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When the Katydids Came and Went

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Mr. Oliver Whimsy owned the drug store at the end of Fleet Street, but everyone knew he was more than just a shop owner. Underneath the red and white flapping overhang, the store hours sign hung on a string, and every morning it was flipped to the open side by his long fingered hand, and every evening back to the closed side. When I was a child, my two brothers and I loved to go into the store and order ice cream sundaes on Saturday. Mr. Whimsy would smile at us and step back round the long counter. With the sun coming in through the windows behind him and lighting up all them little dust mites spiralin about his head, he seemed like God to us. His black eyes would twinkle, and his swirlin brown mustache would twitch, and he'd solemnly hand me my sundae with a flourishing bow. He always gave me extra jimmies, because I was the youngest. My brothers always seemed so much bigger than me, but in that there shop, Mr. Whimsy made them seem puny with all his majesty. There was not a one person in the town who didn't like him except for Mrs. Hagglestone, and you really had to try hard to do that. She must have unwavering strength. We had to pass her front yard where she sat everyday in an old rocking chair every Saturday when Mama gave us a nickel to spend at his shop. 'Where you going childs?' she'd say as we pass. 'Why, to that darned Oliver Whimsy's shop I reckon. He's nothing but a good-for-nothing! Stay away from him, you here?' Mrs. Hagglestone finished her speech as we rounded the corner out of sight, but my brothers always told me to pay her no notice, since she'd been whistlin that same tune since before we could remember. Everyone knew she was just a crazy ol' crone.

One day, though it seemed like the time never did go forward in that tiny little town in Mississippi, my brothers grew up. I'm not quite sure how it happened; it was so sudden, like them crazy katydids that appeared one summer when I was 10, strewn all over the grass and the trees and the bushes. One day there was nothing, and the next they had shown up; chirping so loudly that I wondered if I had ever known a summer's day when they weren't there. Took me by surprise, it did, and when I asked Mr. Whimsy what on earth they were doing interrupting the peaceful summers that I was so used to, he fondly patted my shoulder and told me all things change. I didn't know what he was talkin about, not really. Not more than a week later, the katydids were gone again, dead this time. I cried for an hour the morning I woke up, finally used to their ceaseless presence, and happy to see them. They had all died in the night, and no one was sorry for their absence cept for me. I buried as many of those tiny corpses as I could, putting them back in the earth from where they came.

I knew what Mr. Whimsy was talking about that day when I found out my brothers grew up, changed right there into different people from what I knew. The biggest thing I remember of that day was it was particular humid one. Not so long after the katydids died, and my brothers were old enough to be as tall as trees but thin as a whippet. Since it was Saturday, I had a shiny new nickel from Mama to spend as I pleased, so I pocketed it and said Hurry Up! to my brothers. Naw, they said, We don't want to spend our money on sundaes today. We're taking our girls to the movies. I never noticed before that I had to really crane my head to look at their faces; they had grown so tall. I remember when they were the same height as me. They must have been gettin taller all sneaky like, and slow too, so I never really noticed the differences in them before now. They didn't see I was still standing there after a few minutes, so I turned and made the familiar walk to Mr. Whimsy's alone for the first time.

'Where you going boy?' asked Mrs. Hagglestone. 'Why, to that darned Oliver Whimsy's shop I reckon. He's nothing but a good-for-nothing! Stay away from him, you here?'

I stopped and leaned my elbows along her fence. 'Why do you say that?' I asked, the first time I had ever said anything to her. My brothers weren't here today to tell me to Ignore her, she's just a Crazy Ol' Crone.

Mrs. Hagglestone didn't say anything for a few minutes; I reckoned she probably never thought she'd get have a chance to get past those first, familiar lines.

'Come here, boy,' she beckoned from her chair in a more quiet voice I'd ever heard from her. She looked different. I squinted at her face, shadowed by the covered awning of her porch. Looking up and down the street I saw not a soul in sight, then squinted at her again. The wind was dead and nothing stirred. I opened the gate and stepped past the two crabapple trees that lined the dirt path, and each step I took was so familiar and comfortable to me from over the years that I wondered that I had never walked here before. 'Why do you always go to Oliver Whimsy's shop on Saturdays, and never listen to what I say to you?' she asked when I stood on the porch's bottom step. I stopped.

Gravely I replied that it was what my brothers and I always did. 'Except for today. But that's ok, we'll go next week,' I said. Mrs. Hagglestone looked at me from her dusty rocker.

'I don't think you'll be going next week, or the week after either, or any time again,' she said with equal gravity. Her chair squeaked when a slight wind passed over the old wood frame. I swallowed hard. She used to scare me with her yellin when we walked past her house every Saturday, even though we were safe from her because of that fence. Now, I was inside the place my brothers and I had tried to ignore for years, and she wasn't yellin. In fact, she was near to whisperin. Her skin looked like water with a splash of milk in it. 'You can't scare me,' I told her. 'No ma'am.' I ran all the way to Mr. Whimsy's until I was breathin hard, and tugged on the door's handle. Mr. Whimsy! I called. Open up, it's me! The store hours sign was flipped to closed, even though it was the middle of the day. I resulted to pounding on the windows and yellin until my throat felt like sandpaper. But the empty shop creaked in the wind that was blowin harder now, like a bunch of old bones. I sat right down on the pavement underneath the store hours sign and cried until the raindrops got confused with my tears on my face. He hadn't even said goodbye, and when I got home, soaking wet from the storm, my brothers were gone too.




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This article has 4 comments. Post your own!

Denali This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 11, 2009 at 6:00 pm:
This is a beautiful story! I really feeel like I know your narrator personally; you give such a complete sense of his character. It also reminds me a little bit of To Kill a Mockingbird.
 
Sar27 replied...
Nov. 11, 2009 at 11:53 pm :
thank you very much! i will admit that To Kill a Mockingbird cropped up in my mind when I wrote this, but not until the end =)
 
**alwaysbeme** replied...
Nov. 23, 2009 at 4:02 pm :
ooo this was well written i couldn't stop once i started
 
Sar27 replied...
Nov. 23, 2009 at 10:26 pm :
thank you! that is very very nice to hear
 
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