Mrs. Burnage was a sweet lady, probably in her late 50s when my three sisters, Jason Adams (another younger kid in the neighborhood), and I would go visit her. I visited her from ages eight to thirteen. Mrs. Burnage didn't have children of her own; she wasn't able to, according to my mom. So she loved it when we would come over, and we did too. Even though she didn't have any of her own kids, her house was a child's dream. When you walked in, there were two living areas, one to the right, another to the left. The one on the right was normal enough with couches, television, coffee table, a few hunted animals hanging on the wall, etc. The one to the left, which is a step lower (and thus a step taller) than the rest of the house, was a child's paradise.
The main thing I remember about that room was that she had one of those red popcorn machine carts. As soon as we would come over, she'd put in fresh popcorn kernels and butter and have it hot and ready for us just minutes after arrival. She had dolls with elaborate dollhouses all over the room for the girls, and she had trucks, legos, K'nex, an assortment of balls, and even a pinball machine for the boys. We would play there for hours and never tire of it. Mrs. Burnage didn't seem to, either. She loved listening to us play. She'd make cookies and smile broadly when she'd hear us laugh. She always told us that our laughter was the happiest sound.
We loved our time in that play roo...
... middle of paper ...
...ot popcorn at me, "I told you that I didn't want you coming over ever again! I don't need you anymore! Leave me alone!"
I left quickly, and she followed me outside and stood in the doorstep, watching every one of my retreating steps. As I moved along the road, I could still hear the recorded voices and laughter of my sisters, me, and Jason. My stomach turned as I thought about just how creepy this all was, but then my turning stomach dropped to the ground as I looked back at a wide-eyed, staring Mrs. Burnage and then through the gate at the backyard pool. Standing by the pool was what appeared to be a statue. I was pretty far away by this point, but the figure appeared to be a little boy, immobile, looking through the gate into the woods behind the house. The boy was wearing a familiar red hoodie and blue jeans.
Did I ever mention Mr. Burnage? He was a taxidermist.
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