Jean knocked on the door and opened it. “Ray, the boys want you to take them to the ballpark.”
Ray looked up from his computer. “Why don’t you take them, Honey? I’ve got to get our taxes paid.”
“They don’t want me to take them. I’m too boring—don’t you know? They don’t like hanging around with me. They want their grandfather—he’s cool.”
“Oh, Jean, you’re not boring. Tell them one of your hospital horror stories. Everybody gets a kick out of your Nurse Jean stories.”
She closed the door and went back out to the living room. The four boys were sprawled out across the couch watching TV.
“Well?” said Paul, perking up, “Is he going to take us?”
“He can’t,” said Jean, “your grandfather is very busy right now.”
“Aw, Man,” said John.
“I told you,” said Pete.
“Shut up,” said John.
“I knew it was gonna be boring here,” said George. “I could have watched TV at home.”
“Yeah, except your mom doesn’t trust you to stay home by yourself,” said Paul.
“Ain’t that the same reason your here?” said George.
“Alright, alright, you guys—quit your arguing,” said Jean. “How about if I take you to the ballpark?”
The boys looked at each other.
“That’s okay, Grandma,” said Paul. “We’ll wait until Grandpa can take us.”
The other boys agreed.
“Hey, I could tell you a story,” said Jean, “but it might be too scary for you.” She sat in a chair across from them, picked up the remote, and turned off the TV.
“Is this a story about when you were a nurse?” said Pete.
“Yes. It’s about the time a man came into the ER with half his arm chewed off.”
“Oh,” said John, sounding like a robot, “I remember that one. His hand got stuck and he couldn’t get it out, so he finally chewed it off.”
“Yeah, that was a gross one, Grandma,” said George, in monotone.
“Yeah, really scary, Grandma,” said Paul, with his head leaned back on the couch, about to dose off.
“I’m sure you had a lot of freaky experiences as a nurse, Grandma,” said Pete.
“And apparently you boys have heard about them all,” she said.
“Yeah, I guess so,” said George.
“Do you miss being a nurse?” said Pete.
She appreciated Pete’s attempt to show interest in her. “Sometimes I do.”
Nobody seemed to know what else to say.
Finally, John said, “Grandma, would mind turning the TV back on?”
She picked up the remote and turned the TV on. Then she turned it off.
“Grandma.” said Pete.
“I’ve got something more exciting than TV,” she said. “You boys are going to enjoy this—IF your stomachs can handle it. But I don’t know…it could be a problem,” she said studying them. “You might barf.”
They all sat up.
“No, we won’t,” said John. “What is it?”
She stood up. “Come with me.”
The four boys followed her down the stairs to the basement. “Over here,” she said, leading them to a locked door. She pulled her necklace up and out of her blouse, revealing a silver key at the end of it. They had never seen that key before. “Now, Boys, this is my own private room. You are never to go in here without my permission.”
They all shook their heads in anticipation.
She unlocked the door and pushed it wide open. The utter darkness of the doorway that stood before them sent a chill down their young spines. Was it simply a entrance into an ordinary room? Or was the first step a never-ending drop into a black abyss of razor-sharp knives and swords?
Jean reached in and flipped a switch, and a 25-watt bulb glowed to life near the ceiling. They boys were relieved to see a floor. But the low lighting made the room look creepy.
“Come over here, Boys.”
They walked behind her, closely huddled together.
“Have you ever seen loose eyeballs?”
“Loose?” said Pete.
She opened a cabinet door and took out a sealed bottle. “Check out these peepers,” she said, setting the bottle on the counter.
“Those aren’t real…are they?” said Pete.
“Come closer,” said Jean. “See for yourself.”
Pete stepped up to the counter. “I don’t know. It’s so dark in here.”
Jean reached for something at the back of the counter—a flashlight. She clicked it on. The two eyeballs were staring straight at Pete.
“Whoa,” he jumped back. “Those things are real.”
“No they’re not,” said John. “Let me see.” He eased in closer. “Yuck.” He backed up.
“Okay, Grandma, that’s pretty creepy,” said George. “Now, what else you got?”
She opened another cabinet, took out a bigger bottle and set it down on the counter. “How about a heart?”
“Where did you get that?” said Paul. “Off some guy in the morgue?”
She didn’t answer.
“That could be a cow’s heart for all we know,” said John. “It’s no big deal.”
Without a word, Jean opened another cabinet. When she set the big bottle on the counter and shined the flashlight on it, Pete yelled, “It’s a guy’s head.” He puked all over himself.
“I’m outta here,” said George running out of the room.
The others tore out after him, chasing him up the stairway.
Their grandfather was standing at the top of the stairs. “You boys ready to go?” I’ll finish the taxes later.”
“Definitely,” said John.
“Okay,” said Ray, “let me just grab a quick sandwich and—”
“—no, please, Grandpa,” said George, “we need to go right now.”
The boys ran out to Ray’s truck and piled in. He followed them.
As they drove past the neighbor’s house, one of the boys noticed the police tape across the front door. “What going on there, Grandpa?”
“Our neighbor, Mr. Fredericks, is missing,” said Ray. “The police think…somebody murdered him.”
The boys looked at each other in horror.
Nurse Jean had stayed downstairs in her private room. She wondered if her grandsons still thought she was boring.
She gently stroked the side of the large bottle containing the head. “My name is Jean, and I will be your nurse for this evening.”
Opening a drawer, she took out the small poster. Very flattering, she thought. If your face had to be on a missing persons flyer, it was comforting to know they had used a nice picture of you.
She pointed the flashlight at the head, and then at the flyer. “See, Mr. Fredericks? It’s a lovely picture of you. Don’t you think?”
Nurse Jean smiled. She wasn’t boring at all.