Sunday, June 10, 2007

In Memory Of A Practical Man

a.m. moscoso

Mattie Greaves sat across from Mr. Sawyer Day, the owner of a small and all but forgotten funeral home in Seattle, Washington and together they were quietly discussing a suitable coffin for Mattie's husband Tabor.

" My husband is a practical man " Mattie told Mr. Day " and he wouldn't like anything with those fancy gold handles and he certainly wouldn't approve of things like this " Mattie was pointing at a catalog opened to a glossy page of coffins painted blue and gold and even black with ducks and eagles flying around their edges.

" I understand " Mr. Day said " and I have several models for you to consider that are more traditional. I'm sure we can find one here that your husband would approve of. "

Mr. Day is almost 65 and he had taken over Morning Ridge Funeral Home from his Mother's family right after he had turned 30. He had started working there right after he turned 16 so that means that for over 50 years Mr. Sawyer Day had heard and seen it all.

So when Mattie Greaves asked if the traditional model she was looking at came with a comfortable pillow Mr. Day didn't even look up. " From what I understand it does, however in the past some of our families have brought in their own blankets and pillows. "

" My husband is very fond of candy as well. " Mattie whispered. " Now his doctor told him he needs to give up sweets but you know, he's along in years and he's been through so much. I ask you Mr. Day how could I take away his salt water taffy?"

" My Mother was the same way, she was fond of her Cuban Cigars. Not only did she refuse to give them up we could never figure out how she got her hands on them to begin with. In the end, we just let it go."

" So of course I can..."

" Of course you can Mrs. Greaves, whatever you think would have made your husband happy."

After going through a few more books Mattie decided on a solid oak model with bronze handles and a lovely cream colored liner. She passed on the flowers.

" He's allergic " she told Mr. Day.

Mr. Day and Mattie went through numbers and she was about to pull out her check book when Mr. Day said, " We're almost finished Mrs. Greaves all we have to do is discuss your choice of a grave liners..

Mattie dropped her checkbook on the table and looked at Mr. Day for almost two minutes before her face turned a little red and tears welled up in her eyes., " Oh my, that sounds so final."

" Mrs. Greaves, I'm very sorry. I don't mean to rush you. If you need more time to go over..."

" No Mr've been very kind and patient with me. It's my fault. I'm the one who has been doing the rushing. I should have husband just needs a coffin until the one he normally uses arrives from back home."

Inspired by the Soul Food Cafe Prompt

Memory's Molten Stream

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Devil's Luck

by anita marie moscoso

based on the Soul Food Cafe Story Prompt

T is For Transformative

Did you ever have one of those days when everything went wrong?

Maybe you knew it was going to be bad when your alarm went off 20 minutes too early and to make it worse it was one of those nights where you woke up every half hour and when you got out of bed you knew, you could feel it was going to get much worse.

Veta Trella had a night like that.

After she got out of bed she went to take a shower and as she stepped into her tub she slipped but was lucky enough to break her fall with her knees.

That was okay because Veta wasn't the kind of person anyone paid attention to so if she had to limp and shuffle no one was going to notice.

That was the only lucky break Veta had for the rest of the day.

When Veta dried her hair she was distracted by the sizzling sound the wires made everytime she turned her wrist and just before her hair was completely dry some blue sparks flew out of the wall and all of the lights in Veta's house went out and stayed out.

She guessed all of those black scorch marks all over her walls by the electrical outlets she saw on the way to her basement to check her fuse box was not a good sign.

When Veta finally made it out thedoor she looked down in time to see her that not only were her shoes not tied, they were different colors and just as she turned to go back into her house the door swung shut and she knew that not only was the door locked she had never taken her keys out of the candy bowl she kept them in.

But none of that mattered for very long because as she took a step she tripped on her laces and went face first into the door.

It was only a matter of seconds- not minutes before her nose started to swell and she could feel her lips start to go numb. She poked at her face and sighed and then Veta walked around to her back yard.

She walked slowly up the steps to her back porch and when she reached down to pick up a little clay flowerpot to break the little glass window in center of the porch door she felt her fingernail peel back and then it came off with a sting.

She held her hand up, looked at raw finger tip and sighed.

Veta made it through her kitchen safe enough but when she got to the living room she scared her cat Blitzer right off of the couch he knew wasn't suppose to be on.

Veta didn't have the heart or energy to yell at him because she shouldn't have had to break into her own house and put herself in the position to scare her black cat into running straight across her path.

In fact, he was so startled by her that he jumped straight up onto the mantle piece above the fireplace and sent Veta's antique mirror crashing to the floor where it didn't just break.

It smashed into millions of little shards and a cloud of dust and glass wafted up and into Veta's face- Veta's bruised and swollen face that was now in the process of working it's way into a full fledged allergy attack.

" Oh, why the Hell not " Veta said and then she sneezed and her nose started to bleed- all over her brand new white blouse.

When Veta made it to her bus- well it wasn't her usual bus because she missed her regular bus- she almost tripped over a woman who had suddenly stopped to pick something up off of the ground and that sent Veta and her things flying in about four different directions.

Veta sort of shuffled and cringed all the way to the back of the bus and when she sat down it was on something wet and sticky and she closed her eyes and when she opened them she looked up and then down and then from her left to her right and then slowly behind her. When she was done she slouched down and held her belongings to her chest and tried to make herself breathe.

She thought if she concentrated on doing just that she wouldn't start screaming.

Then the woman Veta had tripped over took the seat right in front of her and she was jabbering and laughing and chatting away to the very good-looking man next to her.

" Can you believe it? " she sang, " first I find a hundred dollar bill right there on the curb on the very morning I'm thinking I'm going to for sure miss my bus and then..." she leaned towards her seat mate and nudged him with her shoulder " you ask me out and look! "

She was holding her phone up and the man read the text message and he congratulated the woman on her promotion and then he moved a little closer to her and put his arm over the back of her seat.

" I mean, I don't know where all of this is coming from. I've never had luck like this before!"

" My Grandma would have said you have the luck of the Devil " he told the woman happily.

And then Veta reached over she tapped them each on the shoulder.

When they turned around they were looking straight into Veta's bright yellow eyes which were ringed with bruises and they saw the little white horns she normally hid under her blow dried hair and then her forked tongue shot from under her broken nose and swollen lips and she hissed " your Grandma is liar."

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Has The Cat Got Your Tongue?

by anita marie moscoso

Daisy Cutting was not normal- her parents knew it, her brothers and sisters knew it and her dog knew it too.

That's why Tarzan lived under the porch instead of above it and if they could have the rest of Daisy Cutting's family would have followed Tarzan under the porch too- but there wasn't enough room for all of them.

So the rest of the family was forced to deal with their world with Daisy in it in their own way. The Cutting Family learned to be invisible- which was easy when all anyone really noticed was Daisy.

She was very hard to ignore no matter how hard you tried.

On the day her parents found out they were expecting a baby their house burned down, on the day Daisy was born the sky above the hospital turned black.

Not from thunderclouds- from birds.

The noise they made was deafening and the smell was bad and then while they were in mid-flight they died and fell with soft wet thuds for miles around.

Mrs Cutting saw the rain of dead birds from her hospital window and she raised her baby to her lips and whispered into Daisy's ear, "what have you done Daisy? "

Of course Daisy couldn't answer because she wasn't even an hour old but she did laugh and that's when Mrs. Cutting saw Daisy already had teeth.

" Well, " Mrs. Cutting said " at least you don't have horns too."

Then Daisy laughed some more.

The funny thing about Daisy is that she never really laughed again after that day- she just smiled.

A lot.

Daisy Cutting had a normal life- she had her own room, she had her own toys and she got two full grown black cats from her family on her 12th birthday.

Her cats, Potato and Chips didn't hide under the porch when they saw her. Everyone including Daisy figured they hung around just to see what sort of odd thing she would come up with next but that was in the nature of cats and the Cutting Family understood that.

That's why they got them for her.

So at least now Daisy had a couple of friends- which is what her family wanted. Daisy, if they had asked, would have told them she busy for a social life because Daisy was always busy working on her collections.

-like her Bug Collection.

To be specific Daisy had a Bug Zoo in her bedroom.

Her bugs were in jars and plastic containers and in front of each little cage was a card with their proper scientific names and dietary habits.

Daisy also collected yo-yos that she displayed on her bookshelf and under her bed was Daisy's Grave Collection- it wasn't as organized as her bug zoo or her yo-yo collection.

Daisy collected those little candy boxes- the ones that 6 different pieces of chocolate come in. She'd buy a box or two a month, toss the pieces to Tarzan under the porch ( he buried them ) and then she'd take the empty boxes to her bedroom.

What Daisy liked about the boxes were the little pictures of smiling cherubs on the lids.

It worked for what Daisy put in them.

At least once a month Daisy took the bus to Morning Ridge Cemetery in Duwamish Bay and she'd go from grave to grave snapping petals and leaves from the Grave Flowers.

She always did it in a way that didn't disturb the arrangements- then she'd take the flowers home, dry them and put them in the little boxes.

Each box was numbered- Daisy had a map of the cemetery in her desk and when she got home she took the numbers and not the names from the Cemetery Map and copied them onto the inside lid of the boxes.

Daisy's room was full of her collections.

One Summer Mrs Cutting was in her kitchen reading the paper and drinking some juice when she looked down into her glass and saw two flies drowning in her lemonade

She took a deep breath because she was about to yell for Daisy- and how fair was that? There were two black blowflies in her juice and the first words out of Mrs. Cutting's mouth weren't going to be "yuck".

She was about to scream, " Daisy!"

Instead she took the glass outside and threw the entire mess into the garbage can.

The next day Mrs Cutting found four blowflies in the refrigerator, two in the toilet and instead of yelling " Daisy" she went to the store and bought some No Pest Traps.

It didn't work.

In fact, it got worse.

Much worse.

By the third day there was family meeting in the Cutting home that didn't include Daisy or her cats but did include Tarzan the Dog.

The result of that meeting was Mrs Cutting was sent up to Daisy's room to see if the newest members of the Cutting Family had something to do with Daisy's Collections.

Mrs Cutting took a deep breath and before she knocked she her her daughter-sounding flustered and a little angry- which was something Daisy never did. Daisy never got rattled- so Instead of knocking she put her ear to the door.

" Hey you guys...give those back this minute...I've got you ...let go of that Potato! Chips you're next hand it over....come out from under there you two- I mean it.

You guys are in so much trouble"

Mrs. Cutting looked back down the hall and almost called for somebody- anybody to go with her into Daisy's room.

But this was her daughter- and Mrs Cutting wasn't about to forget that. To be honest, Daisy wasn't the type of person you could forget even if you wanted to.

So Mrs Cutting took a deep breath and knocked on Daisy's door.

From inside of the room came a meow, a couple of hisses and a lot of growling and then she heard a door slam.

Daisy called, " come on in Mom."

Daisy's room didn't have a few flies buzzing around the way they were in the rest of the house.

There were hundreds of them and when one landed on Daisy's face and crawled around and flew off without Daisy flinching even once or trying to brush it away Mrs Cutting lost her temper.

" Flies Daisy? You're collecting flies now? That's...that's... Daisy that's not interesting, that's just stupid. What were you thinking? Look at your room...look at the rest of the house. Young lady you are in so much trouble!"

Daisy was standing next to her closet door and from the inside Potato and Chips had started to shove their paws out from under the door and were trying to pull it open.

" Let them out Daisy...and answer me, what were you thinking?"

Daisy bit her lip and shrugged.

" What were you thinking Daisy? Answer me or did your cats get your tongue?

" No Mommy, " Daisy said " they don't have my tongue..."

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

It's All In The Cards

by Anita Marie Moscoso

Idell Galina tells fortunes and casts spells from her little store on Eastlake Road.

Of Course Idell can't really see into the the future and she can't really cast spells but she can tell a good story and she's got a very winning smile and looks good in velvet so none of that really mattered.

Until the night Denae Colquite came in and asked for a Reading- then what Idell could or could not do mattered very much.

Denae Colquite took a seat on the little wooden chair Idell offered her and she kept her purse in her lap. She even kept her jacket on, refusing to take it off when Idell asked for it. " I know this is all- um, subjective. But I'm at a loss Miss-"

" Madam Galina " Idell extended a long hand over the crystal ball that sat on the table between them.

Denae looked down at Idell's left hand and then she looked back up and said, " Miss Galina. "

Idell shrugged pulled her hand back and slumped a little into her chair with her arms crossed over her chest and the air sucked out of her lungs. " What exactly can I help you with ..."

" Denae my name is Denae Colquite and I'll get right down to it Idell- I need to know if one can escape their fate."

Idell felt her Sea Legs come back, and she said " Our fates are..."

" Yes, yes, yes, written on the sands or wind or something like that but Miss Galina the upshot is my fate is about to ruin my life and I'd like to escape that. So, can you help me or not."

It wasn't a question and it wasn't a demand but Denae expected an answer all the same.

And it was obvious she wanted it now.

So Idell reached over to the counter to her left for a candlestick and she placed it next to the crystal ball and struck a match. Then she looked down into the reflection cast by the small yellow flame and as she did Denae put her forehead on the table's rounded edge and started to bang it up and down.

" Yes or no Madame Galina can you change a fate that's been cast. Do you really need to look into the future to answer that question? Because if you're that unsure of your present I don't see how you can help me with the future."

Without raising her head from the table Denae reached into her handbag pulled out a small box of playing cards and dropped it on the table.

" Here, it's all in here. My Grandmother did a reading for me 10 years ago when I got married. It's all there, in those cards. I need to know if I can escape it."

Idell smirked a little and wiped it off her face as Denae looked up. " Our futures, our destiny are constantly being rewritten, I see images, impression of things that could be. That's what I can offer you in the way of help and guidance."

Denae dropped her head back onto the table and mumbled, " Well, damn. It's starting to look like there is no way around this. No way at all. I mean the one person who can really pull this gig off was like a thousand percent right. You know, she was the real thing.I've been to hundreds of you people for the past ten years and all you guys have been less talented then she was. Everyone said Grand was one in a million. I guess that was just the simple truth. She was one in a million."

Denae got up and sighed " How much."

" An offering of 20.00 is appreciated."

Denae got up and and put her jacket on. Then she opened her purse and dropped the offering on the table.

" Oh your..." Idell picked the box up.

" Cards- you can keep them I don't need them anymore. I know what they say. They've been saying the same thing for 10 years now."

And then as Denae walked towards the door the little flap on the bottom of the box slid open and the cards spilled out onto the table and the floor at Idell's feet.

Idell reached down and picked up one of the cards. She could see they were ordinary playing cards with something written in spidery red script across their faces.

She held the card up to the light and she could see written in old fashioned script, " My Granddaughter is going to kill you, run Miss Galina "

Idell looked up in time to see Denae throw the deadbolt on the door. " Don't bother, I told's all in the cards."

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Mrs. Beenettle's Garden

by anita marie moscoso

Outside the town of Dewhurst is a little Country Cottage House standing all by itself up off of a long dusty road. There's a rusty mailbox out front leaning over a ditch and a low stone fence that runs for miles along the Cottage's property line.

Within the borders of the stone fence the small white cottage has potted plants on it's porch and at each of it's lace covered windows there are flower boxes full of purple and white and yellow Pansies.

That's where Mrs. Beenettle lives.

People who drive by Mrs. Beenettle’ s House always comment on the old fashioned looking elderly lady with the straw hat and the basket of flowers on her arm.

" I wonder how old Mrs. Beenettle is, " they'll say " she's been out working on that garden of hers since I was a kid and that was over 20 years ago. "

Then they forget all about her until the next time they drive by.

You see, Dewhurst is an up and coming town with streets full of houses called " Mini-Mansions " and roads with names like " Glen " this and " View Ridge" that and the people who live in those developments aren't the sort of people who slow down their cars or themselves for anything.

That includes sweet old ladies who tend Old English Cottage Gardens in the suburbs of Seattle.

Last spring, after years and years of waving to people somebody actually took the time to stop and drive up to Mrs. Beenettle’ s Cottage.

That somebody was named Betsy Ware.

Betsy Ware swears too much and drives to fast and when her kids moved out and left Betsy and her husband with an empty nest Betsy filled their old bedrooms with boxes full of their books and old furniture and outdated clothes and broken toys.

" If they want to move back in they're going to have to haul all this crap away. "

A fool is a woman who doesn't know her own children and Betsy knew her kids would rather live in a dumpster then to be responsible for their own messes so they never did come back-not even for visits.

Betsy was either one step ahead of you or maybe a half a step behind. But she was never far off the mark. That's what made Betsy such a hard person to mess with.

It was a gift she guessed.

One day Betsy just got it into her head to make the drive up to Mrs. Beenettle’s. She wasn't sure where the idea came from; it just seemed like the right thing to do on that nice cool Spring morning.

She got out of her jeep wearing a faded black t-shirt and her hair tied back in a braid and Mrs. Beenettle came from the side of her house with her basket full of flowers.

Mrs. Beenettle smiled her roadside smile. " Well Good Morning!" she said bright as a daisy.

Betsy stood there and smiled back and the thought came from nowhere and locked Betsy's smile into place..." I have no idea why I'm idea at all."

Mrs. Beenettle was pleasant enough, she knew all about plants.

What she said was not exactly what you would read in The Lady Gardener’s Companion Books.

" Flowers are just cool and cunning as any gambler or card shark" Mrs. Beenettle said in her soft warm voice. " They will wine and dine and seduce anything they have to in order to get what they want."

" What is it they want Mrs. Beenettle " Betsy asked because Betsy had the feeling this was going to be a whopper.

" Why, they want to take over dear- simple it truly is as simple as that. I mean, if you think about it the only thing that consumes and reproduces with such blind determination are humans. We're a lot alike, plants and humans."

And Betsy found she couldn't really disagree with that.

They chatted about plants that ate bugs and flowers that smelled like cigarette smoke and Betsy asked, " are there really such things as plants that eat people?"

Mrs. Beenettle laughed and so did Betsy and at that moment they both knew what the answer was-which only made them both laugh more.

The sun was starting to set and it was getting cooler when Mrs. Beenettle said, " All kidding aside Betsy- if you're interested in Man Eating plants this may tickle your funny bone-follow me."

Behind Mrs. Beenettle’ s Cottage there was a grove of Hazel Nut trees. The trees had long thin spidery limbs and they were covered with moss and the bark on the trees was leather like and dark brown.

That surprised Betsy, she thought it would be more fitting if they were bone white, but she was far to interested in what was growing beneath the little trees to wonder why the bark was the color it was.

Under each tree was a large flower.

The petals were black and purple and red and the flowers themselves were as large as the trees themselves.

And they smelled bad; they smelled very, very bad.

" Whoa " Betsy said.

The sound of awe in Bety's voice seemed to please Mrs. Beenettle a lot. In fact Mrs Beenettle smiled wider then ever and then she put a Motherly arm around Betsy's shoulders.

" I am curious about the smell Mrs. Beenettle."

" These beauties are called Corpse Flowers Betsy. In order to thrive they attract blow-flies, and in order to attract Blow-Flies they have to give the flies what they desire which of course is the scent of death."

" Is that all they attract Mrs. Beenettle? The Blow- Flies?

Mrs. Beenettle held her arm out and Betsy took it. " Plants always seem to find the perfect environment to survive in- they're very cunning in that respect.”

Towards Sunset Betsy left Mrs. Beenettle's Garden.

Tucked into the back of Bety's Jeep was a flat box filled with tiny compartments. In each little square were tiny shoots that were coiled and spiraled upwards and each little shoot was tinted black and red purple at their edges.

Next to the flat, wrapped in oiled paper were Betsy's shotguns and in a little plastic envelope under the guns were tags from sweaters and jackets and shirts.

Like Mrs. Beenettle said, plants always seem to find the best enviorment to survive in- they're very cunning in that respect.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Tacky Ticker

by anita marie moscoso

Inspired by the Soul Food Cafe Prompt

"M" is for Myth

Alstona Kamacho's clock is an Doomsday clock- that's what she told everyone at her office. She also told them on the first day she brought it in that if the clock stops the world will end.

So for the past 20 years everyone she works with goes out of their way to make sure Alstona’s Tacky Ticker doesn't wind down.

At first it was fun to find a way to make it first to avocado green clock with the pink feet and the silver mushroom bells sitting sideways against face so that you could be the one turn the little silver key and save the entire world

Then it got to be serious.

When Alstona’ s six co-workers heard the little gears slowing down and just before second hand made this pop sound when it skipped past the glow in the dark five they’d already be pushing and shoving, tripping towards Alstona’s desk.

One year Barnell Bloss fractured right arm when he tried- and failed to clear Fales Digby's desk to get to Alstona’ s Armageddon clock.

Of course he didn't clear Fales' desk because Fales was sitting at it and when Barnell raced by it was more the Fales could stand.

He'd reached up and slammed Barnell down and Fales had been the one to save the world that day.

In any other office on the face of the Earth that stunt would probably have ended in some sort of legal action.

But Lonsdale and Mead's wasn't like anyplace on the face of the Earth- there wasn't anyplace else on the face of the Earth that had an Armageddon clock sitting on an employee's desk.

Delia Wing was a Courier from All City Express, she had won the Lonsdale and Mead stop in a lunch time card game at All City.

But that was nothing new- drivers at All City had been known to pay each other cold hard cash just for one trip because everyone in the city of Mayweed knew the L & M staff were a bunch of whack jobs.

What can you say? Nothing broke up the day like getting the chance to see a bunch of desk jockeys beat the snot out of each other to get to this cheap and nasty windup clock first.

As you’ve probably guessed by now Mayweed was short on entertainment venues.

Delia' first trip into L & M was on a Friday and there they were- all seven of them sitting at their desks, working on the phones and doing data entry and the entire time they all had at least one eye on the Receptionist’s Desk.

At least that one eye looked alive and alert because the faces they were housed in were pale and all of the worker's hands were twitching and shaking.

Delia decided right then and there she didn't want to go back to L & M- all of those people looked like they already had one foot in the grave and she was afraid whatever they had might be something you could catch.

But first Delia had a job to do.

She went over to the receptionist's desk where the clock was sitting and cleared her throat, " Package for you. "

Alstona looked up and reached for small box a in Delia's hand.

" So that's the clock. " Delia said.

" That's the clock. "

" So, if you're sitting there how come they...." Delia pointed to the rows of desks behind Alstona " race to wind it up? Why don't you do it yourself?"

Someone said from the back of the office, " because she doesn't care anymore...she wants the world to end."

From a little closer to where Delia and Alstona were another voice said, " she's nuts "

And everyone agreed.

Delia never actually saw the L & M people racing to the clock but on some days she thought they looked more nervous and pale then on other days and she figured that must have been at about the time the clock was probably starting to wind down.

Then one day, even though she had nothing to drop off and no one had called in a pickup Delia went into the Office.

" Nothing to pick up? " she asked Alstona.

" No. " the Receptionist said.

Delia didn’t want to leave and she didn’t want to be there but for several nights Delia would wake up to the sound of ticking and she'd have to bite down hard on her lip to keep from screaming out loud.

So she decided to get this over with.

" It's a joke...right? " Delia asked.

" It certainly is " a woman who sat directly behind Alstona said. She had heavy dark circles under her eyes and her blouse was inside out. " It's the funniest joke anyone could have ever come up with and I'm sick to death of it."

Then a man said, " I say we let it go...we just let go."

Alstona turned around and she said, " didn't I say it would come to this?"

The six staffers nodded and Alstona looked up at Delia and nodded, " it's a joke and I'm going to end it. "

Then Alstona reached over picked up the clock and smashed it against her desk over and over until her hands were cut and bleeding and the clock was mashed flat.

" It's over, right? " Delia asked. " The joke is over. "

Alstona said quiet as a Cemetery at Midnight, " it certainly is."

Outside a dark cloud crossed in front of the Sun then the ground shook just a little...

And that was

The End

The Scariest Sound

by anita marie moscoso
Inspired by the Soul Food Cafe Prompt
Late, Late One Night

Late, late last night, when the whole world sleptAlong to the garden of dreams I crept.And I pulled the bell of an old, old houseWhere the moon dipped down like a little white mouse.- Zora Cross

Bartsia Butcherbroom lives alone on Wormbark Road and even though Wormbark is sitting on some prime real estate up there in the Cascade Mountains no one wants to live out there and the reason for that isn't the road with the funny name.

The reason is Bartsia Butcherbroom.

Bartsia lives in this little stone house with no windows and as far as anyone can tell it doesn't have a door either- little details about Bartsia's house are sketchy at best because in the 30 plus years she's lived on Wormbark no one has ever went looking to knock on Bartsia's door.
Catching a glimpse of Bartsia working herb garden that grows wild at the side of her is about all anyone wants to see of her.

If you're unlucky by nature you might see her sitting on her porch rocking on her porch swing.
Bartsia sits there whittling little human shaped figures with a long knife with a bone white handle from the wood she collects from around her property .

When she's done she stands them up along the railing that runs along her porch or she tosses them into the Riversleigh Creek that runs behind her property.

When the little figures wash up along the banks in the city of Hedon the people that find them dig little holes and push the figures in with their feet. They try to use something else other then their hands and then they go home straight home and try to forget those tiny little figures with the rows of "X" marks running across their little eyes.

Maybe you'll wonder how she makes such tiny cuts with such a big knife, but if I were you I wouldn't spend a lot of time thinking about Bartsia Butcherbroom.

Especially if you were one of those people who touched one of those little figures with your hands before you buried it- or if as you passed by her sitting on her porch as she whittled and she caught your reflection in that long blade attached to the bone white handle she carves her figures with.

If you your unfortunate enough to be in either position more then likely you're going to start to dream of her.

Having Bartsia show up in your dreams can only mean one thing.
It means that you're going to be out one night and that you will hear the scariest sound anyone can imagine hearing.

Trust me, there are a lot of things out there in the black night that comes from the Cascades that sound bad. People with small "X" marks running across their closed eyes and pleading as they stumble through the woods " Please wake me up, please wake me up " is pretty bad in itself.

But the scariest sound you 'll ever hear are the words, " What was that? "

You'll be saying them- and they will be the last words you'll ever hear as you turn around and come face to face with Bartsia Butcherbroom who lives on Wormbark Road in a house with no windows or doors.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Grave Thoughts

by anita marie moscoso

Cebu Alacantara buries people for a living.

He digs the graves and puts in the liners, he lowers the coffins into the ground and then he covers the graves and he does it quietly, quickly before the next family shows up for services and of course before the sunsets.

It's at sunset that Leaning Birches Funeral Home and Cemetery closes for the day and opens for the rest of the night and like the rest of the Cemetery staff Cebu has learned that's when visiting hours are over.

For everybody.

Cebu has been at the Cemetery for over 30 years now, and it was on his first day back in November that he and a Mortician were outside the gates waiting for their rides home.

Kousso Eyebright was new to the funeral home too and Cebu liked her right away. He had heard from the other three Morticians that Kousso was good with the families, handy with a needle and on her first case had rebuilt a dead woman's face with a sculpture's hand and a surgeon's skill.

To be honest, that didn't mean a thing to Cebu but he also heard that Kousso knew some wicked jokes and he was hoping to hear a few of them for himself.

Instead Kousso asked, just like you'd ask for the time of day or in the same tone of voice you'd use to order a hamburger and fries, " So Cebu, tell me, what's the best part of your job?"

" I dig graves Kousso, I don't think there's a good part to that. "

" Oh sure there is, you just haven't figured it out yet. I mean, none of us come to a place like this without being invited you know."

" And your point is? "

" Well, if you were invited and you showed up there must have been something that called to you...some little signal that you tossed out that said ' hey, I could really enjoy burying dead people for a living. I could show up in the heat and the cold and shovel dirt all day long'. And that's to say nothing of the fact I'm the last person with the corpse before it's planted."

" Now, I had to embalm a guy today that I could swear had brown eyes, but when I put the eyecaps on they were green. Now that was creepy enough, no way would I wanted want to be with him...alone outside here when he goes into the ground."

" Kousso? "

" Yes? "

" You're weird, do you know that? "

Kousso shrugged and said," as a matter of fact I do."

Then Cebu thought about it a little more and he asked Kousso, " So you think we're called to do this work, is that right?"

" You bet I do."

" Who do you think is making the call Kousso?"

Kousso didn't answer; she was looking across the street.

There was a lot there and in the middle of it was an empty building that over the years housed a hardware store, a pharmacy and until a few months before had been a flower shop.

The Cemetery Grounds Keepers had taken to going over there to cut the grass and keep the place looking halfway decent because they didn't want an eyesore in their otherwise nice and quiet neighborhood.

But today there was someone out in front of the building.

A cat.

It was a small black cat that reminded them both of an owl.

The cat's head was large and round and it's body was plump and compact and it's eyes were a deep dark orange.

And it was looking right at them.

" You don't come to a place like this, you don't just show up. I mean think about it. No one comes to a place like this without being called they?"

" None of us " Cebu agreed.

The little round cat uncurled it's tail and stood up and stretched and then it started to walk towards them.

It crossed the street in the slow easy stride all cats have and when it got to where Cebu and Kousso were standing it sat back down in front of them, curled it's tail back around it's body and looked up at them expectantly.

Kousso, the woman born to be a Mortician said down to the cat, " We close at sunset."

The cat looked up at her and blinked and Cebu who knew this was no joke stayed quiet...but only because he was afraid of what he might do if he opened his mouth.

The Cat could have easily gone under the fence but it didn't. It looked up at Kousso and twitched it's whiskers at her.

Then Kousso reached into her purse and took out her keys, She unlocked the gate and pushed it opened and the cat walked through.

" Take your time, I'll wait. " Kousso said in her Funeral Directors voice.

" We both will. " Cebu said.

And they did.

for more stories by Anita Marie Moscoso

Eye of the Beholder

by Anita Marie Moscoso

Abney Hawkweed taught music for 25 years in the Caswell School District and those were the best years of her life.

Not that she liked teaching; in fact Abney didn't even like kids.

But the hours were good, she got the Summers off and at the end of the day not many people go out of their way to pay attention to plain looking women with wire rimmed glasses who know how to play the violin and trumpet and the saxophone.

Which suited Miss Abney Hawkweed just fine.

In the old days, after school was over and Abney was on her way home she used to roll the windows of her fuel-efficient little car down and she use to turn the radio off just so she could hear the honking horns and screeching tires. Sometimes she even got an earful and eyeful of some road raging driver screaming their lungs out and waving their fingers around in nasty gestures.

People were great and when they were driving and when they were ugly they were even better to watch.

Just for the fun of it Abney would go out of her way on certain days just so that she could drive passed the Great Mall of Felton Hills.

She just loved to watch people dodge buses and trucks and cars and then no matter how many cars were behind her honking their horns she'd drive slow just so she could see the same people sprint, jog or run across the parking lots with baby strollers and shopping carts- all so that they could get into the shops and the food court and consume anything they could lay their hands on.

It all seemed so trivial and innocent and final.

There was no mystery to life in the suburbs.

You worked, you shopped, you watched TV and then you got to die.

Some people, Abney thought, don’t know how good they have it and that's a fact.

Abney's day job paid the rent; what she did at night was who Abney Hawkweed was. She could always find another day job, but there was only one Abney and when the Sunset came she couldn't be anything else.

So just after dinner she would gather her tools into a little black leather medical bag- the one she inherited from her Grandfather and she turn the little gold clasps counter clockwise to lock it.

Then for luck, just like Grandpa taught her, she would touch the little brass plate that said, " Post Mortem Case " three times.

The luck thing was important because she usually needed it.

Like with most family businesses you could either take up the reigns and do the family proud or you could skate by and make them wish they could at least say you were adopted or 'from the other side of the family'.

The worst you could be neither, the worst thing you could be is mediocre.

And know it.

Abney figured she could get the job done- and that phrase pretty much summed up Abney's job performance. She wasn't as glamorous and thin and blond as her cousin Inez and she wasn't as smart or athletic as her Father Dr Setwell Hawkweed had been.

They were impressive figures at work and well respected.

No doubt, Abney could dig up a coffin, pop it open and hammer a stake into the bloated red face of a vampire before it could open it's mouth and spit blood all over her face-which is what they did when they were about to attack.

If they got you it was bad news because that mess could make you blind.

That's how they brought you down.


The problem was it was just plain old Abney Hawkweed in some old decrepit church or over grown cemetery carrying on the family trade.

There was no sense of style about how Abney did her work so she did it quietly and efficiently as possible and then she'd go home feed her cat, listen to a little Mozart and then she'd turn in for what was left of the evening.

She did that for 25 years and she never complained.

She didn't even complain when she had to go into a house on Halloween (of all nights) and take out a family of Vampires who had been sleeping in their basement and then had taken to hanging from the rafters like water logged PiƱatas-dripping blood and purge from their hardly working bowels onto the floor.

All Abney figured when she slipped in the gunk and broke her wrist was that they had done that on purpose.

It wasn't like the books and comics and video games you know.

Abney learned the hard way that oxygen deprivation at death and then waking up to find you had been turned into a mosquito was enough to make anyone crazy.

Very Crazy.

On the day Abney retired- both from the Day Job and the Family Trade, her work friends had taken her out for lunch and given her some neat gifts and they had promised to keep in touch.

She doubted they would.

And of course they didn't.

Her family same to celebrate her retirement and of course they promised to stay in touch too- and Abney figured they'd make good on that and of course they did.

Especially when they needed a night off.

As time went by Abney started to play the Violin again for the simple pleasure of it. She never got calls to lend a hand at this Graveyard or that Morgue because the Vampire Problem was a Problem Solved and Abney decided to take up the guitar.

It was at Inez's birthday part last winter that Inez had told Abney, " You know in the old days we could never have all gotten together like this. It'd have been too dangerous. I mean, a couple of nutty blood suckers and a can of gasoline and before you know it we're crispy critters and people are dropping like flies from ' the plague' again."

" You had a lot to do with that Abney. Thank you."

And Abney decided right then and there that she may not have been the sleekest of models to hit the showroom floor but she had made a difference all the same.

That was when Abney really felt it for the first time- her life; her simple quiet life was all she ever was.

And she missed it.

When Spring came Abney had decided to take up sketching. She was pretty awful at it, but she had nothing but time on her hands and if this didn't work she could always try something else.

So one day she's at her favorite park sketching her favorite tree when four teenagers went walking by.

Shoulder to shoulder they looked like a little black thundercloud rolling along on the cobble stone pathway.

Their faces were pale, their lips were black and they smelled like the perfume counter at the Bay Side Department store.

Abney watched them for a moment and then she called out, " You there...are you suppose to be Vampires? "

There was a chorus of snorts and chuckles and someone tried to growl " suppose to be " but his his voice cracked.

One of the little black clouds broke away from the rest and she tried to glide up towards the middle-aged woman with salt and pepper hair " We're Goth " she said slowly with her jaw clenched tight and her black hair falling into her face.

" Is that a new type of Vampire?" Abney asked cheerfully.

" I guess you could say that." the girl with the pointed white teeth said. Then she tried to stare the old woman down. " Why do you want to know? "

Abney shrugged, " just checking. "

And as the little black cloud drifted down the path Abney got up, reached for the black bag under her chair and touched the little brass plate three times.

Then she went to work.