A Family Afflicted

This little tale was an impromptu response to a fellow blogger’s prompt. He asked that I tell him a story. I asked what kind of story, and his response was “a fictionalized account of real life.” The following is the story I told him.

~

The house was situated a quarter mile back from the main road, though there was a straight shot from the front window to the traffic beyond. For the most part, people steered clear of the little house set apart.

It’s not that it wasn’t part of a larger community; it was. But the occupants never acclimated to the area, nor had the townsfolk ever warmed to them. It certainly didn’t help matters that the woman was a bit touched in the head. She could be spotted walking the sidewalks, muttering to herself, wringing her hands, her eyes glazed over as though she wasn’t focused on anything.

At least not on anything anyone else could see.

Following the general rules of communities such as these, the local gossips cast aspersions on the small family which consisted only of the woman and her three children: one boy and two girls. No one knew if the father was in the picture or if, in fact, the woman had simply conjured them up. Such can be the nature of small town gossip.

On the day of the Annual Harvest Festival, nearly all of the townsfolk gathered around the main square: bobbing for apples, getting face paintings of cornucopias and pilgrims, carving pumpkins, taking hayrides in old Farmer Wilkerson’s rig, the usual Harvest Festival activities taking place on Main Streets all across America.

All save The Spooks that is, which is what the townsfolk had taken to calling the little family that avoided social functions without fail. It was a relief, really, because people grew quiet, wary, fearful even when the family was around, say in the grocery or the little three room schoolhouse.

On this particular day, the woman was out on the porch, rocking rocking rocking in her chair. She stared out at nothing.

At least not anything anyone else could see.

The boy and the younger daughter had wandered off to the nearest neighbor’s orchards to relieve the leaf strewn grounds of their sweet apples and tart pears. The elder girl was in the back of the house, taking a bath.

She locked the door before getting undressed, as anyone with an older brother is wont to do. Stepping into the bath, the hot water turned her pale skin a deep shade of pinkish red. As steam fogged the mirror over the sink, her ever-present anxiety elevated. Thoughts of Bloody Mary and other schoolhouse nonsense flitted through her mind. But she cast them away and commenced washing. She was a bit hurried in her actions now, though.

The house was quiet. Too quiet. The others were gone, but the mother should have begun preparations for dinner by now. Wringing out her washcloth over and over, squeezing it along her arms and upper body, the girl rinsed and prepared to finish her bath.

And then it happened.

She gripped the washcloth so tightly that her fingernails dug painful crescents into her palm. Mouth agape, she watched as the knob on the bathroom door slowly, silently twisted. First all the way to the right. Then all the way to the left.

The lock was still in place. This shouldn’t be happening. It’s simply not possible.

She held her breath and was struck by the fact that there were no sounds at all as the knob turned again and again, moving slowly as through molasses.

She finally found her voice and called out, “James!? Caroline?! Mama??” No one responded to her calls, but the knob slowly ceased it’s turning.

Cautiously rising from the now tepid bathwater, the girl wrapped her dripping body in a ratty towel and tiptoed toward the door. Heart pounding at her rib cage, she unlocked the door and jerked it open.

Eyes wide, she clutched her hand to her chest and backed into the bathroom.

When James and Caroline returned with potato sacks full to bursting with their contraband, Mama was nowhere to be found.

The worried duo found their sister wearing Mama’s nightgown and slowly rocking in Mama’s rocking chair on the porch. Try as they might, they could get nothing out of her.

The girl’s eyes had glazed over, and she muttered unknown words in a barely perceptible whisper. Ceaselessly wringing her hands, she stared off at nothing.

Or at least not at anything anyone else could see.

~

THE END

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An Island Getaway (from me): A 100-Word Story

She met him at the airport in Dubai. Blushing and hopeful, she waited for him to embrace her.

But he never would.

He offered a tentative smile and motioned toward the gate with a nod of his head.

Hopping aboard the plane, they embarked on the next leg of the journey. Onward to an island paradise. With so much nervous excitement, she had looked forward to sitting beside him on the flight.

But he leaned away.

The week passed slowly: him writing on the sofa, her crying in the bedroom.

She waved goodbye, broken and spent.

He never looked back.

~

Thank you, T. Wayne, for inviting me to participate in the 100-word challenge. Y’all should check out his blog – he talks about a variety of things and with impeccable writing, at that. His music posts and personal reminisces are my favorites. Go give him a look-see. You won’t regret it.

Eduardo*: The Company Man**

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*The protagonist of this true story tale of whimsy shall be referred to as Eduardo. (Make sure to roll the “r,” or the fake name loses its charm.) His true identity shan’t be revealed. I assure you this is quite necessary, as I would meet a certain death were I to reveal it.

**Eduardo insisted I refer to him as Company Man rather than Company Lizard. He called me specist, but I think he’s just being sensitive. I say we should refer to him as the Company Being and be done with it. He told me to stop being an asshole.

This is a true story, except for the parts that aren’t almost all of it.

~

Chance Encounter with a Company Man

I first met Eduardo the night he appeared outside my bathroom window. I was startled, to be sure, but immediately smitten. As soon as I laid eyes upon him, I clasped my hands and gave a sopranic* shriek of delight before dissolving into a mass of giggles. (*Sopranic is definitely the adjectival of soprano; trust me on this.)

He hadn’t meant to blow his cover, and he blames me for the Lavatory Rendezvous. You see, he’s drawn to the light. It’s a serious weakness for someone in his line of work. But so long as the bathroom light beckoned into the darkness, Eduardo was my prisoner and I was in control. (Eduardo is an opportunist, you see. And nighttime lights provide a veritable buffet of light-drawn insects.)

Before we parted, I asked Eduardo to pose for a photograph. He tried to refuse but knew I would have my way so long as the light switch was in the up position. But he did adamantly protest a portrait. I readily acquiesced; after all, I wouldn’t want him being taken out. So long as I couldn’t pick him out of a lineup, there remained plausible deniability. Besides, he said, his belly is his best side.

Eduardo, shamelessly exposing his soft underbelly. He asked me not to tell you that I pet his belly through the glass. Oops. Sorry, Eduardo.
Eduardo, fearlessly and shamelessly exposing his soft underbelly. He asked me not to tell you that I pet his belly through the glass. Oops. Sorry, Eduardo.

Eduardo returned every night for weeks after that initial encounter. Drawn by the light that I switched on at dusk and left on until bedtime, summoning him to the window.

I learned that it’s tough for a lizard (skink, whatever) in The Company. Shower times are particularly problematic. People don’t seem to understand his need to climb the walls and peer down, flicking his tongue at rogue water droplets in hopes that one of them turns out to be a bug. So now he showers alone, but he hasn’t found anyone to turn the faucets on for him. No thumbs, you see.

Besides, he’d always aspired to be an Observer.

The resemblance is uncanny.
The resemblance is uncanny.

I told him the Observers weren’t real, and he said, “You know nothing, human.” This time I called him a specist, but he only snorted in derision. According to Eduardo, the requirements to become an Observer are far more rigorous than those of The Company. But it’s on his bucket list. For now, he just tries to avoid being called a spook. He prefers Company Man to that.

spook

Over the course of our nightly visits, Eduardo filled me in on his life story. He’s Brazilian, which you may have surmised from his chosen pseudonym. It was no accident, that, though he hasn’t worn a ponytail since his days as a capoeira instructor when he used it as a weapon.

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We talked about music – he turned me on to salsa and water drumming; I turned him on to the Chili Peppers and LL Cool J. And he spoke of his wandering eye, his philandering ways, hence why he’d chosen this life over settling down and having a passel of lizardlets. I swear I saw a glint in his eye, the tiniest scintillating hint of a tear, but he dismissed it as a shimmering scale left behind from his last meal. I let it go. A lizard man has his pride.

~

It’s been nigh on a month since last we met. I’ve all but given up on the nightly lighting ritual. Try as I might, I can’t help but think the worst.

Eduardo is most certainly floating face-down in the Mediterranean Sea, subsequent to being shot when he had a change of heart in the midst of an assassination attempt. I can only hope that some gruff but kindly fisherman will happen upon Eduardo and rescue him before he freezes to death.

But until I know for sure, I’ll leave the light on.