Tag Archives: short story

Those Eyes (Black Eyed Children) – Part 2 by LV Gaudet

twins black eyed children

Photo by Sebastian Unrau on Unsplash

The shed door creaks open, the blazing sunlight outside burning my eyes and blinding them as they flutter open.  My head feels like it had been stepped on.  A lot.

“What the hell are you doing in the shed?” a man’s voice growls at me.

My whole body is stiff and I wonder why I am huddled on the dirty floor of a wooden shed.

Trying to move with the least amount of pain in my joints, I flex gingerly, sitting up and rubbing the blurriness out of my eyes.

It takes them time to adjust and focus on the angry face of Mr. Alfred Gordon, my neighbor from up the street.

“I asked you a question.  What the hell are you doing in the shed?”

I half expected the belligerent “buddy” to be added to that.  But that would have been suggestive of an angry stranger, not neighbors who have shared a neighborly sometimes casual indifference, sometimes aloof friendly relationship for years.

“Sorry,” I manage, wondering why my voice sounds so strange to my own ears.

Filled with embarrassed shame and still with no memory of how or why I ended up in the neighbor’s shed, I manage to stagger stiffly to my feet.  Hanging my head in shame, I apologetically walk past him, wishing I were anywhere else in the world at this very moment.  Ducking my head in further shame as I squeeze by, I avoid looking at him.

I don’t want to see the curiosity.  The weird questioning look.  The irritation at the irrational crazy neighbor he found hiding in his shed.

A vague recollection comes to me of having locked the shed door from the inside.

How did he open it?  I must have dreamt that.  Or only thought I locked it.  It doesn’t seem like the kind of shed that would lock from the inside.

I can feel his eyes on me as I do the walk of shame out of his yard.

He calls after me in a less angry tone.

“Why are you barefoot and in your pajamas?”

I shrug.

“I must have been sleepwalking I guess.”

I feel like this must satisfy him at least a little.  Maybe even salvage our neighborly relationship.

Turning up the street, I walk up the sidewalk.  Ahead is the wonderfully bland world of normalcy.  A tidy residential street with well-trimmed yards, mature shade trees, and nice middle class homes with nice middle class cars parked in their driveways and on the street.

The house ahead has one of these nice mature shade trees spreading its branches to shade the ground beneath it.  With the bright morning sun, its shade stretches across the sidewalk.

I slow, stepping out into the street, keeping my feet to the sun-warmed concrete beyond the reach of the tree’s shadow.  I walk around it on the street.

The rude honking of a car horn startles me, intruding and insistent.  I turn and look, the driver looking at me oddly as he has to swerve to go around me.

I know what he is thinking.  Why aren’t you walking on the sidewalk?

I don’t know.  I just could not bring myself to step into the shadow of that tree.

Or he may be wondering why I am walking down the middle of the street in my pajamas and bare feet.

I don’t know that either.

I am past the shadow of the tree and meander back to the sidewalk, leaving the road to the occasional car.

I can feel their eyes on me.  The drivers as they pass, neighbors in their houses and yards looking at me, adults, kids.  I am sure even the Harrel’s dog, who seems to always be outside rain, shine, or snow, is looking at me like I am some strange creature.

It is a strange feeling.

I walk on, stiffly, pretending to ignore the eyes watching me until I reach my house.

Entering the house, I can’t help but note its sullen silence after the bright sun, gentle breeze, full of life morning outdoors.  The lights are all off; the sun through the windows more than adequate to light the house.

For some reason I cannot fathom the soft shadows behind and under furniture have a subtle threatening quality to them they have never had before.

Entering the kitchen, I flip the light switch and nothing happens.  Frowning at the switch I flip it a few more times, although this never helps in a case like this.  Again to no effect.

“Circuit must have popped.”

I try another light.  Poke at the switch for the coffee maker.  And settle on looking at the dark and silent microwave, who’s green glowing time is not lit.  Pressing buttons there does nothing either.

“Circuit must have popped.”  I say it again as though I only just realized it and did not just say those same words.

Going to the basement door and opening it, I look down at the darkness below me with a feeling of dread that is alien to me.

“What is wrong with me?  I have never in my life been afraid of the dark.”

I have to force my hand to reach for the light switch on the wall just inside the stairwell, flipping the switch.

Relief floods through me sickening and heavy in the stomach with the snapping on of electricity and the sudden glaring of the light below filling the darkness and pushing it to nonexistence.

I start down the stairs and the vague sense of dread hangs around me like a moth fluttering vulgarly against a flame, drawn inexplicably to that which will kill it in a most violent death.

Reaching the bottom, I move across the basement, avoiding even the faintest of shadows, to find the fuse panel.

Opening the panel, I study it carefully, working to read the faded printing next to each of the fuse switches.  The one for the kitchen is slightly out of sequence.  The fuse is blown.

Flipping the switch off and on, it stays put.

Heading back to the stairs, I freeze in the middle of the basement at the very moment the world goes black.

Blinking in the blackness; there is not even the light of the sun filtering in the basement windows; I swallow hard.

Somewhere from far away is a sound I can hear only in my head.  Softly.  Gentle.

“Please, let us in.”  The words are so quiet I am not sure I hear them.  I have a sense that they come from another time, another place, outside the door.

“There is no door.  I’m in the middle of the basement.”

I feel eyes on me.  Darkness.

I think I can almost see them, those eyes.  But they are wrong.  They are only liquid darkness which cannot shine with the light as eyes do.

“There is no one here.  I am alone, in the dark.”  I whisper it quietly, as if afraid the shadows themselves might hear.

 

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Those Eyes (Black Eyed Children) – Part 1 by LV Gaudet

twins black eyed children

Photo by Sebastian Unrau on Unsplash

As I stand in the damp shadows of the night looking through the muted sheen of drizzle in the night lights, a darker shadow comes into view.

It moves as if apart from the world around it.  Coming slowly towards me.  It cannot be more than four feet high.

I turn and scurry, ducking to hide behind a large tree spreading its darkly leafed limbs in the front yard of a house behind me on the street.  Peeking out, I look up the rain slick street.

The clash of cool rain against the warm night air thickens into a fog, filling the air with its ghostly aura.

The light of the street lamps still glow sallow and mute despite the rain misting them and the fog folding them into its thickening embrace.

The shadow moves, untouched by the dim light, the rain, and the fog.

I am filled with the urge to duck deeper into the tree, to become one with it, hiding like the little grey squirrel who I know lives in this very tree.

Fear breathes from my mouth and I imagine I can feel the little squirrel trembling in fear inside its tree home, holding its breath and listening.

I look again and the shadow is closer now.  It has split into two somehow.  Identical.  Almost.

The urge to laugh at how stupid I must look sits heavily in my chest.  I have no idea why I am afraid.

Swallowing the sick bile of fear in my throat, I force myself to move, darting for the darkened house behind me.

Yanking at the door is useless.  The door is locked.

Ringing the bell brings no solace with the impotent pushing of that little button on the wall next to the door.  No one is there to let me in.

Looking around quickly, I remember there is a shed behind the house.

The shadow twins are still there, closer now, in the middle of the road where the street lights reveal them to be nothing more than two children, a boy and girl.

A laugh bubbles up my throat, filled with the tension of unease.  I feel foolish.  They are just a couple of kids.  The smile that cracks my face is a little sickly looking.

I move to step towards them.  I should greet them and ask what they are doing out here in the middle of the night, in the rain.  Are they lost?

They are staring at me.  I know this by the way their bodies look in the dark and the rain, the dim light glittering with a fiendish wet sparkle that touches everything but them.  They are facing me, staring at me, although I cannot see their faces, their eyes.

As we face off in the rain glistening in the street lamps’ haloes of light in the dark of night, the warm air loses its clash against the chill air brought by the rain, and the fog thickens.

The other night shadows recede, but somehow the two children seem to be shadow and real at once.  An aura of shadow that is a part of them.  They are untouched, somehow, by the street lights.

Fear oozes through me, slithering dark and oily.

They move towards me in perfect unison, taking a slow step, unhurried.  They have all the time in creation of the planets and the universe.

I don’t know when my feet moved.  I only know that somehow, inexplicably, my feet are moving beneath me.  Running.

It feels like I cannot take my eyes off those children.  I feel bad that I am not offering to help them.  They should not be out here.  Yet, I know I cannot be looking at them because the house passes to my right in a fear-fogged blur.  The driveway moves beneath the slap of my feet. The rain soaked grass of the back yard dampens the bottoms of my pants legs.  I see the shed coming at me, the hand that moves as if it is not a part of me reaching, grasping, and pulling the door open.

The darkness of the shed’s interior with its lawnmower squatting like some strange alien bug, the rakes and shovels, and the spindly spokes of a bicycle rearing suddenly before my eyes, hanging from the roof or the wall, I am not sure which.

My breath is panting raggedly out of my mouth and I am certain I can smell my own stink of fear sweat.

The two kids are outside of the shed as I pull the door closed, jamming a gardening utensil into the handles on the inside to lock the doors closed, even as my displaced thoughts wonder why those handles are even there on the inside of a small shed.

Utter blackness fills the shed with the closing of those doors.

I can feel them out there, staring at me.

The last image of them is burned into my eyes, my mind.  Their faces, so strangely devoid of emotion, of life, of whatever it is that magically makes the living feel animated.

Their eyes, twin orbs of blackness staring out of twin pale moon faces.  Expressionless.  Lifeless.

Soulless.

Their eyes are all black.  The pupil, the iris, the sclera, the part that is supposed to be white.

Their voices come through the rough wood door, close on the other side; hollow, surreal and weirdly dreamlike.  As if they are speaking to me through some strange mutant sound muffling and distorting mist from far away.

“Please, let us in.  We only want to come in.”

“Let us in out of the rain.”

“It is dark out here.  Please let us in.”

Everything that is human and decent in me tells me that I should open that door.

The slithering dark oily fear filling me holds me prisoner.  I cannot move.  I cannot scream.

I somehow manage to look down and wonder at my bare feet.  The bottoms of my now wet pajama pants.  I am dressed for bed?  Did I go to bed?  I don’t remember.

How did I get outside?  I don’t remember.

I can only see those black eyes.  Strange and lifeless, staring at me without expression.

The all black eyes.  Football shaped marbles of black that do not, cannot, glisten in the light the way eyes do.  Light cannot touch them any more than it can touch the strange children or the shadows that became them.

They are the absence of light.  Of life?

I want to scream.

I can only see the eyes.

 

 

Gaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are and The McAllister Farm
where the bodies are

 

What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions? Find out in Where the Bodies Are.

 

The McAllister Farm-cover 1

Take a step back in time to learn the secret behind the bodies in Where the Bodies Are:  The McAllister Farm reveals the secrets behind the man who created the killer.

 

Link to purchase these books by L.V. Gaudet

Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

 

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10 The Woods – The Inspection is over (2015) by LV Gaudet

1The Woods:

1 – The Woods – The Dare (1985)

2 – Thirty Years Later – The Old Bennet House is for Sale (2015)

3 – The Woods – Jesse Hears a Noise (1985)

4 – The House – First Entry in 30 Years (2015)

5 – The Woods – Return to the House (1985)

6 – The Woods – Inspecting The House (2015)

7 – The Woods – Return to the House (1985)

8 – The Woods – Inspecting the Bedrooms (2015)

9 – The Woods – Kevin Escapes the Tree (1985)

 

2015

 

The buyer has had enough of this morbid shrine to those who are no longer here.

“Is there a basement?”

The realtor pauses, thinking about it.

“I should have read the file on this place,” he thinks, dismissing it almost as quick. The commission wouldn’t be worth the extra time. He thinks fast. Do the other houses in the area from the same period have basements? As far as he remembers some do, some don’t. Some have only a crawl space or a partial basement, an area dug out just large enough for the furnace and hot water tank. He has about a seventy-thirty chance it has at least a partial basement.

“I think so. Yes, it does.”

If he’s wrong, it won’t matter after the auction if this guy bites. If he bites.

“You never did say if you are married, have a family. Do you have any kids? There’s a school not far from here. Playground too. It’s an older neighbourhood, but things circle around, as they say. You know, circle of life and that sort of thing. New neighbourhood, young families move in and have kids, fill up the neighbourhood with kids. The kids grow up and move out, have their own kids. The neighbourhood gets old, fills with grandparents and empty nesters, no more kids around. The school gets empty. But eventually people move out, go into nursing homes, and new families move in. You get a new cycle of young families moving in and having kids. Lots of kids around again. Circle of life. This neighbourhood is in a rejuvenation phase, lots of new younger families moving in.”

“That’s not what they mean.”

“About what?”

“Circle of life. That’s not what it means.”

The realtor is a little annoyed at being corrected. He pushes past it, just wanting to get out of there. He finds the house a bit unsettling. He has better things to do too. The game is on this afternoon and he could be sitting on the couch with a beer watching it.

“You know, if you want this house you could probably skip the auction. The thing is, with an auction, there’s the risk someone will outbid you.

Whatever you are planning to bid, just make an offer now. I think I could convince them at the municipal office to take the offer.  We can go draw up the paperwork right now.”

If this buyer has spent this much time walking around, checking the place out, and hasn’t made any disgusted faces or disparaging remarks, there has to be some interest. If he can pin him down now with a formal offer, he won’t have the time between now and the auction to change his mind.

He makes his move, leading the buyer out of that grisly bedroom with its appalling bedding and towards the door.

They reach the living room, so close, only steps away from the exit.

“So, where’s the basement?”

The realtor falters. “The basement?”

“I’d like to see it.”

“Damn,” the realtor thinks, “more time wasted.” He fights the urge to glance at his watch. Looking at the time makes a buyer feel rushed, as if they aren’t as important a something else. It doesn’t matter what else. It can lose the sale. He loses, glancing at his watch and hoping the buyer doesn’t notice.

He looks around. He has no idea where the basement is. It’s not a large house, so the options are limited. He remembers seeing a closed door in the hallway and another in the kitchen. Halls have closets, kitchens have pantries, and kitchen broom closets were not uncommon for houses built when this house was. It’s fifty-fifty.

He turns to the hallway. The buyer follows.

The realtor opens the closed door they had walked by earlier.

“Linen closet.” He nods as if he meant to show him the closet, doubling back to lead the way to the kitchen. The buyer dutifully follows, letting the realtor be in charge despite his lack of usefulness.

They enter the kitchen and the realtor looks around. The buyer spots the door immediately, but it seems to take the realtor minutes of checking the kitchen out.

The buyer looks at the door, but makes no move to touch it. In the time they have spent in the house, he has touched only one thing, the comic book.

He just stands there staring at the closed door, waiting for the realtor to notice it, as if he somehow is loath to touch the house.

Finally seeing the buyer staring at the door, the realtor realizes it is there and pounces.

He opens it with a small flourish. “The basement.”

The buyer peers down into the darkness swallowing the bottom of the old wooden stairs.

The realtor looks at the buyer, hesitates, and then leads the way down.

The stairs creak under their weight. They can feel the slight sag of the wood with each step. For a moment, the realtor imagines the rotting wood giving way and falling to be injured below. He grabs the railing, but it proves to be less stable than the stairs.

They reach the bottom of the stairs and the realtor is more than happy to get off the rotting wood steps. They look around.

The basement is not in complete blackness. There is no electricity to the home, so there are no lights to turn on. The small grimy basement windows allow some light into the gloomy basement. It’s the typical lower middle-income family home basement.  Crude cement walls and floor, cracking where the years of weather shifting the home caused weak spots to split, are dull and adorned only with shelves and items hung for storage. The unfinished basement is storage for old things the family chose for whatever reason to sentence to the basement rather than throw away.

It is infused with a vague eeriness as basements, particularly unfinished ones, will be.

The buyer steps forward, his shoe making a dull scraping sound on the concrete floor. He shows more interest inspecting the basement than he did the rest of the house.

“He’s looking for something.” The thought flashes through the realtor’s mind. He pushes it away. Silly nonsense.

The realtor moves forward, roaming the basement and pointing out the obvious, trying to make conversation in the too quiet cellar.

“Furnace, hot water tank. They look old, but I’m sure they’re serviceable enough. There’s no rust or water stains on the concrete around the hot water tank, so it looks solid. Probably hasn’t leaked. It has been thirty years though, so you might want to drain it and flush it out a few times before using water from it.

He pictures the sludge that is probably filling the tank right now. Black and slimy with long dead algae that bloomed and ran out of oxygen and died. Putrid and rotted to nothing but oozing black slime. The stench will be foul.

“The basement floor is a bit heaved up, but not too bad considering the house has sat abandoned for thirty years. Check the foundations and the weeping tiles. With proper drainage it might just settle down flat again. You could fix up this basement, finish it, and double your living space.”

“I’ve seen enough.” The buyer heads for the stairs, leaving the realtor to tag behind, taking the lead for once.

“Are you ready to make an offer?” The realtor asks hopefully. “Like I said before, you can make an offer now, skip the auction, and scoop this place up before anyone else can. You aren’t the only one I’m showing this place to. I have someone else coming to look at it later too.”

The lie rings hollow, both on his lips and in the buyer’s ears.

“I’ll let you know,” the buyer says, dismissing the realtor as he heads out the door.  He pauses on the way to his car to take one last look towards the backyard where the yard meets the woods.

 

Follow The Woods installments

 

L.V. Gaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are and The McAllister Farm
where the bodies are

 

What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions? Find out in Where the Bodies Are.

 

The McAllister Farm-cover 1

Take a step back in time to learn the secret behind the bodies in Where the Bodies Are:  The McAllister Farm reveals the secrets behind the man who created the killer.

 

Link to purchase these books by L.V. Gaudet

Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

 

Follow L. V. Gaudet:

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9 The Woods – Kevin Escapes the Tree (1985) by LV Gaudet

1The Woods:

1 – The Woods – The Dare (1985)

2 – Thirty Years Later – The Old Bennet House is for Sale (2015)

3 – The Woods – Jesse Hears a Noise (1985)

4 – The House – First Entry in 30 Years (2015)

5 – The Woods – Return to the House (1985)

6 – The Woods – Inspecting The House (2015)

7 – The Woods – Return to the House (1985)

8 – The Woods – Inspecting the Bedrooms (2015)

 

 

1985

 

Kevin wriggles in the dirt and leaves, squirming and struggling to pull free of the fallen tree imprisoning him, feeling like it is trying to press down, to push him down and bury him in the dirt beneath it.

Sobbing openly despite the possible repercussions it would normally lead to, the incessant torment and teasing from his brother, Jesse keeps frantically pawing and scratching at the frozen soil.

It’s softer here because the rotting deadfall has been a successful catch for falling leaves, the loose detritus wasting in a soggy mush. The warming early spring days have softened up the melting ice, loosening the rotting leaves once he manages to break the thinning ice.

He stops and grabs Kevin, pulling on him. He repositions, bracing his feet against the tree to pull harder. His feet feel like they will sink in, the wood softened with rot and giving somewhat in to the pressure.

Kevin inches out, and again with Jesse’s next tug.

They look at each other. They have hope. They renew their efforts, Kevin squirming and wriggling and Jesse pulling with all his might, inch by inch until Kevin is finally free.

Exhausted, they both fall on each other, laughing out the fear and stress and relief.

They hug each other as brothers will after a moment of extreme stress.

“I thought I lost you there,” Jesse says.

“Never.”

Kevin struggles to get up and Jesse helps him. It feels strange to him, the younger brother helping his older brother up when not so many years ago it would be the other way around.

They fight a lot, as siblings will. But Kevin is generally there for him, looking after him.

Kevin looks at Jesse.

“Are you ready to try it again?”

Jesse pauses. Every time they try to leave the yard, they are back here in the woods.

He nods. Even as his head makes that bobbing movement he feels as if his body is swimming; swimming through mush, reeling, floating.  Rushing at breakneck speed through time and space, all at once.

“Okay, let’s do this.”

Kevin climbs over the tree, stepping high yet again over the snow and naked brambles and twigs of the woods, heading for their back yard. Jesse follows.

They reach the yard. The snow is littered with their broken footsteps from their earlier time spent playing in the yard. The half-buried bike poking up from the snow like a skeletal corpse. Conspicuously absent are their earlier footsteps from their previous trips back to the house or their attempts to leave the woods.

It is just as they expected it.

“This way.” Kevin leads the way, this time following the edge of the backyard to the neighbour’s yard.

They make it to the back edge of the house.

Kevin looks back, nodding. So far, so good.

Jesse speeds up to move closer to Kevin.

They pass the back corner of the house, heading up the side yard.

They pass the first bedroom window.

Kevin feels the urge to break into a run. He holds back.

Jesse reaches for his hand and Kevin takes it.

They keep going.

The second and last window on that side.

“Yeah! We’re doing it! We’re doing this!” Kevin cries out happily.

“Yeah!” Jessie copies.

They look at each other and laugh, full of relief, and start sprinting for their goal, the house next door and freedom.

 

 

 

Follow The Woods installments

 

L.V. Gaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are and The McAllister Farm
where the bodies are

 

What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions? Find out in Where the Bodies Are.

 

The McAllister Farm-cover 1

Take a step back in time to learn the secret behind the bodies in Where the Bodies Are:  The McAllister Farm reveals the secrets behind the man who created the killer.

 

Link to purchase these books by L.V. Gaudet

 

 

Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

Follow L. V. Gaudet:

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Google+

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WordPress

LV Gaudet, author

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Is It Spring Yet? by L.V. Gaudet

Spring isn’t officially here until March 20th, but it feels like spring already.  Even the Canada Geese have started coming back.  For their sake, let’s hope we don’t return to our normal January through March temperatures of -25 to -35 Celsius, which really converts to -30 to -43 with the winds.

 

Snow is melting, and I haven’t been freezing huddled under blankets for the drive to and from work, while my feet are frozen blocks inside my boots, and my fingers burn with the cold inside gloves that are so thick I have to take them off to pick up my coffee cup or work a key.  (Montana vans apparently don’t do “H”’s well:  heat and headlights).

 

This has been a winter of some firsts, most of them packed into February.  I went to Vegas for the first time in January.  It was also the first vacation since the start of “family” vacations that was not a “kid” vacation.  The only kids belonged to other people.

 

2003-nov-11-sidney-5mos-3

This month, we signed up this kid for high school (it starts early with grade 9).  Another first, we made her first resume to apply for a volunteer position.

 

She is also already a pretty good writer.

 

 

I got my Indigo Sea Press books listed in a very local newspaper, the first time I managed to get some public publicity for them.

 

blood-cover

 

I had my first public reading event too.  I submitted my short story Blood for the My Bloody Valentine short story contest at the second annual St. Valentines Horror Con on Valentine’s weekend, fully expecting to not make the cut.  To my shock it was accepted and I had to read it on stage at the Horror Con.  I spent the entire time with my head almost buried under the table, eyes glued to the pages, reading in a terrified monotone.  Unfortunately, I did not win.  Maybe next time.

 

I had my first school guest reading event for I Love to Read Month (Feb).  I read for the grade 7 and 8 classes at a local school, the grades that no one comes to read for.  I found an age-appropriate book and drew names to give one away in each class.  Maybe I’ll make that an annual thing.

 

This is a trend I’m hoping to continue.  With the newfound freedom of kids hitting their teens, maybe I can get more involved in the local writing community and local events.

 

sears-deskAnd with the help of my new toy that’s on its way, (the desk) and finally having an actual tiny spot that is mine, with luck I’ll also find more time for writing and blogging in between being these people:

  •  Cubicle dweller
  • Parent
  • Chauffer
  • Dog parent
  • Laundry service
  • Taekwondo student
  • Cleaning service
  • Cook
  • Life coach
  • Counselor
  • Life partner
  • Friend

Although, I have no idea where I’m actually going to put the desk, and it will still be central to all the commotion of a full house.


where the bodies areL.V.Gaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are and The McAllister Farm

What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions?

 

Where the Bodies Are:  book 1 in the McAllister series.  What secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions?

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]

 

The McAllister Farm:  book 2 in the McAllister series.  The secret behind the bodies is revealed.

 

 

Links to purchase these L.V. Gaudet’s books

 

Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

https://angiesdiary.com/bookoftheweek-web/081-botwoct262014.html

 

Follow L. V. Gaudet:

Facebook author page

Google+

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Pinterest

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WordPress:  LV Gaudet, author

 

 

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The Woods 4 – The House by L.V. Gaudet

the-woods-4-the-houseThe key jams in the lock, not wanting to go in.

The realtor looks at him nervously and smiles.

“It’ll go in.  The key works.”  His grimace gives face to the lie.  He isn’t so sure it will work.

He fiddles and struggles with the key for too long before the rusting lock mechanism finally unwillingly gives and allows them access.

His smile is almost sickly with relief.

He turns to the prospective buyer, hoping yet again that this is not a big waste of his time.  His commission is going to depend on how much the house actually sells for.  It’s not the usual commission deal.  He is getting more than the average commission percentage, an unusual agreement made with the municipal office that wants only to unload the property and get it off their books, doubtful anyone will bother to bid on it.

This guy is the only person who has shown an interest.  He could bid a dollar, the lowest bid allowed, and walk away with the property for nothing, less than the price of a cup of coffee.

He tries the door, hoping it opens easily.  A warped door can turn off a buyer before they see anything else.

The door sticks in the frame and, after he puts some weight into it, gives with the dull sound of two pieces of swollen wood pressed against each other giving up the fight to hold together.

They enter the house and step back thirty years in time.

.

Follow The Woods installments

L.V. Gaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are and The McAllister Farm
where the bodies are

What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions? Find out in Where the Bodies Are.

The McAllister Farm-cover 1

Take a step back in time to learn the secret behind the bodies in Where the Bodies Are:  The McAllister Farm reveals the secrets behind the man who created the killer.

Link to purchase these books by L.V. Gaudet

Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

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The Woods – Part 3 (The Woods)

The Woods-3“What is that?” Jesse looks around, alarmed.

Kevin is busy inspecting the object in his hand.  It is rounded with the mud and rotting leaves stuck to it.  He can’t tell what it is.

“Probably a squirrel.”

“I don’t think so.”  Jesse can’t stop looking around.  He feels off.  Something is wrong.

“Kevin,” he hesitates.

“What?”

“It doesn’t look right.”

“What doesn’t look right?”

“Everything.  It’s… off.  The color is off.”

Kevin looks at him.  “You are a goof.”

Jesse’s wide frightened eyes make him pause.  He looks around them.  Jesse is right.  His heart beats faster and his chest feels tight.  Everything looks a little off.  The color.  The light.  But it’s more than that.  Something he doesn’t know how to describe.  It’s just … off.

Slowly, he bends down and puts the unknown object back down, wanting to free his hands.

He stands up and looks around again.

“Now he’s got my mind playing tricks,” he thinks.  There is nothing strange at all about anything.  Everything looks exactly like it should.  Exactly like before.

“It’s nothing,” Kevin says. “You really are a goof.  I don’t know what you’re talking about.  Everything’s normal to me.”

Jesse looks like he’s ready to bolt.

“Go run home scaredie-pants,” Kevin sneers.  He turns his attention back to the strange item at the base of the stump.

Jesse backs away, moving back towards their yard.

Kevin bends over and picks it up.  He stands up and looks around.  He feels off.

Jesse is moving away and Kevin doesn’t want to admit he’s afraid to be alone in the woods.  He pockets his treasure and chases after Jesse.

They reach the yard and stop.  They both look around.

It all looks a bit … odd.

The color is off just a bit.  It all feels a bit odd.  Out of sync maybe.

The house is not large, a lower middle-income home, all but the windowsills and doors was repainted last year.  The paint of the windowsills is cracking and starting to peel.  A job their father has not yet gotten to.

The lawn, mowed only three days prior, is only just starting to show the sprout of faster growing grass blades reaching over the others, although the dandelions have already popped their heads up, flashing their yellow flowers to the sky like round smiles.  A bicycle lays discarded on the lawn and a swing set stands on one side of the yard waiting to be used.

It all seems a bit dulled, muted, a bit off color.  Like a television set that someone has buggered with the color settings on.

Jesse broke first, running for the house.

He falters, not watching and almost tripping on the bike laying discarded on the grass. Recovering, he keeps going.

 

Follow The Woods installments

L.V. Gaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are and The McAllister Farm
where the bodies are

 

What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions? Find out in Where the Bodies Are.

The McAllister Farm-cover 1

 

 

Take a step back in time to learn the secret behind the bodies in Where the Bodies Are:  The McAllister Farm reveals the secrets behind the man who created the killer.

 

Link to purchase these books by L.V. Gaudet

Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

 

Follow L. V. Gaudet:

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The Woods 2 – Thirty Years Later by L.V. Gaudet

The Woods-2Two men are standing in the backyard of a small rundown house in an older middle-class neighborhood. One, wearing a cheap suit and shoes not suited to traipsing through grass, is looking at the house with a mix of uncertainty and mild remorse.  He had hoped the house would be in better shape.  The other, in jeans, shirt, and runners, is studying the trees and bushes bordering the back property line.

“I heard a couple of boys vanished in these woods years ago.” He doesn’t turn around to look at the man in the suit, his attention fixed on the trees.

“It’s a local legend.  Brothers, Kevin and Jesse. They were playing in their yard and vanished.”  The man in the suit turns around to look at the trees too.

“This yard?  They lived in this house?”  The man in jeans looks around at the leafy jumble of trees bordering the yard and stretching out past the neighboring yards.  You can’t see through them or tell how far they go.

“Yes.  To be honest, I was going to leave that bit of background out.  It’s not exactly a selling point.”

“How does anyone know they went in the woods?”

“They found one of the boys’ shoes next to an old tree stump.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.  No other sign of the boys was ever found.”

“And the house?”

“Abandoned.  Left to rot.”

“The family just left it?”

“The boys’ mother went crazy, I heard.  The husband wanted to sell the house and move, get away from the memories I guess.  She refused to sell.  She kept insisting the boys were still here. From what I heard she was obsessed with keeping the house exactly the way it was the day they vanished too.”

“Crazy.”

“Yeah, crazy.”

“So, the house is selling pretty cheap.  It wasn’t looked after?”

“The husband left both her and the house.  Walked away and never looked back.  She stayed in the house for a while, until she was committed.  As far as I know, no one has set foot in the house since.  It’s going to be in pretty rough shape.”

“You make one hell of a real estate agent, you know that, right?”

“Ha-ha, yeah, I guess I do.”

“Can I take a look inside?”

“Sure, let’s go.  I have to warn you, this will be the first time anyone has set foot inside that house in thirty years.  I don’t know what we’ll find.”

The house is an average lower middle-class family home.  Smallish, but not quite as small as the low-income homes across the way.  The windows are hazy with the grime of thirty years of neglect and the paint long ago cracked and much of it worn away by the weather.  The windowsills sag with rot, half eaten by time. The shingles are cracking and peeling up and back on themselves like over-cooked sliced potatoes, browned rather than charred and entirely inedible.  The long grass of the yard had recently been clumsily hacked down, hastily driven over by a municipal riding mower, the charge tacked onto the growing bill of unpaid municipal fees owed, including property taxes and the other inevitable costs of home ownership.  It is one of the unasked for services visited on negligent homeowners.

It is these unpaid fees which are the reason the home is for sale now.  The bank had tried to foreclose on the unpaid mortgage almost thirty years ago, only to find themselves tied up in legal purgatory pitted against the municipality trying to seize the home for unpaid taxes.

Lacking much interest on both sides, the issue dragged out and dragged on, court proceedings repeatedly pushed back, and finally slipped through the cracks of forgotten paperwork.  Until, close to thirty years later, when a bored clerk cleaning out the desk of a deceased co-worker took pause to read a page of paper among the stacks being shoved into the shredding bin, and accidentally stumbled on the outstanding unfinished business of this house.

The long forgotten house by the woods.

The bank had long ago written it off, a small piece of millions in bad debts, and the municipal office was granted free title without being aware of it.

Now the house is up for auction to collect the unpaid property taxes and municipal fees owed.

With most of the records from thirty years ago gone, and no one keeping track of this forgotten property, the best anyone could piece together and confirm owed on the property is the cost of the most recent grass cuttings.  The whopping price of fifty-six dollars.  Less than the price of a song and a dance. They don’t know when the taxes stopped being paid. Any taxes owed are moot. Nearly thirty years of taxes adds up to more than the run down property is likely worth, and ownership by the owners was given up long ago.

The place is a steal.

And in this condition, its value is in the land it sits on.  Any buyer would tear the house down and rebuild.

They reach the door and the realtor fumbles with the key safe looped around the doorknob, trying to remember the combination to open it.  It’s a rectangular box-shaped device locked over the skinny part of the knob like a padlock, housing the key to the door.

Finally, he opens it and releases its treasure, a worn looking house key with the color rubbing off and marred with bits of rust in the teeth.

*** Watch for the continuing story ***

.

The Woods is an ongoing work in progress that I am sharing with my readers and fans of the darker fiction.

You can follow me and installments of The Woods here.

If you are enjoying this little story, you might want to read something with a little more meat to it.  The first two books of the McAllister series are now available from Indigo Sea Press on their website and on Amazon.

.

elephantOn the lighter side, a funny thing happened on the way to the blog. (Yes, this really is a random pic of a elephant with its butt in the air.)

I have two daughters.  One a raging bookaholic (we have not yet found a help resource for that), but since she’s excelling at school we willingly suffer the darker side of this, which is a nonstop demand for more and more books.  I’m seriously debating starting a GoFundMe to beg for help supporting her addiction.

The other daughter is quite the opposite.  Instead of lots of friends, she has trouble making friends.  She is a more serious soul, more sensitive about things that don’t faze the other kids. 

bullied

I have heard so many times that a kid’s reading level is a good indicator of their success both in school, and in life. 

Despite starting out school at a higher level than her older sister, she floundered at reading.  She had no interest in reading. Her reading level was grades below what it should be. All of her grades were suffering. School was a chore both for her and us.


magical bookThen something magical happened.  It might not seem magical to some, but for anyone who is an avid book lover like me, you can’t help but want that same devotion for your own kids.

We tried so many kinds of books, trying to match them to her unique personality.  Trying to pull her out of where she was, to get her reading, and so much more.  Her sister found that magic key, the right book.

For the first time, my youngest was enthralled.  She turned to something.  She yearned for it.   She complained when she had to stop reading.  For the first time she enjoyed reading.

Today I heard an echo.  It was that frightful echo that haunts a parent of a kid with a book addiction. “I can’t stand it!  I need the rest of the series!”

fear

As an author, it’s like the angels singing.  As a parent, you feel your meagre bank account shrivel in fear.  As a book-loving parent, you give a silent cheer and swell with pride and joy.

But it was more… it was a turning point.  Since she learned to love reading her reading level at school leapt by grade points in a short time.  It’s not the only improvement at school, both with schoolwork and friends.

It’s a start.

Yes, having the book-hater suddenly turn into a book-lover is a funny thing.  It’s a wondrous thing as a parent, author, and mostly as a book lover.

It terrifies me too.  I might need two GoFundMe pages to support both their voracious appetites for books.

Better yet, make my books go viral so I can make enough off them to support these two bookaholics and, I have to add proudly, burgeoning authors.  Yes, they both like writing too.  The younger, the book-disliker, even wrote a story that scared herself.  I’m so proud.

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The Woods by L.V. Gaudet

The Woods

The Woods

It is an ordinary forest, as far as spooky looking woods go, filled mostly with craggy twisted oak trees, their gnarled branches reaching like skeletal fingers and deeply wrinkled cracked-bark covered trunks. The trees cluster together, their branches twisted and tangled together, daring any to enter their midst.

The land here lies low and wet in the spring, leaving the stand of trees a small island of cragged haunted-looking trees bordered by stick-like saplings and sparse tall yellow grass invaded by wild roses with their sharp thorns standing in a shallow bath of melt water throughout the springtime months.

They are far from a silent woods. A small stretch of thick growth surrounded by fields of crops interspersed with some areas abandoned to grass, weeds, and stray crop seeds. Against one side of this stretch of trees, amidst the farm fields, is also nestled a small happy community. The woods team with life, red and grey squirrels, rabbits, mice and voles, and a range of birds. With the damp ground, the woods are a haven for frogs and toads, and of course, the ever-present blood-sucking mosquitoes.

It is a typical small town community lying nestled against the miniature forest. It grew from centuries old land of grasslands mixed with forests. The old forests and grasslands were slowly chopped down, turned over, and settled as the world slowly populated with mankind; the landscape of humanity changing from hunter-gatherers to farms, towns, and villages.

Eventually towns and communities grew together to become cities, family homesteads populated into small farming communities, and untouched land became rare pockets of unsullied old growth forests scattered about in tiny fragments bordering farm fields and stretches of small community homes.

Some of these tiny pockets of untouched woods still hold secrets. Some of these secrets are perhaps best left that way.

 

The woods sit silent and brooding, an ugly tangle of dead looking leafless skeletal branches that look like they belong in a darker and more sinister world, the world of the dead. The clouds hang heavy, dark, and grey on this day; a suffocating thick blanket hanging low in the sky to cast a pall over this small piece of the world.

The snow still lies heavy and wet here where it takes longer to melt away, crystalline flakes shrinking and melding into a dirty slush as the temperatures slowly warm. In time, the snow will vanish and be replaced once again by the murky stagnant melt waters that will take a few months to dry up.

Most of the rodents, birds, and other small woodland creatures are conspicuously absent on this day, having chosen to hunker down and wait out this gloomy day. Nevertheless, a few squirrels and birds still flit about the skeletal trees.  A small rabbit nervously twitches its nose as it sits motionlessly waiting to find out if that sound was a predator.

Two children playing in their back yard off the woods dare each other to go exploring into the spooky trees.

“I bet you can’t go to the fallen tree,” Kevin smirks, the older and taller of the two boys.

The younger boy blanched, his stomach turning sickly, but stares stone-faced at the fallen rotting tree laying nestled within the narrow strip of woods beyond their yard. You can see the tree only because there are no leaves on any of the branches.

“I am not going to let you know how scared I am,” he thinks. He can already smell the mossy rot of the long dead tree, although he has never been near enough to it to catch its odor. It smells in his vivid young imagination like death and decay and something even darker. He watches a small red squirrel flit around the trees, untouched by the dark brooding sullenness and the spooks, ghosts, and monsters his mind screams must surely lurk hidden inside these scary woods. He swallows.

“Can too,” he said, his voice cracking with fear. “I bet you can’t go stand on that old stump,” he countered.

The old stump is a rotting remnant of an even older fallen tree that has long ago vanished into the mud and scraggly growth of the woods. The stump remains, standing defiant and threatening beyond the fallen tree now laying discarded and tangled in the woods, sharp splinters and points of shattered wood sticking up as though waiting to impale any foolish boy who tries to climb it and falls. Its wood is soft and crumbly now with rot, the sharp jagged edges unlikely to be capable of impaling anything for years.

Kevin humphed at his younger brother. He is just as scared, but is not going to let his little brother know that. He nervously hikes up his pants, which did not need it, and steps forward on a mission. He marches purposely into the woods, careful to keep his back to the younger boy so he will not see the paleness of his waxy fear-filled face.

With a scuff and a shrug, Jesse reluctantly follows his older brother.

A little red squirrel scampers up to the high branches as they pass, pausing to chitter down angrily at the boys.

They reach the first point, the fallen tree Kevin dared his younger brother to venture to. It’s no victory for either boy.

On a forced march of pride, determined not to reveal his fear of some silly trees, Kevin continues on. He crawls over the fallen tree, its rotting length sagging with a soggy cracking beneath his weight. His forward march slows more the closer he comes to the wicked looking ancient broken stump.

He stops; staring at the stump like it is some otherworldly thing. He dares not touch it, yet also dares not refuse to touch it, lest Jesse think him weak or afraid.

Unable to let his older brother face the woods alone, Jesse follows. As he draws near the old stump where his brother has stopped to stare motionlessly at it, he notices something unusual looking at the base of the stump.

“What’s that?” Jesse asks nervously.

Kevin pries his eyes from the stump to look lower.  He kneels down, reaching for what lies there.

“Don’t touch it.” Jesse’s voice is a little too shrill.

“It’s nothing.”  Kevin picks it up, turning it over in his hand.

Jesse turns at the sound of a cracking branch.

The boys are never seen again.

 

Follow The Woods installments

 

L.V. Gaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are
where the bodies are

 

What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions?

 

The McAllister Farm-cover 1

 

 

Watch for book 2 of the McAllister series coming soon at Indigo Sea Press:  The McAllister Farm.  The secret behind the bodies is revealed.

 

 

Book 3 is in progress, title to be determined.  The third book will bring the characters of Where the Bodies Are and The McAllister Farm together for an intense climax.  You are pulled deeper into the mind of the killer as he spirals further into madness, and will find yourself rooting for him as he faces a bigger challenge; he has competition.  A new killer comes on scene, bringing a new level of evil and cruelty.  You will learn the fates of the McAllister Family, and maybe the secret pasts of Detective Jim McNelly and everyone’s favorite unscrupulous reporter, Lawrence Hawkworth, will be revealed.

 

Links to purchase this and other upcoming L.V. Gaudet’s books

 

Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

https://angiesdiary.com/bookoftheweek-web/081-botwoct262014.html

 

Follow L. V. Gaudet:

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Little Cup (Short Story) by L.V. Gaudet

The day was as any other, that day on which a very ordinary little cup was made along with a bunch of other very ordinary little cups.  And today, again, was a day the same as any other day.  The cups sat in a line on the shelf, rows behind rows of identical plain little tin cups.  They were not made to be pretty like the fancy little painted tea cups sitting on a similar shelf with their fatin cupncy little saucers.  The little tin cups were made to be simple, plain, and durable.  They will dent, but not shatter or crack like the fancy little fragile china cups.

The bell above the door tinkled when the door opened.  It might have been a merry sound, but these days there were very few with reason to feel merry.

The shopkeeper watched the mother enter the store with a boy trailing at her heel like a trained puppy.  She leaned her bulk on the counter, trying to ease the ache in her sore feet as she watched them.  The shopkeeper was a little overweight, but her clothes and face sagged with fatigue and the weight she had recently lost.  The weight loss was not the result of prudent diet and exercise.  Everyone was losing weight these days, including those who hadn’t the weight to lose.

The mother looked tired and worn out beyond her years; her eyes avoided making contact as she entered the store with a slight unsure pause as she did so, head lowered in deference to the world around her.  Her jacket did not look warm enough for the weather.  It was as worn and threadbare as the woman herself.  Her cheekbones seemed a little sunken and her eyes held the furtive haunted look of a rabbit trapped within a circle of hungry wolves.  She wobbled a little as she wandered along the shelves of the store, examining the goods, pausing and coming back again to the mostly empty shelves holding meager rations of food.

The boy looked too small, his age impossible to define.  His jacket was much too big, making the boy seem even smaller within its confines.  He looked too thin, scrawny sticks for legs sticking out beneath the jacket and ending in worn shoes that looked too small for his feet; the toes sticking out through holes worn through the tips of the shoes giving testament to that.  The boy never looked up, just followed his mother silently, a miniature shadow, seeming almost as intangible as a shadow.

In another time, an eternity ago although really little time had passed, this woman would have entered with her head held high, looking the clerk in the eye with a smile and nod.  The boy would have eagerly rushed forward, seeking out the candy shelves, begging his mother to buy some.  Today the candy lay sullenly overlooked as kids instead eyed loaves of bread, dented cans they normally would insolently turn their noses at, and bruised partially rotted fruit with insatiable hunger.

The clerk caught the mother’s gaze, and turned her eyes away in shame, as though she’d just witnessed something very private.  Her cheeks colored with what might have been embarrassment.  What she saw in those eyes frightened her.

Those eyes held the dark bruised look of the desperate, a mother starving herself so that her children can eat what little scraps of food she can get.

The mother leaned down and whispered into the boy’s ear.  What she said would soon become obvious.

The boy shuffled over towards the candy shelf, eyeing the brightly colored wares with a dull disinterested look.  The woman behind the counter watched the boy.  Gingerly, as though handling delicate crystal, the boy picked up two candy bars and showed them to the clerk.  Digging into his jacket pocket, he retrieved a small handful of coins and showed them to the lady.  She shook her head, indicating the sparse coins were not enough for the candy.  They went through this little dance of charades, the boy showing her his pittance of money and different candies while she solemnly mimed “no”.

At last the mother approached the counter.  She set on the counter a single dented can and motioned the boy to put the candy back.  He gently laid the candy in its place and pocketed his change.

The mother at last looked the clerk in the eyes, a shadow of the pride she once had still lingered in those haunted hollow eyes.  Carefully digging money from her worn little purse as though those coins were valuable and ancient relics requiring great care, she laid out the money to pay for the can of food.

As the mother turned to leave with her single can of food, the clerk leaned across the counter and deftly grabbed the boy’s jacket behind his mothers back.  She slipped the coins into his hand and pointed at a candy bar with a wink, the bar filled with nuts, indicating that he should take it.  She couldn’t sell the candy anyway.  She had seen the mother furtively sneak a few apples into a pocket, while hungrily eyeing a loaf of bread that was too big to hide.  She wiped away an unshed tear as the bell over the door tinkled behind the closing door.  They would repeat this little dance in exactly one week, and again exactly one week later, as they had in the weeks before.

#

Back in their little shelter where two smaller children, a girl and a boy, huddled against the chill and waited, the mother carefully opened the dented little can.  They would eat it as is, cold, shared between them.  The mother would pretend to eat too, instead saving her small ration for her children.

Nervously, the boy that accompanied her to the store approached his mother.  He looked embarrassed, shy.  Not sure if he would be in trouble or if his mother would be proud.  She looked up at him expectantly.  He scuffed his toe, shrugged, and finally dug deep in his pocket.  The boy pulled out the candy bar, presenting it solemnly.

The mother frowned at the candy bar.  Candy was useless.  It would not feed their starving bodies.  But the nuts blanketed in that rich velvety chocolate were precious life giving little jewels.  Protein.  She smiled at the boy, hugged him tight.  They would save this treat for later, when the children cried in the night from the hunger pains gnawing greedily at their stomachs.

The boy shuffled again, looking down at his toes.

The mother looked at him, a question in her eyes.

At last he dug again in his pocket.

Mother’s head tilted, curious, and a little worried.

The boy pulled out his prize and held it out before Mother’s eyes, his eyes tearing.  It was a very ordinary little tin cup.  Plain and kind of ugly, but it would not shatter or crack like the pretty little fancy painted teacups.

“H-happy birthday Mother,” the boy’s voice cracked out.

Tears welled at Mother’s eyes and she hugged him tight.  Words were not necessary; they would have only diminished the moment.

#

Mother carefully sliced a small bruised apple, putting pieces in the little tin cup, on a large piece of what used to be a larger ceramic dinner plate, and on the table beside where she cut.  She ate two small slices, giving the rest to the children.  When she was done, she carefully licked the juice from the knife and the surface of the table.  They could not afford to waste even those few precious drops of juice from the apple.

She stepped outside to see the oldest boy carefully pulling a thin slice of apple from the little tin cup and sharing it with a starving scruffy looking little dog.  It was food they desperately could not afford to lose, but she wasn’t angry.  The little dog would provide them with meat, either by catching the quick little rodents that scurried about in the dark, or by eating the dog itself.  Her children had to eat.

#

Mother lay on the cold ground in an icy puddle of dirty water, her coat stained dark like blood by the dirty water.  Her eyes were closed as if in sleep, her hair tousled and spread out across the dirty road.  A patch of blood lay streaked and already drying across her face.  The muddy tracks of the wagon’s wheels lay across Mother’s coat like the sash of a pageant winner.

The children wailed and sobbed.

The little dog yelped and cried as the man ran away with the squirming little creature.  The little dog would feed his starving family today.

The wagon that ran over Mother when the man pushed her to the ground in front of it as she fought to keep him from stealing the little dog just kept rolling on, unconcerned.

The very ordinary little tin cup lay forgotten in the mud, spattered and dirty, but not shattered or cracked.

A man passing by, unconcerned by the children’s plight, noticed the little cup.  He stopped and looked at it, stooped and picked it up.  It was a rather plain looking little tin cup, dirty and kind of ugly, but it would not shatter or crack like the pretty little fancy painted teacups.  With a shrug he shoved the little tin cup in his pocket and walked on.

#

The wagon wheels growled ceaselessly against the rocks and dirt of the road.  It was not a smooth road by any means and the wagon creaked and groaned tiredly as it was pulled along by a pair of tired horses.

The driver rocked in his seat with the swaying of the wagon.  On the seat beside him a rather plain looking little tin cup sat.  It was empty now, but its contents had warmed the man as he sipped it while waiting for the load on the wagon to be strapped down securely.  He had picked up the discarded cup from the muck of the street, wiped it off, and kept it.  A durable little cup like that came in handy.

The thundering of hooves began to descend on the wagon, echoing off the distance like the rumble of weak thunder.

The horses ticked their heads up and pricked their ears nervously, picking up on the driver’s nervousness through the long reigns.  The driver looked side to side and behind, trying to spot the advancing riders and how far they were.  He snapped the reins, calling the horses to greater speed.  The wagon wheels wobbled dangerously on the uneven road as the wagon picked up speed.

A distant shout.

He urged the beasts faster.  The wheels wobbled harder.

With whoops and yells, the thudding hooves growing closer, the riders chased down the wagon, catching up to it on their faster stolen horses.  The ruts and pits of the road slowed down the wagon too much to outrun horses bearing riders only.  They surrounded the wagon.

One rider leaned over, trying to catch the long rein and pull back on it to slow one of the horses pulling the wagon.  If you slow one, you slow them both.  He reached and missed, reached again, caught it, and pulled.

A sudden lurch of the wagon as its wheel caught a rut pulled him off balance, making him fall from his galloping horse.  He tumbled, rolled, and the wagon wheels rolled right over him.  The horse continued to pace the horses pulling the wagon in an urgent race.

The other men continued to chase the wagon, the driver urging his beasts to greater speed, the wagon wheels wobbling dangerously, and the wagon jostling on the rough road, leaving the injured man laying groaning in the mud of the road behind.  They could not lose the wagon.  If they did not rob it their families would not eat.

The little tin cup wobbled and rolled about the seat, finally rolling off and bouncing against the edge of the wagon side.  It fell to the ground, bouncing and rolling, at last coming to rest in the dirt.  It lay there in the mud, spattered and dirty, sporting a little dent but not shattered or cracked.

#

Dusk was beginning to close in, drawing a pall of dimness across the world.  An old man hobbled down the road, using a cane for support.  His stomach had stopped hurting some time ago and now just had the empty hollowness of the starving.

Something in the road caught his eye.  He stopped and looked at it, stooped with difficulty and picked it up.  It was a rather plain looking little tin cup, dirty and kind of ugly, but it would not shatter or crack like the pretty little fancy painted teacups.  With a shrug he shoved the little tin cup in his pocket and walked on.

The door to the little shack creaked open.  The old woman warming herself by a tiny starving fire looked up hopeful, yet a little afraid.

The old man shuffled in, closed the door behind him, and slowly peeled his coat off with arthritis stricken fingers.  He walked over to the old woman, who looked up at him warmly from her chair.

“Happy birthday, Mother,” his voice cracked as he leaned over to give his wife a kiss on the forehead.  Carefully, he pulled out the little tin cup and presented it to her as though it were something very valuable and fine.

The old woman stared at the little tin cup.  It was a rather plain looking little tin cup, dirty and sporting a little dent and kind of ugly, but it would not shatter or crack like the pretty little fancy painted teacups.  She smiled warmly up at the old man, hugging his arm tight.  He helped her struggle out of the chair.  She shuffled over to the sink, picked up a worn little tea towel, wetted it, and cleaned the little cup with careful love.  When she was done, she gently set the cup upon the shelf beside some pretty little fancy painted cracked and chipped teacups.

#

“Hurry,” the boy urged his older brother as he kept watch.  The old couple would return soon.  He had seen them searching the edge of the woods not far to anything edible they could find.

“I’m hurrying, I’m hurrying,” the other brother spat back as he urgently ransacked the little shack, desperate to find something to eat.  Searching the shelf of mismatched cups in case something lay hidden there, he accidentally knocked a pretty little fancy painted teacup off the shelf.  It tumbled as if in slow motion as the two boys eyes watched the delicate little cup’s fall in horror.  It shattered when it hit the floor.  They stared at it mesmerized.

Finally the older boy snapped out of it.

“There’s no food here,” he whispered loudly to the younger boy.  The younger boy looked stricken, his hand reflexively reaching for his empty belly.

“Let’s get out of here,” the older boy said, looking nervously at the door.

The younger boy paused, eyes glued to the little tin cup.  His hand snaked out, snatched the little cup off the shelf, and shoved it into his pocket.

The boys ran from the house, the old couple yelling at their retreating backs in the distance, having seen the robbers flee from their little shack.

The boys ran faster, not knowing that the kind old couple had found food and wanted to share it with the two boys they knew regularly burglarized their home in a desperate search for something to eat.

#

Two boys sat cowering against the cold stone wall, huddled in their ragged clothes for warmth they wouldn’t find.  Their limbs seemed strangely long, so stick-like were their thin arms and legs.  Between them sat a rather plain looking little tin cup sporting a little dent and kind of ugly.  They picked this spot because this was where the people with money came to eat and drink.  Their eyes locked on every passerby, following them, pleading, hollow and sunken with hunger and desperation.  Later, they would move to the back of the building to fight with other children over the meager scraps from the garbage.  The workers in the restaurant mostly picked out anything reasonably edible to bring home to their families before the trash made it to the back ally.

A mean spirited woman passed by, not deigning to give them so much as a glance from the corner of her eye, and making it obviously so.  Next came a swaggering man, waddling from his obesity and pomposity.

After this shuffled a wraith of a woman, scrawny and dirty; eyes withdrawn and empty.  She paused before them, not looking at them, and just stood there.  At last she turned to stare down at the boys with those empty lifeless eyes.  Her eyes scared them.  They shrunk into themselves, wishing she would just go away.

The scary woman reached into her dirty coat.  She knelt down and gently laid a single coin in the little tin cup.  With a satisfied nod, she got up with a slight wobble, weak from hunger.  The boys would eat today instead of her.  She shuffled off down the street and vanished around a corner.

The boys stared after her, eyes wide in wonder at the starving homeless woman who gave when even the wealthiest just ignored them.

Later, at the garbage behind the building, the younger boy cowered against the wall, the precious coin hidden within his rags of clothes.  The older boy rolled and scuffled on the ground with another boy, kicking, punching, and biting.  Other children stood around, jeering and cheering.  The little tin cup rolled out of the older boy’s pocket, bouncing on the ground with a dull little clang.

With a rude smirk one of the spectators, an older boy with a dirty freckled face, kicked the little cup hard, sending it skittering and bouncing and rolling out into the street.  It bounced off the wheel of a slow moving car.  Cars were relatively new still and very few of even the rich had one.  The cup was kicked by a plodding horse’s hoof as the animal pulled a wagon past.  It skittered and bounced and rolled, finally coming to rest someplace out of sight.

Satisfied, the older boy joined the fight, beating up the boy who lost the little tin cup.

#

A little girl picked up something from the mud.  It was so dirty and caked with mud that she had to wipe some of the thick mud off to see what it was.  It was a little tin cup.  It was a rather plain looking little tin cup, dirty and dented and kind of ugly, but it would not shatter or crack like the pretty little fancy painted teacups.  She smiled and wiped more mud off.

The little girl used the little tin cup to give water to a very thirsty little cat.  The little cat purred and rubbed against her legs appreciatively before scampering off.  The little girl frowned, sad, and stared at the little cup in her hands.

The grateful little cat returned with a prize, dropping a freshly caught fat rat at the little girl’s feet.  She set the cup down on a window ledge beside her and stared at the ugly hairy creature lying at her feet.  The little cat stared up at her expectantly.  The girl’s eyes lit up and she smiled at the little cat.  Scooping up the dead rat she ran for home, the little cat following at her heels.  Her family would eat meat today.  The little tin cup sat alone and forgotten on the ledge.

#

A man walked along, carrying a worn black doctor’s bag.  He had urgent business.  As he walked he pondered, hoping the family he was visiting still had some meager belongings, still had a shelter and warmth, and still had some kind of little cup or bowl to mix the medicine in a broth to feed the ill father.

As he walked, something caught his eye.  He paused and looked at a little tin cup sitting forgotten on a window ledge as the world shuffled on by.  It was a rather plain looking little tin cup, dirty and dented and kind of ugly, but it would not shatter or crack like the pretty little fancy painted teacups.  He smiled, picked up the cup, and shoved it in his pocket.  He continued on his way, whistling a sad little song.

#

“The doctor is here, the doctor is here,” a little boy came rushing in eagerly.  He was little and skinny, his eyes bruised and hollow with hunger.

The mother rushed to the door, closing it behind her, confronting the doctor before he could enter.  She blocked the door, holding the handle so curious little hands could not open it to see what is going on.  She looked frail and frightened, her eyes holding that furtive haunted look of a rabbit trapped within a circle of hungry wolves.  Her eyes stared into the eyes of the doctor.  What he saw in those eyes frightened him.

“We can’t pay you,” she said in a quiet matter of fact voice.

He nodded and stepped forward, saying not a word.  Words were not needed and would only have diminished the moment.

She stepped away from the door, allowing the doctor to enter.

#

An icy rain pelted down, cutting sharply against exposed flesh.  It was very dark.  Some things simply did not wait for daylight these days.

A frail looking mother stood silently in the rain, a little boy standing beside her, his tears lost in the streaming pellets of rain.  They watched the men dig, opening a dark hole in the ground, a paupers grave.  Silently, the mother wished she could step forward, close her eyes, and fall into that black void with the body of her husband.  She looked down at the boy by her side, her hands fidgeting in her pockets, trying to warm them.  Her hand closed around an object she’d forgotten shoving into her pocket.  She pulled it out and stared at it as though she’d never seen it before.  It was a little tin cup, plain and dented and kind of ugly.  Her eyes burned with anger and unshed tears.  She hated that little cup.  The mother turned, wound up her arm like a baseball pitcher, and threw the little cup as hard and as far as she could.  She watched it sail through the air, tumbling, and vanishing in the darkness.

The little boy’s eyes followed the rolling flight of the little tin cup solemnly, as though this simply were part of the rite of burial.

The little tin cup called back its goodbye’s, a tinny echo as it clanged and rolled somewhere in the dark until it came to rest.

#

A figure lurked in the darkness, quiet, treading carefully so as to be utterly silent.

A woman waited anxiously, unaware of the man creeping up on her in the darkness.

The man’s eyes fixed on the woman, watching her in anticipation as she slowly drew nearer with every cautious step he took.

She did not see him, did not hear him, and did not feel his presence in that uncanny way some women have of sensing someone staring at them.

The man reached out his arms, eyes glinting, teeth glinting against the distant light as he bared them in a nasty grimace.  The knife in his hand gleamed sharply off that distant light.  Just one more step…

The tinny little clang of the little tin cup echoed like a deafening thunderclap to the man’s ears.  He froze, eyes scared.

Startled the woman looked up, turned around, and screamed.  It was a frightened scream.

The man’s feet slapped against the ground as he fled into the dark of night.

Trembling, the woman looked down and her eyes caught sight of the little tin cup.  She stooped down and picked it up, turning it in her hand to look at it.  It was a rather plain looking little tin cup, dirty and dented and kind of ugly, but it would not shatter or crack like the pretty little fancy painted teacups.  With a shrug, she put the cup in her coat pocket.  It would come in useful.  She continued to wait, a little more wary now.

#

A worn little wooden crate sat in a corner.  It didn’t hold much.  A few scraps of worn clothing, some fruit well on the way to rotten, a loaf of hard and molding bread, and one little tin cup.  It was a rather plain looking little tin cup, dirty and dented and kind of ugly, but it would not shatter or crack like the pretty little fancy painted teacups.

Stuck to the crate was a simple little note.

“Orphanage,” the note read in an uneven scrawl.

Tonight, the children would eat.

L. V. Gaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are and the soon to come second book in the series The McAllister Farm.

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Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00015]

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00015]

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00015]

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00015]

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