You won’t believe this. First, guess
who got a job?
Tiffany Lou Burns. You know,
With the stiff, white-blonde hair she
hadn’t changed since the 80s. Always in sequined tops, shiny leggings, like it
was New Year’s Eve 1989. And partying “like it was 1999.”
Sure, we could dress crazy and still
work. Be hung over. But everywhere Twinkles worked, it was the same.
Like at that shipping company with me.
The end of her first week, she struggled up the back stairs. “I fell!” she
My heart sank.
“Down ten steps. I hurt
all over!” Coworkers gasped.
The stink eye, our boss gave me.
“Please, Mr. McDougal,”
I’d begged, the week before. “Tiffany Lou really
needs a job.” Annoyed, he shuffled papers and wouldn’t look at me. “She’s great
with figures,” I lied.
From Day One, she was trouble.
Late in the mornings, and from lunch. When
her phone rang, I cringed. “McDowell, Inc.,” she said, instead of
“McDougal.” On purpose.
hung up on customers! “I’m not
paid enough . . .” she said, “to take shit!”
She hated her too-tight chair, the
glare from the blinds, all the money she lost in the snack machine. “Almond
Joy,” an anonymous note said, “Is a
Mostly, she hated the stairs.
All elevators worked. Nobody used
those back stairs. Why was she on them?
So she could sue. With no witnesses,
or proof that she really fell. As
gross as those back stairs were, she’d’ve been filthy. In her pink getup, she sparkled
like a fake Christmas tree.
Coworkers babied her till the
ambulance came. Suddenly she grabbed my arm, dug in her nails. “Can’t you say .
. .” she whispered, “you saw me fall?”
“Are you crazy?” I said.
At the ER she told me, “We’re done. You
. . .” Her eyes narrowed. “Are a shit friend.”
She didn’t get a dime.
I don’t know how many jobs she’d had since.
We never spoke again. But lately I had friends who knew what she was up to.
Guess what her new job was?
A school bus aide.
Waking up earlier than she used to go
to bed. With the bright, white sun and tweeting birds. No time to spray her
hair. Squeezed into a tighter seat than at McDougal, Inc.
Worse, being surrounded by . .
“Kids,” Twinkles used to say. “Screeching
little fucks. Always staring, like I’m some freak.
Godzilla in pink pants.
Hundreds of “special needs” kids. Some
in wheelchairs. Others, emotional wrecks. When they screeched in her face, she’d
have to take it.
Now, it gets creepy. Each bus
aide was assigned to one school. Guess which
The Mary Kopec school. That ancient,
chilly, five-story dump that used to
be a kids’ psych hospital. With the two top floors shut down, and guess why?
Two kids hung themselves.
A big scandal, years back, then
a long investigation. The kids’ parents
sued. Like, how did it happen? How’d they reach that high staircase? Strung up
on bedsheets that got tied into nooses? It made no sense.
Maybe, people said, the place
That’d freak out anybody,
right? Make you sad. These poor, challenged kids
stuck in this old school, with ghosts running amuck! Plus, this blonde Godzilla
for a bus aide.
Creepy stories, she told them.
“If you don’t behave,” she said, “the
ghosts will come get you!”
“Yeah, right!” one
bold kid said. Others trembled or cried.
Twinkles smirked. “Maybe,”
the bold kid told her, “The ghosts will get you.”
“Please, Miss Tiffany,”
one scared kid begged, “Walk me home.” Ten steps
from the bus.
“That,” she told him,
“Is not my job.”
She got called up for that. And
for claiming the old bus driver “touched”
her. “You crazy?” he said. Nobody believed her.
Like always, she was a lawsuit
waiting to happen.
Till it killed her.
Remember those back stairs at
McDougal’s? Twinkles must’ve tried the same shit
at Mary Kopec.
On the top floor, where those
kids were found hanging? That high marble staircase
must’ve seemed like the best place to “fall.”
Whatever happened, she saw it
Judging by the angle, and position
of her limbs, she fell backwards from
the top step, as if someone—or something, bumped her . . . from above.
Her eyes wide open, with a look of
such horror, the janitor shit his pants. “Madre de dios,” he whispered.
That’s what I heard. From Bill Zuber,
the principal. Twinkles, the school, the stairwell. The kids who hung
themselves . . .
All this he told me over drinks,
Before he hung himself, too.
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), is out, now! Cindy is a Gemini, a Christian, and an animal