Black Petals Issue #98 Winter, 2022

Cindy Rosmus: Twinkles

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98_bp_twinkles_kjhg.jpg
Art by KJ Hannah Greenberg 2022

TWINKLES

 

by

 

Cindy Rosmus

 

 

          You won’t believe this. First, guess who got a job?

          Tiffany Lou Burns. You know, “Twinkles.”

          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 whined.

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.

 And 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 cruel mistress.”

          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 she got?

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 was haunted.

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 coming.

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.

          A body?

          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, that day.

          Before he hung himself, too.

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), is out, now! Cindy is a Gemini, a Christian, and an animal rights advocate. 






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