What really happens when the streetlight comes on?

I definitely didn’t like the way those lights were flickering? Why does the streetlights mean it’s time to go home? Ever since the first time I was allowed to stay out, there’s been an unwritten rule that you needed to be in the safety of your own home when those lights came on. My parents were not overly strict, but that light loomed at the one thing that would get me stuck in punishment. As kids, why did we never ask why? My brother said a crazy man who lived in the tree by the spooky house and stole little girls if they stayed out too late. He was lying, but it worked. As soon as the familiar buzz started, my feet led me home.

I remember the day I tested this rule. It is one I will never forget. A group of two of us waited on the corner. As we sat on the curb, the sun just started to dim, and our hearts raced with fear.

“I’m doing it. I don’t believe that crap,” I said.

“Are you sure?” she said.

The light at the end of the block started the chain reaction. It flicked on, that buzz forcing our hearts to race faster.

“Watch it,” I said.

“I don’t want to. I need to go,” she said.

Another light flicked on, and the tension raged throughout bodies. Kids scattered into their homes, and the porch lights all came on. Blinds closed, doors locked, and the street rolled up the sidewalks for the night.

Above us, the light flickered its warning, and the buzz began. It loomed longer than the rest. Maybe it knew we were challenging the theory.

“I don’t like the way the lights are flickering?” she said.

Both of us watched the tree across the street. It was a vast avocado tree with large branches and lots of leaves. I remember in the daylight climbing that thing, but at night, well, that’s where the scary man lives. You don’t go near it. Even adults will cross the street to stay away from the wiggling branches. It’s funny how an urban legend sounds silly in the light of the day, but once the sun falls below the horizon, all of the what if’s come rushing back into your subconscious. Someone had to make that story up, right? Or did a scary man live in the old avocado tree?

“Should we go?” I whispered.

“I’m too scared to get up,” she responded.

A wind slowly creeping up the street, the trash cans down the block clinking together. Back then, they were all-metal, not the recycled ones they have now. Good wind comes, and they shift a little and scratch the cement. Eerie sounds that only come at night, even the crickets chirped a little louder when the city went dark.

Reaching over, our hands linked tight, we are little badasses for breaking the rules, or were we setting ourselves up for danger?

“On the count of three, we run home. Don’t stop for anyone, okay?” I said.

“I’m scared, but okay. Don’t tell anyone that we got scared,” she whispered.

“Never telling anyone, I promise. One, two, three,” I said, both of us running through the streets like a bat out of hell.

I heard her screen door slam behind her as I ran by the old tree. The branches were shaking, a growl coming from one of the limbs. No sooner had I reached my front porch did my brother and his friends come up, laughing hard.

“Now you know why you don’t break the light street rule. The boogeyman will get you,” all of them laughing.

I learned my lesson that day. Even now, when I hear that little buzz, I take shelter inside the house, never knowing if the urban legend was true.

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