There’s Something Under the Bed-Time Stories
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by Jeannine Baumgartle~Illustration
by Joy Kirchgessner
~Don’t Look Under the Bed
~Day of the Dead
~The Shear Point
~Sweet Water From the Rock
~Nursing a Grudge
~Truth in a Tale
~Monster of the Full Moon Night
~Rest in Piece
~The Man Under the Bed
~The People From Down Below
~The New Kid
~There’s Something Evil in the Deep Dark Woods
~Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep
~The Moving Mansion
by Jeannine Baumgartle
Such a nice bedroom for a child, she thought as she put folded clothes in the drawers of Wren’s dresser. The room was blue, the color of the sky, the old white bookcase full and running over with books. Helen had made the curtains out of muslin, and she and Wren had traced around puzzle pieces with indelible markers in red, yellow, blue and green, to make shapes on them. Trucks and planes and bottles and ducks and rabbits and stars all fluttered softly in the breeze from the open window. They seemed today to have something clinging to them. She lifted a corner of the fabric, and quickly let it drop. Worms, tiny little worms were making their way up the folds. They were climbing the wall, as well. The floor was worse, especially near the bed. She lifted the dust ruffle and looked underneath.
You always hear about identical twins who have the same characters-know each other’s thoughts-feel each other’s pain. It never was that way with my brother and me. If he had felt my pain, he wouldn’t have smiled so much. If I had known his thoughts, I’d have dodged some pain, since he caused most of it.
And he was supposed to be “the good one.” He was the one with the ready grin, open and easy with the grown-ups, undetectably manipulative with the other kids. I was the sullen one; silent, solitary, plain-spoken, blank-faced or scowling, humorless and dull.
“Angel Boy and Devil Boy,” our Aunt Nan called us.
“Look at Andrew,” she would say, pointing to my brother. “Look at that smile. He’s so sweet, butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth.” She’d hold out an arm and he would come to her for a hug. He’d peck her cheek, then step behind her and make a face.
“And look at Edward,” she’d say in a gruffer tone, flapping a hand in my direction. “Pure evil,” she’d say, drawing it out with relish. “Pyooorr eeevuhhhl.”
Day of the Dead
A good walk after breakfast would help her mood, Mai thought. After scanning through The News, the English-language paper the hotel handed out to guests, she set out. There were small shops along the street and window-shopping was one thing Mai liked to do.
She stepped along as briskly as she could, considering the narrow, somewhat broken sidewalk and the number of other pedestrians. A jeweler’s, a place offering Internet access at five pesos an hour, a dress shop, small laundry, then a place selling those ruffly paper things – ‘peen..whatever’ they call them. A clown, Mickey Mouse, a horse or mule or something…and two skeletons.
Mai shivered. What’s this with dead things? She returned to the hotel and spent most of the day by the pool. The sun didn’t seem as warm as it was a few days ago.
The car had stalled beside a small stand of trees. The full moon cast the trees’ shadows across the road and across the car. The wind caused the shadows to flicker and dance like flames. Rita nervously checked the locks on the doors and stared into the darkness under the trees, sure that she had seen something moving out of the corner of her eye, something besides shadows. But when she looked straight into the dark, she could see nothing. She checked her watch again. Had it only been ten minutes?
Finally she saw the door of the house open and Paul came out – running. He ran to the car and she reached over and unlocked the door for him. He got in and slammed the door shut again, panting heavily.
“What happened in there? You look like you’re scared to death!”
“I think you should get in the back seat – on the floor – in case they come out,” gasped Paul between gulps of air.
“Who? – What’s going on?”
“Rita, please – in the back, before they come out and see you!” It was the “please” that convinced her. Paul never said please.
“Family secrets can be buried, but they can’t be silenced.” His grandfather had said that many times on various occasions, but he never elaborated with any specific examples or juicy details. Of course, a family with as much money and power as his was bound to have some skeletons in the closet. Bad choice of words considering the circumstances. What circumstances? James realized the woman had disappeared, if indeed she’d been there at all. Rational thought took over, bringing the whole ghostly sighting into focus. Take one stormy night, a dose of good old-fashioned guilt for selling out the family homestead, and a healthy glass of brandy and the result was one made-to-order spook. He’d wasted enough time on this foolishness. He turned toward the door, determined to get some sleep.
As she moved, entranced, toward the piazza off the ballroom, she stopped, as if remembering something. She saw Jack standing in the large double- arched doorway, his hand extended to her. She looked back: the music was unclear, and sounded distant. Was it now coming from somewhere down the street? How was that possible?
“Don’t worry.” It was Jack’s deep and comforting voice. He was beside her again. “No one is watching, no one will see.” With that she took his arm and exited to the piazza.
Once outside the house, Polly could feel the wetness of the air around her and the evening breeze off the ocean, heavy with the scent of salt. She looked up at Jack, and was swallowed whole by the experience.
“I’m a plain man, Polly, and I’ll speak plainly to you. You are mine, you have promised yourself to me, and I mean to have you again.”
This bald declaration cut through the spell and snapped her back to reality. “Captain Kinney, how dare you come into my house after all this time and challenge the authority of my husband in such a brazen manner? I knew you to be lowborn, but you possessed an air of refinement that led me to believe you had bettered yourself. I see now that you are simply a savage in finery, unaware of social graces.”
“I spoke the plain truth to you, Polly. As you promised me the day I left you would be mine always, I will hold you to that promise, husband and children be damned.”
Sweet Water From the Rock
Resolute, she rose and turned deciding which way to go when she glimpsed a whorl of wispy, almost threadlike leaves in the bracken by a dry creek bed. Ladies’ Bedstraw! Not only was it a fine medicine and one she was nearly out of, but its roots made a fiery crimson. Not quite as good as Corcair and it wouldn’t go into the purple, but it was a good find. She pulled her belt knife and fell to work digging out the clump taking care not to damage any of the precious roots, then with the greater portion of the plant in her basket, looked beyond where she dug into the creek bed itself. The creek had been dry for quite a while, its rocks and pebbles giving way to mossy patches interspersed with grasses and bramble. Here and there in the scrub, she caught glimpses of more of the plants she sought. Sitting back on her heels, she breathed a few words of thanks, then stepped down into the dry bed and followed it, gathering and humming blissfully.
The creek bed brought her to a clearing and into a grove of ancient trees. She gazed with wonder at the mossy trunks, naming them off to herself and stopped abruptly, realizing that all twenty trees and plants of the Ogham, the ancient alphabet of her people, were growing here. Her delight at the discovery faded as she became aware of the complete silence in the grove, with not so much as an insect buzzing. The unnatural stillness chilled her in a way that even the bright sunlight pouring into the clearing couldn’t touch. She suddenly knew where she was.
Nursing a Grudge
The night seemed two nights long. She lay beside her sleeping husband eyes wide open, staring through the darkness at the ceiling. Michael’s even breathing testified to the fact he was deeply asleep.
“Creep,” she whispered at his back. “You’ll get yours, Bud. Some day, you’ll get yours. Just wait til you get so tired you see things… And hear things. Then I’ll be the one asking: Are you crazy? Well, Michael? Are-”
Her ranting whispers were interrupted by a not so subtle rustling under the bed.
“Are we having fun yet?” asked the dark thing that slithered from under the lavender sprigged dust ruffle. “Man! I’m gettin’ tired of waitin’ for you to fall asleep… Ain’t it a bitch when you try and try and it just doesn’t come? Kinda like ole’ Michael, there, when he’s had a few brews too many… I’m sorry,” it apologized (though Jolene doubted its sincerity), “I shouldn’t have brought Michael’s ‘short-comings’ up, so to speak. He’s never ‘that way’ with her…”
Jolene giggled; a high pitched giggle that she tried to hold in, even to the point of holding her mouth with both hands, but to no avail. Tiny snippits of guilty frightened laughter escaped between her trembling fingers. Michael mumbled something from his sleep that sounded like: “…touch me there… …no… …not there…”
“Creep,” Jolene whispered at his back.
Monster of the Full Moon Night
Sherry tucked her purse and paper tightly under her arm. Once again, she stepped out onto the empty street and peered into the darkness. Still no bus in sight. Her wrist watch now read 10:45. She put it to her ear, then checked it again. Could it be fast? Shaking her head, she returned to the bench. Alone at the bus stop, she was sure the last bus ran at 10:00 PM, but no bus had been by in almost an hour. Now she wondered if the schedule had changed. She couldn’t be sure and wished she had checked earlier. Sherry seldom rode the commuter busses and wouldn’t have done so this time except that she had promised. Weeks ago, she gave her word when she said she would help at the hospital today. How could she have foreseen her car would be in the shop?
With tiny swirls of dust accompanying, a cool breeze danced a page of newspaper along the vacant sidewalk. Sherry pulled the wool collar of her coat up as it tumbled by. She shuddered and tried diverting her attention to browsing her newspaper. The street lamp offered a poor source of light. She could only make out bold headlines:
“FULL MOON MONSTER STILL AT LARGE!”
“Maybe it’s not safe to be out here in the woods just now. I’d estimate that what’s left of this poor animal is not but a few hours old. Is Diane with you?”
“No, she had to go to town. She’s probably home waiting for me by now. Nice talking to you but I’d better get back and meet her.” I was walking backwards and away as I said this and then turned and ran all the way back to the house.
I told Diane about the encounter with Mr. Leamann. She said maybe he had been in the business much too long. And he does take long walks in the woods so it wouldn’t be unusual to meet up with him.
I didn’t want to worry her so I dropped the subject.
There’s Something Evil in the Deep Dark Woods
Some people know the exact moment their lives change – things, that just an instant before were important, become obsolete. A paradigm shift. “If only I had done this, or not done that,” they might ask themselves, “would things have turned out differently? Would I be richer, poorer, healthier or sicker or, perhaps, somebody could have lived and not died?” Sherry’s chaotic life was a constant change, but if someone were to ask Rachel what catastrophic thing altered her life, she would answer, “When I picked up the phone.”
The Moving Mansion
Only those present in the room at Elmo Joe’s death were to be beneficiaries…. The heirs–the doctor, nurses, lawyer, family members and servants alike–shared the benefits of Boonswallow Manor equally. But there was a catch. To claim the inheritance, they all had to live together in the mansion….