There’s a sinkhole beside the ancient barn. The thick river-rock foundations of the building refused to give and the only thing that has ever been swallowed by the void was one unfortunate milk cow that happened to be standing on it when it opened up.
The area was long ago cordoned off with a fence, so further generations of unfortunate milk cow did not meet the same fate.
Nothing else went into the hole but the things that came out of it would drive you to madness if you paid attention to them.
Holes have an uncanny ability to be frightening to those who dwell above ground. Nothing good ever went into a deep hole, except a swimming pool, and the things that come out of them, well, we already talked about that. You just train yourself to stop paying attention to them.
If you can’t see their eyes, they can’t see you.
There are holes everywhere. Something as sanguine as gliding across a velvety green summer lawn with warm gardenias in the air can be interrupted by a dark, filthy hole. It’s okay though, you can adjust your gaze to barely catch the terror exiting it, so it only clouds your periphery for a brief second when you run from it.
Filling the holes is the best course of action, but my God, there are so many. And filling them with the wrong thing makes the beasts who live within even angrier, more vicious, and more hell bent on consuming you.
Never let them see your eyes, never look them full in the face.
Finding a hole in the shoes you’re wearing only confirms the fact that true evil lies within you. Every hole contains a demon, every black divot assures putrid discharge of some sort.
There is no light inside a hole.
The farmer disagrees. He loves the holes, he pokes them deep into the soil over and over again, letting organic mealy phantoms of dirt and long buried decay escape, and plugging them with seeds that despise the hole so much, they burst forth from themselves to seek heat, and be free from the chill of the earth. They are destined to be held tight by the roots with damp darkness, but their faces turn to the sun, and their eyes are clear and true, and you can look upon them and know peace.
After the thirty-minute drive over and an hour-and-a-half wait in the reception area, Miranda thought it would be difficult to explain to the doctor what was happening to her.
Surprisingly enough, when her turn came she was able to spill it out to him in coherent sentences.
The doctor nodded quietly. He made the appropriate eyebrow arch at all the appropriate junctures in her long, sad list of complaints. He wrote furiously on an imposing metal chart. Miranda felt like a deflated balloon when the secrets she had been keeping were finally out.
“Well Doctor, what do you think? Am I a lost cause?” She giggled self-consciously, thinking maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all.
The doctor leveled a stare at her from across the desk. His demeanor suggested her condition was grave.
“Miss Moron, I’m afraid you have a very bad case here. If all you’re telling me is true, I’d venture to say you have a stage-three progression of Simian Dorsal Syndrome,” he said. The doctor paused, then continued, “Quite frankly, I’m not sure how to go about treatment from here. I’m surprised you haven’t sought professional help before now. Surely you had an idea?”
“Maroon,” said Miranda.
“I’m sorry?” The doctor was obviously confused by her strange answer.
“Maroon,” said Miranda. “My last name is Maroon, not Moron.”
“I apologize Miss Maroon. An office typo,” said the doctor. His pen grated across the metal chart, obliterating the mistake with a single line.
“Doctor, I don’t understand what you’re saying. What’s wrong with me? In layman’s terms, please.” Miranda realized the pleading nature of her voice and checked herself.
The doctor leaned over his desk. He pointed a long finger in the general vicinity of her right shoulder.
“Quite simply put my dear, you have a monkey on your back. And a rather large one, at that.”
Deep down inside Miranda had known it all along. She didn’t need a professional to tell her about the ailment. She only needed the confirmation of someone other than herself to make it real. She felt it, gripping her by the nape of the neck, pissing down her back, dirtying her sheets at night with foul feces. It was the reason she didn’t sleep well, the lump under her pillow, the monster in bed with her.
A goddamn monkey.
Miranda gathered up her purse and stood to leave.
“Thank you very much, Doctor Smug. I appreciate your time,” she said.
“Sums,” said the doctor.
“Excuse me?” Miranda was confused by his response.
“It’s Doctor Sums. Sums is my last name,” said the doctor.
“I apologize, Dr. Sums. Didn’t read it right on the card, my mistake,” Miranda said.
As she turned, Dr. Sums called out, “What exactly do you plan on doing about your ailment, Miss Maroon?”
“Dr. Sums, we have established that my name is not Jane Goodall,” said Miranda, “I’m going to do what any sane person would do. I’m going to kill it. I’m going to kill it, I’m going to wash my sheets and I’m going to sleep for a week.”
She opened the door to the world outside, refreshed and ready to conquer. Miranda made a mental note to herself to recommend Dr. Sums to all her friends.
(Please note: This is not like anything else you’ve read on my site thus far. This is my true love – weird, offbeat and somewhat terrifying fiction. Feel free to leave suggestions. Thanks!)
Eula Bell’s tips for moist chocolate cake and goblin-killing.
This morning I made a rich and delicious triple-layer chocolate cake. I finished icing it right before I stabbed my neighbor, Beauregard Bagman, between the eyes with the very butter knife I used to frost my beautiful cake.
Not many people know this but mayonnaise is the secret ingredient in chocolate cakes.
I doubt anyone in the village but me knew my neighbor was a filthy goblin but I jabbed him between the eyes with a silver butter knife and began the process of allowing the goblin-gas to disperse from his human-like skin-bag anyway.
The butter knife and cake recipe were passed on to me by my grandmother, Alva.
The goblin intuition is my own.
As I wait for his screams to subside (which aren’t screams at all, but the off-gassing of a very angry goblin who has had their skin-bag pierced with a sterling silver butter knife) I’ll reflect on the times I’ve caught Beauregard in cahoots with the devil.
I’ve seen his tail with my own eyes.
I wasn’t spying, it was his own fault for shambling out to the end of the driveway in a flimsy bathrobe to retrieve his morning copy of the Manson Village News a month ago. I just happened to be taking my morning stroll with Mr. Fiddlesticks, my feline companion and the best judgement of character you would ever want to know, when we walked up on Beauregard in his less-than-properly-dressed status.
His response to my cordial greeting was to hiss at Mr. Fiddlesticks as he whirled away, off into the dim light of dawn towards his front door. And let me tell you, even the dim light of dawn couldn’t hide that scaly tail flapping behind him as he rudely raced off without so much as a, “Hello.”
Then there was the time Mr. Fiddlesticks brought home a rancid bat carcass and Beauregard retrieved it from my trash can in the dead of night. Apparently, goblins aren’t up on the latest ‘Ring’ doorbell technology that captures video of movement beyond the back door.
Of course, the crescendo of our relationship began when he had the audacity to come to my back door in partial goblin-form, right out in broad daylight. I had no other choice than to plant my butter knife squarely in the center of his grotesque forehead, immediately upon answering the door.
My goodness, it’s taking an awfully long time for all his goblin-gas to escape. I’m going to have a piece of cake while I wait. Later, I can burn the skin-bag and be done with this silliness.
Beauregard Bagman’s tip on surviving butter knife attacks from crazy old women.
Did this bitch really just plant a butter knife into my skull? How the actual fuck can an old lady be that strong? I mean, she did have the element of surprise and a downward angle, but fuck, this butter knife is sticking out of my fucking skull.
Maybe she really is a witch.
She’s standing there watching me look cross-eyed at this fucking butter knife like she’s waiting for something else. Here’s an idea for something else. Help me, bitch.
I’m paralyzed from shock and possible brain damage – the only things moving are my eyes and my bowels. I’m actually glad I shit on your porch. If that’s the last thing I do in life, it was worth it.
Who the fuck is screaming? Is that me? Wow. You’d think she’d at least be alarmed by the screams.
Wait, what is she doing? Is she really putting that goddamn cat out here and closing the door? That cat is the reason I have to wear an asthma mask outside of my home. It’s the reason I came over here in the first place, to tell this crazy old bitch to keep that goddamn cat away from me.
That fucking cat prowling around my property is the reason I need a C-pap machine at night.
That fucking cat stole the model in my bat study that was part of a dissertation I’ve worked on for five fucking years. I had to dig in the crazy bitch’s trash can to get it back.
Fuck that cat.
Hold up, I think I can move again.
Oh yeah baby, I can crawl.
I’m crawling. Fuck that cat, I’ll punch him if he comes close to me. I’m crawling back to my house and I’m calling 911.
Fuck that cat.
Eula Bell’s cake is so delicious, it brings visitors from far and wide.
Me oh my, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I make the best chocolate cake in all of Manson Village. There’s nothing more satisfying than a slab of delightfully rich cake and a tall glass of cold milk.
The screams stopped about half-way through my cake-break. Now that I’m done goblin-killing and cake-eating, I’ll invite Mr. Fiddlesticks back inside to finish my glass of milk. We’ll drag the skin-bag to the back of the property and burn it where we’ve burned the others.
We’ve been in Manson Village a very long time. We don’t like outsiders, especially when they’re goblins and such.
Oh look. The sheriff is here. He probably knows I baked a cake.
I was extremely fortunate to live close to my grandparents when I was a child. I spent many summers enjoying the shade of Granny Benton’s magnolia tree with my cousin Che’ Boy, dodging bees and china berries my Uncle Flip would wing at us with a sling shot from the branches of that evil damn berry tree.
Che’ and I spent endless hours walking in opposite directions on a dirt path around Granny’s house with no purpose other than to high-five each other when we met each pass. Of course, there were things to do along the way, like pick figs for Granny to can in the pressure cooker of death, or pluck Catawba worms off the Catawba bush for Uncle Flip and Uncle Bruce to go fishing with.
Che’ Boy’s daddy went to Vietnam, and we weren’t really sure where that was, but we knew it made his momma cry a lot. We were happy when Uncle Danny came home, but then they had to go to Germany and Che’ Boy was gone for a long time and Granny was sad again.
Grandad would load me up into his old, green pick-em’up truck for trips to the Western Auto and Piggly Wiggly. I sat in grocery buggies with ashtrays attached to the handle, so Grandad could rest his Winston cigarette directly in my face while making his full-fat-full-flavor ice cream choices. It was the 70’s, man. I didn’t wear a seat belt, either. Part of the fun of going to the store with Grandad was standing beside him on the bench seat of the pick-em up truck. It was magical.
Not everything was as magical as rides with Grandad. I dreaded canning season, the time of year when we were used as child slaves to snap more damn beans than the world could consume, and deal with the terrors of the pressure cooker of death.
Granny and Grandad owned the house I spent summers in for probably 50 years or more and there was never a time in which I can remember there not being an explosion mark on the ceiling of the kitchen from the pressure cooker of death.
This fucking thing was monstrous. It hissed and steamed and spit hot water like a cobra. And for a week at the end of each summer, it never stopped scaring the beejeezus out of everyone involved with the yearly canning process.
Close to the end of summer break, my entire extended female family would go to the farmer’s market up in Atlanta with the pick-em’ up truck and load that thing with enough stuff to can for six families to eat all winter. For a week after that, it was chaos, bean snapping and canning – and the fiery dragon of death pressure cooker that blew up at least once a year.
Of course, the grown-ups had us scared silly of it. I was afraid my hair would catch on fire if I got close to it. My Aunt Chiquita burned the skin off her finger messing with it. She had a blister that excused her from dish-washing for a month, so everyone teased her about doing it on purpose.
(This is still questionable, because the amount of dish-washing during canning season was almost as horrifying as the pressure cooker. Granny and Grandad had five kids; they never needed an automatic dishwasher.)
I hated canning season back then. I didn’t grasp why we couldn’t just buy a damn can of peas at the Pig instead of doing a week’s worth of manual labor to save twenty-nine cents. I didn’t realize then that those memories would be the emotional flotation devices I would rely on later in life to navigate stormy seas and fragile mental health.
I am so thankful for the memories and the people who made them with me. A lot of them have left the mortal coil, like my Great Aunt Peggy, who was tall, and terrifying and said “shit,” a lot. She was magnificent. She and Granny would conduct that kitchen like maestro’s and every time the pressure cooker blew up, Aunt Peggy would yell, “Shit!” and everyone would scatter.
The menfolk were never in the kitchen, but they did sit around the dining room table in the evenings, cleaning, trading and talking about guns. Of course, most of the gun stuff inside the house ended after the late John Dees accidentally shot a hole clean through my Granny’s new stand-up freezer. All the mommas yelled at John for being careless and the men took their guns elsewhere.
Granny put a piece of packing tape over the hole in the door of her freezer and the damn thing ran for another 20 years, long after John Dees passed from cancer. He was lucky my Aunt Peggy didn’t skin him alive when he discharged a firearm in a house full of people, but she was busy checking the pressure cooker to make sure it hadn’t exploded again.
It was a dangerous, wonderful life during the summers at Granny and Grandad’s. By today’s helicopter-parenting standards, every adult involved would have been arrested for child endangerment, when in fact it was life enrichment. We survived. We figured things out and we entertained ourselves. We drank Kool-aide made with real sugar and water from a backyard hose. We ate canned meat and stood in the sunshine for more than 15 minutes at a time.
And we had it good. Except for the exploding pressure cooker. Fuck that thing.
The answer is – everyone. But only one is burned into my memory like no other.
The resident “Pool God” of Four Winds Apartment Complex wore short-shorts. They were cut-off Levi’s, short enough for the bottoms of his pockets to hang well below the frayed denim that barely covered his ass.
By 1974 standards, this dude was cool. His shoulder-length hair had golden Sun-in highlights that set off a tan he worked on every single day the pool was open during the summer. He strolled in barefoot with a Marlboro red dangling precariously from his lips, naked, but for his Levi short-shorts and a beach towel casually draped over his shoulders.
All the kids knew him, all the kid’s moms knew him and my Aunt Nina, who happened to be 17 years old and pretty dang hot herself, made it her business to get to know him. Aunt Nina came to visit and baby sit me for two weeks while momma recuperated from an operation, which actually meant pool day all day every day and I was in heaven.
The feeling was apparently mutual because as soon as Pool God arranged his towel on his favorite reclining chair, he slathered his special tanning mix of baby oil and iodine on his chest and strutted around to the shallow end, where I was playing mermaid and Aunt Nina was being coy while not getting her long, perfectly straight, perfectly parted and gorgeously glossy head of hair wet.
They made small talk about the water temperature and sunshine while I was flopping around and splashing, like little kids do. I decided to get closer to hear what else they might talk about, so I stealthily swam underwater to the edge where Aunt Nina was flirting, and the Pool God was really digging it.
I popped up my head just as Pool God squatted down for more conversation with the very foxy Aunt Nina. Unfortunately, Pool God did not wear underwear beneath his short shorts, so his free willy was free to fall out the leg of his shorts when he squatted down. Just for a stunner, his full ball sack plopped out shortly thereafter, completing a horrific scene of parts I could not even begin to understand as a young child who had only briefly seen my dad naked as he ran from the shower to his bedroom with his hands covering what I now knew to be the weird things that just fell out of Pool God’s pants.
No wonder he covered them. They were hideous.
I don’t know if my Aunt didn’t see it, or she did and acted like she didn’t, but they just kept chatting like the guy hadn’t just let his junk escape out the leg of his short shorts.
I seriously thought there was something wrong with him. I was horrified. I couldn’t decide if he’d pooped a hairball or what the hell was going on, but I was beyond the capability of speech to ask why the hell he had a glob of hairy skin and a Vienna sausage in his pants.
I silently slipped underwater, away from the very confusing scene happening right outside the left leg hole of Pool God’s short-shorts. I counted to 10, which was just long enough for Aunt Nina to wonder where I was at. (She was a flirt, but a great babysitter, and always my favorite.)
Nina excused herself to find me and Pool God finally stood up to readjust his Vienna sausage hairball mess so it wasn’t on display for the whole world to see.
“Aunt Nina, there’s something wrong with him,” I whispered to her, after she beckoned me out of the water for a rest break.
“What do you mean, sweetie? Did he say something to you?” She asked.
“No, I think he pooped his pants or something. We shouldn’t get in the pool after him, it might float out of his britches,” I said. I was worried about disease a lot when I was little, it was a tool my mother used frequently. (“Honey you NEVER touch raw chicken. It will give you worms.” Consequently, I was 40 before I felt comfortable touching raw chicken. Worms ain’t no joke.)
Aunt Nina, who was then and still is one of the coolest people to ever walk the earth, patted my head and laughed. She agreed that we shouldn’t get in the pool with him or after him, but I think her reasons had more to do with the free-floating junk that may be on display more than poop.
We went home and she fixed me peanut butter sandwiches because there’s nothing like peanut butter sandwiches after a morning of swimming in the hot sun. (I’ll fight you over that one.)
All was right in the world again, and the Pool God left us alone, but I still to this day despise short-shorts.
I’m not sure I can adequately describe how shocking the phrase, “Oryou can have a mastectomy,” is to someone who has had a pretty great relationship with her boobs her whole life.
They never really bothered me, fed my babies, held my clothes up. All normal anatomical functions for healthy breasts. Even at 51, when they’re not so perky and hard to buy a comfortable bra for, I have no ill will towards my boobs. They don’t define me, but they certainly make it easier to find dropped M&M’s when I’m cramming my stress-eating face with chocolate.
“You have breast cancer.”
Boom. There it was, out in the open.Breast cancer. I knew it before he said it, but it’s my nature to bristle and posture instead of scream and cry.
“What? No way! I never order cancer here, it’s always undercooked. I’d like to see…