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JANNOWRIMO/RANDOM GENRE MONTH 2013
WORD COUNT: 4,543 (unfinished)
SUMMARY: Setting the mountain on fire is only the start of it.
The night my neighbor set the nearby mountain on fire, the squirrels came to watch the disaster on my roof. The little furry rodents sat at the highest point, next to the chimney, gazing into the bright inferno with ears pricked and tails straight. Smoke curled thick and gray into the night sky. In the distance, sirens wailed.
I tucked my phone back into my pocket. “I wonder how Mr. Bonner will explain this one.”
My bulldog Rex sat at my feet and tilted his head at the sound of my voice. But then he ignored me in favor of watching the squirrels. Several more of the creatures had climbed up to the roof carrying something in their mouths. Once they reached the others, they passed the objects around. I squinted. Were they eating popcorn?
“Mr. Bonner will be the death of us all!” a woman shrilled behind me. I turned to see that several of the other neighbors had come out of their houses to see what the commotion was all about. Mrs. Hatchet was pulling a pink bathrobe around herself. She had a rather sour expression on her face even as her husband in his blue flannel pajamas tried to soothe her. She just shoved him away and shook her fist at the fire on the mountain. “The man's a pyromaniac,” she continued to yell. “He should be put away!”
“Now, now,” said Mr. Hatchet. “It's probably just an accident. And we don't yet really know if Mr. Bonner is even at any fault at all.”
“With everything that's gone on in this neighborhood in the past six months,” his wife said, “it's more likely than not that this is that man's fault!”
“Geez, mom. Why don't you just get a megaphone while you're at it?” said a lanky teenager as he rolled his eyes. Mr. and Mrs. Hatchet's son Sam went to the local high school and as far as I knew, spent all his free time skateboarding with his friends. But before his mother could turn her temper on him, he moved toward me and Rex. “Hey Mr. Green. Hey Rex. How're you doing?” He scratched Rex behind his ears.
Rex gave a woof and licked the boy's hand.
I nodded to the teen. “Evening, Sam.”
“So do you think it's Mr. Bonner again?” he asked.
“Probably.” The sirens grew louder. Two fire trucks and three police cars raced down the road toward the mountain. Rex barked enthusiastically. “Maybe a propane tank exploded.”
“A propane tank?” said Sam skeptically. “It's not that big, is it? It couldn't possibly catch an entire mountain on fire.”
I shrugged. “Anything's possible.” At that moment, I saw a larger shadow scramble up the drainpipe and join the squirrels on their watch. A raccoon. Rex caught sight of it too and whined at me. “No, Rex,” I said to my dog. “I don't think you should go up on the roof.”
“You know what I think Mr. Bonner tried to do?” said Sam, ignoring my comment to Rex. “I bet he was attempting one of his spells again.”
“Yeah. My friend Matt said that his older sister saw Mr. Bonner at one of those seminars at the local new age shop. Apparently Mr. Bonner is quite interested in magic.”
“In magic, huh?” I replied. Further down the street, I could here the firefighters and police shouting, but I couldn't make out what they were saying. Then popping sounds replaced the shouts.
“Well, think about it, Mr. Green,” said Sam. “If he's trying to do magic, it all makes sense. How he's always buying the weirdest stuff at the grocery store. Why he insists that he always have a black cat. And all those accidents that aren't very well explained. Like when the water ran purple for a week during the summer. When that grizzly bear terrorized the neighborhood by chewing up all the mailboxes. Or when that plague of locusts came through the neighborhood last week and ate mom's tomato plants. Or that time when a meteorite struck Mrs. Abner's house...”
“Those things aren't completely out of the ordinary,” I interrupted him. “Sometimes accidents just happen.”
“Well, if it's just accidents, Mr. Green, how do you explain that?” Sam pointed down the street.
A giant, inhuman shape lumbered down the street. The flames from the mountain behind it kept it in shadow, hiding its exact nature. But whatever it was, it was quite clear that Mr. Bonner had really gone past the point of no return this time.