Written for Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction challenge as posted here: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2016/05/20/flash-fiction-challenge-kids-say-the-darnderniest-things/
Please note the following disclaimer: The story, all names, characters, Sheds, and incidents portrayed in this production are fictitious. No identification with actual persons, places, famous authors’ Sheds, and/or products is intended or should be inferred. This Author has the highest respect for authors’ Sheds, particularly Chuck Wendig’s!
I give to you: The Shed of Infamy
For the record, it wasn’t entirely my fault.
Uncle Robbie’s Shed has been the punchline of every family joke going back probably since he put up the damn thing. Its auspicious beginning as a Shed of Infamy was noted by the fact that it collapsed on top Uncle Robbie — twice — while under construction.
Of course, given that the only thing Robbie’s any good at building is accounting ledgers, that wasn’t really a shocker.
The Shed, when completed and after withstanding its first rainfall, was like the ugly duckling of sheds if that ugly duckling had been put through a car wash, dropped in cement, and then zapped with an electric cattle-prod. It wasn’t square, the corners of the roof didn’t line up with the corners of the walls, it had boards that stuck out like hands waiting for high-fives that would never come, and because Robbie went cheap on the paint, it faded in about a month from “rustic brown” to what Mom called “cat piss tea.”
Still, an ugly shed is only really worthy of a good joke every other Thanksgiving and whatever Saturday in March Uncle Robbie and Mom get together to watch basketball and cheer against each other. If the Shed’s main problem was its outside, it would have been the Ugly Shed, not the Shed of Infamy.
They say Evil is drawn to Evil.
I don’t know — I’ve never met him.
But, trust me, oddball is definitely drawn to oddball.
Uncle Robbie never gave anyone a straight answer as to where the first one came from. He just mentioned it over the grill at the family reunion: “I can’t get home too late. Bastian likes a bedtime story.”
Everyone in hearing-range jumped on it. Bastian who? Got a boyfriend? Can we meet him?
“No. It’s not like that. I had to name them to keep them straight.”
More questions. Name what? Name who? How many boyfriends are you keeping from us?
It took four beers and two hotdogs before Uncle Robbie confessed that somehow the Shed of Infamy had become the Retirement Home for Truly Weird Shit.
Every time Uncle Robbie came over, we pestered him for stories about whatever had decided to take up residence in the Shed this time, and he never let us down because there was no end to it. There was the snowman who only melted during thunderstorms. Moths that glowed in the dark. A box Uncle Robbie really, really hoped wasn’t Pandora’s.
And then, in a moment of true stupidity, I yelled across the table at Grandpa’s birthday, “Hey! If you want some help cleaning it out sometime, I just did Mister Tanhehco’s and he paid me fifty bucks!”
Uncle Robbie doubled it on the spot. Which is why I wound up there on a perfectly lovely Saturday in May in old jeans and wondering if I was about to die. The only good part was that I talked Mariela into keeping me company. I did offer to split the pay, and I promised to protect her if it were necessary.
She laughed and reminded me about the time in middle school I tried to protect John by squashing a spider and I managed to fling it into his hair.
Yeah, that’s about par for the course with me. Mariela knew it better than anyone and she’d heard Uncle Robbie’s stories for years. What happened next was definitely not only my fault.
I blame Uncle Robbie. And that stupid Shed.
We didn’t begin by cleaning. First, we got a series of introductions.
“This is Bastian. I’m sure he’d appreciate being dusted, but don’t wash him with water.”
“This one I call Marley. She gets smelly around soap so you might want to carry her outside first. She won’t mind. She only moves on Tuesdays.”
“Watch out for this guy. Sampson’s nice enough, but every now and again he decides to eat one of the others. If they’re not in range, he’ll go for you. I suggest wherever you move him you put a few other things within reach so he doesn’t go berserk.”
An hour of increasingly-unsettling instructions later and of course Uncle Robbie suddenly remembered an appointment and left us alone in the Shed of Infamy.
Mariela tossed a rag at me. “Your fault.”
“I’m an idiot.”
“Yup. Now let’s move these things and try not to get eaten.”
We worked for two hours and we were doing so well! We hadn’t gotten eaten, the only injury was to the creepy statue of a dog that was Sampson’s first snack, and we managed to keep the oil painting from suffocating me. The Shed was almost clean!
I was just rinsing my rag of choice in the coffee can I borrowed from Grandpa’s garage for hauling my stuff around when Mariela yelped. I jumped to rescue her — or not, given my history — and managed to plow into a shoebox full of what I thought were the keys to a piano.
And the keys shattered on the ground and a purple thing appeared.
It was almost too tall for the Shed, with long arms and legs shorter than mine. Its head was easily a yard long, but only a half-foot wide. It was wearing something like a toga that shifted and moved and its eyes were shiny and black like buttons.
“You have awakened me.”
“No. We really didn’t.” Mariela was backing up slightly, but she held her voice to calm, even tones. She also had the base of her thumb in her mouth and I could see it bleeding sluggishly.
“Arrrrgh. Mariela! You scared me because you got a cut?”
She shrugged. “Sorry. Bastian was sharp.”
“And now we’ve got a…whatever that is!”
We both looked up to the purple thing.
“You have awakened me,” it said again. “I am the herald of storms, the feller of mountains. I can cut down a thousand trees with my teeth. I am queen of the goats of the shadow realm.”
“Yay?” I didn’t quite squeak.
“Fear my power! You shall be the first and soon all the mortals of your land will be mine to command!”
Suddenly Grandpa’s coffee can glowed brightly orange and a tiny calico in samurai armor appeared, dripping wet with suds.
“I have heard your plight, peasants! Fear not the evil! I will defeat it with Kitten Magic!”
“You impertinent, pitiful worm. I will consume you!”
Mariela buried her face in her hands. “Your relatives have the worst luck!”
“Or maybe it’s just me.” I reached for her arm. “Come on. Let’s let them duke it out and go get a snack.”
We made our way out of the Shed, carefully righting Sampson and putting him in range of an entire bookshelf of clocks. We even cleaned up our supplies as we went. No sense in leaving things any worse than they were about to get.
The calico between us and the purple thing looked back over its tiny shoulder-guard and winked at us just as we reached the door. “Bring me back some ice cream, okay?”
What could we say to that?
We left the Shed to our tiny samurai defender and went out for ice cream. Uncle Robbie paid me two hundred bucks when he got back. By the end of the fight, the Shed was empty except for the kitten’s coffee can, Marley, and a really big scorch mark.
We named the calico Darth Katana and started a YouTube series about its adventures. Mariela’s thinking movie option, but DK and I would rather go for a miniseries.
And Uncle Robbie’s cleaning his own goddamn Shed from now on.