Contributor: Taylor Normington

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The other kids in my neighborhood wouldn’t go near Old Man Sylas’ house when they could help it. It was the only home on our street with a wooden stoop. The steps were in a state of dirty disrepair that audibly ached when the children of the neighborhood stepped on them, approaching the front door to knock on a dare or as proof of their courage. It was as though the elderly stoop had never known shoes of that small size.
Mom always said that Sylas had a kind heart and that he used to be very neighborly. Neighborly was the word my mother used to describe those she thought were good people. She always said his wife, Connie, had been dried up and that it hadn’t bothered Sylas but that it had bothered his wife and that’s why she did that thing she did before I was born. I never got to meet her but Tommy, the oldest boy on the street, would describe her as though she had been the most beautiful lady in the world. That’s something for Tommy too, because he never liked girls. He even spoke poorly of his own mother. My mom never talked about Connie.
There was one time when I was eight that Sylas opened his window while the boys were playing with sparklers in the street right in front of his house. We all thought he was going to complain about the noise, but he didn’t. He sat in front of the window and smiled at us and watched. The boys were spooked and said we should go down the street and then they did. I didn’t though. There was something about Sylas’ eyes that seemed kind. I didn’t find him spooky at all. If I had a father I would have wished he’d look at me with those eyes.
I went up to his porch after he waved to me and I waved back. I climbed the steps of the stoop, which sighed under my lesser weight. Sylas got the door and admitted me into his home. He sat me in the living room, leaving the window open, and made me some tea and got me a raisin cookie. I thanked him and ate and he smiled and waited. I told him I didn’t like tea but that the cookie was good and he laughed and drank the tea himself. He had a nice warm laugh that didn’t sound old at all. It made sense why mom called him neighborly.
He got up from his spot across the room and approached me. He brushed my hair back and looked into my eyes. I remember distinctly that the look in his eyes hadn’t changed since I first saw him that night, but now that I was up close I realized that they weren’t happy at all. They ached. Sylas let out a small groan and I ran home. I never saw Sylas open his window again.

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Taylor Normington is a recent graduate of Michigan State University with a film degree. He took interest in writing prose at a young age, and after a lengthy hiatus to develop screenwriting skills has returned to short story writing as well.
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