Funny stories in under 500 words.

Not Our Business

Sarah looked up from her cereal, a soggy mess of alphabet shapes, and gazed out of the kitchen window. In the neighboring yard a man, dressed in a leather flak jacket, with goggles on his head, was kicking a wooden structure. It had a bowl attached to the end.

“Mommy?” Sarah asked. “What’s Mr. Jacobson doing?”

Mrs. Hampton, her elbows deep in dirty water, scraped a petrified nugget of ravioli from a dish and followed her daughter’s gaze.

“Oh he’s just building a catapult again, sweetie.”

“A cata-what?”

“It’s like a big stick that throws things.”

Sarah raised an eyebrow and glanced back at her cereal. The letters swirled around. The ones in the center of the bowl spelled “Oops.” Sarah giggled. Outside, Mr. Jacobson appeared to have gotten caught in the spring of his contraption. His belt had snagged it. In a fury, he rocked back and forth, trying to free himself. He looked like a hunchback trying to start a lawnmower.

“What does he want to throw, mommy?”

“I don’t know, dear. I know he isn’t happy about the baseball field that the city built below the hill. He says it creates noise.”

“So he wants to throw something at it?”

Mrs. Hampton sighed and watched Mr. Jacobson continue to flail around. She thought briefly of when he tried this last year and had managed to launch himself face first into his marble bird bath, and how his body had hung limply around it. She was sure he had killed himself.

“I think so, sweetie.”

“So I should stay in here?”

“I would, at least for now.”

“Should we call the po-weece?”

Mrs. Hampton eyed the telephone. She didn’t quite know if she wanted Mr. Jacobson to get arrested or break his neck, or both. She faked an expression of seriousness. “Oh I think we had better just leave Mr. Jacobson to himself.”

Sarah nodded in affirmation and firmly planted her spoon upright. “It’s none of our bibnus, right mommy?”

“That’s right.”

Mrs. Hampton continued to chisel wasted chunks of food off the dishes. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed that Mr. Jacobson had freed himself, and was busy stuffing small, wrapped packages into the bowl on the end of the catapult. He piled them in, one after another. She was certain that they were explosives. God, she thought. The old loon was going to launch a bomb into the field.

Then the bomb, still in the bowl, went boom. Sarah and her mother jumped and beheld Mr. Jacobson, running around in circles. His jacket was in flames. A distant observer might have thought that someone was tap dancing, without shoes, on shards of glass. In an instant, Mrs. Jacobson’s wife was on the scene, blasting him with a fire extinguisher. He fell to the ground and flopped. Mrs. Jacobson threw the extinguisher on the ground and went back inside.

“Mommy, should we call the---“

“No dear. It’s none of our business.”

This story comes from N.D. Coley, who currently serves as an instructor of English composition at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, Community College of Allegheny County, and the University of Phoenix. His fiction has appeared in the Indiana Voice Journal. In his spare time, he laments the human condition, reads satire and dark, depressing literature, plays with his son, irritates is wife, and tries to keep a smile on his face. ,

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