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That Escalated Quickly
An unintentionally spooky story
As a third child and my-parents-both-work-from-home pandemic baby, my son has no choice but to be independent. He’s always been strong and capable, moving chairs around the kitchen so he can reach things and hefting open the sliding door that leads onto the back deck (and weighs as much as he does) so he can go down into the back yard, hoist himself up into the raised garden bed, and dig in the dirt.
The only thing he’s ever really needed help with is talking. At a certain point, when he had no language to interact with his family, he started seeing an Early Intervention teacher. For 18 months, he’s been working weekly with her and with us—first developing some sign language and then learning sounds and words, phrases and sentences.
On the day he turned 2-and-a-half, he went out to play in our back yard. Since he’s basically a little man, and the yard is fenced, I finished up the dishes I was washing before I went out after him.
As soon as I reached the deck, though, I knew something was wrong. He was crying. He rarely cries—especially when he’s outside doing one his favorite things in the world, driving his PowerWheel and digging in the dirt with his trucks.
Instead of doing either of those things, though, he was walking back toward the house away from his car and crying.
We both reached the bottom step at the same time and he reached up to me for a hug. I sat on the bottom step and held him and asked him what was wrong. “What’s wrong, buddy?” I asked. “Did you fall down?”
“No,” he sniffed. “Some-body hurt me! Go inside. Too dark outside.”
I looked around. The yard remained fenced in. The gate was closed. We live on the end of a cul-de-sac, and we know all our neighbors. The sun was setting, but it wasn’t particularly dark outside yet.
“Did a bug hurt you?” I asked. There are plenty of bees and wasps and ants outside. Maybe one of them went after him?
“No! Person hurt me!”
For a kid with a speech delay, he seemed to know very well what he was trying to say. “Okay,” I said. “Did they hurt you on your fingers?”
“On your head?”
“No. Here.” He twisted his arm behind him.
“On your back?”
What the…? I was about to go Full Mama Bear at this point, but on whom? Nobody was around.
By this time he was calmed down enough to talk rationally. I asked where he was when the person hurt him and he pointed to his car, at the far end of the yard. Now I was getting a little freaked out. Our property backs up to a marsh - one where a character in one of my works of fiction may or may not have stashed a body or two.
So maybe there wasn’t a real somebody. But kids can be extra in touch with the metaphysical realm. Maybe there was a used-to-be-somebody out there looking to mess with my kid and now I was going to have to be on the lookout—for what, exactly? some ripple in space-time?—every time he went outside to play.
I asked him if I could carry him back to the scene of the crime and he agreed. When we got to the tiny red Jeep, I turned to examine our surroundings. “Where’s the person?” I asked.
He pointed across the street, and suddenly it all made sense.
Over the weekend, our neighbors had installed a 14-foot, inflatable, light-up something, and since night was falling they had turned their Halloween decorations on. These neighbors go all out, and honestly that one would scare the hell out of of me, too!
I convinced him to drive the car back into the garage, but he would not walk around the front of the house and uncharacteristically insisted I hold his hand all the way into the house and up the stairs.
I was relieved we’d figured out the culprit, but I was still a little spooked that he described so vividly a person hurting him on his back. The next morning when he woke up, the first thing he said was, “What happened? Person hurt me,” as he lifted the shades to look across the street. The grim reaper was deflated, lying inert on the ground. I had an idea.
“Hey, kiddo. Did the person hurt you? Or did the person scare you?”
“Oh, yeah, Mama,” he said. “Person scare me. Yeah. Person scare me.”
He often looks out the window to “check see person okay,” and even goes across the street to say hi. And that’s fine. As long as Mama Bear can keep an eye on that person.
With the mystery solved, I’m content no one is coming after my son while he plays in the back yard. But I’m even more satisfied that, if anything ever did happen, he’d be able to to tell me about it.
I’m here off-cycle because this week’s story is relevant to the day - at least here in the U.S. As I was reading the newsletter back, though, I realized a reader might understandably interpret the title to mean that the publication process for the book has escalated quickly. Which is also true, but more on that next time.
There’s a good chance you’ll hear from me later this week, especially if you have (a) read the novel, or (b) requested on Facebook to read the novel. If you’re in neither of these boats, but would like to help me launch When We Were Mothers onto the charts in the new year by reading it and reviewing it on Amazon, please get in touch by email. As you know, I would be nowhere without your support, and I thank you!