The Old Mine Outside Town

For the last month, I’d been pestering Mason to come with me to explore the old mine outside town. It was one of those places everyone said was haunted. You know the type. Of course, most places like that have scary legends to keep people away so the goth kids can go and fuck one another in peace. There was nothing really haunted about those spots, of course. This mine, though, kept even the goths at bay.

There were so many rumors about why the mine was haunted and downright dangerous. Some said it used to be a government uranium mine during the Manhattan Project and you’d get irradiated the minute you set foot inside. Others claimed that after the Civil War, town officials had used the place to secretly imprison and torture freed slaves whose vengeful ghosts would kill anyone foolish enough to explore. Even though there was no evidence for any of that, folks still insisted it was too dangerous to visit. It had grown to become a town legend. People were told never to go in, so they stayed away. Continue reading “The Old Mine Outside Town”

There is nothing wrong in East Flatbush, Brooklyn.

You can tell just by how the police are leaving the area, broadcasting reassurances as they go. If there was something wrong, the police would be staying.

Ignore the rumors you’re hearing. First off, it makes no sense whatsoever that one of them would just be crawling on top of Kings Theater. Imagine how ridiculous it sounds. You can go there yourself and you won’t see anything. Nothing shimmers, nothing floats. Anyone who says they see it is trying to trick you.

Stand at the corner of Church and Flatbush and look toward the theater. Past the ambulances. There was an unrelated shooting not long ago. It’s already been investigated and deemed to be unrelated. Yes, there is blood on the street. No, it’s not more than a human body can hold. Don’t try to make it any worse than it already is.

If you’re too nervous to go out, it’s fine to stay indoors. It’s warm today, so I assume your windows are open. Those sounds you hear in the sky are helicopters – just the police going back to the other boroughs where they can concentrate on real emergencies. If one of the helicopters looks unfamiliar, it’s just because it’s a new technology the police have. You should be reassured by that.

Look, I was there.

Continue reading “There is nothing wrong in East Flatbush, Brooklyn.”

Sade Smols

I always scoffed at the local legend about the tiny people who lived in our town. That’s what the adults talked about when we were growing up – the little helpers who lived in the cracks and crevices of homes who scared away bugs and cleaned up crumbs. I never saw one. No one I knew did. But still, people talked about them as if they were there, like modern fairies.

This morning, I woke up to one standing on my pillow, deftly cleaning a puddle of drool off my pillowcase.

He seemed as startled as I was.

“It’s okay,” he assured me.

I was surprised how loud and clear his voice was, as he was only four inches tall.

“I’m Sade Smols,” he said. “I’ve been cleaning here for the last six months.”

Continue reading “Sade Smols”

A Case of Hives

My ex-wife, Janie, died. I was happy to see her go.

I regained custody of our beautiful son, Barry. He’s four years old. For the last two years, I’d been out of his life. Janie kept him away from me. God only knows what poison she filled his head with; all her hatred of me spilling out of her lying mouth to make Barry despise his old man. But all that’s over now. He’s mine again. And he’ll love me soon enough.

It was clear she’d said some terrible things to influence his perception of me. “Daddy’s bad,” Barry informed me one night. Tears filled my eyes and I clutched my son to my chest and whispered, “your Daddy is a good man, Barry. Your Daddy will take care of you.”

I meant it, although I hated him when he squirmed to get away. He was afraid of me. His mother’s poison still coursed through his veins.

In early April, Barry seemed under the weather. I checked him out. He’d developed hives. I was overjoyed. This would be my opportunity to redeem myself with him. Once he saw how well I could take care of him, he’d love me again. I thought back to his tiny hand clutching my finger moments after he was born. He’d loved me from the start. Then Janie ripped it out of him. I seethed.

Continue reading “A Case of Hives”

A Gifted Chef

I was lucky enough to be the next-door neighbor of a world-class chef. Like, legit world class. Like, Michelin star class. Yeah. The real deal. Stewart Therriault. Maybe you’ve heard of him.

One of the benefits of living near Stewart was getting to try all the sumptuous, creative dishes he’d make whenever he was home. Seriously, the guy cooked all the time. As soon as I’d see the lights go on in his house, it was only a matter of time before thick, luscious aromas wafted into my home. And, because he was a great guy, he’d often bring over a plate or two for me to try. “It’s all practice for the restaurant,” he told me. Continue reading “A Gifted Chef”

Ben’s Fear

Growing up, it was common knowledge that my cousin, Ben, was afraid of seaweed. Naturally, we terrorized him with it. Pieces in his bed, pieces in his shoes, and my favorite: pieces in his bathing suit. Every time, we were guaranteed a scream and a scramble as he tried to get the seaweed away from his delicate self.

Nothing, though, compared to what we’d do to him at the beach.

I’ll fully admit that we were bullies back then. We didn’t know what we did was wrong; we just thought it was funny. And since Ben laughed it off at the end, even if he’d cried while it was happening, we thought it was okay to continue. Kids will be kids, right? Continue reading “Ben’s Fear”

Mushy Stuff

“No mushy stuff!,” my parents would insist whenever I told them I was going on a date. I figured it was what parents had to say. No one wants to think about their kids having a sex life. Just like how kids don’t like to think of their parents having one.

So I went on my dates. And they were great. Lots of fun, countless good times, and yes, plenty of sex. Plenty of “mushy stuff,” as my parents were wont to say as I rolled my eyes to the ceiling.

Like any kid, I did my best to hide it from them. I was always careful. Protection was always involved – although with my most recent girlfriend, we sometimes took risks. Passion is a hell of a thing. Continue reading “Mushy Stuff”

The Trawl

We dredged something up from deep underwater. It turned out to still be alive. Partly alive. Something like alive.

I wanted to explain how it looked, but every time I thought about how to describe it I got the worst mental block. Everything went foggy and my head started to hurt. Even when I remembered how it spilled out onto our deck with thousands of dead fish, I was overcome with a sensation of nausea that left me gasping for air.

That’s why, once it stopped thrashing – yes, that’s how it moved – by thrashing; I remember how it knocked over a bunch of equipment – I asked one of the guys to start taking pictures. Not a single one came out right. They were all blurred beyond repair and dotted with multi-colored splotches. So all I have is my memory. While I couldn’t picture how it looked, I knew it was nothing like I’d ever seen before. Nothing like any of us had seen. Continue reading “The Trawl”

Not All Men

“Not all men are rapists,” my Dad would grunt as he scrolled through his friends’ Facebook profiles and read the articles about sexual assault they’d posted.

“Not all men are abusive,” my Dad would mutter as he did research to disprove the domestic violence statistics that bothered him so much.

“Not all men are like him,” I’d mouth to myself, as Dad threw Mom across the room for having the temerity to contradict something he’d said.

After hurting her one night, he came to my room a few hours later. “You’re a sweet boy,” he told me. “I know you’d never harm a woman, no matter how much she deserved it. Not all men are like me. You don’t have a temper.”

I did have a temper, though. And I seethed. Continue reading “Not All Men”

Dawn

Dawn is my little sister. When I was 11 and she was just a tiny baby, I hurt her really badly. I didn’t know what I did was going to cause so much trouble. I just wanted to do something nice. Something that would make us happy.

My parents made me go away for a long time. I didn’t understand why everyone was so angry. I missed my sister terribly. Even worse, I felt betrayed by the people I’d expected to understand me.

After six years of hospitalization, I got to see her again. My parents had passed away in a car accident while I was gone and I went to live with my aunt and uncle. Both were psychologists. Both understood the problem I apparently had. Still, they believed I’d learned to cope with it over the course of my rehabilitation. And they were right. I would never hurt anyone again. The mere thought of it was abhorrent. Continue reading “Dawn”