Stan had looked away for two seconds, only two seconds, but that was enough for Acacia to slip away from him and her siblings.
“Willow, where the fu- where did your sister go?”
Willow looked up at Stan with eyes that always seemed to him too old for her small face. Then she pointed across the street from where Stan had been getting the kids ice cream, to the pet store one of Mabel’s friends owned. Already he could see a tiny figure crowned with red hair plastered to the window display.
He handed his grand-nephew and niece their ice creams. “Hank, Willow, watch each other while I go get your sister,” Stan said, and then crossed the street to where Acacia was. With a little effort, he knelt down next to his grand-niece. She noticed him and beamed at him, her tounge sticking through the two front teeth that had recently fallen out.
“Grunkle Stan! There’s gerbils at Aunt Grenda’s now!”
He looked and sure enough there was a massive case full of gerbils in the window. How his niece saw them from across the street he had no idea. Damn young eyes.
He laid a hand on her small shoulder and clucked. “Kiddo, I don’t know if you want to be so close to those things.”
A bit of doubt entered into Acacia’s voice for the first time. “Why…why not Grunkle Stan?”
Stan snorted. “Because they eat human flesh Acacia.”
Her blue eyes bugged out for a second, and then an indignant look crossed her face.
“Nuh uh! Grunkle Stan you’re lying.”
He shook his head at her foolishness. “Why do you think they’re so fat? And look at all that fur on those suckers; they can only get really long fur when they eat human meat.”
“Why would Aunt Grenda keep something so mean in her shop huh?” Acacia puffed up, proud of pointing out the fallacy in her grunkle’s logic.
“Sweetie, your aunt also keeps manticore pups in there too. Gerbils aren’t much of a stretch.”
“But…but-” Horror dawned on Acacia’s face. “Does this mean Aunt Grenda kills people and then chops them up and then takes their skin off and pokes out their eyes and get their blood to feed the gerbils?”
Stan reminded himself to maybe watch a few less horror movies and murder mysteries with the kids late at night and went, “Oh no. Your Aunt Grenda keeps them in their to eat any robbers that come in, that’s all! They just live on steak until they can sate their craving for human flesh.”
He gently ushered her away from the window. “See, that’s why it’s important to stick with me and your brother and sister when we’re out. So I can keep an eye on you. Now lets go before Hank eats your ice cream-”
“Hank wouldn’t do that Grunkle Stan!”
“Okay he wouldn’t but I would now get moving.”
(Three nights later, Stan had to explain to his nephew the demon why Acacia was dreaming about fire breathing man eating gerbils)