Thursday, January 30, 2014

Mark Ethridge Week 84: The Old Man’s Back Yard

Picture 1

Picture 2

Mark Ethridge’s Picture Choice: Two

Title: The Old Man’s Back Yard

Henry yelled at me from his back door, “You shouldn’t walk through there without their permission!”

I laughed. I walked along the fence at the back of his yard. The old guy had built a little town there. With little paved walkways, and tiny buildings. He even had tiny plants, like trees and bushes, decorating what would have been yards.

“I won’t hurt anything! I Just have to look!” I waved at him, and continued exploring that tiny neighborhood. There was an old style cathedral, I mean, it looked like one to me. Complete with a church tower, in the middle of the building. Which was weird. There was a partially constructed building. And several that looked like old apartment buildings. Three stories tall. I towered over them all, of course.

Tiny bricks, stones, and pebbles made each buildings walls, and floors. Each piece carefully placed, and matched color wise. “The old guy must have spent years making these.”

Henry, from his back door, belted out again, “You’ll piss ‘em off! You’ll see!”

I scoffed. The old guy told me the little village was for the fairies. Yeah. That’s what he said. “For the fairies.” Can you imagine that? He’d built an entire little village in his backyard for the fairies. I chuckled as I walked through the place, examining each building. “Damn. But he put a lot of work into this.”

The road was actually made of paving stones. Yeah. The old guy had made the roads, stone by stone. Just like the Greeks and Romans did over 2000 years ago. It must have taken him months just to put in the roads. I didn’t even want to know how he’d managed to get all the stones to match. “What’d he do? Chip rocks to bits to get them?”

I peeked inside the buildings, through the windows. Solid stone walls. Rocks lined up, patterns matching inside and outside. I kept seeing the old guy in his garage, with a bunch of power tools, cutting boulders into tiny pieces, so he could get what he needed.

The guy was an artist. The entire village should have been in a museum somewhere. He must have spent years working on it.

After I peeked, studied, and examined everything, I wandered back to his house. He was still at the back door, waiting for me. “Son. You be careful the next few days. Be on the look out for strange things.” He looked back at his village, “They’re none too happy with you, you know.”

“Fairies don’t exist, old man. You know that.”

Yeah. Fairies don’t exist. Everybody knows that.

I had a flat tire driving home from Henry’s that afternoon. Three blocks. And I had a flat. Pulled into my driveway, and stared at the back left tire. Bone flat. Just like someone had let all the air out of it. Not a nail, or a puncture of any kind in sight. I hooked up my electric air pump, and filled the tire. Yep. Not a leak of any kind.

That evening, things just kept happening. The toaster oven kept going “BING!” every hour. All night long. “BING! BING! BING!” The microwave joined in, offset a half hour from the toaster. “Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!” Hell, I unplugged them both, and they still went off. All night long.

The TV kept tuning to BBC America. Yeah. I tuned in ABC to watch the news. I put the remote down, and presto. The channel changed to BBC America. I put on a movie with the DVD player. And pressed play. And the TV tuned to BBC America. Figure that one out.

In frustration, I grabbed a beer, and popped the top. Stupid pull tab came off in my hand. Beer was still sealed. I tried to push the tab into the can. Nothing doing. It was like the top was solid. In frustration, I stabbed the top with a Phillips head screwdriver. Sucker spewed beer all over my kitchen.

I could have lived with that. I could have. But I grabbed a second beer, and the same damn thing happened. Pull tab came off, and I had to resort to opening it with the screwdriver. And I beer spewed everywhere.

I figured I’d fix a sandwich. I pulled the loaf of bread out of the fridge, and stared at it. It was fluffy white and green, with a hint of blue here and there. The entire loaf was just two days old. The sell by date printed on the bag was still over a week away. And the entire loaf was fluffy.

I pulled out a bowl, and a packet of instant oatmeal. I got the water in the oatmeal, no problem. Plugged in the microwave, and put the bowl inside, and none of the buttons on the touchpad worked. Not one. I unplugged the stupid thing, and plugged it back in. Nothing. I took two steps back from it, so I didn’t pick it up and throw it across the kitchen. Stupid thing said, “Bing! Bing! Bing! Bing! Bing!”

I screamed, and unplugged it. “I give up! I’ll just go eat somewhere!”

When I got to the car, that tire was flat again. Not a leak in it. Not one atom of air in it either. So, I pumped the tire back up, and got in the car. Every time I turned the key, the car said, “Click! Click! Click! Click! Click!” I knew that sound. It was a dead battery. I popped the hood, and looked. The battery looked good. I hooked up my battery charger. It said the battery was good. I got in the car and tried again. “Click! Click! Click! Click! Click!”

I screamed in frustration.

I got out, slammed the car door shut, and went back to the house. I couldn’t get in. The front door had magically locked itself. That was OK. I had the keys. I put them in the lock, and turned, and nothing happened. The keys didn’t work.

I couldn’t get into my house. I pulled out my cell phone to call the AAA for help with my car. My cell phone was dead as a brick. The battery charge was gone. “Really? Really?” I stared at it. “And I charged you this morning?”

I wandered around my house, trying to get in. I tried the windows. The garage door. The back door. I tried everything.

And that’s when the cops showed up. Flashlights and all. Guns drawn. “Freeze!”

There I was, in my yard, holding my hands up, scared witless, explaining, “But it’s my house! And my keys don’t work! I’m just trying to get back inside, so I can go to bed! I have to work tomorrow!”

They listened to me explain. They were so patient. They even walked around to the front door with me. I tried my key again, and the door wouldn’t open. I handed the key to one of the officers. He tried it. The door opened right up.

Well. At least I’d gotten back inside. To watch more BBC America. I unplugged the damn TV, and turned on the Radio. “This is BBC News.” Learn something new all the time. I never knew my radio, in South Lake Tahoe, California, could pick up BBC News in London. Hell, I didn’t know that was possible. I stood there, staring at my radio like it was a demon from hell.

Then I unplugged it.

I didn’t sleep much that night. Especially when the toaster oven and microwave started making their hourly noise even though they weren’t plugged in. And the TV turned itself to BBC America again. With me standing there, holding the cord in my hand, wondering how a TV could run without being plugged in. I even pulled the cable company connection, and the silly thing kept right on playing.

I slept in short twenty-minute chunks, leaping out of my skin every time the toaster said, “Bing! Bing! Bing!” or the microwave said, “Beep! Beep! Beep!”

I didn’t even try a third beer. I just sat on the sofa, and watched BBC America until I passed out. Then picked myself up off the floor when the Toaster said, “Bing!” and I leaped out of my skin, and landed on the carpet.

That kept happening all frigging night long.

The next morning someone knocked on my front door. I staggered to it. It was Henry. The old guy. “The fairies want you to know. If you apologize, they’ll stop.”

Do you know what I did? I showed how stubborn I was. That’s what I did. I put up with that same story every night, and every day for three solid days before I gave up, and went back to Henry’s little village. I stood outside that little village, and I sank to my knees, and pleaded for the fairies to forgive me.

That’s what I did.

Tell me fairies don’t exist. Explain to me how they’re figments of my imagination. Yeah. Right. Sure they are. And do you really think I’m building those tiny buildings in my backyard? Nope. It’s the fairies doing that. One stupid stone at a time.

One stupid stone at a time.


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Mark woke up in 2010, and has been exploring life since then. All his doctors agree. He needs to write.



  1. Brilliant piece, made me smile. So visual, I could totally see it happening.

    And the picture you wrote for, that is from Madurodam here in Holland (The Hague) - a tourist attraction 'Holland in miniature' all the famous buildings throughout Holland in miniature!

    (The one in the front is St Nicolaas chapel (built 1030) and the ruin is St Maartenkapel (built 1152) and the one with the red shutters is the Belvedere (built 1450 - now a restaurant) all part of the Valkhof area, in Nijmegen - oldest city in Holland - in the South East of Holland)

  2. I was really absorbed and thoroughly enjoyed it. And I do believe in fairies, I do believe in fairies, I do, I do, I do . . x