The Devil Made Me Do It

RDP Sunday: Jocularity

I’m reading the book Marrying Off Mother by Gerald Durrell- just to let you know right off the bat this isn’t a book review. Besides I’m only half way through it.

What I wanted to share was the reaction I had to one of the stories called ” Retirement ”

“Retirement”  is a story about a Ship’s Captain who dies mid journey. Not only does he die mid journey he dies at a party celebrating the ” Crossing of The Line ” in a room full of passengers who have grown very fond of the  Captain.

I did not laugh at that, though I did feel this sort of itch between my shoulder blades that I always get when I know I’m about to laugh at an inappropriate moment. That’s been an issue with me since I was a kid. My Nan told me it was the Devil jabbing me with his Pitch Fork to make me misbehave and she is probably right.

Anyway, it gets worse.

Wanting  to respectfully care for  the Captain ( who I can’t stress enough was a good person in the story and every one really respected and liked him ) he was cleaned up, dressed and left in his cabin.

For a few days. At room temperature.

As nature had begun taking it’s course right after the Captain died, it didn’t take long before a smell began to work it’s way out of his cabin so he was moved to the cargo hold where it was cold.

I’m not sure how it happened, but at some point the Captain’s knees drew  up to his chest and as no one had been checking on him he froze that way. Just before they docked his situation was discovered by a crew member and  they panicked.

You see, they had to get him into a coffin and in that state it was impossible.

So they broke his legs.

I’m not sure how that was done. I can only imagine how they actually straightened the frozen limbs of a corpse but maybe that was a bridge to far for the person telling the story. A Hammer makes for drama, a saw takes the entire story into another territory.

After I read that story I felt that poke between my shoulder blades.

I didn’t know if I should laugh or gasp in horror.

The jab turned into a poke…poke…poke …jab…jab.

I laughed.

I laughed ut loud on  a morning commuter train and when a few of the passengers around me turned around and stared at me with annoyance, that jab turned into a poke and that poke turned into a push and I held my book up and said the first thing that popped into my brain.

” Porn. It’s crazy stuff, am I right? ”



RDP Friday: Gobsmacked

Adena Thorne lives in a yellow house on South Hill Road  in an unusual town called Spare.

There are exactly 4 streets in the little town of Spare with 3 houses on each of them- some are yellow, some are green, one was abandoned and the residents of Spare ( all 36 of them ) have ignored it as ivy and  black berry vines covered it slowly crush it to splinters.

I think that house used to be yellow, it’s hard to say.

Spare’s roads are gravel, it doesn’t have sidewalks, though there is sort of one in front of the Post Office/ Mini Mart/Gas Station/City Hall made of rough and uneven retaining wall blocks.

Whoever started the project got bored with it and eventually the weeds and dust will cover up the blocks and that will be the end of that.

You would think that in a town as small as Spare everyone knows each other, or that they are all related in some way, but that’s not the case at all.

The people in Spare don’t really like each other at all and the likelihood that they would work on anything together is almost zero.

Last year someone ordered a pressed tin sign on line that said, ” Welcome to Spare ” and left it on the counter of the Post Office/ Mini Mart/Gas Station/City Hall  next to the Slushie Machine.

Bette Price  found it leaning against her desk. She opened the package and said, ” Why is this at my desk? What do the people around here think?  I’m their slave? I’m the damn Mayor. I’m not hanging this thing up.”

She drug it behind the post office counter, leaned it against the back wall and it’s still there, collecting dust. Sometimes people scribble on it when the ink dries up in their pens, so  I suppose it’s serving a purpose after all.

Just after Easter Bette was at her desk Post Office/ Mini Mart/Gas Station/City Hall when Wes Farmer sort of oozed his way through the door and up to Bette’s desk. He was wearing a T-shirt with a fuzzy splotch in the middle of his chest that may have said something about Motorcycles or it may have been a decal of a naked woman.

Bette guessed it was was the latter.

” Yes. ” she said.

” There’s a body in that tunnel thing out behind my place. ”

” Did you call the Sheriff? ”

Wes leaned over her desk. ” No. Cause I don’t have a phone. ”

Bette huffed through her thin little nose and reached for her phone.


That’s when Adena walked in.

Bette and Wes looked at each other and then they looked at Adena.

” What? ” she asked.

Adena folded her arms across her chest, ” WHAT.”


Wes followed Adena out to the ” Tunnel thing ” on his property and he stood outside while she walked into it  with a flashlight.  She was in there for a few minutes and then Wes  heard her splashing her way back out.

” Are you going to call the Sheriff and tell him about the dead body? ” he asked.  ” Cause I don’t have a phone. ”

Adena turned around and yelled into the tunnel ” Hey Sheriff, there’s a dead body in

the tunnel! ”

” You’re a jerk. ” Wes told Adena.

” Yeah. But I’m a jerk with a phone. Go find someone else to make your call for you. Tell them the Sheriff is dead and that his head is gone.”

Adena pushed past Wes and made her way to the road. She got into her car and she drove away.

Wes figured if there was no Sheriff, then there wasn’t a body in a Sheriff’s uniform quietly being taken away piece by piece by the sometimes running water and the bugs so there wasn’t anything for him to do now, was there?


Adena was the last person to actually drive out of Spare and she was the last person to never come back.

She did it the day after she realized that for as angry as she was at Wes and Bette ( whose last names she never knew )  it occurred to her had it been her body in that tunnel full of fetid water, she would be there rotting away until every single house in Spare was covered with blackberry vines and Spare was nothing more then a hill covered with a dead houses and rusty cars and maybe, just maybe,  one or two people who did not care about any of it, one way or another.

All Adena knew for sure was that she did not want to be one of those two people.







The Train In The Woods


When Eldin Barnes was a teenager, and he will tell you that this was about a hundred years ago , he discovered a train on a set of dead end tracks in the woods behind his house.

The two cars were covered by blackberry bushes  and ivy,  they were surrounded by Pine trees and smooth gray  deadfall. When it was covered with snow  during the winter the train looked like headless body laying on it’s back and when it rained rodents and cats took shelter inside of the rusted cars and watched each other through narrowed eyes  until it stopped.

One car used to be a passenger car. It was full of wooden seats eaten by wood rot and age. The other car was the engine and no matter how how hot or cold it was outside the windows were always foggy with warm running droplets of water.

The train, Eldin Barnes said to me,  was sweating.



About a week after finding the train ( hiding he wondered at first- was it hiding? ) Eldin found himself jumping at the sounds of train whistles ( which he heard often because the main tracks and the station was only 2 miles from the Barnes’ home ) and sometimes the sound of car doors slamming shut made him feel like the air had evaporated from his lungs and he had to force himself to take a breath.

It was a long week and thinking back on it Eldin would say it was like going through a handful of days knowing that at the end of those days you were going to end up at a Dentist’s office.  The days rushed by but the hours inside of them seemed to creep along.

Like I said, it was a long week.

And then on an unseasonable warm Spring evening Eldin fell asleep in the family room watching TV. That was the best room in the house to sleep in on warm nights. It was always cool in there.

So in that cool comfortable room and in the deepest part of his sleeping mind, Eldin heard something was whispering in his ear and had he been able to make a sound when he realized what it was, he was pretty sure he would have been a screamed himself awake.

Instead  Eldin woke up in stages, nightmarishly  slow stages. Eldin thought he heard a train whistle and the grunt of an engine  but no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t open his eyes. But he knew he must.  He knew that he had to wake up because something was outside his house. Something big. Something that hissed and whispered as it slid along the ground.

He took a ragged breath and told himself to concentrate- slowly his left eye opened halfway. His right refused to open at all but he rolled off of the couch and then he stood up and his leaden legs seemed to float under him and that is how he got to the sliding glass door.

He pulled the blinds back and there it was.

The train from the Woods.

Only Instead of two neglected cars there were a dozen slick green and black cars.

Every single  window  was glowing a soft shade of red, the engine was hissing  and the train was circling Eldin’s house exactly the same way a snake circles it’s prey before it squeezes it to death and then swallows it whole- and sometimes still alive ( or so I’ve been told ).

” Go away. ” he tried to yell. ” Get the hell away!”

The Train,  wasn’t moving like a train.It didn’t sound like a train because Eldin was pretty sure it was breathing and he was positive that if he touched it he wouldn’t feel metal under his hand. He’d feel muscle- and that wasn’t possible, was it?

The train kept circling Eldin’s house and it came closer and closer and then…

Eldin  says he woke up

in the Woods on a little hill next to the train.



Eldin told me that after that night he went back to his house and came back with a crow bar and an axe and he tried the best he could to pry up some of the track. It was pointless, so he settled for burying it instead.

Now the train only had a little track left in front of it and almost none behind it and he wondered how many other people had the same idea he did.

Eldin said messing with the tracks must have done the trick because the Train has stayed where it was.

” Are you sure Eldin?” I asked.

Eldin, who in case I forgot to mention it,  never did get his right eye to open after that night he found himself in the Woods said to me. ” No. No I’m not sure at all.”