Let it out, dummy!
They won’t know it’s your first day teaching. No one’s told them; no one tells children anything. They just know they’re getting a new teacher. Not a new new teacher.
Another deep breath.
Let it out, you idiot! God!
Children can smell fear. Be calm. Be cool. Don’t sweat through your blouse. Please, God, don’t sweat through your blouse.
You enter your new classroom. “Good morning, class!”
That was great. Bright, sunny. You totally nailed that.
“Good morning, Miss Pembrooke!” the students answer in unison. The vice principal had written your name on the white board. Good good good.
There is an apple on your desk. Like something out of Leave it to Beaver or The Andy Griffith Show. And you were worried. Unless, of course, it’s a wax apple. Or a rotten one with a worm inside. Or perhaps they went old school Snow White and just plan to murder you out right.
Don’t be paranoid. It’s a nice shiny apple. No worms. Please, God, no worms.
Also on your desk is the class attendance sheet. Another gift from the vice principal. You pick it up and look at your new students. So young. So sweet. They can still smell fear, so keep it together.
You read the first name. “Melissica Andrews?” Melissica? Really?
A young girl with black pigtails says, “Here!”
“Axl Beechum?” Wow. Who would name their kid Axl?
A heavyset boy with freckles answers, “Here.” The boy, you must admit, looks like an Axl. Like how people named Ralph always look like they should be named Ralph.
“Adolf Burton?” Must have been a family name. Promise to a dying great grandfather or something.
A scrawny boy in the back says, “Here.”
“Candy … Cane?” Oh, come on.
“Here!” a girl with a squeaky voice says.
The next kid on the list. “Adolf!? Adolf Dahmer.”
“Here,” a boy with blonde hair says.
“You expect me to believe your parents, Mr. and Mrs. Dahmer, named you Adolf, Adolf? That there is not one, but two Adolfs currently in my classroom?”
“Actually, there’s three of us,” says the Asian boy sitting next to Greg.
“Yeah. Right. And Axl? What, are your parents big Guns N’ Roses fans?”
“Whoa,” Axl says, eyes wide. “How did you know that?”
“This is all a big joke, isn’t it? ‘Let’s give the new teacher a fake attendance list and make her look like a moron during roll call. It will be hilarious!’ Well, it won’t seem so funny when you all have to stay after school!”
“But, Miss Pembrooke,” Melissica says, “those really are our names.”
“Get real, Melissica. Great choice on a stupid name, by the way.”
“Quiet, Hitler,” you say, turning to the squeaky voiced girl. “And, Candy Cane? If that’s your name, then I’m sorry to say your parents hate you. Like a lot.”
Candy starts crying. You begin to sweat.
He told me to make him a sandwich.
Things I found in his kitchen: a loaf of old, white bread, an onion with a shoot growing from its top, an almost empty bottle of mustard that made a farting noise when squeezed, and a smelly garbage can.
Things I did not find in his kitchen: luncheon meat, lettuce, tomatoes, eggs, cheese of any kind, peanut butter, jelly–slash–jam, or bacon.
So I had to improvise.
The first step was getting his razor from the bathroom. No matter what cut of meat I chose, it would have to be shaved before cooking it. I waffled between thigh or belly, but finally decided on belly. It looked juicier. Or at least fatter. It was also marginally less hairy, so that was a plus.
Next, I toasted some bread. This was to hide its staleness. Then, I fried the freshly shaved meat. I seasoned it with his dandruff. This was achieved by shaking his head directly over the skillet. I personally took the skillet to the head, but you might prefer taking the head to the skillet.
After that, I plucked and mashed one of his eyeballs. I mixed this with the mustard for a nice tangy spread. In place of a lettuce leaf, I draped his tongue over the meat. I topped this with five toenails for some added crunch.
A toothpick through his severed penis helped hold the sandwich all in place. I left the meal on the kitchen table for his roommate to enjoy.
He told me to make him a sandwich. So I did.
That’s when the monster grabbed her.
“See? There’s no monster under the bed.” Sarah clicked off the flashlight.
Sarah clicked on the flashlight and crouched down. She lifted the covers and swept the flashlight beam back and forth beneath the bed. Empty. #toldyou
Benjamin handed Sarah his flashlight. “But you can’t see it in the light,” he insisted. #logicfail
“Benjamin, there isn’t a monster under your bed. Hand me your flashlight and I’ll prove it.” #famouslastwords
“I’m going to murder you,” Benjamin said. “I’m going to use your intestines to skip rope and then eat the rest of you. I’m hungry. So hungry.”
“It said the most horrible things.”
Sarah sighed. #notnearlyenough
Blinking in the sudden light, Benjamin said, “It spoke to me!” He was sitting up in bed, wrapped in blankets. He held a flashlight in unsteady hands.
Sarah switched on the overhead light. “Seriously? I’d rather you had just wet the bed.” #notbeingpaidenoughforthis
“I didn’t wet the bed, Miss Slate. I am not a future serial killer. The problem, Miss Slate, is the creature that is, right this very moment, under my bed.”
“Tell me you didn’t wet the bed,” Sarah said, opening the bedroom door.
He had better not have wet the bed. He was way too old for that. Unless he was a future serial killer. Sarah climbed the stairs. Benjamin’s bedroom door was closed.
“Nothing is on fire, but it’s an emergency,” Benjamin peeped. “I swear!”
Sarah went to the foot of the stairs. “That’s an awful lot of peeping, Benjamin. Are you on fire?”
“Miss Slate! Miss Slate! I require your assistance!” #thiskid
Sarah was downstairs watching TV (a show about hunting for the ghost of Bigfoot) when Benjamin began screaming her name.
“Go to sleep, Benjamin,” Sarah said, rolling her eyes. “I don’t want to hear another peep out of you.”
Benjamin came out of the bathroom and called down the stairs, “Goodnight, Miss Slate. It was a pleasure being babysat by you.”
Benjamin went into the bathroom and brushed and flossed his teeth.
“Fine. I don’t care what you do with your teeth.”
“Of course, Miss Slate,” Benjamin said. “I will also floss.”
“Brush your teeth,” she told him.
They ate dinner. Benjamin complained about it. They did homework. Sarah complained about it. Then it was time for bed.
Sarah ordered pizza. #oops #sorry #notsorry
“I’d prefer Chinese!” he called, as he went upstairs to change.
“Pizza? And go change out of those clothes.” #notdoinglaundry
“Hello, Miss Slate.” #ugh
“Hello, Benjamin.” #twerp
Benjamin Finkle was sitting on the couch, hands folded in his lap. He was still in his school uniform, the tie undone. It made him look like a very small businessman.
Sarah watched the taillights fade before entering the house.
With a wave, and another toot of the horn, the Finkles drove away.
Mrs. Finkle fastened her seat belt. “We’ll be home by midnight. I’ve left some money on the counter so you can order dinner.” #pizza
Sarah grabbed her backpack. “About what time will you be back?”
Sarah got out of the van so Mrs. Finkle could get in. Mr. Finkle told her not to forget her backpack.
“I guess I shouldn’t have turned it off,” said Mr. Finkle, starting the engine.
He turned off the engine. Mrs. Finkle was already coming out the front door.
“We’re here!” he said, just like he did every time Sarah babysat for them. #suchadork #runsinthefamily
Sarah fastened her seat belt. Mr. Finkle drove them to the Finkles’ house and pulled into their driveway.
“We’re not leaving until you fasten your seat belt,” said Mr. Finkle.
“That’s what people keep telling me,” Sarah said, opening the van’s passenger door. She tossed her bag in the back and got in.
Mr. Finkle drove up in the family van, tooting the horn. “Hello, Sarah,” he called out the window. “Thanks for doing this on such short notice. You’re a lifesaver!”
Sarah grabbed her backpack and sat on the porch swing to wait for Mr. Finkle.
“Okay, I’ll just grab my backpack and wait for him on the porch.” #homework
“Mr. Finkle will be right over to pick you up. You’re a lifesaver, my darling. A lifesaver, I say!”
Called it, thought Sarah. “Yes, I’m free tonight, Mrs. Finkle.” #psychic
“Please tell me you’re free tonight! I need a babysitter for my precious little angel!”
Sarah sighed and answered the phone. She needed the money, even if she did hate precious little Benjamin Finkle. #fml
Sarah looked at the caller ID. It said Mrs. Finkle. She’d be wanting a babysitter for her precious little angel. #yuck
The telephone rang.
Send me a number:
1. What color of eyes did the cutest boy in school have?
2. Before today, do you think he knew your name?
3. Who are you kidding?
4. Do you think his girlfriend’s hair was naturally that color?
5. Are you stupid?
6. Do you think he knew your nickname?
7. Trick question. Of course he did.
8. Do you remember how you got it, the nickname?
9. Trick question. Of course you do.
10. You can’t forget the class trip to the petting zoo. It was a billion million thousand years ago but you still can’t forget. Have you tried?
11. Trick question. Of course you tried.
12. It’s too late—but do you think you should have tried harder?
13. When you were bottle feeding that goat and that other one came up behind you and put its mouth right up your dress and grabbed your underwear and yanked—yanked them right off your seven-year old ass, yanked so hard you fell to the ground—what were you thinking?
14. Lying there in the dirt, surrounded by your classmates, was it, ‘This event will define the rest of my life,’?
15. Shouldn’t it have been?
16. Why did you piss yourself, there on the ground, as you watched the goat shake your underwear like a dog with a new toy?
17. Those little white underwear with WEDNESDAY WEDNESDAY WEDNESDAY written in pink curlicue letters across the seat, why did you wear them on a Thursday?
18. Was ‘Wet Wednesday’ really such a bad nickname?
19. Trick question. Of course it was.
20. So about the cutest boy in school: if you could ask him now, do you think he’d know your name?
21. His girlfriend, after you killed her, did you check to see if the carpet matched the drapes?
22. She was shaved wasn’t she?
23. When you took the cutest boy in school out to the woods where you buried his now ex, and told him what you did and how much you loved him, did he reciprocate your feelings?
24. How many times did you have to hit him with that tree limb to get him to stop screaming?
25. When he woke up, tied to that chair, and you took the duct tape off his mouth, what did he call you?
26. It was Wet Wednesday, wasn’t it?
27. Did you really have to hit him so hard?
28. Trick question. Of course you did.
29. Someone saw you trying to lug the unconscious cutest boy in school into your house didn’t they?
30. How else do you explain all those cops showing up, surrounding the place?
31. When you hung almost halfway out your bedroom window and shot at them with your shotgun, did you hit any of them?
32. What was that they were screaming through the megaphone? To come out with your hands up, like in the movies?
33. When you pressed the barrel of the revolver to the cutest boy in school’s forehead and told him how you had carefully etched his name and your name—your real name—onto both bullets, the one for him, and the one for you, do you think he appreciated the gesture?
34. Be honest, wasn’t the snot dripping from his nose while he begged and pleaded with you a little gross?
35. After you pulled the trigger, and the cops kicked in the front door and charged up the stairs making the whole house shake, did it feel like you had made a mistake?
36. Then why were you laughing?
37. Why were you laughing so hard you had to plug your mouth up with the gun?
38. How did it taste?
39. Were you scared at all?
40. Why did you pull the trigger?
Send me a number. I’ll answer honestly. Please. It’s so lonely in the dark.
This sounds really…dire. Even if I stopped writing, I wouldn’t delete this blog, so the stories will never be, uh, lost forever. Thank you for your concern, however.
That would be awesome! But highly, highly unlikely. Thanks for thinking it though.
(This ask is really old. I apologize for taking so long to answer it.)
It’s just like from that movie. You know the one. The one you just can’t believe they cast her to star in. What were they thinking? Had they wanted you to root for the monster?
That monster. It’s standing right in front of you. It’s lifting your date up, up, up and crunch. Straight to the center of the Tootsie Pop. No big loss. He was just telling you how everything is a rehash of a remake of a movie based off of a book inspired by true events. Like you haven’t heard that before. Could we have at least gotten seven feet from the theater?
The monster, all tentacles and fangs and far too many arms—lets go of your date. What’s left of him hits the sidewalk. Blood spurts from the stump of his neck. In the light of the marquee it looks fake and orange. Like someone stepped on a pizza roll.
The monster screams. Everyone coming out of the theater screams. And, then, you scream, because why not.
You don’t stick around. The monster is already grabbing other people. If it’s anything like its movie counterpart, it likes the chase. No one can ever outrun it, so big surprise there. You get under a car parked along the street. Your date drove you, so his keys are in the pocket of his pants that are slowly soaking up his blood. You wait.
Your view of stampeding feet is unobstructed. Boots, sandals, sneakers, and heels. None of them get far before being lifted up, legs twisting and kicking in the air, followed by that crunch. This monster likes heads. It lets the rest of the body fall to the pavement. Limbs, intact. Inner organs, untouched. The monster, it won’t be making tents or drums out of the hides. You can’t help thinking it’s more than a little wasteful.
The screaming stops. Everyone is either gone or dead. Except you and the monster. You can still hear it out on the street. A heavy wet sound, like a garbage bag full of spaghetti and meatballs being dragged around. It’s making a high-pitched thrumming noise you can feel through the ground you are lying on. Your teeth vibrate.
Then you see the little boy. He’s walking up the street towards this. All of this. He’s either dirty or bruised or both. The clothes he’s wearing are torn and too small for him. The boy stops in front of the monster and raises his arms in the universal symbol for Up. The monster thrums louder. It takes the child into its tentacles and arms and places him atop its shoulders.
The boy laughs and takes a small notepad from the pocket of his shorts. He begins sketching something, eyes squinted in concentration. Before the boy and his monster, a shape begins to take form. A large, catlike creature. Black-ink skin, with spikes and spines in all the improbable places. The pieces snap together in the air like building blocks.
Satisfied, the boy closes the notepad with a snap, and the new creature drops to the road. It looks exactly like that thing from that game you’ve never played, that’s based off that show everyone is so nuts over. The new monster throws back its far too long head and howls. It begins to sniff. The snuffling of a pig rooting for truffles. You have a sick feeling about what the truffles are in this situation.
The whole time you’ve been under the car, you’ve heard the drip drip dripping of oil. You search for the puddle and find it. You dab your fingers in, and start to draw in the dirt. You think about all the things that used to frighten you. The things that used to keep you up at night. From movies, from books, from half-remembered stories whispered to you at slumber parties. You put them together, transforming it all into your own original creation. Your very own monster. The ground shakes with its approaching footsteps.
Two can play this game.
Like so many times before, there once was a young girl who lived in a small village, in a small country, very far away from where you are reading this story.
This girl was very smart, very beautiful, but very lonely.
She made her living selling dirt to stupid people. She promised her customers that the dirt was very fertile and would return its cost tenfold through many bountiful harvests. This was not true, so she sold her dirt dirt cheap. But since there was no shortage of fools (no doubt due to the shortage of varied family trees in the area), she made a respectable living.
But selling dirt did not make for a very fulfilling life. Or much of one at all. The girl dreamed of something more, but knew, deep down, that she would never get it.
Then a strange man came to the village. He carried a small black camera that fit in the palm of his hand. It hardly made a sound as he snapped pictures of all the women in the village. Snap. Snap. Snap.
After taking their picture, he asked each woman to fill out some paper work. The form was over twelve pages long and had questions like:
Date of Birth?
Which Side of the Bed Do You Prefer?
Do You Like Having Your Hair Braided?
The man told the women that one day, someone may see their photo and want to meet them. To take them away from all of this. When he said this, he waved his arms, indicating that he meant the entire village or maybe the entire country.
The girl thought it was all very strange, but since she had already finished the day’s dirt harvesting, she let the man take her picture and filled out the funny survey. After getting photos of every unwed or unhappily wed woman in the village—the man left without a word.
The girl knew that it would be too good to be true, to be taken away from all of this, so she promptly forgot about the whole thing and went back to her dirt trafficking.
That is until, one year later, when the strange man returned. He told the girl that he had found a man that wanted to meet her. This man lived in a big city, in a big country, not too far from where you are reading this story. The girl would be this man’s bride.
His name was Art.
He was much taller than the girl, and looked like he had always had more than enough to eat at every meal. Art had the pale skin of one who doesn’t have to toil in the fields and the small, intelligent eyes of a bird that has an extensive vocabulary. His most prominent feature, however, was the luxuriant beard that began just beneath his first chin.
Art lived in a very large house in the middle of nowhere. He assured the girl that the place got excellent wi-fi, which was important for his work.
Art was something called a Let’s Player. He recorded himself talking while playing video games and posted the videos online for people to watch. The girl did not understand why people would do this instead of just playing the games for themselves, but considering her last job was selling dirt, she didn’t press the issue.
Also, it paid surprisingly well. He owned the house, the many acres it sat on, and a silver car that went very fast along the winding country roads.
They were wed. If the girl was not happy, she was at least happier than she used to be. Which, in her opinion, was more than enough.
Art’s days were spent in front of the television, playing video games, talking out loud to an empty room. His nights were spent in front of the computer, editing the day’s work and uploading it. The girl would try to sit with him when he recorded, but he told her that it distracted him. He told her to go entertain herself. That she had the whole rest of the house and grounds all to herself.
“Go nuts,” Art said. “But stay away from the spare room on the third floor.”
So she planted a garden. And she read the picture books in Art’s graphic novel library. And she used one of the many computers in the house to go online and watch her husband’s videos. It was nice hearing his voice, even if it was mostly just angry yelling.
And she stayed away from the spare room on the third floor. She often wondered what he might be keeping in the room, but thought better than to ask. Whenever Art mentioned the room, his eyes would grow distant and cold. The girl never saw her husband enter or leave the room. The door, locked with seven locks, stayed locked. Art wore the seven keys on a string around his neck, hidden behind his beard.
Time passed. With her new garden, the girl finally harvested something other than dirt. She used the vegetables in recipes she learned online. The girl forced her husband to sit down and eat dinner with her each night. Art liked her cooking, telling her it was almost as good as having something delivered.
One day, Art told his wife that he had to go away on a business trip to a big video game convention.
“I’d love to take you with me, but I bought my pass in advance and now they’re all sold out,” he said. “You’ll have more fun here than in a cramped motel room, anyway. Here, you’ll have the whole house and grounds to yourself.”
“Go nuts,” Art said. “But stay away from the spare room on the third floor.”
And she did—the first day.
That night she talked with Art online. He told her the trip was going great, but he missed her terribly and couldn’t wait to return home. She told him that she’d have a big dinner prepared for him when he arrived. The last thing he said before signing off was to stay away from the spare room on the third floor.
While preparing for bed, she found the necklace of keys. Art had left them on his side of the bed. They lay coiled like a snake on his pillow, the silver keys glinting in the moonlight. She put them in the pocket of her pajamas and went to sleep.
She awoke early the next day. The keys felt like a bomb waiting to go off. She wore them around her neck and could almost hear them ticking. She tried to keep herself busy, working in the garden, looking for new recipes for Art’s homecoming dinner, but as the day wore on, the ticking grew harder to ignore.
“Even if I don’t look in the room,” she thought, “when I give him back the keys, he’ll think I looked. So perhaps I should hide the necklace, and pretend I never found it.”
The girl ran her fingers across the seven cold keys hanging around her neck. “But if I look before I hide them, he’ll never know.”
She climbed the stairs.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
Each step she took towards the door, the louder the ticking became. Until, finally, standing outside the locked door of the spare room on the third floor, the keys seemed to vibrate with the sound.
TICK. TICK. TICK.
With shaking hands she took the keys from around her neck and unlocked the first lock. Then the second. The third. Until, finally, the seventh lock clicked open. The ticking stopped.
The late afternoon sun had faded, leaving the quiet house in shadows. All at once the girl felt very small and very lost. She opened the door.
In the room lay six long pillows with women drawn on them. Women with large eyes, larger breasts, and very small mouths. Each of the women looked like they had just awoken from a good dream, sheets and little else twisted around their twelve-year old sized bodies.
All the pillows had been stabbed several times. Ripped open. The women on the pillows were blushing, as if embarrassed by their stuffing leaking out onto the floor.
“You found my necklace,” Art said.
The girl jumped at the sound of his voice, dropping the keys. Art stood behind her in the doorway. His fedora almost brushed the top of the door frame.
“I’m sorry I had to lie about being away on business, but it was the only way I could test you. I thought you were going to be different. Different than them. Better.”
“I’m a nice guy,” he said, taking a long, curved blade from his pocket. “But I guess you’re not a very nice girl. Neither were any of them. Maybe my next wife will be.”
I’m not sure I always keep things interesting, but I keep things concise by knowing the ending of a story before I start writing it. I also usually know the beginning, too, so it’s really just a matter of connecting dots A and C in the shortest way possible*.
*That’s by bypassing dot B. Otherwise known as character development, atmosphere, subtext, and other silly stuff like that.