TJ and Randy were outside in their backyard, playing, when dusk arrived. TJ was swinging on the hammock, and Randy on the rope swing, when Randy pointed and said Look, a fence with a nose. TJ looked, but couldn’t see a thing. What’s a fence with a nose, he asked.
I don’t know, Randy said, I just saw one.
TJ thought it was funny and laughed. Randy didn’t.
The next day the same thing happened. The Boys were on the swings, and dusk fell upon them. Randy saw the fence with a nose. Only this time, instead of telling TJ, he watched it, to see what it would do. But it didn’t do anything, it just sat there, looking like a fence with a nose.
What are you looking at, TJ said.
The fence with a nose, Randy said.
Randy looked at TJ, and when he looked back the nose was gone. All he saw was a fence, made of old wood, with lots of knot holes in it. He looked real hard trying to find the nose again, but it was not there.
TJ said again, What’s a fence with a nose?
I saw it, Randy said, It was right here, and he showed TJ the two knot holes that he thought looked like a nose, but now they didn’t.
The next day it happened again. Randy saw the fence with a nose, only this time the nose was sticking out of the fence a ways. It was dark, like a dog’s nose, and wet. Randy ran inside and told Dad. What’s a hint sickle nose? Dad asked.
No, Randy said, a fence with a nose!
Oh, Dad said, What does it do?
I don’t know, Randy said, it’s just there.
The next few days nothing more happened. Randy did not see the fence with a nose. He only saw a regular fence, made of old wood, rotting and smelling like mushrooms in some places, and cedar in others. There were lots of knot holes in the fence, but he couldn’t find a nose, no matter how hard he looked.
He enlisted TJ’s help. Together they searched the fence, from one end of the yard to the other. They didn’t mean to stay out so late. They didn’t notice dusk descending. They didn’t even realize it had gotten dark. When they came to the last board in the fence Randy grabbed TJ’s arm and pointed to the same spot he pointed to the first time. TJ looked, and he saw the fence with a nose.
TJ screamed and ran inside. Randy followed. A fence with a nose! A fence with a nose, they shouted.
What’s a hint sickle nose, Dad asked again.
Come see Randy said. He grabbed Dad’s hand and led him outside, in the dark, to where the nose was. Only it wasn’t there. Dad didn’t see anything at all. All he saw was two knot holes, that he supposed, with a little imagination, could possibly look like a nose.
What, these two knot holes, he asked, You’re scared of a couple of knot holes? And then he laughed, just like TJ did the first time he’d told him about it. Randy didn’t laugh though. He clung to Dad’s hand, and tried to drag him back inside.
That night Randy couldn’t sleep. Every time he closed his eyes he saw the fence with a nose. After a couple of hours he gave up trying.
TJ, are you awake?
Yeah, TJ said, I can’t sleep, every time I close my eyes all I see is the fence with a nose.
Me too, Randy said. He crawled up the bunk and got in bed with TJ. By the time the sun started to rise they’d both fallen into a fitful sleep.
The next day both boys were jumpy all day long. They played in the backyard. They jumped at every sound. They jumped at every motion seen out of the corners of their eyes. They jumped at every dove and blue jay and woodpecker that pecked at a tree. They jumped every time a dog barked. They jumped at everything. By the end of the day they were exhausted. But they didn’t see the fence with a nose.
They came in before nightfall, and they wouldn’t go outside after dark.
Why don’t you go outside and play, Dad said after dinner, I thought you loved to swing and look at the stars.
We do like to look at the stars, TJ said, but we don’t like to see the fence with a nose.
What does the fence with a nose do, Dad asked.
Nothing, Randy said, It’s just scary.
Yeah, TJ said, It just sits there looking at us.
But you know it’s not real right? That it’s just your imagination playing tricks on you.
No, it is real, Randy said, I saw it, it’s a real nose. It can smell me.
They didn’t see the fence with a nose again for about a week. They had almost forgotten about it, when one day they were outside swinging again, like they loved to do, and having so much fun that they didn’t notice it getting dark. Randy looked over, almost by accident, and there it was. Only this time, it wasn’t just a nose, it had eyes too. Randy froze mid swing, and hung there like a pendulum slowing down. TJ saw him and knew right away what was happening. He stopped swinging and looked at the fence. He saw the nose, but it was sticking out further than it used to. And then he saw the eyes and gave a great shriek, the likes of which could boil the blood of the devil himself.
Dad came running outside. What’s the matter, he asked. He thought one of them had fallen off the swing and broken an arm or a leg or something. What he saw, in the dim light of the waning Gibbous moon, was both of his boys frozen in terror, staring at the fence. But all he saw when he looked at the fence was two knots, that, with a lot of imagination, he supposed could look like a nose, a pair of eyes, a face. Come on boys, he said, It’s time to come in.
Now the two boys were really scared. They slept in the room with Dad that night, and they wanted to the next night too, but Dad said No, you have your own room for a reason, and you need to use it. And besides, there’s no such thing as a fence with a nose. It’s just two knot holes in a board. It’s just your imagination, your mind playing tricks on you. Now go to bed and get some rest.
The two boys did go to bed. They did get some rest. But not much.
In the middle of the night Randy felt something, or someone, watching him. He was laying in his bed, by the window. He wanted to turn over, to look at the window and see who it was that was looking at him. He tried to turn over, but he couldn’t do it. His mind told his body to move, to look. But his body said No, I’m not going to look. In fact, the only thing his body would do was to pull the covers up over his head and hide. After that, his body wouldn’t move at all. He lay that way til morning came and he finally fell asleep.
The next day he told Dad that the fence with a nose was watching him through the window as he slept. But Dad didn’t believe him. In fact, Dad had had enough of this fence with a nose business, and he told the boys so. It was all in their heads, he told them. They’d made it up and it wasn’t real. He told them that such things were scientifically impossible. He told them that it was starting to interfere with their lives now, and that they needed to let it go, and stop thinking about it. They told him that it was real, that they’d seen it, and it scared them.
What the hell are you scared of, Dad asked, what does it do?
It doesn’t do anything, Randy said, It just looks at you.
Yeah, TJ said, If it would do something, at least we’d know what to be afraid of.
Well, Dad said, unless it actually does something, I don’t want to hear anymore about it, Ok?
Ok, the boys said. But they were not satisfied. They wished the fence with a nose would show itself to Dad, so that he’d be scared, too. So that he would believe them.
By this time TJ had figured out that the only time they saw the fence with a nose was after the sun went down. And that it usually appeared at dusk, the hour between day and night. He told Randy this.
Oh, Randy said.
They played outside during the day. But as soon as the sun started turning red, and setting, they were in the house. And no amount of talking from Dad could convince them to go out at night. If they forgot a toy, or had to go outside for any reason at all after dusk, they would flat out refuse, unless Dad went with them. Dad didn’t like this. He tried everything he could think of to get the boys to go outside. He tried threats, he tried bribes. He tried allowance and candy and chocolate, but nothing worked.
One evening Randy looked out the kitchen window, the one that looked into the backyard. He shouldn’t have done that. There it was, the fence with a nose. Only this time it had eyes, and a mouth, and a face, with ears and long scraggly hair. And it had a neck. It looked like a dogs nose on a human head. Randy screamed that blood curdling, ear piercing scream.
Dad was slicing a tomato for dinner and cut his finger. He got mad and slammed the knife down and yelled at Randy. Look what you made me do, he yelled, and he showed Randy the blood on his finger. Don’t ever scream like that unless someone is trying to kidnap you, or hurt you or kill you. That scream is for emergencies only.
I saw the fence with a nose, Randy said, Only this time it was a whole face. It was a fence with a face. Dad, it’s coming out of the fence.
Look, Dad said, this is not funny. I cut my finger because of you. I’m glad you have such a good imagination, but you need to know when to turn it off. And right now anytime you’re thinking about that damned fence with a nose, that’s when you need to turn it off. Dad put a band-aid on his finger, and for the rest of the night made a big show of how much it hurt him. He moaned a lot. He held it out at absurd angles. He made a scene of himself. But the boys didn’t feel bad, and they didn’t feel sorry for him either. All they felt was fear.
What if the fence with a nose comes all the way out of the fence? What then? But of course they couldn’t ask Dad. Dad was mad. For the first time in his life, Randy wished Mom was still around.
That night, in bed, he asked TJ about Mom. Do you remember Mom, he asked.
I can barely remember her, TJ said, But I remember she was nice. She would believe us about the fence with a nose. She wouldn’t be mad at us for being scared.
TJ meant well, but he shouldn’t have mentioned the fence with a nose. They’d almost forgotten about it, talking about Mom. But after they mentioned it, they got real quiet. They turned in for the night and fell into a fitful sleep.
In the middle of the night Randy woke up terrified. Something was watching him, again. It was the fence with a nose, he knew it, just as sure as he knew anything. Once again he tried to turn around and look, but his body refused to move. This time he couldn’t even pull the covers over his head. He may as well have been a statue, for all the good trying to move did him.
He heard a rustling in the bunk above him. TJ was moving towards the window, to look outside. The movement broke the spell, and Randy could control himself again.
What are you doing, he asked TJ.
I heard something outside, I’m trying to see what it is.
What if it’s the fence with a nose?
Look, TJ said.
Randy looked and at first he saw nothing. He kept looking. He didn’t really mean to, but his eyes went right to the spot where the fence with a nose first appeared. And there it was. A nose. Eyes and a mouth, ears and long scraggly hair. A neck, a body, two arms reaching out towards…
It’s pointing at us, TJ said. He wet the bed.
Randy screamed and ran into Dad’s room. Dad was too tired to be mad. He let Randy and TJ spend the night with him.
Alright, Dad said the next morning, We’re going to fix this problem once and for all. He grabbed a hammer. He grabbed some nails. He grabbed a flat piece of wood, which he’d carefully selected because it had no knot holes that could look like anything at all, and he nailed the piece of wood right on top of that old fence board, right on top of those two knot holes that, he supposed, with a whole lot of imagination, just might look like a nose, some eyes, a face.
Dad dusted off his hands and looked quite pleased with himself. There, he said, That fixes that. No more fence with a nose.
But Dad, Randy said, The nose is still there, all you did was cover it up with another board.
Nope, Dad said, I killed it. Drove a nail right through it’s face. No more fence with a nose.
TJ and Randy played in the yard all day. They played back in the corner, near the fence with a nose. They tugged at the board Dad had nailed up over the nose. It felt solid. It didn’t budge. They felt better, a little. When the sun went down they were back on the swings, like they used to do. They looked and looked at where the nose was, but they saw nothing.
Night came, and with it the stars. One bright red one in particular shown down on them.
Look, TJ said, Mars, the god of war.
Randy looked and saw Mars shining brighter than all the other stars in the sky.
Mars has two moons, TJ said, One that is getting closer to it everyday, and one that is getting farther away.
Why is he the god of war, Randy asked.
Because, when he shines really bright, like he is now, it means there’s going to be a battle soon.
Randy saw something out of the corner of his eye. It was a shadow, in the dark. He looked, and there was a person standing in front of the fence where the nose had been. It didn’t move. It just stood there, looking at him, pointing at him. TJ saw it too. They screamed, and ran inside. The fence with a nose, the fence with a nose!
Dad heard the scream and he was mad. Partly, he was mad at himself, for thinking something so simple as a board could fix a fear that was not in the fence at all, but in the minds of his kids. Partly he was mad because he expected life to go back to normal. Partly he was mad because he was sick of screaming. So, So, sick of screaming.
Mad Dad grabbed both boys by the arms and drug them outside to the fence. They kicked and screamed and fought but he paid them no mind, just dragged them on out there to prove to them once and for all that there was no such thing as a fence with a nose. That it was all made up nonsense. That he had, in fact, nailed a board over two ordinary knot holes, and that if there ever had been anything there, which there hadn’t, then it would be dead now, because he had driven four nails right into it’s face.
When they got to the fence at the back of the yard, in the dark corner where the sun don’t shine, they saw the board he’d nailed up lying on the ground.
See, Randy said, I told you, the fence with a nose.
But mad Dad didn’t believe that for one second. Mad Dad got even Madder.
You boys pulled the board off didn’t you, he said. It wasn’t a question, even though it was worded like one.
We didn’t do it, the boys cried.
But mad Dad wasn’t listening. He was beyond hearing at this point. He dragged the boys back inside. He got his drill. He got some screws. He got his flashlight. He went outside in the dark and this time he screwed the board into the fence. And for extra measure, he nailed it to. He went back inside and told the boys that they wouldn’t be getting that off there, and if they did they would lose their allowance. They told him again that they didn’t do it. He said he didn’t care, if it came off again they were the ones getting in trouble. Then he sent them to bed, got himself a beer, put his feet up on the coffee table, and turned on the television. He put on a show that usually made him laugh, but he didn’t laugh.
What are we going to do, TJ asked, Dad doesn’t believe in the fence with a nose, and it’s gonna knock down his board again and we’re gonna get in trouble.
I don’t care about trouble, Randy said, I’m scared of the fence with a nose.
Me too, TJ said.
They climbed into their beds and went to sleep. That night mad Dad had a bad dream. In his dream Mom was there. She was asking him why he didn’t believe the kids. Because it’s not true, he said. What if it is true, she said to him. And then she was gone, and there was nothing there but an old wooden fence. It stretched to the horizon in both directions. Dad ran up and down the fence crying out Mom’s name, but all he saw were the two knot holes, that he could now clearly see, looked like a fence with a nose. The fence wrapped itself around him, closing in on him. It got smaller and smaller til he could reach out his arms and touch it all the way around. And that’s when the fence with a nose came alive. Out of the fence came the nose. And then came the eyes, the mouth, the whole human face, only it wasn’t the mans face with the scraggly hair that the boys saw, it was Mom.
Dad screamed and woke himself up. He also woke up the boys. TJ and Randy came running into the room.
What is it Dad, what’s the matter?
Nothing, Dad said, I just had a bad dream is all.
Was it about the fence with a nose, Randy asked.
No, Dad said, It was about Mom. And then he did something which he hadn’t done since just after Mom died, five years ago, just after the birth of Randy, he cried.
I miss Mom, Randy said.
But you didn’t even know her, TJ said.
Yes I did, I lived with her for nine months.
Dad gave Randy a hug, and then he reached over and pulled TJ in. He told them he loved them, and that he was sorry. The boys told Dad goodnight, and that they loved him too, and went back to their room.
Dad lay there in the dark. He heard Mom’s voice in his head. Why did you lie to them, she said.
Because, Dad said aloud, I don’t believe in the fence with a nose.
Well, you should, Mom said.
You know I don’t believe in ghosts, Dad said.
But you’re talking to one, Mom said.
Dad didn’t hear Mom’s voice anymore that night.
The boys heard Dad talking in his room.
Who do you think Dad’s talking to, Randy asked.
Mom, TJ said, he does that sometimes.
The next day Dad was up early, before the boys. He went outside in his bare feet to check on the board he put up over the fence with a nose. It was still there, undisturbed. He let out a sigh he didn’t know he was keeping. He put his hand on the board, it was solid, rough and woody. It made him feel better. He turned around to go inside and stepped on a nail, plunging it deep into his foot. He let out a stream of cuss words which woke up the boys.
Randy looked out his window and saw his Dad, outside, in the backyard, over by the fence with a nose, hopping up and down on one foot and yelling at the top of his lungs.
Dad’s yelling at the fence with a nose, he said to TJ.
We better leave him alone, TJ said.
Dad composed himself before going back inside. He made the boys breakfast and they had a normal day.
But every day has to eventually come to an end. That evening Dad decided to grill burgers for dinner. It was dusk when he lit the grill. The kids were playing happily on the swings. Dad had his beer in one hand and the other in his pocket. He was thinking about Mom in an absent kind of way, and watching the boys swinging through the wave of heat rising off the grill, when he saw a person, standing in the back corner of their yard.
Hey! What’re you doing, he yelled.
The boys stopped. We’re just swinging, they said.
But Dad wasn’t listening to them. He ran back towards the corner of the yard, where the person had been standing, right there, just a second ago.
There was no one there. He looked all around. There was no sign of anyone. He looked over the fence, saw no one. The boys watched him.
He saw the fence with a nose, Randy said.
Uh, I’m going inside, TJ said.
Randy stayed outside to watch Dad. What is it Dad, he asked.
There was someone here, Dad said, I saw someone standing right here. He must’ve jumped the fence.
It was the fence with a nose, Randy said.
Don’t start that with me, Dad said, This isn’t a joke. Go inside and lock the front door. Whoever it was might still be around, and he might be dangerous.
Randy headed for the door. Um, Dad, the burgers are on fire, he said, as he was walking inside.
Seeing the man outside had shaken Dad up a bit. He wouldn’t admit it, either to himself or the boys, but he was starting to wonder if perhaps they might be right. He went next door and asked the neighbors if they’d seen anyone prowling around lately. He told them about the man he saw by the fence. Told them that the boys had seen someone to, and that at first he didn’t believe them, til tonight, when he saw the man himself. Told them to lock their doors at night. He did not tell them about the fence with a nose. Nor did he tell the boys, once he got back home, that the board he’d screwed and nailed to the fence was lying on the ground when he went to look for the man he saw. He knew they didn’t do it.
Dad made a plan, but it was too late to carry out his plan tonight, so he would do it first thing in the morning.
While they were eating dinner Randy asked Dad what the man he saw looked like.
He was tall, Dad said, And he had long scraggly hair. And I know this sounds crazy, but his nose stuck out way too far, almost like a dog’s nose on a human face.
TJ got chills. He felt the hair on top of his head stand up.
That’s the fence with a nose, Randy said.
This time Dad didn’t say anything. TJ wished that he did. TJ wished that Dad was mad. But Dad wasn’t mad, and that scared TJ even more.
Dad, can we watch TV while we eat, TJ said.
Yes, Dad said, That sounds like a good idea to me.
The next morning they all got into the truck and drove down to the lumber yard. Dad spent all morning going through the boards looking for the most perfect one they had. One with absolutely no knot holes in it at all. TJ and Randy waited in the truck. They didn’t want to look at a lot of boards. They didn’t want to find another fence with a nose.
Dad came out of the lumber yard smiling. He held up the new board for the boys to see. Haha, he said.
Back home Dad got his hammer and his saw out. He pried the old fence with a nose board off the fence and nailed the new one in place. He took his saw and cut the old board into twenty pieces. He threw the pieces into the fire pit, doused them with lighter fluid, and lit them on fire. The wood hissed and sputtered and spat. It snapped and crackled and popped. Then it wailed like a banshee. The sound chilled the bones of Dad and the boys, but they took it as a sign that they had killed the fence with a nose.
To celebrate, the boys played outside that afternoon. They played outside as the day was waning and they played outside as dusk fell upon them. They watched the stars come out. They looked at the new fence board the whole time, but they did not see the fence with a nose.
They went inside and gave Dad a high five. You did it Dad, they said, You killed the fence with a nose.
I’m still not sure I believe it, said Dad, But I sure am glad that’s all over.
That night Randy had a dream. He dreamed someone was in the window, watching him again. This time Randy was not struck dumb with fear. In his dream he turned around and faced the window, fully expecting to see the fence with a nose. But what he saw instead, was Mom.
Hi Mom, he said.
Hi, Mom said, I’ve missed you so much.
I’ve missed you to, Randy said, I saw a fence with a nose.
I know, Mom said.
Dad didn’t believe me, but then he saw it to, and then he believed me, even though he wouldn’t say so.
I know, Mom said.
And then he cut up the fence with a nose and burned it, and now it’s gone.
I know, Mom said.
And then he said he was sorry.
I know, Mom said again, Goodnight. I love you, and I’ll see you again soon.
Randy fell back to sleep, and slept a sweet and restful sleep.
For the next few weeks nobody saw the fence with a nose. The boys forgot about it. Life had returned to normal for Dad and the boys.
One day Randy came running up the stairs from the basement. He was frightened. Dad and TJ were sitting on the couch, watching a movie. What is it, they said.
I saw something in the basement, Randy said, It had big red eyes. It was big. It was mean. It was a Big and Mean.