Cooking, 1936

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The smell of stew was unmistakable.

Neal Watson’s house stood by itself on a small parcel of three acres that had gone to seed when prohibition had been repealed in ’33. He had celebrated the event by getting drunk, and he hadn’t gotten sober since. His wife passed when she gave birth to their only son, Michael, and had the ladies of Cross not taken pity on the child; the boy wouldn’t have made it out of infancy.

As it was, few in town saw young Michael or his father other than on Sundays when a group of three or four women would stop by to check on the boy.

The front door to the house was propped open, and a well-trod path from the road to the door was beaten through the tall grass. With the sun shining brightly, I made my way to the house and stopped just outside the door.

The smell of the venison and onions, potatoes and carrots, was warm and pleasant, and I suspected that it was a gift from the women.

Stepping into the house, I called out first to Neal and then to his son.

It was Michael who answered.

“I’m in the kitchen.”

The boy’s voice was frail and tired, and I went into the kitchen to see him. He sat in a chair much too large for him. A pot simmered on the stove, the boy watching it. Behind him, there was blood smeared on the door.

“Mrs. Shaw said not to touch the stew ‘til 11:30,” Michael said. “I ate the bread when she told me to.”

“Where is Mrs. Shaw?” I asked, keeping my eyes fixed on the child.

“She went home last night, just after sundown,” Michael answered. “She was sad. Pa was mean to her again.”

“Is your Pa home?” I asked.

Michael shook his head. “Nope. He went away with someone last night.”

“Who?”

The boy frowned as though he struggled with the memory. “I don’t know. Someone came to the door. Said she was mad at Pa and the way he talked to Mrs. Shaw. They argued some, and then she and Pa went out the back door.”

The boy glanced at the wall behind me and sighed with relief. “It’s 11:30, Mr. Blood. Are you hungry?”

“That I am,” I answered. “Where are the bowls, Michael?”

He smiled. “In the cupboard behind you.”

Nodding, I stood up and fetched them. No reason for us to walk on an empty stomach.

#fear #horrorstories #paranormal

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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