Who Are the Creatures in Your Neighborhood?: The Screaks [Fiction]

[This and other forthcoming “Creatures in Your Neighborhood” entries are bits of writing practice, done when the old work schedule got too hectic to make working on longer stories — you know, stories with a capital “S” — a practical idea. -SJ]

It’s probably best to avoid commenting on the Screaks’ singing ability, especially for those who have trouble finding something polite to say about that which clearly doesn’t exist.

The Screaks know they can’t sing. That’s why they practice only at nighttime. Would you want to try to explain the sound of a Screak straining for that high C to a business associate you’re on the phone with, or to your child’s science teacher?

No, of course not.

The Screaks will wait until they’re certain everyone’s tucked in tight and pretty much asleep. They’re quite polite like that. In fact, they work so hard at practicing quietly that, most times, the only sound people will hear is a faint, far-drifting sound scratching at the edge of their dreams. From a distance, it could even be mistaken for a squeaky hinge easing open in the basement, or someone tiptoeing onto the one creaky spot on the hallway floor.

Don’t bother trying to catch a Screak mid-aria, though. Screaks will scutter and hide the moment they hear someone step out of bed. You would, too, if you sang like a Screak.

There is subtle talk among those in the know, however, of one particular Screak in town. Instead of the voice of a creature trying to harmonize while gargling a rusty nail, this rare Screak has the voice of a Juilliard-trained angel. He lives in the abandoned house at the far end of the field–you know, the one that people say is haunted. It isn’t haunted. It’s merely occupied by one solitary Screak who might sing better than the others but who, at his core, wants what every Screak wants:

Love. Acceptance. The thrill of seeing his efforts spark joy in the fragile, glowing part that waits behind a person’s eyes.

Currently his nights are spent in the attic, practicing classic Puccini for the benefit of a hat stand from 1952.