Classics Translated

Bluebeard

Charles Perrault, originally published 1697; translated to Modern English, otherwise exactly the same. 


This story was adapted specially for Classics in the Rain with the wonderful Danie Dreadful. Enjoy Bluebeard in its full glory with this fantastic narration!

There was once a man who had fine houses, a great treasure, embroidered furniture, and gold-plated coaches, but this man was unlucky enough to have a blue beard; it made him so frightfully ugly that all the women ran away from him.

One of his neighbors – a highborn lady – had two daughters who were perfect beauties. He wanted to marry one of them and let her choose which it would be. Neither of the women would have him; they sent him back and forth from one to the other, unable to bear the thought of marrying a man with a blue beard. Adding to their aversion was the fact that he had already been married to several wives, and nobody knew what happened to them.

To win their affection, Bluebeard took them, their mother, and a few friends from the neighborhood to one of his country houses where they stayed for a whole week.

The time was filled with parties, hunting, fishing, dancing, and feasting. Nobody went to bed; they all spent the night celebrating and joking with each other. Everything went according to plan, and the youngest daughter began to think the man’s beard was not so blue after all, and that he was a very nice gentleman.

They were married as soon as they returned home. About a month later, Bluebeard needed to travel to the country for at least six weeks due to very important business matters. Not wanting his wife to be lonely, he suggested she take some friends to the country house and enjoy herself.

Original art I found

“Here are the keys to the two big rooms where my best furniture is stored. These keys are to the good silver, which are not for everyday use, and this one opens the safe containing my gold; these are for the jewelry cases, and this is the master key to all the apartments… Now – as for this little one here – it is the key to the ground floor closet at the end of the great hall. Open them all; go into each and every one of them – except for that closet. I forbid it. If you do open it – I will be greatly angered and resentful.” He said.

She promised to obey his exact wishes. Then, he hugged her, got into his coach, and left on his journey.

Her friends and neighbors did not wait to be invited; they were impatient to see the rich furniture, but they were too frightened of her husband’s blue beard to visit while he was there. They ran through all the rooms, and each was finer than the last.

Finally, they visited the two great rooms with the most expensive furniture. They could not sufficiently admire all the beautiful paintings, beds, couches, cabinets, tables, and full-length mirrors; some were framed with glass, others with silver, and they were the most magnificent they had ever seen.

In the meantime, the wife did not waste her time looking at all these fine things because she was impatient to open the closet on the ground floor. Her curiosity was so strong, she descended the black staircase with no thought to how rude it was to leave her guests, and – in her hurry – she nearly fell and broke her neck.

She paused at the closet door, thinking about her husband’s command and considering what the consequences might be if she disobeyed, but the temptation was too strong to resist. Trembling, she opened it with the little key, but it was too dark to see anything clearly. After a few minutes, her eyes began to adjust; the bodies of several dead women were laid against the walls, and the floor was covered with dried blood. These were all the previous wives of Bluebeard; he married and murdered them one after another. She thought she would die of fright, and the key fell from her hand.

She retrieved the key, locked the door, and went upstairs to recover in her room, but she was simply too frightened. Noticing the key was stained with blood, she tried to wipe it off, but it would not come out; she even tried to wash it with soap and sand, but that did not work either. The blood remained because it was a magical key, and she could never get it clean; when the blood was gone from one side, it reappeared on the other.

Bluebeard returned from his journey that same evening; he received letters on the road stating the business matters had ended well. His wife did all she could to convince him she was happy about his speedy return.

The next morning, he asked for the keys; her hand trembled so badly that he easily guessed what happened.

“Why is the key to my closet missing?” He asked.

“I must have left it on the table upstairs.” She said.

“Bring it to me at once.” Bluebeard demanded.

After several back and forths between them, she was forced to bring him the key. Bluebeard carefully examined it before asking, “Why is there blood on it?”

“I do not know!” The poor woman cried, paler than death.

“You do not know!” Exclaimed Bluebeard. “I know exactly what happened! You went into the closet, did you not? Very well, madam; you will go back and take your place among the ladies you saw there.”

At this, she threw herself at her husband’s feet and sincerely begged his forgiveness – vowing to never disobey again. She was so beautiful she could have melted a rock, but Bluebeard’s heart was harder than any rock!

“You must die at once, madam,” he said.

“If I must die, give me time to say my prayers.” She answered, her eyes bathed in tears.

“I will give you seven minutes, but not one second more.” Bluebeard replied.

When she was alone, she called to her sister, “Sister Anne, I beg you, go to the top of the tower, and see if my brothers are coming. They promised they would be here today; if you see them, give them a sign to hurry.”

Anne went to the top of the tower, and the poor wife cried out from time to time, “Anne, do you see anyone coming?”

“I see nothing but a cloud of dust, the sun, and the green grass.” Her sister replied.

Meanwhile Bluebeard held a great sword in his hand and called to his wife as loudly as he could, “Come down now, or I will come get you.”

“One moment longer, please,” his wife said; then, very softly, she cried out, “Sister Anne, do you see anybody coming?”

“I see nothing but a cloud of dust, the sun, and the green grass.” Anne answered.

“Come down quickly, or I will come get you.” Bluebeard cried.

“I am coming,” his wife answered; then she cried, “Sister Anne, you do not see anyone coming?”

“I see a great cloud of dust approaching.” Anne replied.

“Are they my brothers?”

“No, my dear sister, it is a flock of sheep.”

“Are you coming down?” Shouted Bluebeard.

“One moment longer,” his wife said; then she cried, “Sister Anne, do you see anyone coming?”

“I see two horsemen, but they are still far away.” She said.

“Thank God,” the poor wife replied joyfully. “It is my brothers; I will give them a sign to hurry.”

Then, Bluebeard yelled so loud, it shook the whole house. The frightened wife came down in tears, her hair in disarray, and threw herself at his feet.

“This means nothing; you must die!” Bluebeard said. Taking hold of her hair with one hand and lifting the sword in the other, he prepared to remove her head. The poor lady turned to him, and – with pleading eyes – asked for one final minute to compose herself.

“No, explain yourself to God,” he said, ready to strike.

At that moment, there was such a loud knocking at the gate that Bluebeard stopped suddenly. The gate was opened, and two horsemen entered. Drawing their swords, they ran directly to Bluebeard, and he knew they were his wife’s brothers; one was a soldier, and the other was a musketeer. He immediately ran to save himself, but the brothers captured him before he was off the porch. They ran their swords through his body and left him on the ground. The poor wife was almost as dead as her husband; she didn’t even have enough strength to stand and welcome her saviors.

Bluebeard had no heirs so his wife inherited everything. She used part of it to marry Anne to a young gentleman who loved her, and another part was used to buy captaincy commissions for her brothers. The rest she used to marry a very worthy gentleman who made her forget the bad time she had with Bluebeard.

Classics Translated

The Tell-Tale Heart

Edgar Allen Poe, originally published January 1843; translated to Modern English, otherwise exactly the same. 

Who’s ready to hear another phenomenal narration by my amazing friend, Danie Dreadful? YouTube
Illustration by Harry Clarke

It is true! I had been – and am – very, dreadfully nervous, but why would you say that I am crazy? The disease had sharpened my senses – not destroyed or dulled them. Above all was the acute hearing; I heard all things in the heavens and on the earth, and I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I crazy? Listen! and observe how sanely – how calmly – I can tell you the whole story.

It is impossible to say how the idea first entered my mind, but once it was there – it haunted me day and night. It was not because of an objective or hatred; I loved the old man. He had never wronged or insulted me; I had no desire for his gold. I think it was his eye! Yes, that was it! One of his eyes was like a vulture’s; it was pale blue and covered with film. Whenever it fell on me, my blood ran cold; very gradually, I made up my mind to take his life and be rid of the eye forever.

Now, this is the point where you think I am crazy. Madmen know nothing, but you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded with caution and foresight; no one could have guessed my intentions when I went to work! I had never been kinder to the old man than the week before I killed him. Every night – around midnight – I turned his doorknob and opened it very gently! When I had an opening big enough, I put in a dark, closed lantern before sticking in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I stuck it in! I moved very, very slowly, so the old man would not wake. It took an hour to place my head in far enough to see him lying on his bed. Ha! Would a madman have been this smart? Then, when my head was in the room, I opened the lantern with extreme caution to avoid the creaking hinges; I did it just enough for a single, thin ray to fall upon the vulture’s eye. I did this for seven long nights, but the eye was always closed, making it impossible to do the job; it was not the old man who irritated me but his Evil Eye. Every morning, I went into his room with confidence and spoke to him fearlessly – calling him by name in a friendly tone, and asking how his night was. He would have been very insightful to suspect that every night – just at twelve – I watched him sleep.

On the eighth night, I was even more cautious than usual when opening the door. A clock’s minute hand moves faster than mine did. Never before had I felt the extent of my own power and wisdom. I could hardly contain my feelings of victory. There I was, opening the door little by little, and he had no clue of my secret actions or thoughts. I laughed at the idea, and he may have heard me; he moved suddenly, as if startled. You may think that I withdrew – but no. His room was pitch black; the shutters were closed for fear of robbers, and – knowing he could not see the open door – I kept pushing on it steadily.

My head was in, and I was about to open the lantern when my thumb slipped on the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up, crying out. “Who’s there?”

I stayed quite still and said nothing. I did not move a muscle for a whole hour, and I did not hear him lie down. He was sitting up in the bed, listening – exactly as I have done night after night – listening to the signs of imminent death.

Then, I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief – oh, no! It was the low, muffled sound that comes from the bottom of the soul when it is filled with anguish; I knew the sound well. Many nights – at midnight – when all the world slept, it came from my own chest; it deepened with dreadful echoes and distracting fears. I knew what the old man felt and pitied him, although I laughed in my heart. He had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise when he rolled in the bed, and his fear had been growing ever since. He tried to convince himself it was nothing, but he could not; he tried thinking, “It is only the wind in the chimney, or a mouse crossing the floor, or a cricket chirping.”

He tried to comfort himself with these thoughts, but his efforts were in vain. All in vain, because Death’s black shadow had already consumed its victim, and it was the sorrowful influence of the unseen shadow that caused him to feel my presence in the room.

When I had waited patiently for a long time without hearing him lie down, I decided to open a very thin slit in the lantern. You cannot imagine how stealthily I opened it until a single, dim ray – like a spider’s web – shot out from the crack and fell upon the vulture eye.

It was wide open, and I grew furious at the sight. I saw it perfectly – a dull blue, covered with a hideous film that chilled me to be bone; I could see nothing else of the old man since the ray of light fell directly on that damned spot.

Did I not say that you would mistake acute senses for madness? Then, I heard a low, quick sound – like a watch makes when wrapped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the old man’s heart beating. It increased my fury just as the beating of a drum inspired a soldier’s courage.

Even then, I remained motionless, scarcely breathing. I held the lantern steady, keeping the ray of light trained on the eye. Meanwhile, the hellish beating of his heart increased, growing quicker and louder every second. The old man’s terror must have been extreme! It grew louder every moment! Do you understand? I have told you that I am nervous, and I am. At that late hour of the night – among the dreadful silence in that old house – this noise drove me to complete terror. I stood still for several more minutes, but the beating grew louder! I thought his heart would burst, and a new worry gripped me; the sound would be heard by a neighbor! The old man’s time had come; with a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leapt into the room! He only shrieked once; in an instant, I dragged him to the floor and pulled the heavy bed over him. Then I smiled happily, glad the deed was done, but – for many minutes – the heart continued its muffled beat. This, however, did not bother me; it would not be heard through the wall. Eventually, it stopped; the old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was stone, cold dead. I placed my hand on the heart and held it there for several minutes. There was no pulse; he was dead, and his eye would no longer trouble me.

If you still believe I am crazy, you will not think so after I describe the wise precautions I took when hiding the body. As the night wore on, I worked hastily but in silence. First of all, I dismembered the corpse by cutting off the head, arms, and legs.

Then, I removed three planks from the living room floor and deposited everything between the joists. Next, I replaced the boards so perfectly that no human eye – not even his – could have detected anything wrong. There was nothing to wash – no stains or blood whatsoever. I had been too cautious for that; all was done in the tub – haha!

When I finished these chores, it was four o ‘clock and still dark as midnight. As the bell announced the hour, there was a knock at the door. I went down to open it with a light heart – after all, what was there to fear now? Three men entered and introduced themselves as police officers. During the night, a shriek was heard by a neighbor, and there was suspicion of foul play. A report was filed at the police station, and the officers were sent to search the premises.

I smiled; what was there to worry about? I welcomed the gentlemen, saying the shriek had been my own – caused by a dream – and I mentioned the old man was visiting the countryside. I took my visitors all over the house, telling them to search well. I led them to his chamber and showed them his valuables – secure and undisturbed. In the excitement of my confidence, I brought chairs into the room – inviting them to rest – and placed my own seat directly above the hidden corpse.

The officers were satisfied; my demeanor had convinced them, and I was completely at ease. They sat, and while I answered cheerfully, they chatted about familiar things. Though, before long, I felt myself getting pale and wished they would leave. My head ached, and there was a ringing in my ears, but still they remained. The ringing became more distinct as it continued – and I talked more to be rid of the feeling – but it persisted and grew louder. Finally, I realized the noise was not in my mind.

There is no doubt I grew very pale, but I talked faster with a louder voice. Still, the sound increased – and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound – very close to the sound a watch makes when wrapped in cotton. I gasped for breath, yet the officers did not hear it. I talked faster – more intensely, but the noise steadily increased. I stood, arguing insignificant matters in a high voice with wild gestures, but the noise increased. Why would they not leave? I paced with heavy strides – as if infuriated by the men’s observations, but the noise continued increasing. Oh God! What could I do? I ranted, raved, and swore! I threw my chair, and it struck the boards, but the noise rose above it all and still increased. It grew louder, louder, and louder, but still the men chatted – smiling pleasantly. Was it possible they did not hear it?… Almighty God!… No, no!… They heard!… They suspected!… They knew!… They were mocking my terror!… This is what I thought, and what I still think, but anything was better than that agony! Anything was more tolerable than their ridicule! I could not bear those hypocritical smiles any longer! It felt like I must scream or die! Now – again!… Listen! Louder, louder, louder!

“Villains!” I shrieked, “mock me no more! I admit it! Tear up the planks! Here, here! It is the beating of his hideous heart!”

Horror Fiction

The Original Fools



My wonderful friend, Nightmare’s Edge has narrated this with a few extra dark additions you won’t find the written posts - I like to call it the Nightmare Cut! Here’s the link to it on YouTube, don’t forget to subscribe!



The CreepyPasta




⚠️TRIGGER WARNING⚠️
This story involves strong implications of sexual assault.
Fool Origins

Did you know April Fools dates back to the 1500’s? Its origins revolve around France switching to the Gregorian calendar. People who were slow to learn of the change still celebrated New Years according to the Julian calendar – meaning April 1st – which resulted in their mockery. In the 1800’s, it spread through Britain, and before you know it, here we are.

Those statements are true, but the French switching calendars has nothing to do with our April Fool’s day. It just sounds better than the truth – especially for a fun-filled holiday enjoyed by millions. Historians will never say different; look what happened to the guy who ruined Pluto. That being said, I think the CreepyPasta community would appreciate knowing what actually happened.

Approximately 10-20 years before France changed calendars, a small mountain village was suffering an especially cold, brutal winter. The only road leading in or out was impassable during the snowy months, and the closest city was several day’s journey. If they didn’t find a new food source, they would all starve before the ice melted. A meeting was called, and no suggestion was too outlandish, yet they adjourned with little hope.

The first to exit stopped suddenly, noticing a stringless marionette on the stoop. It wore a black, hooded robe; the face bore a cruel expression, and a tightly wound scroll in its lap. Upon closer inspection, they saw the note was tied with hair, and the writing was a deep crimson. The message itself:

I am the Chaos in Darkness and Commander of the Dead. On the First of every April, you will bring a boy aged between six and eight to the North Peak cave. The child will enter alone. Harvests will be bountiful, and winters comfortable. A wagon of wheat and corn waits in the stables. Payment must not be late. Failure to comply will incite my Wrath.

Obviously, no one believed it until they saw the food, and even then, most remained skeptical. “But how would anyone bring a wagon up the pass?” Believers argued.

“It was already here!” Skeptics shouted. Regardless, their hunger left little choice.

“There’s not one of us who isn’t half starved, no one could conceal this much for so long!” Believers insisted.

“Does it matter? That cave is a maze of dark tunnels and dangerous drops! What child do you propose we sacrifice?” Skeptics exclaimed. Despite a few noticeable hesitations, all agreed it simply could not be done, and life moved on.


The snow melted, spring came, crops were planted, and fish were caught. April 1st passed with little notice; a few doomsayers were anxious, but – as a whole – most had forgotten about the strange letter until the morning of the 2nd. A quarter of every farmer’s crops were destroyed, torn from the ground and trampled by something which left enormous, clawed footprints.

The villagers argued until the sun set and rose again, but were no closer to agreement. Farmers guarded their fields through the night, and on the morning of the 3rd, not one more crop was lost. Instead, half the river’s fish were dead, floating downstream, and the winds carried their rotten stench through the town square; still, no concessions were made.

The believers wouldn’t have a majority vote until fifteen of their new cattle were found slaughtered on the morning of the 4th. An angry mob hiked the treacherous path to the North Peak Cave; twenty feet beyond the entrance was a narrow tunnel, forcing them to advance single-file. At a cautious pace, they proceeded another thirty feet before reaching a sharp turn. Suddenly, the lead-man fell back, violently pushing past his fellows; as others saw around the corner, they too, screamed for retreat.

Haunted April

Once the regretful heroes returned, they described a humanoid, skeletal figure with the head of a horse and a sickle for an arm. An eerie orange glow illuminated the creature and the monstrous stone face it stood beneath. The carving’s mouth was ajar and producing the same strange light, but none dared cross the great chasm to investigate.

That’s when they suggested an orphan, and even the skeptics held their tongues. Thanks to the previous famine, many children were left homeless. Soon, a seven-year-old was discovered begging at a bakery; one man earned his trust by claiming to be an uncle, and the desperate boy gladly followed his new guardian. At the cave entrance, the little one was sent inside to wait while his “new uncle and friends gathered wood.”

As the men fled, a loud, gut-wrenching scream shook their resolve, but not enough to save the boy. His wails turned to muffled sobs and faded into the distance as the frightened villagers ran. Upon their return, no questions were asked, and no answers were offered; again, life moved on.


Each person doubled their efforts to conserve. Jars of preserves filled cellars, new crops were planted, and no more disasters befell the secluded mountain village. Men who traveled to the city for summer work returned with half their wages in grain, and in fall, special care was taken with the harvest.

Despite having more food than ever before, many were still traumatized by the previous winter. Those with the means to do so left town before the first snowfall, but most had nowhere to go. Each morning they feared disaster would strike, yet each night they slept in warm beds with full bellies.

“It must be the Demon’s promise!” They rejoiced; yet, as weeks turned to months, their happiness began to fade. Dreading another April sacrifice, many felt disappointed by the fair weather and prayed for misfortune – for any excuse to refuse the creature’s demands – but by February’s end, it was clear their prayers would go unanswered.

Every parent held their children a little closer at night. The torturous “what if’s” were endless; no mother could sleep – no father could rest – until the next child was chosen. They needed to see him, to know he was real and the burden would not fall on their own; if no boy met the age requirement, who would take his place? Someone would – of that there was no doubt; none were foolish enough to believe differently.

On March 3rd, the search began; every parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother and sister were looking for a boy between 6-8 to ensure their own family never saw the inside of North Peak cave. By the fifth day, tensions were running high. Children were hidden away, changing their appearance, and lying about age. Word had spread to every villager’s ear – even the homeless knew to flee, but the children had no way off the mountain.

It was March 10th when a suitable boy was found in the woods. He understood why they took him and tried to escape many times over the following weeks. Even so, tempers cooled with the relief, and lives mostly returned to normal until the morning of April 1st.

The sacrifice was thrown into the cave upon refusing to enter. His cry grew sharper with the soft thud of impact, and the guards listened closely at the entrance. Scuffling steps were heard, followed by a sharp gasp and shrill cry. At that sound, they knew it was safe to leave.

Filled with the knowledge their crops would flourish, farmers expanded their fields, and ranchers increased their livestock. A bustling summer led to an astonishingly successful harvest, and all openly praised the Dark Savior. Winter was now a time for rest and relaxation, not fighting for survival. When the roads filled with snow, life moved happily along.


Spoiled by their new way of life, the search for the next boy began immediately; no one wished to revisit the previous year’s panic. When January came and still no child was had, talks of searching the city began. Many were uneasy about involving the outside world; if authorities intervened, what might the captured man – or men – say? One doesn’t need to believe in demons to believe others believe. No matter how favorable the chances – comfortable winters were too valuable to risk.

On February 1st, a manhunt was organized to search the mountainside; villagers checked behind every tree and under every rock, but no child was compatible. After weeks of heated argument, the inevitable was finally accepted. A child from the lowest class would give their life for a greater cause; the few who spoke out were easily silenced and the law no longer applied to enemies of the Dark Savior.

In total, six children were thrown into North Peak cave. The seventh was meant to be a young boy named Vincent. His parents died that January, and his last relative was an ailing grandfather. Though the elderly man was small and frail, his mind remained sharp; his grandson turned six only the month before, and those were the days when each child’s birth was carefully documented. Their circumstance was dire, and they had neither the strength or resources to flee.

The grandfather made a desperate attempt to save the last of his family line. On April 1st, a small figure presented himself at the mountain’s base, and the Honor Guards escorted him to the top. It was no longer a treacherous climb but a proper trail – cleared and raked for easier travel. So long as the sacrifice walked willingly, there was no reason to crowd or hassle the doomed soul.

The seventh year was perhaps the easiest trek of all; the small procession journeyed at a slow but steady pace, and not once did the sacrifice attempt to run – which could almost be considered tradition. The guards could hardly believe when he entered the cave without so much as a look back. Their shock was likely the reason they lingered slightly longer than usual; they’d only begun to turn away when a furious shout echoed inside. “How dare you! I know your face, Felix Felonious!”

Hearing the wildly unpopular man’s name, those outside began to creep further. Next was the old man’s cry for help, and the men recognized it immediately; understanding what geezer attempted, they rushed forward, hoping rectify their mistake. Truly no fate could be worse than ending the generous agreement.

Except, when the Honor Guards entered, the only thing they saw was the village idiot bashing in the old man’s brains – no demon. Two men cautiously crossed the chasm – a risk they were happy to take under the circumstance. What few questions remained were answered with a grotesque figure crafted from human and animal remains; string and adhesive held it together, but barely. Though it was falling apart with age, the witness descriptions were a perfect match.

The guards holding Felix at the entrance had no trouble detaining him; the challenge was keeping him alive as they processed the true depths of his actions, and – as a result – their own. The village was in an uproar when they returned – even the women and children screamed for blood. The boy’s grandfather was dead, but his sacrifice was not in vain.

No more children were lost; although natural disasters and hard winters would come, the people were better prepared. They would never see a year quite so dire as the one permanently etched into their memories. They tried to hide the horrible secret, but – as it always does – word slowly spread to the city and beyond. The yearly tradition of embarrassing one another with elaborate pranks spread far and wide as each country adopted the fun-filled holiday.


The poor villager’s only solace for years of manipulation, was the horrible torture Felix endured after a full confession. It wasn’t hard to fool him; his worst fear had come to fruition, and he was desperate to see a way out. They could not change what was done, but they could damn sure learn from it.

Felix – more than anything – was a sick opportunist; a very lucky – yet disturbed – opportunist. His childhood was spent playing alone in the woods. By entering the forest from his backyard and mapping game trails, he eventually discovered a way down the mountain; it was purely by chance, and his own special secret. The path involved many narrow ledges and steep drops; he worried its use would be forbidden if his parents knew.

As Felix grew and became more adept at traversing the difficult terrain, he began climbing the mountain as well. At 16, he found a second way into the North Peak cave; it bypassed the dangerous dead-drop of the main entrance and allowed access to the spacious caverns beyond. Soon, he knew its tunnels as well as the forest.

When the village hovered on the brink of starvation, Felix almost revealed the way down, but if only a small amount of food were found – a deadly confrontation would ensue. The frozen trail was even more treacherous than normal; each step was tested before shifting his weight, and the caution paid off when he finally reached the bottom.

It was late, and the sun was setting. While preparing a fire, he noticed a figure approaching from the distance. It was two men with a wagon; when they were close enough to hail, Felix raised a hand in greeting and recognized his neighbor’s son. Luca began a city apprenticeship the previous summer, but was worried for his parents. Food donations were collected, and he swore to deliver every grain if he had to carry them up the mountain by hand; Luis, a fellow apprentice, offered to assist.

Felix happily shared village news while filling himself with corn but quickly realized his mistake. If he led Luca and Luis up the mountain, all would learn of his secret trail. He truly appreciated the young men, but not enough to spare their lives. After convincing them the wagon must be left behind, it was agreed three men could carry the sacks if they formed a chain up the steep slopes.

Not wanting the horses to suffer when their masters failed to return – Felix offered to tie them near the river, when in reality, he set them loose. Hiking up the mountain was far more difficult than coming down, but separating Luca from his friend proved little challenge.

Near the summit – light fading – they formed their final chain with Luis at the bottom. Luca was positioned at the top, and while his back was turned, Felix reached for the next sack; in the brief moment both held it, Felix pushed forward. Luis fell back with a panicked cry, and went silent when his head connected with the ground. Luca – unsuspecting of foul play – rushed to his friend’s side; as he knelt to help Luis, Felix snapped his neck from behind.

He worked well into the night – hauling each sack into his cellar one by one. When the food was safely stowed – Felix returned for the bodies. Once loaded onto a sled, they were hauled to the caverns. Too exhausted for the return hike home, he slept through the afternoon. Upon waking, he saw the bodies were preserved by the cold and filled his stomach. After packing enough for dinner, what remained was buried for later.

Upon finally returning home, three men stood at his door. They were talking amongst themselves, and one pointed to the stables; the others nodded and began walking in its direction. Quickening his pace, Felix called out a greeting. To his great relief, the gentlemen stopped, but when they turned – he recognized Luca’s father and uncle. The third was a farmer and friend of their family’s.

Baffled by their presence, Felix simply asked, “How did you know?”

Taking Felix’s unsocial reputation into consideration, the boy’s father thought he was referring to the town meeting; Francis – months away from learning of his son’s disappearance – replied “We happened to be in town when it was announced.”

There was an awkward silence as Felix carefully processed those words. If it was already announced to the village, killing his visitors wouldn’t help. His only hope was to dispute their claim, but first, he needed to know what that claim was. “Then why don’t you tell me?” He stated dryly.

Annoyed with his rude neighbor, Francis informed Felix he could attend tomorrow’s meeting at noon or stay home, and that most preferred the latter.

Finally understanding his mistake, Felix was flooded with noticeable relief. “I will most assuredly be in attendance; thank you gentlemen kindly for the visit!” He replied with a gleeful tip of the hat.

Mouths agape at the sudden change of character, Francis and company returned the gesture with slight nods before departing in silent confusion.

After tending to his own food stores, Felix loaded an old wagon with what remained. The idea to pretend it was a demon’s gift came in stages. He genuinely wanted to share it with the village – it would disrupt his daily life if they all starved – but he needed a way to do so without assuming any risk. Eventually, Francis would learn of Luca’s disappearance, and that it occurred while attempting to deliver a wagon of food.

Claiming it came from a demon simply amused him, but then he thought of the young boy in his stables’ loft. Had he returned only a few minutes later, he would be chained in a dungeon! Had the child been alive and called out upon hearing their voices, what then? How would he explain? He couldn’t… not those remarks from a child; not paired with those wounds. The thought alone was enough to turn Felix’s stomach.

It was the first time he had a boy in the village, but that year’s winter yielded so many orphans – he simply couldn’t resist. He’d been without company since a city-trip in June, and despite knowing he should at least use the cavern – his house was much closer. Normally, Felix couldn’t risk being with anyone for longer than a single night, but the comfort of his secluded home offered tempting scenarios. The warmth of another body in his own bed was a pleasure he’d never known and could not easily forget. To honor his lost companion, a shrine was built over his grave – deep in the caverns.

That’s when he realized the “demon” should be paid for its service, and cut an incision into his upper thigh. Using the blood as ink, he wrote a letter to the villagers explaining the terms; next, he exhumed a horse that was eaten the previous week, and – after making a few alterations to an old marionette – he was ready to prepare the cavern. With the horse’s skull, he began the hiked up the mountain yet again.

It only took a skeleton, sickle, string, adhesive, candles, and a few pieces of orange glass to create his demonic lair. He installed the animal’s head onto the human skeleton and placed his creation beneath the giant stone face he had slowly carved over the years. He never expected anyone else to see it, but the idea gave Felix immense satisfaction.

He delivered the food in the dead of night, and ensured he was last to arrive at the meeting. Placing the letter would carry the most risk, and he couldn’t fully relax until it was finished. There was still some concern the wagon would be discovered early, but when that didn’t happen, Felix began to feel invincible. He sat smiling quietly until the first battle between skeptic and believer began.

To maintain his normal character, he silently and indifferently listened from the back. When they finally located the food, Felix lined up with the rest, behaving as if his starvation hadn’t ended the night before; no one suspected a thing – at least – not from him. He was disappointed no one inspected the cave, but he left his creation up; knowing they’d check eventually, he performed regular maintenance as it continued to decompose. The look it created combined with the rotting stench only made it more convincing.

In his best estimations, Felix thought he might get one or two boys at most. He knew weather and harvests were beyond his control, but he felt his chances for the first were fair – if he could pull off a few destructive feats. Anticipating their reluctance to sacrifice a child, he chose April to allow extra time for preparation.

He was almost afraid to employ his smithing skills lest it cast suspicion, but the idea was too tempting to resist. Soon, a heavy pair of iron, monster-shaped shoes were strapped to his feet. They were tested only once before use – around the cave’s north entrance – but the rain washed them away overnight.

The hope was for their sight among the destroyed crops to prevent the need for further action. Felix understood his urges were wrong – he didn’t enjoy causing pain; he didn’t want to poison the river or slaughter those cattle, but they didn’t give him a choice. There were times in the past when fish were found floating; no one drank the water then, and he was confident they wouldn’t now.

The cattle were the easiest trick to manage, but the most difficult for his conscience. As a man who has known hunger, it was sacrilege to waste so much meat, but it was necessary to maintain every facet of the illusion. If prime cuts of beef were removed from even one carcass, suspicions would shift to the motives of man. Thankfully, it ended there, and he wasn’t forced to burn the silo.

When his fellows finally found the courage to suggest an orphan – as all knew they eventually must – Felix dared hope he could choose his favorite. It’s true there was no shortage since the famine, but only a handful were the right age. Three to be exact, and he preferred the red-head often found begging at the baker’s; his heart and stomach throbbed in unison as he led the others to him.

When little Edward went willingly with the men, Felix could hardly maintain the expected mournful disposition. He forced himself to walk home before beginning a hurried trek up the mountain, and arrived only seconds before the boy. There was no time for the black robe he acquired specially; instead, he approached quietly while the boy’s eyes were still adjusting to darkness.

In a state of disbelief, he placed a long, cold hand atop Edward’s shoulder, eliciting a shrill cry of terror from the boy and a warm shiver of anticipation from himself . Frightened the villagers would suffer a change-of-heart, Felix quickly clamped his hand over the boy’s mouth, and only muffled sobs could be heard.

It wasn’t his intention to frighten the boy; he genuinely hoped they would become friends. Pulling Edward into a hug, he whispered in his ear, “It is only me, Felix, the iron-worker; you remember me, don’t you? I bought you bread once.”

At that, the child eased his struggles, and turned to see the familiar face. Edward asked for his uncle, but upon learning the truth – hot, fresh tears flowed freely. Felix held him as the boy’s body convulsed with violent, and his own convulsed for entirely different reasons. He vowed to be all the child would ever need – a father, brother, friend… and more – so convincingly he even fooled himself.

He’d often fantasized about that first meeting, but when the moment came he lost all words and the truth – as Felix had come to see it, anyway – spilled from his mouth. “Single men are not allowed to adopt, but I fooled the villagers.” He proudly boasted to the now beaming child.

Infused with confidence, he held little Eddie close and carried him across the dangerous chasm with practiced ease. The boy giggled in delight at the fake Demon and excitedly agreed to never leave the caves. “Just for now.” Felix promised; “Besides, it’ll take you a few weeks to learn your way around the tunnels and to your cave.” He added nonchalantly, hands roaming freely.

He was patient at first; the boy’s mere presence was exciting, and – once past the admittedly poor introduction – their conversations were fulfilling in a way he never knew was missing. Felix was unshakable in his conviction; ‘Edward would never be like the poor boy from his stables’, he thought. ‘He could control himself now’, he decided and this child was likely his last chance for a special friend. Kidnapping was too risky, and when the upcoming winter was filled with hardship, there would be no more sacrifices.

The 16th century man could never fathom how basic psychology would aid in his plan, but it was the reason for his success. Due to the paranoia created during that first, deadly winter, and the appearance of a “demon”, villagers essentially created a self-fulfilling prophecy by taking extra care in everyday life.

Felix dared not hope for his luck to hold, but the more people came to believe in the Demon, the more he caught himself fantasizing a world of ‘what if’s’. For instance, what if they greeted new arrivals as a family? They would share the same story, and elicit a good scream for the growing legend; it would be the children’s parting gift to the cold world that shunned them so cruelly. Then, they could drink and be merry; the nights would be for play and the days for resting!

Felix could see it no other way. Thus every year, a new boy joined their merry band; even those ripped from parents arms decided to stay. Great fun was shared, and their love for one another was second only to their Father’s. That’s what Felix believed, and you can too, if you’d prefer a happy ending.

If you want the truth – the only thing those boys saw in that cave was a wild, naked man surrounded by the dead little children who came before – their bodies bruised and broken, but their faces carved into wide, eternal smiles; then life moved on.

Horror Fiction

Lost Kevin

Now a CreepyPasta

Brimstone Below did an amazing narration on his YouTube channel which you can see here

Narrated in Czech by Creepy Stalk here

Photo by Brimstone Below

I know it’s wrong to download movies and we shouldn’t do it, but I’m poor and those guys are rich. Either way, it’s not important. I’m only writing this to warn others against it. Is it illegal? Yes. Immoral? Arguable, but technically. Dangerous? Apparently.

I didn’t do it often; I just wanted a few Christmas movies to get into the holiday spirit. I stuck with the classics, and they all played great. It wasn’t until I watched Home Alone 2 that things started getting bad. Everyone has seen that movie, right? Because if you haven’t I don’t know if you can follow this story. My partner was asleep, but I wasn’t tired, so I watched it alone.

The first different thing was the opening credits; the little house was red. I hadn’t watched it in a couple years, but I’ve seen it a thousand times. I was certain it should be blue. Still, it’s a minor detail, forgotten almost immediately after fading to movie.

In the opening scene, it shows family members rushing through the home and remains normal until Kevin walks in on his uncle’s shower. The uncle usually calls him a “nosy, little pervert”, but this time he said “sorry, little shit”. I thought I heard him wrong, but when I tried to skip back, the computer froze. That’s not uncommon, it’s a piece of junk; I didn’t want to waste more time, so I let it keep playing.

I was positive the movie was wrong when the Christmas pageant began. The kids were holding real candles. As the camera zoomed in on the singing children and their small, dancing flames, I thought I downloaded from someone with mad editing skills; changing the candles blew my mind, but I can believe it’s possible. The rest of what I’m about to convey… I can’t.

In the original movie, Buzz holds candles behind Kevin’s ears. In my copy, the sizzle of Kevin’s flesh can be heard as wisps of dark smoke swirl around his head. The audience still laughs the same, but instead of stopping when Buzz is knocked down, they grow louder. The choir robes worn by the children are set ablaze, and they scream over the roaring laughter. When the cardboard tree hits Piano Lady, blood sprays from the impact and a gaping head wound is seen as she tumbles back.

I watched in stunned silence, glued to my seat and unable to look away. I didn’t understand what I was watching, but I had a morbid desire to see more. Back home, Buzz uses the same apology speech, but his face and hands are wrapped in bloody bandages. Kevin’s ears are also badly burned, but his wounds are left untreated. When it shows the family, their faces are red and puffy from crying.

On the kid-tantrum-scale, I would rate Kevin’s actual non-apology scene pretty low. He doesn’t throw anything, his voice doesn’t crack as he screams through his tears, and his face doesn’t exude pure hatred. The one in my version did all those things.

After Kevin’s mom followed him to the attic, he used curse words I’ve never heard before. I think some were in a different language. Kate began crying, screaming, “I wish you would have died last year” before storming out. A baseball was thrown as she exited, slamming into the door as it closed. Kevin fell onto the bed, retrieved a razor from beneath his pillow, and slowly cut into his forearm.

The close-up of the Chicago Sun Times was also different. Instead of “wet bandits”, it read “KILLER BANDITS ESCAPE DURING RIOT” I don’t remember what the smaller headlines really say, but I’m willing to bet it’s not “DOZENS DEAD, MANHUNT CONTINUES” considering it’s a kid’s movie.

Remember the quick scene of the airport taxi knocking over the statue? In my copy, it hits a kid. Aside from the characters being angry and depressed towards one another, the movie plays relatively normal until Kevin leaves the New York airport. Where he once enjoyed a montage of fun, city sights to a happy song, he now walked dark, dangerous alleyways as sinister music played. For the remainder of the movie, Kevin’s family is not seen again. They never go to the police or attempt to locate him.

After the montage, we see Harry and Marv leave the fish truck. The “sticky bandit” jokes were completely removed. Where they normally steal change from a Salvation Army Santa, they now held a man at gunpoint in a dark alley. The terrified man surrenders his wallet without a struggle but is shot anyway. The scene ends as the bandits flee.

What should be the scene where we first see the hotel and Pigeon Lady was now a Holiday Inn and junkie. The woman in my copy was putting a syringe into her arm when Kevin saw her. He enters the Holiday Inn, skipping the short scene where he runs away. Still in possession of Peter’s bag, he immediately approaches the front desk. A dirty, balding man gives him a hard time until he sees the envelope full of cash. There is no bellboy to escort Kevin to his room, but when he turns on the lights, cockroaches scatter across the floor. The room is filthy, has two twin beds, and a small tv with tin foil wrapped around the antenna.

They skipped the pool scene, going directly to the Angels with Even Filthier Souls movie. The only difference here is the hungry look in Kevin’s eyes as he sits on the floor, face inches from the screen, his fingers lightly tracing over the fresh cuts in his arm.

A fade out takes us to a few hours later when he discovers Peter’s address book. At seeing his uncle’s name, he says, “If they’re still in Paris, I can stay there instead!” At the sight of a family photo in his father’s wallet, Kevin begins shaking and sobbing as he rips it to pieces. The following morning, he hails a cab instead of renting a limousine.

Duncan’s Toy Chest was unchanged, but the kid was still angry and depressed as he wandered through the store. He pushed other kids and shoplifted the item he normally purchased. Mr. Duncan watched him leave with a sad, slow shake of the head. Harry and Marv exit immediately after, grabbing Kevin on the street. The boy screamed, kicked Harry in the shin and ran.

The chase scene was short and filled with cursing. Instead of breaking pearl necklaces to trip the bad guys, he told a group of bikers, “two men are chasing me.” Kevin proceeds to escape while Harry and Marv are brutally beaten in the streets. Upon returning to the hotel, the owner claimed the room was never paid for, and tried to make the boy pay again. When Kevin refused, the man grabbed him, taking the money by force. Red faced with fury, the kid fled back into the streets.

He ran until Harry and Marv, limping and beaten to a pulp, found him once again. They pulled him through alleys, describing brutal methods of torture he would endure. I can’t even repeat the words… I don’t think I have ever heard such gruesome ideas before. I didn’t believe a child’s face could be more consumed by hatred, but the way Kevin looked at them gave me chills.

When he saw three homeless men ahead, he began frantically digging through his pockets. The bandits were too busy watching their surroundings to notice, but the kid found a few crumpled twenty’s. As they passed the homeless, he threw the cash into their circle. “Help, kill these guys!” He screamed. After retrieving the cash, the three men descended upon the bandits, and Kevin was able to escape.

In the next scene, Kevin was alone in the dark park. The sulky child walked with his head down, frightened by the shady characters he encountered. More than one tried to sell him drugs, and when the prostitute taunted him, he flipped her off. After running from the taxi driver, he bumped into the ex-pigeon lady again.

They had an almost-normal chat if you can pretend it’s normal to teach a ten-year-old how to shoot heroin. Where she once placed bird seed into his hand, she now rolled his sleeve up with a mother’s tenderness. She injected the drug into his vein, and when finished, he fell backwards into a snowy hill, looking up into a clear, night sky. As the camera pulled away, Kevin could be seen smiling for the first time.

It skipped their touching scene at the orchestra, instead going directly to Kevin entering his uncle’s home. I didn’t notice any difference in the trap-setting montage aside from the same eerie music as before. This is where the movie got truly graphic. I’ve seen a lot of horror, but I’ve never seen anything so incredibly brutal as the derailed special effects to come.

The scene at the toy store began with Kevin, hat off for the first time since the apology scene. His ears were turning green with infection from his still untreated burns. He smiled wickedly as he collected bricks, but he never bothered taking a picture. Actually, I don’t think he had the camera or voice recorder at all. Likewise, he didn’t attach a note to the brick he threw into the window.

Harry ran outside, tripped on the failed seesaw, and face-planted into the sidewalk. He lifted his head to show a bloody nose and murderous eyes. Seeing the trap failed, Kevin began running away. Marv emerged, also tripping on the board, and fell into Harry.

When the boy taunted the bandits from his uncle’s roof, they responded in the usual way. The first brick dropped still hit Marv in the forehead, but left a wide, bloody gash. The next two bricks gave matching lacerations, and blood sprayed the sidewalk on impact.

Both the men’s faces were already in poor condition from previous beatings, but somehow, each new wound was prominent among the rest. I wish I could tell you I watched because some strange power stayed my hand, or that the movie threatened me in some way, but I can’t. The only reason I continued watching was because some twisted part of me wanted to see what else they’d done to it. There was absolutely nothing to give any indication it was edited. If I had never seen it, I would have believed it genuinely filmed that way.

After Harry left to find another entrance, Marv struggled to his feet. At the front door, he pulled the knob off to initiate the same staple-gun trap, albeit without the comically long rope. The string quickly pulled tight, shooting a staple into his nutsack region, not his ass. He then fell to his knees, pulling the trigger once more. I had to look away when the staple penetrated his eye… they just made it so graphic.

Harry tried to go up the slippery ladder and fell on his back, but nothing worse than usual. When he kicked in the side door, most of the falling tools missed him, but the camera didn’t cut away when the last wrench fell. The sound of his skull breaking was nothing compared to the blood that splattered and the way his head caved inward. He should have been dead, but he wasn’t.

Marv kicked open the front door, but fell off the incomplete floor ledge, landing with a sickening thud. Blood stains spread beneath him as he moaned in agony. When finally able to stand, he walked on shaky legs around the green goop he normally slips in. He still tried to use the sink, probably because he was covered in as much blood in my version as he was paint in the real movie.

The electrocution scene was horrible. When he attempted to use the sink, his body went rigid as electricity coursed through him. His hair caught fire, and the screen filled with smoke. I know it was only my imagination, but I swear I could smell him burning. It felt like it lasted longer than normal; he fried for almost a full minute. He, too, should be dead… but wasn’t. Kevin laughed maniacally as he maxed out the voltage before running away. It didn’t stop until the actual device blew sparks and died.

It skipped Harry catching on fire and dipping his head in the toilet. Instead, it stayed with Marv as he somehow recovered. He erected a tower of junk to climb through the hole in the floor and almost made it to the top before it fell, burying him beneath the rubble with more gut-wrenching sound effects.

Back upstairs, Kevin sneaked down a hall, past Harry, and attempted to climb the ladder he previously sawed halfway through. It broke too early and sent him crashing into the ground. Recovering quickly, he almost made it to the top of the stairs before Harry saw him. When Marv caught up, the two undead bandits pretended to run upstairs. This time, they avoided the paint cans thrown by the kid, and there was no giant, metal, beam-like object.

The bandits hurled more threats at Kevin as they tried to enter the attic, but they didn’t conveniently listen as the tool-chest hurtled down the stairs. Instead, they backed away, confused looks on their disfigured faces, as the door exploded with a loud crash.

On the roof, Kevin still climbs down a rope and sets it on fire as the bandits descend. The difference is, Harry and Marv are engulfed in the flames before falling several stories to land on their backs – legs protruding at angles that made my stomach churn. The dozens of paint cans to fall on them after was just overkill.

Kevin calls the police from a pay phone while the bandits recover, but they catch him when he slips on the ice. Harry and Marv hardly look human anymore with their lumpy faces and broken limbs, but they still lifted the boy to his feet. Then they dragged him to the park, putting a gun in his face, and enjoying each new cry of terror they won.

Eventually the beating began, making Kevin suffer before he died. The kid was on the ground, curled in a ball, trying to protect his head with his arms, screaming for help. Finally, when the sharp kicks to his body stopped, he looked up, into the barrel of Harry’s gun. As the hammer pulled back, he squeezed his eyes shut. Then a loud bang echoed through the park, followed closely by a second.

Kevin remained still until he heard a booming voice say, “This is the police, you’re safe now.” As he opened his eyes, red and blue lights flashed all around him. Two paramedics wrapped him in a blanket and carried him to an ambulance. There, he met Mr. Duncan who praised him for saving his store.

Next, we see a few clips of the boy being adopted by Mr. Duncan and going on to live a happy, normal life. When you think the credits are about to roll, it fades to a scene zoomed in on Kevin’s smiling, jubilant face. Very slowly, as beautiful, inspirational music plays in the background, it zooms out to reveal him lying on a snowy hillside in the park; his eyes are glazed over in death, and a needle hangs from his arm.

I went to the website to see what I could find out about the person I got it from, but the torrent was removed. I looked on other sites, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I tried to show my partner the next morning, but it said “file corrupt” each time I pressed play. Next time I was alone, the movie suddenly worked again. I tried to screen record, but it only showed blackness when I rewatched the video.

I keep trying to add a link below for anyone who wants to see it, but they are being disabled faster than I can post more. Hurry – click the one below before they remove it too.

There’s only one thing you should know first. Since seeing it, no matter what I’m watching or who I watch with… occasionally I’ll see flashes of strange scenes… whatever is on will stray from its usual script and change into something horrible. That’s probably my imagination, but I thought I’d mention it… just in case.

File att: LoSTiNnEwYoRK.mkv

humor

That is Not Adderall

A short rant before we begin. I was born in 1988, therefore, I’m quite fond of the number 88. Today, I learned that number is apparently a nazi thing? Fml, are you serious?! Screw that, it’s mine!

Time for another tale of terror from the time we rented the spliced together hoard house outside town. If you haven’t read Rain Showers, I suggest you go there first. You can’t appreciate the horror of this atmosphere without it. This will take place during our second month, before we lost water, but after we lost the dryer. You also need to remember Amy is Hubby’s sister and had a Xanax problem.

Memory Refresher

* I want to include a reminder. This story is almost a decade old, and Amy has not had a drug abuse problem in several years. We get along famously these days and I’m happy to consider her a sister. She has no memory of these events, but she’s a great sport about laughing at them. *

One day, I will get around to how Amy dumped Rob, but that drama can wait. Today, we’re going to talk about after they separated, when Amy’s electricity was cut off. Whether she forgot to pay the bill or used the money for drugs is irrelevant. The important part is that no one would take her in. We were the only family still speaking to her at that time, and we genuinely needed help making the house livable.

With great hesitation, we said she could stay the week if she helped out. To be fair, she did help a bit. As these things tend to, it started off well. She had food stamps and filled the house with groceries. Was it food we ate? Eh, not really, but we thought, well, at least she’s feeding herself. That will save some money.

Wrong! Let me tell you now, most of the groceries spoiled. Hubby worked during the day, I worked from home answering a phone. Every day, when I drove into town for whatever errands, Amy tagged along. Every day, without fail, she asked, “Can we stop at Fast Food? I haven’t eaten today.”

Of course, she only works the months around Christmas so she didn’t have money. She never volunteered the information, instead waiting until it was time to pay. I wouldn’t offer on principle, meaning we had to play out the same long, awkward silence until she asked for money. The worse part was how she counted the wasted groceries as “paying us back.”

Anyway, the point is, she offered us drugs to help cope with the pain. Our favorite pill has always been Adderall, but it’s extremely difficult for us to acquire. They were a rare treat. Imagine our glee when Amy announced, “You like those? I have a whole bottle. My friend has a prescription, but she hates them.”

“Amy, if you have a purse full of Adderall I need you to get it right now.” I said with the eyes of a starving wolf.

We tried to keep our hopes in check, it was Amy after all. Even as she removed the large bottle from her purse I thought it was too good to be true. Then she opened it, placing it on the table before us, and we stared at a mountain of pure white powder. That’s when I called bullshit.

“No, it really is, I swear! She just takes it out of the capsules so she can rip people off, but this is real stuff!” Amy insisted, spreading generous lines of the drug.

Hubby and I were dubious but had to admit it was a common practice. “You’ve done some already?” I asked.

“Yea, it’s fine, watch.” Amy snorted the first line, and when she didn’t have a seizure, we tried it.

It was Adderall! Can you believe it? We sure as hell couldn’t! I know, I know, ‘but what about your title’ right? Hold your britches, I’m getting there.

We had two extremely productive days thanks to the miracle powder. Everything went so well, we didn’t even mind Amy’s Xanax fits like when she asked the same question thirty times or talked through new episodes of Doctor Who. Everything was aces until we left her home alone for twenty minutes.

Hubby and I drove to the gas station and back, no big deal… or so we thought. Upon our return, we decided it was time for a pick-me-up. I retrieved our powder from its hiding place – it’s relevant to know it was hidden well on one of our many bookshelves. It wasn’t left out in a place for anyone to happen upon. I poured a nice healthy pile, and as I began to separate it into lines, I realized huh, why does it look so funny.

“Hey, come look at this… is. Is this salt?!” I asked Hubby in the opposite of an indoor voice.

(This is one of those times I’m going to reduce the cursing by 90%. It was so bad.)

“Because it is fraking salt! That bitch!” Hubby stormed off to find Amy while a monkey named Jonesy ruthlessly clawed my back for that Adderall.

I spent more hours than I want to admit separating the tiny specs with a flashlight and tweezers. I fully understood how pathetic it was, but I had to try. The worst part was, she didn’t have to do it. We weren’t being greedy, trust me she was like a blood-hound. Every time we pulled it out – no matter where we hid – she was there. She wouldn’t ask for it, no. She talked about how tired she was until Hubby offered.

That was fine. It was a huge bottle, and she didn’t get anything in return she wasn’t already getting. I didn’t understand why she felt the need to ruin the entire bottle to cover the fact she used more. My rage was also divided by the fact she thought salt was something to use for that purpose. I didn’t trust myself to speak when Hubby brought her to the kitchen.

I bit my tongue long as I could, but then she started talking. “I just came to see what happened, is there really salt in the Adderall?”

I glared at her, hoping to induce an aneurysm.

“Because Phoebe and that guy came over while you were gone. They just walked in the back door… and they were standing over there by that shelf when I walked in… they left after I told them you weren’t here.” After an incredibly long silence she continued, “So… I mean. I don’t know them, but could they like…”

Let’s entertain her story while we’re here. The notion of Phoebe and her boyfriend coming was ludicrous. She only walked over if they were fighting. When she did walk over, it was via the rock path to the front door, not the mud hole to the back. They didn’t know the drugs existed nor that I decided to hide something on that shelf for the first time ever.

“Do you understand what I would have done to you if I snorted salt?” There it went. The dam broke and all bets were off.

“I really didn’t…” Amy started.

“Please don’t. I’m begging you. If you’re going to do the deny, deny, deny thing, save it for later. Just get away from me for now, I don’t have it in me to pretend to believe you.” I couldn’t look at her, instead I looked at my tiny white specs and begged Jonsey to let me think.

Amy walked away but didn’t stop talking. She continued professing her innocence as she walked to the living room. My memory gets a little fuzzy here, but somehow I came to stand in the doorway, throat sore, staring at her, Hubby standing next to me.

“How about we go for a drive? It’s not like she can do more damage. I’ll help you sort what’s left when we get back.” He offered.

I suppose I agreed because we were no more than a few minutes away when I realized I left my purse behind. “Shit, we have to go back. I have cash in there.” I said angrily.

“Where did you leave it?” He asked.

“In our bedroom, under my nightstand.” I admitted, knowing what he would think.

“Okay, well it’s not like you left it in the open. She won’t go looking for it, she probably assumes you have it with you.” He tried to be reassuring.

“No, I already don’t like this. We gotta go back.” Money aside, I still had (have) only-child syndrome. I couldn’t accept she wouldn’t want to steal my prized possessions.

We turned around, gone for less than ten minutes when we returned. I almost let myself hope when she was sitting on the couch, exactly as we left her, but I knew I couldn’t breath easy until I saw the cash. I went straight to the purse and opened my wallet. It was empty. Can you guess who Amy blamed? Yes! It was Phoebe again! Wouldn’t you know we just missed those rascals!

I was done folks. I washed my hands of it. “You know what Amy? Forty bucks is a small price to pay to get rid of you. You’re going home first thing in the morning, best of luck with your electricity.” I walked away before I said anything truly harsh.

Hubby talked to her for a few minutes, but I had a monkey to feed. We resumed powder picking and saved more than expected, but it was a pittance of the whole.

The next morning I was gifted with Amy’s reasoning for destroying our white gold. She returned our money and a hefty pile of Adderall powder after waking. Apparently she wasn’t happy just doing the drugs, she wanted to sell some when she realized how much people like it. She was too ashamed to ask for it and thought salt would be the best way to hide her actions. She included, “I don’t remember any of it, but this was in my bag so I guess that’s what happened.” To help maintain a distance from true blame.

We took our possessions back and reassured her she was forgiven. “No hard feelings” as it were. Unfortunately she misunderstood forgiveness as “you can keep staying here”, but we were over our limit. You can only have so many angry, mentally disturbed people living under one roof before someone dies. Hell, we were already stretching that number before she came.

So yea, we dropped her off at her apartment. It was really dark in there, she didn’t have windows, but no one else would agree to take her. I really do feel terrible about how bad she sounds in this, but we all pull an Amy at some point in our lives. Whether you were drunk, high, or just plain nuts, you have at least one story where you star as the asshole. We all do, and we should all be the terrific sports about it she is.

Thanks for reading! I wanted to translate a non-horror classic next, but I seem unable to help myself. I want to have a variety of genres to select from, but I keep getting distracted, I’m sorry. The Yellow Wallpaper is coming soon because I’ve always wanted to read it but never had time. I’m going to try to take a few days off in order to clean a guest room out, but we’ll see how it goes.

Stay safe out there. Sometimes, they really are out to get you.

Poetry Disclaimer: The below poetry is horrible. Do not read it if you are serious about poetry. It is for amusement purposes only. For full poetry details see Sex, Drugs, & Robbery.

“Everyday Take Away”


28 hour days,
Time trickles, slowly fading away.
Lost, confused, in a daze,
Spinning, twirling, in a haze.

Eyes are the windows to the soul,
But mine is no longer whole.
Rotten, decayed, black as night,
Broken, defeated, screaming in fright.

Love is a useless word,
Spoken but never heard.
No give and all take,
A world engulfed in hate.
Whatever was meant to be,
Is long lost to eternity.


humor

JustNoMil (Pt. 2)

I hope this final installment of the JustNoMil duology finds you well. The week is flying by, so with your permission I would like to dive right in today. We’re going to start with the first Valentines Crook and I were able to spend together. We were two years into the relationship, but he was on a rig for the first one. The second year, he returned from a two week hitch February 13th. Normally I don’t buy into Valentine’s Day unless it precedes the word ‘massacre,’ but we were excited for this one.

Upon arriving, Crook was unable to keep his special plans secret any longer. The fact he planned anything while at work was impressive. “I was trying to surprise you, but it’s harder keeping the secret now that I’m home. I made reservations at Haunted Hotel.” His voice was filled with pride. Securing a reservation anywhere on Valentines was difficult, but he succeeded with one of the best.

If you read Calling All Ghosts, yes. That’s the place. He knew I’m not big on romance, but wanted to show the effort. Hoping (correctly) a spooky theme would make the holiday more enjoyable, he called in a favor to reserve the best haunt-themed food in town.

As if her spidey-sense detected our happiness, Effie called intent to ruin it. “Hey Sweetie, I just wanted to make sure you got home safe.” Her sobs sounded more genuine than usual. I suppose practice makes perfect.

“Yea, I’m fine. What’s wrong? Are you okay?” Crook shifted into worried son mode seamlessly.

I assumed she was trying to force him to feed her animals, but that was only a secondary reason for calling. “Oh… I’m fine… you don’t want to hear me cry about my pitiful life. I’m just so depressed about Valentines Day. I’d rather kill myself than spend another one alone…”

You could tell she was desperate by how quickly she brought out the big guns. With Crook’s blindness to the manipulation tactics I memorized in a month, Effie successfully invited herself to our dinner in under 5 minutes. Was I so angry I nearly blacked out? Obviously. Did I make a scene? No. I knew he would get defensive if I tried to explain what Effie was doing. Instead, I took deep breaths. Reminding myself, you hate this crap anyway. It’s only for dinner, just a couple hours. The rest of the day is ours. We’re going to watch anime, smoke weed, and eat Chinese takeout because that’s what gives life meaning.

That mantra got me through the night and next morning. At noon, my happy place was burned to the ground when Effie arrived, unannounced. I stared at her through the window, willing her to disappear, but eventually I was forced to open the door. I motioned for her to have a seat, explaining Crook was still catching up on his sleep.

Effie was having none of that. She walked straight down the hallway, into our bedroom, and shrieked “Wake up Sweetie! Mommy is heeeeeeeere!”

I remained on the living room floor, struggling to breath as a panic attack consumed me. I became deaf to all but my own thoughts. She went in our room. There’s someone in our room, what’s wrong with you? Get in there and kill it! She’s going to sit on your bed! Move!

Faintly, distant noises began filtering through the static. I heard sounds that were either dresser drawers or blunt force trauma. Realizing the moans of pain were coming from myself, I assumed it was the former.

Eventually, I see them exit the bedroom, arm-in-arm. Crook disheveled and confused; Effie grinning ear to ear, still talking. “I’m so excited we’re spending the day together. This is the best Valentines ever!”

I physically bit my tongue, terrified to speak. I could already feel the angry tears forming. I knew if I tried to talk, only unintelligible squalls would emerge. The one thing preventing a full meltdown was my invisibility. Effie was only interested in feeding her delusion, and I didn’t fit into her script. I tuned her out, pouring all my focus into tv for the next several hours.

We were 20 minutes away from leaving for dinner when another knock sounded at the door. I opened it to be greeted by a dozen red roses; Crook’s last surprise. Before I could react, Effie pushed past me, squealing like Miss Piggy, and took my flowers.

Smelling the roses, she met my gaze. I’m not sure what emotion she mistook fury for, but I still get angry thinking about how she said “Oh Crook, you shouldn’t have! But it’s not fair to buy me all these beautiful roses!” Looking at me as if I were a homeless person begging for spare change, she gave me the card and one rose. “Here, don’t feel left out.”

(This always bothered me, think about it. Since she handed me the card… she knew, right? Deep down on a subconscious level she can never admit to… she had to know, right? I think she knew.)

I looked to Crook, (still naive enough to think he might correct her) but he stared at his feet, tail tucked between his legs. I threw the card (open for all to read) on the table next to Effie, and finished preparing for dinner.

Seated at the only 3-top in the restaurant, Effie ordered for all of us. When I told the waiter to change my order, she glared at me as if slapped. I held my tongue as she requested a vase for her roses, but I finally understood why she insisted on bringing them. It wasn’t enough to claim them, she needed other people to see; they made it feel real. When I didn’t react to her prompts clearly fishing for a compliment, she became sullen.

From that point forward, she complained about the food and service nonstop. The only complaint I had toward dinner was Effie’s company, but I digress. It was the longest dinner of my life, and we still weren’t free of her. Having refused to drive herself “to a date” we were stuck with her until she sobered enough to drive herself home. After the first pot of coffee, I thought she was faking. It wasn’t the first time she tried to spend the night, but it was thankfully the last.

Thus ended the worst Valentines of my life. For the next and last story regarding Effie, I will discuss her arm/shoulder surgery. Do you know what’s worse than a paranoid, codependent hypochondriac? A hypochondriac who actually has something wrong. I don’t have kids, I’ve never cared for one under 7 in my life, but I would take on five toddlers before going near Effie again.

At this stage, we were years into our relationship, and I was savvy to all Effie’s tricks. When we learned she was genuinely in need, I had no problem visiting her in the hospital or caring for her animals. When she was able to finish recovery at home, I was a fantastic sport. I even walked her to the bathroom a few times (it’s not like I had to go in with her).

What I did have issues with, was how she treated us while we were helping. Each day we did our usual chores, and before leaving we asked, “Is there anything else you need? You’re sure? Because we’re about to go home.”

Every single day she said, “No, I’m fine thanks.” Without fail, 10 minutes after being home, she called Crook, begging him to return.

If I had to guess, I think she preferred him to visit without me (I sure did) knowing he would be easier to manipulate. Let me be clear, after the first week, she was fully functional for everything except lifting or certain movements with her arm. We knew she would use us as long as possible, but even if she didn’t have a walker, there was absolutely no reason she could not walk unattended.

With that understood, here’s what happened three weeks into her recovery. As with every other day, we performed our morning chores, asked if she needed anything else, and went home. We only had time to sit down with a fresh bowl before the phone rang.

“Can’t we just ignore her this once? Just until we finish smoking?” I begged.

“I’m sorry, I just need to make sure she hasn’t hurt herself. I’m not going back today, I’m sick of it too.” Crook answered the phone. It was one thing to lie to me, I could understand that, but it was infuriating when he lied to himself. Let me break their conversation down the easy way as we near our conclusion.

Effie: Hey Baby, can you bring Mama something to eat? I finally have an appetite and I’m craving my favorite pizza place.

Crook: But… they’re right across the street. The doctor said you should be trying to get out now. It might be good for you to go.

Effie: I don’t care what that quack said! He can’t feel my pain! I’ll never make it!

Crook: Okay, fine. If you aren’t ready to drive, just have it delivered.

Effie: Ugh, I can’t get out of my chair to make it to the door! Why are you arguing with me? I’m starving!

Crook: Fine! When did they say it would be ready?

Effie: I haven’t ordered it. Tell them to make sure all these very picky details are correct or you’ll send it back. I absolutely can’t eat it if it’s not right.

Crook: I’ll never get all that straight. Could you at least call the order in? Then I’ll just pick it up and bring it to you.

Effie: No, they don’t like me, they always do it wrong on purpose. See if they’ll get it right for you.

Crook: Fine, I’ll be there soon to get the money, then I’ll go grab your food.

Effie: You can’t even buy your mother one meal while I’m starving to death?!

Crook: Yea, sorry.

People, my blood boiled. I could almost see the bubbles under my skin as the heat simmered throughout my body. I stared at Crook in disbelief, speechless, wondering if his balls would ever drop.

When Crook delivered her food, it was indeed wrong. He insisted she asked for olives, Effie insists she said no olives. I don’t know who was correct, I didn’t hear it firsthand, but I have two equally plausible theories.

  1. Crook subconsciously got it wrong on purpose, sick of Effie’s shit.
  2. Effie didn’t have anything else to complain about, and olives were the first thing she thought to use.

As an adult possibly speaking to impressionable teens, I won’t say what I would have done to the food, but if you’re familiar with the movie Waiting, you have a pretty good idea. The important thing is, these stories are home where they belong. There’s still the matter of my notebooks, but as far as online publications go, I think these were the only ones. Now I can spend the week fully submerged in all the glorious horror of Halloween. I think I’ll go listen to some CreepyPastas while I decide what to write next. Maybe I should start taking requests.

Oh yea, can’t forget the sign-off. You all be safe out there. Sometimes, they really are out to get you.

Here is Hannibal pretending to be a flower. For cat tax.
humor

JustNoMil (Pt. 1)

Cat Update: #12 has shown me his dingleberries, he is now Heathcliff. He no longer hides under the truck when we go outside but will not receive our pets. There is territory trouble with Percy and Lily, but we’re making daily progress.

If anyone is a fan of the subreddit JustNoMil, this one goes out to you. For those unfamiliar, MIL is mother-in-law, and Reddit has a fantastic community where people discuss their personal experiences. I highly recommend it, they have some gems. Bestie, who has relatable in-laws, introduced me to it knowing Crook’s mother was prime writing material. I posted a four part story about her six years ago, but can’t get into my old account. I want to bring them home to the rest of my crazy.

My only-child syndrome has clearly evolved to a new level. I now see my stories as living things, each in need of my loving protection. Maybe it’s more god-complex or OCD, but either way this needs to be done. They were fairly short, but typed in the subreddit’s speak. Written correctly, they’re too long for one post, but I think I can get it done in two. Back then, I was apparently too embarrassed to admit certain details. That and other deviations will be corrected in this improved telling of my MIL series.

Crook’s mother reminds me of a ginger Aunt Effie from Mama’s Family, so that’s what we’ll call her. We had a traditional meeting, Crook introduced us after our third date. She was kind, seemed normal, asked the usual questions. Was she a little chatty from the wine? Sure she was, but it was Friday night; nothing to raise red flags. By night’s end, I believed we would have a fairly decent relationship. Let’s call it the foolishness of youth.

Effie owned a large, beautiful house (I dreamed of one day inheriting), 5 dogs, and 6 cats. Roughly five minutes from her home, she owned a barn with 4 horses. Like so many others, she too habitually mixed wine with Xanax. As we learned with Amy, that can be a dangerous combo.

The short time Crook still lived with Effie, I gave no thought to him caring for her animals. It made sense; she was older, single, and Crook was being a good son. The first red flag didn’t wave until we moved in together. We transported all our possessions into one home over the course of one very long, hard day. When we finally stopped, we spread a blanket on the floor, plugged in a tv, and laid back, exhausted. Within 10 minutes, Effie called.

“Hey Sweetie, you fed the horses today, right?”

“No, I told you I wouldn’t be able today… remember? We’ve been moving stuff all day, we literally just sat down for the first time.”

“You did not tell me! It’s already dark out, they must be starving! You gotta get over there!” Effie shrieked loudly enough for me to hear perfectly. I was not pleased but remained silent.

“Yes. I did. You’re only five minutes away. You could feed them and be home in less than 30 minutes. I’m over 30 minutes away, and I’d have to get gas. I’m sorry, but do you think you could please handle it?”

“Oh I really don’t feel good, not tonight. I’ll end up hurting myself trying to lift those heavy feed bags…” Effie whined.

It was a long, painful conversation to hear, but at the end, Crook lost. For what it’s worth, he didn’t ride horses, didn’t much care for them at all, but knew they wouldn’t eat if he didn’t acquiesce. Effie rode them a few times, but otherwise simply enjoyed the status of ownership. After returning home, Crook showed me texts he sent, informing her to make future arrangements for the horses. As it were, he could no longer make the drive on a routine basis. He did not receive a reply.

I’m sure most of you have guessed, but she called the next evening with the same question, “Have you fed the horses yet?” Each day they had the same argument with the same result.

I stopped being a good sport after the first day but stayed silent, too timid to rock the boat. That all changed when Effie upped the ante. She grew bold in her demands, adding the cats and dogs to her list.

“Are you serious? It’s bad enough I have to waste time and gas to care for the horses you have nothing to do with but won’t sell; now you want me to come to your house – while your there – so I can clean the litter, feed, and water 11 animals?!” Crook paced, furious. “Well, it’s too bad. I’ve already fed the horses, and I’m not getting back out tonight.”

It was a lie, he hadn’t fed the horses, but she would never know. Each day he still deluded himself into thinking it the last. Never once did he consider feeding them early, as if doing so could further encourage her behavior.

“I’m sorry I didn’t call sooner, but my back started hurting. I can’t handle the animals tonight, I need your help.” Effie cried, complaining of new aches and pains with each excuse Crook gave. She had two litter boxes, neither of which had been cleaned since we moved.

For almost three weeks, this new pattern continued. It evolved into Crook going straight to her house after work, making him 2-3 hours late getting home each night. We began fighting, both our limits stretched to the breaking point. Finally, he agreed to put his foot down. He didn’t have the balls to say a forceful “No!” but compromised by felling Effie we would be out of town for a week.

“I’m sorry, but we’re going to be over two hours away. If you can’t take care of your animals, maybe you should think about finding new homes for them.” Crook spoke kindly, but it didn’t matter.

Effie responded with shock and rage. The tears were instant, her cries deafening. “I can pay your gas. You could just wake up a little earlier and…”

“No! Do you hear yourself, do you know how crazy that sounds?!” He came close to losing his temper but reigned it in. “Please Mom, can you please take care of your animals for a week? I can’t handle this anymore, I need a break.”

We all needed a break. Effie pulled every emotional manipulation in the book, but Crook held strong. After an hour of being called an “ungrateful son whose abandoning his single mother and fur siblings to rot” she finally ended the call with, “Fine, I’m going to call you everyday to let you know everything is done… so if you haven’t heard from me by 6pm, something’s wrong.” She likes to hang up before you can respond. It’s her last line of defense; making poorly veiled insinuations something terrible is about to befall her and it’s your fault.

After no contact all week, she called us the morning we were due to return. “I’m alive, even though you clearly don’t care. I could have been dead and you wouldn’t know since you didn’t check on me once! My back is killing me now, I can’t move anymore. Feeding the horses and bending over that litter is just too much, I need your help. I haven’t eaten anything since breakfast yesterday because I can’t get out of my chair except to crawl to the bathroom.” She poured the guilt trips out like they were rehearsed, nary a breath taken.

Her act won her a visit from both of us. I don’t remember why, maybe we had to go somewhere before. Not only did we have to order, pay for, and deliver her food, the house reeked of litter left untouched for a week. I refused to participate in the chores on sheer principle. I almost ignored her when she called for me, but forced my feet to move anyway.

Seriously though, 6 cats, 2 litter boxes, 1 week, the smell. I know my fellow cat servants will all need a moment to shake it off, don’t worry, take your time. We’ll wait… * happy thoughts * … Okay, you good? Great.

She skipped the pleasantries and got straight to business, a trait I normally admire when it isn’t in lieu of delusional rants. “Can you believe he did that to me? Of all the ungrateful! I mean, the one time I need him. You have no idea how much I sacrificed for him! For him to just… I could have died!”

I resisted the urge to point out she was always in need. It was made easier by the fact she didn’t give me an opportunity to speak. She ranted for two hours while Crook tended her animals and cleaned. When he finally finished it was close to 8:00 and my happy place didn’t provide enough protection to stay any longer. Only severe Southern Hospitality Code of Ethics training held my feet in place and mouth closed as Effie tried to prevent us from leaving.

“Oh Honey, please don’t go. I’m afraid of being here alone in this big, old house. What if something happens and I can’t get to a phone? Please, why don’t y’all stay the night?” She cooed like a witch with a poisoned apple.

After another brazen display of emotional manipulation, Crook agreed. With a sad look and ‘what can you do’ shrug, he said “Just tonight.”

I can’t even. “That’s fine if you want to stay.” I smiled wide, careful to keep my voice non-threatening. “But we have animals and things to do at our house too. I’m going home, let me know if you want me to pick you up tomorrow.” I was already walking to the door, desperate to put distance between myself and Effie.

Fearing (correctly) Crook wouldn’t stay if I didn’t, she threw her Hail Mary. “You two should just move here! It makes so much sense! It’s a big house, plenty of room for my future grandkids, and think of all the money you’d save!”

Nothing raises my hackles faster than the threat of extra roommates. It was too much for my rookie, adult brain to handle. “There’s no way that’s happening. If you need any tips on how to handle your household, all you have to do is ask, but I can’t stay here any later. Crook are you coming or staying?”

That was the moment she started hating me, but it was worth it. Crook came home, and the confrontation won us a week of no contact. It seems a week was her max tolerance for accumulating litter.

Now we’re jumping ahead to the first time I went to work with Crook. If there are new readers today, I quit my job to travel with him because I was too codependent to be home alone for a week. Yes, I acknowledge the crazy, but this isn’t the post for dissecting my inability to cope with separation anxiety.

In the time we are skipping, Effie proved herself capable of caring for her animals when forced. For 6+ months, Crook’s drill site was only an hour away, but 12 hour shifts on top of the drive left little room for sleeping or eating. When all was said and done, he cared for the animals his week off, and Effie fended for herself when he worked. Did they try to con me into carrying the torch while he worked? You bet. Did I ever agree? No. Principles and all that.

Keeping in mind Crook still cared for her animals half the time, he proposed Effie care for our two cats while we were away. I had doubts. “I’m not sure if I’m comfortable with the idea of their litter not being cleaned for a week. She’ll say she did, but she still won’t scoop her own… no way she’s going to clean ours. Plus Gambit throws a fit if we’re even a few hours late, he’ll lose his mind if it’s a week!” I was baffled he couldn’t understand the certainty I felt.

Gordy is in front, Gambit in back. They’re old men in this picture, but they were babies at the time of this story.

“She really is getting better. It’s only one box for two cats, just let me talk to her. I promise, if I’m not 100% certain she’ll do it, we can call your parents.” Considering that a victory, I secretly sent my parents a few preemptive texts preparing them for the situation.

Unwilling to trust his “certain” faith in Effie, I listened to their conversation. It started worse than I expected. “Hey Ma, you got a sec? I wanted to talk to you about going to Nice City next week. We would need to leave Saturday and wouldn’t be back until Monday night, but…”

“Oh! That sounds lovely, but who would we get to take care of the horses?” Effie began listing prospects.

“No, wait! Mom, no, not you, us. I need you to feed our cats while we’re gone. You would only need to come once a day, Sunday-Sunday.” Crook explained carefully.

“I know that… I was just teasing. Gosh, you live pretty far to make that drive everyday… What do I get?” She giggled, playfully.

Crook clamped a hand over my mouth as I tried to scream into the phone. “I know it’s far, I have to do it all the time. Remember? I was hoping we could make it an even trade, you know? I do all your animals when we’re home, you do ours when we’re away.”

The silence was thick with tension, but it was my turn to prevent Crook from speaking hastily. By that time, I mastered the art to her manipulations. At first, her silence was genuine. I could hear her brain whirling, deciding what to wish for as she weighed the deed with our need, but she long ago settled that matter. Now the silence was her power. She imagined us sweating, eagerly awaiting her answer. As seconds ticked by she saw us turning worried, anxious, desperate. What else might we freely offer in that moment?

Well, I wasn’t a rookie anymore. We remained silent until finally, after I had to restrain Crook twice more, she sighed deeply, ensuring it was audible to us. “I mean. I guess. You seem determined to hold anything you do for me over my head, so fine. After I struggle my way through all your daily chores at the barn, I’ll drive all the way to your house.” She added a few sniffles for good measure.

“Thank you, I really appreciate it! Please don’t forget the litter, it’s super important, Mom. K-thanks-bye!“ I was genuinely proud of Crook. I didn’t believe Effie would do litter, but I honestly thought she would handle the food and water. We added a second litter box to help delay the inevitable, but Crook would do no more. He was certain she would really do it this time.

Noon Saturday, we settled into our hotel, pleased with the pictures from our scenic drive. While unpacking, we see Effie has text us the same message. “I’m not feeling well today, I’m going to the ER. If you don’t hear from me in a few hours, something bad happened.”

Checking the time, we see the text was sent over two hours ago. Do you see the genius in this? We had to play her game. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t know if she fed our cats. She was very much willing to bail if it suited her dramatic scene.

Crook called, but got voicemail. It wouldn’t be as dramatic if she answered. She wanted him assuming the worst. He tried a text, “How are you feeling?”

Receiving no immediate response, we find a place for lunch. Assuming she would call when satisfied with suspense level, we had a lovely day shopping followed by a nice dinner. Upon returning to our hotel that evening, we had not heard from her. I feared for our cats’ well-being more than hers. The likelihood of that day being the one she wasn’t crying wolf was too minuscule for even my bad luck.

Crook begins to legitimately worry for Effie which angers me further. Her charade was terrible for many reasons, but making your son believe you might be dead was plain cruel. I did my best to reassure him but had to contact my parents. I should have called sooner, but all I could do was not waste more time.

They were understandably annoyed at the late hour, otherwise agreed without fuss. After arriving at our house, they confirmed food bowls were empty. In attempt to comfort Crook, I hypothesized Effie may have fed the cats but wanted us to wonder. Learning she truly had concocted this charade to avoid the task rather than mere attention seeking angered me most. Thankfully, my parents volunteered to assume the weekly duties, ensuring the remaining days went smoothly.

Once I knew our cats were safe and comfortable, my rage faded quickly. I realized we were truly free. For one entire week, I would have no work, cleaning, responsibilities, or contact with Effie to dread. I was so happy, I shot off one last text. “Just wanted to let you know you’re off the hook. My parents took care of the cats and will continue to do so the rest of the week.” I thought it would give me great pleasure to ignore anything she may later reply.

She didn’t wait 10 minutes before calling. I answered, putting it on speaker for Crook to hear his healthy mother. “How dare you be worried about cats when I’m dying! Neither of you care about me at all! I’m pulling onto your street right now, but I guess I’ll turn around. Thanks for making me waste a trip for nothing!”

Taking advantage of her need to inhale, I interjected “How are you driving? I thought you were in the hospital… you know, dying?”

She hung up and we had no further contact until returning home the following Sunday. Against my wishes, Crook answered. Once again she felt bad and needed help with the animals. Also against my wishes, he agreed to go when she turned on the water works.

Do you think she cleaned her own litter boxes while we were away? If you do, you’re wrong. Her cats were finally fed up, they mutinied. Piss and shit were everywhere. The walls, floors, shoes, beds, you name it – covered! Crook cleaned it all. None of the animals had food or water. I’m grateful to my parents. Had our cats been in such a position, I would probably still be in jail.

Alright! It feels good to have those condensed into one. I’ll get the final section out soon. Hopefully in time to resume my struggle in trying to get another Halloween story out before my excuse to write scary stuff is gone for a year. Thank you all, and remember, be careful out there. Sometimes, they really are out to get you.

humor

Rain Showers

Matt Snyder of A Prolific Potpourri has narrated this story on his wonderful podcast, Short Story Saturday! I recommend checking him out!

Hubby and I lived in our first apartment for 18 hellish months. By that time, I had a work bestie, Phoebe. I suggest imagining her as Phoebe from Friends, but if she drank heavily and popped pills. She was my age but dating a 45 year old creeper. It wasn’t a fling, last I heard they were still together. Phoebe stayed with Mike through several beatings and trips to rehab, but that all came later. At the time we’re discussing, they were 6 months into their relationship and living together.

Mike owned a double-wide 45 minutes outside of town. There was one gas station 15 minutes away, otherwise they were alone with a few scattered neighbors. His home sat between his grandmother’s and aunt’s, but Aunt (Dee) moved in with the granny when her husband died. He committed suicide five years prior after being fired, and his affairs were made public knowledge. He drove to a secluded area to shoot himself, but Dee never went into their house again. I can’t blame her there, but personally I wouldn’t have left my diary behind for anyone to find.

During a particularly bad rant to Phoebe, she told me about Dee’s situation. Apparently the 4 bed, 3 bath house needed cosmetic repairs, and was available for rent to anyone capable. Due to the work required, rent (water included) was only $300. Life in the country is cheaper in general, but to give you an idea of living costs in my hometown, the rent for our tiny crap-hole was considered cheap at $550.

Hubby and I were ecstatic, it was exactly the kind of work he does. We followed Phoebe and Mike there that evening. The money saved on rent would be more than enough to justify the extra gas cost. “Is… Is that a house or a trailer?” I asked Hubby as we pulled into the driveway.

“That would be a trailer with extra rooms built on each end.” He explained, slightly unsure. After a full walk around, he corrected, “It’s actually two trailers with two additions, none of which match.”

I know my maps aren’t fancy, but I swear this is completely accurate. The problem this time is the location and trashy owner, not my lack of art skills.

“They don’t expect you to do anything on the outside. There’s no leaks; structure, electrical, and plumbing are solid, but the rooms need to be cleaned and painted. They had pets inside, so they want to rip out the carpet and install linoleum, but that’s the worst of it” Mike reassured as he struggled to open the front door. If his assessment had been accurate, everything would have worked out fine.

“Are the utilities already on?” I asked, too entranced at the prospect of living far from Rob and Amy to be suspicious.

“No not yet, but she already started the process, they should be on by the end of the week.” Mike answered and lead us through the house.

The stench of carpet repeatedly soaked in urine and left to dry assaulted our senses upon entry. The woman was clearly a hoarder, it quickly became apparent why the extensions were done haphazardly. They built where they could when they needed more space. The living room, kitchen, one bedroom, and bath were free of clutter stacks, but the remaining rooms were so full you couldn’t enter. Look, I know this has more red flags than a date who casually mentions living with his mother, but that’s why I wrote Breakfast of Champions first. If you haven’t read it, you can’t follow the thought process through this decision.

Sure, the place looked and smelled bad, but at the time, I was working from home and Hubby did these kinds of repairs for a living. We figured we could be cozy in a week and clean the spare rooms at our leisure. The living room and kitchen alone were bigger than our entire apartment. Honestly, we already had our eyes on a few things. There were all sorts of buried treasures, including a loaded gun hidden in a curio cabinet, but that’s for another day.

We moved the following weekend when utilities were restored. The house was so filthy we asked friends and family for help, but we only got Amy. My parents came, but stressed me out so badly we let them leave. Amy was excited to come, she was fighting with Rob and packed for the weekend. It was better than no help at all, we were grateful.

After checking each appliance and faucet, we learned the fridge was broken, the kitchen had the only functioning sink, the washer didn’t spin, most outlets didn’t work, nor did the guest shower, and a dead rat floated in the toilet. Every second I suffered from Amy’s Xanax delusions were justified when she reached in, grabbed the rat’s tail, and dropped it into a trash bag. “Huh, that was gross.” She shrugged it off as if she were discussing inconvenient weather.

Mike delivered a new fridge, otherwise nothing else was repaired for the 6 months we stayed there. Hubby wears 4-5 outfits daily, we can’t go long without washing clothes. Desperate, I tried to clean them without spin cycle assistance. I rung out each item before throwing it into the dryer, but the best way to describe the resulting pain in my hands is wet-burn. Plus, drying heavily soaked clothing broke the dryer inside two weeks.

We learn fast, it didn’t take long to understand our landlady had no intentions of making the home livable. We delivered our first rent payment in person, believing we would make fast introductions, hand them money, and retreat. Standard procedure. Not for these ladies. Dee and her mother were lonely, chatty women. They insisted we come in to “set a spell.” Thats hillbilly for “we want you to sit and listen to us talk a few hours.”

Scared and nervous we entered the witch’s lair, and again, were immediately assaulted by the pungent oder of urine, but fresh this time. Imagine you’re in a movie theater wearing flip-flops. You know what it feels and sounds like walking on those floors? That’s exactly what their carpet was like. Yes, I said carpet. Let that sink in a moment. If I was going to be trapped anyway, I wanted the conversation to be beneficial. I gave her a list of our major issues, most importantly the plumbing.

“I think we need to address these items before we begin cosmetics. The house isn’t livable.” I wanted to be polite, we wanted this to work.

“Oh my, I don’t know what could have happened, everything worked perfectly when I lived there.” Dee reviewed my list. “But there’s no reason to wait, my son is a plumber and I’m sure he can find a washer real quick.”

It was hard to resist pointing out the last time she entered the home was seven years go, but I managed. “That sounds great, but we can’t wash clothes until then. If he can get it quickly, it shouldn’t hurt to wait. We (Hubby) go through clothes too fast to dirty more with house work. My parents live outside the opposite end of town, it’s almost an hour from here. That’s too far to take clothes every other day.” I made a conscious effort to maintain a smile.

“Ah, I see! Well that’s no problem at all. You can was clothes here while we wait on the new one.” Dee beamed proudly.

I would have worn each pair of underwear for a week before I did laundry in that house. They would smell worse leaving than going. As it is, we burned the clothes we wore inside this first day. I’m not joking. I would like to take a moment to apologize for the sins we committed against the environment, but I was raised in a place that doesn’t believe in science. I didn’t know better, I am truly sorry. They were old clothes anyway, so when the smell clung to us we threw them in the burn pile.

By Sunday afternoon, we filled five 42 gallon trash bags but had no clue what to do with them. We hadn’t made a dent in our closet, where we were surprised to find clothes piled floor to ceiling. No hangers or baskets, nothing folded, just clothes thrown in until it was full. “But wait! Can’t you donate the clothes to charity?” You ask. That was also my initial response. Unfortunately, it was soon apparent we found the rat queen’s nest.

The smell was our first warning sign, but tolerable by our new, lowered standards. Armed with rubber gloves and face masks, we initiated contact with the pile. Rat feces fell from each item we picked up. Some things were chewed and matted together, some were stiff as a board. When the first live rat fled from the pile, we changed tactics. Newly armed with shovels and rakes, we scooped clothes into heavy duty trash bags. Hopefully you now understand why I would be averse to have them in my car, especially for multiple trips. Burning them honestly seemed like our only choice.

When Amy left Monday, we considered our living spaces almost as good as it would get. We obviously couldn’t waste money fixing the house, but we ripped out the carpets for our health and sanity. Once the living room and bedroom were clear, we saw there were very few places not permanently piss-stained. The thought of walking on it everyday was unsettling to say the least. Are you familiar with the felt paper used underneath shingles?

This stuff, it’s like thick construction paper.

Far from glamorous, but we had tons of the stuff and it put something clean under our feet. After the first two months, we adjusted to our new routines. We learned to brush our teeth in the kitchen, took five minute showers, and never left the safety of our living areas. It was around this time, the complaints about plumbing got serious. We accepted we would never have faucets or the other bathrooms functioning, but Hubby found a leak under our good bathroom. That scared us. If it stopped working, we were beyond screwed. I do not ‘pop squats’ no ma’am.

Every day for weeks I sent messages to Dee and Phoebe, “We have a leak, I’m really worried about it.” I understood they weren’t capable of concern for our general well-being, so I decided to appeal to their needs adding, “I’m mainly concerned because of your water bill. I’ve seen leaks cost several hundred to the water company alone.” That one always earned me a response, but not one I wanted.

“Oh goodness me! My son is a plumber, I can ask him to fix it. Can you maybe just fill up a couple buckets to flush and wash with, then you can cut the water off?” Dee suggested this as if it weren’t the same son who was supposed to provide a new washer. I was skeptical.

We tried it for a few days, but the shutoff valve was ridiculously hard to access, and when days turned to weeks we were beyond our limits with Dee. Each time I spoke to her she behaved as if it were the first time. At the end of the first week she let slip, “My son is a plumber, I can call him to come fix it!”

“You said that last week, have you still not called anyone?!” My calm facade fell momentarily, but I struggled to regain it in her awkward silence.

Finally, she said “I did. I did… but he was busy, maybe he forgot. I’ll call again right now.” It was the first time she ended a conversation voluntarily.

As I’m sure you can all guess, this continued until they received a $400 water bill. Dee called crying, sucking snot back every few words. “What… what happened?!” I thought… but you said you could keep the water off. You… you said… you didn’t mind!”

I never cared for her poor me act to begin with and now she pushed me far past caring about etiquette. “Never once did I say we didn’t mind, I said it was doable for a few days! That was over two weeks ago!”

“I… I’ll call my son… he’s… a plumber.” Dee hung up, but she didn’t call her son, she called Mike.

A few minutes later, Mike knocked on our door, a sheepish Phoebe standing behind him. I knew what was coming. “Ah, let me guess, you heard about the water.”

“Yea, look. We really need to work something out. You have to see it’s unfair to tell her about a major leak and decide to turn the water back on when she can’t get it done the next day.” Mike tried to hand me the water bill, but too many things pushed my rage past the limit of control. I’ll leave out my curses, they’re unbecoming.

He was use to commanding fear and respect from Phoebe and the two old biddies he cared for, he forgot you can’t treat other people that way. I was already in defense mode before he tried to bow up in my front door to push that cray on me. I ignored his outstretched hand completely, and looked past him to Phoebe. “Do I need to show him the texts and calls from the last several weeks or do you want to explain it to him? Because the way we’ve been living it’s not going to be pretty if I have to relive a play-by-play.”

Phoebe tugged his shirt sleeve, “She really has. Non-stop. I told you.”

The look on Mike’s face said it all. Dee called him crying her pity story, he wanted her to leave him alone, so he believed her hogwash without an ounce of thought. Caveman then decided he would bully his way through like he did with everything else. It was only a few weeks until the water was shut off completely. Dee claimed she couldn’t afford a plumber or water bills. She invited us to use her facilities, but if you’ve been paying attention, you know that wasn’t a valid option. Instead we drove to mooch water from family.

Life wasn’t too terrible. It was genuinely better than dealing with Rob and Amy until Hubby had a wreck. We were less than a week into living without water when a car came into his lane. I’m thankful he wasn’t seriously injured, but our only car was totaled. I don’t want to go on a tangent about the wreck, but it took almost 3 months to receive our insurance money, and we were too young for a rental. Once a week, my parents drove us for groceries, otherwise we were stranded. It was kind of fun at first. Hubby couldn’t take jobs, and winter was an incredibly slow time of year for a porch building company. I took a few short phone calls a day, but the rest of our time was spent popping Adderall, smoking weed, and watching tv.

We could cook and brush our teeth with store bought water, that was never a problem when we had so many larger challenges to face. Washing clothes had us stumped, but we worked out a routine of washing at Phoebe’s every Friday while they bar hopped. We grew to look forward to those nights. We were able to have a real shower and toilet. Some of you may be wondering why we didn’t visit regularly, but we just aren’t those people. Maybe if it were only Phoebe, but we hated Mike and I have a super weird thing about potty etiquette.

The first two days without water, we became desperate enough to use each toilet regardless of flush capabilities. Unfortunately, that put us over the max waste limit one can tolerate in their home, and we were forced to find alternatives. Hubby peed outside freely, but to my great despair, I too was forced to pop the squats. Alas, this did nothing to help with pooping. How campers and hunters use bushes I’ll never understand, but Hubby tried walking into the woods on Day 3. He returned covered in poison ivy and red-bug bites. So, what do do?

Well, it turns out, if you take a 40qt pot, and hook a few Walmart bag handles over the pot handles, you’re off to a good start. No matter what, don’t forget to hook those handles. Learn from our mistake, you don’t want to clean your own. Then you need four 4×4 cut offs taller than your pot, 6 inches is ideal. This requires a flat, even surface, and it helps if your willing to put a few screws in the floor. We were. Again, not something you want to learn the hard way. Once you have your base, you need to two more (preferably decking size) boards to lay across the top. Now you have a redneck toilet. It doesn’t flush, and you have to change the bag after each use, but it kept us pooping indoors.

The sad part is, once that’s resolved you have to figure out what to do with the bags. Obviously we couldn’t burn them as we had other trash, no one picked up garbage this far out of town, we were baffled. Then we noticed the shed in our backyard. We were use to ignoring it after our first look, when we moved in we saw it was full of garbage and smelled of mold. “You think that would work?” I asked Hubby as we shared a knowing glance.

“I think it’ll have to, let’s check it out.” He carefully approached the shed with a shovel, using the spade to swing the broken door ajar. It couldn’t latch, but it closed far enough to get the job done. The shed appeared to be Dee’s first hoarding victim. We honestly believed if (big if) anyone ever discovered our shame, it would be years away with no reason to suspect it wasn’t Dee herself. Hoarders save all sorts of weird stuff after-all.

Pooping quickly became the worst part of each day, but when the shed could hold no more, we were forced to hike into the woods. We found a deep gully to throw our bags into, but ignoring the fact we had to add a lengthy walk to our waste disposal routine, it felt deeply wrong. It’s the one routine I couldn’t adjust to. As the weeks progressed, with no end in sight, we sank deeper into depression. While we only had to suffer the poo routine in the morning, other challenges faced us through each day.

We may have showered every Friday, but we couldn’t go more than a day without feeling gross. Bird baths with store water were a waste of time and resources, but it’s what we did most often. The first time it rained was on Day 5. “It’s raining hard enough to shower outside, do you want to try?” Hubby suggested, already collecting soap and shampoo.

“Yea, I think I do.” I was excited at the idea. I enjoyed playing in the rain, and this gave me a valid reason.

We don’t have snow here, our winters rarely have truly cold days, but apparently standing in the rain will make all the difference. As soon as we stepped into the open, rain hit us hard and cold, it felt like someone knocked the air out of me. Hubby was able to last almost five minutes for a complete scrub down, but I only managed to wash my hair. We felt better than we had in days regardless. We showered every time it rained for the entire 8 weeks.

The first time rent was due after losing water, I refused to pay. Dee was furious, but I wouldn’t budge. “No! We’ve been living without water for over three weeks, and no, we are not comfortable using yours. Even if we were that wouldn’t make this ok.” I was no longer trying to be polite. Those days were long gone.

“But I need rent money to pay for the water. You can’t have water until you pay rent!” She demanded as if she cut the water off as leverage.

“If I thought there was any truth to that at all, I would pay it just because that’s how desperate we are, but I know full well that’s not where the money will go. You had our money and several weeks before the first water bill, but you did nothing.” I was shaking with fury.

When Dee resorted to calling us con-artists and refused to discuss water further, I hung up mid rant. A few minutes later she realized I was no longer on the phone and tried to call back. I ignored the calls, well out of patience for the day. The biggest surprise of all came the following day. With no forewarning, a man resembling a dirty, redneck Santa knocked on our door.

He introduced himself as Dee’s son-in-law, and was not a plumber but explained, “She won’t leave me alone about it. I done told her over and over this place needs to be tore down, but she just don’t wanna hear it. I came by today just to shut her up. You all need to get outta here ASAP, she ain’t got no money, and if she did she’d just spend it on stupid shit from the tv.”

I thanked the man for his honesty and blocked Dee’s numbers. We already planned to run for it when the insurance money came, but I decided there was no point to suffer through any further contact with her. There was no fear of her coming in person, she wouldn’t even pull into the driveway. After having her blocked several days, she sent Mike in her stead.

Lucky for him, he arrived with a vastly different attitude. He apologized profusely, told us to continue ignoring Dee, and reminded us we could use their facilities anytime. It was all very amicable in their regard, but I’m sure he used a different act when reporting back to Dee. I didn’t care in the least as long as we had no contact with her. When the insurance money finally came through, we bought an Avenger and moved to a nice 2 bed 2 bath apartment in town. It was a wonderful, glorious home.

A few weeks after the move, Phoebe informed me Dee hired a lawyer and intended to sue us. She and Mike were present during the lawyer’s visit, and the conversation was phenomenal.

“Not only did they refuse to pay rent, they stole from me! I want all my rent money, my stuff, and then something for all the emotional distress they put me through. They lived there for 6 months!” Dee ranted at the lawyer.

“Well we can probably get the rent money, but pending what they did with the stolen items… what all did they take? Do you have a copy of your renters contract?” The lawyer asked, pausing to look up from his notes.

“We didn’t do no contract, but they robbed me blind! I’ll have to make you a list, we gotta get in there and look, but my beautiful glass cabinet is gone!”

“You didn’t have any contract? That’s going to make recovering rent very difficult if not impossible. What other big items were taken? Did any of you see them take it? What’s our proof?” The lawyer put his notes away, already suspicious of his “easy paycheck” Dee described over the phone.

“I told you, I gotta get in there and see, I don’t know what else yet! Of course they didn’t take it when we was looking! They ain’t gonna admit to it, they saying they never took nothing! Liars! Liars and thieves!”

With a deep sigh, the lawyer asked, “Well why wouldn’t they pay rent? Did they give a reason? They just didn’t have it, or what?”

“They said they wasn’t gonna pay till I fixed the water, but that’s bullshit! They wasn’t supposed to be using it!” Now fully exasperated, the lawyer asked, “Wait. Are you saying that house doesn’t have water?!”

“Course it did. They had water till they ran up a $400 bill and got it turned off.” Dee snapped.

Mike, tired of the conversation, sped things over the finish line. “Look, they paid rent on time every month until the water was cut off. Aunt Dee did the water in her own name, it was suppose to be included in the rent.”

Dee looked at Mike with black hatred, but the lawyer spoke first. “I think I’ve heard enough. Ma’am , if they decide sue you, give me a call. Otherwise you need to thank your lucky stars and leave those folks alone.

And that friends, was how Dee left our lives for good. You have to be very careful when house shopping. Whether it’s to rent or own, always do your homework. I’m glad I finally got to write this one. We didn’t have time to cover all the good stories from living there, but the water incident was easily the most difficult. Next up, I’ve decided to make my 50th post the Halloween Special! I hope to post it in the next few days, until then stay safe and suspicious. Remember, the paranoid ones survive horror movies longest.

humor

Breakfast of Champions

I’ve decided to tell you about my first apartment with Hubby. It’s necessary information if I want to tell you the living without water situation. As promised, I don’t write romance gush, nor do we have time if I want to cover the best drama from our first apartment. The point to this post is to accurately convey how desperate we were to move away from that place. By the time we are finished here, that will be abundantly clear, but first I must ask your indulgence as I lead you there properly.

To begin this story, let’s go over how Hubby and I met. I have one cousin on Mom’s side, Rob, who is 7 years older. Our grandmother watched us as children, and Rob hated my annoying ass. Rightfully so, I was terrible. As we grew, Rob moved away to live his life as a waiter. The fancy kind, he worked at places celebrities ate, Britney Spears among others. Years passed, I grew, broke up with Crook, and landed back at my parent’s house, Rob’s taunts largely forgotten.

Dad came home one evening, and handed me a scrap of paper with a phone number. “What’s this suppose to be?” Dad still believed I wanted to socialize. You have to stay on your toes with that one.

“I ran into Rob at the gas station. He moved back and wanted to see you… but he looked kinda rough. I didn’t want to give him your number so I got his. You can talk to him if you want, but be careful, he sounded drunk.” Dad warned, hoping I didn’t want to call. Interesting change of pace.

Unfortunately, my memories were deleted so long ago, I forgot they were missing (how’s that for a mind-fuck). Any inkling I did have was chalked to, of course he was mean, do you remember how annoying we were? The fact he never physically hurt us says he’s practically a saint. “Really?! He asked for me? Wants to see me? Wants me to call?”

Dad’s shoulders slumped in my excitement. “Well, yea, but maybe you should start off with a few conversations before you go meeting up with him. We don’t know wh… where are you going?” He called after me as I ran to my room.

“Don’t worry, I got it. Thanks!” Silly Dad, Rob knows how to handle drugs. Rob is my super cool big cousin, I bet he’ll smoke with me. I can’t wait to show him how grown I am.

I took several deep breaths, rehearsed a few opening pleasantries, and dialed his number. He answered almost immediately. “Hey Big Cousin! Dad just gave me your number, you’re back home?” Damnit, you’re blowing this. Calm down, be cool.

“Sup, Lil Cuz? Glad you called, we need to meet up. Start hanging out and shit.” Rob said casually, proving he was still the modern Fonzie I believed him to be.

This is the best mental image you can have. Me idolizing Rob’s existence, he completely unaware of my presence.

“Yea! Totally! Where you staying? Whatcha doing tonight?” Stupid! Don’t say tonight, could you be more needy?! I couldn’t help myself. I assumed Rob would have his own place. Possibly one with a spare room. Any room not in my parent’s house would be a welcome upgrade.

“I’m staying with MawMaw (except he uses her first name, so cool) for now, it’s better than living with Dad. I’m about to get an apartment though. My fiancé is pregnant and we want to get a place ready for the baby.” He said these things without a hint of shame, but my hopes were stomped further into the ground with each sentence.

MawMaw?! No, not her! I can’t go over there! Pregnant? Even if he had a mansion I can’t live with a baby! Pregnant woman is probably just as bad. Don’t hate me too much for the thought. The only thing I knew of pregnant women was tv portrayed them as extremely emotional. They were either angry, sad, hungry, or a combination of the three. “Oh, that’s neat.” I couldn’t think of anything more to say, I turned on auto pilot and went to my happy place.

“Yea, I want you to meet Amy. What you got planned for tonight? We could come over, her and MawMaw hate each other so she won’t come here.” The casual manner in which he informed me of one red flag after another made me nervous.

“Um, I was just going to Cody’s house, you could come there.” Most of you probably haven’t read How I Met My Mother, but we don’t have time for a recap. An aunt raised me for a few years, and her oldest son, who I just decided to call Cody, is a year younger. We were always close, and he was living alone in the house we grew up in. If it weren’t next to his father’s parents, I would have lived there too. Ok? Moving on.

“Cool, text me the address, we’ll see you later.” The call ended. I snapped out of auto pilot and got to work on Cody.

Thankful I retained enough sense not invite a stranger to our house, I called Cody. As always, he was game for anything perceived as a chance to show off. One day I do intend to talk about Cody at length, he has a tragic story, but without his background you may be tempted to judge him unfairly. For that reason, I will not include the multitude of annoying behaviors he exhibited this night. Don’t worry, nothing he did registers on his Cray Scale, you aren’t missing anything important.

Rob and Amy arrived an hour after myself, and as promised, he looked a little rough. Maybe if I hadn’t been in prove Dad wrong mode, I could have accepted it sooner, but Rob became his father. He was a full-blown alcoholic, probably still is; we haven’t spoken in a few years. He introduced us to Amy, and we all shared a fairly pleasant evening. I theorized winning Amy’s approval would ensure continued contact with Rob. I’ll leave it to you guys to classify results of said theory. It’s laughable how largely she impacted my future. Before I say things to make you hate Amy, know that she has been off Xanax several years, and I love her very much.

“So you were Crook’s girlfriend? That’s crazy, yea I know him. He went to our school, he was in Jessie’s (older sister) grade. You know, you should meet my little brother. You two have so much in common it’s kind of creepy.” Amy warmed to me quickly. I thought she wanted to befriend her fiancé’s cousin, and I’m sure that was a factor at first, but she wasn’t lying. Amy is Hubby’s sister, we indeed have much in common.

Hubby and I met the next night. We sat in his apartment with Amy and Rob, silently, both too shy to speak.

“Alright y’all, this is ridiculous, we tried to let you do it yourselves, but it’s been over an hour.” Amy stood, arms flailing in her annoyance. A quick glance at Hubby revealed he too, was mortified. I felt slight relief from terror induced chest pains as I watched another potential relationship go up in smoke. Then Amy continued, exasperated this time, “So. Whose read Harry Potter.” And with a deep sigh, she returned to her seat.

The spell was broken as Hubby and I both began our detailed analysis of the series. Our motto became ‘you had me at Harry’ and the rest is history. Now, let me tell you about Hubby’s apartment. I made you two maps this time!

It’s one big house divided into 4 apartments. We will discuss the interpersonal relationships with the downstairs folk at a later date, but it’s a cuckoo nest of cray.
This is our floor plan, next door mirrors it. Our closets shared a wall, bathrooms, etc.

As you see, there is only one bedroom and it must be crossed to reach the bathroom or kitchen. This made the fact Hubby had a roommate with a live-in girlfriend very uncomfortable. That situation in itself is a very long, complicated ordeal, but two months into our relationship, the roommate stole rent and fled the state. While it created a difficult hurdle, it was well worth having the place to ourselves. Since it does not relate to why we had to move, we will save my ex brother-in-law’s story for later. Remember, it’s the South. We’re all related.

Now we finally arrive to the good stuff. Oh where to start with Rob and Amy? Let’s pick up after the baby is born and taken by an aunt, some may find Cousin-Nephew’s situation upsetting, and that isn’t where your focus should be. From this point forward, understand the wall between apartments is paper-thin. Only poor, desperate people live there, and most (like Amy) were without jobs or transportation. Hubby and I shared my car, and Rob lost his shortly after I moved in. Please enjoy the following examples of what life is like when you live next to a cousin and sister addicted to Xanax, pain pills, and alcohol.

Each morning I worked, I woke at 8 to be at Giddy Up by 9. I learned to dress quickly and quietly, grinch-walk to my car, and never ever look around. I stopped showering before work, but sometimes even these precautions weren’t enough. Descending the steps outside, I hear Amy’s door open. She calls my name, but I keep running. I hear her footsteps cross the porch, chasing me. I reverse onto the street, sweating, staring straight ahead. Please make it, please make it, I don’t have time. Then she is standing in the center of the road, blocking any chance of passing.

“Hey! I was screaming your name the whole way down! How did you not hear me?” The way she continued pulling on the locked door told me her Breakfast of Champions was kicking in nicely. I unlocked the door on her 5th try, anger burning through me.

“I don’t have time for this Amy, I’m going to be late for work.” I said through gritted teeth, knowing it was pointless.

“Yea you do, I just want McDonald’s. You don’t have to be there until 9, and it’s only going to take 4 to get there, and…” I went to my happy place as she continued to account for each minute leading to 8:56 when I would arrive 4 minutes early.

I was already at the first stop sign, anxious to get her out of my car. I knew it was pointless to communicate when she was this far gone, but that day she insisted on asking questions instead of her usual scattered chatter. “Thank you for taking me. I’m so hungry, but Rob ate all my groceries last night. Do you want a breakfast biscuit or something? I have enough.” She offered, showing me a handful of ones, most likely Rob’s tips from the night before.

“No, I’m fine, thanks.” I tried to be polite, all I wanted was to get her out of my car.

“Oh. Ok. I can’t believe Rob ate all those groceries last night. You know, I get $500 in food stamps every month and we just spent over $200 a few nights ago. Hey! Thanks for taking me, I’m so hungry. Do you want something? I can get you like, a breakfast biscuit or something!” She excitedly showed me the ones again.

“Nah, I’m really good. We get breakfast at work.” I answered, then decided to add “I get there early so I have time to eat.”

She didn’t catch my sarcasm. “Rob was so hungry last night! After work, a busboy smoked some really good weed with him. It gave him the munchies so bad, he ate all our groceries, it was insane. But now I woke up starving and there’s nothing to eat. Thank you so much for taking me. Oh! Hey, do you want something? I got plenty of money!” Once again she held the ones out like an offering.

I doubt you want to read the other repeats anymore than I want to type them, but there were at least 3 more. When we pulled into the parking lot, there were 7 cars in front of us. The ride was so terrible, I counted them several times. I took her money next time she held it out, placing it on the dashboard clearly in her view. I hoped it would help her retain our discussion, but it didn’t. In the end, she ordered two drinks and six sausage biscuits. “I can eat two at once, but I want something to heat up later since Rob has a double shift and you work til 6:00.” She reasoned as if she weren’t simultaneously informing me I was her dinner plan.

I didn’t feel the need to respond to her statement, but I think she was fishing for confirmation I would be home on time. After her longest stretch of silence, she tried again as she swallowed her first bite of food. “Oh my god, this is so good, I needed this so bad, you have no idea.” I had a pretty good idea considering how long she talked. “Thank you so much for taking me, I was really scared I was gonna miss you when you didn’t hear me on the balcony. They’re so good. You want a biscuit? ” She asked, one hand under her chin to catch the falling food as she talked.

“I’m seriously good dude, I just want to get to work.” I was having a hard time controlling my anger at that point. If I turned up the music, she screamed over it. If I tried to talk, she cut me off before I finished a sentence. If I ignored her, she repeated herself louder with each attempt. I was only one stop sign away from home when I snapped.

“I can’t believe I ate a whole biscuit before we got home, I…” I was in another world, focused on surviving the last few minutes when I felt her hand on my shoulder. “Did you hear me? I said thank you for taking me you’re such a life saver. Hey! Do you want a biscuit?”

We were right there, but the word vomit spewed forth so suddenly there was no stopping it. “Fine, yea I’ll take a damn biscuit, Amy.” I held my hand out with every intention of throwing it to the backseat in spite, but it never came.

When I looked at Amy, her jaw was dropped, eyes wide in shock or terror, maybe disgust. She looked from the food to me, back to the food, speechless. I mean mugged her right back until she finally spoke. “Oh. Well. It’s just that I asked you before I ordered and you said no… I ordered a specific number, why wouldn’t you say you wanted one then?”

Guys, snap doesn’t come close to describing what I did. As she finished speaking, I was giving the gas pedal an extra push to get us across the finish line. We flew into the driveway, I slammed on the breaks throwing Amy forward, and put it in park dramatically. Before she could move, I was screaming, “are you joking. The hell is wrong with you? I don’t want your damn biscuit! I told you no! No, no, no, no, no, no. All the way there after you chased me down! All the way home while you rambled on, I said no! I said no over and over and finally I said yes hoping it would shut you up! I don’t care you don’t wanna give me a biscuit, I care you apparently remember asking the other times! So why the hell would you keep asking?!” I started choking on my words at the end, regaining enough control to close my mouth.

“Wow, I was trying to be polite, it’s called manners, maybe you should try it sometime.” The anger I felt throbbed in my chest. Amy looked at me as if I were a worm and got out. She forgot our altercation before they finished eating and it was never mentioned again.

After work, I visited with a friend to avoid going home. I didn’t feel like immediately taking Amy for more food, but if I waited for Rob leave work, he would bring her leftovers. Another infuriating habit she developed was to snub me if I didn’t do as she wished the second she wished it. She enjoyed walking into our apartment without knocking to ask Hubby, “can you drive me to the store for this sob story reason?” while refusing to acknowledge my presence. Somehow she thought it acceptable to have her brother chauffeur her in my car.

Rob and Amy fought daily and sought refuge in our apartment when they separated. It’s hard to say which one was harder to deal with, but Rob was violent so I’ll say he was worse. When they fought in earnest, they could be heard through the wall. Pending our mood, sometimes we were nosy enough to listen. Our favorite fight happened on a rainy, fall afternoon. Hubby and I were enjoying a day off when we heard the familiar sound of objects hitting the wall. Having just smoked, we muted the tv, curious.

“Why are you such a bitch! I’m so sick of it! You did it on purpose I know you did!” Rob was screaming, glass shattered against the wall, making us jump in surprise.

“I’m sorry! I wasn’t thinking, I swear it wasn’t on purpose.” Amy cried. I could picture her retreating into the bedroom as she became harder to hear.

“No! Don’t you dare use that excuse again! You say that every damn time, I’m done! Do you hear me?” Rob yelled louder, the objects he threw sounded larger, and we were dying to know what she could have done. Our guess was taking some of his pills, but we were wrong.

“No, I swear, I’m sorry, but they really are accidents. It’s really hard to remember I can’t fart.” It may be the most pathetic sentence I ever heard. Hubby and I stared at each other frozen, dumbfounded, wondering if she could be joking, but deep down knowing she wasn’t.

Rob’s voice cracked saying, “shut up! You ruin all my shit” and fell silent when he heard the walls roaring with laughter.

We rolled on the ground, tears spilling from our eyes as we heard Rob’s curses walk out his door and down the steps. He walked away, drunk and embarrassed while Amy joined in our laughter. She explained Rob was allowed to fart anywhere, it’s ok for men, but women should go to the bathroom. “What’s up with that? Is it something you grew up with?” She asked me.

“No! I don’t know where he got that bowl of crazy, could be one of Uncle’s loose screws.” I shrugged, trying to control my giggles. Rob sounded like she cheated on him, but no, she farted.

I know this is getting long, I’m sorry, let’s do one more then we can call it a day. It took a while, but I finally taught Hubby to keep the door locked. He had an occasional lapse, but after this night, he never forgot again. We lived together almost a year when we woke to someone trying to break down our door. It was 2:30AM, and we had no guns. We relaxed when the sounds of an attempted break in turned to banging on our living room wall. It was Rob or Amy seeking another mediation.

“They muse be really messed up to go this far. We are not engaging with this bullshit. They’re not going to learn they can get our attention with this kind of behavior.” I angrily informed Hubby. He shoved his head under a pillow, waiting for the end. I watched as our phones began to ring in concert with hard knocks against our bedroom wall.

I didn’t disturb Hubby until his mom began calling. We knew better than to answer, but we did read her texts as we sat quietly in the darkness, pretending to sleep. Apparently the cops were outside. This time, when Rob burned Amy with his cigarette, she wasn’t in the mood to put up with it. She ran to the bathroom, and Rob chased her. With her eyes closed, she grabbed the blow dryer cord and swung. The dryer caught him in in the jaw, cutting his cheek, so he called the police on her.

These officers responded to their fights almost weekly, and while they didn’t care for Amy’s refusal to press charges time and again, they weren’t eager to do Rob any favors either. Amy decided she could make us write witness statements claiming Rob hurt himself, but in the end the cops were out of patience. They offered a choice between both being arrested, or shutting up. They shut up.

The next morning, the fight promptly resumed when they heard us return from breakfast. They followed into our apartment, yelling their stories, angry with us for not getting involved. I ate silently, refusing to acknowledge either until Rob knocked my burger from my hand. “Hey! You better listen up Lil Cuz, that shit don’t fly with me.” I watched my burger fall to the floor, ruined as he rambled his nonsense. The room fell silent, whether actual or rage induced, I’ll never know.

All my rage from the last year finally boiled over. I fell into a magical zone of awareness where time slowed, all fear gone; I was confident, unstoppable, and pissed off. I stared at Rob’s finger, pointing at me, shaking, and grabbed it with my left hand. I snapped it sideways with an audible pop as I punched his still moving lips with my right. Rob’s head snapped sideways, a drop of blood appeared at the corner of his mouth, and his finger yanked from my grasp. I felt a new surge of rage as his eyes, full of hatred, came back to meet my gaze. I punched him again, this time in that wide, accusing eye. It was black the next day.

To Hubby’s credit, he moved quickest in the after-shock. He got between us as Rob prepared to overpower me, which I’m sure he would have done quickly given the chance. “You need to go now, you went too far.” Hubby told him. Amy came to stand next to me as we waited to see how Rob would respond.

“You tripping bro, that bitch just assaulted me! You’re about to go to jail, bitch! You under…” Rob’s spit was showering us, I couldn’t take another second. I wasn’t cut out for handling that level of crazy, I can barely control my own crazy on a good day, and this bastard wanted to play? Oh I played.

I screamed. In the middle of his little threat, I wailed like a murder victim. When I saw his mouth stay shut, I spoke. Everyone uncovered their ears as I said, “you won’t do shit, you have a record, and the cops hate you. Me and Hubby have never been in trouble, so tell me, do you think they’re going to believe the three of us, or you? I mean when I call to say we heard you beating Amy through the wall so I hit you? Look, my knuckle is bleeding, it’s obvious I did it. Do you think they’ll laugh when they hear your little cousin beat you up?” I spit my words like venom, almost hoping he called my bluff, but Amy broke the silence first.

“If you don’t leave now, I’ll let her hit me next and we’re all gonna tell her story. I bet it plays nicely when my face has the bruises to match.” I thought it was genius, but after another pause, Rob left. He cursed us the whole way down the street, but didn’t come back until the next day. As always, he was sober and sorry, but I was no longer disillusioned. It would be another six months before we got out, but this was the worst we dealt with while living there. Rob and Amy eventually moved into a better apartment, but their breakup story is another long ordeal that will need it’s own post. I suppose it’s comforting to know I won’t run out of material anytime soon.

Thank you all for re-living this experience with me. Each time someone enjoys a story it makes every crazy moment I endured worth while. Blogging has been fun and therapeutic, but I wouldn’t have made it this far without all you, dear readers. I change hobbies as often as normal people change clothes, the fact I’m over the two month mark with no sign of getting bored is truly astounding. I’m now fully nested and have every intention of staying that way. I purchased my domain, I read that’s a step bloggers take when deciding to get serious. I have no idea how to use it, but that’s why Bestie married a computer engineer. I’m sure he’ll get around to helping. Probably. Maybe I can look into a ‘coming soon’ thing until then.

humor

Camp of the Damned

I’ve been telling you it was dangerous to dig up memories when you don’t know what’s buried. Now the dam is leaking, and it’s only a matter of time before we all drown. On today’s walk down Memory Lane, we will revisit my time as a hostage in the woods. I don’t care what any future psychologist says, of all the stories I will tell you, this one did the most damage. Time heals all wounds, but some will always be mangled scar tissue. Ok, you guys ready? I’m going to tell you about church camp. It’s too long for both summers, but I’ll get the first done today.

For those who haven’t read The Birth of Speed Bump, you need to know I had a religious friend named Joan who broke my nose. Breaking my nose is irrelevant here, but I want everyone to feel my scorn for her. That’s enough for this story. We’re going start with the summer Joan broke my nose, but before she broke it. I’m not sure if Vacation Bible School is nationwide, or a southern thing, but they are usually a week long daycare with Bible themed activities for young children. Granny held enough sway with Dad to force me into her church’s program each year, despite my heavy protests.

Looking back, I suspect plans were hatched in secret before the option of summer camp was presented. Their attacks were coordinated down to what I watched before they pitched the idea.

I watched this movie so many times, I had the secret handshake memorized.

After a marathon of favorite summer camp movies, Dad hit me with a VBS notice.

“Ugh, no! I’m old enough to decide I don’t wanna go!” With one sentence, I went from blissfully happy to deeply offended. He conceded I might be old enough for some choice, and asked if I preferred VBS, or to a summer camp with Joan.

“What do you mean camp? What kind of camp?” I was cautious. I may have been 11, but that’s more than old enough to know something too good to be true, probably was.

He grinned ear to ear, obviously pleased with himself. He claimed it was, indeed, a real camp. I would go Monday and come home Saturday morning. Log cabins, bunk beds, swimming – even a zip-line. He knew zip-line caught my attention.

“I would go with Joan?” I wanted to find the catch, but was too naive to know where to look. I was assured Joan would be my bunkmate, yet his reassuring smile did nothing to relieve my suspicions.

“I want to talk to Joan first.” I still trusted her at that point. She attended camp the previous year, confirmed the list of activities, and told me we use our own sleeping bag. I agreed to go on the stipulation of a new sleeping bag, but I would have gone for the zip-line. They were only a fantasy from tv until that point.

Being thrilled with my expensive new sleeping bag and camping equipment, I missed the huge, red flags waving in my face. My parents were spending several hundred dollars on items I would use once, yet they were happy. Dad offered to buy things I never thought to ask for, Mom never complained about anything. The flags were everywhere, but I was blind.

When the big day finally came, Joan’s parents picked me up, and the nightmare began. “How long until we get to the camp?” I asked excitedly.

Very nonchalantly, Joan’s mom informed me a bus would take slightly over two hours.

“Bus? What bus?” I knew there was a catch! I knew it! Bus?! They can’t put us on a bus! We’re children! Stranger danger!

Apparently, the church borrows a school bus to drive the kids each year. It’s easier than trying to find enough parents!

Right, sure. And why is the church driving us to camp, you ask? You guys will never guess the answer! Because it’s their camp! And now, everyone was looking at me like I’m the one being difficult!

I looked at Joan accusingly, “You said there was swimming and zip-lines and lots of cool stuff. You listed fun stuff.”

“It is! We do! Just because it’s a church camp doesn’t mean we don’t do lots of fun stuff. It’s not about church, it’s just a summer camp.” She reassured.

I remained silent for the rest of our drive, terrified to learn more. When we arrived at the church, a group of children were already loading onto the promised school bus. Joan’s parents unloaded us quickly, and pushed us onto the bus. I was forced to hand over my sleeping bag and pillow to be stored elsewhere, but refused to let anyone take my duffel. It’s an important detail, it distracted me from my surroundings longer than usual. By time I found a window seat (easier to protect my duffel) and built a temporary nest, we were already on the highway.

I forced myself to have a cautious look at my surroundings. Something felt off, but I couldn’t immediately place what. It bothered me terribly until a chaperon stood to lead us in a round of Jesus Loves Me. Mine was the only groan. As every head turned to face me, I finally saw it. There were no boys, not one.

“Joan… how is there not one boy coming with us?” I hoped no one could hear me over the sounds of attempted singing.

“Ha-ha. Funny. Yea, boys are coming to the girls camp.” She rolled her eyes and continued singing.

Oh gods what have I done? I held my duffel tight for security, wishing I brought Tiger. He couldn’t leave the house anymore because his head was removed during a show and tell. The black hole of depression I fell into for the hours before I knew he could be saved was not a place I wanted to revisit. Instead, I stared out the window, retreating to my happy place.

We didn’t have a GPS to say we reached our destination, but I knew we had because the singing stopped. We drove down a long dirt driveway until we reached the first cabin. One chaperon walked into the large building labeled ‘Welcome Center’ while the rest of us unloaded our possessions. When the first chaperone returned, he lead us down a path, away from the building. After a short walk, we reached the cabins. There were 12 in all, two rows of 6 facing each other. A large group of girls stood in the center with several camp counselors. Our chaperones threw us to the wolves, promising to return in 5 days for survivors.

“Ok kids listen up, we’re gonna have a great week, whose ready to get started!” A blonde girl wearing a counselor shirt stood on a small platform between the rows of cabins. Kids around me cheered with high pitched screams before she continued. “Excellent! That’s what I like to hear! Ok to get us started, you need to know each cabin, is assigned a number. Even numbers on my left, odd numbers on my right. You with me so far?” More approving screams, followed by, “Good, because each side is a team. The even numbers are Rebels, the odd numbers are Yankees, get it? Because they’re a bit odd!” She had to wait for the roars of laughter to stop before she continued. I was truly in hell.

The children around me screeched loud enough to hurt my ears. I tried to cover them with my sleeping bag, but it immediately identified me as an outsider. Rookie mistake if I’m being honest, I should have known better by that age.

When Blonde resumed talking, they slowly turned their attention back on her. “All week we are going to have little competitions. The winners will earn points, and the team with the most points at the end will win special prizes. When I call your name, I’ll tell you what cabin you’ll be staying in, and you can go meet your counselor.” The counselors were dispersing to stand in front of their assigned cabins, two in each. I knew when adults kept prizes secret, it meant they would suck.

Please Universe, I’m begging you, please let me be a Yankee. Just this once, please. A long process of cabin assignments ensued. When it finally ended, Joan and I were in number 12. Rebels yet again. We shared one of 6 bunk beds, meaning I would share a one room living space with 13 other people for 5 days. To add insult to injury, I was on the bottom bunk, and there was no tv. I wished for death, it was the only foreseeable solution.

Once we finished settling into our places, the counselor reviewed our schedule. “Hey girls, we’re you’re counselors. I’m Betty, and this is Sue. Each morning we’ll have prayer, breakfast, bible study, swimming, activity, lunch, nap time, bible study, free-time, dinner, bible study, showers, and then we’ll have 20-30 minutes to wind down before we say our prayers and go to sleep.” Betty read from her clipboard.

I need to call a short time out. I know you guys think I’m exaggerating about the bible study schedule, but I’m really not. They only used the words ‘bible study’ once, but the rest were variations meaning the same thing. Obviously, I don’t remember the exact schedule of a camp I attended at 11, but the important activities are there to get us to the good stuff. Ok, sorry, back to it.

I’ve never gone a whole day without tv, I can’t.“Joan, where’s the tv?” I whispered as Sue began passing out name tags.

“Why would you want tv at camp?” She gave me the Look.

The Look always pushes my buttons, but I was in a bad mood before she did it. “I don’t know, why would I let you keep top bunk instead of throwing you off?” But I caught myself, and corrected course. “Ha… Joke.”

“Here you go, girls. Write your names, stick it to your shirts. Just for today while we get to know each other.” Sue handed each of us a sticker. Markers were passed around.

The only excuse I can offer for my conviction against wearing a name tag is that I feel like it opens the door for conversation. Employees wear name tags because they say “Hi world, I’m telling you my name so you feel comfortable talking with a stranger.” Well no freaking thank you, if someone wants to start a conversation, they can feel every bit as awkward as I do. I put my tag where I could easily cover it with my arm. No one noticed, my invisibility powers held true even there.

“Ok everyone, looks great! Since we have a late start today, we’re going straight to a special activity. Before we leave, I’ll show you where the bathrooms are in case anyone needs to go.” Betty announced to a chorus of giggly girls confirming the status of their full bladders.

The counselors showed us a path leading behind the cabins. Each side had a large building with restrooms and showers. It was terrifying enough to be taken outside to find a toilet, but now they were taking us into a building where we would share toilets with 5 other cabins of 14 people. I hated my brain for automatically telling me that’s 70 people. Things only got worse from there. The toilets were in stalls, as in the kind you can clearly see into through the cracks on either side of the door.

I don’t use public restrooms. Never have, never will. Disregarding how terrible it is to have my bare ass touch a surface where other bare asses touch, the thought of someone hearing me pee is mortifying. Then, the granddaddy of all Nopes, how could one poo in this environment? You couldn’t! The smell, the sounds, all function would cease as everyone turned to heckle you for indecency. You would be the butt of all fart jokes for the rest of your natural life. There was only one thing to do. Wait for the middle of the night, and poop while everyone slept.

“Alright, if everyone’s used the bathroom, listen up. When we take showers, you have 5 minutes, then you have to come out or we come in to get you.” Betty announced. It was the most terrifying statement I ever heard. I promised myself to set a watch-timer for 3 minutes, better safe than sorry.

“Ms. Betty!” A skinny brunette asked, “if we shower together, can we have 10 minutes?” And just like that, a new scariest thing I’ve ever heard.

“Yes , Jenny. I was just getting to that. Anyone who wants to shower in pairs can have 10 minutes, but it’s entirely up to you. Ok! Now that’s out of the way, let’s get going so the next cabin can use the bathroom.” Betty answered.

I followed the group in a haze, lost in thoughts of how to escape the hell I wandered into. I didn’t realize we were taken to the zip-line until an adult was explaining how the harness works. It stretched downhill over a large, open field. If I had any capabilities of judging length, I would guess slightly shorter than a football field. I was the last one in our group to go, but it was worth the wait. If I can do that everyday, I just might make it through this.

We had this kind of harness, I didn’t realize how many types there were until I Googled for pics. I couldn’t find a remotely similar location, but if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.

Spoiler Alert: We would not be allowed to zip-line again, it was only one time. No one volunteered the information, I only found out by the recurring disappointment of not going each day. I wish I could tell you I figured it out after a few days, but every morning I convinced myself today’s the day.

Next, we were taken to lunch where I learned we only had one meal choice. We got in a cafeteria-style line, and lunch ladies slopped food on our plates as we walked by. If you said no thanks, they rudely informed it’s the only option. That was fine, I thought it polite not waste food, but they said I had to eat it all. That was never going to happen. I disappeared into the crowd and found a line of kids who were finished eating. I dumped my food into the trash, and circled back with my empty plate to sit with my cabin.

“Where’s your food?!” Joan asked louder than necessary.

“Shut up!” I whisper yelled. “They’re weirdly sensitive about the food here. I’m not eating whatever that slop is.” I pointed to her plate with a disgusted look.

“It’s just a sloppy joe, what’s wrong?” Joan asked with a face covered in meat goop.

“No. Just no.” I answered, trying not to stare at food dripping from her chin. I failed.

We ate dinner that evening, and three meals a day for the remainder of our stay. Out of 14 meals over 5 days, I ate eggs, a corndog, french fries, and a few slices of pizza. If you want to count the banana they gave us Saturday morning, go ahead. Everything else was inedible. I normally don’t care for food, but I was starving by the end of the week. No one would feed me until Saturday afternoon when I finally made it home.

The first night, I tried to shower. We had to strip down in the cabin, and walk to the showers in our towel. Let’s talk about how this was set up. Imagine rows of shower stalls like in a gym, but they had the bathroom style divider walls. Each stall was divided in half. You walked into the first half, which had a curtain, not a door, and hung your towel. Then past a second clear curtain, was your shower. I washed my hair quickly, but everywhere I looked, I saw girls through open spaces left by the curtain. I was painfully aware if I could see them, they could see me. I could feel them watching, laughing at my nakedness. I ran from the shower, shampoo mostly rinsed, with 2 minutes remaining on a 3 minute timer. Betty was supervising showers while Sue stayed to supervise those who returned to the cabin. Privacy didn’t exist in that place.

I crawled into my sleeping bag, furious to get it wet, putting clothes on. I was among the first to return, the rest dressed openly as if they didn’t care who saw their noonies. I was already desperate for bed time. I hadn’t used the bathroom since leaving home, and I could only delay the inevitable so long.

Girls talked and giggled loudly until bedtime, then Sue reviewed the sleeping rules. “No one gets up during the night for any reason unless it’s to go the bathroom. You do not want to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. I won’t be nice about it when you wake me up, so we’re all going to have one last chance to use it before bed. If anyone needs to go, Betty will take you now.”

“Wait, if we have to pee, we have to wake you up to go with us?” One girl thankfully asked so I didn’t have to.

“That’s right.” Sue answered. “Seriously, you have to, and we rather wake up to take you than have an accident in here, so it’s ok if you do… but at the same time, we really prefer if you just go before bed, k? Great! Go with Betty now, last chance.”

I knew I couldn’t stay. I was already filled to capacity, and there was no version of reality where I wake one of those girls for a special trip. I returned to the bathrooms, but only to pee. Can we all be adults about potty humor a moment? You know how, when you have to poo really bad, it tries to come out when you pee? I never focused so hard to control my anal sphincter. I clinched harder than a man having his first rectal exam. By some magic, I managed to pee without a single fart, and returned to the cabin unmolested. It was time for lights out.

They had no nightlights, I curled under my sleeping bag to hide light from my watch. It was just bright enough to pretend I was camping in a tent, not a cabin with 13 other people who could be doing anything in the darkness. After midnight, I heard the first snores, a torture element I hadn’t considered, but highly effective nonetheless. More soon began snoring, and it made me think.

If they can sleep through those snores, maybe they could sleep through my farts. I’m going to try, if someone does wake up, they couldn’t tell it came from me. I can press my butt into the mattress to muffle sound, and smell won’t escape the sleeping bag… probably.

So I did. I pressed into that mattress, and let one rip with the same level of fear as if I were petting a snake. It was long and blessedly silent. The stomach cramp instantly disappeared, and when no one woke to berate me, I tried another. It was louder, but no one stirred. The next try would have released more than a fart. I couldn’t take that risk. Though I do become more desperate, the first night was easiest. I fell asleep shortly after the farts, and woke to counselors turning on lights. I dressed in my sleeping bag again. This is where I learned to stop wearing pajamas. Each night, after I showered (understanding that means I got my hair wet to appear as if I showered), I dressed in my clothes for the next day. It was preferable to anxiety of someone seeing my naked bits.

Now we have come to activity. Obviously, the bathroom problem becomes my biggest hurtle, but a close second was activity. To fill the time slot that should have been zip-lining, we were given a list of activities to choose from. Basic stuff; arts and crafts, music, comedy, dance, and a few others too dull to remember. “You can only pick one, and you can’t change your mind. No exceptions, so we don’t want to hear it. Make sure you choose carefully.” Betty instructed.

“Friday evening, we’ll have a little performance in the cafeteria. There’s going to be a special dinner, then each group will get on stage to show the camp what they’ve been doing all week! Doesn’t that sound fun!” Many girls agreed, they did think it sounded fun.

I thought it sounded horrible, why would anyone want to be on a stage? That clearly means the rest of the camp would be in the audience, carefully observing. No thanks. My luck ran out concerning others asking my questions, but I had to know. “Um, scuse me, umm… I was just wondering if we could umm… maybe not do any of these? Like could I just stay on my bunk and not do the stage thing?”

Complete silence fell. I was surrounded by the Look from every angle. “You have to choose one. Don’t worry, it’ll be fine. How about comedy? You can do that, then if you make a mistake, they’ll think it’s on purpose.” Sue smiled, attempting to lull me into a false sense of security.

All eyes were one me, waiting for my response. See what happens? I open my mouth, and suddenly the world stops. They wouldn’t resume their conversation until they heard my answer. My brain isn’t capable of thinking under those conditions. It’s only capable of assessing the fastest escape route. In this case, the quickest was, “ok, I’ll do comedy.”

And just like that, my paper was returned with the comedy box checked. The other girls chose arts, dance, or music. Joan refused to do comedy, and I was too chicken to ask for something else. They said no exceptions.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how I became trapped in ‘Clown College’ for 4 days. When I entered the ‘comedy’ room, I saw a woman surrounded by clown wigs and make-up. She sat in a chair facing a half-circle of smaller chairs. When everyone arrived, we had less than 10 kids. For the first time, I wished for a larger crowd, one big enough to become invisible. As it was, the unusually kind woman sensed I was having difficulties and gave me special attention. My rotten luck held stronger than ever.

I had to wear a wig, but got lucky with the make-up. After a short demonstration, we were given small make-up kits. After 15 minutes, the other girls were finished, but I had yet to touch mine. The adult offered to help me, but a strange survival instinct took hold, “I’m allergic to make-up. I don’t know if I can use this… Mom put stuff on my face once, but I turned red and itchy and they took me to the hospital.” Holy crap, I said it out loud, crap I’m in trouble now.

“Oh my goodness! I’m so glad you told me!” She frantically took the make-up away, giving the other kids strict instructions to make sure they don’t touch me with theirs. It was the one and only lucky break that week. Each day, for one hour, I wore a clown wig and participated in a skit I have no memory of. I only remember it involved a huddle at he end, because that’s the part I messed up on stage. We can get back to that, but we have other things to cover first.

Let’s talk about the messed up swimming at this place. You hear summer camp with swimming and think lake, right? Was that just me? We have lakes everywhere, I assumed the camp was near one, but no. It was fenced in like a prison, barbed wire and all. Why did they fence in a pool in the middle of nowhere? Glad you ask, because I’ve never seen this before or since, but they wanted to control where you entered. The walkway leading to the pool was also fenced in and lined with shower heads. We were required to wet our hair before we got into the pool. They didn’t explain why, but it was a serious rule. I saw a counselor jump a girl’s ass for not getting her hair wet enough. The girl sat in a corner crying that day, screaming, “it was wet, you just can’t tell cause how dark my hair is.”

Every day, after evening bible study, we had an hour of free-time where we could play with kids from other cabins. I followed Joan and the few girls I knew from home, but this is where it gets bad again. I need to explain this game we played. Imagine 10-15 kids standing in a circle. One kid stood in the middle, and skipped around the circle while everyone sings. There were a few different songs, but I remember “Here comes Cindy Crawford walking down the street, (clap clap) she didn’t know what to do, so she stopped in front of me.” When they sing the last line, the kid in center had to stop, face the kid next to them, and those two kids ‘dance’ face to face for the rest of the song, “she said come on girl, shake that thing, shake it (repeat)!” Then the kids switch places and the other kid skips around the center. There are no winners or losers, it’s just that process repeated over and over. The only ‘point’ was to show off a funny dance move.

This is one of my worse ignorant moments. In my mind, I was doing really well. Kids stopped in front of me often, I was the center of attention. I became brave as the week wore on, inventing new moves, copying old disco moves I saw on tv. I actually came to look forward to it. Then, on the last day, I heard girls in my cabin talking about me. “We have to get her to play, remember last night? Everyone kept picking her so we could laugh at how stupid she looked trying to dance?” A roar of laughter erupted through the cabin.

I replayed every game in my head, and she was right. I could see it clearly once she pointed it out. They were cheating to land in front of me, not because I was cool, but because I was the loser they made fun of. Those rounds of laughter weren’t for me, they were at me. There were just enough kids from my school to carry the story back. I was teased with the game for almost two years.

While all of this is going on, never forget, I have to poop bad. My last poop was Sunday night, and each passing day added more stomach cramps. Each night, I lay awake to fart as much as possible. I stopped drinking except a few sips of water with meals to cut down on how many times I had to pee. By Thursday, I didn’t think I could make it any longer. I went from being depressed to furious, I wanted out. I lost my tempter during lunch, and said “dangit ” fairly loud.

Betty lost her shit, “don’t you ever say that word again! You hear me? Next time I hear you talking like that, I’ll take you to the bathroom and wash your mouth with soap.” I was so shocked, I couldn’t speak. I only stared at her. Apparently my face was terrible because she felt the need to add, “you can wipe that look off your face too. I won’t have that kind of behavior in my cabin.” I turned to walk away, but she just couldn’t leave it alone. “Don’t you walk away from me!” She grabbed the back of my shirt, turned me around and yelled, “what do you say?!”

I couldn’t fathom this reaction to the word ‘dang’. It occurred to me, she could have thought I said damn. “What do you think I said?!” I accidentally asked aloud.

Betty released my shirt, and her demeanor changed. She made a face of pain, as if merely repeating, “you said… … dang… it” would cause a lightning strike. I had no clue how to handle someone that stupid.

“Wow. Ok then. Sorry, I guess.” This time when I walked away, she allowed it, but she still couldn’t resist one last comment. “You better be on your best behavior the rest of the time your here.” She called after me.

I was so filled with rage I had to promise myself revenge before I could stop shaking. For two days I rehearsed the special goodbye I would say to her, but I’ll save that for the end. Don’t worry, we’re almost there.

Friday was the big last day. I survived by telling myself, “ok, that’s over. I never have to do this again” after every activity. At our ‘special dinner’ they ordered pizza, enough for everyone to have two whole slices. The Yankees, as always, defeated the Rebels. Their special prize was ice cream, I enjoyed saying “told you so” more than I would have the ice cream.

When the stage performances began, the clowns had to go first. We had to throw buckets of ping pong balls onto the audience, but my bucket flew from my hand. I hit a counselor in the face, but she was mostly fine. The performance continued uninterrupted. At the end, we had to group in a huddle, but someone’s arm hit me in the head. I screamed, “ouch” into the silent auditorium. My voiced echoed loud and clear for all to hear. When it finally ended, I was allowed to sit in the audience. Waiting for all attention to focus on the next act, I returned to the clown props. I shoved the wig I wore under my shirt, and stayed in the back of the audience. I had special plans for the wig. When we were finally allowed back to our cabins, I hid it carefully in my duffel.

Ok, all I have left is one more pretend shower, then I can sit in bed, and clinch my ass till morning. I held it this long, I can hold it one more night. Just don’t unclinch. The stomach cramps were constant and almost unbearable. I had so much poop in my body, I was actively prairie dogging it since Thursday morning. I went to the bathroom at every opportunity, but it was never empty.

I didn’t sleep at all Friday night. The stomach pains were too extreme, and I long ago passed the point where farts relieved the pressure. I had a few terrifying moments where the possibility of shitting my pants was extremely real. I had to decide how to handle an accident. Being the last night, and not needing the sleeping bag again, I determined I would have no choice but to grab the poop, and hide it under someone else’s bed. Thankfully it didn’t come to that the first year.

Morning finally came. Betty and Sue gave a cheesy speech about how special our time together was while we all packed. The kids played in the pavilion while waiting on our busses, and most counselors were working to prepare for the next group. There would be a few more that summer, and there was plenty of work to do. I sat quietly, unable to move around for fear of shitting my pants, and waited for the bus. I loaded up with the other kids, made sure my possessions were safely aboard, then told a chaperone, “I forgot something, sorry, be right back.” I ran before anyone could stop me. Each step, the poop tried to escape my clinched cheeks, but this was something I had to do. I was lucky, I poked my head into our cabin, and Betty was alone, in the far corner.

Rage took over, and my mouth did the rest. “Hey Betty!” I got her attention. She looked at me with an expectant smile. The smile vanished quickly when I continued, “you are the worst counselor here! Dang is not a bad word. Damn is, Fuck is, shit, and hell too, probably. So maybe don’t be such a bitch to the next group.” I was running away before the last words were out. It was imperative to return before she told on me.

I heard her say, “get your butt back here! You are not…” before I was out of range. I weaved through every structure possible, hoping she wouldn’t know which bus was mine. And she didn’t. I got on the bus, laid low in my seat next to Joan, and kept my mouth shut. I was the last kid on the bus, and they were in a hurry.

As the bus started moving, I was afraid to look around, but Joan said, “Hey, look, Ms. Betty came to wave goodbye! Sit up and wave! Byeeeeeee Ms. Becky!” Joan was knocking on the window, waving for Becky’s attention. Panicked, I grabbed her arms, pulling her down. We made it out of hell without being stopped. I was fairly certain Becky didn’t know my name. Either way, nothing came of my outburst.

I was upset to discover Joan’s parents were driving me home. It would be that much longer to receive real food. Joan talked the whole ride, it seemed she had a very good time. The first seeds of hatred she planted with camp, sprouted to fine seedlings. When they pulled into my driveway, I leapt from the car without saying goodbye, ran past Dad’s outstretched arms, and pushed Mom out of the way when she was blocking the bathroom.

“Hey! What’s the hurry?” Mom asked as I ran through her.

“I have to poop, and I’m so hungry. I haven’t pooped or eaten since Sunday, please make food.” I slammed the bathroom door closed behind me.

Mom wasted no time going into her own episode. She screamed through the door, “what do you mean you didn’t shit or eat? Are you telling me you haven’t shit in almost a week? Do not come out until you shit.”

“I wasn’t going to, please, leave me alone and feed me!” I begged from the toilet. If you don’t know what it feels like to go that long without pooping, I’m not sure there’s anything I could say to make you understand. It felt like everything in me combined to form one solid, hard brick of waste. I was in the bathroom almost 30 minutes. If that wasn’t torture enough, Mom told Dad my problem when he finished talking to Joan’s parents. Every 5 minutes he came to the bathroom door to ask if I was ok.

“It’s great, please leave me alone!” But he never did. I was never dumb enough to share my bathroom troubles with them again. I had to learn quickly, any problems I have, they will make it worse. I can never stress that to you enough. They made every problem a crisis, and it consumed them. They weren’t capable of normal speech until it was resolved.

When I finally came out of the bathroom, I ate half a hot pocket and fell asleep on my plate. I woke up that night to find the food removed. When I realized my parents were asleep, I raided the kitchen. The remainder of the weekend was its own special brand of torture while I waited for my parents to tire of asking about camp. When they returned to work Monday, Joan came over as usual.

“Hey, I saved a special surprise for you from camp!” I told her excitedly.

Her eyes lit up, “oh, what is it?!”

“Follow me.” I led her to the backyard with a small bag, ignoring her questions.

She looked puzzled when I showed her the clown wig, but before she could ask questions, I showed her the lighter. Her eyes grew big with realization, but the wig burned exactly how you expect cheap, fake hair to burn. It was gone in a flash. The burns to my fingers were well worth it. Joan cried and I reveled in her tears, they sustained me. It was my first step toward healing, I felt ready to put the trauma behind me. I would live to fight another day.

As usual, you all have been a fantastic audience. I’ll save next year’s camp story for another day. I hope this one gave you some chuckles. If it did, I can look back on that summer and say, “something good came from the experience.” I think I need that.