The following Saturday, Mr. and Mrs. Appleby loaded up their pickup truck and headed off to a local farmers market to peddle their wares. As they often did, they left Kevin at home to tend the farm and keep an eye on his younger brother.
Soon after their parents had left, Keith brought out the remains of Sammy and laid them out on the porch. He sighed as he gazed sadly at the flattened and torn burlap face. The grinning poop emoji on Sammy’s shirt seemed to mock his sorrow, and he gave it a little kick before walking over to sit on the steps.
Not long afterwards, Kevin came to the front door and stood watching Keith for a moment. He took a bite of the apple he held and asked, “Whatcha doing, Keith?”
“Waiting for Damon,” he said matter-of-factly. “He said he was coming to help me build the scariest scarecrow ever.”
Kevin raised his eyes to the dirt-and-stone lane that led from the road to the house and chewed thoughtfully. He highly doubted that his friend would show up. “Don’t get your hopes up. I’m sure Damon has better things to do than help a seven year old build a scarecrow.”
“He’ll come. He said he would, so he will.” Keith turned indignant eyes on his brother.
Kevin said nothing in response, but bit another chunk out of his apple as he stared out toward the road. I swear, Damon, if you upset my brother…
“There he is!” Keith stood up and pointed at a figure riding up the road on a bicycle, hunched under a bulging backpack and wobbling crazily as he raced up the road. “I told you he’d come!”
“Yeah, I see.” Kevin came outside and chucked his apple core over the railing to one of the wandering goats. He stood next to Keith on the top step, watching Damon pedal furiously up the drive as though the devil himself was after him.
As Damon neared the house, Keith leapt down from the porch and ran to him. “You came! You came! Kevin said you wouldn’t, but you did!”
“Hey, K-bot,” Damon huffed, all out of breath. He glanced up at Kevin as he spoke. “I said I’d help you build the scariest scarecrow, and here I am.”
Something in Damon’s demeanor—a strange glassiness in his eyes—suggested that something wasn’t quite right. If Kevin didn’t know any better, he’d say his friend seemed…afraid. He immediately dismissed the thought. The only things that frightened Damon was his Scotch-Irish grandmother and the prospect of summer school. “So what’s the plan, Stan?”
Damon spared Kevin the briefest of glances as leaned his bike against the porch and slid the backpack ff his shoulders. “The plan is to build a scarecrow,” he repeated in what Kevin thought was a strained voice. To Keith, he said, “Wait till you see the cool stuff I found.”
Kevin was certain that his friend’s strange tone had something to do with the acquisition of some of that cool stuff, but he wouldn’t say so in front of his brother. Instead, he watched as the unlikely pair of his best friend and his little brother knelt on the ground taking things from the backpack.
“Here’s a couple old bike reflectors we can use for eyes. They’ll look wicked creepy shining in the dark.”
Kevin chuckled as Keith took the reflectors and held them up to his eyes.
“And this is one of my mom’s old banana hair clips.” The hot pink clip was missing a few teeth, which despite its whimsical hue gave it a somewhat menacing appearance as Damon opened and closed it a couple times before handing it to Keith. “We can use this for the mouth.”
Keith gave the banana clip a doubtful glance and tossed it aside; apparently anything hot pink didn’t register very high on his list of scary things.
Next, Damon pulled out a pair of plastic skeleton hands and a Styrofoam wig head. Keith squealed with delight and eagerly snatched the head from Damon’s hands. “Way cool! This will make him really creepy!”
At the sight of the pocked and slightly-dirty object, a tremor of terror raced down Kevin’s spine. Just in time, he stopped himself from crying out and backing away. He had long been frightened of mannequins and wig heads, but he had managed to keep his fear hidden, and he had no intention of making his fear known now.
“This stuff is just to drape over the hands and the head.” Damon took out several rolls of gauze and a large canister of Modge Podge. “We can use this to add details to the face and make it look realistic and scary.”
It’s scary enough the way it is, Kevin thought, staring at the wig head as though he expected it to turn and look at him. “What did you do, raid your grandparents’ attic?”
Thankfully, Damon didn’t notice the tremor in Kevin’s voice. “My grandparents’ attic, our garage…and other places.”
“But what’s the scarecrow going to wear?” Keith asked, his brows furrowed with worry. “He can’t wear my mom’s old pajamas; they aren’t scary enough.”
“Already thought of that, K-bot.” Kevin thought Damon’s grin seemed a bit too wide, not to mention forced. He reached into the backpack one last time to pull out a pair of patched and faded blue jeans and an equally-worn black-and-blue plaid flannel shirt. “I present to you the ultimate in creepy scarecrow fashion.”
“Ew! It smells like death!” Keith exclaimed, covering his nose and mouth as he scuttled backwards.
Kevin’s nose twitched as the musty smell rose to meet him. Nothing about the clothes seemed in any way frightening. However, his brother’s words unnerved him and made him more uneasy than he otherwise would have been. “They don’t smell like death, Keith. They just smell old.”
“Old people die,” Keith insisted.
Kevin couldn’t argue with that logic, and in any case, he didn’t want to belabor the point. He just wanted to get on with it and get the task completed. “Whatever. Let’s get this done before Mom and Dad get home.”
…to be continued
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