Fixer Upper

Fixer Upper: A flash fiction homage to Children of the Corn ● Spec Fic ● 550 words ● 2 minute read

The ad said “fixer upper”. Cool, you thought: slap on some paint, add some new fixtures and voila!, a cute little house in a much desired neighborhood for a much cheaper price than you’d pay otherwise.

What you weren’t prepared for: the Children of the Corn realness in the overgrown backyard. The realtor said they’d take care of it, but escrow is closing and it has yet to be done.

A breeze ripples through the thigh-high stalks of grass, depositing a fraying corn husk at your feet. A discarded tamale wrapper, probably. Still, a shudder runs through you. Why did you watch that stupid movie last night? It wasn’t even that good. Damn the 80’s and its perpetual cultural grip.

The realtor sees you scrutinizing the yard. “Oh, don’t worry about this,” he says with a dramatic sweep of the hand. “The seller is still going to clear it all out, as promised.” He nods at a battered black truck parked in the driveway, rusty red lettering peeling across its door: Malachi’s Landscaping.

Uneasy dread curdles in your gut. Malachi? Obviously it’s just a coincidence, but… what are the chances?

“Ah, here he is,” the realtor says as a black Cadillac pulls up to the curb. A severe-looking young man exits the car, pensive solemnity in an old-fashioned black suit.

Hipsters, you think with a mental sneer, ignoring the vague laughter that ripples beneath. Your own mind isn’t laughing at you. Right?

The realtor engulfs the young man’s hand, and the two confer among themselves. They whisper things you can’t hear, as though you’re not there. You sigh impatiently. They turn to you in eerie unison, smiling. “Ready to become an official homeowner?” the realtor says.

It isn’t the smiling that unsettles you, nor is it the overzealous way the realtor says homeowner, as if he means something else entirely. No, you are disturbed by the fact that you’ve only just realized how young both men look. You’re not so old yourself, but, Jesus. They look like kids.

A twinge of something like fear races through you, an icy shot to the heart. You brush it off, refusing to give in to what is probably just your own insecurity. Good for them for having their shit together at such a young age, you tell yourself.

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” you tell them with a forced smile, taking the keys the realtor holds out for you.

A short gust whips through the yard, stronger than before. The discarded tamale wrapper nudges your sandaled foot and nips at your ankles, tickling your bare skin. You are compelled to pick the thing up.

The wrapper has been fashioned into a kind of doll, with arms and hands and legs. Someone has drawn a crude face on the head. On the left arm, they’ve drawn a small star – not unlike the small star tattoo that marks your own arm.

The dread churns again, but you give your head a firm shake – no, you tell yourself. It was only a movie. You’re an adult, too old for silly superstitions. You’ve just bought a house, how much more grown-up can you be? Come on, now.