Slight Problems

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Review Chain
A man enlists an exterminator to assist him in removing some creepy neighbors.

Submitted: July 11, 2016

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Submitted: July 11, 2016

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Slight Problems

 

by Harris Proctor

 

 

“I’ve got puckwudgies,” I said.

 

The exterminator looked down at his clipboard.  He hummed and flipped the same two yellow sheets back and forth.  He was so clean.  I don’t know why I expect exterminators to be otherwise.

 

“Mmmmmm,” he said.  “You got what, now?”

 

“Puckwudgies,” I said.

 

“Says here you got cockroaches.”  He tapped his clipboard.  He peered deep into my soul, looking for me to say ‘yeah, that’s right.  Cockroaches.’  His glasses were thin.  Barely there.  His shirt had Gary embroidered over the pocket.

 

“No, puckwudgies.  I suppose your receptionist misheard me.”

 

“I don’t know what that is,” he said.  I rolled my eyes.  I knew he would say that.  I’d never heard of them until a month ago.  I had held out hope that, as an exterminator, he had dealt with every pest.  I was prepared.

 

“They’re like a cross between a leprechaun and a porcupine.  About three feet tall with big noses.  There are at least four of them.  I’ve seen four at once is what I mean.  Could be dozens of the things.  They’ve started shooting arrows at the dog.  I swear- they’re trying to run me out of here.”

 

“Is this like a joke?” Gary asked, lowering his chin and his voice.  He’s going bald.  I hadn’t noticed until then.

 

“God, no.  This is pretty much a crisis.”

 

“Sir,” he said, “I apologize, but I don’t deal with imaginary animals.  No unicorns, no Loch Ness Monsters, no porcupine-leprechauns.”

 

“Five hundred dollars in cash,” I said, pulling out the folded envelope I had in my back pocket.  “That’s to come back an hour before sunset to see them.  There’s another five hundred if you stay until midnight.  A thousand more if you get rid of them.  That’s on top of whatever you bill me.”  I was very prepared.

 

Gary took the envelope and examined the cash.  He held the bills up to the morning sun.  He looked at my house, then back at me.

 

“Is this like a sex thing?”

 

“No!”

 

“You’re not going to pop out of the basement in a furry costume with a tub of lube going, ‘Here comes the fuckpudgie?’”

 

“No!  Good God, no!  This is for real!  And we aren’t going to the house.  They live there.”  I pointed to the forest across the street from my front yard.  “The job is yours if you want it.  A thousand bucks for a night’s work.  More if you can take care of business.”

 

Gary fingered the money.

 

“An hour before sundown.  Stay until midnight.”  He was eyeing me for the catch.

 

“Yeah,” I nodded.  “Bring your arsenal.”

 

All day I wondered if he would keep the five hundred and never show.  It would make for an interesting small claims case.  But he came back.  Early.  I admire blue-collar people who show up early.  I always have. He was fidgety.  He had an open energy drink in his hand and another in his hip pocket.  He started unloading some big cages from his van.  Half a dozen of them.

 

“Those look about the right size,” I said.

 

“They’re for coyotes.  There are plenty of coyotes around here.”

 

“I wish it was coyotes.  Hang on, I’ll be back.”  I ran in to the house and grabbed the shopping bag from the kitchen table and my duffel bag off the floor.  “I ran out for these this afternoon.  My son was giving them cranberry sauce.”  I threw a can for Gary to catch.  He wasn’t ready for it.  It hit him on the chest.

 

“What the hell?!”

 

“I’m sorry!  I thought you were ready for that,” I said.

 

“Why is your kid feeding cranberry sauce to coyotes?”

 

“Not coyotes.  Puckwudgies.  Stevie was the first one to see them.  He understands what they’re saying.  Sometimes.  He said they liked cranberry sauce and frozen broccoli.  Not the off-brand of cranberry sauce.  I love cranberry sauce.  I mix it with mayo for sandwiches.”

 

Gary stared at me.

 

“I told everyone where I’d be tonight,” Gary said.  His brow was furrowed and sweaty.  “My office, my family, my friends.  Everyone.”

 

“You’ll be telling them about this night for the rest of your life.”

 

We started into the woods.  He decided on a perimeter of a hundred yards, fanning out from the house.  I asked Gary how he could tell it was a hundred yards.

 

“Didn’t you play football in high school?” he asked.

 

I threw another can his way.  It bounced off his hands.

 

“Did you?” I asked.

 

It was good that he was early.  The sun was down by the time we set the last trap, and the woods were getting dark in a hurry.  I pointed to a boulder.

 

“If we sit there with our backs to each other, they can’t sneak up on us.  I’ve got some stuff in my bag.  Couple crowbars.  Baseball bat.  What do you have in yours?  Poison spray?”

 

“A gun,” Gary said.

 

“Good thinking.”

 

We climbed onto the rock.  It was at least ten feet across.

 

“I have to warn you,” I said.  “They throw their poop.”

 

“Dude,” said Gary.  “Don’t you think this might just be neighborhood kids messing with you?”

 

“You really never saw one?”  The darkness closed around us.

 

“No.  Because they don’t exist.  I looked it up on line.  I think you’ve seen coyotes and porcupines.  And I think that maybe some kids are messing with you.  And maybe you have a very active imagination.  Or a drinking problem.  Or all of the above.”

 

“I never heard of them until we moved to this house.  Hear me out.  I’m not from here.  I’m from the Midwest.  I came here for work and I met my wife.  We lived in the city for years, and I guess I liked that when we were younger.  We worked a lot and partied a lot.  When we first got married we bought a condo just outside the city.  It was a nice spread.  I got sick of the neighbors, though.  Some of them didn’t know how to shut up.  Some of them played lousy music.  Some of them cooked weird food.  So we bought a house in the suburbs.  Same town as my wife’s family.  Four beds, two and a half baths, fenced-in back yard, deck.  It was great when we were dealing with newborns.  But once the kids grew a little I needed to get out of there.  My in-laws were always around.  Always.  And the guy that lived across the way got into it with me about the snow blower.  So we came here.  This place is perfect for me.  In-laws are an hour away.  Hardly any neighbors, really.  Houses are all spaced out on one side of the street.  Woods on the other.  This is all John Winthrop State Forest, you know.”

 

“I know,” said Gary.  “I’m from here.  When did the porcupine-leprechauns start showing up?”

 

“Not for a while.  Months.  We moved in last fall.  My son- he’s seven- came in the house five weeks ago and said he made some friends in the woods here.  Puckwudgies, he says.  I looked it up on the internet and there they are.  Little trolls from Wampanoag folklore.  I figured he was hearing about it at school or in little league.  There are a lot of crazy, superstitious people out there.”

 

“Yup.”

 

“Then all of my cranberry sauce is gone from the pantry.  Ten pounds of frozen broccoli gone from the deep freeze.  Stevie tells me he gave it to his puckwudgie friends.  Then he tells me they want to be my friend too.  I nearly flip out, but I keep it together and tell him to stay away from my cranberry sauce and out of the deep freeze.  Then I leave for work and my car goes straight into the woods.  No brakes.  My kid tells me the puckwudgies did some brake work on the car while it was in the driveway.  I tell him I’ve had it with the puckwudgies.  Then all hell starts busting loose.  My daughter, Sophie, she starts crying in the night because she says the things are looking in her window at night.  The cat disappears.  The dog won’t shut up.  Then I come home one night and I find my son talking to one in the back yard.

 

“The thing was shorter than him.  Pug-ugly.  Huge nose, huge ears.  Skin like an elephant.  Spiky hair on its head and all down its back.  It looked like something from one of those bad idea puppet movies from the eighties.  I thought it was a toy at first.  A really ugly toy.  I look at my boy and ask him what the hell that thing is supposed to be.  He says it’s one of the puckwudgies.  Damn thing didn’t have any pants on.  Nothing.  Frickin’ disgusting.  I pulled my son in the house and all the while the puckwudgie is pointing at me going: Yeebey geebey goo!  Yeebey geebey goo!”

 

“Sounds terrifying.”

 

“Creepy as all get out.  Then my kid starts saying that the puckwudgies all got together and decided that I need to move.  My wife and the kids can stay but I gotta go.  So I guess the thing can speak English, but he just pretends he can’t when I’m around.  I ask my son how many of them are there, and he says there’s a bunch.  I called the police.  I told them a midget was exposing himself to my kid.  They sent a car around.  Cop asks me what have I been drinking.”

 

“What were you drinking?”

 

“I had a screwdriver at the pub on the way home.  Not the point.  The policeman talks to Stevie, and now my son isn’t saying more than one or two word answers.  Yeah.  No.  Guess so.  Don’t know.  I’m telling my kid to say what happened.  Cop says he’ll handle the questions.  He writes a report.  Says they’ll send a squad car around once in a while.  I’m pissed off, but I’m hopeful that’s the end of that.

 

“The next day I come home and there’s four of ‘em all over the roof.  Same one as before only now there’s a shorter one, a brown one and a fat one with him.  The fat one is looking in the window to the upstairs shower.  I can see he’s got a thing for my wife.”

 

“How did you know?”

 

“None of them are wearing any pants.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“They are taking dumps all over the place and throwing it at me.  It’s purple and it stinks like cranberry death.  The first one, the leader, is pointing his gnarly finger at me and doing his heebey geebey routine.  I’m staring at this scene.  Four little freak-shows on my roof- three chucking their crap and one sporting a giant erection.”

 

“Dude…”

 

“I got back in my car and called the cops.  They said they’d send a car around.  Half hour later, the freaks are gone and the cops are threatening to cite me for prank calling them.  Then last night I come home and the shorter one is chasing after the dog with some half-ass bow and arrow.  I sent the wife and kids to the in-laws.  That’s when I figured I’d call you.  Thought some cash would convince you to help me with my little problems.”

 

“On that note,” Gary said.  “Do you have the other five on you?”

 

“Don’t get so eager, Gary.  I do, but it isn’t close to midnight.  They’ll be along.  They have it in for me.  But I’m not leaving.  They can’t make me.”

 

“Well,” Gary said.  “If these things go all the way back to Indian folklore, doesn’t that make you the intruder?”  He cracked his energy drink and drained it.  “They were here first.”

 

“Like I told the cops, I pay my taxes.”

 

A cry rang out in the darkness.  It sounded like a seagull caught in a rusty hinge.  I tapped Gary on the shoulder and pointed to the trap we put due east of the house.  We slid off the rock- Gary kind of tumbled trying to hold on to his bag- and hustled over to the trap.

 

“What the hell is that?” Gary asked, stopping five yards short of the cage.  He produced a flashlight and pointed it at the thing.

 

“It’s the fat one!” I hollered.  I pulled a crowbar from my bag.  It looked at us and snarled.  It clearly never heard of floss.  Its beady eyes glowed like a cat’s.

 

“Jesus,” said Gary.  “I thought you were nuts!”

 

“Yeah.  I know.”

 

“Now what?” he asked.

 

“What do you mean?  Now what?  You’re my exterminator.  Exterminate.  Ex-ter-min-ate.”

 

“But,” Gary shook like a leaf and rubbed his forehead.  “That’s like an endangered species or something, right?  It looks like a human.”

 

Looks like a human, but it is not.  It’s a puckwudgie.  It’s a pest.  And I’m paying you to exterminate it.”

 

Gary stepped back, his eyes darting from me to the monster.  I threw the other envelope at him.  He pulled out the cash and looked at it.

 

“Remember- there’s another thousand if you eliminate them.  I’ll give you an extra five tonight just for greasing this fat prick.”

 

He breathed deeply and reached into his bag.  He pulled out his pistol.  I don’t know guns, but his looked pretty hard-core.  It looked just like the ones the best action heroes have strapped in a shoulder holster.  He chambered a round and took aim, his arm shaking from nerves or caffeine or both.  He took a deep breath.  Out of the darkness, a wet purple glob flew straight into his face.  He reeled back, pulling his glasses off while he choked.

 

“That’s the poop!” I shouted.

 

The three other puckwudgies were on Gary in an instant.  He started shooting wildly.  Most of the bullets ended up in the ground.  One grazed my left shoulder.  He fired until he was empty.  Gary screamed as the freaks climbed all over him.  Horrific, rusty hinge screams that turned to bubbling wheezes as the puckwudgies sank their claws into his throat.  They tore his head clean off.  The short one let the fat one out of the trap, while the leader danced with Gary’s severed head held aloft.  The brown one drilled me in the chest with a fistful of poop.

 

I shouted every curse I could think of as they disappeared into the woods with Gary’s head.  I ran back to the house to call the police.  The cruiser showed up before I even explained what had happened to the 911 operator.  They had been driving around the neighborhood already when someone reported gunfire in John Winthrop State Forest.  After a while, I realized that the police are using phrases like “headless victim” in conjunction with “apparent altercation” and “person of interest.”  One cop asked if I had a lawyer.  They say a good lawyer is like a gun.  Better to have one and not need it than the other way around.  Beneath the squawking of the police radios and the idling engines, I could hear their weirdo laughter.  And that yeebey geebey goo, too.

 

THE END


© Copyright 2017 Harris Proctor. All rights reserved.

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