sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Crooked Man

The Crooked Man

a fictional short (for Halloween)

There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile.
He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile. 
He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.
                                         --traditional Nursery Rhyme


The very first thing that you noted about Billy was not the unkempt nature of his clothing nor was it the wild red hair. It's those teeth that drew you in. Stainless steel dentures that he'd sharpen so as to tear flesh from bone with little effort.

Billy Bones (true name William Francis Waznowski) became a mortician by trade after his dry goods store failed. He bore a grudge against the competition that ran him out of business but despite that animus, when members of the Fleming family shuffled off this mortal coil, he did a splendid job of making them look lifelike in their coffins. The story reporting the fire to their store after the last Fleming died didn't make it above the fold. It didn't even make the business section. It became news in the police blotter, the section immediately preceding the crossword puzzle, comics and the classifieds. Rumors of a curse or hex abounded for a season, but time erased them.

Speculation at the time ran that the editor had a well founded fear of Billy Bones and he spiked the story personally. I'm not sure what to believe.

Things became suspicious when neighborhood children went missing on Halloween night as they trick-or-treated on Billy's street. His house, brightly lighted, displaying pumpkins and black paper cats was a magnet for the children. He gave out full-size candy bars, not the measly treat-sized chocolate. On the night, he wore his best porcelain dentures, oversized, looking more like horse teeth than human teeth. His big smile as he handed out candy assured neighbors of his sincere intentions to be part of the community. Long after neighborhood lights went out as candy supplies were depleted, Billy's stayed on, and some children went back for candy four or five times. That very open and generous conduct ruled out any possibly of foul play so far as the police were concerned.

However, the mystery of the missing children remained. 

That he took a wife became the subject of gossip among the old biddies of the town. She had few charms, chronic halitosis and marginal hygiene, but as her age advanced, the likelihood that she would make a match faded until Billy's offer. As the wife of the undertaker, she would enjoy a certain stilted place in society. Wearing black, standing by in mourning at funerals, her yellow teeth and dull hair didn't seem so shoddy. Her body odor was completely eclipsed by the patented embalming fluid that permeated the funeral parlor.

The Halloween practice that everyone had become accustomed to changed as the couple lighted the mortuary and children were invited in to accept candy from Mrs. Bones, who lay inside a coffin well into the viewing parlor of the funeral home. Full sized candy and no prohibition on repeat visits still made the place the go-to spooky place on Halloween night.

It was only years later, after Billy and his wife died, that the new owner of the funeral parlor found that the Butterfingers were actually buttered fingers, draped in chocolate and that the Baby Ruth bars were made from real babies, purchased in bulk with a discount rate from Planned Parenthood. The Snickers were handed out for shits and giggles. A curse or magic spell, which faded following the death of those who cast it, made the young believe that they were eating genuine candy.

Happy Halloween.


Index


10 comments:

  1. Very spooky and entirely believable, apart the Planned Parenthood bit, which was obviously fiction.

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    Replies
    1. My effort at being spooky...a Stephen King, I'm not.

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    2. There's another one coming on Halloween.

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  2. The name Billy (with his metal teeth) puts me on edge straightaway. That name works so well with nutters.
    With his wild red hair too he could be almost clown like, which always puts the willies up people.

    ...And the jellybeans were flavoured bone marrow and the chewy jelly tots, sliced off nipples coated in sugar. Yum yum.

    Very nice haunting subtext, Larry. I think you have the ability to make your readers perfectly ill at ease.

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    Replies
    1. The evil clown, of course, source of dread.

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  3. I have no idea why, but I find this one hilarious!

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    Replies
    1. You have a warped sense of humor...as a berserker, it's only natural that you would.

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  4. Creepy! There's a house in CC that gives out full size candy bars. I was told they are Nuns...

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    Replies
    1. I'm sure that's true...Bwa ha ha ha.....!

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