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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

ARt by Sean O'Keefe 2019


by Willie Smith


     I have this friend Spiral Face. He and I walk in the woods together. We also whisper conversations inside closets. Spiral Face is a wererat. Every new moon he grows scaly hair and a slinky tail shoots out of his butt. I don’t see any more of Spiral Face for the next three days. He’s too busy, during those days, eating the dead.

     He comes home when the moon barely makes a smile-face. On such occasions I at once make him brush his teeth, floss brutally and drink a cup of Listerine. I don’t want to kiss goodnight any pieces of dead people. Plus, before all the tooth-scrubbing and mouthwash-wolfing, the wererat’s breath is puke-poop soup. 

     One smile-face night he wanders back with a nylon. Where the devil did he get one of Mom’s stockings? Nylon is a miracle fabric. The wererat is a sort of miracle. Maybe opposite miracles attract?

     Stuff my head inside the stocking. Tight stretch. Rip a seam. Sit still. Wait for a miracle. Well… maybe too early in the day. 

     I aim to get the wererat to fetch another stocking – even if he hasta chew the garment off a corpse. That’s cowboy talk: aim. They’re always aiming to kill somebody at high noon. A cowboy’s tongue never strays from his gun. They kiss their guns goodnight, after first cleaning the barrels with long spindly cowboy tongues.

     I need that second nylon so I can dress up believably. Whoever heard of a chorus girl with just one stocking? That’s what I wanna be for Halloween: a chorus girl. On television, chorus girls kick their legs high. They boast full moon smiles above highly intriguing rears. I’ll hafta play like my rear swollen. But with the nylon I was halfway there. 

     Starts with a red dot – like an angry boil – on the tip of his nose. Curves out over his left eye, down over his right cheek, across his upper lip, up his left cheek. Coils around twice more before sinking into his chin. Spiral Face useta look normal. But he fell in love with an electric range. Jammed his face on a burner, smooching the glowing orange element. They had to pull him off.

     No girl would ever marry Spiral Face, because he was born without pain. He often smashes his fingers in doorframes. Never notices, unless one finally falls off. Who wants a husband too stupid to feel pain? Girls demand boys FEEL.

     The wererat curse arrived the day they buried Granny. He was feeling sorry for himself for being painless and having a face so hard to look at, and while Granny inside her gray, silver-banded casket was being lowered on those brown belts, he and I both swore we spotted a rat peeking out of the mud on one side of the grave. The rat was smiling, rubbing pink paws together, happy about his fridge getting stocked with a brand new dead person. Granny touched the bottom, the electric motor died and after the first few shovelfuls bumped down, a cloud burst.

     Everybody dispersed to the parking lot. But Spiral Face failed to feel the rain. He anyway too busy feeling sorry for himself; which wasn’t proper, since he should have been feeling sorry for Granny; when lightning forked his skull. Zapped from his toes straight down into the brain of that salivating rat. Ever since, every new moon, SF grows a tail, gets hairy, goes down on all fours and pigs out for three days at the boneyard.

     Most of the above agrees with science. The lightning boiled Spiral Face’s blood, causing his genes to harmonize with the rat, whose blood likewise electrically bubbled. The new moon causes the tides in SF’s veins to recreate the electric rat-human. His body utterly apes that state. Naturally he goes off looking for dinner.

     But how he worms inside the earth, not to mention inside the caskets, remains a mystery. My job, as a budding scientist: Find the bottom of all this. The head scientist gives me a secret identity. I go under the covers that night and become Spiral Face’s buddy. We trade secrets. I show him how I can make my crotch do that thing. He’s amazed. Promises to take me along next wererat switch.

     He explains, as SF, he has no idea what the wererat does. Although he doesn’t either like how, when he wakes up from one of those three-day picnics, his breath stinks.

     Next new moon, following the suspect’s instructions, I grab SF’s weenie. Cool, metallic; like a teeny slinky. I toy with the slinky, while the change finishes happening. Then I mount piggyback and the wererat sneaks out of the bedroom into the hallway down to Mom and Dad’s bedroom.

     Dad is at work – some place you need a car for. Mom is two doors down the hall on her knees scrubbing the bathroom tiles.

     The wererat’s naked paws move quieter than a killed TV. We enter the gloomy room. Tip-paw past the king-size smelling cigarettes, soap, breath mints, other parent odors. Head for, beside the shadowy dresser, the master bedroom closet.

     Once inside the closet, the wererat reveals a secret trapdoor. We climb down in the dark. Spiral, footsteps echoing, a staircase from here to the moon. Wind up in a casket for a little girl about my size.

     The wererat explains, last new moon, he ate the entire girl. But he didn’t touch her duds. He’s allergic to clothing. So I’m the one hasta lie facedown in the dead girl’s panties. The wererat squats on my back. First makes me strip and spiral my clothes up the stairs toward the inside of the trapdoor. So he won’t start sneezing.

     I scrabble around for underwear. Sort through panties, slips, other slinky inexplicables. Brush against something – sifting blindly – suspicious. Pull material up to my nose. Feel stuff stretch. Smells smooth, girly. Rainbow-in-the-gutter mysterious. Hysterically dirty.

     I start to giggle. Funny being in a casket, cramped in the dark, feeling up a thin high sock. To give myself something to laugh about, once I untangle the whole stocking out of the panties and such, knot the nylon around my neck. Maybe for Halloween go as a HANGED chorus girl… 

     Mom’s footsteps. Out in the bedroom. Muffled, but undeniably her house slippers trudging over floorboards. Clap a hand over the wererat’s snout. To keep him from giggling. Stupidly, he keeps right on giggling, no matter how tight I pull the nylon. My head feels hot, red, tight. I start spluttering, choking. Lungs sting like matches struck inside.

     Mom throws open the trapdoor. I catch a glimpse of her worried face framed upside-down. Then I hear Mom thud back against the inside of the closet door, yelping,

     “What are you doing in my hamper?”

     I consider babbling – just rummaging around for a Halloween costume. Or blurt the truth – the wererat forced me to climb in here. Had to tie the nylon around my neck to save me from his claws. But am too shocked to activate either plan.

     Mom reappears, framed again in the trapdoor. “You scared me – c’mon, get up out of there!”

    Mom’s gnarled, Pinesol-scented hands grab me out of the casket. Trembling, set me on the floor outside the closet. Morning cloud-glare stabs through the blinds Mom has opened. By then, working fast, I have untied the nylon from around my neck. Hand the miracle back up to Mom,

     “I think this belongs in there.”

     Keep the voice small, so as not to blow my cover, covering the wererat’s escape through the bottom of the casket into the underside of the graveyard.

     “It’s DIRTY in there!” Mom glares down at my wide-eyed, upturned face.

     “Took my clothes off,” I hear myself mumble, “to add to the dirties. Guess I fell in – don’t remember too good.”

     It’s better to say “well.” But in this fix I’d best play dumb. Dad’s the one angers when I talk wrong. Mom hardly notices. She doesn’t read books, doesn’t even shuffle papers in an office. Still, saying good instead of well makes me sound more innocent.

     “Go to your room – jump into clean clothes. I’m doing laundry this afternoon anyway. I know you’re only trying to help, honey. Next time wait till I ASK for your clothes. And stay away from anything DIRTY. Now hurry up, get a wiggle on – I can see your bare moon!”

     Hits, at last, I don’t have anything ON. Trot, hands covering crotch, to my room. Throw on underpants, T-shirt, shorts. Whew – how painful, being naked!

     I’m still ignorant how the wererat slips under the graves. Although now, at least, I know where to find a costume. If worth the danger of one more time getting popped. I’ll discuss the risk, when he reappears, with Spiral Face.

     Bearing in mind SF’s advice suspect, sometimes spiraling into filth. Must be all the dirt, pus, rot – from chewing the dead. Swells his brain like an about-to-pop pimple. No wonder corpses are scary.

     Still you hafta wonder, maybe if you TASTED one. Take a bite out of the crotch. Nobody ever know, buried way down there, no way to see, not even a moon.  

Willie Smith is deeply ashamed of being human. His work celebrates this horror. 

Sean O’Keefe is an artist and writer living in Roselle Park, NJ. Sean attended Syracuse University where he earned his BFA in Illustration. After graduation, Sean moved to New York City where he spent time working in restaurants and galleries while pursuing various artistic opportunities. After the birth of his children, Sean and family move to Roselle Park in 2015. He actively participates in exhibitions and art fairs around  New Jersey, and is continuing to develop his voice as a writer. His work can be found online at www.justseanart.com and @justseanart on Instagram.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2019