David C. Hughes, Writer

Twelve Tantalizingly Twisted Tales featured on Lone Star Book Blog Tour, starting Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Archive for the month “February, 2015”

Bunny Slippers (Part 2 of 2)

Three more times that week Brianna woke up with the two floppy-eared bunnies with bright blue eyes perched on her chest, staring at her.

“Okay, now I’m mad,” she announced Saturday morning.  She stood in the kitchen holding the slippers at arm’s length, scrunching her face in disgust, as if she was carrying two dead skunks.

“They were on your bed again?” her mom asked.

Dad looked up from his tablet computer and set his coffee cup on the table. “Bring those to me, sweet pea.”

Brianna obeyed.

“Hmm,” Dad said as he turned the slippers over and examined the soles. “No legs, no feet.” He held them up to his ear, one at a time. “And no heartbeats. I declare these slippers to be inanimate objects, incapable of moving without the aid of two stinky, little feet thrust through the backs of their heads. You know, toe jam for brains.”

“Thanks for that assessment, Dr. Brilliance,” Mom said, placing a steaming bowl of scrambled eggs in the middle of the table.

“Dad, what’s ‘inanimate’ mean?”

“Not alive,” he replied. “Never were, never will be.” He looked at her over the top of his glasses. “Wanna take care of this once and for all?”

Brianna nodded.

“Okay, get your shoes on.” Dad looked at Mom and winked. “We’ll be in the back yard for a few minutes, okay?”

Mom nodded. “Okay.” She sipped her coffee. “Go take care of them. I’ll reheat the eggs when you get back.”

Outside, Brianna and her dad walked to the garden shed. Dad pulled out his keys. “Part of my uniform, remember?”

“Yep,” Brianna said.

“Hand me the slippers, sweet pea,” said Dad. “You still want to keep them, right?”

“Uh-huh. But I’ll wear them only in winter, when it’s cold.” She hesitated. “What are you gonna do with them?”

“I’m going to put them up for now,” he answered.

“Okay, sounds like a plan.” She handed over the slippers.

He snapped open the padlock, unbolted the shed door and stepped inside. Brianna watched him set a stepladder under the hole in the attic floor. He then scaled the ladder, bunny slippers in hand, and disappeared into the darkness. Moments later, he climbed back down.

“There,” he said, brushing his hands. “Safely hidden away. We’ll get them back down in the fall, when you start third grade.”

“Yippee!” squealed Brianna. “Third grade—I can’t wait.”

“I bet you can’t,” said Dad. He folded the step ladder and hung it back on the shed wall. “Now let’s go inside and gobble up those eggs Mom made.”

“Yeah,” Brianna said. “After you pour sugar on them.”

“Not funny, sweat pea,” Dad said with a smirk. He pulled the shed door closed, shut the latch and snapped the lock into place. He jerked on it a couple times for good measure.

Relief settled over her. “Whew,” she sighed.

“You okay now?”

Brianna nodded. “Yup, all good.” And she forgot all about the bunny slippers hidden in the shed’s attic behind the locked door.

Until the next morning.

 

***

 

Sunday, Brianna thought. Can’t wait to see Nana and Grandpa. But Brianna’s happy thought was quickly displaced by terror as she awoke to find four bright blue, plastic eyes glaring at her from their perch on the top shelf of the bookcase. A purple flip flop decorated with yellow bunnies hung below the slippers, Dad’s pearl-handled pocket knife impaling the flip flop’s sole. She didn’t feel her feet touch the floor as she raced to her parents’ bedroom, screaming.

 

***

 

Dad put down the hammer and inspected the stout wooden box. “That should do it,” he said, turning his attention to Brianna. “You’re still sure you want to keep these things?”

She offered a half-hearted smile and nodded.

“’Cuz, seriously, sweet pea, they’re really starting to creep me out. I think we need to take them to a priest. Or incinerate them.”

“No!” Brianna moaned. “I know they’re weird. … But I still love them. I just don’t want to wear them when it’s hot outside. They’re winter slippers, not summer play shoes. Besides, I like wearing my flip flops now.”

“Okay.” Dad sighed. He shook his head. “I don’t think keeping them is a good idea, but I’ll hide them where no one else can find them. Let me know when you want them back and I’ll retrieve them.”

She watched Dad climb the stairs to the second floor and turn the corner. Brianna sighed. The pink slippers creeped her out, too, but they were still her favorites, even if they did have a death wish against her flip flops.

Her thoughts drifted back to last Christmas—how excited she’d been, opening the box and wearing the slippers to church, the grocery store and to school. People had complimented her choice of footwear wherever she went. Those pink, fuzzy, floppy-eared, bright-eyed bunnies made her feel good. Yeah, they were a bit strange, in a freak show sort of way, yet fascinating, too.

After five minutes Dad reappeared at the top of the staircase, snapped off the light and hustled down the stairs. “There,” he declared. “Hidden away. Again.”

“Thanks, Dad,” she said, grabbing his sweaty hand. “You’re the best dad in the whole wide world.”

 

***

 

The next day, Brianna’s heart beat a little faster than normal as she climbed out of the car and flung her backpack over her shoulder. “Bye, Mom,” she said.

Her mother leaned out the window. “Have fun on your last day of second grade.” She wiped a tear from her cheek.

“I will.”

Brianna waved as her mom pulled out of the school driveway, then she headed up the sidewalk and into the building with Ariel and Anna. They chattered like three squirrels under a pecan tree, talking about everything and nothing as they walked down the hallway toward their cubbies, flip flops slapping.

“Hey, look!” Ariel said, pointing at Brianna’s coat rack. “Why’d you bring your bunny slippers to school? I thought you said your dad put them up.”

Brianna gasped. Her backpack slid to the floor. Four bright blue eyes stared at her from the shadows of the cubby. She stepped back.

“Are you okay?” Anna asked.

“No …” Brianna whispered.

“What the‒?” Ariel screamed as one slipper, then the other, wiggled out of the cubby and dropped to the floor. Arial took off, running down the hallway, still screaming.

A heartbeat later, Anna followed her sister’s lead, filling the hallway with echoing screeches as she sprinted after Ariel.

Brianna couldn’t move. She watched the fuzzy pink bunnies slide across the floor and nuzzle up to her ankles, like two soft kittens wanting affection. White spots swirled behind her eyes and her knees buckled. She sat—hard—on the cool floor.

The left slipper moved first, nudging the flip flop off her foot and smacking it away from her. The right one did the same. Sharing a comfortable sigh, the two fuzzy, pink bunnies shimmied themselves onto her feet.

Regaining control of her body, Brianna gently wiggled her toes and then, like the slippers, let out a sigh. “Amazing. …”  She felt the slippers adjust, ever so slightly, conforming to her feet. “Yes,” she encouraged, “that’s it.” Brianna stood up, placed her backpack in the cubby, retrieved the discarded flip flops, and walked into the classroom. On the way in, she tossed the flip flops into the trashcan by the door.

Brianna sat sideways in her chair and looked down at the pink fuzzy faces. They gazed up at her, bright blue eyes filled with contentment. “I missed you, too,” she said. “I missed you, too.”

 

‒THE END‒

 

Copyright © 2015 by David C. Hughes

Bunny Slippers (Part 1 of 2)

Brianna squealed as she tore off the red and green sparkly wrapping paper—four bright blue eyes stared at her through the cellophane-covered box. “Bunny slippers!” she cried. “Just what I’ve always wanted!” She jumped up, waded through the pile of discarded Christmas paper strewn across the living room floor and threw her arms around her mother’s neck. “You’re the best mom in the whole wide world,” she declared, smothering her face with kisses.

“And you’re my most favorite daughter in the whole wide world,” Mom replied, hugging her seven-year-old tightly.

Brianna pressed her nose against her mother’s cheek, smelling the faint scent of nutmeg. “That’s because I’m your only daughter,” she said, giggling.

“So it goes without saying. Now go give Dad some love, too. He’s getting jealous.”

As Bing Crosby belted out another round of “White Christmas” on the stereo, Brianna fell into her father’s lap and nuzzled her face against his chest. “And you’re the best dad in the whole wide world!”

“You ain’t so bad yourself, sweet pea,” Dad said, stroking her disheveled hair. He set his coffee cup on the end table. “Want me to open it?”

“Yes, please.” Brianna picked up the shoebox and handed it to him. “Here ya go.”

He fished around in his pocket and pulled out a knife.

“Seriously, Dad?” she said. “You carry your pocket knife in your pajamas?”

“And my car keys, too,” he replied. “It’s every good father’s uniform. I put it on each morning.”

Dad unfolded the knife—a pearl-handled beauty Mom had given him for his birthday. He grinned. “Would you like to open it, sweet pea?”

“Can I really?”

“You bet,” Dad said, giving her the knife while Mom snapped a flurry of pictures.

“Be careful with that thing,” Mom warned. “Dad keeps it razor sharp.”

“I will, Mom, no worries.” Brianna slid the blade under the clear tape and freed the lid with two quick slashes. She handed the pocket knife back to her dad and lifted the lid off the box. “They’re amazing,” she breathed. Grabbing the slippers, she fluffed them with a quick shake. The bunny ears flopped from side to side. “You two are awesome.” She gave her dad another quick hug and slipped her feet into the soft slippers.

She didn’t take them off until spring.

 

***

 

She didn’t remember exactly when she quit wearing the fuzzy pink bunny slippers, only that the weather had become too hot for her to traipse all over town wearing imitation fur. Brianna had replaced them with a brand new pair of purple flip flops decorated with yellow bunnies, even on the soles. She’d thrown the scuffed and stained slippers into the back of the closet to hibernate until fall.

That’s why she yelped when she awoke one morning to find four bright blue eyes staring at her from on top of the covers.

“Mom!” she screamed. She threw the blanket off, launching the mangy slippers across the room. One landed under her desk, the other ricocheted off the wall and thumped against the trash can. She scurried out of bed and ran to her parents’ room. “Mom!” she bellowed again.

“In the bathroom,” Mom called.

“Mom!” Brianna flung open the bathroom door. “Did you put my bunny slippers on my bed last night?”

“No,” Mom said, drying her hair with a fluffy towel. She looked at Brianna with a slight scowl. “What happened?”

Brianna stood breathless, heart pounding. “When I woke up,” she panted, “both of the slippers were sitting on my chest, staring at me. … They scared the bejeebers out of me.”

“Hmm,” Mom said, hanging the towel on the rack above the toilet. I’ll call Dad after I finish, to see if he’s playing a trick on you. You know what a prankster he is.”

“Okay,” Brianna whimpered. “Tell him it wasn’t funny this time, and he’s not gonna like what I do to get him back.”

Mom gave her a sympathetic smile and returned to fixing her hair.

While Mom grunted her way through each rat’s nest, Brianna remembered her dad’s last practical joke, when he’d replaced an actual hamburger patty on her dinner plate with a rubber one. He’d even melted a piece of cheddar cheese over it, totally faking her out.

To get him back, she’d dumped all the salt from the shaker, replaced it with sugar and watched with anticipation as Dad sprinkled it over his fried eggs. His grimace alone was worth the prank, but winning the tickle fight afterward made it even better. A fake hamburger was one thing, though, but bunny slippers? On her chest? Jeez, Dad, she thought. Not cool. Not cool at all.

After ten more minutes her mother finished with her hair, and Brianna followed her into the kitchen. Mom snapped on the coffee maker and rummaged through the cupboard for a mug. Like her dad, it took at least two cups of black coffee to get her mother going in the morning. Adults are so weird, she thought.

“Mom,” Brianna prompted. “Remember?”

“Oh, sorry … hang on.” Mom placed the cup in the coffee maker and punched the brew button. As the brewer gurgled and sputtered, she dug through her cavernous purse for her phone.

“Mom . . . .” Brianna whined.

“I’m looking for it, sweet pea,” she assured. “Oh, here it is.” She slipped the cell phone out of a side pocket and tapped the screen. After a moment she smiled. “Hi, honey,” she said. She looked at Brianna. “No, nothing’s wrong. Brianna wanted to know if you played a trick on her this morning. … Well, she woke up and both of her bunny slippers were sitting on her chest. They scared her, and she’s really upset.” Mom shook her head and frowned. “Okay, hon. Love you. … Bye.”

“So?” Brianna choked. “Did he do it?”

“He said he didn’t, but you know Dad, always playing tricks.”

“And pushing our buttons,” Brianna said. She thought for a moment, then added, “But if he really didn’t do it, then who did?” Tears rolled down her cheeks. “‘Cuz it wasn’t funny.”

“Oh, baby, don’t cry,” Mom cooed. She stooped down and hugged her. “Maybe you got up during the night and took them out of your closet without remembering. You know, like sleepwalking.”

“Sleepwalking? Me?” Brianna’s fear gave way to fascination. Her dad sometimes walked in his sleep, and she thought it was kind of cool, in a weird sort of way.

One night, not long ago, Brianna and her mom had watched Dad shuffle from his bedroom, through the living room where they were watching a movie and into the kitchen without saying a word. He sat on the floor next to the pantry, closed his eyes and let off a loud snore. Mom had to jostle him pretty hard to wake him up and send him back to bed.

“How awesome,” she said, excited to go to school and tell her best friends, Ariel and Anna, twin sisters, about her sleepwalking shenanigans.

But it soon became clear Brianna didn’t sleepwalk.

(continued)

 

Copyright © 2015 by David C. Hughes

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