by Andrew L. Hodges
Look, officer, I’ll explain it again, ok? But we’re running outta time…
It all started a couple of hours ago, I guess around three. Me and my little brother were going full Cain and Able at each other. Pux was trying to start something, like always, and just begging to get his hide tanned. He’s short, even for a little snot, but he always walks around like a gunslinger with two pistols in his belt. I’ve wailed on him enough to teach him to stay out of my way, and if you knew him…
Oh, my brother, Phil. We always call him Pux, like Puxatony Phil, because he likes to act like Mr. Tough Guy, but everybody knows he’s scare of his own shadow. I’ve whipped him at every fight we ever had, but he’s the kind of kid that just doesn’t learn. I reckon he’s got a vendetta against me, on account of me being older
Anyway, I was just trying to watch TV and mind my own business. Pux had been a pain in the neck all day today, and he was trying to get at me. I finally just had no choice but to let him have it. Everybody’s got a breaking point, and once you’re past it you just go for it full-throttle. Pux always knew how to push my buttons, and I guess today was just the wrong day for him to make up a pest of himself. We got so rough with each other, we ended up tearing the living room all to heck, and mom finally just blew her top.
Ever since dad walked out, she’s been really tense, so I guess we should have known better. Me personally, I wouldn’t shed a tear for my old man, but I’ve seen mom boo-hooing to beat the band the last couple of days. I felt bad for her, but stupid Pux was the one who pushed things. I caught hell too, guilt by association, but what are you gonna do? She flapped her gums for a good eternity about how we were causing “too much ruckus”, her words not mine. After twisting our ears off, she kicked our butts out of the house and said we were on our own until dinnertime. She even locked the door behind us, so we couldn’t sneak back in.
So outside, things kind of cooled off between us. At first, we just fooled around in the front yard and tried to find something to do. We had an hour to kill but nobody else to kill it with. Pux got it into his head that he wanted to play sploosh, and I was all…
Oh, it’s this game Pux made up. I mean “made up”, right? See, all it is, you kind of race down the street and jump into every puddle you pass. And every time you jump into a puddle, you got to make the biggest splash you can. And whoever “splooshes” the most wins. Simple, right? It’s a dumb kid game, but Pux thought he was Mr. Cool for inventing it. Pux was always making up stories and get-rich-quick schemes and trying to get whoever would listen to go along with it. He was always roping me into helping him run lemonade stands, amateur comic book printing companies, home-made rags, every stupid thing he could think of. I was wise to him, though.
So anyway, we had that big storm yesterday, and all the potholes on our street were filled up with water to make a bunch of huge puddles. And Pux is all like, we gotta play, we gotta play. And I’m like, no, let’s ride our bikes or something. But Pux, he just keeps going on and on. So I get this idea, and I’m like fine, whoever loses buys the winner an ice cream at the McDonald’s up the road. The one on Yorktown, right? Anyway, I figured Pux would back out. He’s seven, and I’m twelve, so I can outrun him without even thinking about it. Easy win, but stupid Pux goes along with it. I mean, that’s freaking Pux for you, right? He was half my size and always trying to call rank on me. The kid was suicidal, man.
We start running down the road like a pair of dum-dums. And we’re both jumping in every puddle we get to, making the nastiest splashes we can. I’m winning, no contest. Our street’s a real mess, man, and there are potholes like every two feet. And I mean, out of all the puddle potholes, I’m splooshing about every single one. Little Pux, he can’t even keep up with me on the running part much less the splooshing part, and he’s falling way behind. I’m so far out ahead its not even funny, and I’m jumping from pothole to pothole, just splooshing left and right. I was kind of having fun, I won’t lie, but stupid Pux didn’t look too happy. He was ticked, but who’s fault was that? As usual, he kicked the bull and then wants to complain about the horns.
So we get to the dead-end of the road. There’s this kind of roundabout, and in the middle is this great big…what do you call it? Indentation? It’s been there forever, and the folks on the block are always petitioning town council to get it filled in. They have big meetings about it every year, but nothing ever happens. The big wigs up at the council don’t give a rat’s rear about the folks on our block, and they just let it keep getting deeper every year. By now, I reckon’ it’s maybe half a foot deep and, I dunno, I’d say maybe six feet around. A monster of a pothole, right? All the kids on our street call that bad boy The Pit, and we jump our bikes and boards over it Eval Knievel-style.
Anyway, it was full of water and looked like the world’s biggest puddle. The thing was practically a pond, you know? And I figured one last, big sploosh in that thing was a good way to round my victory. The crescendo, right? I was still mad at Pux for getting me kicked out of the house, and I wanted to whoop him good and proper at his own stupid game. To rub his nose in it, you know? So I’m going as fast as I can, heading right for it, and planning on splooshing the biggest sploosh ever…and man, Pux just cuts right in front of me! The kid outran me, for the first time in ever! I mean, dude, he’s never beat me at anything, not even close! But that one day, he put on a burst of speed like a jet engine and -WHOOOSH!- just cut me right off. I was kind of proud of him for a little bit, like he finally came through for once, you know?
So the next thing I know, Pux cannonballs into the pothole. I mean he actually did a cannonball: he always was a show-off. Anyway, this big tidal wave comes up, like a tsunami, and splatters all over me. Dude, I was ready to throw down then and there! We were both soaked, and I knew that mom was going to have a coronary when we went back inside. Ol’ Pux had been asking for a good kick in the poop pucker all day, and I figured it was time for me to oblige.
I walked towards the pothole and was planning on taking his hide when I notice something kind of odd. Little Pux is up to his shoulders in water, but the pothole was only a foot deep at best. I mean, it COULDN’T have been deeper than that, it was just a pothole. Heck, I’d been playing Army Men with my pal Chris from up the street ten feet from the thing the other day and it looked maybe six inches at the deepest. But Pux is splashing around, making like he’s drowning, and I just told him to quit fooling around. I figured it had to be a gag, right? Oldest trick in the book: I go over, give him a hand, and he pulls me in with him. The only thing that got to me was that Pux was suddenly one heck of an actor because he kept goin’ under. I didn’t even think it was deep enough to do THAT much, but he would go down for a couple of seconds and then pop back up. He sure as heck LOOKED scared, and he was yelling loud enough to split your eardrums. The kid screamed bloody murder, and I thought he’d get the neighbors involved if he kept it up. So I figured I’d just risk getting punked if only it would shut him up.
Well, that’s when I saw what I thought was a snake moving around in the water. It was this long, smooth thing writhin’ just beside Pux, kind of wrapping around him. Then it started coming out of the water, and….It was a bug, ok? Like, I dunno, a giant centipede or something. You can laugh if you want, but that’s what it was! It was all long and green and dripping slimy stuff as it came out of the water. It had these huge pinchers on its head and these smooth black eyes big as your fist! I only saw maybe the top half of its body, but it had to be huge. Even the head was two times bigger than mine, and it had these big old legs on it that were at least three feet long apiece. The thing was a monster, and I still got no idea how it could even fit down in The Pit like that. But hey, how that bad bow was hiding in the puddle is the least of what freaked me out about it.
I thought of yelling. I knew that’s what I SHOULD do but…I froze up, man. Everything happened so fast, I didn’t have time to react. It had these mandibles, big as hedge clippers, and they clamped around Pux’s throat faster than you could blink. He didn’t even have time to scream before that thing cut off his windpipe. Its legs had rows of hooks all along the bottom, and it these started latching onto this shirt and britches. Then this coiled tail, it must have been about ten feet long, came out of the water and started wrapping around Pux like a python. That bad boy was thick as a tree limb and covered in these huge black plates, like giant scales. It wrapped around him three or four times, quick as you could blink, and started to tighten until Pux’s face turned blue. I could feel my heart about to climb out of my mouth, but I just couldn’t scream. Next thing I knew, Pux got…well, he got dragged under. He was there and then he was gone.
I just stood there. I mean what was I supposed to do?
Look, officer, you gotta help me! He’s still down there! He’s just gotta be…