I can’t stand clowns. Now I know why.
I can’t stand clowns. Now I know why.
This next story promises to be a dark tale. Babysitting can be a frightful thing. Simply the feeling of being a child wanting to prove adulthood at only the age of 14, and taking on adult responsibilities. You are the guardian of the house, the protector of someone small who depends on you. And if that was challenged. Well….What would you do?
I’m Tasha Wheelhouse and this is Coppershock.
The smell of barbeque smoke was heavy as I walked over the lawn. The sun was out and the block party Barbeque was in full swing. Being the awkward 14 year old that I was, I stood with my cup of Kool-aid. There wasn’t really anyone my age. Frankly I felt I was too old to go running with the group of kids to play tag or ultimate frisbee. Families around me were talking in circles and laughing with one another. And, that’s when I spotted Austin Nielson sitting next to his mom. I looked at him in wonderment. He was a toddler when I last saw him and, now he was 6 and happily doodling in a coloring book at a picnic table. His mom looked up and made eye contact with me. She smiled and waved me over.
“Hi Austin.” I said.
“Whatcha drawing?” I looked over his shoulder, It sort of looked like… well I tried to guess.
“Is that an Elephant?” I asked him. Austin stopped coloring and gave me a dark look.
“No! It’s a dog!”
“Well then what’s that?” I asked pointing to a long trunk-like appendage to the animal. The crayon color was purple so it truly was hard to tell what he had in mind.
“Tail duh!” I looked to his mom who gave me a look and rolled her eye’s.
“Austin is pretty creative.” She told me petting the top of his head and giving it a small kiss. “So how are things with your parents?” She asked me.
“Dad’s business is doing so well he’s started traveling out of the country regularly. Mom’s been working on her house styles blog.”
“I’m so glad to hear they’re doing well! What about you? How’s school?”
“It’s great. I am eager to get a job, but can’t really hold one down at 14 because I can’t get a consistent ride and won’t have a learner’s permit until i’m 15. So i’m feeling sort of stuck.”
“You know, Todd and I were thinking of going out this Friday. Why don’t you watch Austin?”
“Watch? Like Babysit?”
Mrs. Nielson laughed. “Yeah, you can call it babysitting. I don’t see the harm, I know your parent’s well, and I think Austin would love to spend time with a big kid. Would you like that Austin?”
Austin looked up from his paper and gave me a big glare. He then took a deep breath and asked me seriously.
“You’re a girl.” He said in small disgust. “Do you like Transformers?” He eye’d in utter suspicion.
I smiled to myself and said,
“Bumblebee of course! He’s awesome and funny.” Austin then beamed back at me and looked to his mom.
“Can we watch Transformers when she comes over?” Austin was now very excited with this idea.
“Oh, I don’t see why not?”
“Hmm?” She looked up to me from her boy who had now gone back to coloring.
“I don’t want to blow this but, I’ve never officially babysat before? Do I need to make him dinner? Tuck him in?”
Mrs Nielson smiled and then leaned forward.
“The secret to babysitting? You just watch him closely enough so that he doesn’t eat paint, stab himself with anything sharp, raid the candy jar, or set the house on fire. After that, you have him brush his teeth, and tuck him to bed. Watch TV for a few hours till we come home and give you money for your trouble.” She smiled broadly. I laughed with her. The barbeque was starting to die down and my mom came by tapping my shoulder signalling to me that she wanted to leave.
“Mrs. Nielson I don’t have a cell phone, but if you’d like to call my mom for me that’d be ok.” She smiled and then Austin stood up.
“Transformers!” He then puckered out his lips and made a buzzing machine noise with his mouth moving his arms in sharp angles, until his arm reached a position of a high five toward me. I smiled and made sure to give it a good smack. I then pretended to wince holding my hand cradling it to my chest.
“Oh! Ow! Ouch! You’ve got a strong Hi-Five Austin! Whew! I gotta be careful around you, you’re crazy!” Austin then laughed his little laugh and ran off to see his dad on the other side of the park manning the grill. Undoubtedly Austin was going to see if he could sneak another hot dog.
Friday night came, and I walked over to the Nielsons door. Before I left I asked my mom for some pieces of advice. She said to make sure to ask if Austin had been fed yet, what time bedtime was, and if there were any parts of the house that were off limits. That was a valid question, because the Nielsons lived in a HUGE house.I pressed the doorbell and a moment later, the large glass front door swung open. Mrs Nielson was wearing a lovely black dress.
“You look very nice.” I said to her. She did a short playful curtsy to me and then looked to the stairway.
“Todd! Todd!” She then turned back to me. “Austin loves to eat Oreos, in fact I’ve caught the little stinker eating a whole sleeve in one night, same for the other “Junky” foods in the pantry.” She closed the large front door behind me.
“If he disappears on you and it’s really quiet, it’s likely because he’s trying to sneak a snack. It’s 6:30 now, I already fed him dinner. His bedtime is at 8, but because we promised he could watch Transformers with you it’ll go past that and that’s ok. That’ll just make you the ‘cool babysitter’. “ She winked at me and then proceeded to march me into the kitchen.
“Where’s the house phone I don’t see one?” I said looking around.
“Ah! Here.” She turned around and opened a kitchen drawer. Inside, she picked up a rather simple plastic cell phone. It had a touch screen but the graphics on it were basic at best.
“This is actually the ‘sitter’ cell phone. Our cell plan allowed us to have an extra line for free and it would have cost us more to have a house phone. So we’ve just got his extra one. It’s also got my and Todds phone numbers programmed inside it in case you need something.” She looked at her watch and then almost jumped moving toward the front door.
“Todd! ‘The Lazy Chaperone’ doesn’t mean we can be, the curtain’s going to go up before we get there.” I heard a rushing of feet down the stairway and Mr Nielson produced himself wearing slacks, a button down shirt and an overcoat.
He pressed his hand on the small of her back pushing her out the front door. It closed with a sucking sound, and the whole room around me went quiet. I stood there for a moment looking back to the plastic cell phone on the counter, then back to the fridge, and back to the front door.
“Well.” I said standing there in silence.
“Mom said we can make popcorn.” I jumped. Little Austin had somehow walked up behind me so quietly I didn’t hear him. He was in a large onesie with printed dinosaurs all over it.
Austin and I then took the next 4 minutes making popcorn and having him point out all the many dinosaurs on his pajamas. We turned on the TV, and I managed to find the copy of Tranformers as Austin got settled on the couch. Turns out before the end of the movie, despite its massive consecutive explosions, Austin had completely fallen asleep.
“Come on bud it’s time for bed.”
“Mmmmhmmm.” In a zombie manner he nodded to me. Walking behind him he sluggishly trailed his feet up the stairway. I followed him, and watched as he poured himself into bed. Then frantically he started to pat his hand around the bedside.
“Huh?” I said.
“I can go find him, what does he look like?”
“He’s a lion.”
“Okay do you know where I can find Luffy for you?” Austin shook his head ‘no’ and started to whimper.
“I want Luffy!” he said a little louder.
“Oh ok ok, I’ll go find him.”
Austin nodded then turned himself over in the bed.
I began to walk down the hallway and then remembered the warning about which rooms I’m not supposed to go into. In a slight panic, I thought about going back to Austin to help me look and let me know which parts of the house were off limits. I poked my head back into his room, and he almost looked asleep. I thought it better of it not to wake him up. Oh man, But if he did, I’d be in big trouble for not bringing him “Luffy”.
I continued, and crept down the hall opening the first door to my left. Bathroom. Figures, but of course no Luffy. As I looked down the hallway ahead of me, it had two more doors which I assumed led to more rooms. But, just in case one was the master bedroom, I didn’t want to risk violating their privacy. So I decided to start walking down the the main floor. At the foot of the stairs there was a door. I quietly opened the handle by turning it all the way over, and pressed my shoulder into the wood.
The light from the hallway spilled into this room in a long streak from the door opening. I saw my shadow cast onto the far side of the wall. I stepped in and looked about my feet. The wood flooring led to a desk sat against a wall with a computer on it. Dang, I must be in Mr Nielsons personal office. I took a second to look. He had a large framed portrait of the moon landing. It looked signed, but I couldn’t tell by which astronaut. His computer desk suddenly turned onto the screen saver brightening the room in an odd blue hue.
The clown statue then came in at the corner of my eye. It was life sized. Its face had a lightning bolt over the left eye, and stars all over the right side of its plastc face. It stood in a funny happy position with its hands on it’s hips, leaning over with its neck cocked to the side. I hate clowns, but it must have been some crazy collectable of Mr.Nielsons. Regardless, there’s no Luffy in here. So I shut the door.
I wandered back to the TV area and looked around. Honestly this house looked so tidy that it would be difficult to imagine anything becoming misplaced. I passed through the kitchen and saw the cell phone. I picked it up and started to text Mrs Nielson.
“Hi. Sorry to bother you. But I am looking for Luffy the Lion. It’s not in his room and i’m not sure where to look.” I hit send and then a few minutes later heard the cell phone ding. I looked at the screen and it read:
“Sorry about that. Try looking behind the couch in the TV room, Austin says that’s where Luffy’s ‘cage’ is when he plays imaginary circus with him.”
“Thanks. By the way, poked my head in your husbands office while looking for Luffy. That life-size clown statue is pretty creepy haha. Cant imageine why you let him get it.” I sat the phone down and wandered over to the couch. I pulled it back a little from the wall and sure enough there was Luffy, half of his face looked a little squished from being jammed behind the couch.
“Alright little dude, it’s bedtime for you too.” I said the the stuffed animal as I bounded up the stairs. I tiptoed my way back to Austin’s room and leaned into the doorway. He was not in bed.
“Austin?” I got down on all fours to look under his bed. Empty.
“Austin?” I said again standing up and looking around. I walked over to the closet. Reaching out my hand I felt it grasp around the knob and began to pull. Nothing. He wasn’t here.
“Austin! Come on man, you’re starting to scare me where are you?”
Then an earth shattering crash of glass came from the kitchen downstairs. I bounded down the bannister landing hard on the main floor. Then something made my stomach turn. The office door was open?
“Austin are you hiding in here?” I asked pushing the door open. Light from the hallway came in again, and set off the sensor the computer as the screensaver lit up once more. I felt horror buckle my knees. The clown statue, it wasn’t there. A big blank area of where it once stood was now vacant.
“AUSTIN!” I nearly was shouting now as I started to run into the kitchen to look around. The pantry door was open and looked like it had been raided. It looked bad, like he’d just been here and then wasn’t.
“Austin! If you’re here I need you to come out now! Please!” I felt my throat closing up. How could he just be gone? I looked over to the counter to reach the cell phone to call 911. The phone was nowhere to be seen. My heart was racing, what do I do? I started to feel hot tears going down my cheeks. I lost a little boy. How could I have lost him?
The cabinet under the sink clicked open behind my back. A rush of adrenaline went through me as I turned to look. Then Austin’s little pink face looked up at me, then down to the floor as he put his hands behind his back. I started to cry hysterically and rushed over to him putting my arms around him.
“Austin I thought something had happened to you.”
“I’m sorry. I know I’m not supposed to snack, I just really wanted something. I knocked over the jar and spilled stuff. Then hid because you were mad at me and yelling my name.”
“Oh Austin! No, I’m not mad. I’m very glad you’re ok.” I said heaving a deep sigh of relief. “Ok, I have Luffy upstairs. Let’s say we get you back to bed huh?” Austin nodded, and looked over to the mess of a pantry.
“It’s ok buddy I’ll clean it up.” Austin nodded then gave me a big hug around my middle.
“I’m really sorry.” he said. I hugged him back taking a deep breath myself. We walked upstairs together. I picked him up and merrily tossed him onto his bed. He giggled and then pulled the covers up over his body. Austin then took a quick look around his bed, wrinkled his nose and shrugged. He snuggled up and curled into his blankets.
As I started to walk downstairs, a feeling hit me hard in the gut. I tried to think back to Austins room. Luffy wasn’t there? Luffy wasn’t there. I felt my skin raise in goosebumps, I knew that I had sat Luffy on his bed, right before I started to look for Austin. I turned the corner to the kitchen, and the clown statue stayed there staring at me through the kitchen glass doors to the backyard. Slowly he raised his left arm.
His left hand was holding Luffy. He shook it playfully and danced it across the air in front of his body. I felt my feet turn to cement as they stayed glued to the tile floor. Then a light flicked on and I started to look for the phone. Frantically I began searching the counters, even ducking under to look at the floors to find it. A knocking came at the glass door. The clown held up his right hand. In it was the babysitter cell phone.
He pressed it up to the glass and from there I read the screen. It read “Text from Mrs Nielson: We don’t have a clown statue?” He dropped the phone and stomped on it with his large clown shoe. I saw the light in screen blink out. With his now free hand he reached behind his back pulling out a knife. I started to feel my hands shake. The clown began to stab and stab and stab Luffy! Pulling out his stuffing all over the back patio. Then the clown then dropped the lifeless unstuffed Luffy onto the porch and he ran away laughing hysterically. I rushed over to the glass door and locked it, I then went back to the kitchen and proceeded to pull open dozens of drawers until I found where the knives were kept. As I started to run around all of the downstairs looking for any windows or doors for me to lock. When I felt like everything was secure, I went upstairs to Austins room and sat on his floor by his bed as he slept. I held the knife in both hands, and prayed for the night to go faster.
Time passed. The clown didn’t make an appearance again, but as soon as I heard the downstairs door open and the cheerful voice of Mrs. Nielson calling out to say Hello. A tight band of pressure around my chest lifted as I felt myself take large breaths in relief. I walked out from the hallway to the top of the stairs, the knife dangling loose in my grip.
“What in the world….” Her face softened when she saw me standing at the top of the stairs. I tossed the knife to the floor next to me, sat on the top step and started to fully cry. Mr. Neilson pushed past me picking up the knife and made a sharp turn down the upstairs hallway to go check on Austin. Mrs. Nielson looked at me patiently waiting for me to catch enough of my breath to talk. Mr Nielson came back and said to Mrs. Nielson.
“Austin’s just fine. Out like a light.” He then turned his attention to me placing a gentle hand on my back.”Honey, why were you holding that knife when we came in?”
I took a deep breath and recounted for them all that had happened. Luffy, Austin missing, the crash in the kitchen when he snuck food, and discovering the clown just outside the door to torture me. As I talked we walked down the stairs together and I pointed to the back patio where the remains of the babysitter cell phone was mixed in Luffy’s stuffing. Mr Nielson immediately got out his phone to call the police, while Mrs. Nielson gave me a big hug. She called my mom to come by and the cops asked for my statement. Everyone is trying to reassure me that this this was just a fluke. Things like this don’t happen to people. But it happened to me, So why can’t it happen to you too the next time you’re all alone?