Silverweed Muffins (2008), was inspired by Little Red Riding Hood from Children’s and Household Tales. (Brothers Grimm, Germany: 1812) which in turn inspired my YA novel, Silverweed : a supernatural fairy tale.
by Dorlana Vann
Swiss drove like mad in his little red car, down into the valley, down the narrow winding roads, and away from the gravesite, but he would never be able to travel fast enough to escape his guilty thoughts. He should have never shooed those birds away. He should have heeded his mother’s other countless warnings of bad luck, dark omens, and words of wisdom that he had only seen as silly superstition. But now she was dead, and he was alone in the world, except for his ailing grandmother.
He sped into his driveway and made an abrupt stop, hitting the steering wheel as he finally allowed his required tears to fall. He was eighteen-years-old and thought he was too old to cry, at least in front of people. No one could see him now.
After a while, he began to think about the last conversation he had with his mother. A conversation he put to the back of his mind because he didn’t want to believe she was going to die. His mother loved her legends and fairy tales, and at the time, Swiss figured she was just getting some of her stories confused with reality. Still, her last words fought to be remembered. “Protect your grandmother. Don’t ever talk to strangers. You must carry on the tradition by making her muffins and taking them to her every day … every day by noon, without fail. They must always be the silverweed muffins.”
His mother had delivered a basket of silverweed muffins to his grandmother every day, for as long as he could remember. When Swiss was ten, he’d asked his mother why she didn’t just make a whole bunch and leave them there. His mother had said, “This reminds me to visit her. If I didn’t go one day, perhaps I would not remember the next, and soon I would completely forget. Now we can’t go and forget to take care of grandmother, can we?”
As he opened the front door to his house, he was still thinking about his mother’s last dying words, which was her last dying wish, the realization that he had inherited this daunting job depressed him even more. His grandmother had outlasted his mother, and could possibly outlast him, so this task would be his, forever. Make and deliver her muffins every day…
He wasn’t as sure about what his mother had meant when she told him to protect his grandmother. She lived far into the remote woods away from civilization. She didn’t even have a telephone. No one was going to call her and scam her out of her money, if she even had any. Perhaps his mother meant, take care of, instead of protect. Just get her the muffins, he thought, that was all he could do that day anyway. Maybe later he could ask his grandmother about what his mother had intended.
Swiss stood in the kitchen and mixed the ingredients to the recipe he had known by heart since he was six years old:
2 c flour
½ c sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 c milk
¼ c vegetable oil
¼ c silverweed leaves
After he had baked the muffins, he put them in the lined red basket and covered them with a white linen napkin. This first muffin delivery venture wasn’t going to come close to the noon deadline his mother had requested. Oh well, he thought, as long as she receives her muffins today, all will be well.
He didn’t drive to his grandmother’s house as fast as he had driven away from his mother’s funeral. He actually turned on the music, hummed along, and had lovelier thoughts of happier times. He began to remember the trips he and his mother used to make to his grandmother’s when he was a child. It wasn’t just the visit that had been pleasant, but also the car ride. They would play games, their favorite being, I Spy.
But then he remembered the last time they had played. He spied something red and his mother guessed, a car, a leaf on a tree, a bird, and so on, until finally she had given up. And then he told her, “I saw a little red man, right there beside the road. Didn’t you see him? He had horns like a goat and a long tail.” Curiously, he didn’t remember her saying anything to the contrary like, “You saw no such thing,” or “You must have been mistaken.” No, she had said, “I didn’t see him.” And that was the last time they ever played the game. He had forgotten all about it, until that very moment. He shrugged off the strange mood the memory gave him; silly little boy’s imagination, that was all. His mother had filled his head with her foolishness.
There had been a furious thunderstorm the night before that had left water standing in the ditches beside the road. Swiss’s grandmother lived in the dense woods. He knew the dirt road would be a long drive of large puddles and fallen limbs, and he didn’t want to tear up his little red car. So he parked it, put on his jacket, and grabbed the basket of muffins. Dusk had already arrived, and he did think twice about leaving the shelter of his car behind; the walk back would be a dark one.
Once he left the initial clearing in the woods, the night seemed to grow by a couple of hours. The chilled wind blew its breath on the back of Swiss’s neck, making him wish he had worn his jacket with the hood. When he began to wonder if he had become lost on the straight stretch of road, he stopped and turned several times. That’s when he thought he saw someone in the woods, right off the road. He figured it was merely shadows and the suggestive surroundings but decided he would walk faster at any rate.
When he dared to investigate again, he was positive he saw someone, this time behind a slender tree. Glancing behind every couple of feet, Swiss walked as fast as he could, trying not to let on that he knew he had a tail. But when it seemed this person wasn’t going to give up, he stopped and waited until he heard a rustling that was most likely his follower. He didn’t enjoy being scared, so if this person was going to attack him anyway, he would rather it was not an ambush.
“Hello?” Swiss turned around after a few seconds. “Excuse me, why are you following me?”
At this, a man stepped out of the bush. He wore a cowboy hat and dirty boots. He looked big, rough, and hairy. In his left hand he carried a massive rusty ax.
Now Swiss wished he would had run to his grandmother’s instead of challenging a stranger. He took a giant step back and cleared his throat as he looked around for a weapon. He knew his basket of muffins wouldn’t do him much good, even if he had cooked them a bit longer than usual. Swiss stood as tall as possible. His voice didn’t hold much authority on its own, so he gave it a beat of deepness when he said, “You’re trespassing. Please leave this land immediately.”
“Trespassing?” the man said with the volume of a jackhammer. “I’m just doing my job, son.”
“And what job would that be?” Swiss was thinking, murderer, assassin, bear hunter …
“I’m a woodsman.” He squinted his already hard to see eyes under the massive entanglement of hair on his face. “I cut down trees.”
“Why would a woodsman be following me?”
The man laughed a vigorous belly laugh. “Following you? I am not interested in your whereabouts.”
Immediately, Swiss felt a bit foolish. His total day had been eerie, which must have left him jumpy and paranoid. Swiss thought that perhaps there were more of these woodsmen about.
“Right,” Swiss said. “I’ll be on my way.”
“Need some help? You lost?”
“No, this is my grandmother’s property. She lives just down the way.”
“I see. What’s there in that basket?” the man asked and took a step toward Swiss.
“Just some muffins for my grandmother.”
“Wouldn’t happen to be able to spare one, would you?”
Swiss didn’t doubt that the grubby man lived in the woods, as well as worked, and most likely starving. Besides, he had accused him of being a stalker. “I’m sure my grandmother can spare one.”
After the man was handed the muffin, he took an enormous bite and then picked it up to examine it. “Kind of odd tasting. What’s in here?”
“Family secret,” Swiss said and smiled. “Well, I must be getting on my way. My grandmother is waiting.”
Swiss walked on, checking behind him periodically to make sure the man wasn’t following him. He saw no sign and was satisfied after a while that the man was who he’d said he was.
Finally, he made it to the clearing that started the yard. It was much brighter there, the full moon blared like a spotlight on his grandmother’s house. Trimmed hedges and flower gardens decorated the skillfully manicured grounds. Swiss thought about how his grandmother, being practically bed ridden, employed people to work in her yard. She also owned most of the woods for many miles and therefore must have hired the woodsman to cut down some trees on the path to her house.
He dreaded walking into the house that he once looked forward to visiting. It felt different now. Today, it would be especially painful. She would ask about the funeral, be sorry she wasn’t able to make it, and make him relive the entire event. Not only that, he knew that this was only the beginning of many countless trips he would be taking to see her. Every day he would have to bring her the muffins.
He opened the door. “Grandmother,” he called, “it’s me, Swiss.” He snapped on the lamp in the living room and saw the familiar cozy furnishings draped with homemade quilts and afghans. The smell of cinnamon tea filled his nostrils as he walked into the kitchen and set the muffins down on the counter. He took a muffin out of the basket and set it on a small saucer.
“Grandmother,” he said again, wondering now if he had come too late, and she had gone to bed.
He hesitated at her bedroom door, not wanting to disturb an old lady and her sleep. Except his mother’s words came to mind: every day … every day. He tapped lightly on the door and then opened it.
The room was dark, but he could hear his grandmother’s grunts and snores from the back of the room. Aware of the lamp next to her bed, he made his way, muffin in hand, toward it. He snapped the light on.
At first the brightness blinded him. “I’m sorry I’m so late. It’s just that it’s been an aw—” He stopped with his mouth open, stared, and then heard the crash of the plate as it hit the floor. For there in his grandmother’s bed was a huge, hairy wolf. And the wolf was awake now, glaring at him.
The wolf had big eyes, a big nose, and what big teeth it had. It growled, saliva gathering at the corners of its mouth like a mad dog. Swiss stood petrified, but only for a second, because the wolf then leaped out from underneath the cozy blankets. Swiss found his feet and scrambled backwards, but he couldn’t take his eyes off the wolf because it actually wore one of his grandmothers long pink nightgowns.
“Grandmother,” Swiss yelled, and then quickly scanned the room for any sign of her. Perhaps she hid under the bed or maybe in the closet. He didn’t want to even think of the obvious, but he didn’t have time to have a good look, because in the next instant, the wolf had lunged and pinned him to the hardwood floor.
Swiss shielded his face with his arms as the wolf tore at him with its claws, ripping his clothing open like a candy wrapper. The sharp nails dug deep into his flesh causing Swiss to cry out in pain. His mind desperately analyzed the situation. He had two choices: keep fighting and prolong the agony or die a just as painful but perhaps quicker death. At the very moment Swiss had decided to move his arms and let the wolf finish him off, the heaviness of the animal lifted, and he heard it howl out in pain. He didn’t dare move. His entire body felt like it was on the spin cycle as hard adrenaline pumped through his heart. Finally, with large breaths, he sat up.
The wolf lay on the floor with an ax in its side. Swiss stood up, but not wanting to take any chances that the wolf would attack him again, he kept his distance.
Swiss flinched, ready to run, when the woodsman stepped out of the shadows and retrieved his ax. The red blood of the wolf poured out onto the floorboards.
“My grandmother,” Swiss managed to get out of his dry mouth. “Have you seen my grandmother?”
The woodsman frowned at him and then subtly motioned with his eyes for Swiss to look at the wolf.
When Swiss looked, his head did a spin and a swoon. There on the floor in the place of the wolf lay his grandmother.
“I’ve been tracking her for years,” the woodsman said.
Panic wrapped itself around Swiss’s reason. His whole world swirled around in his head. “I thought I saw … There was a wolf. My mind, in the darkness, my eyes … I’ve been so upset today.” He looked up at the woodsman who still held the bloody ax. “Why would you kill my grandmother?” He could feel anger and guilt rising to his face. Protect your grandmother. He had not been able to protect her for a single day. Don’t ever talk to strangers. What had he done?
“That was not your grandmother, son,” the woodsman said. He turned from Swiss and yelled, “She’s over here.”
Three men in military uniforms entered his grandmother’s room. Two of them carried a stretcher. They put it down beside his grandmother. The third man touched her neck and said, “She’s dead,” like he had solved a great mystery, and then placed a white sheet over her body. The first two men picked her up.
“Wait,” Swiss said. “What do you think you’re doing? Stop … STOP!”
They paid no mind to him but continued their job and placed her on the stretcher. They picked up the stretcher just as Swiss ran in front of them, blocking them from going any further.
“Did you hear me? Put her down.”
The woodsman nodded to the men who had looked to him for answers. “It’s all right,” he said. “Just give us a few moments.”
The men placed the stretcher back on the floor and then walked out of the bedroom.
Swiss said, “I don’t know what’s going on. But I do know that you just chopped my grandmother with an ax. I’m calling the police.” But as he said the words, he did understand that all was not normal.
“She is the property of the United States Government. Thirty years ago, she traded her citizenship for compensation and help. She’s werewolf, the real deal, and she needed help to stop killing people. After she signed her life over to us, the scientists found that silverweed kept the symptoms of the disease in check. Only, as soon as she was better, she reneged on her deal and fled with outside help. I have been tracking her ever since. It seems I found her just in time.”
Swiss sat on the edge of his grandmother’s bed. None of it made sense, but yet, things began to make more sense than ever. The muffins. “Still,” Swiss whispered, feeling the sting of his slashes shouting something else at the same time. “She wouldn’t have hurt me.”
“Son, she had no control once she changed.”
Changed, Swiss thought. His grandmother transformed into a wolf and then tried to kill him.
“I’m really glad you spied me in the woods today,” the woodsman continued, “If not, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to try those muffins. The taste of parsnips confirmed my suspicions, and since there was a full moon, I feared for your safety. I really hoped I’d be able to take her in alive.” The woodsman shook his head. “I’m really sorry about your grandma. But I hope you realize that more than your life was in jeopardy tonight.” With that, the woodsman stuck his head out the door and told the men to come back in.
This time Swiss didn’t say anything; he just let them take her away.
“Here’s my number.” The woodsman handed Swiss a card. “You can have her in a couple of days, so you can give her a proper burial.”
Alone in his grandmothers’ room, Swiss put his face in his hands and cried for the second time that day. He ached all over, especially on his right side. He reached down and held it. “Ouch,” he said, as lifted his shirt to look. He saw his blood pooling at surface of a wicked bite. Swiss knew too well what it meant. His mother had told him countless stories of vampires and werewolves.
This meant he would share in his grandmother’s fate.
He thought that perhaps he should stop the man to tell him and show him and ask what he should do. No, he already knew what to do.
Silverweed muffins every day … every day.
Silverweed Muffins is one of the short stories in my collection, Supernatural Fairy Tales
Little Liar was inspired by Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Joseph Cundall Treasury of Pleasure Books for Young Children. London:1850
Illustration by Jessie Willcox Smith: 1916
Little Liar is a poem from my collection: Supernatural Fairy Tales.
by Dorlana Vann
I’m sheltered from the rain
But still I feel the mist.
It mixes with my pain
Confirming I exist.
I’m covered by the leaves
Living amongst the trees.
The more I see and learn
The more the world I yearn.
Fairy’s Sorrow was inspired by The Dryad by Hans Christian Anderson Denmark:1868
It is one of the poems from my collection Supernatural Fairy Tales : Fairy Tale Inspired Short Stories
Hi Friends, I am in the process of querying agents for my latest fairy tale inspired novel. A lot of agents are now using an online forms for submissions. There are the normal questions like, word count, bio, sample, similar books, etc. But I came across one the other day that asked for an optional playlist. At first, I was reluctant, thinking it was a waste of time, but then my husband said, "You should have one of those anyway." You see, I am a huge movie soundtrack fan: Pulp Fiction, Purple Rain, Dirty Dancing, Guardians of the Galaxy, are some of my favorites (btw - I have all of these in records lol). I was like, "You know what? You're are right." It turned out being a great exercise that I really enjoyed. Not only was it not a waste of time, it gave me insight into my novel that I had missed along the way. I went back and changed a couple of scenes that I believe made the book stronger. So I would totally recommend a playlist for your work-in-progress or even novels you think are finished. lol Below are the songs I chose. I didn't add all of these to my submission, and I actually had more and decided I needed to kind of weed them out. You can follow this link: Potion Playlist to Amazon Music if you want to listen to them. (Parental Guidance - some songs are Explicit) Levitating by Dua Lipa Just Like Fire by Pink Season of the Witch by Donovan Die for Me by Post Malone Little Red Riding Hood by Sam the Sham and the Pharaoh's Ocean Eyes by Billie Eilish When I go up by The Pussycat Dolls Love on the Brain by Rihanna Black Magic Woman by Santana People are Strange by The Doors Love, Laughter, and Fairy Tales, Dorlana
by Dorlana Vann
I walked through the front door a little after midnight. Jana sat on the couch in the darkness covered by the quilt from our bed, the images from the television flickered on her solemn face. “Oh, you’re up,” I said and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
“I want to talk to you, Trevor.”
When I caught a glimpse of deep concern in her eyes, I immediately thought something had happened to the baby. “Is Ethan okay?”
“He’s a handful to deal with by myself … but he’s fine.”
“Good, good.” That’s all I needed to know; I could go on to bed because anything else could wait until morning. “Well, goodnight.” I turned and walked down the hallway. But I didn’t get very far.
She yelled after me: “I’m going to hire a P.I!”
As I stormed back into the room, fear flushed my face. I stood over her. “Why would you do that?” When I realized my hands were clenched so tight my fingernails dug into my skin, I tried to relax but still couldn’t control my fidget.
“Because every time I try to talk to you, you walk away. I want the truth. I deserve the truth. Where do you go?”
“I’ve told you a thousand times. You know I’m out drinking with the guys.”
I watched her jaw tighten, and through her teeth she said, “Why are you lying to me?”
My heart raced. Had she already found something? “What makes you think I’m lying?”
Jana tossed the blanket off her lap and stood up. I tensed, prepared for a slap.
She eased to her tiptoes until we were face-to-face, breath-to-breath. “You don’t smell like a bar,” she whispered. “For a man who has been out drinking all night long, you certainly are sober. You don’t drink at home. Why the hell would someone pretend to be a drinker?”
I plopped down on the couch and rubbed my face hard with my hands. “Why are you doing this? Why can’t you just leave it alone?”
“Leave it alone? This is our marriage!”
I had nothing to say, nothing to offer.
“I give up,” she said. “I’m just going to ask, since you can’t be a man and admit it. Are you cheating on me? Is there someone else?”
An affair. It would be a simple enough explanation. “Would that be something you could forgive me for?”
“Wait a minute. That’s not it, is it? Shit, I can see it in your eyes. Trevor?”
“Just do yourself a favor. Do our family a favor. Let this go. Let me protect you. Don’t you see? If I tell you, I don’t know what will happen. I’m afraid you’ll never forgive yourself.”
“What? Forgive myself? What are you accusing me of?”
I looked at her, exhausted, tested, tears filling her eyes. It had gone too far. I knew she would probe until she found the answers. I also knew that it wouldn’t look good if a private investigator came back with pictures. Jana would just draw her own conclusions that would, no doubt, end our marriage. I had sacrificed too much to let that happen. I inhaled and then exhaled slowly. I didn’t have a choice but to confess. “You tried to sell Ethan.”
“I had to buy him back,” I said. “Now I can’t catch a break.”
“Just stop it. Stop it.”
“You wanted to hear this; so here it is.” I stood up and grabbed her hands. “Luck, like anything else, can be bought and traded. Before we met, you made a deal with Luck. Because you had such horrible luck, you agreed to trade your first-born for what you thought was really good luck.”
“Really?” She pulled away from me. “That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”
“After we were married,” I said firmly, “after we were pregnant, you told me what you had done. You told me how you found out too late that good luck was just an illusion; that there were only three types of luck: extreme, medium, and weak. With extreme luck, really good things happen but so do really bad things.”
“Maybe you haven’t been drinking,” Jana said, “but something is wrong with you.”
“You said you tried to take it back, but it was too late. You had already given up all rights to our unborn child, before we met, to some couple with medium luck.”
“This is crazy, Trevor. Do you know how crazy this sounds?”
“I thought so too at the time. But still, I asked you where I could find this luck guy. Even though I didn’t believe you, never believed a word of it, I went there. Even after I found the guy, I still didn’t believe he was who you thought he was. But for your peace of mind, I made my own deal.” I had to think hard. As time passed, the details had faded. I knew it was only a matter of time before I would completely forget just like Jana had.
“What kind of deal?” she asked with impatient sarcasm.
“I remember asking if you could give back the money you had won in the lottery. But that had already happened. He couldn’t erase time. I had to make a new arrangement so that I could keep my son. He called it weak luck, but it’s worse than that, it’s no luck at all.” I shrugged my shoulders because I knew that even if I would have known the outcome, I still would have done whatever I had to do to protect Ethan.
When I looked at Jana’s face—her puckered lips and firm jaw—I knew she hadn’t believed a word I said. But I had to finish. “I gave myself a little test all the way home that night; I flipped a quarter. Even after it never landed in my favor, I didn’t believe it. As each day passed, I pushed the limits a little more. You know, I had to see if it was real. I kept testing my luck, until it became an obsession. Until …” At this point, I couldn’t look her in the eyes. I cleared my throat of my sudden panic and then whispered, “I’d lost everything.”
“What do you mean?” Her words trembled.
“All the money that was left from your lottery winnings, all of our savings … is gone.”
“No, no, no, this isn’t happening.”
“I’m sorry. I just keep thinking that I got to have some portion of medium luck. That’s where I go! To try and win it back.” Suddenly, it became so clear. This could be good. Together we certainly made medium luck! “You can win it all again. All you have to do is buy another lottery ticket, or we could go to the horse races.”
“No! Stop it!” She reminded me of a cat in defense mode: hunched back, hair on end, eyes wild, claws loaded. “I can’t believe you would make up such a ridiculous story so that you could blame me for you losing our son’s future? You don’t have bad, weak or whatever luck, Trevor, you have a gambling problem.”
“What? No!” I wondered how it had happened. How had I become the bad guy? “I know it’s hard to believe. I didn’t believe you when you told me, either. But I gave you a chance.” My body had begun to shake. “Just think about it for a minute. I know the memory of meeting him fades for a reason or everyone would be at his door. But there must be something there. Think Jana, think!”
“You need help, Trevor. Are you willing to get help?”
“What I need is for you to believe me. How many times have you said it yourself ‘Your luck sucks’? How many times has everyone said it? I traded it for you, for Ethan, and that’s why the car keeps breaking down, lights turn red at intersections … the reason I have lost so many jobs.”
“What? You’ve lost jobs? More than one? You don’t work for Laurence anymore?”
“It’s been six months.”
She stood with her mouth open as tears streamed down her face. I took a step to comfort her, but she held up her hand and said, “Tell me his name and where I can find this person, this luck guy.”
I closed my eyes trying to think again, trying to recall.
“What is it Trevor? Give me something. Is it John? Peter? Frank? Larry?”
But his name had left my memory months before. “I can’t. I don’t know,” I said without opening my eyes.
The soft breeze told me she had left the room.
I sat on the couch, waiting for her to go to sleep, thinking we could talk it through in the morning. Maybe as she slept some of the memories would return.
A few minutes later, she walked into the room. When I looked up, expecting another confrontation, she stood at the open front door, her back to me, Ethan asleep in her arms, and an overnight bag slung over her shoulder.
Before leaving, she said, “Good luck.”
If it Weren’t for Bad Luck was inspired by Brothers Grimm’s Rumpelstilzchen from Children’s and Household Tales. Germany: 1812 – It is one of the short stories from my collection Supernatural Fairy Tales available now on Amazon.
Once Upon a Time
Surrounded by winter woods, his grandmother’s house was down a hill, blanketed in the dreary afternoon. Aiden Young wondered if the stately, but definitely deteriorating, two-story would’ve looked less spooky if he and his mother, Lucy, were visiting under happier circumstances. He doubted it.
His mom parked the rental car beside a red BMW and cut the motor. “How do I look?” she asked as she examined herself in the rearview mirror.
“The same way you looked the first fifty times you asked.”
She sat back and sighed wearily. “I’m not sure I’ve ever dreaded anything as much as this.”
The trip to Indiana for Aiden had been perfect timing. He was out of school for the winter holiday and, more importantly, he didn’t have to face Summer, his newly ex-girlfriend. But now he was beginning to regret his decision to come with his mom. She was so stressed, they were out in the middle of what his dad would call the boondocks, and his phone service was spotty.
He was, however, looking forward to seeing his grandmother. They hadn’t visited any of his mom’s side of the family in ten years, so he couldn’t recall much about them. The house, however, triggered a memory: he remembered his cousin, Augustus, chasing him around the porch with a dead squirrel.
“Okay,” he said. “Here’s the plan. Let’s just get this over with. In and out in an hour. Boom.” Not that he was ready to go home, but maybe they could drive to town and have dinner and then check into a hotel with WiFi.
“You make it sound so simple.” She opened the car door. “Well, come on, then. Maybe things have changed around here.”
Aiden climbed out of the car and was greeted by the cold and wet December day. The frequent gusts of wind caused the sprinkles to feel more like tiny ice pellets. He covered his head with the hood of his jacket, tucked his hands inside the pockets, and followed his mom to the covered porch.
Lucy knocked, and the door creaked open a moment later.
Aiden recognized his cousin immediately when he greeted them with a, “What?” His dark hair was slicked back, and the way his swollen eyes, one green and one blue, didn’t hide his annoyance, told Aiden he was still a jerk.
“Hi. Remember us? Aunt Lucy and this is Aiden.”
Augustus scoffed. “It’s about damn time.” He walked away, leaving the door wide open. His hair wasn’t short like it had first appeared but was pulled back in a pony-tail.
Lucy glanced at Aiden as if to say, “Here we go,” and then stepped inside.
As Aiden’s eyes adjusted to the dim foyer, he surveyed his surroundings to see if he recognized anything. The floors were scuffed, worn hardwood. Faded, floral sheets covered huge, framed pictures or mirrors on the wall, and a cobweb-covered chandelier hung from the tall ceiling.
On the right-hand side, and through an open double-doorway, was the dining room. To the left, was a dark hallway, and a wide, wooden staircase.
He thought it strange that none of the grand entryway had stuck in his mind, but perhaps seven-year-old Aiden had blocked it out because even now, at seventeen, the musky smell and the gloominess made him wish he was back home in his bright modern house.
They entered a warm living room. Aiden figured the large windows and glass-paned backdoors leading to the spacious back yard brightened the room during the summer. Today, however, the murkiness of the afternoon drifted inside.
A sofa, a recliner, a console television that looked so ancient that he doubted it received cable, and a small end table with a lamp furnished the room. A dozen or so pale pillar candles lined the mantle of a red-bricked fireplace.
“Whoop,” Aiden said as he tripped on a rug he hadn’t noticed.
Augustus turned and pointed at Aiden. “Dude, watch your step.”
Aiden smoothed the rug with his foot in case it was expensive or something. “Sorry, man.”
“The last thing we need around here is more bad luck.” Augustus shook his head and walked to the chair that faced the blazing fireplace. He sat down, leaving Aiden and Lucy standing awkwardly behind the sectional.
“Sit, if you want,” he finally said.
After they made it to the front of the couch, Lucy only sat on the edge. “Augustus,” she said. “I don’t know how to express how sorry we are.”
Slowly, Augustus swiveled around to face them. “Diesel.”
“My name is Diesel.”
“Oh! Your middle name. When did you start going by your middle name?”
“Five years ago.”
“Oh.” She nodded and smoothed her hair. “How are you? Are you doing all right?”
“The funeral was yesterday,” he said without making eye contact.
“Yeah. I know, and I’m so sorry. I hoped we could drive out to the gravesite.”
Diesel leaned forward and glared at her before saying, “You missed your own sister’s funeral.”
“I know. I know. We really tried to get here on time but the airport, you know, with Christmas. It’s insane. Trying to rent a car was murder.”
Diesel shifted, sitting back in his seat.
Lucy cleared her throat. “How’s Mother?”
“She’s sleeping. Do you want to see her?”
“Nah, not if she’s resting.”
“I’ll be right back.”
When Diesel jumped up and walked out of the room, Aiden tried to exhale the tension with a silent whistle.
The fire crackled as they sat waiting.
Aiden turned when he heard a loud knock coming from above. A railing supported by carved wooden balusters edged the open landing.
“Gran,” Diesel said loudly. “Aunt Lucy and Aiden are here. Finally.”
After he heard the door open and shut, Aiden leaned over to his mom and whispered, “Man, he sure did get weird.”
“Well, he’s been through a lot. He just lost his mom.”
“Sorry.” Aiden felt bad for a second, but his curiosity won. “What was with the rug and bad luck stuff?
She glanced behind her before leaning in closer to Aiden. “Looks like your aunt passed her silly beliefs on to him. Augustus must think you stumbling or touching a certain part of the rug is a bad omen.”
“Diesel,” Aiden corrected with a smirk.
She nodded. “Right, Diesel. Anyway, I knew all the folklore Mother told me and Rose was make-believe, fairy tales. Rose soaked it all in as a child but didn’t go all,” she waved her hands, “you know, until you know.”
Aiden shook his head because he didn’t know. His mom rarely brought up her sister in conversation.
“Well,” she whispered, “when Rose was pregnant, her boyfriend, Harley, left her. I think something completely snapped. Even though I had already moved out by then, I heard Rose took it hard. At least that S.O.B. left money for Diesel when he died.”
They both jumped when Diesel cleared his throat from directly behind them.
“She’s not feeling well,” he said. “She wants to know if you guys can go up there.”
“Sure, sure,” Lucy said, her face bright red.
They stood up and followed Diesel into the foyer and up the stairs. After a few steps up, the stairs turned to the right. Aiden could see over the banister, down into the living room. A chair lift, most likely for Granny, was at the very top of the stairs.
The bedroom door was open, and Granny sat in a recliner covered by a patchwork quilt. Her grey, bushy eyebrows went all the way across and met in the middle of her brow. Her cheekbones sank in, and her long, silver hair draped over her shoulders.
“Lucille, you’re here,” Granny said, her voice ungrateful.
“I’m so sorry about Rose.” Lucy gave Granny a quick, distant hug. “I can’t believe she had a heart attack.”
“I don’t believe it, either. I suspect it was something else. Doctors. All of them, money hungry. Hmph, it doesn’t matter anymore. She’s gone. Rose is gone.”
Aiden heard the door close behind him. Diesel had left the room.
“She was a good daughter,” Granny said. “I could count on her. Always here for me.” She shook her head and then her face softened when she noticed Aiden. “My, my, look at you. You sure do remind me of your granddaddy; those eyes as blue as the sky, and when he was younger he had that dark hair.” Her eyes glassed over for a second as she seemed to reminisce, and then she said, “Come give Granny a hug.”
Aiden accepted Granny’s outstretched arms and hugged her, smelling the scent of grassy earth. When he pulled away, she smiled warmly.
“It’s so good to see you in person,” she said. “I’ve been sent pictures, but it’s not the same.” She looked around Aiden. “Where’s my new grandson? How old is he now, two?”
Lucy cleared her throat. “He’s three, and he has a cough, and I thought it would be best if Mike stayed home with him.”
Granny eased her attention over to Lucy. “I see. Seems a shame, a grandmother never meeting her own grandson. So when you running off again? Soon, I suppose, since you have an excuse.”
Lucy straightened and smiled curtly. “There’s something I need to talk—”
“Granny interrupted: “You can stay in your old room if you want. It’s the same. We haven’t changed a thing in case you ever decided to come home. There’s some clean linens in the hall closet. Aiden, honey, you can take the guest room downstairs. I’m feeling quite weak. Please ask Diesel if there’s some leftovers from Rose’s friends that I can have for my supper tonight. Rose always made supper.”
“I’d be happy to cook,” Lucy said.
Aiden cut her a look. What did she just do? In and out! he wanted to scream.
“I suppose that will do,” Granny said. “Turn the light out when you leave.”
Lucy wrung her hands and then leaned over to the bedside table and snapped off the lamp. The room went dim. She turned abruptly and left the room.
Aiden smiled uneasily at Granny. “See ya,” he said before following his mom’s exit. He shut the door behind him and caught up with his mom on the stairs, mid-ramble.
“She chose to live with Rose, and now she’s saying I abandoned her or something.”
“I didn’t hear her say that, but I did hear you volunteer to cook. We’re never going to get out here?”
“Why don’t we go to the car,” she whispered as they reached the foyer, “and we can talk.”
Once in the car, Lucy placed her hand on her cheek as she stared out the front windshield. “I knew it would be hard, but I can’t believe she’s implying I ran off. I didn’t run off. I got married. I couldn’t bring myself to come back very often because every time I did, Rose acted and looked so strange.”
“Like a witch or gypsy or something. The last time we came here, I swear she was in the kitchen making a potion.”
“No wonder you ran off. Your family is bonkers.”
“Funny,” she said, but didn’t laugh. “I tried to tell Mother that I wasn’t sure Rose should be taking care of anyone and invited Mother to come live with us then. Of course, she wouldn’t hear anything bad about her Rose. Mother chose her over me, so it’s not my fault.” She began to cry softly. “But I really didn’t mean for ten years to go by.”
Aiden searched for a tissue but gave up and pulled a t-shirt out of his duffle bag from the backseat and handed it to her.
Lucy dried her tears. “I know it’s too late to make it up to Rose, but maybe I can help Mother and be there for my nephew. We’ll sit down and have a nice dinner and try to convince them that the best thing to do is for Mother to move in with us. Diesel too, if he wants. I’m sure they’ll see that it’s the best solution. Right?”
He shrugged. After meeting Diesel again, he was pretty sure he’d laugh, or grunt, in their faces. He had money and was old enough to be on his own. Aiden knew what he would choose if given the choice.
“I’m sorry.” She patted Aiden on the leg. “I really didn’t mean to get all into that. Let’s get the luggage and get settled in.”
“Wait a minute. You’re not suggesting we sleep here, are you? I thought we were going to a hotel?”
“It will be late after dinner. There’s no place to stay in town, and I don’t want us to drive real far at night.”
They had driven straight through historic downtown Kingwood, Indiana. And nope, Aiden hadn’t noticed anything that even resembled a Holiday Inn. “Ah, man.”
“It’s only for the one night.” She sighed and stared at the house. “How bad could it be?”
Aiden imagined Diesel looming over his bed with a butcher knife chanting “You are bad luck. I must get rid of all bad luck.” Aiden shuddered. “Right,” he said. “How bad?”
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