Tag Archives: Sister

The thing outside

A little horror story.

Alfred Hitchcock said, it’s the things you don’t see that scare you. I wrote this a few years ago as an exercise on that concept.

 

 


 

We shivered in the dark, listening to it scratch against the door. Turning the lights out had not tricked it. It could smell us.

“Let’s go out the back,” my little sister Anita said, casting a nervous glance behind her.

“It moves too fast,” I said, but I glanced behind me as well. It was worth a shot.

Slowly we made our way backwards, feeling behind us, not taking our eyes off the kitchen door. We could hear it outside, scrabbling against the old grainy wood softly, insistently. We got halfway to the back door and then the scratching stopped.

Anita froze. We stared at the door, waiting for it to do something, but nothing was happening.

“We have to shut it inside. Then we can get to the car,” Anita said, pulling the car keys off of the counter and handing them to me.

“Are you crazy?” I whispered back, risking a glance her way. “That means one of us would have to open the door.”

She didn’t flinch. She stared at the door, her long braid resting on her shoulder, her eyes focused, waiting for some noise or indication of what it was doing now. All scratches had stopped. The other side of the door was silent. Too silent.

“Do you think it’s going around to the back door?” Anita whispered.

Suddenly I couldn’t move. I heard a desperate sort of gasp escape my throat.

“What?” She turned to look at me, alarmed.

“The back door isn’t locked,” I choked out.

Anita never hesitated. She dashed to the back room, and I watched her as she raced, her feet thumping loudly on the hardwood floor. It would hear that, I thought. It would hear that and circle around. I could see everything happening in crystal clarity, but was stricken by a horrible paralysis, unable to speak or move fast enough to prevent her from doing what she was doing.

Anita was a yard away from the door when it clicked open before her. Something pale was coming through. Finding my feet, I turned, unable to look, and ran toward the kitchen, toward the door, toward safety.

Anita screamed and screamed.

I burst out of the kitchen and slammed the door shut behind me, but the thick wood only slightly muffled the sound of my little sister dying.

I called her name through the wood. I cried out into the blank night. I kicked the door and pounded until my fist was bloodied with splinters. All this I did. But I could not make myself open that door.

When I paused for breath, there was a wet noise from within the house. It was lingering, distracted by the blood.

I still held the keys in my shaking hand. But I didn’t want to drive away from here, not if she wasn’t with me. Next to the car key was a smaller key with a cheery owl key cover which Anita had bought ages ago; the key to the shed. Where the power tools were kept.

I smiled joylessly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Pancakes Only

 

I’m not sure whether this is good or not, but here it is anyway. I don’t know, I can’t focus and should not have attempted to edit this today. I wrote this when I woke up after a dream about a ghost, and there’s nary a ghost in it, but there sure are a lot of pancakes.

It’s either very sweet, very disjointed, or fine… or not fine. Maybe it’s just my head that’s disjointed.

 


 

 

Babbo Babbino was a round man, full of Italian cheer. He spent most of his time running the diner on 21, so when his family went to his funeral, they were shocked to find another family there, already grieving.

Momma was a shy, withdrawn woman, not an Italian but a WASP. She saw the family, swallowed all her feelings, and nodded formally at them.

“A funeral is not the place to fight, Marcia,” she warned her daughter.

So Marcia didn’t fight. But she studied this extra family during the eulogy, steaming. Had they known about her family? They didn’t look surprised. The other woman held her head defiant, straight, wearing her scarlet letter like a point of pride, another Italian by the look of her. As for her daughter, she looked embarrassed to be here. There was high color on her cheeks. She clearly hadn’t wanted to come to this. She was very pretty. Prettier than Marcia, with pure bold Italian features and jet black hair which held a high gloss. Marcia had inherited her mother’s mousy brown, thin, soft, impossible hair, which frazzled at the mere mention of humidity. Had they spoken Italian together with her father?

She hated them so much.

After the funeral, her mother went to speak to them. They both began the conversation looking scared and tense, but before long her mother cracked a smile at something she’d said. They had found common ground. The woman, encouraged, commenced to tell her story after story about Babbo. Soon they were chatting like old school friends.

Her mother turned to call her over but was startled by Marcia’s glare. Her voice caught and fell. Marcia gave each one of them an acid look and stormed to her car.

She drove angry, not thinking, and surprised herself by coming to a stop at the diner. Well… work always did help when she was troubled. So she unlocked the door, ensuring the sign stayed flipped to closed. Nobody would come anyway. All the regulars were at the funeral.

Pancakes. That was all she wanted to make right now. Pancakes always helped.

She whipped together the batter (always from scratch as her father had taught her) in their biggest bowl, and started frying.

The bubbles settled into the top of the first pancake, and she flipped it. It was a little bit too pale.

He always loved her pancakes. She could never make them perfect every time, as he did. But he ate them and he laughed his generous laugh. And at what point in his day would he go visit the other family? Did he make pancakes for her, too? Did he call her his little chef? Did he laugh when she folded one of them in half, or sprayed batter on the floor?

Thinking back, he had spent more than a few nights away from home. Momma had always shrugged it off as business trips, and Marcia had believed her, never thinking to question it. Momma must have always known, or at least suspected. This was why she had taken their presence at the funeral so well.

A pancake was burning.

She wasn’t cooking well. All this was pointless without someone to feed. She had too many pancakes, and needed to share.

She went out, flipped the sign, and taped up an extra handwritten notice which said, “pancakes only today!”

Now that there was the prospect of customers, things were different. She focused, cleaned up, started the coffee, set out the bacon and sausage and blueberries, whipped together more batter.

Customers slowly streamed in. It was a slow day, which was good since she was alone and had a lot of work to do.

“Just pancakes today,” she called as each customer came in.

Nobody minded. And she lost herself in the pancakes, the orders, the change, the pouring coffee, the frying bacon, and the heaps of fresh, golden, perfect pancakes. There was nothing but food in her brain for several hours, and life settled into perfect mundanity. As she navigated around the kitchen, she could hear the clanking spatulas and hissing grills, and layered behind that, imperceptible to all but her, the sound of Babbo’s song and laugh. She found herself humming one of his songs.

Until the bell rang, and in walked the other mother and daughter. Marcia froze in her work and hid, watching them from behind the shelves. The mother seemed to have been here before, but the daughter looked around the diner with piercing curiosity.

The daughter had never been to the diner.

Never been to the diner?

Marcia thought of the long hours she’d spent with her dad, learning how to cook. The waiting tables, the sound of his clatter and singing in the kitchen. Imagining him without this diner as a backdrop, her memories came up surprisingly empty. What kind of a Babbo did they even know? How could they possibly have a complete picture of him without knowing this diner?

“Pancakes only,” she said. She eyed the daughter… no, her younger sister. “I could use some help.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Feeling Large and Heavy

 

I got to play on an obstacle course

I didn’t have courage for half of the things

And wasn’t physically capable of the other half

I felt very large and heavy

I think if there’d been more adults on it

I wouldn’t have felt so silly

And maybe would have tried harder

 

I urged my sister

“Climb the 10 foot warped wall, for women everywhere!”

She looked at me funny.

Wondering if I’d said something sexist,

I revised my statement

“I mean… just for me, right here.”

I wanted her to do it

(I’m certain she could)

Because I was incapable

And I’ve spent my life feeling athletic

Vicariously through her.

 

Feeling large

And barge-y

Stomping around on my giant feet

I have grace

For one my weight

But no one else here is like me

The kids are swift, slender elves

My sister is strong and light

She is bamboo

She is tendons veins gristle

She is elegant cheekbones and arched brows

And blessed melanin, actual eyelashes, tanning skin

She slips through anything

She climbs like a rat

She swings like a monkey

 

Here I sit, here I sit

Pores full of shit

Not fit

 

Just the same I tried to flip

And hit the trampoline

Like a thrown elephant.

WHAM!

A man quickly approaches me

“You did sign the waiver, right?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

At My Sister’s House

For some reason my subconscious is full of dragons, and that’s all that seems to end up on my blog. But make no mistake, I love my life. I guess the following is closest to a journal entry.

 

8/14

At My Sister’s House

“Sarah’s here!” Three little voices sound off. “Sarah’s here, Sarah’s here!”

The dog comes bounding over with a smile. The kids run up to hug me, their enthusiasm just as pure.

The house is warm and comfortable. Sean keeps it clean; Jessica keeps it colorful. There is always something fragrant sauteing on the stove. On the counter are homemade pumpkin muffins, chocolate covered espresso beans, a bottle of wine.

As we cook, we make fun of her old and busted food processor. We laugh, giving it a hazing that a sentient being could not endure. She has little interest in technology; her kitchenaid mixer is the only food gadget that gets any respect. I ask her to taste my pie filling. She swipes a finger through and licks it. “More sugar,” she says. Of course she’s right.

The children pop by occasionally for hugs and samples. They’re young but these kids already know their way around a spice rack.

Friends file in. Every person brings a dish, and a story about their day. Each familiar face gives fresh warmth to my heart.

Two rules in this house: everyone gets a hug regardless of their comfort level, and they must taste everything at least once, regardless of their comfort level.

The people distract Jessica. She starts talking, gesturing, telling stories. She focuses her whole self on this, usually waving a spatula or fork instead of using it to stir. This is my time to shine: I prompt her for directions and finish up what she has started.

The craft beer and wine make everyone’s faces bright. Neighborhood kids wander through: “Did you get permission to be here? Use my phone, call your parents.” We shoo the dog out of the kitchen repeatedly, the children’s fingers must be extracted from the chocolate batter, the cat lays on the floor in the center of the chaos, unconcerned. And what a beautiful chaos it is.  We laugh until we cry. “Anybody want tea?” “Is something burning?” “Come see what we drew today!”

Usually the food gets prepared and consumed at different times, but this time, every dish is ready at once. Dishes pack the table: chocolate pie, angel food cake, roast vegetables, tacos, olive cheese toast, dip, salad, bread, cajun shrimp, cheese biscuits. We stare at the spread, impressed, unsure how to begin. “Anybody religious?” Jessica quips, hoping to give this gorgeous meal a proper sendoff. I propose a toast after our family tradition: “Good health and happiness, for the rest of our lives!” People circle the kitchen island, grab random beverages so they can join in, until everyone’s glass (bottle, cup) has tapped everyone else’s.

We eat until we can’t eat anymore. We laugh until we can eat again.

We finish our food on the porch in the evening summer air. There is a cage with two hairless rats out here; they are the subject of some snuggling and much ridicule. Careful not to pet the ball python after you pet the rats.

Things are quieting down. Guests leave. Everyone gets some leftovers to take home.

Sean and the kids put on YouTube. Jessica and I linger in the kitchen, clean up a bit, talk some more, mull over the events of the day. What were the best dishes, did that thing you cooked turn out like you expected, how is homeschooling coming along? We eventually join the TV crowd and work our way underneath the warm heap of animals and children, where we comfortably enjoy the company and let the kids show us what they’re most excited about.

At some point I must reluctantly extract myself from the couch, say my goodbyes, and drive home. But the warmth lingers in my bones. Deeper, even, than that.