Posts Tagged First Lines

A Slight Departure in Tone

No matter how much effort they put into keeping up appearances, the kids back then were always looking for love; those who were truly brave would steal away on starless summer nights to MacNeely’s mansion at the top of the hill, slink in through the side door, stand at the foot of the mighty Victorian staircase, and loudly call out Old Man MacNeely’s name exactly eleven times in the hopes that he would use his powers to grant your wish for romance, if he didn’t use them to beat the everliving snot out of you as he threatened to do to all the other misbehavin’ punks that repeatedly broke into his house.

To this day, there are about five different people claiming to have started the tradition. Nobody has been able to provide evidence of having started the tradition, but everyone knows who pushed it out into the street for everyone to gawk at, the day he nearly had his head busted by MacNeely’s three-foot cane.

It was Steve Billings–the boy who nearly broke both his arms trying to shove his way through a solid oak panel, but still managed to outrun MacNeely down the hall to the garden door.  MacNeely wasn’t quite as spry as he always told us he had been “back in his cross-country days,” but he came close to catching Steve that night when Steve completely forgot MacNeely kept the front door locked.

In a mysterious twist, crazy Steve nearly broke Madalyn Barrett’s arms as he ran into her in headlong flight out the side door in the dark. Scared her half to death, and made her forget all about her own plan to summon Old Man MacNeely. She was too busy busting Steve’s head with a stick.

I guess MacNeely got him, in a way.

Madalyn and Steve started going out a week later. Neither went near the house again. I felt sorry for the older man for a few months after that; when the rest of the kids from down by the railroad line saw it had worked for those two, they redoubled their visits. I think he was seeing at least one incident a night for most of the summer, twice as many on the weekends.  I suspect the shouting and the collisions with his front door drove him to hire a butler.

I tried summoning him a few times myself–once before the butler showed up, twice after. It worked–well, the summoning part did. He came flying out of his second-floor study before I got my fifth “CAN YOU HEAR ME MACNEELY? I’M TIRED OF BEING ALONE!” out, his eyes wild with fire and his hands heavy with old shoes. I stuck it out through a couple of loafers, but I never did get to finish all eleven lines; by the sixth he had switched to steel-toed boots.

I had hoped to run into Jenna Hudson on the way out, no such luck. She never had been the type to get pulled into the crowd’s antics. Instead Ted Levitt was forced to dive for cover as I tore through the hallway, the enraged clomping of shoes both worn and thrown behind me.  Ted never considered approaching the stairs. As far as I know, he never went back either. He still stares at the mansion when he passes sometimes.

Actually, since the windows melted, he stares at it more often than not.

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