Recently, after making a donation, my wife brought home a book of comic strips from a charity table at work. It was “The Calvin And Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book” by Bill Watterson, commemorating his own comic strip, which was pretty big in US newspapers in the 80’s and 90’s. (This book’s been great company in the bathroom, by the way.)
“The Calvin And Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book” inspired this story, when I took part in an Interruptions writing game.
Interruptions is when you start writing with no real idea where your imagination will take you (sort of automatic writing). Someone chimes in with a phrase, which must then be incorporated into your story. There are 3 or 4 of these at regular intervals. You’ll find the ones I was given, in bold in my post.)
“I can’t hear anything” says Hobbes.
“Yeah you can. Listen. That high, keening sound… there! Hear it?
“Like a buzz-saw you mean” says Hobbes thoughtfully.
“Nah, nothing. Your imagination’s running away with you.”
“Oh c’mon, Hobbes!”
“Must be your Dad.”
“No. Don’t you know anything? He’s not at home yet. He’s still at work.”
“My, he’s the industrious one, isn’t he?”
Hobbes tries to go to sleep, while Calvin listens.
“There. You must have heard it that time!”
“Nope. Now will you shaddup? You need your beauty sleep.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Yeah you do… look in the mirror.”
It’s quiet for a time, apart from a faint snoring from Calvin’s Mom and Dad’s room. At least Calvin hopes it’s coming from their room.
“What!” he hisses at Calvin.
Hobbes reaches out and switches on the bedside light, then lifts himself up, finally folding his arms.
Calvin says “I was only gonna ask if you were asleep yet. No need to blow a gasket.”
“Well NO! I’m not asleep.” Hobbes drums the fingers of one hand on his opposing forearm, as loudly as he can, to emphasise the point. “So What’s botherin’ ya, Calvin?”
“Yeah. She’s real cross with me, and I hate it when she’s cross.”
“Sheesh! That Susie ! I mean I’ve known some wild girls in my time, but she sure takes the biscuit. I mean when she loses it, she loses it. Regular little wildcat.”
“With my heart, Hobbes. That’s the girl of my dreams.”
“What?! Dat little squirt! Calvin, c’mon!”
“You know you’ve been reading those gangster comics of mine again. Who d’you think you are? Humphrey Bogart?”
“Well here’s looking at you kid. OK now can I turn out the light?” says Hobbes, after looking me up and down (as much as that’s possible when you’re lying in bed next to someone, and you’re both mostly under bed sheets).
There’s a noise off the landing. The light snoring has stopped and the sound of someone getting out of bed, switching on a light, and the creak of floor boards, follows.
Quick as you like, Hobbes has the bedside light off and throws himself back under the sheets. A cistern empties and a door opens. Yellow light throws an oblong onto the bedroom carpet, displaying multiple cartoon moons, rockets and TinTins.
A head pokes around the door and Mrs Jones steps in. Calvin senses her presence and lets out a gentle moan, as though he’s dreaming. He moves, realistically he hopes, to throw an arm around Hobbes. Mrs Jones sees a sleeping son and his stuffed tiger in his arms. She folds her own arms and smiles, standing there a moment longer and then leaves to go back to bed.
A minute later, a strangled voice struggles to say “Get your arms off my neck will ya?”
“I was only pretending. The scariest thing is… I think she really believes I actually care about you!”
“Shhh!” says Hobbes. “Did you hear that?”
“I think it’s a ghost. That high keening wail tells me… it’s the wraith o’ wee Andy McCaverty!”
“Drop the fake Highland accent Hobbes, ‘cos it don’t suit you. In fact it really annoys me.”
“Oh really? Well if it does, you could just jump out the window, then you wouldn’t have to hear it anymore!”
I throw Hobbes under the sheets and shut my eyes. The complete maroon!
With big thanks to the brilliant Bill Watterson