The drumbeat of footsteps shook the floor announcing the arrival of my nephew seconds before his face appeared in my doorway.
“Uncle Joe! Uncle Joe! Tell me a story!”
This high-pitched request broke sanctity of my Saturday morning sleep. I would be lying if I did not tell you that my first thought was to teach the boy a lesson in courtesy involving a boot and a butt. As I sat up I saw that his eager smile lacked any mischief and it quickly melted my anger into a warm pile of compassion.
“Alright. C’mon up here.”
He sprung forward as if his whole body had been held at bay only by the lack of an invitation. With a running start, he leapt up onto the bed beside me. In an instant he had folded his legs underneath himself and placed his chin in the palms of his hands to assume a well-practiced listening position. I mustered all the strength I had before 10 a.m. and pulled myself up so that I could rest my back against my headboard.
“Once upon a time…”
His whiny voice cut me off.
“Uncle… That’s how girl stories start.”
Thoughts of the boot and butt lesson flashed through my mind again.
“Oh. I’m sorry. Uh… It was a dark and stormy night?”
His face lit up and I knew I was on the right track.
“It was a dark and stormy night on the Shrute farm. Fierce winds battered the old house, causing it to howl into the dead of night. Thunder shook the farm and lighting assaulted the skies.”
My nephew’s face had gone perfectly still, signaling that he had left my room and was now inside the world that my words were creating.
“Momma Shrute and Pappa Shrute huddled together inside their room waiting for the storm to pass. In the morning they ventured outside to inspect the damage. Lightning had struck the oak tree at the far end of the field. Rain caused the well to overflow. But the worst of the damage was from by the wind. A large gust had ripped off the side of the chicken coup and all the chickens had either been killed or run off during the storm.”
I knew that this twist to the story would appeal to my nephew’s deep love for animals and was not disappointed as he let out a quiet gasp.
“Well the Shrutes needed chickens to make eggs so they did what any good farmers would do in that situation. They looked on Craigslist.”
The giggle that shook the small boy perched next to me was proof that my nephew knew way too much at the age of six.
“Luckily they found a place not too far from them that was selling chickens. The Shrutes loaded up their truck and set off to buy some wood for the chicken coup and some chickens to put in it. After a quick stop at Al’s Hardware and Lumber Store they drove out to address listed in the ad.
Momma Shrute and Pappa Shrute took their time and picked out twenty of the best looking chickens they could find. When they had gathered up their new chickens the farmer who was selling them came over and said, ‘You folks seem like nice people. Tell ya what, I’ll throw in a free rooster for ya. That’s a twenty-five dollar value.’ Pappa Shrute just waived his hand politely and said, ‘No thank you sir.’ But Mamma Shrute nudged him the way she always did when she wanted him to change his mind. So the Shrute’s took the rooster along with their new chickens.”
A barrage of questions assaulted me as my nephew leaned in closer.
“Is the rooster radioactive? Does it turn into a zombie rooster at night? What if would not eat the feed because it hungered for human flesh!?”
I shrugged my shoulders and hummed a “you’ll-have-to-wait-and-see” note while I made a mental note to speak with my sister about what she was letting her son watch on TV. To build the suspense, I leaned in real close and began to whisper as I finished the story.
“That night. With all the chickens locked up in their coup. The moon hung like a great eyeball watching the Earth. The Shrutes went to sleep without knowing what great evil that had brought back with them.”
Little hands covered my nephew’s mouth as he leaned so close that our noses were almost touching.
“Early in the morning, at about 4 a.m., Poppa Shrute awoke to a blood curdling scream!”
The quick inhale of anticipation was the only sound in my room. His small eyes locked onto mine as he waited to find out what happened next.
“Cock-a-doodle-doooooooooooooooooooooo! That was a scream that they began to hear every morning around 4. ‘I’m gonna kill that farmer!’ said Poppa Shrute by the end of the week, but Momma Shrute just nudged him again before she rolled over on her side and tried to go back to sleep.
It was not long before Poppa Shrute put an ad in Craigslist. ‘Free Rooster! $25 value!’ He pulled out his Visa card to pay and do you know how much it cost to place that ad?”
My nephew was already climbing off my bed.
“This story is lame. I’m going to watch cartoons.”
I finished the story just before he got into the hallway.
“Twenty-five dollars! Dun dun duuuuuuuun!”
Sliding back down into a sleeping position, I laughed to myself. My nephew was a good kid, but a little too smart. It was probably a good idea to change the ending from the farmer getting an axe and making sure that rooster never woke him up again.
Copyright © 2012 Adam Drake
Author’s Note: Please forgive me. I know this is crap, but work has been kicking my butt and I did not really have anything left in the tank this week.