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
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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.
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