Black Petals Issue #97, Autumn, 2021

Predatory Peepers
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Hunting Ground-Fiction by N. G. Leonetti
Love Letters-Fiction by S. J. Townend
No Content Available-Fiction by Richard Brown
Phantom Smell-Fiction by Daniel G. Snethen
Predatory Peepers-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
The Visit-Fiction by B. E. Nugent
The Working Man-Fiction by Christopher Hivner
The Extermination-Fiction By Dominique K. Pierce
Win-A-Burger-Fiction by Glenn Dungan
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Art by Ann Marie Rhiel 2021

PREDATORY PEEPERS

 

by

 

Cindy Rosmus

 

 

Atlantic City, 1972

 

 

          “’Beware,’” Mrs. Marshall, the psychic, had told Mom.

          “’. . . a man with predatory eyes.’”

          “Yeah, right,” Mom said. Spread-eagled, and dead, they found her in Room 314. Nude, but for that gold turban I hated. Cruel sunlight made it shimmer, as Jessie the maid opened the door. Then Jessie screamed.

But Creepy Eyes was gone.

Hotel guests swarmed the room. Like the teen sisters: fat, bug-eyed Ramona, and Melanie, who’d snatched Howard from me. Sobbing wildly, like it was their mom, not mine. Howard rushed over to Melanie, held her close.

Nobody noticed when I left.

Maybe I can’t face death. When Aunt Millie’s old chihuahua died, I’d cried for days. “Cut the crap,” Mom had said, “It’s only a dog.” She deserved to die, just for that.

If only . . . Jessie hadn’t found Mom . . . yet. Done Room 314 last, instead of next. In 313 Jessie had caught us: Howard nude; me in just underpants. I can still hear that laugh.

Before her scream.

We’d just got started. Sucking face like mad. For the first time, I reached for Howard’s thing, lightly squeezed it.

“Pam the Prude,” he’d called me. Till today.

We were supposed to fuck. Till today, Howard was the only guy I’d even kissed. Fourteen, we both were, but he thought he was cooler.

For weeks we’d snuck around, while his dad, Mr. Hertzberg, booked sexy French-Canadian tourists. (“Oui-Oui’s,” Mom had called them.) Making out where we could, like the ancient elevator, or that sleazy bathhouse out back. . . .

Sour-smelling, it was, with sea-green walls. Like an underwater hell. Cold water, never hot. Puddles everywhere.

“DO NOT,” the sign said, in English and French, “TRACK SAND INTO THE HOTEL LOBBY.” Still, everyone did. When a bikini blonde walked in all sandy, Mr. Hertzberg leered, his eyes bugging out.

Beware . . .

In the bathhouse we’d met Ramona and Melanie, rinsing sand off their legs and feet. Ramona’s were like an elephant’s, but Melanie looked like a mermaid, turned mortal. Sixteen, she was, with red hair that nearly reached her perfect thighs.

“We’re from Maryland!” Ramona told us, like I cared. “The waves were so big today! And I almost got bit by a jellyfish!”

Melanie and Howard shared a smirk.

And that’s how it started.

If only . . . I thought, Creepy Eyes had got Melanie, instead.  

“Predatory,” Mrs. Marshall, the psychic, had called that guy’s eyes. I’d never seen hers, as leopard-print shades hid them.

Peepers was what Pop called eyes. Poor, drunk Pop, always trying to be funny. Laugh, or jump, he would say.

Predatory Peepers . . .

With Mom dead, would Pop laugh . . . or . . .

It was hours since they’d found her. By now, they’d be wondering where I was. Maybe searching for me.

Come and get me, I thought, curling up my legs on the bench.

In plain sight, I was, on the boardwalk, close to the Steeplechase Pier. Around me, a few people sat on benches, overlooking the beach. Families were packing up umbrellas, flowered towels, their kids still running wild.

Beware . . .

Roasted peanuts, I smelled, and popcorn. Yummy stuff from across the boardwalk. Howard’s pretzel stand was outside Woolworth’s, a few blocks down.

I remembered how the day we’d met, he was sticking dough in the oven. “That’s too much salt,” I told him.

“I like too much . . .” he said, smiling, “Of everything.”

He suddenly turned and pulled me close.  

Even in glasses, he was the cutest guy, ever, with sea-green eyes I could drown in. And the curliest blond hair. By the time a customer came, my hands were filled with his hair. We’d almost kissed.

Later, in the lobby, Mr. Hertzberg flirted with Mom. “That’s some tan,” he said, meaning where it ended.

“Thanks.” She adjusted the ties to show more cleavage.

We were headed out to eat, and my stomach growled so loud, they heard it.

“Wow,” he said. “Somebody’s hungry.”

Smirking, Howard joined him, hopping onto the desk. In his hand was a paper bag. “Want a pretzel?”

I had no appetite now.

Would I ever, again?

A gull screeched. Swooped down for discarded popcorn near my feet, then shot back up into the sky.

Behind me, the guy’s eyes drilled me.

I’d sensed when he’d sat down. No smell, like cologne, or booze, but somehow, I’d smelled him over peanuts and popcorn.

Sweat poured down my back. If he leaned over and wiped it off, my heart would pop.

Another screeching gull flew past.

I felt him lean over . . .  

But before he could speak, I jumped up.

Heading my way was . . . Ramona! It was the fastest I’d ever seen her move, across the boardwalk, on those elephantine legs.

Looking right at me.

Blindly, I ran. Away from her, and that monster behind me.

Past tourists strolling before dinner and kids chasing pigeons. Past the Steeplechase Pier, where teens screamed on sissy rides.

I ran till my legs almost gave out.

“Pamela!” Right into Mrs. Marshall, I’d run. Her old bones almost cracked.

I caught my breath. “She’s dead.”

She nodded, then gripped my arm, tightly. Behind those “cat” sunglasses, she was seeing something I couldn’t. Something horrible. When she shivered, I did, too.

“Go back to the hotel,” she said.

On leaden legs, I trudged back. Knowing each step brought me closer to a grief I never knew I could feel. I’d hated Mom but loved her, too. And in her own way, I think she loved me.

Each step brought me to a new life I didn’t want. The chance to kill “Pam the Prude.”

It was dusk when I got back. Too early for the cocktail lounge to be mobbed. Mostly ‘cos a guest was found dead. Still, the jukebox was playing: “Baby, Don’t Get Hooked on Me.”  

Thanks, Howard, I thought.

Soon I would cry, over everything. But right now, something was dragging me out back. I had to go to the bathhouse.

Inside, it was almost dark. But the cold water was running, like someone was rinsing off sand.

Predatory peepers . . .

In a puddle of sandy water lay Ramona, bug eyes wide, unseeing.

 She’d saved my life, without realizing it. Searching for me, she was the one grabbed. Elephant legs, and all . . . 

If only . . . Melanie had looked for me, instead . . .

Sighing, I shut off the water.

 

 

THE END

Cindy is a Jersey girl who looks like a Mob Wife and talks like Anybodys from West Side Story. Her noir/horror/bizarro stories have been published in the coolest places, such as Shotgun Honey; Megazine; Dark Dossier; Horror, Sleaze, Trash; and Rock and a Hard Place. She is the editor/art director of Yellow Mama and the art director of Black Petals. Her seventh collection of short stories, Backwards: Growing Up Catholic, and Weird, in the 60s (Hekate Publishing), will be out, soon! Cindy is a Gemini, a Christian, and an animal rights advocate. 

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