Discover more from Thursday!
Thursday! The E-Zine for October 18, 2023
I originally planned to write a couple clever paragraphs about my favorite season1 and my favorite kind of story to tell2, but I decided to cut right to the chase and tell you about the tasty little treats in this week’s newsletter. Since I started this whole e-zine format kind of things, I’ve mostly shared things I had already written and published on my website3. This week is different. This week’s Thursday! features stuff I’ve not been able to finish for one reason or another but very much wanted to. The reasons I couldn’t finish are…well, they’re boring and kind of sad. Let’s just say I’m still not great at putting my head down and powering through my own doubts. However, I’m getting better at it, and the three pieces in this newsletter are evidence. I rather like each one of them and I think you will, too.
Cool? Cool. Read on, my friends!
Have you ever noticed, when the night Is quiet and the moon is perfect bright That the asphalt rasp of dry leaves Skittering toward you from behind Sounds almost exactly like four sets Of very sharp, very close claws? And it is far too late for you to run.
The Spectral Fog
What if fog is not a cloud But a ghost the size of the world That wraps us in its sorrowed shroud And weeps from the afterworld?
(Photo Credit: Henning_W on Pixabay)
My dream is to support my family with my art. Can such a thing be done? Yes! But I need your help. How? I’m glad you asked!
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There’s A Monster on Aisle Three
“There’s a monster on Aisle Three” Jake told Mrs. Carmody. “It hides on the second shelf behind the cans of beans and eats people when nobody's looking.”
Mrs. Carmody stopped quickly and a couple loose cans of Cream of Mushroom soup rattled toward the front of the shopping cart. She looked down at him as if surprised to see that he continued to exist. “Don’t be ridiculous, young man,” said Mrs. Carmody and stepped around the cart to apprehend the soup cans. “Now see what you’ve done! These cans might be dented now and no one will get to eat them! Such waste because of your...stories.”
Jake ducked his head until all he could see was the off-white tiles of the supermarket floor, the wheels of the cart, and Mrs. Carmody’s shoes. They were proper black, low-heeled, and impeccable. Mrs. Carmody took great pride in appearances. She was a middle-aged woman who had smothered her sense of humor to death before she had turned 30 and decided that adulthood should be as damp and heavy as an August afternoon. She dressed the part, in a proper, shapeless green dress, and shiny black purse on which she balanced her grocery list.. She walked heavily back to the front of the cart, then peered over her glasses at him again.
Jake looked utterly out of place in her presence. Where she prized appearance, he was quite simply an 8 year old boy. His brown hair was as unruly as the back of a baby porcupine and his department store jeans showed worn spots on the rear and knees. His red and blue striped shirt was half-untucked and one of his sneakers had come untied. The only thing that fit him neatly was the harness he wore, attached to a four-foot long red leash that was in turn attached to the front of Mrs. Carmody’s shopping cart. Jake shrugged his shoulders and pulled back a little from the cart, which earned him a harsh glare from Mrs. Carmody.
“But Mrs. Carmody! I’ve seen it!” He hated the leash and he wasn’t fond of Mrs. Carmody, but his mother had explained to him very carefully why both were necessary. His mother needed Mrs. Carmody to babysit Jake so she could work her job and Mrs. Carmody had insisted on the leash and harness as a condition of her taking the job. She was afraid, she said, that Jake would wander off, his mother had told him, because he was a precocious little boy and precocious children required special attention so they would not disrupt nor get into trouble. Jake wasn’t exactly sure what precocious meant, but he was sure when Mrs. Carmody said it, it was bad. His mother had almost begged Jake and that bothered him, maybe even more than the leash and Mrs. Carmody’s lectures about being still and paying attention and not daydreaming about monsters and silly things. It wasn’t his fault he needed another babysitter. It just wasn’t. The others didn’t listen and so they were gone and he was stuck with Mrs. Carmody who wouldn’t listen either and it just wasn’t his fault. It was the–
It was the Monster. It was always the Monster.
Mrs. Carmody grabbed the leash and tugged Jake closer to her. “You will stay close, young man! You will stay close and you will stop talking nonsense about monsters in a grocery store.”
“You. Will. Stop.” She leaned toward him so that the words came out with force but not loudly, a hiss of irritation gone bright and sharp with anger. Mrs. Carmody was not the sort of woman who shouted in public. Oh no. That would come later. If she stays away from Aisle Three. The thought popped instantly into Jake’s head and his distraction must have showed because Mrs. Carmody leaned in closer. “Now listen! The agency told me about you. They told me you cause trouble. They told me the other sitters went away. Let me explain something clearly, young man. I will not go away. I have never left a job unsatisfactorily done and no precocious young man with wild stories will cause me to do so. Ever. Do you understand?” She tugged the leash hard with each of the last three words, almost pulling Jake off-balance and into the cart.
Jake swallowed heavily, nearly in tears and unable to answer for the voice of protest in his head. It’s not my fault. It’s not! I’m not trouble! His delay earned a piercing glare from her, and he took a deep, shuddering breath. “Yes, ma’am. I’ll behave. I promise.” He scuffed a sneaker on the white tile floor of the grocery store and kept his eyes downcast.
“Good,” she exclaimed and pushed the cart into motion. The squeak of the wheels and the sharp clop of her heels led Jake around an end display piled hush with canisters of french fried onions and the afore-acquired cream of mushroom soup and into the next aisle. He didn’t even look up at the sign over the aisle entrance under which they passed. He knew very well where they were and what would come next.
Aisle Three. Mrs. Carmody has taken them to the home of the Monster.
Jake kept his head down. There was no reason to look up. He knew what he would see: the stark brown and white printed sign with the sharp script “3”, the list of things in the aisle (canned vegetables, sauces and soups, spices, seasoning). He hoped, every time, that the sign would miraculously read “MONSTER! BABYSITTERS STAY OUT!”. But, no. It never did and never would. He paused obediently beside the cart, which Mrs. Carmody had stopped right inside the aisle, next to the various boxes of rice mixes and easy meals. She checked her list, peering down through reading glasses attached to a sparkling silver chain around her neck. Jake dared a glance farther down the aisle, to the shelf of beans, to the dark gasp between two of the cans on the bottom shelf. Maybe it won’t be there. Maybe it’s asleep. Maybe– He saw a glint of something yellow – the blink of a peeking eye – and his stomach sank.
He must have made a sound, because Mrs. Carmody shot him a look over her shoulder before she looked up and pushed the cart forward again. She didn’t move briskly – that pace was reserved for catching troublesome Jake – but she moved steadily and Jake had to pay attention to her to keep up. He lost sight of the dark gap in the shelf for a moment and needed to look around to orient himself. That earned him another tug on the leash and a tchk tchk from Mrs. Carmody, as if he were a wayward puppy who strayed off his lead. She tugged again, only this time, Jake didn’t follow along quickly, because he suddenly realized where he was. The beans began on the shelf just a foot in front of him, the cans neatly packed side by side, by brand and flavor, except for one place. The bottom shelf.
The dark gap. The yellow eye.
He looked down, oblivious to Mrs. Carmody’s annoyed grunt. The cans had shifted. The gap was larger. A surge of hope filled his chest. Surely she would hear the scrabbling sound, turn around, and see that he had been right all along! She could run away and leave him and the cart. He would be safe – the Monster never wanted him, never craved his flesh and bones, always looked over him for juicier prey. She had to hear. Had to notice now!
Except she didn’t hear. Her attention was fixed fully on the price tags hung on the shelves. She frowned at them as if her gaze would somehow cause the prices to drop. She exhaled in a huff at just the same time as the cans slid aside more, revealing a deeper darkness on the shelf that was utterly out of place in the brightly-lit grocery store.
Jake looked up now, hoping past hope that someone would round the far corner or wheel their cart into Aisle 3 from the meat display. He thought for a moment about shouting a warning but he knew that wouldn’t work. Mrs. Carmody would never listen. Not to him. Not to precocious young Jake with the scuffed sneakers and his wild story about a monster in the grocery store. He sighed and turned his back on her and the heavy shadow that was slowly easing itself to the very edge of the shelf toward her. There was a snuffling now, like a great old beast that smelled food, and he closed his eyes. Though he didn’t like Mrs. Carmody, he didn’t want to watch what was going to happen to her. She was bad but she didn’t deserve that. None of them had deserved it.
“What are you doing??” The strident tone of her voice made him wince and filled him with a small thrill of hope. Maybe someone would hear and be close enough that they would come to at least the entrance of Aisle 3 and then the monster would go back. He thought about yelling a warning but he kept his mouth closed. She asked again, more loudly. “What are you doing, Jacob Lee Bishop?! You turn right around and face me!”
He closed his eyes more tightly and hunched his shoulders, expecting the hard tug on the harness or hoping her shouts would draw attention in the small supermarket. Instead, he heard the scraping of something hard and bony on tile and then a heavy, slithering, flowing sound.
“Do not make me pull you over here! I assure you I will report your defiance to your mother and MMMMMMPFWAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!” Her words choked off in a muffled, pain-filled gasp. Jake could hear crunching and squeezing, like a chicken caught by a giant constrictor, except he knew Mrs. Carmody was not enwrapped by a snake. After thirty seconds that felt to him like a year, there came a quiet lapping and then the same flowing, oozing sound. The cart moved slightly and gave the harness a gentle backwards pull as it drifted against the shelves. He kept his eyes closed and turned around. After he counted slowly from five down to zero, he opened them.
Mrs. Carmody was gone. All that remained of her were her proper black shoes, which sat right in the middle of the aisle facing the spices, just where she had stood before. One of them had tipped over on its side. Between them sat the jar of parsley she had held. Jake walked over, picked it up, and put it back. He looked behind him at the cans of beans. They were as they had been barely two minutes before, stacked perfectly and precisely except for that small dark gap.
“I tried. I really did,” Jake said in a sigh then sat down on the floor cross-legged next to the cart. He knew there was no need to go for help. Mrs. Carmody was beyond help and who would believe him anyhow? Someone would come along and see him there soon enough. They’d ask him all the questions and, eventually, call his mother. She’d be disappointed, of course, and she’d have to somehow find a new babysitter. The agency probably would take her call this time and Jake hated what they’d think about her, but how could she truly be mad? She knew it wasn’t his fault; she just didn’t know about the Monster. No one did. Only him. Only ever him..
“And they never listen,” Jake said as he picked up the late Mrs. Carmody’s shoes and slid them through the dark gap on the shelf behind the perfectly stacked cans of beans. The yellow eyes blinked, sated and quiet.
Just a little bit spooky. But not hopeless.
Which I’ve not updated in a dog’s age and which urgently needs a good freshening up. But I’ll get to that later, when I get a bit more time and know-how.