Andrew Hilbert turned in a solid showing for our very first short story contest. He brought a fine story to the table, and he’s returned to show that he’s not only dedicated, but consistent. This is a guy with big promise, and Death Thing is a story with a sadistic nature. Enjoyable but a tad savage (it’s always a little taboo when youngsters get offed, right?), Death Thing is a brief piece worth a look!
“Those damn kids are at it again,” George said, his eyes peeking through the blinds of his living room window.
“Well, go out there and shoo them off!” said his wife, Martha.
“They’ve got rocks, Martha! What if they throw them at me and split my goddamn head open?”
“Call the police then!”
Martha was spraying Windex on the mirrors around the house. She could care less about kids with rocks so long as the rocks didn’t go through the windows she just cleaned.
“I should. Damn kids’ll hurt themselves.”
George picked up the phone that he left on the ground next to his beer cooler and the La-Z-Boy recliner he called his. He dialed 9-1-1.
“La Palma Police Department. Is this an emergency?” a bored, female voice answered.
“It may damn well turn into one.”
“What is it, sir?”
“Get a police car out here to take care of these damn kids throwing rocks at each other.”
“We’ll have an officer out there shortly.”
“Sir, for future reference, these kinds of calls can be directed to our non-emergency line.”
George hung up the phone and peeked out the window. He lowered the TV volume because it helped him concentrate on watching the kids and their impending punishment.
Not five minutes passed before a police car drove down the street.
“5-0!” one kid yelled and dove into George’s flower bed, right in front of the window. The other kids scattered and ran away.
“Little shit,” George said to himself. He got up and went to his front yard. The cop stood, hands on his waist, outside his car writing something down and talking into his radio.
“Howdy, officer,” George said.
“Damn kids are too fast for me,” he slapped his hands against his pot belly. George could see his white undershirt underneath his buttons. “I figure seeing me is a good enough scare for a few days. You call us back if they’re back, though. We’ll take care of ‘em.”
George inched closer to the officer and said, in a very low voice, “One of those fuckers is hiding in my flower bed.” George pointed with his nose to the flower bed.
“Yeah?” the officer said and chewed a little more enthusiastically on his gum. “Bring out the MEV,” he said into his radio then turned back to George. “Go inside, sir. That kid’s in for a good surprise. The other kids may be back but this one won’t be, heh-heh.”
“Thanks,” George walked back to the front steps of his house and did his best not to tip off the little shit hiding in his flowers.
“Kid’s in for a surprise,” George said as he entered his house.
“What?” Martha yelled over the rumble of her vacuum cleaner.
“Kid’s in for a – never mind,” George climbed back into his recliner and peeked out his blinds again, salivating revenge.
An unmarked Econoline van parked in front of the house. The driver rolled down his window. The cop pointed to the flower bed and, as soon as he did that, three men in white lab coats popped out the back of the van and rushed the garden.
The look of terror on the kid’s eyes was so perfect that George smiled and popped open a beer.
“They’re really cracking down on these shits,” he said and took a sip. “That kid is scared as hell. Almost thought he could make a good actor ‘til I realized he wasn’t acting.”
The lab coats had the kid by the arms. He was wriggling and screaming and crying.
“I want my mom!” George heard him yell. George smiled and took another sip.
“I sure hope mommy’s a lawyer,” George said to himself, laughed, and turned up the volume. The lab coats threw the kid into the back of the van and drove off.
“Martha! God dammit! Can’t you vacuum tomorrow when I’m at work and won’t be bothered by that damn death hum vacuum!”
“What?” Martha yelled, her back was to George because she vacuumed walking backward so that footsteps didn’t show up in the carpet when she was done.
“Exactly,” George took another sip and stared at the TV. “Alex Trebek has aged well,” he thought to himself.
The next day, kids were out again throwing rocks at each other. They laughed and jumped and yelled out in pain every now and then, but mostly they were laughing.
George had a hangover that felt like Whack-a-Mole in his head and he’d had the shittiest day of his life cleaning up the restrooms at Costco.
“God damn little shits,” George said. “Can’t a working man get a little peace?”
Their laughter was continuous and banged at his brain like a mallet handled by a sadist. George picked up the phone, tried to remember the non-emergency number, but ended up dialing 9-1-1 anyway.
“La Palma Police Department. What’s the emergency?”
The lady’s boredom was antidote to the kids’ laughter.
“Yeah, those damn kids are back throwing rocks at each other and if one of them dies on my lawn, I’m burying them all in it!”
“We’ll send out an MEV immediately. You can call the non-emergency line if it happens again.”
George hung up and watched out his window as another unmarked Econoline van pulled up. The kids had no idea that it was a police vehicle. Three lab coats hopped out of the back of the van and chased one, just one, kid around until they caught him and threw him into the back of the van and drove off.
“They can fit twenty scab lickers in that god damn thing!” George yelled.
The kids that were left looked at each other in real terror, dropped their rocks, and ran home.
“Did the trick, though.” George leaned back in his recliner, reached for a beer, and took a gulp. “Ahhh,” he said.
Martha started up with the vacuum and George felt like his brain was growing tumors.
“God dammit, Martha!” George yelled.
“Do you need to vacuum every single day!?”
The next day, there were only three kids playing outside. They were skateboarding and, of course, throwing rocks at each other whenever one of them wanted to show off. The kids were more violent today than other days. George was glad to see their ranks thinning. A ride in the police van was enough to scare them back to their toilets.
George peeked out of his windows and watched. He decided not to call the police but as soon as one of the kids saw him, they started throwing rocks at George’s house.
“God dammit!” George grabbed his phone and dialed 9-1-1 on instinct.
“Mr. Sanders?” the lady answered.
“Yes! Send out the police. The kids are throwing rocks at my property!”
“We’ll send an MEV. Next time, call the non-emergency line. Do you have a pen and paper? I can give it to you righ-“ but George hung up, lay flat on his stomach, and covered his head. The rocks hit the window hard and glass shattered all over the carpet.
Martha wasn’t slow in responding, she turned the vacuum right on.
“Not now, Martha!” George yelled.
Suddenly, the rocks stopped.
“Oh, shit!” yelled one of the kids and George got up to see. “It’s the Death Thing!”
The kids scattered but as soon as they did, two more Econoline vans showed up and nine lab coats chased three kids until they were all caught and crying and thrown into the back of each one of them. The vans sped off.
George smiled but if the MEVs were as effective as they’d proven to be, he knew he’d never get the $200 to fix his window. That was worth it, though. $200 was worth a little peace.
A few days passed and there were no kids playing, laughing, screaming, throwing rocks, or breaking things. It was nice. George drank his beer in his recliner, admired Alex Trebek’s cocky intellect, and yelled at Martha while she vacuumed. He could say whatever he wanted while she did it, so he did knowing that she would just reply with, “What?”
She didn’t vacuum today though. She brought out the morning paper.
“George, did you see this?” she threw the paper on George’s lap.
Five kids’ faces were on the front page with a huge headline that said: MISSING. They were the kids George had the police chase out of town.
“Holy cow,” George said to himself and peeked out the window. The streets were empty. George was the kind of guy that was only happy when he was unhappy and the past three days were eerie without any kids to complain about.
Then it hit him.
“One of the kids called the police van a death thing when they showed up last time…” George said.
“Kids’ll say anything! The police probably just drove them home. They were naughty kids. I wouldn’t be surprised if they died in a heroin den.”
“These kids were twelve, Martha.”
“They start so young these days,” Martha shook her head, turned away from George, and turned on the vacuum. She walked backward, erasing her footsteps as she worked. Sometimes she hummed and tried to harmonize with the vacuum’s scream.
“You’re an idiot,” George said to Martha’s back.
“What?” she answered and started to harmonize with the atonal machine.
George picked up the phone and dialed 9-1-1.
“La Palma Police Department. What’s the emergency?”
“Hey, I just have a question,” George said.
“Sir, you can dial the non-emergency line!” the voice was no longer bored but exasperated and irritated.
“Just what does MEV stand for?”
“Mr. Sanders! It’s the model of van the Department purchased in bulk from Ford. All non-emergency calls should be directed to our non-emergency line!”
George hung up and peeked outside the window. An unmarked Econoline van was parked outside his house.
“Huh?” George opened his blinds completely and watched as the driver, in police uniform, got out of the car and talked into his radio as he walked to the front door.
The doorbell rang.
“What?” said Martha.
George got up and opened the door.
“What is it, officer?”
“Sir, we’ve received many complaints of you abusing the 9-1-1 emergency call system. I’ll need to take you in.”
“This is ridiculous. Who complained?!”
“We complained, sir.”
“What the hell does MEV stand for?”
“It’s the model of Econoline van that we had specially modified for incarcerations. I’ll need you to turn around so I can handcuff you.”
George turned around. Martha was totally unaware of what was happening. Her back was turned to the door and she was humming over the vacuum cleaner.
“Martha! Martha!” George yelled as the officer cuffed him.
“Jesus friggin’ Christ, Martha! Stop vacuuming!” George yelled.
Three lab coats got out of the back of the van and assisted the officer in dragging George into it.
First thing they did was strap George’s head down on a plastic stretcher so that it couldn’t move a single millimeter to either side. George felt claustrophobic as he watched the ceiling of the perfectly white interior of the van. He couldn’t see the lab coat’s faces so he continued to yell.
Then they strapped his arms and legs to the stretcher. The back door of the van shut and the van started driving.
“George Sanders, do you understand the charges leveled against you?” said one of the lab coats.
“I have no fucking clue what was leveled against me!”
“Mr. Sanders, by the power vested in me by the laws of the California government and the incorporated city of La Palma, I declare you guilty of criminal misconduct and abuse of the 9-1-1 emergency call system.”
One lab coat made sure to put the needle the size of a garden hose right into George’s line of sight.
“What’s that for!?”
George felt the cold needle go into his arm. He was paralyzed. Another lab coat lifted another needle to George’s line of sight. George couldn’t scream or ask questions.
It went into his other arm and he felt like he had no body at all. He was getting drowsy, his eyes heavier with each blink. A third needle went in and that was that.