#98 Shadow Pets

by Jonathan Todd Riley

Someone told Billy Tanner about my fear of shadow puppets. He followed me into the restroom, flipped off the switch, shone his flashlight at the wall, and cast a two-armed gator above my urinal. I barely mustered a squeal before he snapped a shot of me pissing all over my blue-jeans.

*

I hid in a janitor’s closet with my how-to-make shadow puppets book and a flashlight. It was hard at first, but before no time I could project all the classics. Barking dogs. Butterflies. Turtles. Just contort my fingers like gang signs.

It wasn’t so scary until the images didn’t go away when my fingers stopped. They shuffled about on the cinder block with a mind of their own. The turtles ate the butterflies. The dogs slaughtered the turtles. I even tried an alligator which chomped the dogs to bits. I flicked off my flashlight and then back on; the gator rabid as ever. My heart pounded and knees shook when the gator’s head inched out from the wall and snatched a real live moth out of the dank air.

*

I paid Dan ten dollars to tell Billy that Lacy wanted to kiss him in the janitor’s closet. He’s on his way there now and I’ve got a new shadow pet waiting. I shaped him with both hands, a foot, and a mop. He’s my finest creation yet. I call him Lars. He looks like a cross between a shark and a porcupine.

And he’s really hungry.

15 comments:

Lisa Pellegrini said...

Ha ha! Very cute story. I like that there isn't really anything gory about this one, except for the imaginary animals chomping each other. It is more like you took the idea of a person having a phobia, and you showed us how he overcame it with comedic results. Who would have thought to write a story that revolves around shadow puppets? Original idea indeed.

Darrelyn Saloom said...

Hilarious! Brings back childhood memories. My sisters and I had three channels on TV and lots of time to make shadow puppets. Really Enjoyed.

Lauren S said...

This was a lot of fun! Dude must REALLY be afraid of those puppets if he's that bad at Billy :) Great job, Jonathan!

Anonymous said...

I thought this short showed an interesting aspect of childhood. Simple is always more interesting and entertaining. I picture boys teasing each other but in contemporary times it's a bit different. I immediately imagined the picture being taken with a smartphone but the main character found comfort in a tangible book. He knew what gang signs were but his interests gravitated toward shadow puppets. Although today;s youth are expected to be the most technologically comfortable, I still hope that they can find some enjoyment in good natured, rambunctious, and creative fun. I feel the author agrees.

Shelia said...

As usual, you have taken a really simple idea and turned it into something more than anyone else thought to do. I am fascinated with the way you create so many layers with so few words. Never spelling everything out but laying out the story and allowing the reader to use their own imagination to be part of the creation, making each persons experience to be unique. Outstanding work!

conboyhillfiction said...

Darkly sinister and brooding revenge. Nicely done - although that's the last time I look at rabbits ears the same way!

Leah said...

I love this. It's so vivid - I can picture the puppets coming to live, and it's enough to make me shudder. I tell you what, I won't be asking my child to learn to make shadow puppets anytime soon!!

Fabulous job!!

paulfny said...

Out of all the entries I've read, here, I like this one the most. The evolution of the shadow-puppets, the unfussy, straight-to-the-point prose, the tone that's somewhere between Ray Bradbury and Stephen King - it really captures something. Great stuff :-D

Deb said...

This is so great. Love it.

DP said...

I love that you've managed to keep a sense of innocense between the forboding. Most excellent!

seanofthedead138 said...

Classic J.R. Great imagery, and a good tale of childhood revenge. Very original, and I like that. Keep it up, buddy!

James Silberstein said...

Yes! Very good. Great fun!

Jess said...

J.R., you always manage to make me laugh with your writing. World needs more comedic writers. :)

Jonathan Riley said...

Thank you all for taking the time to read and comment on my story. It really means a lot that you all enjoyed it, and even more that you took the time to tell me so.

michaellewilde said...

Had to laugh. I know, you've gotten many of the same comments. But hey, you're the one who said you liked feedback!

I especially enjoyed the short but quite effective emotional build-up.