Black Petals Issue #80, Summer, 2017

The Bugbear in the Darksome Chamber
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Mars-News, Views and Commentary
Andrew's War-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Down at the Hardware Store-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Excision-Fiction by Paul Strickland
Rise-Fiction by Mike Mulvihill
Surviving Montezuma, Chapters 9 & 10-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
The Bugbear in the Darksome Chamber-Fiction by Charles C. Cole
The Critter in the Tin-Fiction By K. B. Updike Jr.
Bondegezu, Tree Kangaroo and 3 other poems by Richard Stevenson

Fiction by Charles C. Cole

bugbear.jpg

The Bugbear in the Darksome Chamber

By Charles C. Cole

All things have their place.

 

 

 

Transitions require mindful accommodation, at which I’m notoriously poor. Ask anyone. When my mother died, the task of emptying and selling her home fell to me. To be painfully honest, I hadn't visited home in a couple of years, not since she’d moved into an assisted living facility where she rather swiftly lost her memory of me, and then her mind. Poor dear!

 I loved my mother and saw that she was well taken care of until the end, but I never had the stomach to see her decline, not up close in person. I respected her too much to replace my near-perfect memory of her in her prime: an elegant real estate “engine” in a floral sundress with perfect hair, always smiling and composed.

        My father, a warehouse foreman and Maine guide, on the other hand, when his time came, thanks to aggressive prostate cancer, assiduously and bravely cut short the ugliness of ill-health and limited the demands on me and my mother by blowing his brains out in our barn. The floorboards there were loosely assembled, still are, and I always wondered if a little bit of his DNA managed to drip out of sight, so that his presence would always remain on the farm, even if future owners knocked down the old buildings.

 One day, before I began loading the rented dumpster, I was meeting an auctioneer to go room by room, tagging items for an estate sale. I unlocked the front door and opened it wide, letting the fresh air in, then sat in the porch swing and waited, duteously. There was a slight wind, but I was still surprised when a door slammed shut inside. I decided to investigate and, if needed, prop the doors open.

 I discovered the upstairs bathroom door shut and the screen-free window behind it open, causing a mischievous draft. Mom had believed in leaving windows ajar “for fresh air” all year around. Feeling a little guilty, I closed the window. I turned to the mirror and saw my father’s face. In my own house, it would have been my face, but in this context, someone else obviously had the right of first refusal.

The house was a saltbox, which led to the upstairs bedrooms, mine included, sharing a knee wall, meaning the roof sloped down steeply and the front wall was only about three feet tall. Hopefully, you can picture what I mean, or look it up on the internet.

There was a tiny door to a storage space that ran the entire length of the house. As a teen, I resented not being able to stand up “everywhere” in my room, only having one small window (facing the side of the house), and having my bed squished under the low ceiling. Fortunately, I rarely entertained company.

The tiny door was just two pieces of stained, hinged plywood, held closed by a galvanized twenty-penny nail pushed through a simple steel hasp: simple, but effective.

When we’d first moved in, I’d been a small child, and thought the door was small because it was proportional to the occupant living on the other side, the bugbear. A little imagination in the wrong hands can be dangerous.

We had an oak tree out front and more than once found squirrels in the house. Mom would chase them back out while I held the door open. So there could have been squirrels living behind the door, sneaking in through a hole in the eaves, but I was never interested in crawling around to find out. 

My father’s mother first told me about the bugbear. It was her term for the bogeyman. Being a child, I took her literally. I envisioned something that looked like a feral teddy bear, a miniature Sasquatch. Before we moved in, the house had been empty for over a year. Nana said that’s when the bugbear probably moved in. Bugbears were squatters, opportunists. They were also stubborn, resisting moving on, even after humans took up residence.

My father, clever man, once built me a dollhouse designed to look like our home. I think he’d been feeling guilty about making me move away from my friends. In truth, I was a bit old for a dollhouse, though it was cool when (for a while) I used my toy “domesticated” dinosaurs as a corrupted version of our family.

Then Dad got sick. While I was reading horror novels in bed (it could be worse, right?), he’d stand at my door and stare, silently, at the dollhouse, like I’d hurt his feelings by not playing with it enough. So I did something I rarely did: after he left, I opened the little door. I tucked the dollhouse out of sight, into the storage area, the darksome chamber. And that’s where it sat for years.

The time had come. I had one last chance to explore the past. I removed the familiar twenty-penny nail and opened the door. The dollhouse was amazing, more decorated than I remembered, fully furnished, with tiny clothes hanging in miniature closets. I even thought I smelled food “cooking” in the tiny oven. Everything looked perfect. When had Dad done all that? Or was a bugbear actually living there?

The tiny clothes in one of the tiny closets shook like someone had just ducked behind them. I gasped, quickly closed the door, and replaced the nail in the hasp. I’d seen enough. Why should my transition demand “their” transition? I slid my bed to hide the door and went back outside.

Before I sold the house, I sealed up the little door and wallpapered the room. The bugbears, if they’re real, could remain undisturbed for a while yet.

As for the darksome chamber, I realized (after much therapy) that was something I carry inside me, from house to house, relationship to relationship. I’m still afraid to look closely, but I’m no longer keeping it locked up. Maybe one day, I’ll uncover something else compelling, something else my father left behind. Maybe.

 

The End

 

 

Charlie C. Cole, charlie_c_cole@yahoo.com, wrote BP #80’s “The Bugbear…”(+ BP #75’s “The Boxlike Object”; BP #74’s “The Kilkenny Man”; BP #73’s “Please Remember Me”; BP #71’s “Pioneer Justice…”;  BP #70’s “Deep Time Salvage” and “The Substitute Husbands”; BP #69’s featured “Cosmic Bull’s-eye,” “Midas & Medusa,” “The Return of the King,” and “The Second Mrs. Brindle”;  BP #68’s “Ice Dreams,” “Lady of the Lake,” “Methuselah,” & “The Tenant Inside Me”; BP #67’s featured “The Far,” “The Telesthesians,” & “Transmigration”; BP #66’s featured “The Subtle Hydropathist,” “The Cruel Season,” & “Wet Coriander”; BP #65’s “Performance Art”; BP #64’s “Calendula and the Other Man,” “Holiday Greetings from the Witness Protection Program,” “The Last Day of the Ugly Man,” and “The Monkey Who Talked Too Much”; BP #63’s featured “Mirror Twins,” “Remembering Hyperopiac-Man!”, “Rules for Civil Disengagement,” and “The Rug Man”; BP #60’s “Larva Speaks” and “Personal Contact”). He loved his undergraduate years at a small, rural Maine college where he could concentrate on “being a writer” (and magazine editor). In the summer of 2011, he “awoke” much older when he noticed the internet had made publishing so much more accessible. He lives with his family in Maine on land once owned by his great-great grandfather. He is previously published in alongstoryshort, bewilderingstories, The Blue Crow, The Sandy River Review, and The Café Review.

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