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The Little Striped House

2009 story submission by “The Flowers” (Irene Chau, Maren Chau, Tiffany Lin, Jennifer Zhang)

Like any other day, Carol Stripe rolled out of bed in the morning to freshen up for her job at the news station. Just as the clock struck five, she headed out the door wearing a crisp new suit, bursting at the seams. Carol was not an average woman; she had a little brain, and a lot of blubber. Stepping out of the threshold, she was greeted by her twig of a mother-in-law who was to take care of her three grandchildren as usual.

“Alright I’m off to work!” Carol said energetically. The grandmother replied silently, nodding with a soft smile on her face, keeping her mouth shut to prevent her long tongue from slithering out of her mouth. She entered the house and headed straight to the kitchen to prepare the children’s morning meal.

Upstairs, Annie encountered a rude awakening by her elder sister, Cerise, who was rubbing her feet.

“Sister! Whatever are you doing?!” Little Annie questioned, quickly sitting up in bed,  pulling her feet away from Cerise’s grasp.

“It’s just that your little piggies were so soft!” Cerise explained in an innocent tone. At that moment, Todd, 6 year old twin of Annie, shot up in bed, glaring at the wall that divided the siblings’ rooms.

“Would you girls just be quiet? Its so early in the morning!” He yelped loudly. Annie pouted, crossing her arms, her bunny headband drooping. Cerise sighed and stood up, heading down the stairs for breakfast. Todd got up and combed a hand through his maroon-colored hair, revealing the stubby black horns atop his head.

The three children and the grandmother assembled in the kitchen for breakfast. On the table was uncooked food, for Grandma had been waiting for the three kids to awaken. She quickly scrambled eggs and made toast as she let the bacon sizzle in the pan. The food cooked quickly, and the four Stripes sat down at the table to enjoy their meal.

After they finished the delicious meal, all of them got dressed into their formal clothes. Todd threw on a sweater vest and then put on his typical black fedora. Cerise smiled as she placed her bare feet into a pair of transparent Chuck Taylors. Grandma changed into a floral-patterned dress. Annie slipped on a pair of her best mittens. They wanted to look their best while standing before their deceased grandfather’s grave.

As Grandma set pink carnations upon the gravestone, she could hear low murmurs coming from under the ground. Very faintly, the family could hear “I do not like those flowers.”

“Grandpa!” Annie and Todd exclaimed, staring at the soil.

“Oh. You’re awake.” Grandmother sighed, replying to the talking dirt.

“How are the kids? Is Carol still as round as ever?”

“She’s still going strong,” Grandmother Stripe said,  laughing, to the corroding body underground.

From afar, an unfamiliar man observed the family.

The weekend passed rather quickly. Summer was over, and school was beginning for the children. For the very first time, Todd and Annie made their way to their kindergarten class.

“No hats in class,” reminded the teacher.

“I don’t wanna take my hat off,” Todd whined. Other kids laughed at him.

“Whaddya think is under is hat?” One classmate questioned.

“Maybe he’s hiding a bald spot!” Another answered.

Todd could not tell anyone that he was hiding his horns.

While admiring Annie’s fluffy bunny-eared headband during playtime, other kids shunned Todd and his funny hat. All alone, Todd watched his sister’s popularity grow.

“You have really cool hair,” a girl told Cerise, in the course of her school day.

“Thank you,” Cerise replied, beaming. “I like your, uh, shoes.” Staring at the girl’s feet, she wondered what they would feel like, and how soft they would be.

Throughout the day, the two girls became quite the acquaintances. After school, Cerise would be going over to her new friend’s house to do their nails.

Todd and Annie returned to the little striped house around three o’clock. Grandma opened the door for them. Her tongue was wrapped around a thin straw, sipping a refreshing glass of lemonade. “Hey kids, where’s Cerise?” She asked her grandchildren, letting them inside. “Want a glass of lemonade? I squeezed it an hour ago.” Grandma put her glass down on the kitchen counter and then poured two small cups of the lemon juice for the kids.

“Cerise went to her friend’s house to play.” Annie explained.

When Cerise and her friend finished their manicures, Cerise’s gaze averted from her nicely-done nails to her friend’s feet. “Do you want a foot massage?” She asked, unable to contain her fondness for feet.

“You want to touch my feet? Gross!” Her friend exclaimed, “Maybe it’s time for you to go home.”

Cerise sighed and left her friend’s home without a word. Walking outside, her eyes caught onto a suspicious shadow moving into a bunch of trees. Shrugging, Cerise headed home in utter silence.

Later that night, the Stripes gathered around their dining table. Carol heaved a sigh, resting her plump face in her palm. “My job has just been so unsatisfying lately. There have been no interesting reports.”

The rest of the family helpfully gave her ideas, all of which Carol had to disagree with.

Sitting on the couch a few hours later, watching TV, the round woman’s eyes widened.

“Hey, you kids want to be famous?” She asked eagerly.

Watching from an open window outside, a strange man grinned at what he heard.

The following afternoon, Grandma flipped on the television. Baffled at what she saw on the screen, she made a mental note for the kids not to see. Carol was reporting about their family! The disappointed old woman picked up the telephone and left an angry message on the anchorwoman’s cellular phone.

“They want stories like this!” Carol complained when she got home.

“This is the hot topic of the day.”

All of a sudden, someone knocked on the door. That someone happened to be a photographer for the media.

“Excuse me?” Grandmother asked the photographer. “You leave this house this instant.” She slammed the door and double locked it. “Thank God the kids went to the library to study,” she said to her daughter-in-law, Carol. Suddenly, she got worried. They were out in the open for those photographers to feast on.

The kids did their homework at the library. They drew pictures, even colored them. Cerise read to the twins. They had fun laughing at comics together. But they never noticed a man staring at them through a bookshelf the entire time. During their studies, the children heard soft snapping noises coming from outside of the library.

“Excuse me! Move it! My grandkids are in there!” Grandma yelled, shoving her way through the paparazzi into the library. “My grandchildren! Are you alright?” She asked, shoving the kids’ school papers into their backpacks and dragging the twins by the arms out the back door. Cerise followed her family closely, looking around with confused eyes. The strange man glanced at the bunch one last time before exiting the book sanctuary.

Even in the comfort of their own home, the snapping noises would not cease. At home, every window was locked, the blinds drawn.

The confused children bombarded their guardians with questions.

“Why were the people taking pictures of us?”

“What happened?”

“Who are those people?” and so on.

Grandmother was extremely disappointed in her son’s wife’s selfish act.

“It’s not everyday that a mother would turn on her own family.” She muttered to herself. Very faintly, she could hear news reporters’ voices and cameras snapping pictures outside of the house. Before the children slept, they received the explanation they wanted all day. Cerise, Annie, and Todd fell asleep with anger and sadness.

The first thing that Cerise saw when she awoke in the morning was a camera lens. Todd and Annie awoke to the blood-curdling scream of their elder sister.

“Sister!” Annie yelped, tears welling in her eyes with fear.

Todd rushed into the room, anger boiling in his blood. “Get away from my sisters!” He yelled. The photographer kept snapping at them, stepping back a bit. Without talking, Annie reached under her bed, pulling out an inflatable sledgehammer she had gotten at the carnival a few weeks earlier. She ran up to the man and bonked him on the head, but her attack did not seem to phase him. At that moment, Grandma burst into the room, and in her hand was a real sledgehammer. With a battle cry and her lengthy tongue dangling from her mouth, she aimlessly flailed the weapon at the camera-man.

“Get out of my house!” She shouted. Horrified, the man jumped out of the window, leaving his camera behind. Falling into the bushes, he quickly escaped the little striped house. Grandma crushed the camera into a million little pieces, destroying the film.

Seeing how her family had became so frightened and irritated, Carol regretted exposing her loved ones on local television. Tears rolled down the woman’s pudgy cheeks.

The next morning, when all of the action had died down, the remorseful anchorwoman drove to the news station, determined to take the limelight away from her family.  After an entire day of pleading to her manager, Carol finally received what she wanted from the media. Peace. At home, the anchorwoman was forgiven by Grandma and the kids after buying them an enormous cheesecake to share.

Two weeks later, the family had adjusted back to their “normal” lives. Annie was still as popular as ever at school, but now she was mostly playing with Todd. Carol was reporting the daily happenings; now a kitten getting rescued from a tree became the highlight of her reports. Grandma spent her days visiting her late husband, conversing with him for hours. Cerise began giving free foot massages to the neighbors. “Oh, touching your feet is enough payment for me,” She would say. One evening, the strange man watched the family take a nightly stroll, where Carol would be rolled by Grandma. The enshrouded man chuckled, taking one last look at the little striped house before walking away.

© 2009 Irene Chau, Maren Chau, Tiffany Lin, Jennifer Zhang

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