Take Me To The River

by Fielding Goodfellow

 

One of my son’s has been preparing to join the Armed Forces, and I’m all for it, I mean I think he should  make his own life decisions.  My wife is not taking it well. She’s not sure he’s old enough to make this kind of a  decision on his own, despite being thirty-five years old. As he moves ass backwards through the transition from civilian life, he has been sorting through his belongings in order to determine what to keep and take with, and what he will leave behind. The Father’s Day foofaraw had just got underway when the proverbial shit began to hit the fan.

“I’ll take the tv.” I said.

“I don’t know.”, he told me. “I may take it.”

“What the hell are going to do with 60″ tv in the army?” I asked.

“I don’t know. We’ll see.” he said. “But I will need you to take the dogs.”

“Are you out of your fucking mind?” I asked him.

“What’s the big deal?” he asked. The big deal was, and still is the fact that the dog’s are dead. He had them cremated and their ashes are in urns that sit on a shelf in his book case. There’s a blue urn for John, the male Bichon-Poo, and a pink one for Yoko, the female Powderpap. Despite the fact that I adored both of these dogs, I have no interest at all in bringing their remains into my home. My wife however thought that it was the least we could do to help her boy make the move into army life. It wasn’t. The least we could do, as I pointed out, was obviously to not take the urns.

The dogs had been with us for ten or eleven years when my son took them. He had just moved into a place of his own and wanted to have them there, I suppose for company. We agreed. He had them for another four or five years, and as they got older, they both became ill.  I was there when they were both put down. as my son wasn’t emotionally able to deal with the loss on his own. I wasn’t certain that I was either, but I was reminded on both occasions that I am the father and this sort of thing falls into the realm of my duties, right up there with confronting the armed lunatics who attempt to break into the house. It was a difficult time for all of us, but my son handled it better than I had expected. He had made arrangements with the vet to have them cremated and placed in color coded urns that he could keep and cherish forever. And now, he wanted to pass the joy of having the dead animals’ ashes displayed as an eternal shrine in my home.

“Its not happening.” I told him and his mother.

“Its okay.” she said. “I’ll keep them in the back of my closet. You won’t even know that they’re here.”

“Ill know.” I said.

“Well” my son asked, “What do you suggest we do?”

“What should have been done in the first place..” I said. “The ashes should have been scattered in a park. They always liked the park.”

“I don’t know.” my son said.

“Well then,” I said, “You’ll have to take them with.”

“What the hell do I tell the army?” he asked.

“You can always tell them they’re your parents.” I said. He didn’t seem to think that was funny. Neither did my wife. I however was pretty sure it was fucking hilarious.

“We’ll figure something out.” my wife said.

“What if those were your ashes?” he asked me.

“They’d be scattered in a river by now.” my wife answered on my behalf.

“Exactly.” I said. “If you want I can scatter the dogs in the river.”

“I don’t want their ashes scattered.” he said.

“Well, if you leave them here” I advised, “it will no longer be your decision to make.”

“Can I speak to alone?” my wife asked me. And there was twenty minutes in our bedroom, listening to her try to change my mind. I told her over and over that the ashes would not be staying in our home. Period. She cried and she begged, but I was steadfast, like a rock. And then she did it. “Please do it for me?” she asked.  Damn, she was good. She knew exactly what to say. She knew that I would never give in to the boy, and she also knew that I could never refuse one of her ‘do it for me’ requests. I didn’t even try.

“You’re such a bitch.” I said.

“Ya” she said. “But I so do like it when you talk dirty to me.”

My son was overjoyed that the dogs would remain sealed in their urns, prominently displayed in the back of my wife’s closet. There was really nothing else to say, and I had grown weary of these festive, family gatherings that always seemed to cost me something.

“Thank you for letting the dogs stay here.” my wife said as we lay in bed that night.

“I didn’t really have any choice, did I?” I asked.

“None at all.” she said. “But if you can think of something you want to do, I’m naked and I’m free for the next twenty to thirty minutes.” Damn she was good. She knew exactly what to say.

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What About The Kids?

 

“What about the kids?”, my wife asked.

“What kids?”, I replied.

“Your kids.”, she told me. “Our kids. Remember them?”

“Uh huh.”, I answered. “What about them?”

“I’m not sure we can go away and leave them here alone?”

“Well, there’s no way I’m taking them with.”, I informed her.

“What if they burn the house down?”, she asked. And there it was, her obsessive fear of the house burning down. It was almost impossible to overcome. It was her belief that a fire would start in the kitchen as a result of the misuse of the kitchen appliances. Therefore, it stood to reason that if we were home, or if at least one of us was at home, the house would be saved from destruction. She had established very strict rules regarding the use of the kitchen appliances, which she routinely enforced by patrolling the kitchen like a a game warden, keeping a watchful eye for perpetrators and those she suspected were about to violate her rules.

She regularly ventures into the kitchen just to check what temperature the oven is set on, and if it is higher than three hundred and fifty degrees, she turns it down. It means nothing to her that the directions clearly stated to cook at four hundred and twenty five. It is not permitted. The choices are to cook it thirty to forty minutes longer, or eat it under cooked. And every fifteen minutes, like clockwork, she makes the obligatory trip back to the kitchen, opens the oven door and checks on the status of the food inside, lest it be burning, and in the process aggravates and agitates anyone who is cooking at the time.

The broiler is completely off limits. It has been deemed too dangerous for us to use as she fears the five hundred degree temperature it cooks at the most. Stove top cooking is only permissible if the burner is set at no more than a number six. Frying is permitted depending on her level of paranoia, and had been very close to being outlawed altogether. There was an incident. Nothing significant, but for my wife it was confirmation of the impending doom that can result from unauthorized cooking.

“Is somebody cooking something?”, she asked late one evening.

“I don’t know.”, I answered.

“Well”, she continued, “I smell something burning.”

“You always smell something’s burning.” It was uncanny really. She could smell something burning before it actually started burning. It was one of her many gifts, a sort of ‘something’s burning’ savant. “Nothing’s burning.”, I told her. “No one’s home except the two of us.”

“I have to go check.”, she stated as she got up out of bed.

“Well?”, I asked as she returned from her trip to the kitchen.

“You have to check that you turn the burner off!”, she exclaimed. “You dropped something in the bottom and left it on. At number eight! Its never to go above six. We’ve been over this. Five would be better, but I’m trying to be reasonable. The entire kitchen is filled with smoke. Next time you might just burn the whole place down.”

“I hope not.”, I replied. “I don’t think I’ll live long enough to hear all of the lectures.”

“This is why we can’t go away.”, she continued. “None of you pay attention to what you’re doing. The kids are too lazy to check and you, well, you just can’t remember what you’re doing anymore.”

“Well then”, I suggested. “We’ll just have to order in.” I went into the kitchen to check the extensive smoke damaged created by a crumb sitting under a hot burner. It was not filled with smoke. I was hard pressed to find any smoke at all. There was however, to my wife’s credit, the faint odor of something having been burnt, and in the bottom of the burner, there was, oh hell no, a solitary penne noodle. It was burnt. It was badly burnt. I gave it last rites, the best funeral I could, with full military honors and a burial at sea.

We can still fry, despite her misgivings, however she did implement a buddy system. There must be two people in the kitchen at all times, with one of them assigned to ensuring the temperature settings are within limits, and that everything is turned off when completed.

“I think she needs help.”, one of my daughters disclosed as she stood there as my cooking buddy while I made chicken parmigiana.

“She’ll be alright.”, I told her. “She just worries about safety.”

“She’s out of her mind.”, she explained. “Its an electric oven. There’s no flame or fire. Does she think that the food is going to spontaneously combust?” It was hard to argue with that, and I agreed to speak with my wife.

“I need to talk to you about something.”, I said as I entered the bedroom.

“Are you done in the kitchen?”, she asked anxiously.

“It will take thirty minutes to cook, and the oven is set at three hundred.”, I said. “Its under control. Are you alright with that?”

“For the time being.”, she replied.

“Good. I think you need to relax the cooking rules a little.”, I advised. “Its making everyone a nervous wreck.”

“I can’t help it.”, she said.

“I know.”, I reminded her. “But we really are pretty careful. I just don’t think we can ever meet the expectations you’v e set for us. We’re going to make mistakes, but in all of the years we’ve been cooking, there has never been a fire.”

“That’s because I’m always running into the kitchen and checking on everything.”, she informed me.

“No.”, I replied. “Its because we really do know what we’re doing. I just think you can let up a little.”

“How?”, she asked.

“Well, for one, stop running into the kitchen to check on everything all of the time. You can go in the kitchen to make a tea or something and check on stuff, you know, make it less obvious. And stop telling the kids what to do and how to do it. They’re not little kids. They’re all grown up.”

“So, the kids are complaining?”, she inquired.

“Ya, they are.”, I answered.

“And what about you?”, she questioned.

“Well you can check on me as often as you need to, and you can give me shit whenever you feel like it. Just like its been since the day we got married. Can you live with that?”

“I suppose.”, she said. “But the broiler is still off limits.”

“Agreed.”, I replied.

“Don’t you think you should go and check the chicken you left in the oven?”, she asked.

“On my way.”, I told her. She was surprisingly calm, and I hoped that she would be okay. Over dinner I brought up the weekend trip again.

“Alright.”, she said. “We’ll go to Niagara On The Lake for the weekend.” I was, to say the least, pleasantly surprised.

“I’m glad.”, I told her. “And I think it will be good for you.”

“Well”, she continued, “It took some work and some planning but, my mother will come and stay with the kids until we get back.”

“Okay.”, I replied. “That’s sounds like a plan.”

“Ya, and they will be ordering in all weekend.”, she advised me.

“Really?”, I inquired.

“Ya.”, she went on to explain. “We will be removing the circuit for the oven when we leave. They won’t be able to cook with it all weekend.”

“Well its nice to see that you have overcome your fear of the house burning down.”, I told her as sarcastically as I could.

“Ya”, she stated, “It wasn’t really as difficult as I thought it would be.”

 

Maniacal Max

by Solomon Tate

 

Maximilian J. Botswager, who had been called Max since he was a 3 year old running around the family farm near Shanty Bay, Ontario, sat cuffed and shackled, as the case against him began to unfold. Witness after witness testified, and with each account, a collective gasp rose from the observers eager to see justice served. After 2 days of his trial, Max stopped listening to the testimony. It was all bullshit to him. He had proclaimed his innocence since his arrest, and offered alibis, however erroneous, in an attempt to prove that he was falsely accused, but Max was out of his fucking mind.

In the summer of 1982,  when I was working as a freelance writer for an upstart, left wing socio-political magazine, men and women began disappearing from communities near the sleepy, little town. The Police investigation had few clues, no bodies, and no leads.  Curfews were put in place but even this seemed to have no effect, and by the end of summer 1984, 9 people had gone missing, leaving towns from Barrie to Orillia in disheartening fear. The usually sparsely attended churches were filled to capacity on Sunday mornings, as people reignited their hope that a superior being would keep them safe. And every Sunday, following church, many of the parishioners would attend Baskin Robbins, for a scoop or two of Raspberry Ripple or Tiger Tail ice cream.

Shanty Bay was an innocuous little town, nestled on the shore of Lake Simcoe, where everybody knew everybody else. It had been a haven during the Underground Railroad, and many  fleeing slavery south of the border, settled there. It was quaint, and quiet and peaceful. In August of 1985, all of that changed. A young couple on their way to Gravenhurst to attend a friend’s wedding, passed through the town and after stopping at the Baskin Robbins, disappeared. The couple never arrived at the wedding, and when friends were unable to reach them for several days, the Police were notified. Investigators moved fast, back tracking the couple’s movements using credit card receipts, and witness accounts of their metallic dark blue Ford Thunderbird. Pictures of the couple appeared in newspapers and on local newscasts across South-Central Ontario. The town was overrun by reporters, investigators and curiosity seekers as the hunt for the missing couple continued. The police, who had questioned everyone living or working in Shanty Bay, had brought in the canine unit to search the wooded areas near the town, while the marine unit divers searched the lake.

With all of the people roaming around the area, business was booming for the shop owners. There was  a constant and steady stream of patrons intent on shoving frozen dairy products in their faces in an ultimately futile attempt to obtain some relief from the oppressive summer heat visiting Baskin Robbins. Business was so good, that Max had called in several of his employees to help out. I was in the Baskin Robbins when one of the young girls went to the back of the store to retrieve some Burgundy Cherry ice cream for one of the police officers. Shortly after she disappeared, a blood curdling scream resonated from the back of the store. The officer raced to her side, and shortly after brought the trembling and crying girl back into the store front, with his arms around her. He called for back up, and evacuated the customers from the store, leaving me without my 2 scoop, sugar cone of Rocky Road, and Max at the cash.

Upon opening the storage freezer in the back of the Baskin Robbins, the young girl had inadvertently uncovered body parts. Human body parts. The Police statement to the press indicated that there were numerous bodies that had been cut into pieces and stored in the store’s freezers. The Police suspected that all of the people who had been missing from the area, eleven in total, were more than likely within the freezers that housed my Rocky Road. Max was taken into custody for questioning, and subsequently charged with 11 counts of 1st degree murder, 11 counts of indignity to a human body, and several charges under the health code for storing body parts next to the ice cream.

A psychiatric evaluation was ordered, although it was obvious as fuck that Max was deranged, and while he was found to be a sociopath, displaying Antisocial Personality Disorder, he was quite capable of knowing right from wrong, and by virtue that he had hidden the body parts, he was in fact fully cognizant of what he had done. Max denied any involvement in this, and at his bail hearing, the case was held over pending the arrival of the big city lawyer he had retained. The entire region was shocked. They had known Max for most of their lives, and he had always been polite, kind, and seemingly happy. At the same time, they were relieved at the prospect that the guilty party was incarcerated. The grizzly details of the story filled newspapers and newscasts across the country. People from all over the region would attempt to drive up to the town and catch a glimpse of the store at the centre of it all, only to find the area around the Baskin Robbins was blocked off by police. Just before the trial was set to begin, lab results arrived, indicating that almost all of the ice cream in the store had human elements in them. According to the Crown Attorney, after killing and mutilating the bodies, Max would grind the body parts up in a wood chipper, and mix them in with the ice cream for sale to the general public. His plan, it seems, was to have his customers eat the evidence. Again, Max refuted the theory, and continued to profess his innocence.

The trial lasted just under 3 weeks, with a barrage of evidence, witnesses, and the metallic, dark blue Ford Thunderbird found at the bottom of the lake near Beaverton. The defense contended that all of the evidence was circumstantial, and the witness accounts had been tainted by the incessant media coverage of the investigation, and Max’s arrest. Objections were overruled and sustained, and following instructions from the Judge, the jury was sequestered to deliberate and reach a verdict. The entire community was disgusted, not just by what Max had done, but the odds were pretty high that if you ate ice cream from the Baskin Robbins in Shanty Bay, you had also eaten someone. Unless you ordered Vanilla. It seems, based on lab results, that only the Vanilla Ice Cream was free of human elements.

The jury deliberated for less than 1 hour, and returned a verdict of guilty of all charges. Max was sentenced to life, and was transfered to the Prison for the Criminally Insane in Penetanguishene. He served 12 years of his sentenced, and died while asleep in his cell in 1998 of a brain aneurysm. The Baskin Robbins store he managed for years is no longer in Shanty Bay, having been replaced by a Starbucks. All of the victims, once identified, were buried by their respective families, and immortalized in a small plaque near the site of their demise. Weeks after the trial, Shanty Bay was once again an innocuous little town, nestled on the shore of Lake Simcoe where everybody knew everybody else. To this day, there is no ice cream parlor in town.

The Man Who Lived Upstairs

There was something weird about the man who lived upstairs. Day and night he was at it. The sound of power tools, from drills to circular saws, axes to hammers, led us to believe he was up to something. Quite likely, something sinister.

We had never seen him, and so we had been forced to speculate just what he might be doing up there in the dead of night. All of the most plausible suggestions were rejected by the expert panel of demented daring do that I live with.

2adc44b206391da1cf4fb13163b94500The silence of the peaceful night was shattered by an electric saw, working tirelessly to cut through something seemingly uncuttable. This was followed by a power drill, and then a hand saw. After a few moments of silence there came the sound of an axe,  crushing through something not meant to be axed, and then hammering. It would go on for hours. We would sit and listen. “You should go up there and see what he’s doing”., my wife said “And tell him to stop.”

“You understand he has weapons of slash destruction.”, I replied.

My daughter was convinced that he was some sort of serial killer, torturing the poor souls he regularly abducted. Another daughter suggested that we simply go up and ask.  It didn’t matter to me. He had, at his disposal saws and axes, and there was no way that I planned to knock on his door and find out what he was doing up there.

My daughter revealed that she has heard weird noises coming from upstairs. Not just the power tools, but moaning and other strange sounds. My wife decided that we must do something, She called building security. “Let them go see what he’s doing up there.”

45 minutes later, the noises were still ringing out. “I don’t know why security hasn’t been up there yet?”, she muttered.

affe2d949928ebaecb1758b52e16ff47-d4we8ks“Perhaps they did go”, I offered

“I’m calling security again”, she replied..

The news from security was not what she expected. A guard did attend the unit. They will dispatch another guard.

There was a silent, but visible “Oh hell” frozen on everyone’s face. “He killed the security guy”, my daughter mumbled. “Probably cut him up in little pieces”.

“I can’t take it anymore.”, my wife said, “it goes on all night”.

We had all agreed that something horrific was going on upstairs. We had to find out. The next day my wife called the property manager and described the situation. As luck would have it, while on the phone with property management, the sawing and drilling began, and was clearly heard by the property manager. He promised to investigate at once.

“If this doesn’t stop”, my wife stated, “we’re moving. I can’t live like this!”

Several days passed, and we heard nothing from property management. “Doesn’t anybody care that there’s a lunatic living up there?”. my wife queried.

download-1“I will go up and see.”, I told her. Putting on my brave face, and grabbing a baseball bat, I bid farewell to my family, and headed out. I stood before the door that might have hidden secrets of the criminally insane. I could hear the whirr of a chain saw as I knocked.  There was no response, so I knocked again. I had my bat on my shoulder, ready to swing. The sawing stopped. From behind the door, a voice called out. It was hard, and gruff, cold, as if devoid of all feeling. “Who is it?” I wasn’t about to tell him. I really had no idea what to say.

I returned home several minutes later. “So”, my wife spoke out, “What did you find out?”

I sat down on the couch, and presented my wife with a hammer. “I found out that I could borrow the hammer for a few days.” I  took a deep breath. “I have no intention of taking it back. We may as well start packing now.”

By the end of the week, the sounds had stopped, No sawing, no drilling, and no chopping. It was eerily quiet. The police had been around a few days after I borrowed the hammer, and the noises stopped.

“They probably arrested him”, a daughter said. “for murder or something.”

“Maybe he just moved.”, I suggested.

“Yeah. To prison.”, she added.

“You know,” another daughter chimed in, “there might be blood or something on that hammer. I wonder if the police will come looking for it, or for you.”

We never did find out what the man who lived upstairs was doing, but I got a pretty nice hammer out of that experience.