“They’re stunted little men who live in those hills,” he said, pointing to the houses across the street. “They’re tiny, like elves, but these bastards have sharp teeth. And their claws! Goddamn, they’re monstrous beasts!”
Calista Glazier winced as she listened to her father describe the little men he claimed he saw outside the window a few hours earlier when she was still asleep on the couch in the living room.
“Are you sure it wasn’t a dream, Daddy? I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Steadfast Glazier glared at his daughter. “Hell no, it wasn’t a dream! I don’t sleep no more. Stay awake sunrise to sunrise so’s no time to dream. And t’weren’t the first time I seen ’em. They come out around two in the morning. I see ’em under the street light when they come outta their caves, swarming like bats, there’s so many of ’em.”
Calista couldn’t believe what she was hearing come from her father’s lips.
“How can you tell they have sharp teeth and claws, Daddy? Seems like it would be pretty dim, even with the street light.”
“I know what I see! And, besides, a couple nights ago I seen what they did to some stray cats and dogs. Sliced ’em and diced ’em with their claws and bit through ’em with those teeth like they’re bitin’ though butter. And then they licked up the spilt blood like they was lappin’ up milk.”
As Calista listened to her father talk, she knew something dreadful was wrong. His grammar, his pronunciation, even the pitch of his voice did not belong to the father she knew. Steadfast Glazier was an educated man. He had been a senior executive with a major national insurance company. He did not speak like an uneducated hillbilly, nor would he conjure demonic dwarfs who ate neighborhood pets.
The day before, Calista Glazier drove from Denison, Texas to her father’s home in Struggles, Arkansas, at the behest of her sister, Sugar Sharkle. Sugar was closer in distance to their father, but she always turned to her older sister in matters too troublesome to face on her own, and this was one such matter. Calista arrived in time to prepare dinner for the two of them. Pork chops, creamed corn from a can, and spinach from the freezer.
Calista noticed nothing unusual about her father’s behavior that evening. The conversation was casual and unhurried.
“So, honey, tell me how the candle business is doing.”
“It’s humming along, Daddy, and growing fast, but not too fast. I think shutting down the brick and mortar store was the best decision I’ve made since I started the business. Sales for the online store are triple what I was doing at the shop and I don’t have to worry about paying attention to people who are just window shopping. Scented candles and soaps sell best. I spend every other day making the soap and candles. When I’m not making them, I’m shipping orders. And I take Saturday’s off. And when I feel overwhelmed, I just take a day off, a day trip like this one to see you.”
“That’s good. You need to give yourself time to relax. How many hours a day do you spent working?”
Calista cocked her head smiled at her father. “Don’t worry, Daddy, I’m not overdoing it. I hardly ever work more than eight or ten hours.”
“I have to worry. You got your work ethic from your mother and me. And we spent too damn much time working and not enough with you and Sugar.”
“Oh, Daddy, you spent plenty of time with us. We turned out just fine, didn’t we?”
“Well, you turned out fine. But Sugar married Leroy.” His face hardened as he mentioned Leroy’s name.
Calista’s smile morphed into an expression of concern.
“Aw, Daddy, Leroy’s not a bad guy. He’s just not as sharp as you are. You wanted Sugar to marry a doctor or a lawyer.”
“A doctor, maybe. But not a lawyer! I have my principles!” Steadfast’s smile returned.
And so the evening went. During three hours of conversation, Calista neither saw nor heard anything of concern in her father’s behavior. She wondered whether her sister had exaggerated about their father’s “trips to the loony bin,” as Sugar called them.
When Calista witnessed her father’s bizarre behavior the next morning, though, she knew Sugar had reason to be concerned.
“Daddy, when did you start seeing these men?”
Steadfast Glazier’s gaze dropped to the floor, then back to Calista. “What? What men?”
“You were just saying…” Calista stopped as she noticed the blazing coals of anger in his eyes had turned soft and quizzical, the anger in his face melted into confusion.
“Oh, never mind, Daddy. Are you ready for breakfast?”
“Just coffee for me, honey. But the fridge is stocked for a breakfast banquet. I have bacon, eggs, frozen hash browns, sausage…”
Steadfast Glazier’s daughter interrupted. “No, I’m good with just coffee, too.”
Calista knew she had to do something, but she didn’t know what.
[Yes, there should be more. I know that. Of course I know that. What, do you think I’m stupid? I just get bored with this. I want to do a pancreas transplant on an unsuspecting presidential candidate, instead. Or, maybe, I could perform cataract surgery on myself in front of a steamy mirror.]
It’s your trademark, JS. The tease and deny. You get us all excited and engaged, eagerly waiting for the next move, then come to a dead stop.
You are evil, sir.
Mary Lou, if you’ll drink with me, I’ll finish it. 😉
Have a blast of Makers Mark and finish the damned thing. Do you enjoy keeping us hanging?
Maybe I’ll finish it, Joyce. Maybe.
You should have finished the story! Now I will always wonder……