Friday, October 7, 2022

The Signs

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are:

brink ~ stultify ~ brief ~ gobble ~ right

They were submitted by:


The nightstand on her husband's side of the bed held another bank card and driver's license from a woman she didn't know and didn't recognize. Third time, now. Third time was definitely not the charm here.

She'd been able to write off the other two as some sort of mistake. The first one she found was an accident. She was actually honestly looking for some tums or something that might help with a raging case of heartburn she had. She knew he kept some in the nightstand in case it woke him up at night. She'd forgotten all about the heartburn when she found the ID and card though.

She'd sort of defaulted to thinking it was a mistress who'd, she didn't know, left it with him? For some reason? Or something he found when he went out drinking after work and planned to return? It didn't really make sense to her no matter how she tried to frame it at the time but who would have thought...well what she thought now felt insane to be honest.

She hadn't found a way to bring it up to him yet without risking one of his little episodes when that woman's name was in the news a couple days later as having disappeared on am early morning run. She was pretty sure it was the same woman because the ID pic had kind of been emblazoned in her memory and it was very similar to the photo shown on the news. Same long dark hair, same piercing blue eyes... Neck tattoos and deep red lipstick. This woman was just his type. Not herself though. Oh no the woman he married was petite and blonde and quiet and wore clothes 2 sizes too big... When she accidentally found his porn stash on their computer that time it had all been women who looked like the one on the news.

Anyway that had been 2 years ago. She'd looked ever so often in his nightstand and then one day last year after she'd come back from visiting her parents upstate, there was another ID and card. And another news story. Another woman missing after a night out with friends in the downtown area near the art school campus.

And now 6 months later, here was another one. This time she hadn't been with her parents though. This time, she'd been in the hospital from a ruptured ectopic pregnancy that had nearly killed her. She'd spent nearly 2 weeks laid up in that bed alone and miserable and wishing she would have died.

He'd shown up once, flipped through his phone for the entire half hour he bothered to be there, then left again without so much as an "I love you."

It hadn't always been like this. She really didn't think it had. Meeting him had felt so serendipitous...a fairytale. She'd often wondered if she was dreaming the sweetest dreams imaginable in the beginning. He brought her flowers. He made her feel like she was the only woman on earth. They'd dated for a year before he asked her to marry him, and at the time, there wasn't a single red flag she could name. He was attentive and supportive. He didn't go cold on her back then. He'd been passionate and gentle and couldn't get enough of her it seemed.

Now though she wondered what he was doing on those weekends he took boys trips with old college chums and didn't speak to her for days not even to check in. Were there actually business trips he went on and came back with a cut under his eye or scratches on his arms? Things lined up now in a way they hadn't back then. Why would she suspect him of anything at all when he'd gone so far to make her feel loved and important?

But then the wedding happened and things...things were off. He'd taken a job transfer without talking to her about it and basically forced them to move almost overnight away from her family and friends and her teaching job. He'd wanted her to wait on finding a job to see if maybe they could try for a baby only, well, he wasn't doing much trying and hadn't for years now. Their 5 year anniversary was coming up and she could count on her hands how many times they'd been intimate in that time. But he'd wanted her almost every day before the marriage and the move. Some nights he didn't even come home. There she'd be with dinner ready and plated looking like a dumbass with no work from him. She'd learned not to even bother calling. He wouldn't answer, and he'd accuse her of being clingy and insecure about it when he finally did show up.

She hadn't been to a single work function or let his coworkers. He never bothered to come back home with her and controlled when and how long she would go. If she wanted to stay 3 days he would insist on 2 weeks and not a minute sooner, but there were also times he'd forbidden her to go.

It's like the dream prince she married turned into a controlling nightmare with the flip of a switch when he said "I do."

So of course she'd long suspected affairs. She was sure he was at least having one night stands. But these IDs and bank cards? She understood now this was something much, much darker and she couldn't ignore it any longer. What would people think of her? That she must have known? That she turned a blind eye to it all? The thought of it made her throw up what little breakfast she'd been able to eat. She still wasn't feeling 100% after the lonely hospital stay... And she definitely hadn't had any more support once she'd gotten home.

What was she even going to tell police? My husband had this woman's ID but I was too scared to keep it? It's happened 3 times at least but I was too scared to call? She slid the items in a Ziploc bag, walked out to her car, and knew she'd never ever be able to set one foot back in that house. She'd have to figure out the rest along the way.


Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:

Baking In A Tornado

On the Border

The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

What TF Sarah

Part-time Working Hockey Mom

Friday, September 16, 2022

Just in case

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are:

Mom ~ bed ~ coffee ~ bagel ~ 4 cats ~ snore

They were submitted by:


I don't really know why I decided to learn Morse code. I've been at home since... Well, I don't like to talk about but I've been living with Mom and her 4 cats since my breakdown. Let's just call it what it is. I was burnt out working in special education and everything piled on and the world went nuts with COVID and I just couldn't keep up. I had to stay inpatient for awhile. I had to quit my job. So now I'm here right? I'm not delusional. I'm not crazy. I'm not psychotic. 

I just need to make that clear.

And I don't know why I decided to learn Morse code. Like I said. I thought it might be fun. I thought it would be easy and different and useless. I mean who uses it anymore? I just wanted to know a thing that wouldn't be used to market me. Does that make sense? I just wanted to have a thing that was all mine. I saw it in one of my dad's old boy scout books and went down to the old used bookstore at the corner of Graham and Pine and found a full actual book with practice and everything. 

Ok and I got a little too obsessed and also got 5 more books about codebreaking and history and shit but it's still not crazy. I'm still not delusional. Ok? I need that to be clear before I continue. I'm not losing it whether I had a little nervous breakdown or not. I feel better than I have in a long time even though I know I have a long road to get back to where I want to be. But I get up every day and look forward to having a breakfast bagel and coffee with Mom. I look forward to helping her out around her. I look forward to play time with the cats. I even taught them how to do tricks! So life isn't the best it's ever been or the best it will be, but it's good. I'm good. I'm in therapy. I sleep well when I don't wake my own self up with my loud as fuck snore. I'm not... This isn't because of what happened. Just please believe me.

Ok. So.

The first time I noticed it, I'd been doing the Morse code thing for a couple weeks. I was getting better at it, right? The first little bit of doing it, I just couldn't get it. I thought I'd never remember all this shit. It's like making a whole language out of beep boop beep beep. But it weirdly also made me feel closer to dad. He was so into boy scouts as a kid. He made it all the way to eagle scout. And then he was always a scout leader for my brother when it was his time to do scouts. I never really got that experience. I never got the camping trips or the badges or any of that shit. And then he was gone. Who expects to lose their dad at 16 before he can even teach her how to change her oil or fix a flat? It was kind of an unexpected consequence of getting into it. It felt like I was getting a half ass chance to do things over with dad. And the code history was pretty fucking interesting on top of that. I was in bed reading way too late every single night. Navajo coder talkers? How does history get better than that? Ok ok bad phrasing. How does it get more interesting than that? I suddenly started to understand all those Ken Burns documentaries dad had been into, all the history channel shows. I felt like I was finally starting to understand him... And for a long time I had never felt that connection. I couldn't. He'd always been busy with Joey not me. He'd never had time for tea parties and princess on ice shows. He didn't talk about periods or makeup or dating. And then he wasnt around at all. I'd been more than a little resentful.

Anyway, I'm digressing. The point is that I wasn't looking for anything weird and I wasn't in a bad place. For the first time in my life my dad was becoming a whole, interesting person. I tapped into parts of me that were straight from him, and it felt great.

So I'm doing some work in my Morse code book when I hear some tapping on tree right outside my window. I'd heard it before and figured it was just some super persistent woodpecker, but now I noticed a pattern. The pecks had a rhythm now that my previously untrained brain hadn't been able to pick up on.

It was Morse code.

Now listen I've been wrestling with this. I know how this sounds obviously. I know how it must seem, so let me assure you I've gone back and forth on this. It took me days to bring it up to even my mom. It took me longer to write this down in case this is what's left of... I don't know. The truth is really that I don't even know if this message is for me or for birds or for animals that aren't birds or for humans in general. Why Morse code if it wasn't? That's what I keep coming back to. Why a human made language?

But what if it isn't human made? What if we stole it from patterns we noticed in nature? Ok I'm getting ahead of myself here. What I need you to know is that mom heard it too. She doesn't know how to translate it but she heard the patterns. She wrote down in her own way what she was hearing and it was definitely repeating in a short pattern. I helped her translate--without really telling her first what I'd heard!! And it was the same. We heard the same thing. Doesn't that make me more credible? My mom has been the most solid person I have ever, ever known. You ask anyone, well anyone left, and they'd say the same. She was a constant in the neighborhood taking food to sick people, picking up supplies, keeping someone's kids if they had an emergency...leading Sunday school and working at the elementary school library. My mom is an indefatigable force of good and she's amazing and she's sane.

Even if you question me, you ask anyone in this community, and they'd believe her. They would.

We both heard it. And I don't know what it means. But I don't think it's good.

"They're coming soon."


Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:

Baking In A Tornado

On the Border

The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

What TF Sarah

Part-time Working Hockey Mom

Friday, September 9, 2022

No Ocean No Cry

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This month 5 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts. 

My “Secret Subject” is:

If you had a choice, would you rather live by the ocean or in the mountains? Why?

It was submitted by:

Uh so...I guess this is my answer hahaha


I think I'm the only one left now.

The sun was just starting to stretch its tendrils of light above the horizon which should have been a comfort all things considered but that thought, that she was the only one left, created a startlingly deep well of emotions. No one expected to be the final girl. Real life didn't work like that. Thinking on it now, those girls always seemed more than slightly relieved even while traumatized and full of fear and grief and confusion but how could she be relieved? She should be dead right along with the rest of them. Wouldnt that be the kindest thing? To face an eternity of nothing so she wouldn't be haunted by what she'd seen? So she wouldn't have to face the fact that there was a whole world of darkness and shadow and death and tentacles that she hadn't known about? How would she ever sleep again?

In movies the final girl is always some badass who faced down whatever monster or demon that some guy with no trauma (probably) had imagined up to be a metaphor for depression or whatever but apparently real life didn't work that way. She had run. The moment she could, she ran without looking back and she hid. She hid while all her old college friends were screaming and begging and dying, torn apart by that...that thing that had crawled out of the waves and grew legs right in front of them, its beak gnashing, tentacles burning and pulling and ripping... None of them even thought it was real.

Ha. She'd pissed herself. That's what she'd done. Where were all the final girls in the movies who did that? Her face was crusty with sweat and tears and snot. Why did they never look like this?

She'd seen too many bad horror movies.

Not a single one prepared her for the real thing.

They'd all come to this little beach to celebrate Jenny's wedding. A wedding that would never happen now. Jenny was somewhere down the beach in 4 pieces if that thing hadn't eaten her yet. It was supposed to be a 4 day girls trip. They were going to some clubs, to wine tastings, snorkeling... This was just the first fucking night. It was supposed to be a chill smoke and drink session by the waves as the night wore on. They were laughing and reminiscing and catching up. It had felt so goddamn good to be back with the people who'd held her when she cried over what happened with Mason, who had her back when she'd pressed charges on him...they felt like home in a way she'd never had with anyone anywhere and now...they were all gone. It would be kinder if the writers of her life just let her die now.

The screams had stopped a long time ago. The creature or whatever it was hadn't bothered to look very hard for her. She'd only gotten a few yards down the beach between two small changing huts. It hadn't even really looked in her direction...maybe it understood that nothing it could do to her would be as painful as being the only one left. She'd watched it walk back into the waves and crawl under them but didn't dare come out because death might be a blessing but she couldn't will her legs to get her there.

The sun rose higher. Seagulls and crabs were feasting. And she knew if she could somehow explain the truth to anyone and be believed or come up with some sort of believable lie...she would never ever be able to face a beach again.

Humans should fear the ocean.

She crawled inside one of the huts finally able to let her guard down enough to move and slept.


Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts. Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there:

Baking In A Tornado

The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

What TF Sarah

Part-time Working Hockey Mom

Friday, August 12, 2022

All My Rowdy Memories

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are: Hank ~ obstreperous ~ gin ~ regret ~ helpful

It was submitted by:


Hank Williams Jr spun round the old record player. She didnt much care for the man, but it was one of her father's records. Hearing some ol' Bocephus took her back to a time when things were both simpler and more difficult all at once. His raucous outlaw style was perhaps the most helpful vehicle for surrounding herself with her dad.

She could see him, drunk and obstreperous belting out "tell me, Hank, why do ya drink? Why do you roll smoke? Whyyy must you love out the songs that you wrote?" Family tradition was a pretty good answer to why she was stretched out on the couch down to the last of a cheap bottle of Canadian whisky and high enough to know she had hours to go before she'd be able to go to sleep without the room spinning.

And that was ok. There would be plenty of time for regret tomorrow when the hangover inevitably hit. She wasn't 19 and fresh faced and anymore. The drink would hit her like a mack truck come morning. And a shot of gin first thing, a little hair of the dog so to speak, would work some magic too.

But for now, she had hank and a buzzing body and all the emotions she finally let herself feel after all this time to keep her company.

The last few years she'd really let herself lean into the complicated picture she held of her dad, reveling in the tendency towards loud chaos when he was drinking shine, the music, the outlaw shit, the hardworking blue collar man who was, in all honesty, probably doing his fucking best all things considered and softening towards the aggression and temper and hurt. He didn't break the cycle of hurt and abuse he'd endured. Couldn't, she guessed. She knew how hard it was herself being a mother now with a loud and opinionated kid that had taken on her stubbornness and smartass mouth. It was difficult beyond measure to shed the anger and quick temper like an exoskeleton that didn't fit her anymore. It took effort every single day of her life. It took putting down the alcohol for the most part a lot time ago. It took a lot of forgiving. Had he been able to forgive? Probably not. It took him dying and the distance that comes after years of that loss to forgive. Death broke his cycle. Finally. Death made room for a softened heart where none could have existed before it, and he hadn't had that luxury with his own parents.

"Play me the songs about a ramblin' man put old Jim Beam in my hand
Cause you know I still love to get drunk and hear country sounds"

Here she was belting out the old tunes herself, teary eyed, loving the memory of the man she couldn't understand when he was still living. Life is strange that way. And music too. She had no doubts that the music they'd shared is what started her down this road. Spinning his records, finding a copy of the Cyndi lauper album she'd loved so much as a kid still among his collection she'd inherited, allowing herself to embrace songs she'd hated just because her father had loved them...She couldn't listen to country now without thinking of him. She'd even made playlists for tunes she knew he'd love and played them on nights she felt like she needed a dad she could still send a song suggestion to, who'd send one back... A dad she could buy vinyl for who wasn't buried at the church he hated at her age. Those playlists felt almost like a hug.

But tonight was about old times and letting herself cry for the both of them.

"Hank let's talk about your daddy tell me how your mama loved that man
Well just break out a bottle hoss I'll tell you bout the driftin' cowboy band
We won't talk about the habits just the music and the man"


Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:

Baking In A Tornado

On the Border

The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver


Part-time Working Hockey Mom

Friday, August 5, 2022

The Deal

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This month 4 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts. 

My “Secret Subject” is: If you could be taught any instrument, take (free) lessons, really learn to understand the instrument and how to play it, which instrument would you choose?

It was submitted by:


***A piece of fiction but I think or hope it still counts as an answer. The devil wears a suit and tie to hear Colter wall tell it, and I might be willing to make the deal. I don't have time for lessons. ***

The man appeared before her seemingly out of nowhere. He sort of loomed over her as she sat on the front porch of her granny's old house, fog circling behind him.
He didn't belong here. That much was obvious.

She shivered as the coyotes howled all around. Normal for this place at this time of day but still unsettling as the stranger's glare seemed to stare into every part of her.

He was well dressed. A deeply purple crushed velvet jacket, black shirt and pants... A tie with a design she couldn't quite make out unless she got a little closer--she did need a new glasses prescription after all--and she damn sure wasn't getting closer.

As her mouth opened to call for granny, he put a finger to his lips and handed her (where did it even come from?) a curly maple open back banjo with a black walnut peg head, gold pick-ups, and a bat themed inlay. She sat with her mouth open. She'd dreamed of this very banjo so often sitting on this porch on hot summer nights and barely cool winter ones wishing like hell she could play right along with the crickets and frogs and all the noises coming from the woods behind the house or the swamp off to the left that she knew better than to check out. No, sir, she wanted to live these days.

Reality snapped back like a rubber band stretched almost too far nearly knocking the breath out of her. Her stomach dropped as she handed it back.

"It's mighty pretty, but you ain't tricking me with just a banjo."

His eyes burned brighter for a moment before a smile appeared on his face as suddenly as he'd appeared in the yard then he threw his head back laughter. Not a single hair fell out of place, and the fog seemed to dance on the sound.

"Perhaps not. But I could possibly offer you the skills to pull you out of this...shanty. all of you."

"Keep talking."

"In essence, my child, if you sign your eternal soul over to me, I will then empower you with abilities on this instrument--and only this one unless you want to barter further--that no other mortal possesses. What you do with that talent is then up to you."

She pushed her hair out of her face. It was long and a bit more than tangled. Dirty blonde. A fashionable sort of mullet. A queer sort of mullet. Her jeans were disintegrating and her bare feet were covered in dust and dirt. Gnats hovered around her face. It was hot. Beyond hot. They barely had running water and electricity regularly so ac was a luxury she hadn't known. It was a good day when rain hit and cooled off the tin roof.

Heavy clouds rushed in from the horizon like they'd been able to read her mind.

"So let me get this straight. I give my soul for eternity and I get this banjo and the skills to play only this banjo which I'm assuming ISN'T indestructible with no guarantee anyone might ever discover me..."

"Surely you have heard of one of my greatest inventions TikTok, child."

"We look like we get much internet out here, sir?"

"The offer stands. What you do with the gift after we make our deal is your own responsibility."

"Well, I reckon I might be interested but here's the thing... You might have to fight for it."

"...I... what do you mean fight for it? Fight what exactly?"

"Oh I sold it to some gator god in the swamp the other day for a good day of fishin'. We ain't had nothing to eat for 2 days by that point. So I made the deal and we had a mess of fish to last until the food stamps came in at least."

"You... You sold your soul for a...what is a mess of fish?"

"You know a good catch. A whole mess of fish. I thought you knew everything."

"And to who?"

"Oh I don't know. it was some half gator man that I saw while I was fishin.' Cajun accent? Straw hat? Gator head and big muscly body? He had to be some kind of god cuz ain't no regular folk walking around barefoot out there in just a little, she motioned around her waist, "skirt thing."

"Did you get paperwork that I may look at?"

"Mister, you think I got paperwork from a gator man barefoot in the swamp? Which one of us looks like we might be carryin' a pen?"

His face flamed red. His eyes turned darker with the clouds above. Thunder crashed so loudly the porch rattled. She knew if lightening hit she'd probably see that gatorman and all his teeth standing on the edge of the swamp, but something must have been looking out for her right then because the sky stayed dark.

"Listen, mister, you ain't got to get all mad at me because someone beat you to the punch here. If'n you want to still do the deal you're gonna have to take it up with that guy."

He snatched the banjo back from her, but she wasn't reacting the way he'd hope. Life had been too hard. Having a dream snatched from her hands was a regular occurence. Why would she ever care about a banjo as much as the other hurts. He began to fade and she heard in her own head, "I'll be back. Have a pen."


Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts. Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there:

Baking In A Tornado

The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Part-time Working Hockey Mom

Friday, July 15, 2022

The Janitor

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are:

detour ~ cygnet ~ Poké Bowl ~ cascading ~ golf club

They were submitted by: 


The cygnet swam behind its mother across the pond that bordered the old golf club. The two of them were in their own little world while Sadie ate her Poké bowl from the little Asian fusion place a couple blocks down the street from work and a half block shortcut from the pond. She often found herself drawn to this place like it was a santuary from the business of the city behind her and the mindlessness of her job. The golf club had long closed down so there weren't any rich assholes bloviating about stocks or politics to ruin the mood as they played around hole 8, the closest to the pond. And it was far enough from the street that traffic was muffled and people were scarce. It was just her, the quiet, and the birds.

Something was different about today though, and she couldn't quite put her finger on it. The undercurrent was different. She felt...

She felt like she was being watched.

And not by the swans.

Sure enough she looked around and saw some "gentlemen" standing on the unkempt green looking her way. They looked completely out of place in their track suits and black tinted sunglasses, but that didn't mean they were definitely here to mess with her. Maybe they just needed to get out of her line of sight so they could take a leak. Whatever. It must be nice to just stand around and relieve yourself wherever.

She wasn't going to give up her spot quite that easy and tried waiting them out. But they stood there. Staring quietly. And then one of them, the larger of the two, pointed his finger towards her and pantomimed shooting her before both of them erupted into laughter.

She tried to stay calm and finish her food, every bite feeling like a lead weight. The safety she normally felt here had been completely obliterated, and now she had to figure out an alternate path back to work, a detour of sorts, since the shortcut took her down a pretty isolated woody path between the old club and the street. She'd never once seen anyone on it unless you count Stevie, the albino squirrel she sometimes left a few peanuts and almonds for if she saw him around. She was on high alert and not taking any chances. One of the men could easily catch up to her there and very likely no one would even hear her scream.

So she walked around the pond to the gates of the park situated on the opposite bank to her lunch spot to put her on the street and in public for her return. She could be a few minutes late. It's not like she had anything too pressing waiting on her.

One block from the parking lot, she realized the two men were behind her. Walking briskly. With intent. She sped up a little thinking she could make it inside before they caught up with her and took off running as she neared the door. She tugged it open and made a leap for the elevator that would take her up to the 3rd floor where she knew people would be waiting. Of all the days for the lobby to be empty. Not even Stanley, the security guard, was in...


Where was Stanley?

The elevator doors opened just as the two men reached the front. She ran inside. Finding Stanley took a backseat to running from these two clowns. She pounded the 3 and watched as the doors closed. The men seemed remarkably calm for two dudes who seemed so intent on catching up to her, and then it dawned on her they knew now exactly what floor she would be on or at least what floor she would stop on. She never got a good enough signal in this building to dial out but she could still do her s.o.s. function. The notification would go straight to her mom, and knowing her mom, she would immediately worry and call 911 when she heard Sadie saying "HELP."

The doors opened on her floor just as the message recorded. She half expected a cascading wave of blood a la Stanley Kubrick's version of The Shining given the way the day had already gone, but nothing looked amiss. She shoved the phone back in her pocket, and took a chance and left the elevator hoping her coworkers would know what to do next when she noticed how quiet it was. No typing. No one fielding calls. Milton's fucking speaker wasn't even blasting his stupid sports podcasts, and he usually had it one notch above the level of human decency for an office.

She walked down through the hallway. She peered into the first office to the left, no one. The right, no one. Each office, same story. Until the last. There she found them. Jenelle, Filipè, Larry, Madison, Ashlyn, Sid... Even Sid's dad Tony was there. Tony ran the whole building. He was dead. They were all dead or nearly there.

She was frozen. She'd never seen anything...the goriest of movies could never compare to the scene in front of her. She'd never get it clean. As the scream welled up ready to erupt out of her, a rather large hand clamped over her mouth. She hadn't even heard the elevator doors open. They must have taken the stairs.

"Listen, toots, you're going to tell us everything we need to know and you're going to do it quietly or I'm going to put you in pain you've never felt before."

He lowered his hand, and she couldn't help herself. "Worse than kidney stones?"


"Worse pain than kidney stones?" she nearly whispered.

"Much worse."

Shit. This is seriously fucked up, she thought. Kidney stones fucking hurt.

They took her into the office next door and sat her in a chair then sat on the desk in front of her gun pointing directly at her face.

"You move, doll, and you die."

She nodded not trusting her voice enough to speak. Her mom better get the message.

They'd pulled the glasses off and were giving her quite the death stare when one finally said, "so what's your job here, sweetheart?" A lot of pet names for men who were threatening to kill her...

"I'm the janitor."

They both shook their heads. "You expect us," one said as he pointed his thumb at himself then the other one, "to believe they let a broad like you scrub the toilets on one floor of a building during business hours? What do you take us for?"

She tilted her head to the side out of confusion. "Well, no... I do the whole building, but my locker and storage closet are here on the 3rd floor. I only really know the people here. Most of the other floors aren't occupied during the day much."

"You got some real nice nails for a lady who mops floors."

"I mean, I do wear gloves. Wouldn't you?"

"You don't smell like cleaner."

"Because before lunch I sweep and vacuum the empty floors and take out trash. I don't use cleaning stuff until after lunch. What's the point?"

"But you're... Tiny. Like a child."

"Ok and? I make $12 an hour. What do you expect me to be? Mr. Universe?"

The big one leaned over and whispered to the not as big one. She couldn't quite make our what was being said but they seemed to come to some kind of agreement.

"What can you tell us about your boss?"


The smaller one massaged his forehead a little bit. He looked tired.

"No, honey, Tony. You know fat tony? The guy that runs this building?"

"Well how was I supposed to know? Hes never really here. And calling him fat tony is kind of mean. He's just stocky."

"You want we should believe you don't even know who runs this place?"

"I'm just the goddamn janitor."

"You don't know Fat Tony of the Don Bilotti crew? Fat Tony the *second* most powerful don in this state? Fat Tony, your boss, who stole from my boss,The Bull Gravano, the most powerful don in this state. Maybe all the states. You don't know that Fat Tony?"

"Am I on like some new kind of candid camera show? What the fuck are you fat shaming Tony for? I don't know anything about Tony except he's Sid's dad and he technically owns this place. Ive only even met the guy 3 times and if you had asked him before you...before he uh died then he wouldn't have even known my name and then you wouldn't be asking me all these questions."

"Ok girlie do you have any idea what they do in this building?"

" stuff?"

"Phone stuff. How long you been working here? 2 years?"

"How'd you know?"

"Because we know. And there ain't no way Fat Tony hired an actual janitor to work in a front business laundering money. He ain't capable of that sort of irony."

"Excuse me, Mr, uh, sir, but I don't think that actually counts as irony."


She heard the sirens the same time they did. Mom came through! She was so predictably neurotic and it finally paid off.

The bigger one pulled the hammer back on his gun and pointed it at her, but the other one pulled him away. "Leave her. We can come back for her" before they took off.

That was fiveish hours ago? And she'd been trying to explain the whole thing to the police but apparently no one was ready to believe she was a just the fucking janitor today.

She sighed as yet another cop sat in front of her in the interrogation room. This one was playing good cop. He'd brought a sandwich and a coffee at least.

"Now what can you tell me about Fat Tony, Sadie?"

He wasn't even Fat, she thought. And repeated the whole thing once again. If she ever got out of this, she would never, ever take another cleaning job for the rest of her life.


Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:

Baking In A Tornado

On the Border

The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Climaxed Part-time Working Hockey Mom

Friday, July 8, 2022

Molotovs > Fireworks

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This month 4 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts. 

My “Secret Subject” is:

How do you celebrate the 4th of July?

It was submitted by:


I've answered this question before in a way, but that time I made it more or less about hating fireworks and having trauma related to my dad getting drunk and my parents fighting every holiday and especially the 4th because it's my mom's birthday. And that still remains true. Im not really big on the holiday at the best of times..

But I'll be honest here, what the fuck is there to celebrate anyway? Fascism? Loss of rights? Being terrified to be an out queer person for the first time in a fucking long time? No healthcare? Ignoring a pandemic? Essentially sending people to work in a pandemic to keep the capitalism train moving and then also removing access to free tests and vaccines? A president who won't even say the word abortion or at least didn't for his first 2 years in office much less have a real plan to address it? A president who, on the way roe was overturned and knowing it was coming like we all did, had plans to appoint a lifetime federal judge position to an extreme antiabortion Republican? A country that will make Juneteenth a federal holiday but won't let people talk about the implications of racism on this country's foundation and its presence in our system to children in history classes? A country who will give more rights to guns than people? A country that cares about the lives of babies unless they're shot to death in school classrooms? A country that will make every excuse possible for a police to kill an unarmed person especially ESPECIALLY if they're a person of color?

I guess it would be a lot easier to celebrate the birth of this nation if it wasnt so hard for those of us who live here and have been othered in it. If it didn't carry a risk of discrimination and death just for looking or being different. If it didn't mean old fucking losers with too much power didn't feel entitled to keep the poor begging for scraps and the othered to die with nothing. It would be so much easier to pop off some fireworks if Democrats didn't somehow hinge their 50 years of failures on Bernie once again or Susan Sarandon or those of us who ever vocally criticize one of their know the same party that paid for ads for an NRA A-rated, pro life democrat in Texas in no danger of losing their seat the day after children were gunned down in a school while the police (which Democrats gladly keep over funding) stood by in the same fucking state.

Fuck this country. There's nothing here to celebrate.

Whenever this country slides further into fascism, so many people always share that quote that says "don't fall into despair. Let this radicalize you." But somehow that means vote for the same people who never gave a shit about you to begin with and share bullshit meaningless memes. I'm sorry but in an oligarchy, voting is never a radical act. It's the very least you could possibly do.

Celebrate what?

A country still deeply in the throws of Satanic Panic and antisemitism? That still falls for conspiracies build on the foundation of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion which we know was made up entirely to excuse antisemitism? A country so caught up in fear, exploitation, and the art of the grift that a man could spiral so far down the rabbit whole in a couple months that he became willing to kill his own children with a spearfishing gun? That could look his 10 month old in the face and think that was the best he could do for that child? 

A leftist spectrum that thinks making a Facebook profile named Lenin Bussy Marx and sharing low quality memes is praxis? The ones who have 392 comment threads on Twitter arguing about what a 200 years dead white dude would think about a grifting YouTuber who made millions passing off propaganda about the Syrian civil war? The same leftists who think any country that isn't the U.S. is fine and good no matter what they're doing to their own people?

And the worst thing of all is that we aren't actively attempting to address ANY of it. 

Will I celebrate? Do I?

No thanks. I'll be sleeping in and watching Scooby Doo and everything else can go fuck itself.


Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts. Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there:

Baking In A Tornado

The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Part-time Working Hockey Mom

Friday, June 10, 2022

The Price Of Wishing

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are:

pickles ~ summer ~ thunderstorm ~ puppy

They were submitted by:


It was a summer night just like this one when I came here. A thunderstorm just like this one. If I believed in portents, I would definitely be a little concerned. But I don't. So it's fine. It's finally going to be fine.

In less than a day I will have done my time, and I'll be free. Sort of free. You don't live out a 400 year sentence for the kinds of crimes I was found guilty for without it being, you know, a big deal. Everyone seems to know who I am. I'll never get a minute's peace, but I'll finally be out of here. I'll finally move outside of these gray walls and the parade of hoodlums that come in and out changing styles, changing names, changing crimes but never really being different people. 1997 was a good year. pre-9/11. I mean things weren't great before that either but inevitably things hit a pretty steep decline afterwards. 10 years, 20, 50,100... All the milestones came and went. Wardens changed. Rules changed. The outside changed... And here I still am, still living in 1997 in my head and being pushed out into whatever awaits me in 2397. It's a tenuous freedom, but it is freedom.

When I accepted immortality as my gift from that djinn I didn't expect to spend eternity in a box watching as humans devoured each other metaphorically and then literally. I didn't expect to be handed a 400 year sentence for feeding a hunger I didn't ask for in the first place.

A hunger that's been satisfied by involuntary donations from the prisoners here once the cops figured out what happened when they denied what I am..

The last night.

I've missed my kids lives. Their kids lives. Their great grandkids lives. Do I even have family left? I've missed world war 3. 4. Nuclear fallout. An apocalypse and rebirth. Revolutions that won and revolutionaries stomped out by their own people's greed. I don't get to watch the news anymore. Not after my last freakout that left a few screws dead. I don't know what it looks like except words from the kids coming in here, a revolving door of outside culture. I hardly recognize the language anymore.

400 years.

4 years of this place is enough to drive some men insane, and I've been here 400. Am I even getting out of has my grasp of reality completely obliterated? Sometimes I don't even know if anything I know to be true actually is the truth. Sometimes in the dark of night when nothing is quiet, after all the sleeplessness, I don't know if I haven't made it all up.

And then I get hungry and for at least those few moments that hunger is being sated with pulse against teeth, I see it all so clearly.

Hours. Hours left.

I miss pickles I can't have anymore. I miss the smell of puppy breath right before they lick your face and fill you with joy. Are those things even real? Am I really? What's the price of 400 years? How can you leave one world and re-enter another you don't recognize anymore and be ok?

But I won't be here... At least there's that?

I won't be fed anymore either.

I won't be fed.

And I'll be so hungry.




Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:

Baking In A Tornado

On the Border

The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver


What TF Sarah

Part-time Working Hockey Mom

Friday, June 3, 2022

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This month 5 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts.

My “Secret Subject” is:

Would you rather be the sand castle or the wave?

It was submitted by: 


 ...I'm not a philosopher.

Like I don't have enough time ony hands to really wonder what it all means or if life has a purpose or the existential threads of my existence. To be perfectly honest, I really don't even think about where this world came from or what's in space. The closest I get to wanting to solve a puzzle is maybe how the Somerton man died or what happened to Brandon Lawson or who the zodiac killer is. I don't really ever think about the bigger why are we here kind of picture, and at times I'm not even thinking  beyond the day I'm living. Every day life keeps me pondering enough. Why do people always blame a mysterious them? How do cults work? Why do we always fall for scams? How can we fix the many things that are broken? Why does one or my cats keep pooping in the sink drain? how the fuck am I going to make it through the day when I just used all my energy shampooing muddy dog prints off my carpet? When you're thinking about things that are not necessarily in your control but close I think the bigger things that might not ever have an answer seem to sink into the background.

I've written a lot of people in prison over the last 15ish or so years. I've definitely had my run ins with philosophical questions because of it. These are people who do have time, nothing but sometimes, and access to a library always full of philosophers if nothing else, and an aching need to ponder what it might all mean now that life takes the form of a highly controlled and caged environment. The big picture perhaps becomes essential to sanity because the everyday things are out of their hands and off their radar if they want to stay afloat. And I get that, but god does it grate on my nerves

I have to say even with the years of philosophy and the questions and the conversations and, well it's philosophy so... definitely some arguments, I don't really know how to approach this idea. The wave or the sandcastle? I don't care. I just want to be able to afford food this month. Do I want to be a thing shaped by human direction or by the moon? Do I want to be make the most of my environment and let it destroy me just to rise again or do I want to be the thing that shapes the environment? I don't think there's really an answer here that says anything about me or about my worldview or about existence because there are pros and cons to each way or looking at these ideas and these questions and the fascinating thing about being a human is that we can look at sandcastles and waves and take the best parts of those ideas while discarding whatever doesn't serve us, right? We don't have to have those kinds of metaphorical limits and if we don't want to be any parts of either one, then we don't have to do that either. Ask me about being a queer atheist anarchist in the rural South who likes antitheistic satanism and goes to a Christian church every week that rolls and has good conversations with the pastor who loves and accepts all those things--the parts of these things that serve me work together in a way that has made me a much better person than I would be otherwise. Things have changed a lot for me in the time since I embraced the church and anarchism, and I feel like I've definitely grown. I don't have to be limited by and either/or scenario. Ask me why I chose to write people in prison or why I homeschool my kid. Ask me how I found peace with my childhood. Every part of who I am is cutting out the parts of things and feelings and beliefs that don't serve me anymore and embracing the good bits that do. It's been work, but it's been worth it, and I ultimately understand the burning questions I do have all the more because of the journey. I don't have to choose any one thing...

Wave, sandcastle, hermit crab, dried out piece of driftwood, dunes, a horse running on the beach... I'm all of it.


Part-time Working Hockey Mom

Friday, May 13, 2022

Boss Level

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are:

cocktail ~ screen ~ secure ~ dirty ~ book

It was submitted by:

Thanks to reddit for another great idea for a story.


The officer looked tired. Beyond tired. Soaked to the bone with exhaustion. But in his defense, he'd probably been up for most of the last couple days trying to make sense of what happened. He looked like he'd just found out an alien race had been living on this planet for the last 3 decades disguised as scientologists.

He asked me a few preliminary questions, mostly my basic info, and then tapped a few times on a touch screen tablet in front of him that laughed a recorder and asked me to tell my story. So I did.

Here's the transcript.

Sam Mitchell: I'd had a cocktail at lunch which probably helped me out when things went down later that afternoon if I'm being honest.

As I waited for my food and drink, I'd felt a little...dirty? about it, like I was doing something I knew was wrong, but it was Friday just before a long weekend, and The Boss had been on some kind of ultra tantrum all week. No one even knew why this time. Not that there was ever a good reason for an adult to act like that with their employees, not in my book. So I'd also felt like I deserved it. The coming week wasn't shaping up to be any better.

The boss is--sorry--was one of those people epic quiting stories on Reddit are about--a sexist pig who couldn't even do his job but micromanaged everyone else. If you wanted to make sure your job was secure you had to attend his little after hours "team building" functions where he got drunk and hit on all the women. There was no pleasing him. Nothing was ever done right even when we were praised by HIS bosses. No one ever, ever got praise from him. He'd once screamed at this poor woman, I can't even remember her name now, who dared have a donut in his presence because he said she was too big to be eating like that. When James' wife had cancer, he absolutely refused to let us donate PTO time to him to stay home with her. When she died, he was at work...and he had to work from home to be able to take some days to deal with her funeral and his grief. We were all underpaid but that was especially true for the people who aren't men of course. Of course. I honestly have no good explanation for why I stayed. Afraid of change in part, I suppose.

Officer: had a reason to dislike the guy did you?

SM: look, don't roll your eyes about this, but I listen to true crime podcasts a lot and I know people who kill their spouses can't ever resist talking shit about them like not even 5 minutes into the interview, but we both know every single person you talked to already said he was a piece of shit.

Officer: yeah, yeah. True crime. Y'all think you know everything. Go on.

SM: So I'd been back at my desk for about half an hour when we heard the front door to the building blow open. I'd thought we were in experiencing an earthquake and hid under my desk--not a great decision or my finest moment, but I hope you'll let me blame the cocktail here. Anyway, we heard a bunch of yelling and then some screaming and then some shots and I thought for sure one of the people that had quit had come back to shoot the place up. I don't even know if I would have been that mad about it.

Officer: miss, please just stick to the facts.

SM: fine. I thought we were being real here? Anyway, I could hear voices in the hall outside my office yelling at everyone to stay out of the way and no one had to get hurt, that we didn't have to protect The Boss anymore. They were saying we could finally be free if we would just mind our own business. I really almost peed myself in relief. You can sigh all you want by I want it on record that despite what Keith in accounting says, I did not fully piss my pants. Right. Nothing. No laughs? You must be fun at parties. Ok so, I was still pretty scared, but I'm also insanely nosy--i mean just look at my screenshots album at all the other people's drama. I crept out from under my desk and over to the window to see if I could watch what was going on.

Officer: what could you see from your office? It's near The Boss?

SM: not like right across the hall, but I could definitely see in his office if I got in just the right spot. I got plenty of dirt on him that way. So that's where I went which is, to my benefit obviously, not really easily spotted by someone in the hallway or his office unless he's standing by his personal coffee maker that he never used because he made Debbie in sales go get him coffee at least twice a day but got mad if she got anyone else anything because his coffee wouldn't be boil your skin off temperature.

Officer: ok back to your story

SM: listen it's not a story. This is what actually happened.

Officer: you all do realize it sounds more like something out of movie that you all wrote together though, right?

SM: sure but that doesn't make it any less true. Or funny. God, it's so funny.

Officer: ma'am, a man died. Shouldn't you have a little decorum?

SM: oh yeah right. Have you ever met The Boss? No? Don't tell me about decorum then. Fuck that. He was an absolute monster. Whatever. So when I looked out the window there was a group of 4 people. 3 men, 1 woman. She looked, well, a lot like that game tombraider. Tight, kinda casual dommy mommy clothes? A gun in hand. Slicked back pony tail. Dark hair. 1 man was not white and was wearing camo and had a rifle. I'm not great with guns. One of the white men or at least more white? What's the correct way to say that? Either way, he wore all black and had blonde hair. And one had reddish brown hair and wore a long deep brown duster. I couldn't see much else about their faces or their weapons. When they entered the office there was a whole lot of yelling. I couldn't make it all out but they fanned out like they were facing their greatest enemy and then opened fire. The Boss fell to the ground, and I swear I heard this music play, like victory music? But I don't know. I couldn't have right? Right?

Officer: I don't know, miss. Did you or didn't you?

SM, low: I think I did.

SM: and that was it really. The group started to turn around and I ducked. I wasn't taking any chances after that. There wasn't much of anything after that except they were celebrating on the way out and kept screaming they finished the level. "Good game, good game." And congratulating each other on not having to kill anyone else. And then they shouted BE FREE, MINIONS. ... But like, we hated him? How were we his minions?

Officer: if I were you I'd be more worried aboute thinking you're a murderer not a minion

SM: I tell ya...I thought about murderering that man in a million different ways. At least. But I didn't do this. None of us did it. Check the cameras. I know, KNOW, he watched us.

Officer: we will, we will. But until then don't leave the city. you're free to do whatever it is you do otherwise

SM: yeah. I finally am.


Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:

Baking In A Tornado

On the Border

The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Part-time Working Hockey Mom

What TF Sarah

Friday, May 6, 2022

Cluttered But Happy

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This month 5 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts. 

My “Secret Subject” is:

Would you be able to live in a tiny house with very little stuff?

It was submitted by: 

Friday, April 15, 2022

The One That Broke Us

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are:

stairway ~ generation ~ holy ~ flower ~ scent

It was submitted by:


The house was unassuming white clapboard. Boring. So bland it could be outperformed by flour. The yard really made up for it though. Every inch had been meticulously groomed with styled garden beds and sculptures. There were mini fountains and bird feeders and every color of flower imaginable. Birds flocked to this mini garden of Eden and shared space with chittering squirrels and buzzing bees. Almost like a fairytale, a Disney princess origin story.

But not even the sweetness of the competing sights or smells or the beauty and bounty of flora and fauna could make up for the scent of decomp that hung so heavily in the air you'd still taste it hours later or the horrors being uncovered at 248 Boxwood Lane.

For that matter, none of it detracted from the mystery unfolding in the backyard for the last week either.

It all started with a stench and a nosy neighbor. The guys who first showed up to do their due diligence and fill out a meaningless report thinking this would be another of Ms. Regina "Busybody" Goodwin's wild (and numerous) claims figured out pretty quickly that this was no boy cries wolf (or seething spiteful spinster calls the cops) type of deal. The smell was undeniably a dead body before they even reached the front door of the unfortunate soul who had been living next to Ms. Goodwin.

When the cops knocked on the door, the man inside opened up, held up his hands, and said "well I guess you finally got me" and refused to speak another word without an attorney present. They went to look in the backyard and apparently one of them hadn't stopped mumbling "holy shit" randomly under his breath ever since.

Yes, it was that bad.

When the cops placed the man, whose name we still don't actually know for sure though his mail came to Sanford Walsh, in the back of the car, the Holy Shit guy took a look out back while his partner kept an eye on Walsh. And what he found was a very flooded yard from a ruptured main and body parts in various stages of decomposition floating in the muddy pools or lying on the little islands of higher land and covering just about every bit of the place.

An almost skeleton arm does not belong in the lower stems of an azalea bush.

They called for backup being totally out of their league on how to handle a cemetery's worth of bodies in a person's yard. Detectives showed up and crime scene techs and the coroner... Then an m.e., the state cops and then the FBI and a behavioral scientist. And that was all before things got weird. Ok they were already weird but not in comparison to where they end up. Trust me.

This is where I come in. Anthropology isn't usually this weird, so when I got the call I thought it was a prank. I mean I've handled a few consults on cases of skeletal remains because I do biological anthropological examinations and studies, but my expertise is more in line with indigenous societies in north America before Europeans settled on the continent. And the m.e., a sharp old broad named Sandra, knew that about me. She said that was exactly why she called me, but that just didn't seem possible. A murder case that needed my expertise? Being investigated now? I got in the car and headed down anyway, but nothing about our conversation made sense.

I should have stayed home. I don't think any of us that worked this case will ever be the same again. Most days I feel like if I ever look at another bone, it will be too soon.

While the first detectives and techs worked on the scene, I was blissfully unaware that my life was about to be changed forever the moment I got tangled up with the Walsh case. Not his name. I still have no idea what his name is or was. But that's what we called him especially at the beginning. It wasn't until later that we found absolutely no information on this guy under that name. It was just just a placeholder. A costume perhaps. But the house and the land... The house had generation after generation of history. Funny thing, that.

He wouldn't talk to police after his initial "you finally got me." He became almost catatonic really. No answers to questions. No eye contact. No requests. He'd just sat there staring into whatever black void he resided in and hummed the tune of Daisy Bell over and over and over until he snapped to attention like he'd been jolted away by a cattle prod and demanded an attorney before returning back to his humming state. The officers keeping an eye on him said it was like a switch had been flipped on in his brain and switched right back off. Apparently it happened at his arraignment. It happened when he finally got assigned an attorney--the attorney he'd demanded to have.

Creepy, right? Well you don't know the fucking half of it.

I got to the house with very little information to go on. I was weirded out already. My expertise. I knew it was bad, that multiple bodies had been found, but I had no idea. By the time I was called in, folks had been digging for a few days. The hole in the yard had grown so big and so deep, a stairway had been fashioned for those working on site to get down to the bottom.

Sandra was down in that pit when I arrived and called for me to join her. Her hair was uncharacteristically messy and her eyes were wild. I got the feeling she was on the verge of losing it. It was written plainly across her usually stoic face.

She nearly pulled me down the last few steps hurrying me along until I finally yelled, "Sandra what the fuck is going on? You look like you haven't slept in days."

"I haven't. And probably won't for a long time yet."

"What is that supposed to mean?"

She took a deep breath and sighed. She looked rough. Bags, dark circles...her face puffy like she'd spent a few nights crying over a cheating partner. And then she told me.

The yard had been flooded and full of parts so after some folks were called in to turn off the main and pump out some of the water, the techs were finally able to get to work. Everything that could be seen was collected and then the yard was taped off in a grid. 12 people total took one square each and sifted the top layer--well, about a foot anyway--looking for more bones. They found some. The grid stayed behind and each square was then dug out to 3 feet and sifted. More. Again and again and again they dug into the earth finding body after body. Sandra looked at these bones each time and with each layer. She pointed out the stratification of the ground surrounding the excavation area and I could see it for myself. I could see dozens of artifacts laid out in one square of the grid and still more bones being dug out in others.

Sandra walked me over to the artifacts and looked at me with pleading eyes. She said, "I can't be sure until I get the results back from the lab dating these bodies, but they're old. I know they're old. And I need you to tell me we've stumbled on some kind of burial ground or mass grave that has nothing to do with anything else in this fucking hell scape of a yard."

She let me look through the artifacts. I already knew right then nothing I was looking at was modern. This was the genuine thing. So I took a square to dig for myself and got a look at the layout. It didn't seem like a mass grave. The bodies weren't one on top of one another. And nothing said burial mound. The artifacts included weren't really the type of grave offerings you'd expect to see in these types of burial sites. These were regular items. Things people might be wearing or things used in body modification or fastening cloth. The bodies were not spaced out enough for individual graves in the way I was used to seeint and not close enough for family sites or a mass grave. I looked at her photos and maps of body locations and everything was just too methodical. Bodies corresponded to each other in each layer.

There really wasn't any way anymore to tell exactly how any of these people had died, but the freshest bodies had their throats cut and a whole lot of other trauma... Given that information it didn't seem like a burial site in the traditional sense but how else could all these bodies get in this one space? I had more questions than answers but it certainly wasn't a mass grave or anything I recognized as a typical grave site for the societies I had studied.

I told Sandra. I told her all the things she hadn't wanted to hear and that I'd like to get a better look at the bones she already transported, but she shook her head and walked to the steps..."I'm done. I don't want to know any more. You'll have to get someone else."

It seemed like an overreaction to me. I could be wrong in my initial assessment. I needed more time to be sure and to look at more. I needed to see if this land had ever housed a crude cemetery. And, at most, a family tradition of murder wasn't exactly common, right? But it had happened. The Bloody Benders, the Kelly family, the bean clan... The Gonzalez Sisters in Mexico had left at least 90 bodies to be found and something like 20 of their family members had been in on it and charged along with them.

But then

There's always a "but" in these things right?

One of the techs on scene agreed to drive me to the morgue to get a look at those other bodies. She didn't seem like she wanted to talk. I'd asked if Sandra had just been overworked or if we needed to check on her, and the tech, Amy, pulled into a Denny's parking lot.

She took a deep breath and let out a shaky sigh.

"Look, I'm not really supposed to say more, but I'm going to because it's not fair to keep it from people. Sandra has always been overworked if we're honest. She doesn't have the budget for enough help and to be quite honest she needs too much control to delegate well."

She paused and I felt like I had to say something. "That tracks. I can tell that about her."

"Right. Well. She's stressed on a normal case. She's even more stressed when she feels like she needs to find an answer to help get justice for someone taken too soon. But this...this case... It's fucking batshit, ok"

"I mean yeah all this is really unsettling but the worst we're looking at here is a murder family, right? Assuming the land has stayed in the same family, the absolute worse this could be is a few generations of this family line taking up each other's murderous tendencies, right? She's handled plenty of gnarly stuff before..."

Amy signed again. She looked haunted. "No. No we don't think that's it actually."

"What? What's the deal?"

"well. We processed the house too, you know. First day. There are more bodies in the basement, by the way, and we haven't even really started digging it out to figure out how many or how far it goes." She stared out of the windshield for a long time.

"I know I'm going to sound crazy but he slept in a coffin. We found it. His windows aren't blacked out or anything but he has like a room full of spf 50 and 100 sunscreen. Just sunscreen, right? And we also found family photos. Actually we found family paintings. We have to get all these things dated of course. It's going to be a long investigation... But..." She looked straight at me, eyes wide. "They're all the same guy, Jess. I know it sounds crazy but it's all the same guy. Every photo. Smiling kids, wife, same guy. Different kids, different wife, same guy. Photos so old they're falling apart almost, same guy. Same guy. It's not just a resemblance. And I've seen Walsh. I had to look for myself. I had to. Jess, it's him. It's all the same guy."

Well, that might explain all the creepiness but there was no way I was going to just take her word for it.

We left, both unable to talk anymore, and went by the morgue. The place was filled with bones and bodies. There wasn't anywhere to store them all. A refrigerated truck had to be brought in for the time being. But Sandra was there packing her things.

"I didn't mean to make you quit, Sandra. Let me take a closer look at things. I could be wrong. I have to be wrong."

"It's not you, Jess." She looked at me. Hard. "Amy told you."

I nodded.

"Jess, I don't want to know. I've lived my entire life thinking the world was complicated but mostly logical. There were reasons people do what they do even if I could never. There were explanations and disorders and even when things were absolutely terrifying and maddening we could catch the guy and all sigh in relief that we had stopped someone. But this? I saw the photos, the portraits. I went and sat with him, Jess. I asked him. I asked him about the photos, the bodies. I asked him what year he was born and he laughed. He just laughed. I can't do this. I can't live in a world knowing this exists so I'm getting out. good luck."

And that was that.

But how do I get out of this? Because I can't pretend I don't know what these women have told me and I damn sure can't quit without some kind of answer. It will gnaw away at me for the rest of my life.

What do I do now?


Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:

Baking In A Tornado

On the Border

The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver


Part-time Working Hockey Mom

What TF Sarah

Friday, April 8, 2022

These Damn Animals

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This month 4 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts. 

My “Secret Subject” is:

Do you have pets? Tell us about them or if not what kind of pet do you would you like to have someday?

It was submitted by:

Hold onto your butts. There's cuteness incoming

I have what some might call "too many" pets actually. I live in a very rural area without a lot of resources besides an overcrowded shelter, so I've taken in a few too many mouths to feed over the years not even limited to just the normal pets. I even cared for an owl temporarily while it healed. I'm not Snow White or anything but if an animal is in need I'll find a way to help. Just ask me why I'm taking care of a dog that got beat up in my yard recently. It's a lot of work. I have had most of these guys since before I got sick with chronic fatigue syndrome, and I try to limit what I take in to what I know I can handle now, but it's still a lot of work. Dogs get meds twice a day and medicated baths. The beat up dog is getting meds 3 times a day and bandage changes once a day and special food. I have two nearly blind cats I have to dose with CBD oil at the very least. Other cats that need daily allergy meds. One cat has asthma. And they all need one on one attention which is difficult to always fit in my day when I'm cleaning up their messes, writing people in prison, and homeschooling a teenager. 

I don't know what it's like to not be too busy to paint for fun until the weekend when I stay up later.

But they also bring a lot of balance to my life and force me to keep going. I don't have a choice but to get up and take care of them. I have often kept going even when I didn't really have any appetite for life because who else will give them their medicine. I have laughed until I cried at some bozo thing the dog did or marveled at a cat eating a jelly bean but refusing turkey. There's no predictable day no matter how monotonous your routine can be when you have a houseful of pets. Hell, I don't think it's too routine even with one pet. Each one brings unpredictable chaos to your life right along with their lazy naps. The world is worth it when you get to live with their little shenanigans and their unconditional love. There's not a day that goes by that some furred asshole doesn't make up for every shithead thing they somehow managed to do earlier. And when I sat shithead thing I mean, I've accidentally cooked cat pee because they pissed on my stove and I didn't realize until too late. I have to have 2 child locks on the fridge and 2 on the freezer. The amount of plastic that has been eaten in this house... My dog stepped in poop the other day then tracked it inside all over the floor. One of them peed in my shower cap once and I didn't find out until I put the son of a bitch on my head. Nothing is sacred. My trash can is booby trapped and so is the washing machine. And the stove now. And a corner of a rug. Oh and a shelf. The amount of absolute fuckery they get up to feels like a three stooges movie except I'm the only butt of the joke. And yet they still manage to make up for all of that and that's priceless. There is no value I could place on my time that they don't outdo over and over.

So without further ado, here are some pics of the asshole crew.

Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts. Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there:

Baking In A Tornado

The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Part-time Working Hockey Mom

What TF Sarah