MTO Shawn Washburn

A suburban playground outside Columbus, 1983.

Sunset, the time Shawn and his buddy were supposed to be home for supper. The sun had the audacity to set when the shuffleboard game was tied, so by mutual agreement the boys shrugged off curfew (and likely dinner) to play a tiebreaker frame. Bad idea. Everyone knows terrible things happen to kids in the horror genre who break the rules. Break the rules anywhere else–mystery, sci-fi, fantasy, even romance, and everything works out happily-ever-after. But in horror, nooooo. Horror is for rule-lovers, my friends, for scare-seekers who want their fear with a side of justice. (And that is an example of me breaking the fourth wall, a little meta horror because Shawn is a creative and, I think, would appreciate it.)

As I was saying…

The rebels’ bikes lay beside the water fountain. No self-respecting eleven-year-old used the kickstand, even if–like Shawn–they had one. Competitive tension stole the boys’ previous levity. The sunken sun bled shadows that partially blinded them; their hungry bellies and guilty consciences made concentration difficult. Joey stomped to the foot of the court, resolute that his disc stopped well inside the 10-point area.

Shawn pointed. “It’s touching the white line.”

“Is not,” Joey said.



Shawn called Joey “Helen Keller,” and Joey rushed him, scattering the discs. The two boys clobbered each other until an unexpected sound made them freeze and stare in the direction of the swing set.

From the playground came the metallic hiss of a swing going back and forth, back and forth. For as long as the boys could remember, the steel couplings screamed for oil. In the deepening darkness, it took on a malevolent note as some kid’s pale legs pumped the swing.

“Where’d he come from?” Joey whispered.

It was a small neighborhood. Everybody knew everybody, and Shawn had never seen this kid before. A kid like that, he would’ve remembered.

“Dude’s creepy,” murmured Joey.

The swinger boy leaned back and whooshed forward, the swing arcing impossibly high. At the peak of height, he let go, soared, and landed in front of the boys, who were still locked in a wrestle. They scuttled standing, dusting the gravel from their palms and elbows.

“I’ll play for Joey” the swinger’s lips were nothing more than a thin line that opened a black cave of a mouth, and puffs of blackness spewed out like smoke when he talked. His eyes were big and teary and too close together. He had two little holes where a nose should’ve been. “Joey can’t play,” he said.

“Uh, why not?” Joey asked.

“Because you’re hurt,” the kid’s enormous, teary eyes overflowed. The moon caught the prisms and threw glints of light.

Shawn winced at the unexpected brightness.

The pale boy continued, “I can’t help it I was born this way. I like to play shuffleboard.” He held up his hand. It had only a pinky and a thumb. “I was made to play.” Then his arm extended, just shot out to six feet three inches, give or take. The length of a cue stick. The kid’s arm was a cue stick.

Shawn and Joey’s jaws dropped; they stumbled backward and took off. Joey stepped on a yellow disc and his feet went out from under him. The crack of his head on the court sounded like a grand slam, and his silence sounded like death. Because he’s hurt, the words rang in Shawn’s ears. He threw his bike down and ran back to where Joey lay, a trickle of blood starting to run like a craggy, accusing finger pointing at the thing with a shuffleboard cue for an arm.

“You want to try to leave, too?” Shuffleboy asked Shawn.


“Let’s play. First to fifteen wins.”

“He’s hurt,” Shawn protested. “Bad.”

“Survival of the fittest. Play with me, Shawn.”

“How do you know my name?”

“I know a lot of things.”

Joey lay moaning on the blacktop, and Shawn considered throwing the game so he could run home and tell his mom to call an ambulance, when Shuffleboy said, “If you beat me, you and your friend get to live.”

“And if you win?” Shawn gulped.

“You both get what you deserve.” He drew an imaginary blade across his long, milky neck. “You broke curfew. You know what happens to little boys in the horror genre who break curfew, right? It’s only because I love shuffleboard so much that you get a second chance…and because you didn’t leave your friend to bleed out on the macadam. You’re a good friend. I got a soft spot for benevolence.”

At that, he took one of his overlong, bony fingers and pushed it into his chest cavity. A gush of blood splattered onto the discs and the game. “Oops, now we can’t finish.”

“Sure we can,” Shawn said. “What’s a little blood among friends?” No way was he giving the monster kid a way out of their deal. And when Shuffleboy’s disc was in the 10-point area, touching the blood-splattered line, Shawn smiled. “No good,” he said. “It’s touching.”

“Hmph, so it is,” the ghoul said. “You win. Take your friend and go. From now on, home by sunset.”

True: As a kid, Shawn played shuffleboard outside his Columbus home.

Also true: He’s an engineer, content creator, and Excel wizard who works in manufacturing. Shawn uses his creative gifts and the circumstances of his life to share his faith in Jesus. My Facebook feed is a better place because of him.

Want your own MTO Horror? A new horror every Wednesday. It only takes a minute. Go HERE if you dare.

15 thoughts on “MTO Shawn Washburn

  1. Anonymous

    Shawn’s mom… thankful this is make believe. And….he never had a curfew because he was always home when he needed to be. You are blessed to know him and we are blessed to have him a as our son.

    1. Thanks for reading, Shawn’s Mom! 🙂 I totally believe he didn’t need a curfew, good guy that he is, but perfect people make for dull stories, so I have to jazz it up a bit.

  2. Thanks for reading, Shawn’s Mom! 🙂 I totally believe he didn’t need a curfew, good guy that he is, but perfect people make for dull stories, so I have to jazz it up a bit.

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