So I’m browsing the ‘net and I see that one of my favourite movies is on. The ‘Burbs. Tom Hanks 1989. Mock spooky comedy classic. I love this film. But it reminds me of a moment in my life that took place one summer, in Jesmond, Newcastle Upon Tyne.
I was up North spending a few weeks with my family and writing.
This photo is Les, my mum’s neighbour.
I came home one night, poured a drink and threw myself down onto the comfortable sofa in the snug. Flicked on the TV and found The ‘Burbs was on. One of my favourite flicks to watch on repeat. I was chuckling away at Tom Hanks looking down from his bedroom window, watching his neighbours, the Klopeks, out in the pouring rain with lanterns, hacking away at their garden with shovels, as if digging up a grave…
… the commercial break comes on and I shuffle through to the kitchen for a refill. Outside the rain is still hammering down. Something catches my eye. A flickering light, coming from near the bottom of next door’s garden (Les’ side). I squinted through my own reflection in the window but couldn’t see a thing. I turned off the kitchen lights and could now clearly see the flickering glow of…a lantern, and what looked like a figure out there in the rain. Eh? What?
I hurried upstairs, cracked open the window and took a better look. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Almost an exact duplicate of the scene on the television a few minutes earlier… one man, dressed in a heavy coat slick and glistening with rain, standing near an electric lantern, weilding a shovel and digging up the earth.
There was Les, the neighbour, digging something up out of the earth…he’d reached a point where he’d cleared away the top layer of soil and was now carefully scraping away the deeper soil so as not to damage whatever was down there. The features of his face were creased with concentration, there was an urgency and desperation in his expression.
I couldn’t believe this.
And then I thought… hmm, I’ve not seen his wife or his daughter for a few days. Which was unusual.
I hurried downstairs, pulled on my boots and a raincoat and headed out into the back garden… Les didn’t hear me approach because of the rain, so when I muttered BOO right behind him the guy shrieked like a girl and nearly expired from a heart attack on the spot. The shovel that had been in his hand ended up about two metres away as his whole body convulsed in shock. I was in a humerous mood but also slightly wary I was about to discover the nice-bloke-who-lives-next-door was digging up some forgotten relic…or worse?
At that moment, a door in the back of Les’ house opened up and a large stocky man started striding towards us. What the fek? Who was this?
As the large men stepped into the lantern light I saw his face was scrunched up with some painful emotion.
Oh my God…
I stepped away respectfully as the man dropped down onto his knees next to the hole, and started gently clearing away the last of the rain-sodden earth with his finger… his shoulders shuddering with quiet sobs.
Then the bloke reached into the shallow pit and pulled out a big dead… rabbit.
Turns out Les had agreed to look after this man’s most treasured pet a few days earlier. Unfortunately for Les, the rabbit had caught some kind of virus and died. Les felt terrible, especially with it dying on his watch. When the man had returned from his trip and found out Les had done the decent thing, and buried it, the man demanded to have the body of his bunny back. Apparently the man knows a taxidermist.
So the bloke took the rabbit corpse away and apparently it now sits on his desk, stuffed, one ear slightly crooked.
Life is surely stranger than fiction sometimes, I swear.
I bet you kick-ass being a fan of strange fiction. You know all the best books, right?
You should try these: 8 novels by David J Rodger
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