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Spring-Loaded Uncle

Scalzi Story

Wherein I take a band name from Scalzi’s Next Band Name list, and spend no more than 20 minutes writing the story with the band name as a title.


“No, I don’t think this is a good idea,” Debby commented.

“It’s not a bad idea, and it’ll help Finn,” Scott responded, as he continued to clean up the toys in Finn’s bedroom. Finn had made quite the mess in his rant earlier, before falling asleep not too long ago. Scott felt sad for Finn. He felt sad for himself.

“And how much do you really think it’ll help?” Debby asked, her frustration with Scott starting to show. “You don’t think that it’s all just way too creepy?”

“Somewhat, sure, but Jeff suggested it, and I’d like to honor his request.”

Debby didn’t say anything else as she finished putting the stuffed animals into the toy chest. She walked over to Finn’s bed where he lay completely exhausted and in a deep sleep. She knelt down beside his bed, put her face close to his, and started rubbing his head. The boy didn’t move; the cadence of his breathing didn’t change.

Scott wanted to comfort Debby, but knew that she would shrug off any of his immediate attempts, so he walked out of the bedroom instead. He walked into the kitchen, where a large number of dirty plates were strewn. His sister was covering the half-eaten dishes, putting them in the refrigerator. Some dishes she emptied into the trash, and placed in the sink.

“Is he going to be okay?” Lydia asked.

“As okay as any of us, I think,” Scott replied.

“How about Debby?”


Lydia waited a little longer before asking about what was on both their minds. “So, you going to build it?”

“I think so.”

“Jeff would have liked that.”


“It is weird, though.”

“Clearly,” Scott responded, looking up at Lydia and smiling a small bit. Jeff was fond of making toys and the word “clearly.” He would have approved of both. Lydia smiled back.

Scott went over to the papers on the counter and looked them over. “It’s an easy enough toy to make,” he commented.

Lydia stopped with the dishes and came over to look at Jeff’s designs. “Well, sure, how hard is making a jack-in-the-box anyway? They’ve been around for hundreds of years, right?”

“Eight hundred or so,” Scott responded absently, fingers tracing the lines of the drawings.

“Yeah, well, make a Jeff-in-the-box then.”


“Just don’t use Jeff’s ashes when you do it,” Debby said from the doorway as she walked into the kitchen. “That’s all I’m asking.”

“But that’s kinda the point,” Lydia commented.

“Exactly the point,” Scott continued, looking up at his wife, his eyes shiny.

Debby looked at Scott. Lydia wondered if she knew how much Scott needed to make Jeff’s toy, how much help it would be to Scott in accepting Jeff’s death by making the last toy Jeff had designed. She held her breath and hoped Debby would understand.

“Okay,” Debby nodded, and moved into Scott’s arms.

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