Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sop Doll- A Jack Tale-Part II

Author's Note: This is not an original piece by VL Sheridan. "Jack Tales" are Appalachian folklore, passed down in an oral tradition as oppossed to a written one. When I was in grade school one hundred years ago, the school librarian, Mrs. Martin, would read this story to us. It has a special place in my heart; I hope you enjoy it too.

Jack come at it with his knife, syas, "I done told you not to sop your doll in there. You try it one more time now, and I'll sure whack it off."

The old cat drawed back, set on there switchin' its tail. Them other cats stirred a little, one or two of 'em sort of meowled.

Then that cat fopped its foot right smack in Jack's gravy, says, "Sop! Doll-ll-ll!"

Jack came down with his knife right quick and cut the cat's paw plumb off. The old cat jumped for a window and all twelve of 'em went,

"Whar-r-r-r-r!" and were gone from there 'for Jack could turn to look.

Well, Jack went to throw that meat in the fire, and instead of a cat's paw hit was a woman's hand layin' there in the skillet, had a ring on one finger.

Jack took the hand out and wropped it in some paper, put it up on the fireboard. Then he washed and scoured his skillet, cooked him some more meat, and a pone of bread. Got done eatin' and went on to bed.

The next mornin'the man that owned the mill got up real early, says, "Old lady, you better get up and cook me some breakfaxt. I reckon I'll have to make arrange-ments about buryin' that boy today."

His lady sort of scrouged around in the bed, said she was sick and couldn't get up. So the man fixed fimself some breakfast and pulled on down to the mill.
There was Jack, just a-grindin' right on.

The man got in to where Jack was, hollered to him, says, "Well! I wasn't expectin' to see you alive, Jack. Thought I'd be buryin' you today."

Jack hollered back at him, says, "When you get that turn ground out, shut the mill down. I got to talk to ye, right now."

So directly Jack went and pulled the water-gate so's the mill racket 'uld stop and him and that man could talk.

Says, "Now, Jack, you tell me what happened last night." Jack related to him about all them black cats and he told about the old man givin' him that silver knife.

The man says, "I see through the whole thing now. Hit's a witch gang. They wanted to have their lodge meetin's here in the mill. And when that cat sopped in the grease she pizened it someway or other."

Jack said he had an idea that was how it was. Said that was why he scoured the skillet. The man said hit was a good thing he done that. Then Jack told him about the cat's paw turnin' into a woman's hand, says, "You might not believe that, but I've got it right here to show ye." Got that woman's hand and unwroped it.

The man took it, looked it over, looked at the ring on it, says, "Now, I declare! Well, I'd 'a never thought it!" Says, "Now, Jack, you lock the mill up and come on back home with me. We got to tend to this right now. Hit's a good thing that knife was made out of silver. You can't hurt a witch with a knife, or a bullet even, unless it's silver."

So they went back to the house and the man's old woman was still in the bed. He asked her if she felt any better. She said No, said she'd not get up for a little while longer.

So the man says to her, says, "You want me to send for the doctor?"

She said No, said for him to send for some of the neighbor women. He asked her what women folks she wanted to come and she named out eleven women in the settle-ment. So the man sent word to 'em, and 'fore any of 'em got there he says to his wife, says, "Let me see your right hand."

The old woman sort of twisted around, poked out her left hand.

"No," says the old man, "hit's your right hand I want to see."

So she twisted and turned, poked out her left hand again. Then he reached over and pulled out her right arm and there wasn't no hand on it.

Well, the women folks came readily as soon as they got the word.

The man says to Jack, says, "I been suspectin' my old woman was mixed up with that gang of witches, but I'd 'a never 'lowed she was the head of it."

Jack says, "Oh, surely not."

Man says, "Yes, I knowed hit was her hand time I saw the ring on it."

Well, when the last of them eleven women got in with his old lady, that man shut the door on 'em and fired the house. Them twelve witches started crackin' and poppin', and ever' one of 'em was burnt plumb up.

So Jack made an end of the witch gang in that settle-ment. And that man never did have no more trouble about his mill.

The Jack Tales, by Richard Chase. copyright 1971.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sop Doll!-A Jack Tale

Author's Note: This is not an original piece by VL Sheridan. "Jack Tales" are Appalachian folklore, passed down in an oral tradition as oppossed to a written one. When I was in grade school a hundred year ago, the school librarian, Mrs. Martin, would read us this story every Halloween. It has a special place in my heart; hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Said one time Jack started out to hunt him a job of work. He pulled out and travelled on till he got to another settle-ment, ran across a feller told him there was a man there wanted to hire some work done. So he told Jack where the man's house was at, and Jack went over there; stopped by the gate and hollered, "Hello!"

The man came out, asked Jack what did he want. So Jack told him.

The man told Jack to come on in; asked him what his name was. Says, "Well, Jack, I've got a mill on a watercourse down the road a piece, but I've got no time to run it. I've hired several men to grind down there, but the very first night somethin' has always killed 'em. Looked like there was some kind of pizen. Now I thought I'd tell ye, Jack, so you'd know all about it 'fore ye took the job."

"Well," syas Jack, "if you don't care, we might walk down there and look that mill over."

So they went on down to the mill. Hil was a old log house with a fire place and ever'thing fixed for whoever tended the mill to cook and sleep down there. There were twleve little windows rather high-up on the walls, had no window lights in 'em.

Jack looked it over right good, sayd, "Bedad, I believe I might take the job."

The man says, "All right, Jack. I see you're no coward. Now I'll give ye half of what you make and give ye your rations too. I'll go back to the house and get ye some meat and meal for your supper. And you can start in grindin' soon as anybody comes."

Well, when word got out that the mill was opened again, lots of customers started comin' in and Jack had to grind right on till it was plumb dark.

Fin'ly got the last turn ground out and shut the mill down. He hadn't no more'n got the water turned out of the mill race when here came an old man on a sorry-lookin' mule, got off and walked in the mill with a little poke of corn on his shoulder. He had a long gray beard and he was one-eyed.

"Howdy do, Jack," he says. "How you gettin' on?"

"All right, I guess," says Jack. "I hope you're well."

"About like common," says the old man.

Then Jack looked at him, says, "I don't believe I ever say you before."

"No," the old man told him, "I'm a stranger."

"Well, how in the world did you know my name?" Jack asked him.

"Oh. I knowed ye time I saw ye," the old man says. "I've come a long way today, Jack, and I wonder could you grind my corn for me. I couldn't get here no sooner."

"Why, sure," says Jack. "You wait here for a minute and I'll go turn the water in again."

So Jack started the mill up and ground the stranger's corn for him; shut the mill down, and when he got back the old man says to him, says, "Jack, you're the first one ever done me right here at this mill and I'm goin' to give ye a present."

He reache in his big coar and took out a silver knife and handed it to Jack. Jack thanked him and the old man left. Then Jack built him up a fire in the fireplace and got out the skillet.

Now Jack didn't have no lamp, but the fire gave out right much light, and it happened the moon ws shinin' in all twelve of them windows. Made it pretty near bright as day.

So Jack wsa cuttin' up his meat with that silver knife when all at once hit got thick dark in there. Jack looked up and there in ever' one of them little windows sat a big black cat. They all were a-lookin' right at Jack, their eyes just a-shinin'.

Well, Jack wasn't scared, much. He went on and put his meat in the skillet, set it on the fire and stooped down to turn it with his knife; paid no attention to them cats. But just about the time his meat 'gun to fry, Jack heared one cat light down on the floor. He went on a cookin', and the next thing he knowed, there was a big balck cat a-settlin' right up in the fireplace with him.

Jack went to turn the meat over and that cat stuck out its paw toward the skillet, says, "Sop doll!"

Jack reached out right quick with his knife, says, "You better not sop your doll in my meat or I'll cut it off."

The old cat jerked its foot back and set there awhile. Them other cats stirred around a little; stayed on up in the windows.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Rock A Bye Baby-Part Six

The cop was trying to be patient, but the kid wasn’t very cooperative. He wasn’t sure she knew what really happened. Sara sat on the couch with Lizzie on her lap. The police had called her at work; she rushed home sick at what she would find. The guilt would last a lifetime. Lizzie was tired. She had all ready told the man what had happened, and she didn’t want to answer any more questions. All she wanted to do was sleep.

The cop tried once more. “Ok, hon, can you tell me one more time what happened?”
Lizzie gave him an annoyed look and sighed.

“I told you, I woke up because I wet the bed and I wanted Mommy. I came into the living room and Chris was holding the baby and drinking a beer. He went onto the balcony with the baby and tripped over my cat. He got mad and said a bad word and put Reggie on the edge of the railing and started chasing my cat and he caught her and said he was going to throw her over the ledge and I ran over and pushed him and he fell forward and hit his head on the ledge. I saw Baby run over to the couch, but when I looked over to the balcony I didn’t see Reggie any more so I called 911 like I learned at school and then you guys came.”

She rubbed her eyes.

“I’m tired. Can I go to bed now, Mommy?”

“Sure baby. I’ll be right back,” she said to the cop.

The cop surveyed the room. Furniture toppled, beer cans all over the floor; it looked like a war zone. He hated cases like this. Children getting hurt always made him sick. He couldn’t figure out how anyone could be dumb enough to put a baby on a balcony ledge, but from what the little girl said, this guy wasn’t exactly ‘Father Knows Best’.

Sara returned to the living room, her eyes red.

“What happens now?” Her voice was strained.

“We’ll wait until your boyfriend regains consciousness to see what he has to say. It doesn’t look good for him, especially since we have a witness. You can expect to hear from children’s services about this."

“When can I collect the body?”

“I’m not sure you’re legally entitled to. You’d better ask children’s services.”

“That poor little baby,” Sara broke into tears. “He never got one break in his tiny life. I knew Chris didn’t like him, but I didn’t think he was capable of this.”
The cop looked at her with a mix of pity and contempt.

“We’ll be in touch,” he said tersely, and walked into the new dawning day.

Sara looked at the mess around her and collapsed on the couch, crying harder. In her bedroom, Lizzie was sound asleep, exhausted by the events of the night, holding her secret promise deep in her heart. Her cat, her baby, lay curled up at her feet, dead to the world.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Rock A Bye Baby-Part Five

Chris awoke with a start. He thought he’d heard something. He was groggy from all the beer. He glanced at the clock and saw that it was after midnight, almost four hours until Sara came home. The baby was asleep in his lap; Chris thought he’d put him back in his crib, but when he tried to get up he found it difficult to stand. Well, maybe he’d just stretch out on the couch and leave the baby on a chair. Struggling to his feet, Chris was leaning over the chair to put the baby down when he heard a shuffling noise in the hallway. Looking up he saw Lizzie creeping along the wall.

“What the hell are you doing up? Get back to bed.”

“I want Mommy,” was the almost inaudible answer.

“She’s not here. Go back to bed, dammit.”

“I want Mommy,” the child repeated, this time breaking into quiet sobs.

“Are you stupid? I said she’s not here, so get your ass back in bed now!”

“I can’t,” the child replied, weeping harder now.

“Why not?” Chris could feel his patience wearing thin.

“I wet the bed,” was the humiliated answer. The child was sobbing uncontrollably now.

Chris saw white.

“You stupid brat, I’m gonna beat your ass for that.”

Dropping the baby on the chair, he staggered toward Lizzie, who had huddled into a ball, terrified to move. Just as he was within arm’s reach, the cat ran in between Chris’ feet. Losing his balance, he swung around, murder in his eyes.

“That does it! You’re going over the railing cat!”

Blind with drunken rage, he chased after the cat. The cat put up a terrific fight, yowling and clawing, scratching and spitting. Chris tripped over one of Lizzie’s toys and fell into the back of the chair, knocking the baby to the floor. Reggie started to cry. Chris finally grabbed the cat by the scruff of its neck.

“Over the side” he grumbled under his breath as he made his way to the balcony.

“No, no, Baby, my baby!” Lizzie shrieked.

The thought of harm coming to her cat sprang her into action. Hysterical and blind with tears, she ran after Chris. As he reached the door to the balcony, she threw herself against his knees, tackling him and pushing him forward. Losing his balance, he let go of the cat in a vain attempt to keep from falling. He struck his head against the railing and collapsed in an unconscious heap. Lizzie sat next to him, hitting his body with her hands.

“I hate you, I hate you” she sobbed. “Go away, go away, I wish you’d go away and leave us alone!”

“He’s not a very nice guy, is he?”

A strange male voice spoke at the front door. Startled, Lizzie looked up and saw two men she’d never seen before standing in the hallway. The one with a baseball cap on his head walked over to Chris and checked the cut on his head.

“He’s out, probably will be for a while.”

The other man was tall and thin, with bright blue eyes. He came over to Lizzie and crouched down beside her. The man smiled and spoke quietly and slowly to her.

“You don’t like this guy too much, do you?”

He wiped her eyes and made her blow her nose. Lizzie began to calm down, but felt uncomfortable having strangers in the house. She took a deep breath.

“No,” she said firmly, “I hate him, he yells at me all the time, he hits Mommy, he kicks my cat and he threw my Pretty Pony over the ledge. I wish he’d go away forever.”

The man rubbed her back and continued to speak softly to her.

“Shh, hush. What if I told you a way to make him go away forever, but you had to keep a secret, would you help me do it?”

Lizzie looked at him suspiciously. Mommy had told her never to talk to strangers, but this guy said he knew of a way to get rid of Chris. Forever.

Looking down at her hands, she shyly peeked up at him and asked “How?"

“It’s easy, but it means you’d have to do something bad. Would you be able to do it?”

The guy with the base ball cap looked at his partner.

“What are you doing? We were told to take care of this punk.”

The blue eyed man smiled.

“We are going to take care of him, and this little sweetie is going to help us, aren’t you daring?”

He tickled her, and she laughed. Leaning close he began to whisper in her ear. She grew quiet and solemn. Only once did she look anxiously over at the baby, still crying on the floor. She picked him up, cradling him close to her. She started to rock him back and forth, singing softly. Looking back over her shoulder at the two men she went to the edge of the railing.

“. . . When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall, and down will come baby . . .”

She stood on her tip toes, reached the baby over the ledge, and let go.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fore! Play.

Dinner was over, the wine was drunk, now all that was left was to unwrap the goodies. She gasped when he pulled it out to surprise her.

"Oh, darling, it's immense!"

His ego wasn't the only thing swelling. Scwing! He kissed her cheek.

"Happy birthday, baby."

She bent her head closer to get a better look, puckering her lips in anticipation. Her earrings shimmered in the candlelight; he let his hand gently brush her hair away from her face.

"I've always had enormous luck with it. I hope you like it."

"It's so big. I don't know if I can handle it."

He laughed gently.

"It might be longer than you're used to, but I don't think you should have any trouble. Why don't you hold it?"

She blushed slightly, trying to contain her excitement. She gently placed her hand around the shaft, letting her fingers wrap around the thick pole. He smiled, and leaned his head back on the couch, enjoying the effect. Once again she let her face get within inches of its head, studying it with great intent.

"So you've had good results with it?"

"Definitely. I always manage to get in the hole with this bad boy."

A haughty look enveloped her face. She playfully positioned herself on his lap, biting his ear as she snuggled close.

"I love you darling, but with this new wood I'm going to kick your ass on the golf course."

Rock A Bye Baby-Part Four

Chris looked around the small, tired apartment. The doors leading to the balcony were open, letting in a meager breeze. He grabbed a beer, walked back to the living room and dropped on the couch. Where’s that damn cat, he wondered? Hope it got run over by a bus. One of these days he really would throw it over the ledge. He heard a soft crying sound coming from the bedroom. Damn thing must be stuck in a closet. A shadow on the floor made him realize that the cat was sitting in the window, silently watching him. Damn, he thought, it’s the baby. Now what was he supposed to do?
He tried to ignore it but the crying grew stronger and more insistent. He got up and got another beer, and on the way back he looked in on the baby. It was pathetic looking; born premature to a crack addicted mother, it was under weight and suffering from numerous neurological disorders. Reggie was unable to interact with people or his surroundings the way a normal infant would. His future was bleak. It would be difficult to place him for adoption; his medical expenses alone, even with government assistance, would bankrupt a family. Chris looked at the fussing infant with feelings of contempt and fear.

“Well, what’s your problem?”

The baby, sensing a hostile presence, cringed and cried harder.

“I’m going to beat her ass when she gets home. What am I supposed to do?”

“He wants you to pick him up,” a tiny voice said. Spinning around, Chris saw Lizzie, the cat by her side.

“What the hell are you doing up? Get your ass back to bed before I beat it!”

Lizzie ran back to her room; the cat sat staring at him.

“Beat it!”

He snarled, throwing his empty beer can at it. He missed the cat as it ran towards the living room. Turning back to the crib, Chris looked down at the still fussing baby. Should he pick it up? He reached down and grabbed the child with one hand. The baby immediately stiffened and tried to squirm away. Chris held it tighter and went to the kitchen to get another beer. Returning to the living room he sat on the couch, looking at the baby. It was still squirming and crying. Chris tried to get it to stop, but his attempts were horribly inadequate. Frustrated, he took a swig of beer. He looked at the baby as the liquid slid down his throat. Why not, he thought. Propping up the baby with one hand, and holding the beer can with the other; he tried to pour some beer into the baby’s mouth, soaking the front of his sleeper. The baby cried louder and harder.

“Come on damn it, lighten up bud,” Chris muttered, trying to give Reggie a drink. This time he was more successful; Reggie swallowed and choked on the unfamiliar liquid. He immediately threw up all over himself and Chris.

“Fuck! Man, you got to learn to hold your brew, dude.”

Chris wiped the vomit off, and then gave the baby more beer. This time Reggie managed to keep it down.

“Way to go man, two guys belting back some brews.”

Chris took a swig of beer and watched the baby grow quieter. Hell, this wasn’t so bad, this was no problem.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rock A Bye Baby-Part Three

“There’s no way I’m gonna baby sit! I’ve got better things to do than watch a freaked out crack head bastard and your daughter.”

Chris was in no mood for this. He was ready to walk.

“Please Chris, I’ve got to work tonight, my sister can’t watch the kids, I’ve got no one else to turn to.”

Sara was desperate; she hated the idea of leaving the kids alone with Chris, but there was no one else to ask. She was finally scheduled to return to the day shift and she didn’t want to anger her supervisors by calling out sick. Chris looked at her with disgust. He was about to leave when he remembered that a night out may not be such a good idea. Word on the street was people were still upset with him; if he went out he could expect no aid or comfort. Maybe he should continue to lay low, stay in. Spend the night at Sara’s.

“Fine,” he replied, “I’ll watch the kids tonight, but you owe me big time for this.”

“Thank you baby. The kids are in bed, they should sleep through the night. If the baby wakes up just pick him up and hold him for a while and he should fall back to sleep.”

She kissed him good bye and raced out the door. She tried to ignore the nagging feeling that this was a mistake. She started her car. Her eyes on the traffic, she didn’t notice the two figures leaning against the building across the street, their eyes on the balcony to her apartment.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Rock A Bye Baby-Part Two

“Can’t you shut that little brat up?”

Saturday night, one of the few nights that Sara didn’t have to work, and she was fussing with that God damn crack baby. As far as Chris was concerned, the extra money didn’t make up for the creepy feeling he got every time the baby cried. It was always crying, not with a healthy, lusty cry, but with a mewling, whiney one, like a cat. The damn thing wouldn’t let you hold it; whenever you picked it up, it became squirmy and anxious, like it couldn’t wait to be left alone. Not that Chris had any great desire to hold babies; they were a pain in the ass, always making noise, never giving anyone a moment’s peace. Chris couldn’t understand why Sara put up with it. She never had time for him any more. When they had first met Chris had found her exciting, always smiling and laughing, a real freak in bed. In the months since that baby arrived, she’d started to look old, was always tired, never wanted to have sex. Chris was close to walking out for a pack of cigarettes one night and not coming back. He was tired of Sara’s brat daughter too; ever since that cat had come into the house she was impossible to deal with. So what if he had kicked the damn thing across the room? He hated that cat; the stupid thing was always under foot, sneaking around. Cats were untrustworthy.

Sara walked wearily in from the kitchen. Just once, she thought, I’d like a quiet evening on my night off. Things hadn’t gotten any better with Chris. He still wasn’t helping around the apartment or with the bills; he always had something negative to say about the kids. She had to get back on the day shift. Reggie was too much to handle, and ever since they got that cat, Lizzie was oblivious to anyone else. She carried it everywhere, fussed over it, calling it her baby. The cat put up with it. Sara could tell the animal had a natural dislike for Chris. It seemed to go out of its way to antagonize him.

“You know the baby gets fussy when he’s hungry. I wish you’d be more patient with him.”
Sara didn’t bother to hide the annoyance in her voice.

Chris was on edge. A deal he had orchestrated had fallen through, and the representatives of the other party were unhappy. The last thing he needed was shit from Sara.
“Yea, well, I’m hungry too, when do I get to eat?”

“It’ll be a while. You look like hell; did you get into another fight at the bar again?”

“Watch your tone,” Chris snarled as he raised his arm. Just then the cat jumped off the bookshelf, using Chris’s shoulder to break its fall.

“I’m throwing that God damn cat over the ledge!”

He turned to look for it, and saw Lizzie scoop the cat protectively into her arms.

“You will not”! She yelled definitely, “You leave my Baby alone!”

Chris moved towards the child, who stood her ground. Sara rushed to restrain him.

"Come into the kitchen and I’ll fix you something to eat. Just leave her alone.”

Lizzie stood staring at Chris, the disgust growing in her eyes.

“I hate you; I wish you’d go away from here.”

Her tone was low and even.

Chris made another attempt to get to her but Sara rushed in between them.

“Lizzie, go to your room, NOW!”

Lizzie hugged the cat closer and walked silently to her bedroom. She could hear arguing in the kitchen, and flinched when she heard the sounds of slapping and crying start. She hated Chris for hurting her mom; she hated her mom for letting it happen. Lizzie sat in the middle of her bed, rocking the cat back and forth, singing softy. “Rock a bye baby, on the tree top.” Her singing couldn’t muffle out the fight in the other room.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Rock A Bye Baby-Part One

Lizzie stood looking at the baby lying on the bed. For once he wasn’t crying. Usually Reggie spent all his waking hours crying. Lizzie couldn’t understand why this baby had to live with them. Her mommy said something about fosters care, but she wasn’t sure what that was. All she knew was that ever since Reggie had shown up her mommy spent more time with him than with her. Lizzie stared at the baby, then walked over and pinched him hard on the thigh. Reggie let out a shriek and began to holler.

“What did you do?”

Sara rushed into the room, frantic to comfort the squalling infant.

“You always care about him” Lizzie said in a sulky tone. “I hate that dumb old baby.”

Sara fought the impulse to smack Lizzie.

“Come on, we have to go to Aunt Donna’s. Be quiet on the way out, don’t wake up Chris.”

Chris, another thorn in Lizzie’s side. Yesterday he had come over before Mommy went to work, and when Sara was out of the room, had taken Lizzie’s My Pretty Pony and wouldn’t give it back to her. He held it out of reach and then threw it over the balcony on to the street. He liked to pick on her. As they walked past the living room, Lizzie saw Chris sprawled out on the couch, empty beer cans littering the floor.

“Too much beer again” she mumbled.

Sara cringed. If Chris’s drinking was that obvious to an eight year old, may be it was a problem. Chris and Sara had been together six months, but lately it seemed as if he lived with them. He didn’t contribute financially unless Sara nagged him but nagging always lead to a fight. Sara pushed that thought out of her mind as she walked out of the apartment to her car, letting Lizzie strap her self in while she placed Reggie in his car seat. Sara worked third shift at a hospital, dropping off the kids to spend the night with her sister. She was hoping to get transferred to days soon. She didn’t like leaving the kids with someone else. The added responsibility of caring for a foster child was more than she bargained for; if children’s services found out she was working nights they would take him away from her. The money she got for him each month would disappear as well.
Sara looked over to Lizzie sitting in her car seat. She could feel her pulling further away from her.

“Honey, I know it’s hard having the baby around, but I wish you’d be nicer to him.”

Lizzie sighed and looked out the window.

“He cries a lot.”

“I know, but that’s because he’s not well. He gets upset easily.”

Lizzie continued to look out the window.

“You like him better than me, don’t you,” she whispered.

The question pierced Sara’s heart.

“No, baby, no, that’s not true. I love you. It’s just that Reggie needs a lot of attention.”

Sara struggled to find the right words. An idea came to her.

“Mrs. Evens has to get rid of her cat. Maybe we could give it a home and you could take care of it.”

Lizzie perked up.

“If we get a cat, maybe Chris will go away. I heard him say he hates cats.”

Sara bit her lip.

“I wouldn’t count on that sweetie.”

Lizzie faded again.

“It was nicer before he came around, why’s he got to stay with us all the time? He’s always yelling and being mean and breaking stuff.”

Sara listened sadly to her daughter. Lizzie was right. Chris was short tempered and disruptive to their lives. A few times Sara went to work with bruises. How do you explain to a child that sometimes it’s better to have a not so good man that no man at all? She would tell Chris to help more if he expected to stay with her all the time, and if things didn’t get better, she’d break things off. She meant it this time.
Sara pulled up to her sister’s place. Lizzie got out of the car and waited for her on the sidewalk.

“If we get a cat, I’m gonna name her Baby. Then I’ll have a baby all to myself.”

Sara smiled.

“That’ll be nice,” she said as the three of them went up to the house.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sins of the Flesh

“I don’t want you coming here again.”

He had moved off of the bed, the deed done, and stood near the fire. He couldn’t look at her, his guilt overwhelming him. She stared at the ceiling, listening to the flames in the hearth. She spoke calmly and firmly.

“I don’t care what others think; I love you and want to be here.”

He closed his eyes at her words, grief rising as strongly as his lust for her had.

“You don’t understand, Cerys, we can’t be together, there’s no future for us. I should never have let this go so far.”

She went to him, placing her arms around him.

“I don’t care what you are, Arawn, I love you, I want to be your wife. I want to bear your children.”

He turned, grabbing her by the shoulders, shaking her furiously.

“Stop it Cerys! You don’t know what you’re saying. I’m a sin-eater, a pariah. What would your family say if they found out you were here? They’d disown you. Our children would be reviled, hated by all until they were needed to eat the sins of the flesh. I won’t let you do it; I won’t condemn you to the life I’m cursed with.”

He pushed her away from him, hating how much he wanted her, hating the lonely life forced on him. She did her best to control her tears, turning away as she began to dress. She made her way to the door, stopping to look back at him. He was hunched over the fire again, the light illuminating his body, making her ache to have him take her again.

“I’ll be back, Arawn. Nothing will keep us apart. I’d give up my life for you.”

She hurried from the house, holding her hands to her ears so she didn’t hear his wrenching sobs.

It took her longer to return home. She pushed open the door, hoping to sneak in undetected, when a growl emanated from the corner. Turning her head to quiet the dog, she gasped as she saw her father standing next to the animal.

“Where were you?”

He struggled to keep his anger in check.

“Out for a walk."

“Don’t lie, you were with him. You were with that filthy bastard. You disgust me.”

He walked towards her, his hand raised to strike; the sound of horses galloping out of the courtyard caught her attention.

“You’re too late,” he father said, grabbing her by the hair. “He’ll be dead before you have the chance to warn him.”

She broke away from his grasp, and started running towards his house.

She arrived too late; he was lying on the floor, bleeding heavily from the wounds inflicted by her father’s men. Pulling his head into her lap, she tried to find a way to stop the blood. He opened his eyes, trying to focus on her face.

“Cerys”, he whispered.

She placed her fingers to his lips.

“Don’t speak, please, save your strength.”

He smiled slightly, touching her face.

“I love you. Prove you love me by leaving this place.”

“I won’t let you die alone” she sobbed.

“Prove you love me. Leave this place.”

He died in her arms; she held him until her arms were numb. She heard voices in the woods, and hurried to prepare herself.

“Cerys”, her father called.

She poured ale into a bowl, and grabbed some bread and placed it on Arawn’s chest. She waited until her father appeared in the door way; she grabbed the bowl, held it up and looked her father straight in the eye.

“Here father, here is the result of your work!”

She began to say the prayer Arawn taught her.

“I give easement and rest now to thee, dear man. Come not down the lanes or in our meadows. And for thy peace I pawn my own soul!”

She heard her father’s cry of grief as she swallowed her lover’s sins.

Friday, October 15, 2010

No Pets Allowed

A soft summer breeze floats through the bedroom as we lay entwined on the bed. My hand lazily plays with the hair on your chest as I try to fight off sleep.

“It’s getting late” you mumble.

“I know,” I reply, “just five more minutes.”

Kissing my hair you pull away from me.

“We don’t have five minutes, Red. The moon’s almost up.”

Rolling over onto my side I watch you prepare, pulling the collar out of a drawer and snapping it around your neck.

“Come on, Red, please, get dressed. It’s almost time.”

I groan, leaving our bed, dressing, cursing under my breath.

“I hate this,” I growl as I come up to you, throwing my arms around you in a bear hug. “Why do I have to leave?”

You return my hug, once again planting a kiss on the top of my head.

“Because it’s time. I don’t want you to see me like this.”

I stamp my foot petulantly on the ground.

“I hate this time of the month”.

Laughing, you turn me towards the door, affectionately swatting my ass.

“Now you know how I feel each month when you’re on the rag.’’

Pushed out of the bedroom, I wander to the window overlooking the street. A large harvest moon appears above the building across the street, illuminating the apartment, bathing me in a bright glow. Suddenly a low guttural moan emanates from the behind the door; I hold my breath, listening to the sounds of the room being ransacked. I hope the bedspread doesn’t get ripped, I think, it’s brand new. I sit down in the pool of moonlight, waiting for the noises to subside. After half an hour I venture towards the door, my hand trembling slightly as I grasp the door knob. Opening the door, I search the darkened room for you. A small whimper catches my attention; walking over to the other side of the bed I find you lying on the floor, panting, your tongue hanging out between your canines. I sit down next to you, pulling your head into my lap, scratching your ears and petting you as your tail begins to wag.

“Poor boy,” I whisper, putting my face next to your snout, “do you feel up for a walk?”

You stagger to your feet, following me out to the living room where I grab your leash. Leaving the house, we walk to the dog park, deserted at this hour. We spend hours playing fetch, chasing each other. I’m reminded of that phrase from the story Call of the Wild; “but especially he loved to run in the dim twilight of the summer midnights.” It’s nearly one o’clock in the morning when we return, exhausted, falling into bed. You run and cry in your sleep; the first night is always the hardest.

I awake the next morning to the sound of the shower running. The smell of fresh coffee lures me out of bed; pulling on my robe I stretch and yawn on my way to the kitchen. I pour two cups and head back towards the bedroom when there’s a knock at the door.

“Who is it?”

“It’s the landlord, Mrs. London.”

Opening the door I find a small, nervous man standing there. Definitely not a dog person.

“Morning Mr. Talbot, how are you?”

“I’m fine, thank you, ma’am. I was wondering, see last night, I was coming home late from being out, and I thought I saw you out at the park, last night, with a dog. You don’t have a dog in here, do you Mrs. London? Because that would be against the rules.”

I try to remember where I put your leash.

“No, we don’t have a dog, Mr. Talbot. Do you want to come in and look?”

I step aside to let him in when you appear from the bathroom, clad only in a towel.

“Oops, sorry.”

“Honey, the landlord thinks we have a dog. I told him we don’t, but he can come in and look if he wants to.”

Your eyes darken slightly at this minor threat.

“Sure, come in and look.”

I hand you your coffee and fetch your robe from the bedroom as the landlord starts his search. The two of us stand in the hall, sipping our drinks; you casually throw you arm around me and pull me closer, kissing my ear. The landlord finishes his search, sheepishly grinning, muttering something about our apartment smelling like a wet dog. Closing the door behind him I realize how tense you are.

I kiss your cheek and whisper, “Down boy, he’s gone.”

You take another sip of your coffee, walk into the bedroom and announce, “That’s it, time to get our own house.”

Following you into the room, I tease “With a big backyard?”

Ripping off your robe, you push me onto the bed, spilling my coffee in the process. Mounting me from behind, I hear you mutter, “If you put a dog house in the back, I’ll never forgive you.”

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Hot Cup of Joe

The room was cold; wet snow was starting to clump on the windowsill. She went over to the ancient radiator and fiddled with the knob. A thin wisp of steam tried to escape with an exhausted hiss. This was ridiculous, she thought,having to work under these conditions. No heat, a leaky ceiling right over her desk, mice and roaches running across her feet and desk. She was terrified of opening her purse when she got home at night and finding a critter in there. Her cats might appreciate the gift, but she hated the idea of something so defenseless being ripped apart by razor sharp teeth and claws.

She started to straighten up her desk, putting the files in order, putting the phone on forward for the night. She looked over to his office; the light was still on. He was slumped over some papers. Probably the Richman account; she had worked for three weeks trying to reconcile those numbers, staying late, coming in early. He had promised her a raise if she could pull it off, and when she did, he took all the credit for her work, telling his supervisor how hard he'd worked to get the account balanced. When she called him on it, demanded the reward he'd promised her, he'd laughed, and ridiculed her gullibility. Told her to become more business savvy. It's kill or be killed, he'd told her.

So she waited, bided her time. Waited to absolve herself of any guilty feelings she might still have. He liked to have a cup of coffee in the afternoon, black, no sugar. He especially liked to have her get it for him, taking great delight in summoning her into his office and commanding her to bring it to him. Usually she had to fight back the bile of resentment that enveloped her, but not today. Today she went down to the kitchen, brewed a fresh pot of coffee, and gently sprinkled a powder of ground up peanuts into the bottom of the mug. She poured the hot cup of Joe and placed the lid on the travel mug nice and tight. She returned it to him, then sat down at her desk. She was starting to delete her personal files when she began to hear him cough. She heard him struggling to open desk drawers as the coughing became more violent; heard him rummaging frantically for the epinephrine which had, unbeknownst to him, mysteriously disappeared from his desk the night before. His head fell onto the desk as anaphylaxis set in; moments later a coronary artery spasm erupted. She could hear his breathing become laboured, then finally cease.

She waited a few more minutes, then went into his office to retrieve the travel mug. She closed the door to his office, went down to the kitchen, and dumped the contents into the sink. She rinsed out the mug, then filled it half way with the coffee that was still in the pot. Returning to the office, she placed the mug back on his desk. She scrunched her nose at the smell in the office; he'd lost muscle control, emptying his bladder and bowels. She went back to her desk, pulling on a pair of boots as her computer shut down. She put on her coat and left, closing the door behind her. She was halfway down the hall when she ran into his supervisor. She smiled politely at him.

"Not working late tonight?"

"No, it's starting to snow. I think I've earned an early night."

"You did an excellent job on the Richman account."

She dropped her gaze, and bit her lip.

"I thought Jonathan took all the credit for that."

"He did, but there's no way that was his work. I notice when people come in and when people leave. Keep up the good work; you never know when there'll be a chance to move up."

She gave him her brightest smile as she headed towards the exit. No, one never knew when there would be a chance to be promoted.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Blind Date

Tonight was definitely the blind date from hell. My boyfriend had thought it would be good for our relationship if we spent some time apart and I saw other men for awhile. My gut reaction when this new guy told me he was a vampire was, 'Not another one'. He was thin and pale, with dark seductive eyes, and was dressed smartly all in black, but I wrote that off as an affectation, that he was trying for a look somewhere between heroin chic and Goth bad boy. I tried not to choke on my Bloody Mary and decided to humour him.

“So if you’re a vampire, why don’t you glisten?”

He smiled slightly.

“Vampires only glisten in really bad teen movies.”

I laughed in spite of myself.

“You’re going to break a lot of teenage girls’ hearts with that heresy."

“I’m not interested in teenage girls,” he replied, “I’m looking for a woman to spend eternity with.”

“Eternity is a very long time” I answered back.

A look of immense sadness washed over his face.

“You have no idea” he said softly.

I tried to be polite, he seemed so earnest, but part of me just wanted to laugh.

“So what happened,” I asked, deciding to play along just a little bit longer, “did you get bitten by another vampire or something?”

He fiddled with the cutlery on the table, his eyes down, looking like he wanted to vanish into thin air. He pulled up the sleeve of his jacket on each arm, exposing four angry scars running from his wrist to his elbow.

“I committed suicide when I was thirty. Your soul is automatically damned when that happens. Now I’m forced to live amongst the un-dead.”

I was trying to find a way to end the conversation and the evening.

“I don’t want to be mean, but do you know how crazy that sounds, living amongst the un-dead?”

The grief and sorrow that had cloaked his face was violently replaced by anger and despair.

“I hate that word, it’s so dismissive! You’re crazy, vampires don’t exist, it’s all in your mind, snap out of it, grow up and accept responsibility for your actions!”

Several heads turned our way during his outburst. He was fighting back tears, clutching the knife, rocking back and forth in his seat.

“It’s ok” I said in a calm, soft voice, silently cursing my boyfriend. “I’m sorry I doubted you. I just don’t meet many vampires in this part of town."

He began to calm down and put the knife back on the table.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled from behind his fingers as he buried his face in his hands.

This had gone on long enough; I made an excuse about having to get up early the next day and grabbed my coat; he helped me put it on (he may be crazy but he was gentlemanly) and we made our way out of the bar. He insisted on taking me home; the ride back to my place was awkward and silent. He asked if we could see each other again, and I hemmed and hawed as I fumbled for my keys, giving him a quick kiss goodnight. I slammed the door, leaving him alone on the porch. I was pulling off my coat when the door bell rang. I opened the door to tell him to get lost; instead I found my boyfriend standing there, an anxious, unhappy look on his face.

“May I come in?”

I invited him in, walking into the living room and dropping onto the couch. He hesitated a moment, then plopped next to me. We sat in silence in the darkened room.

“Did you have a date tonight” he asked quietly.


“How did it go?”

I could hear the apprehension in his voice, and wanted him to squirm a little; it was his stupid idea that I see others.

“Awful. Some guy who said he was a vampire. I felt really sorry for him, but he made me totally uncomfortable. There are no normal guys left.”

I closed my eyes and placed my head back on the couch. He leaned over and nestled his face into my neck.

"I know I should say sorry, but I’m glad it didn’t work out.”

I wrapped my arms around him, feeling his lips next to my carotid artery.

“It was your idea for me to date other men” I mumbled sulkily. He began to nibble at my throat.

“I said I wanted you to date men, not other vampires.”

I gasped in pleasure as his fangs slipped seductively into my throat. As he began to feed I heard him grumble, “God, I hate when you drink.”

I laughed, my body starting to wriggle in delight.

“Serves you right for telling me to date others."

Monday, October 11, 2010

Give Me Your Heart, and I'll Give You Mine

Gethin stood at the edge of the graveyard. He felt a hand on his arm; Rhiannon was standing beside him.

“You shouldn’t be here, Cadfael will be furious,” she whispered.

“To hell with Cadfael!” he replied, louder than he should, staring at a tall, regal man lingering next to the grave.

Cadfael turned towards them, a look of hateful recognition covering it. He whispered to his servant, and then returned his gaze towards the open grave. The servant ambled up to Gethin.

”He wants you to leave, Gethin; he says you’ve no business being here.”

“I have every business being here.”

Gethin started to move towards the grave; the man blocked his way.

“Let her go, lad. Anwen wasn’t your wife, she belonged to him. Nothing can change that.”

“She’s no longer his wife. Death has parted them. She belongs to me again.”

Gethin turned and left the graveyard, the muffled sound of earth falling in his ears.

Gethin poured over the book, doing his best to decipher the words and symbols. His grandmother had known what they all meant, had taught him some of the spells before she died. There was one she had warned him about. She said it would hold the greatest temptation, the spell to bring the dead back to life. He found the incantation near the end of the book. He needed several items; a lock of the deceased’s hair, an article of clothing, a prize possession of the loved one. As he got to the end of the ritual he realized the bottom of the page was torn away. He didn’t know how the incantation ended. No matter, he thought, once Anwen was alive again they would leave this place and start a new life elsewhere. He reached into his shirt and gently touched the silver locket that rested against his heart. It had been a present to Anwen from Cadfael; she in turn had given it to Gethin the night before she married Cadfael.

“He may have my body, but you’ll always have my heart. Always. And I’ll always have yours.”

She had whispered those words to him as he took her for the last time, his tears of grief mingled with her cries of passion. She married Cadfael the next morning, not the prized virgin he had anticipated. Cadfael was furious to find she’d all ready been plucked; he beat her without mercy, trying to get her to confess the name of her lover. She remained silent, until her wedding dress became her death shroud.

Gethin returned to the graveyard around midnight. Clouds hid the moon, giving him cover from curious eyes. He looked at Anwen’s grave, then removed his shirt and began to dig. It took nearly two hours to reach her coffin. He brushed aside the remaining dirt, and then took a crowbar to open the lid. He bent down and gently lifted her bridal veil, then cried out in horror at what he saw. Anwen’s beautiful face was bruised and bloodied, her lips swollen; hand prints encircled her throat.

“You worthless bastard!"

He dropped into the coffin and lay on top of his beloved once more. He cried for almost an hour. Finally he put his arms around Anwen, and lifted her body out of the grave. He climbed out and collected the spell book. It was getting late; he was running out of time.

He began the ritual, saying the necessary words, placing the belongings on Anwen’s chest. He got as far as the book allowed and waited. Nothing. He looked over the spell again; he’d done everything exactly as written. He was about to collapse in grief when he heard a cold, sinister laugh behind him. It was Cadfael.

“So you were the one to beat me to her maiden head? I should have known. That worthless whore. Ever so eager for money and prestige and even more eager to lay down with swine.”

Gethin fought to control his anger.

“You bastard! What did you do to her? Wasn’t it enough to have her as your wife? Wasn’t it enough that you had her body?”

Cadfael smile was cruel as he walked towards the open grave.

“When I make an acquisition, I expect it to be delivered intact, and expect to have possession of all of it. But perhaps you were speaking of this?”

Cadfael reached into a bag. Gethin gasped as he saw its contents: Anwen’s once beating heart. Gethin moved towards the source of all his pain, determined to exterminate it from his life forever, when he heard a noise behind him, Both men turned towards the noise, both stepped back in horror at what they saw.
Anwen stood before them. She looked at each of them, and then slowly began to move towards Cadfael, her arm out stretched.

“That does not belong to you, dearest husband. My heart belongs to Gethin, and to no other. GIVE IT BACK TO ME!”

Cadfael recoiled, incoherent cries escaping from his throat. He placed Anwen’s heart in her hand, and stepped back. He fell backwards into her open grave and landed on the crow bar, the blunt metal impaling him. Gethin spat into the grave; to Hell with him, he thought.

Gethin looked at Anwen. Slowly he moved closer, until he could touch her long black hair.

“It’s time to leave, Anwen.”

Anwen looked at him, and then placed her heart in Gethin’s hands.

“Oh my darling” she whispered sadly. “You’ll always have my heart. And now I must have yours.”

Her hands shot out quickly, one grabbing Gethin by the neck, the other plunging into his chest, cracking bone as she wrapped her fingers around his heart. The last thing Gethin was aware of was two tiny tears sliding down Anwen's cheek.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Reason To Stay

They were just going to meet for drinks, a way to actually connect in person instead of only in cyberspace, but after indulging in a bottle of finely aged bourbon, their subtle hints of flirtation gave way to full blown lust. The taxi ride back to his apartment had been an exercise in pushing the boundaries of public displays of affection. They were lying in bed, rain drops battering the window, the sheen of sexual satisfaction illuminating the room.

"How long are you staying?"

She lifted her head off his chest and gave him a mock frown.

"Throwing me out all ready? Typical; have your way with a woman and then send her off into the storm."

He smiled and playfully pulled a curl from her hair. The carpet didn't match the drapes, but that wasn't important.

"I meant how long are you planning to stay in town? How long is your lease on your apartment?"

She rolled on her back, letting her hand drape possessively around his thigh. Where was this conversation going? She kept staring at the ceiling.

He was starting to feel uncomfortable with her silence. He wasn't asking for a commitment, just wanted to know how emotionally involved he should get. She said she was only here for a year. Why open himself up to heart ache?

They lay in silence, listening to the rain pounding on the glass. Finally she sat up in bed and looked straight at him.

"Do I have a reason to stay longer?"

Now it was his turn to stare at the ceiling.

"I don't know. Do you?"

She sat next to him, then got up and started to dress. He sat up against the back board.

"You don't have to go. The weather's lousy; stay the night."

She finished getting dressed, then turned towards him. A sad smile flashed across her face.

"Not yet. Not until I have a reason to stay longer."