Shameless Self-Promotion!

Fuckit #10 (The Burnout is Real) is out and includes a short story by me, called “Two Old Ladies In a School Gym Lockup,” which title made the lovely husband look at me with That Look and say, “You’re pretty proud of that one, aren’t you?”

Indeed, I am.

Featuring a Glee reference and cameo appearances by my child and one of his pals, I would consider “Two Old Ladies” a future investment in your Laura E. Price collection!

This is a story where I’m sort of writing my way into the larger world of it. Sometimes you can fill a notebook with worldbuilding and character background before you get started; sometimes you have to write your way into it, poke around, feel it out. The very first Teachout story (unpublished and self-jossed at this point) was like that, which bodes well for Caro and V. In this case, I wanted to write something short and direct, just letting the characters out to play a bit, see how they sounded.

There will probably be more of these two old chicks in the future. I’m researching cunning folk, thinking about the concept of a “cozy post-apocalypse,” mulling over kindness and care as themes. I know V.’s backstory, though not much about Caro’s. I even know the next story plot!

So, if you buy this issue and read this story, you’re getting in on the ground floor. I don’t know how much will change from this early experiment to the final installment, or even in what guise or shape those things that stay will be in, but it’ll be fun finding out.

Shameless self-promotion!

Fuckit vol 9, “Actual Fucking Things” is out, and for this one I made some visual art.

I do not know why this one felt like the end of something, but it did.

(It’s not; I have made a promise to myself to submit to this ‘zine every issue unless something catastrophic happens, and since I literally sent a piece in while watching the news on Jan. 6, 2021, it’s clearly gonna have to be super fucking catastrophic to stop me.)

(That is not a dare, Universe. Just let me do my thing over here, okay?)

So, anyway, because of that ending feeling, I made some art out of my art. Also a bit of the husband’s art (he made the bottle caps). And the art we created jointly but that is now their own ongoing project (with permission from said Zweeble).

So, end of Part 1. On to Part 2. For me, anyway. Dunno about the others involved in this experiment.

What Laura’s Reading Lately: Tam Lin by Pamela Dean

So earlier this week, I read this post by Seanan McGuire and picked up Tam Lin by Pamela Dean. (They knew what they were doing when they made it possible to just buy books on an iPad, man. This is a dangerous future I live in.)

I quite enjoyed it! It’s one of those books I think of as “magic around the edges.” Among Others by Jo Walton is another of those, where the magic is important but it’s not central to the story. Janet is a mix of very practical while also being … not, and I enjoyed that. She’s also a bit of a bitch, which I would guess you’d have to be to survive a Scottish Ballad in college. It probably helped that while I’m familiar with the story of Tam Lin, I’m not so familiar with it that I could figure out how the plot was going to get where I knew it was going.

There is a lot of poetry and Shakespeare quoting going on in this book; I found myself wondering if college kids would really be able to recite that much Keats, then remembered how many people I know can recite The Princess Bride. Hell, the husband and I can and have had entire conversations made up of song lyrics. I loved that, though–I miss that feeling of being immersed in literature and art, though I would rather immerse myself in something other than The Classics at this point in my life. It prompted me to watch Macbeth Friday night (also really cool, though Macbeth is my least favorite Shakespeare play). It came along at a good point in my current thinking about the kind of commonplace book I’ve got going in my planner, where I’m collecting things. Notebooks, notebooks, notebooks. I’m not going to write a sonnet every day to keep my hand in, but there are other things I want to do to feed my brain and maybe my soul.

I will say that the ebook I got needed a good copyedit. Lots of missing periods, half-sets of quotation marks, and some really obvious typos. That was seriously annoying. If you’re interested in the book, I recommend getting the physical copy.

And one thought that involves a spoiler (kind of) …

Continue reading “What Laura’s Reading Lately: Tam Lin by Pamela Dean”

shameless self-promotion

It’s that time again!

Issue # 8 of FUCKIT is out, and this issue includes a Teachout story for your reading pleasure!

“The Bloodhound’s Sister Meets the Void” is a bit weird. For one, it’s Gwen’s POV, which rarely happens (these stories are very much about both girls, but the POV is tight 3rd to Corwyn). For another, as I wrote it I realized that the main story is … not actually about the Teachouts at all. As far as the “actual” main characters are concerned, Corwyn and Gwen are incidental.

Yeah, that’s a mistaken notion right there.

(That’s also, I think, how this story ties into the theme of this issue.)

Shameless self-promotion and other stuff

So, first of all, I have TWO pieces in the 6th volume of FUCKIT: a ‘zine. This issue’s theme is “Death to Cringe,” and I am quite excited to be a part of that.

Those of you who enjoyed “There are No Lost Worlds” might be interested in “A (Lovely) Companion Piece,” wherein we learn … well, stuff we probably already knew about how certain people think you brainwash a lady.

Also we have a poem called “Cringe Is the Plan. The Plan Is Death,” which is about my girl Alice Sheldon. Y’all, I have loved James Tiptree, Jr. since I was like 16 and didn’t know that was a pen name. I read James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon last year and was struck by how many knots Alli Sheldon tied herself into throughout her life, trying to reconcile who she was with who she thought she should be and who she wanted to be (and who she thought she should want to be), and all of it was tangled up with being a woman. And so a poem was born.

(For the record, I am aware of the murder-suicide thing, and the questions about ableism there.)


In other news, you may notice a new link in my link lists, to one Jaxton Kimble’s website. That would be the Writer Formerly Known as Jason Kimble, still the BFF, and now writing under an assumed name for … reasons.

No … nothing nefarious, why would you assume that? It’s not like he, I dunno, had his identity compromised by a rival mad scientist and had to go on the lam to avoid lawsuits for property damage due to giant, rampaging ocelots or anything. No, that’s not weirdly specific, what sort of world do you live in that this sort of thing isn’t everyday?

Anyway, feel free to hop over to his website and find out about the rampaging ocelots (or lack thereof) and his upcoming publications!

Shameless self-promotion and hello, not dead

So I totally spaced on promoting the November issue of Fuckit, which contains “The Modern Eurydice: to Orpheus in the Autumn of the Plague Year,” so that came out. I got a little distracted by … I dunno, some political event. No, the other one. No, no–the one that happened right around the time the whole Supernatural finale thing went down. That one.

Today we have issue 5, which includes “Is This Your First Apocalypse?” which–I kid you the fuck not–I finished on January 5th. You know, the day before the other political event. That ms got sent to the editor with a cover letter of just HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Yeah, prophetic, whee …

(Okay, I really hate the new WP editor with the blocks. Just let me type, goddammit.)

Not much else going on. Well, in my personal life, anyway. I’m just sitting around, writing some stuff, trying to get used to reading news I actually … like hearing? What? That’s a thing?

I’m also buying a gazillion notebooks and some pens. Because they make me happy.

Shameless self-promotion!

It’s pub day for Stories We Tell After Midnight 2!  You can find my story, “Primary Manifestations” in this anthology of creepy, spooky stories.

***

“Primary Manifestations” is a haunted house story.  I love haunted houses.  You can probably tell, as I’ve written, what, three stories now that involve them (four if you count the sentient generation ship in “Four Cassandras”).  We lived in our old house for 14 years; we built it, so no ghosts.  It saw the start of a marriage, a miscarriage, a birth, soooo many arguments, soooo many jokes, parties, video game nights, illness, grief, good days and bad days.  I wondered how much of those things would absorb into the walls for the next person who lived there.

Our new house is also newly-built.  No ghosts here, and not much in the walls yet.  But give it time.

***

When we watched “The Haunting of Hill House” on Netflix, I posted on Tumblr:

Haunted house stories, particularly with kids, have gotten a lot scarier to me since I had a kid.

You’re a parent, and you make one poor judgement call—and not even an obviously poor judgement call! The house is a great bargain! You want your kids to grow up somewhere with a yard, and this is the only way to afford it! Or you’re getting out of a bad situation! Or, hell, you just … buy a house.

And it ends up with your kids being haunted for the rest of their lives because you did the best you could for them, and you still made the wrong choice.

It’s like a parent’s worst nightmare.

“Primary Manifestations” grew out of (the muck) that, combined with wanting to touch on some of the haunted house tropes that drive me up the (bloodstained) wall (JUST TALK TO EACH OTHER ABOUT THE SEXY 103 YEAR OLD HOUSEKEEPER, FOR GOD’S SAKE).  And I wanted to set a haunted house story in Florida.  I grew up here; it’s as haunted and creepy as anything in New England or the actual deep south, with bonus alligators.  (There are no gators in this story, though.)

shameless self-promotion

You can find my untitled internet quiz parody in Fuckit issue 3, Vote, Motherfucker, Vote!

Now, far be it from me to use that kind of vulgarity …

… wait, hang on, I think Scott may have collapsed …

Oh.  No.  He’s just on the floor laughing.  What’s that, honey?  Oh.  I’m being told I just said earlier this evening that “motherfucker” is one of my favorite words.  Apparently I texted this message, so he has receipts.  Um.  Well.  How embarrassing.

Okay, fine.  Look.  I am not calling you, dear reader, “motherfucker.”*  HOWEVER.

You should vote.

AND YOU SHOULD BUY AND READ THIS ‘ZINE!  It’s got me, Alexis Siemon, Emily Paige Ballou, Karen Sorenson, and David M. Briggs!

(You may get called a motherfucker in the ‘zine.  By me.  Depends on the quiz result.  I mean it fondly, though.  I just used it on my husband, so clearly I use the term as an endearment.)

*Unless you’re Oedipus, in which case, dude.  Come on.  You cannot blame me.


Okay, so if that didn’t offend you to the point of unfollowing my blog, hi!

I’m back to working at work twice a week, remotely the rest.  So far that’s going okay.  I  missed my work sibling trying to hang a sign on the new automatic doors we got during shutdown, so that’s a bummer, but otherwise it’s good.

I got an advance copy of Stories We Tell After Midnight 2, which will be out in October and contains “Primary Manifestations,” by moi.  It looks coooool … lots of stories in there I’m excited to read.

stress relief in the soft apocalypse

It’s been a stressful couple of weeks around these parts as Florida caseloads keep climbing.  There’s new software for work we’re trying to figure out, the dog keeps scratching at a spot on her face so she’s back in the cone, and we’ve been trying to figure out what to do for the kid’s schooling in the fall.

I found myself at loose ends the other day, not really wanting to play Animal Crossing or watch TV.  I’d just finished a book, so my brain was like no reading right now.  Had also just finished writing for the day, so none of that.

The husband suggested taking dumb photos of Sam Porter Bridges in Death Stranding.

I hadn’t messed around with the photo thing they added to the game, so I loaded it up.  I took a few shots, but then found myself accepting cargo to deliver.  I found a truck, drove down the very nice road we have all built out of Lake Knot City, delivered whatever the hell it was to … the Engineer?  I think?  Then I Fragile jumped to Heartman’s lab to borrow the spa, let Lou swim around a bit, and delivered some time-sensitive samples to the Evo-Devo biologist (oh my god was that a goddamned chore. I literally destroyed a truck. Had to go to the Paleontologist’s to get some floating carriers, come back, track down all the cargo, then drag the stuff the rest of the way.  I did make it in time, though.  Barely).

I avoided all the BTs.  No fighting.  Just me and my BB delivering the mail.

The thing about Death Stranding is that you’re post-apocalypse. It’s quiet.  If you ignore your email, you don’t get a lot of people’s opinions on what’s happened or what’s happening.  Once you complete the game, you don’t have the other characters interrupting you as you make your way from one place to another.  Likes and information about who delivered what are text-based and easy to ignore, but also nice little reminders that you’re not entirely alone in the world.  Your only responsibility is the baby, which only becomes an issue if you fall on your face too many times. It doesn;t hurt that the game is really pretty.

It was nice.  100% recommend for those times when you need to turn the noise down.

Woulou, part 2

Not raising money this time, just putting a story into the world.  Hope you enjoy.  Part One is here.


After that, I was ready to sell my car to clear out the jungle in the back corner of the yard. Of course, it wouldn’t be that easy because the plants themselves weren’t on our side of the fence; they were just invading our space.  If I really wanted to clear all that junk out, I’d have to talk to whoever owned the house behind us.

So the next day, after I got dinner for Morgan and me and helped him with his homework (thank god no math facts tonight, because I didn’t think I could cope with lack of sleep, talking to the neighbor about her haunted yard, and Morgan’s patented foot-dragging through the times tables), I left the kid reading his AR book under the watchful eye of our resident ghost and walked around the block to the blue house with brown trim.

The lady who opened the door was elderly, dressed in a pair of denim cutoffs and a camisole tank top over an industrial-strength beige bra.  The air that fled through the doorway smelled of lavender and the slightest hint of cigarette smoke, as though she’d stopped smoking years ago but never really scrubbed the place down after.  She had short-cropped white hair and a faded tattoo on her forearm, maybe a rose?  Her knuckles were swollen, her back was stooped, and her eyes had a look like she would poison me if I asked her to talk about Jesus.  I immediately revised my personal old-lady goals from being Carrie Fisher to being this lady when I hit 70.

“Hi,” I said, going a lot less chirpy than I’d planned.  “I’m Mallory.  I live behind you, with my son.  I was wondering if I could talk to you about the plants in the corner of your yard, by the shed.”

“What about ‘em?”  Man, she sounded like that old lady on the Shoebox cards looked.

“Well, they’re overgrowing the fence, and it looks like there’s poison oak in there–”

She shook her head.  “Look, hon, I’m on a fixed income–”

“I’m willing to pay,” I said quickly.

That got a look.  She managed to knowingly side-eye me while facing me straight on.  “There have been a lot of people in and out of that house back there, and none of them ever offered to pay to clear out my back corner.”

“It’s full of poison oak and some kind of demon mist,” I replied.

She blinked at me.  “You got a lawn guy will take care of demon mist?”

“One step at a time,” I said.  “We get rid of the poison oak and the other crap, see where the demon mist is coming from.  Maybe we call the EPA, maybe we call the church.”

She screwed her mouth up to one side as she leaned in the door frame.  “About ten, fifteen years ago, they rented that place out to a woman and three guys.  Young fellas, all very built–I’m not gonna judge, more power to you, sweetheart.  They played music all night, but it wasn’t terrible–you remember when Gregorian chants were a thing at the clubs?  Stuff like that.  Anyway, I saw two of the boys leave early one morning.  Didn’t think anything of it, but I didn’t see the other two again, and they bounced without paying their rent.  Right after they left, all that crap grew up in the corner.  Took it maybe a month to get just like it is, now.  A goddamned month for a punk tree to grow and just about die.”  She emphasized this last point with one twisty finger aimed at my face.  “So you want to pay to clear it out, be my guest.  I hope it cleanses your devil mist, hon.”

***

After I spoke to the old lady, I came home and did the rest of the evening routine: an episode of Leverage, teeth brushing, “Use the bathroom even though you claim you don’t need to, holy cow, kid, how far can a seven-year-old bladder stretch?” and a chapter of Castle Hangnail before smooching Morgan on the head and making sure he had Parker, who also got his smooch.

Then I got my pillow and a blanket to bed down on the couch.  I’d hear anything weird better out here than in my room.

It took forever to fall asleep, but I must have because the next thing I knew Morgan was screaming and the lights were flipping on and off like a disco.  I don’t remember the trip from the couch to Morgan’s room, just that I was there, hands on either side of his sweaty face, saying in the firmest Mom-voice I could manage, “Morgan.  Morgan, you’re dreaming.  Wake up, baby.”

He jerked awake, gasped, and bolted upright, throwing his arms around me.  “Mom!”

He shook in my arms, breaths shuddering in and out.  “It’s okay, I’ve got you.  It’s okay, baby.  Just a nightmare.”

“I don’t like that lady,” he said, finally.

“I bet she was a real bitch,” I said.  I pulled back from him a little and asked, “You want to tell me about it?”

Morgan frowned.  “There was the mean lady.  And it was foggy.  And …”  He thought for a minute, then said, “And that’s all I remember.  Just she was mean.  A … you know what.”

I smiled at him, brushed his hair back from his forehead.  “If you dream about her again, you can go ahead and call her a bitch, okay?”

“Okay.  Mom?”

“Yeah?”

He opened his mouth, then shut it again.  I asked, “You wanna sleep in my bed, kiddo?”

He drooped with relief.  “Yeah, can I?”

“Gather the guys.  I gotta straighten up the living room.”

Back went the pillow and blanket, joined by Parker, Mr. Magee, Old Mrs Bones (a hedgehog), Torque Jamiroquai, Sadie Cat, and Morgan, who curled into my side and fell asleep.  I, of course, did not sleep much at all–but where usually sharing a bed with Morgan was like sharing a bed with a small space heater, tonight my room was cold enough that it was comfortable.  Thanks, Woulou.

***

The soonest I could get a lawn guy to come out to give me an estimate was a week.

“What if I told you it was haunted?” I asked.  I was calling from work; my office-mate raised his eyebrows at me but said nothing.

“Baby girl, it could be a clutch of Satan’s own nose hair and I ain’t got a time slot sooner’n next week.”

Baby fucking girl–maybe the demon mist would like to eat the shriveled soul of  Joe from O’Reilly’s Discount Lawn Care?  But they were definitely the least expensive–I would not go so far as to call that amount cheap–so I went ahead and made the appointment, resigning myself to a week of Morgan sleeping in my room.

***

We got pizza for dinner that night, as I was too tired to deal with cooking. Maybe, I hoped, I might be tired enough to sleep even with seven-year-old feet in my ribcage.  Morgan seemed tired, too–he was fussy but didn’t put up much of a fight over running his times tables or his other homework.  I got him settled on the couch with his book for school and went to take a shower.  I ran the water a little hotter than I generally like in hopes of staying awake.

The master bath is the reason I fell in love with the house.  The landlord had just remodeled it: a huge walk-in shower with a damn bench seat, all new tile, gorgeous light fixtures.

I had just rinsed the shampoo out of my hair when those gorgeous light fixtures went insane.  Desperate frantic strobing as I jerked the water off and stumbled out the shower door into the simultaneously hot and cold air; I yanked shorts and a t-shirt on as letters appeared in the mirror’s steam:

M O R G A N

Fuck fuck fuck fuck–

I slipped on the all-new tile, landing hard on my hip.  I bit my tongue and wrenched my ankle, but I hauled myself up and limp-ran through the connecting door to my room into the living room.

The blanket on the couch had been shoved into a lump at one end.  Morgan’s book lay face-down on the floor.  The lights in his bedroom started to flash like I didn’t know where to go next.

Open window.  Screen on the ground outside.  In the blue twilight I saw a small gray lump on the ground.  And mist.  Seeping across the yard from the overgrown corner.

I’m not small enough, really, to climb through Morgan’s window, but blind panic tinged with rage creates miracles.  My wrenched ankle wobbled when I landed on it but held me up.  The mist coiled around my shins, touching and drawing back like it was testing my skin.

Where the fuck was Morgan–

A cold, cold breeze picked up behind me.  As it blew around my hips, the mist retreated, clearing a path.  Right toward the jungle.

On the ground at my feet lay Old Mrs. Bones, stuffing spilling out of her ripped seams.

I picked her up, shoved her into the pocket of my shorts, and ran to the overgrown mess in the corner of the yard.  A small hole–tunnel?–opened up the middle of the thicket, just big enough for a skinny seven-year-old boy to crawl into.

Out of the hole, muffled, Morgan’s voice:  “Mom?  I can’t find you!”

I dropped to my knees like a rock and crawled partway into the hole.  “Morgan, baby, I’m here–can you hear me?”

“Mom?”  The inside of the thicket was dark, clearly not meant for me to crawl into, but my blind panic had turned into laser focus on my kid, my boy, so I shoved my way through the holly thorns and poison oak.

“Morgan, tell me if you can hear me,” I called.

“I hear you, Mom!”

The fuck kind of Doctor Who bullshit was going on in here?  There was no way this mess was big enough that I shouldn’t be right on top of him.  Fucking magic ghost monster fuckery.  Probably magick spelled with a ‘k.’

“Morgan, baby, follow my voice, sweetheart.”  And who the fuck was that, because it was for sure not me.

“Mom?”  Morgan sounded uncertain.  Probably because I’d never called him sweetheart.

“That wasn’t me, Morgan.  Follow my voice.”  Even as I said it, I knew it wasn’t helpful.

Then I saw the light.  Far away, but light.  A figure silhouetted in front of it that could be me.  Or not.

“Mom!” Morgan shouted–I still couldn’t see him, but I knew.  Light is “good;” dark is “bad;” we instinctively head to where we can see.  I heard him moving.

“Morgan, no, not the light, Mommy’s not in there–I’m in the dark, boyo, can you come to me?”  He didn’t respond.  I could hear … my voice, but not my voice–and no words, just the sound, so if I couldn’t make out what it was saying but Morgan could, it meant he was closer to her than to me; I cracked open like an egg and started babbling:

“Morgan.  Morgan Harwood Banks–I named you after my grandfather; you didn’t get to meet him but you smile like him!  You like yogurt raisins, but not yogurt or plain raisins or raisins dumped in yogurt!  You haven’t finished Castle Hangnail, but Pins is your favorite character and you want Ursula Vernon to make a stuffed version.”  Brush rustled, coming closer maybe?  Not my voice–less like my voice–raised, angry, but I didn’t dare stop talking to listen better, even as I crossed all my fingers and toes.  “You have, like, a gazillion stuffed guys!  There’s Mike and Maggie, who are best friends even though he’s a dinosaur and she’s a rabbit.  Pancake Man is always in charge when you go to Dad’s–he’s a giant pancake with a face and legs and arms.  You have a cheetah you named Spot Clean because you got food on him right after Granny bought him for you and I said we could spot clean him.  Dad got you an iguana named Torque Jamiroquai and he’s part of an acid jazz band.  He’s been smooching on Sadie Cat!”

“Mom!”  I heard him.   Not shouting.  This was Morgan’s “trying not to freak out” voice, usually reserved for alerting me to wasps or spiders in his room.  “Mom.  Keep. Talking.”  Closer.  Still could not see jack.  “Please.”

Please almost broke me again.  But.  Fuck, and I cannot emphasize this enough, that shit.

“Your most special guy is Parker.  He’s a raccoon.  Everybody thinks you named him after Peter Parker, but he’s actually named after your favorite character on Leverage. I still don’t know how you found Leverage, kid, but Parker the raccoon is basically Leverage Parker in a raccoon suit, he gets into so much mischief, he hotwired a school bus once to go visit you at school–”

A small hand smacked blindly onto my knee.

I reached out, grabbed a pair of skinny, delicate shoulders, and heaved Morgan into my lap.

Mommy,” he sighed, hard and shuddering, wrapping his arms and legs around me.

“I got you, baby.  I got you.”

Something screamed.  Like an eagle, a banshee, a tornado.  I tightened my grip on Morgan.  “Baby koala it, okay?” I murmured to him.

“Okay.”

It was hard to move backward, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to move forward toward that sound.  I shoved, pushed, and crawled backward until my back hit brush like a wall behind me.  I could still barely see anything.  Morgan whimpered into my neck.  I tried to stand up, but the brush over me was as unyielding as what was behind me.  Like a jungle of concrete.

The tunnel contracted with a whispery creaking under the screaming; thorns, branches, leaves slid over my shoulders, my scalp.  I felt them along my thighs and wrists.  One branch brushed my neck and curved around my throat.

I sat, frozen.  What the fuck did I do, now?  I had to think of something; I’d been thinking of somethings all night, so any second now, I would think of another something …

The cold crashed over us like–I dunno, like a transformer blowing after dark, a bang and then you’re blinking in the darkness; just —cold–and a muffled cut-off shriek, and then me blinking ice off my lashes.  Me shifting my weight–our weight–and the broken glass chiming of flash-frozen vegetation crumbling around us.

“Woulou?” Morgan whispered as I stood up, shattering ice-branches.  I backed away from the pile of scrub, kicking at it  it as I went, Morgan hanging onto me and calling “Woulou?” as the air warmed.

***

I put Morgan down right inside his window.

“Mom?” he asked when I didn’t immediately climb inside.

“I need you to go get the big container of salt,” I told him.  “Bring it to the window.  Don’t come back into the yard, just yell to me.”

“Okay,” he said, and disappeared into the house.  I heard him calling for Woulou as he went.

I turned back to the yard.  Ice fell out of my hair when I ran my hand through it.

When Morgan returned with the salt, I took it to the corner.  I kicked and stomped  all the frozen plants to splinters.  I climbed the fence and crushed the punk tree and the Florida holly.

I dumped salt all over everything.

I found a hole just inside the fence.  I poured the remaining salt into it.  The next day I’d buy the salt pellets you use in a water softener, the big 10lb bags, and fill it in with them.

But first, after I’d done what I could, I went back to my baby, who watched me from the window.  I climbed inside and shut it tight.  I got Old Mrs. Bones out of my pocket and put her in the mending basket, tracked Parker down in my room, and the three of us piled onto the couch to watch Leverage until Morgan fell asleep.

It was too hot–Morgan was his usual heater self–and I didn’t sleep at all.  Both Parkers were decent company, but I wondered about Woulou.

***

I forgot the lawn guy.

He had a cancellation.  Showed up two days later–in a truck that had an “eat the rich” bumper sticker, which  almost made up for “baby girl”–and poked around with his shovel in the remains of the jungle.  The rest of the yard was completely untouched.  Even the fence remained unscathed.

“Haunted, huh?” he asked, eyebrows up into the brim of his trucker cap.

“Ayup.”  I tried not to scratch at the poison oak rash all over my arms and neck.  The swelling in my face had gone down a lot.  Morgan had been spared the worst of it, thankfully.

Joe from O’Reilly’s Discount Lawn Care didn’t even charge me for coming out.  Just raked up what was left of the plant life and told me he’d have it all burned.

“Woulou can’t be dead,” Morgan reasoned that night over dinner.  “He’s a ghost.  He already died once, so he can’t die again.”

“Maybe he moved on,” I said.  “That’s what ghosts are supposed to do.”

Morgan sighed.  “I miss him.”

“Me too, buddy.”

***

I kept Morgan home from school for a couple of days to recover and stayed home a couple more myself because of my face.  The house remained warm, cooled by nothing more than the AC.

Morgan wasn’t sure what he wanted to tell Paul.  He didn’t want to tell me everything, either–he said he noticed his window was open.  He went to shut it so “we wouldn’t have a giant electric bill and have to pawn all my guys” and saw Old Mrs. Bones outside.  When he climbed out, he heard a voice that sounded like mine calling his name, but it sounded weird.  “I thought you were hurt and that was why you sounded funny.”

He wouldn’t talk about what happened in the thicket.  Nothing past, “She never touched me.  She just … talked.”

He dreamed about it, though.  The first couple of nights after he stayed in my room, but even after he decided it was okay to sleep in his pwn bed again I was up at least once a night to soothe him out of nightmares.   I was trying not to push him too hard to talk, but I was still pushing a little.  It was hard to tell what he didn’t want to talk about versus what he might not have vocabulary for yet.  Hell, I wasn’t sure I had the vocabulary for it.

But it was Paul’s weekend, and we were in the car on the way to school, so decisions had to be made.  “Maybe just that I got stuck in the brush,” Morgan said.  “And you got me out.  And I was scared.  But not about her.  Or Woulou.”

I pulled to a stop at the red light just before the school entrance.  “You can tell Dad whatever you want to.  All of it, some of it, whatever.  Same as me and Gran and Grandad and Grammie and Papa.  You can talk to any of us as much as you need to, baby.”

He didn’t reply as the light changed.  Then, as we waited to pull up to the drop-off circle, he asked, “Mom?”

“Yeah?”

“Thanks.  For coming to get me.  And knowing … everything.  You know?”

I couldn’t pull over or park–it was parent drop-off; there were kids everywhere.  So I reached over and grabbed his hand, squeezing hard.  “You don’t have to thank me for that.  You get lost, I come find you.  That’s the deal.  But … you are welcome, Morgan.  Thank you for trusting me and coming back to me.”  I pulled up to the curb.

He squeezed my hand back.  “Don’t worry, Mom, I’ll always come back.  Even when I go to college.  For Christmas and laundry and when you make mac and cheese, and sometimes just to visit.”

The little brat then got out of the car and left me there, teary-eyed, watching his backpack bounce up and down as he walked off to his classroom.

***

So I of course stopped at the grocery store after work to get sharp cheese and elbow noodles.  I’d make mac and cheese for Sunday night when Morgan got home.  I put the box and the cheese away as I pondered what I’d have for dinner tonight.  Scrambled eggs?  Microwave pizza?

Something flickered at the corner of my eye.

I turned.

The lights in Morgan’s room flashed once.  Twice.  Then the TV turned on.

“Woulou?”

The living room lights flicked on, then off.  And the entire house got cooler by about five degrees.

I grabbed my phone from the counter and pulled up Paul’s number.  “So, Spider-Man 3 tonight?” I shouted  into the living room, hitting “make call” on my screen.  The lights flickered again as I waited for Paul to pick up and put Morgan on the phone.


copyright 2020 by Laura E. Price.  Feel free to link to this story–signal boosting is welcome!–but please don’t reproduce it without permission.