“Dare you to Ding-Dong-Ditch Ms. Hannity’s place.” Casper wagged his brows, his broad smile reflecting a mouth full of metal.
“Nah. We’re eleven, now. Let’s do something fun.” Jared cast a wary eye at the old woman’s house.
Its run-down exterior and overgrown lawn gave him the creeps. He kicked a rock down the vacant street. If he didn’t look scared, maybe Casper would drop it.
“What? You afraid of the witch?”
Jared stifled a groan. “No. And she’s not a witch. She’s old. I just don’t see why we can’t play basketball.”
“We can.” Casper crossed his arms. “After you Ding-Dong-Ditch her house.”
Jared’s shoulders drooped. “Fine.”
It was easier to just do the dare. Casper never gave up, otherwise.
The sun was high enough in the sky to make a drop of sweat drip down Jared’s back. He grit his teeth and walked up Ms. Hannity’s driveway. Casper loitered around the curb, his chuckle floating along the light breeze, teasing the hairs on the back of Jared’s neck.
It’s just a Ding-Dong-Ditch. No big deal, right?
He swallowed, raised a finger to the doorbell. Paused. His heart pounded like a drum inside his chest. Was that a noise he heard inside?
“Do it!” Casper yelled from the street.
Jared froze. Had she heard? Could Ms. Hannity know what he was about to do?
Like a flash of lightening, he pressed the bell, spun on one heel and dashed away. Casper gave a hoot as Jared rounded the corner, the two boys sprinting from the scene of the crime. They made it to the street, one house over.
Casper stopped, bent at the waist, both hands on his knees. “Good one. Wonder how long it took her to get to the door with her walker?” he wheezed.
Guilt gnawed at Jared’s belly. The poor lady didn’t need to be tricked. No matter how weird she was.
His eyes flicked to her house. He gasped. The curtain parted, a pale white face staring out at both of them.
“Run!” he yelled.
His friend laughed again as they raced across the street and onto Jared’s front porch. Jared couldn’t stop shaking.
“I can’t believe how scared you are.” Casper shook his head. “What’s the big deal?”
Jared opened his front door. “It just doesn’t feel right, is all.”
The boys stopped in the foyer as Jared’s mom hung up the phone and stalked toward them. “That was Ms. Hannity. Did you just ring her doorbell and run away?”
A rock the size of Montana fell to the bottom of Jared’s belly. “We—I—”
“Jared Peters, I’m very disappointed in you. Tricking an old lady like that. Casper must go home. Now. Tomorrow morning you’ll go over and apologize.”
“I—but—” Jared’s mouth wagged like a fish.
“No backtalk, Jared.” His mom disappeared into the kitchen.
Casper socked him in the shoulder. “Tough break. See you in the ‘morrow.” With a wink, he left.
Jared slumped into the recliner. Fantastic. Caught and bored. He picked up the remote and flipped channels.
Ding-Dong. He rolled his eyes but answered it anyway.
But no one was there. Casper was halfway up the street, headed home.
Jared frowned and sat back down. How could Casper have run that fast? He’d answered the door within seconds. He shrugged and continued channel surfing.
Ding-Dong. He inhaled sharply, his gaze glued to the door handle.
Could it be Casper? He slowly approached the door, his hands shaking once more. He pulled it open.
No one was there.
Jared squinted. He could just barely see Casper cresting the top of the hill to his house. It definitely wasn’t him.
But if it wasn’t Casper, then who—
Jared’s eyes went wide as saucers, his eyes on the doorbell. No one had rung it. But it had rung anyway.
He glanced at Ms. Hannity’s house.
Every molecule in his body turned to ice.
Through the window a pale white face stared back at him.
And she wore a smile.
Old Ms. Hannity really was a witch.
©Laura L. Zimmerman 2018