there, hiding in the deep shadows of the hedgerow. Maybe I should have paid more attention to the realtor’s unease. Now I know how she had felt.
I went back in, and locked the doors behind me. In the hall closet, I pulled out my trusty Easton bat from college and hefted it. If anything tried to get in, it would have one hell of a surprise. A few choice swings would smash that damn statue once and for all.
Tommy’s fascination with his round cereal helped him forget the pain in his tiny foot. I watched him and couldn’t imagine that that statue, that thing, was actually in his room. What the hell was happening?
“Christ, Margie. I need you here. Where the hell can you be?”
I sat and waited, and stared out the window.
Copyright*, Paul Grignon, 2013. All Rights Reserved.
*except for the opening line.