Something After Saturday – a short story

Way back in 2001 Cullen Bunn purchased a short creepy story of mine for his horror fiction journal WHISPERS FROM A SHATTERED FORUM (Issue #6)

I know the cover is pretty rinky-tink and it was printed on something that was most likely a cross between a Gestetner, a photocopy machine, and a stone tablet with a chisel. That was the small press back then. Folks built these magazines and journals in their garage or their basement or in an empty birdcage. I was still pleased and proud to be a part of this cool journal – and the editor/publisher Cullen Bunn has gone on to comic books – anyone heard of THE SIXTH GUN?

Well, I’ve always been fond of that story and I keep meaning to reprint it – but a good buddy of mine by the name of Stephen Lowe asked me if I could help him with a “Writing For the Web” course that he was taking from Algonquin College. He asked if I had a short story that he could link to from his school blog and Twitter feed and I immediately thought of this one.

Even though this isn’t particularly set during the Halloween season it is still a VERY October-ish sort of a tale.

So give a read and let me know what you think of it.


Something After Saturday
Steve Vernon

I think it’s Sunday, or at least the tattered chunk of calendar that Daddy tacked up on my bedroom wall says it is. I’m writing this down because old Ben the plow horse kicked me today and Daddy says I’m going to be in bed for a while and I need to fret the time away.

I guess old Ben kicked me because I was standing where I shouldn’t have been, right behind his right behind. I can still see his hoof, about as wide as Daddy’s big old manure shovel heading at me quicker than I can think about it. I tried to duck, but I guess some things are just too big and strong to get away from.

Daddy says he guesses it’s a good thing that old Ben didn’t break his leg or we wouldn’t be able to plow the fields come spring.

We can’t afford a doctor, but Daddy says I’ll be just fine. He made a poultice out of spirit turpentine and brown sugar to staunch the bleeding, and he spoke the sixth verse of the sixteenth chapter of Ezekiel six times over the wound. Then he made a cast out of red clay mixed with spring water, and tied my leg straight with a couple pieces of hickory; the straightest and strongest he could find, because Daddy says a branch will grow as the tree wills it, and whatever grows around you will make you just like it started out to be.

He says that the hickory will only make me stronger.

Daddy says that I have just broken a bone, and that I’ll have to stay in bed for a couple of weeks to see if it will heal. I sure hope it does, because I know what I’ll have to do if I don’t get better soon.

Even still it’s kind of fun staying indoors. I get to be invisible if I stay quiet long enough. I try not to even breathe. I just lie here and listen to the creaking squeaking sing-song of Granny’s gray willow rocking chair.

*

It’s Monday, according to the calendar, and my leg still doesn’t feel any better, but I tell Daddy that it feels just fine. I don’t want him to think that I’m getting as bad as he says Granny is getting.

He says Granny is getting too old to be of any real use around here. He says she’s been seeing visions, things that nobody else can see. I just figure it’s Granny trying out the new pair of eyes that God or whoever else is waiting for her to come, and has made for her to wear when she’s done down here. The eyes that will let her see her way into heaven or wherever else there is, when Granny finally has to go.

Daddy says that Granny’s been singing in her sleep. Now I want to know what’s wrong with that? Lots of people sing, and it always cheers me up to hear it even if the person isn’t a very good singer. If Granny sings in the night , maybe it just keeps the bad dreams away. Except Daddy doesn’t like some of the names in the songs that she’s been singing. I don’t think he likes the feel of the words she calls upon when she sings, and I don’t think he likes the way she sings it.

Daddy says that he thinks Granny’s leaving is for her own good. He says he thinks it’s for everybody’s good.

You want to know what I think? I think Granny just makes Daddy nervous. I think he doesn’t like the way she smiles to herself the whole long day.

Nobody asks Granny, but I think she’d agree with me. She doesn’t talk to anyone any more, although we all know she’s always listening.

I’d like to ask Granny what she thinks about all of this, but I’ve got troubles enough of my own. I got to get myself better before Daddy starts talking about what he thinks is for my own good.

I guess today is Tuesday. Granny’s is still not talking. She just sits by the fire and rocking her gray willow rocking chair. Daddy says she was mumbling. Daddy says she threw something into the fire and then something spoke back to her from somewhere below the coals. I don’t rightly know what would make a fire talk to you, more than maybe the fire’s usual “crackle-warm-crackle” or maybe the occasional “more wood”, but Granny’s been known to hear voices in the strangest of places.

Daddy also says that Granny’s starting to smell funny. He’s right on that last count, but you know I kind of like the way that Granny smells. It kind of reminds me of root cellars and dead leaves and big fat mushrooms growing way down in the dark.

Ma doesn’t say anything against what Daddy says. She use to argue with him some times, and then he’d get going on to one of his dark spells, and she’d get quiet if she knew what was good for her. Most likely because she doesn’t want to end up where Granny is going to be going.

Daddy has made up his mind about Granny. Actually he decided a long time ago. I think back when Granny first came to live with us was when Daddy make up his mind. It seemed he just never took to Granny’s ways.

Daddy says enough is enough, and we all know what that means whenever Daddy says it.

Sometimes I think that Daddy is like the fire, and we all are just chunks of piney knotwood, ready for the burning.

*

Today is Wednesday, and we had to send Granny away. Daddy says it’s for her own good.

Daddy sent her out this morning. I’ve been watching her from my window. I think Ma is watching her too, but she don’t say a thing if she is or not.

I guess there’s not much else to do, with all the menfolk out there in the fields. I keep watching Franny, seeing what she’ll do.

She’s been good about it so far. She only tried to come back once. May wouldn’t open up the door, probably because of what Daddy might say, so Granny went back out on to the hill.

Ma swept Granny’s muddy boot prints off of the front porch, so Daddy wouldn’t see them. I know she’s worried about one of Daddy’s black spells.

Tonight I watch the stars and count them, and I count the fire flies that dance around them, and sometimes I think I see Granny staring into the cabin with eyes as big and bright as tow of the biggest fire flies you ever saw. The moon was full last night, I swear it was, but tonight it’s gone away, like it was afraid of something it might see.

I think it’s afraid of Granny.

I tell myself it’s just the clouds getting in the way, although the sky was as clear as good well water all week long. For a while I tried pretending that the moon was still out there, hanging over our quiet little valley, cut then in my imagination the moon that I was pretending to see stared to look like Granny’s left eye.

At least I hope it was my imagination.

*

It’s Thursday, and I think my leg is feeling better, but Daddy says he isn’t so sure about that. I’m not so sure about what Daddy says. I think Daddy sees a little too much of Granny in me for his liking.

I can still see Granny, standing out there on her hill. The men walk past her, like she isn’t even there, and I want to shout out, to them to watch where they’re going but then I think about what Daddy might say about my leg, and I keep my peace.

Still and all, even when they try to ignore Granny they make it a point to walk way, way around her, like she was a patch of quicksand, or maybe a rabid dog.
Granny spent the day in the high hill meadow. Every time I look up she’s there, and I think she’s looking back at me, and I wonder what she’s thinking about.

Daddy says she won’t make it through the night. We’ll find her up there in the morning, he says, and then we can bury her. Ashes to ashes, and dirt to dirt; dead is as good as gone.

I sure hope my bone heals soon.

*

Friday, the calendar says, and Granny is still out there, still staring at the house. She’s starting to look like an old lightning blasted pine tree, all black and shadowy. This morning I saw her talking to a big old screech owl, perched right on her shoulder. I didn’t think screech owls come out by day, but you never can tell with Granny.

Daddy can’t believe that Granny’s made it through another night. It was cold last night, and the wind whistled like a mocking-bird singing for a supper of souls. Granny is hard to kill, I guess. Grandpa was too. He lasted nearly three days, before he finally lay down and let go.

I figure she must be eating berries and drinking creek water by moonlight. May be the owl is bringing her things to eat.

I think the cold is beginning to get to her, though. I’ve been watching her out there, and she’s starting to act strange. Laying stick and stones in different patterns, all across the high hill meadow, just like she was a little child.

Watching her up there on the high hill meadow, dragging those dead limbs and rotted boulders about reminds me of the time I spent a whole morning watching a big old barn spider spinning a fly web.

I wonder what Granny’s trying to catch?

It’s Saturday and Ma just pulled the drapes shut on the window, like there was something out there she didn’t like me to see. I don’t think she likes watching Granny anymore. I don’t even know if I do anymore. I keep thinking that I’m next, that Daddy wants everybody out of the house, except for Ma. Then he’ll have her all to himself.

I think that’s what he really wants.

Still, I open the curtains after Ma goes out to the field. Granny is still out there, still making her designs, and sometimes if I stare hard enough I can see the high hill meadow moving under her sticks and stones like a big old house cat moving when you scratch its fur just the right way.

The old milk cow just laid down in the pasture. It means that rain is coming on, a real frog drowning kind of rain. Daddy says that will be the end of Granny for sure.

*
It’s another day, only there weren’t more than seven days on the piece of calendar Daddy gave me, so I can’t say what comes after Saturday. Daddy says you just start it all over again; you just swing back to Sunday, but I can’t believe that’s so.

There must be something after Saturday.

So I guess it’s the day after Saturday, and Granny can’t last much longer, It rained last night and all today and the dandelions are popping open their umbrellas all through the woods except up there on the high hill meadow where Granny is.

She’s lying out there on the hillside, her face buried down in the dirt like she was talking to it. I can see her move every now and then, so I know she’s still alive. She sort of scuttles around the hillside, moving all quick and angly like some kind of person turned scuttlebeetle.

I guess she’s just dying now. I guess she’s just taking her time and dying real slow. Won’t be long now, Daddy says. He says it like he’s waiting for his supper and he doesn’t want to think about his waiting.

It won’t be long now.

The rain clouds look darker than ever and it don’t look like it’s ever going to stop.

*

It’s the day after the day after Saturday and Granny hasn’t moved all morning.

She’s dead I think, but Daddy isn’t too sure about that. He says he’ll check her body tomorrow. Give her a day of rest, he said. Just to be sure.

I think he’s just scared, and I don’t know if I blame him.

Ma doesn’t say a thing at all. She just sits there in Granny’s gray willow rocker, rocking and humming to herself, and staring after Granny.

*

It’s the day after the day after the day after Saturday and the menfolk dug a grave and buried Granny right where she fell. The funeral was real pretty, Daddy carved a name board and Ma sang Amazing Grace. Daddy let me open my window, so I could listen.

The funny thing was, while Ma was singing, I swore I could hear Granny singing right behind her, like the wind singing behind the hills.

Just my imagination I guess. Daddy always told me I was a little too good at seeing and hearing things that weren’t supposed to be there.

It’s all of my fingers but not my thumb after Saturday and Daddy fell and broke his leg today. It was the strangest thing I ever saw. He was walking up the high hill meadow, moving out towards the fields and he tripped and fell over one of Granny’s stick patterns.

Daddy swears it reached out and tripped him. I want to tell him that it’s only sticks and stones, and didn’t he tell me once that sticks and stones will never hurt you?

Except I saw the stick swing up by itself and hit him a spiteful lick on the shin while he was laying there, catching his leg between the ground and a chunk of rock, like a blacksmith will catch a horse shoe on the anvil.

I heard the snap of bone, clear up at my window.

I hope Daddy gets better soon.

Even if he’s mostly mean, I don’t know what me and Ma would do if Daddy had to go away.

*

It’s all my fingers and even my thumb after Saturday and the sun didn’t shine in our valley all day long. Daddy called it an eclipse. He said it happens all the time. I wanted to get Ma to check the almanac but Daddy had torn today’s page out and burned it in the fire. Then he’d yelled at the fire, like it had called him a name.

Ma isn’t saying much today, anyway. She just sits in Granny’s old gray willow rocker, singing and humming to herself and now when she sings I know I can hear Granny coming on back.

*

It’s long past Saturday. Granny came back last night. She’s sitting in her gray willow rocker, just rocking away like she’ll never stop. I don’t think the house will ever be the same. I sure know it won’t ever smell the same, no matter how much sweetgrass Ma burns in the fire.

Ma seems happy though. She didn’t even bother sweeping the grave hole mud away.

And Daddy’s made himself a crutch.

I wonder where he thinks he’s going?

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

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8 responses to “Something After Saturday – a short story

  1. Great story nicely told Steve. Not a valley I think I want to visit.

    Like

  2. Marvellous story, Mr Vernon!

    Like

  3. Mwah hahahargh! That’s brilliant. Laura Ingalls Wilder horribly twisted. Loved it.

    Cheers

    MTM

    Like

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