There were three things that were a little different about Grimwald Doyle.
To begin, Grimwald had two dads.
He was fine with that. Two dads were better than none.
Second, there were six children running around his house. Yes, six. But out of the five others, only one was Grimwald’s real sister.
Lastly, was the house. It was filled with oddities — clock-like gadgets, metal objects that spat out steam when least expected, and geared-up devices that crept across the floor all by themselves.
No, things in his house were not exactly… normal.
Grimwald, or Grim as he preferred to be called, had very few friends and no longer invited them over. It was complicated enough explaining that you had siblings that were unrelated to you. Never mind that you had two dads. But having to apologize for your Pop running around the house chasing after an artificial brass mouse that accidentally activated a suit of armor to spring to life and take a swing at the head of your best friend … well, that was something else entirely.
Nope. Not normal.
Not for any ten year old that he knew.
He approached that very suit of armor now as he descended the staircase. After the incident with his best friend, or rather, his former best friend, the cumbersome mace and sword were removed from the suit of armor, until Poppa could tweak it to recognize an intruder rather than just swinging at anything in its path. It stood facing the front door, and it even seemed to slump a little, as if it had been punished.
As he took the last step down, a loud thump caught his attention and Grim threw himself against the wall. The twins pounded down the staircase behind him.
Benny wielded a plastic sword. “Come back here, you fiendish lout!”
Barny said nothing in response, but the smile of mischief on his eight-year-old face was matched by that of his brother.
“Hi, Grim!” they both shouted as they whizzed towards the kitchen.
Grim peeled himself from the wall. “What’s wrong with you two!”
They both laughed and disappeared into the yard.
He hadn’t taken two more steps before something twittered at his feet. It was a brass mouse, the same one that had cost him his best friend. It stopped to look up at him as if trying to apologize for its previous misdemeanor. Grim kicked at it and it scurried into the front room.
He followed it and found Sam calling the mouse over to him. Sam wasn’t his real brother either. He had different birth parents. Grim smiled at him and noticed who sat next to him with metal cogs and parts laid out on the floor before her.
She was ten months older than Grim. That meant she was the oldest, although they were born in the same year.
As far as Grim was concerned, they were the same age. Rudy didn’t see it that way. And she often reminded him of it.
She sat and studied the parts in front of her. It looked like she was attempting to make a mechanical mouse just like Poppa had made. Except bigger.
After the incident that had cost Grim his friend, Rudy was bent on making another one.
He offered her as nice a smile as he could muster. She offered one back he knew was as fake as his. Grim moved along, leaving Sam to play with his sister.
When he got to the kitchen, there was yet another room occupied. This time it was Ellen. In a black dress with frilly lace and delicate shoes that were far too princess-like for Grim’s liking, she sat at the table with one of her dolls. She was Grim’s real sister.
Ellen smiled a toothy grin. At the age of six, she still had all her baby teeth. She held up the doll. Its head had been ripped off; and not cleanly at that.
Grim rolled his eyes. Ellen was the other female sibling in the house, and the closest thing to a serial killer among the lot.
“Whatcha doin’?” he asked with hesitation. He wasn’t sure he really wanted to know.
“Sissy doesn’t have any blood,” Ellen said. There was a pout on her little mouth, as if she were disappointed to find that her doll had been lifeless all along.
“Dolls don’t have blood. They’re not alive.”
Ellen’s lips twisted. “Duh, I know that!” She then walked out of the kitchen, leaving the head behind.
Grim sighed, picked it up and idled back up the stairs.