Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac
“You heard me the first time. I don’t stutter. I told you to clean the garage,” his mother said.
Putting up his hands in protest, Sean said, “No human has entered that garage in ten years and returned. There are wild beasts that eat people dwelling in there.”
“Stop exaggerating. Only one person got lost in there,” his mother said.
Wide-eyed, Lily asked, “Who?”
“Your oldest brother,” his mother said.
“I only have one brother,” Lily said.
“That wasn’t always the case,” his mother said flippantly.
Seeing that Lily was getting scared, Sean said, “She’s kidding.”
“Are you sure?” Lily asked.
“Yes,” Sean said, “I would remember if I had an older brother.”
“Okay,” Lily said giving her mother one of those looks.
“Get to work, young man,” his mother said.
Lily looked over at Sean and said, “Be careful in there.”
“I will,” Sean answered striking a heroic pose. He added, “No mountain is too high, no valley is too low, no jungle too thick, no desert too dry, and no ocean too deep to keep this intrepid explorer from venturing into unexplored territory.”
Lily clasped her hands together and looked up at him adoringly. In a pretty good imitation of a southern accent, she said, “Mah heeroe.”
Sean laughed and headed out to the garage. He opened the door and then stepped back in shock. He had thought he was kidding when he described the state of the garage. It was obvious that the garage door had been left open a couple of inches last fall. The whole front half of the garage was buried in leaves.
Sticking out of the leaves were the tops of pieces of equipment that looked like they had been part of the Frankenstein laboratory. Considering that the company his father worked for was in the business of refurbishing used laboratory equipment, there was a very good chance of that being the case. Sean had no idea what any of the equipment did or why his father had them.
Tumbled amongst the equipment were boxes; the contents of which were a complete mystery. He could almost make out a workbench at the distant end of the basement. He figured it would be months before he could work his way far enough into the garage to see if there were any tools on the workbench.
Sizing up the job, he decided that he’d reach retirement age before finishing. Shaking his head, he said, “This is probably a better way of keeping me out of trouble than sending me to the store ten times a day.”
He went back to the house and found his mother dusting the living room. He said, “I need some garbage bags.”
“The money is on the counter,” she answered.
Sean grabbed the money and headed to the store. He walked along the path moving little stones as he went. Other kids might kick stones along the way, but he moved them with magic. Little twigs and leaves were cleared to the side as well. He wondered if maybe he should be moving the rocks onto the path. He figured that as many times a day that he went to the store that the path would be completely covered with stones by the end of the summer.
He reached the path behind Max’s house and noticed that it was starting to get over grown. He wondered if Max ever came in the woods any more. Just after passing Max’s place, he heard a strangled cry from behind him. Puzzled, he turned and looked down the path. He didn’t see anyone or anything. Shrugging his shoulders, he continued on his way without giving the matter any thought.
He passed behind Suzie’s house hoping that she’d be around, but there was no sign of her. He trudged along the path wondering if he’d be done with the garage in time to visit her that afternoon.
At the store, he picked out the biggest trash bags they carried. There were only ten bags in the package. He looked at the money in his hands and realized that he had enough for two packages and a soft drink. He went to the counter and put the items down. Sam looked at them and said, “I’m getting concerned about you.”
“You bought three things in one trip rather than making three trips,” Sam said.
“I must be getting lazy in my old age,” Sean said.
Sam picked up the package of trash bags and asked, “What are you using these for?”
“I’m cleaning out the garage,” Sean answered.
Sam asked, “Are you going to be putting heavy things in these?”
“Yes,” Sean said.
“You might need to double bag them,” Sam said.
“These are the super heavy duty no break trash bags that are designed with a super secret internal webbing that will prevent tears,” Sean said reading the label.
“They’ll hold leaves, but twigs will go right through them. Sharp stuff will cut them. If you take my advice, you’ll double bag,” Sam said.
“Okay,” Sean said.
Sam added, “Don’t pick them up by the convenient built-in ties. The ties come off and then you’ll never get them closed.”
“Okay,” Sean said looking at the packages of trash bags. He asked, “Do you have anything better?”
“They’re the best we carry,” Sam said looking apologetic.
Sean looked at the packages and said, “It is a sick world we live in.”
“Why do you say that?” Sam asked.
Sean answered, “I’m spending money on something with the express intention of throwing it away. I’m buying trash.”
“I never thought about it like that,” Sam said, “You even throw away the box it comes in.”
“That’s right,” Sean said shaking his head.
“Do you want a plastic bag for that?” Sam asked.
“Sure,” Sean said taking note of the irony of the question.
The trip back home was made at a good pace. He reached the house and went directly to the garage. Opening the plastic bag, he pulled out a package of trash bags. After wrestling with the package to get it open, he managed to extract one of the trash bags tearing it in the process. He opened the trash bag and studied it. He didn’t see any secret webbing. He said, “The box it came in is probably tougher than it is.”
He looked around to see if anyone was watching. He opened the bag and started commanding the leaves to fly into the bag. It took a couple of seconds, but he figured out that he could keep the leaves flying into the bag at a very good rate. It took him a minute to fill the first bag. Stepping back, he said, “That’s easy enough.”
He closed the bag and carried it over to the side of the garage. He went and got another bag. He was on the sixth bag of leaves when one of the leaves didn’t move when he commanded it. He bent down to look at it closer and realized that it wasn’t a leaf. The thing was jumping up and down in a very excited manner. It took Sean a second to realize that it was a little person about six inches high. He asked, “Who and what are you?”
“I am Tim-Tim. I’m a Brownie,” the little man answered giving him a bow.
“Pleased to meet you, I am Sean.”
“I thank you,” the little man said.
“For what?” Sean asked.
“For letting me live again,” the Brownie answered. He jumped up and clicked his heels together.
“You’re quite welcome,” Sean said wondering what he had done. He looked around hoping that no one was watching him talk to a six inch tall person.
“I must be going,” the Brownie said.
“Bye,” Sean said watching the little fellow run off into the woods. He shook his head and said, “First it was Dwarves in the woods and now it is Brownies in the garage. I wonder what is next. Knowing my luck, it will be dragons in the basement.”
Sean went back to work and before he knew it, he had ten trash bags filled with leaves. He was halfway convinced that he had seen other Brownies running out of the garage, but he never had a good look at any of them. It always seemed to happen when he was moving a lot of leaves at a time. The Brownies were so small that it was hard to spot them amongst the confusion of moving leaves.
There was now enough space to move a few feet into the garage and to see what was under and around the test equipment. He went over to the plastic bag and got out his soft drink. He stood at the door of the garage sipping on his beverage and trying to figure out what to do with all of that equipment. Most of it looked pretty heavy and he wasn’t sure that he’d be able to move it.
His mother came out of the house and, as she was walking towards him, asked, “Why aren’t you working?”
“Just trying to figure out what to do with this junk of Dad’s,” Sean answered.
She reached the garage and, surprised by the progress he had made, said, “Oh. You’ve been busy.”
“Yes,” Sean said.
“Mrs. Emery called.”
Sean said, “Oh. What did she want?”
“She canceled your afternoon visit with Suzie,” his mother answered.
“She hates me,” Sean said shaking his head. He wondered how Suzie reacted to her mother’s actions.
“No she doesn’t. She’s invited you over for dinner at five instead,” his mother said.
“Oh,” he said and after a long pause added, “Dinner.”
His mother noticed the worried expression on his face. She asked, “What?”
After a very long pause he said, “That doesn’t sound good.”
“I accepted the invitation for you,” his mother said puzzled by his reply.
Sean said, “Call her back and tell her that I’ll be there only if she promises that there will be no visits to the vet.”
“She’ll understand,” Sean said holding his legs together tightly and covering his crotch with his hands.
“She’s a pretty good cook,” his mother said.
“I remember,” Sean said, “Her cooking is not what I’m afraid of.”
“You’re an odd kid,” his mother said.
Sean grinned and said, “I’m a chip off the old block.”
His mother said, “I’ll talk to her. You get back to work. Who knows, you might be done with the garage by the end of the week.”
“Right,” Sean said looking at the mass of equipment waiting to be moved. He would never finish it.
Bending down, he tried to pick up one of the pieces of test equipment. He had no idea what it was, what it did, or how much it weighed, but it was definitely heavier than he wanted to move. He looked at the piece of equipment and said, “I might be able to move it if I disassemble it and then put it back together again.”
He stood up and stared at the piece of equipment. His magic wouldn’t move anything of that weight. The parts were light enough, but the whole was too much. He considered the matter and gave up. He pushed the equipment across the floor until it reached the wall of the garage. Stepping back, he said, “There has to be a better way.”
Sean pushed equipment against the wall for most of the morning. It was close to noon when his mother came out and announced, “Lunch is ready.”
“What? No trips to the store?” Sean asked.
His mother shook her head and answered, “No. I’m going to go shopping after lunch.”
“Huh?” Sean said staring at his mother.
“I’m going grocery shopping after lunch,” she said.
“You hate grocery shopping,” Sean said.
“Only when I have to drag kids along with me,” she said.
The time spent arguing about items that the kids wanted, but didn’t need, had doubled the amount of time at the store. Sean was a sneaky brat and would just add items to the shopping cart. Lily was more argumentative.
“Oh,” Sean said.
“Let’s get in the house. You can work on the garage tomorrow morning,” his mother said.
Sean closed the garage door and followed his mother into the house. Lunch was basic soup and sandwiches. The lunch time conversation was practically non-existent. Lily wanted to return to watching cartoons as quickly as possible. His mother was working out a grocery list while eating. Sean was thinking that there had to be a way to move that equipment with his magic. He felt that he was missing something important about his magic gift.
After lunch was over, his mother said, “Lily, why don’t you watch some cartoons? Sean will join you in a little while.”
“Sure, Mom,” Lily said getting up from the table and running to the living room.
Once Lily was gone, his mother said, “Sean, they’ve taken Max to the hospital this morning.”
“What?” Sean asked surprised to hear that.
“It appears that he’s suffering from a nervous breakdown,” his mother said watching Sean for his reaction.
“You’re kidding?” Sean said finding the news extremely surprising. He didn’t think Max was the kind of kid who would lose it like that. Shaking his head, he asked, “What happened?”
“His mother said that he wouldn’t go in the woods anymore because the midgets were out to get him. After they managed to get him to go out into the woods this morning, he came charging back claiming that a midget appeared out of thin air right behind you,” his mother said.
“A midget appeared out of thin air?” Sean asked. He had to admit that he was feeling a little guilty about making Max believe that there were still Dwarves in the woods. Thinking about it, he realized that there might still be Dwarves in the woods. Just because he hadn’t seen them didn’t mean that they weren’t there.
His mother said, “That’s right. He locked himself in his room and refused to come out saying that the midgets were out to get him. He kept babbling that you were the head of some midget gang bent on killing him.”