“What’s with the creepy door, Colin?” Rosie asked. “I love all the natural light. Are you on city water or well water?” Malcom glanced up from his phone to scrutinize another cluttered room in his uncle’s new to him house. It was an old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. Colin had worked some deal with his not girlfriend’s father to fix the place up in exchange for rent. Every family has that one uncle that everybody loves but no one expects anything good from. Their family had Colin. Rosie searched for good things to say to her big brother. She was failing. All eyes turned to the little door, a miniature five panel matching all the others in the house down to its crystal knob. Malcom returned to his screen. “Creepy my little door isn’t creepy it’s a doorway to the house’s history,” Colin said. Rosie nodded pretending to listen as she counted closets and windows. Before she was an online assistant Rosie had tried beekeeping, jewelry sales, and real estate. “Col is there a half bath on the main floor?” Rosie called out from stairwell. Malcolm looked around and then grabbed for the tiny crystal knob. Malcom marveled at his giant’s hand. “I wouldn’t do that, bud.” Colin leaned down close to his little nephew. “What’s on the other side?” Malcolm didn’t move his hand. A trembling jolt danced on his fingertips and he liked it. “Nothing except a room exactly like this one. Same rug, same view from the windows, identical in every detail right down to lookalike you and me having this very discussion. So you can’t open it. You can never open it. ‘cause you’re already pulling from the other side, mate.” Malcolm snatched his fingers away. Colin laughed and tousled Malcolm’s curls. “Come along ‘Colm. I’m just fucking with you. It’s just an old asbestos junction box for the knob and tube wiring. That’s going to be a bear, a real bear.” “Did you say asbestos? I’m calling mom.” Rosie shouted from the master bedroom. “Chill, Ro. I got it covered.” Colin rolled his eyes. “Malcolm let me show you the attic. It’s flipping epic. I’m going to make it the ultimate man cave. Colin rested a confident hand on his nephew’s narrow shoulders. Malcolm followed his uncle upstairs to the truly epic attic, afraid to look over his shoulder, knowing what he would see if he turned, knowing what only he felt. The little door’s knob jiggled.
Momma why are there so many stars?” Beatrix slurped her milk and surveyed the sky. “Well I can only tell you what was told to me. First Woman gathered her epic wisdom and pressed it into diamonds in her cornmeal pot and was set to lay them out on the night’s velvet. Out of pure cussedness her oldest boy Coyote flung her bowl of stars. Everything scattered and landed uneven into the night,” Momma said. “Now enough foolishness. time for bed, my diamond.” Beatrix dreamt uneasily her pillow wet with tears for all the stars that had been lost.
“Shall I play Mother?” Iris raised a plump hand in a helpful gesture. Agatha smiled her answer and Iris lifted the china teapot. It was bright white with yellow band and cheery blue flowers. And must’ve costed the earth. The fine dark tea splashed into its cup. Iris poured another for herself. There were no biscuits and the seed cake was store bought. She had sorely missed her cuppa down at the station but such was the life of village constable. Especially a lady constabulary, Iris was always ferreting out the story behind the clues. Her captain liked to joke that Lower Edgewyck’s high case clearance was due to their secret weapon, female intuition. Iris knew poppycock when she heard it. “How do you like our little village, miss? I haven’t seen you at the post office. Are you making yourself to home? How do you take your tea miss. Lemon or…” Iris paused surveying the dark haired slip of a girl worrying her lacy handkerchief. “Listen to me prattle on. Begging your pardon Miss.” With her fair skin long black hair, Agatha reminded the policewoman of china doll baby. “Of course lemon and two lumps of sugar with a touch of cream,” Agatha said. “Sadly I’ve been much too busy to take in the local charms.” Iris finished making the tea and handed the curdled drink to Agatha. Quickly Agatha stirred her mistake. “We have to entertain so much for Mars’ business. Mars’ work keeps him so busy and I’m all time monitoring the servants and seeing to the house. You could never imagine all the steps for running a house this large,” Agatha said taking delicate sips. She grimaced. “You don’t say, miss. Well there isn’t much to miss in Lower Edgewyck. I’ve always heard the second hardest job there is is being the newly acquired wife of a generous man,” Iris said taking a hearty draw of her own black tea. The policewoman knew more than she wanted to know about Mars from his blood caked axe with a few strands of blonde hair luckily found by the lakeside. But murder investigations are more than clues on the ground. The translucent porcelain cup felt sharp against Iris’s lips. Watching Agatha beneath her lashes Iris could see the worry lines drawn on her face. The room was well decorated and tidy with dusty corners. Iris could still see the cold water flat in the woman’s eyes and smell the grease from a chip shop on her skin. It was one thing to do away with your nagging wife in the heat of the moment but to fake out of town postcards and obtain a Parisian divorce speaks of planning, it screams accomplice. Iris was never one to assign guilt to one’s address but She had also learnt early to always judge a book by its cover. You said second, the second hardest job. What’s the most hardest job?” Agatha was drawn tight as bow. Iris could see what it must have taken for Agatha to rewrite her story, the effort to rise from waitressing in CheapSides to sitting in your own home with servants and dusty corners. Iris finished her cup the fine china not quite making up for the cold dregs of Darjeeling. “Oh mam the hardest job is being a generous man’s last wife.” Iris laughed till her shoulders shook. Her laugh empty as a tea cup.
“I need you to listen to me very carefully. You don’t know me, but I know you.” The voice in my head was calm as a cleaver. I had held my breath waiting when I noticed the blank envelope among the bills and circulars. I turned the letter carefully in my hands. No need to worry about fingerprints. The police had visited dozens of times, drank gallons of coffee, walked in unenthusiastic circles with large flashlights. But life was nothing like CSI. As the lined torn notepaper fell from my fingers, I released that breath. It was time to walk, to check each window, check behind each door. The lightning in my brain sparked. Its tragic music of thunder wouldn’t stop until I completed my rounds. I rubbed my graying temples. The letters had been coming for years. Cryptic warnings like Just remember the spider, my boy or Patience no one gets out alive and odd questions, Do we need more fresh blood? Or why don’t you just leave already? That letter gave me the chills. But I knew my duty. I needed to keep family safe. Seven years of penny pinching and living in a crap hole studio apartment had paved the way to this our dream house. Our slice of manicured crabgrass and neighbor barbecues with a thirty year mortgage, my realm could not taken away so easily. The sky had purpled and grown cool. It was a good night for thick grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. Macy would be home soon. There was an invite to yet another graduation party on the refrigerator. Had I put it there? Must’ve. My storm clouds lifted. Cheese, butter, pickles, I gathered the sandwich fixings and made a mental note to pick up fresh half and half. The crumbled note joined its brothers in the kitchen rubbish bin.
Electric air bristles with revulsion Quiet enough for a dropped pin The world has outgrown sideshows At least our consciences like to pretend
Truth be told we’re not very far from the freak shows we’ve only added a markup language spin Penny Dreadfuls have morphed into podcasts That teach us it’s never a mannequin
Late of Mary Lynch, an unassuming volume awaits us Deeply tanned and bound in its curio of sin We crowd as close as souvenir hunters under the gallows’ shadow Our flesh undulating for a glimpse of forbidden skin
From gruesome to wisdom the mind flinches free of its voyeur glory Grasping one could hold all that’s left of a woman and still never know her version of the story
“It’s true bro honest to God. I saw it on tik tok.” Chris sighed. Denny had a PlayStation, the newest games, his mom always bought Fanta, but he would not stop talking. While sidestepping zombie Rottweilers, Chris made interested sounds. “You know how you can dial 411 for help even if your phone’s dead or unlock any car with a special phone number?” Denny asked. He was squatting bouncing on his heels. Chris grunted weaving around rogue hordes of the undead. He could hear his mom telling him to be nice. “So anyways I saw this video where you take on your battery punch in the dead guy’s birthdate and death date and the dead guy answers. Honest to God it works,” Denny said. He was panting. Chris thought he looked like a puppy waiting for doggie treat. “So I thought you could try it for your mom. You know cause….” With a flame thrower and sheer gumption Chris cleared the secret research lab’s lobby and headed for the elevator. “Thanks Den I’m too young to drive.” Chris laughed and confused Denny joined in. The elevator door opened.
Sparkling and paint-splattered, Saturday oversleeps turning into her pillow Pillow soft Sunday urns for another day and a trenta iced coffee Coffee carries Monday to work in a fireman’s hold Holding her promise Tuesday clings to the edge Edging from the brink Wednesday throws her leg over the hump Humpback chest Thursday breaks open spilling pages free Freed Friday shimmies down a fire escape with handfuls of sequins
Snow thick as marshmallow fluff crunched satisfyingly beneath our boots. Our breaths came in white ghosts. Sneaking looks at me under the brim of his Phillies cap, Taylor was about to say something. I silenced him with an arched eyebrow. We are at the wrought iron gates. I remember Mr. Levin saying how on Sundays slaves here used to work for themselves to earn their freedom as iron mongers or plaiting cane chairs and some such. Heavy with patches of black enamel, this iron work with undulating angel wings and chains broken was clearly a work of pure joy. I donkey kicked the rust gate open and continued in. The snow swaddled the tombstones. Many were small and fallen. Others leaned drunkenly. Simple slabs jostled statuary in metal and granite. I walked on watching for frost harden vines hidden ready to twist an ankle. Taylor stepped in my steps. Muggsy, Sheba, Mr. Snugglepants, Tinkerbell, the engraved names watched us as we trudged to the back of the pet cemetery. I picked through broken birds, dogs, and a sleeping cat covered in frosted moss. The remains of a massive tree sighed across my path. Carefully I scrabbled over it. There it is a Jack Russell terrier on its hind legs front paws raised to the sky. Its perfect head is turned slightly over his stone shoulder looking at me just like Tank used to. Memories of Tank fall on my cheeks like snowflakes. We discovered this place years ago on one of our long meanderings before he… Taylor touched my arm. Tossing down my sack, I flinched his hand away. Avoiding his eyes I handed him the crowbar. “Hurry before anyone see us.”