THE WORLD ACCORDING TO HOOTER MCCORMICK -- BINKY BAXTER SCARES A GHOST

by: Wes Ishmael

Hooter's visits to the “in-laws”—Claire's sister and her family—were infrequent, but always enlightening. It was Bugsy's cousins, who provided most of the insight.

“No, Binky, not like that. You're doing it all wrong,” Millie grumped, jerking the bottle of bubble juice from her little brother's hand.

Binky was almost 4-years-old and he was pretty sure you couldn't do bubbles wrong.

“Like this,” Millie said, sticking her face close to his and pinching her lips together like their goldfish, Gus.

Bossy and a Brat. That's one of the reasons I can't stand her, Binky thought to himself. O.K. two reasons.

While Millie was pinching her lips and blowing, Binky slapped the bottle of bubbles from her hand.

“Mama! Mama! Do you know what Binky just did?” Millie shouted as she ran to find Mama.

And a tattletale, thought Binky. That's three reasons.

All through egg-fast—that's what Binky called it because he knew it made Millie mad—he sat and stared at his big sister. He'd figured out that really bothered her.

“Mama!” Millie howled.

“I don't want to hear it, Miss Millie,” Mama said over her shoulder, while scrubbing a pan in the sink. “You and your brother have to figure out how to get along. You're 6-years-old and the big sister, for goodness sake.”

That's one of the things Binky loved about Mama, she was so fair. There were lots and lots of things he loved about Mama.

“And Binky, stop staring at your sister.”

That's one of the things that he wasn't so crazy about. It was spooky how Mama could be looking somewhere else, or be in whole different room and still know what he was doing.

She must be one of those physics, Binky thought.

Binky decided to stay out of sight after breakfast. He went to the old bedroom that nobody slept in unless Grandma and Grandpa came over. He started digging through the big cardboard box filled with dress-up clothes.

There was the cap with the airplane thing on it that didn't spin so good anymore. Nahh.

There was the army helmet with the crack in it. Nope.

There was the one Daddy called his Elmer Fudd hat that was missing one of the ear flaps. Almost, but not quite.

Finally, there it was. The Santa Clause cap, Binky's favorite. He pulled it onto his head and over his ears. It felt good.

Binky dug a little deeper and found a pair of old sunglasses with one of the windows missing. He put those on, too. He had just pulled one of Daddy's old tee shirts over his head when Millie walked in.

Binky thought he could be a million miles away in a snow storm and Millie would still find him. He didn't know how she did it, she just did.

Maybe she's a physic, too. Maybe it's some kind of girl thing, he thought.

“What'cha doing?” Millie asked all kind and sweet.

Binky knew plenty of words and how to use them, but he wasn't sure what you were supposed to say when someone asked something that made no sense.

What could you say to someone who asked about something when they already knew the answer? Like now, standing there in a Santa cap with one window missing, it was obvious what he was doing.

Idiot. That's the first word that came to mind. He'd heard Daddy say that to someone in another car when they were going to the store one day. He still wasn't sure how Daddy could hear the man in the other car, or how the man in the other car could hear Daddy, but they had quite a chat.

Must be one of those grown-up things, he'd decided.

Idiot. It was such a neat sounding word and so easy to say. So, Binky had said it to Millie the very next time she got on his nerves. Mama heard it, too. She turned red, swatted his bottom and made him sit on his bed forever.

So, now if someone asked him a question like Millie just asked, he might shrug, but he wasn't going to say anything, especially not that Idiot word.

For some reason, this seemed to bother Mama, not that he had quit using that word, but that he didn't talk much. She even asked Doctor Bill about it the last time they'd gone to see him. Dr. Bill said not to worry. But that seemed to worry Mama even more.

She told Daddy about it that night and wondered what he thought. Daddy looked up from that paper thing he always looks at and said, “What?” Daddy doesn't say much either.

“What'cha doing?” Millie asked again, sweet like before. Ever since she'd lost her front teeth, she reminded Binky of Halloween.

Binky shrugged.

“If you wait in the living room, I'll surprise you,” she said.

How can it be a surprise if I know it's coming, wondered Binky.

Besides, Binky knew enough about Millie's surprises to know it wouldn't be something he'd want. But, he didn't want to cause a fuss and get Mama upset again so soon. So, he shrugged and headed to the living room.

He walked half-way down the hall and then stopped and tippy-toed back. He peeked into the bedroom. Millie had pulled the old sheet from the box, the one that Mama had cut holes in for eyes and a mouth. For some reason lately Millie was all about ghosts and trying to scare people. That gave Binky an idea.

Binky sat with his back to the hallway that Millie had to walk through to get to the living room. He was facing the hallway on the other side of the living room that led to the back door and the giant yard with so much fun stuff.

He could hear Millie trying to be quiet as she snuck up behind him.

“Boo!” yelled Millie.

Even though he was expecting it, the noise startled Binky. He was ready, though. He jumped up, screamed like he meant it, turned to look at his sister in the sheet, screamed again and ran as fast as he could out the back door.

“Binky, it's only me,” Millie hollered between laughs. “Come back.”

In the whole yard, there was only one place that even Millie could not get into—Daddy's tool shed.

“Don't you ever try to go in there unless Daddy's with you,” Mama had warned them more than one time. “There are things in there that wouldn't be good for kids to have.”

Daddy would do this funny thing with one eye, closing it while the other one stayed open, and he'd tell Mama, “Remember that special latch I put on the door.”

Binky wasn't sure what was so special about the latch or how it worked. All he knew was that one day while goofing around, he tripped and stumbled into the door. It opened up. He closed it again real quick in case someone saw. Then, he wondered if he could do it again. Sure enough, if he hit the door hard enough in the same spot, the door would spring open.

That's where he went to get away from Millie. He was already inside before she got to the back door.

“Binky! Binky!” called Millie, all sing-song like for a while.

Good luck finding me, he giggled to himself.

“Binky! Binky!” Millie called again, and again, and a little more serious as time went on.

Binky peered out the dusty window to watch Millie as she looked in one direction and then another, calling his name. Finally, she dropped the sheet and ran for the house.

Good riddance, thought Binky.

He couldn't help but feel pleased, especially when he heard the first rain drops splat on the tin roof. He watched as one drop after another landed on the window, and then made tracks as they chased each other down the glass.

He listened to how calm the sound of the rain made him feel. He crawled on top of the sacks of smelly stuff that Daddy poured into that green thing with wheels.

Then, Binky fell asleep.

It didn't feel like very long. It was Millie screaming again.

It figures, he thought.

“Binky!” Millie yelled. “If you're out here and don't come out right now, when I find you, I'm going to clobber you, you little wart.”

This wasn't the Millie he knew. This Millie was crying as she called his name and tried to act tough. In the rain she looked like one of those drowned rats Mama talked about.

“Biiiiinky!” called Millie. And then more quietly: “If you can hear me, I'm so, so sorry. I didn't mean to scare you that bad. Honest, I didn't.”

Binky wasn't sure why, but he started to feel sorry for his big sister. He couldn't remember feeling like that before.

Binky snuck out of the tool shed. He crawled as fast he could toward his sister, mud and all. He tugged on her pant leg, trying to get her attention without scaring her. That seemed important for some reason.

When Millie felt the tug, she looked down and opened up her mouth, but no sound came out. She dropped to her knees and wrapped her arms around him so tight that Binky was afraid he might go flat like a bike tire.

“Binky,” Millie managed to gasp between sobs. She was holding him even tighter.

At first, Binky thought about slugging her or at least pushing her away. Then he had a strange idea: maybe the best way to help someone who needs it sometimes is to let them help you.

So, he did.







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