Sunday, March 4, 2012

Serial Sunday, The Telling Place, Part II.

Read Part I.

Ms. Sinclair sensed Logan’s fears quivering in his stomach like green jelly. She pushed past the grinning, goofy image of the idiot dog not even fit to carry fleas and searched deeper into Logan’s mind. She saw a blue painted room with plaid clad bunk beds and a spaceship nightlight. Her tongue flicked over her lips and her fingertips itched with anticipation as she honed in on a secondhand desk strewn with tubes of colored paint, model glue, and assorted paintbrushes held in an old Jiffy peanut butter jar.

She grasped her bird whistle until Logan saw her knuckles turn gray and he closed his eyes, trying to hold onto Shep’s face. He wanted so bad to pull his hand away from hers, but something primordial told him it was better to remain still, not to wake whatever beast lay slumbering behind Ms. Sinclair’s eyes if he wanted to be eating mom’s meatloaf for dinner that night. Logan concentrated on fluffy garlic mashed potatoes and meatloaf while Ms. Sinclair talked. Her hand felt oddly uncorpselike, which puzzled him. Maybe, it was just nerves last time, as mom said.

Ms. Sinclair stroked the whistle, feeling the warm bone stir beneath her fingertips. She peered closer at the modeling table in Logan’s room. “Now, Logan, you know that you need good grades to get a good job someday, right?”


She saw a tiny zombie miniature on the table, its face drawn back in snarled agony, a miniscule dagger in its fist. She smiled. “And you know you have to obey your parents and that your mom wants you to get good grades, right?"


Ms. Sinclair focused on the graveyard model displayed on the desk, the undead locked in limbs with the living, creeping, sneaking from clawed graves, shuffling out of the rusty cemetery gate, staggering around toppled gravestones, their lips pulled back in menacing howls, blood feast in their eyes. And she stroked her whistle. “Then you’ll work harder to better at your homework, right? To do your homework before your models?”

“Yes.” Logan felt something viscous and slippery crawling up his arm into his mouth, probing with its wet tongue. He spat and opened his eyes, startled. Yanking away his hand, he noticed nothing was there, but tasted vile brine in his mouth. “Sorry.” He wiped the palms of his hands on the front of his Star Wars shirt. “I thought a bug flew into my mouth.” He blushed, realizing how foolish he sounded with the window closed.

“That’s quite alright, Logan.” Ms. Sinclair glanced out the window. “Your mother’s back.”

The red door opened and Logan heard the faint tinkle of the ice cream truck outside.


“Yes.” He hugged his mom.

“Did everything go okay, Ms. Sinclair?”

“Yes, it did. I’ll see you at the same time next week.”

“Thank you, Ms. Sinclair.” Mrs. Martin winked at her.

“Goodbye, Logan.”


Ms. Sinclair waited until their tomato red Toyota Camry turned the corner on Wabash at the light before she raised her whistle to her lips.

* * *

Mrs. Hammond, I assure you that hypnotism is a widely accepted form of therapy proven to show significant results almost overnight.” Clarice smiled at young Johnny who sat on the floor repeatedly crashing two Hot Wheels® on the braided rug.

“You’re going to die in a fiery pit of burning hell,” the eight year old screamed. “Burn, burn, and die!”
“See what I mean, Ms. Sinclair? It’s just not normal, the aggression he displays. And the fighting with his sister at home has escalated.” Mrs. Hammond rubbed her weary face. “I just don’t know what to do any more. And I’m working such long hours at the hospital now that I can’t even begin to think of putting him in an afterschool program with his behavior like this.”

“I’m sure I’ll be able to help you out, Mrs. Hammond. It’s a good idea you brought him in. If you’ll give me a half hour alone with Johnny, I promise you’ll see results before his next session.”

“Fine.” Mrs. Hammond was almost out the door already, needing no prodding to escape for a half hour from her son.

“Mrs. Hammond, if you don’t mind my asking, where did you hear about my services,” Clarice stopped her in the vestibule.  

“From Logan’s mother.”

“Oh.” Ms. Sinclair smiled. “Enjoy your time alone, now. Most mothers do.” She winked.

As Ms. Sinclair closed the door, Mrs. Hammond thought she saw the old woman’s small bird talisman squirm against her purple blouse. But no, it couldn’t have been. It was just her imagination.

“In a pit of fiery burning hell!”

“Yes, Johnny, some day we will all die in a fiery pit of burning hell. But in the mean time, why don’t you come over here and talk to me for a minute.” Clarice stared at the black boy on the rug, following his gaze to a brightly painted wooden chest on the opposite wall. Well, if he won’t listen to me, we’ll just get his attention, won’t we? The little maggot. Clarice glowered as her feeble fingers stroked the bone bird whistle hanging from her waddled neck.

Johnny sat mesmerized by the chest, his arms poised over the rug with his cars suspended in mid-cataclysmic crash. The chest boasted a jungle scene carved in base relief and painted in electric blues, hot magentas, neon greens, and psychedelic yellows. Lions, giraffes, moneys, and parrots and long serpents capered and danced with the dark African figures under leafy umbrella palms. The greens were so lush Johnny could almost drink the sweet, cool water from their stems. As he reveled in the details of the scene, the silhouetted figures began to shiver and quake as one tall, lean man raised a machete and decapitated a giraffe. Its shiny yellow wooden body ran bright red with rivulets of blood. Johnny hurried away from the gruesome pandemonium scene as animals fled shrieking and squealing into the jungle. He clambered for the warm safety of the couch by Ms. Sinclair’s rocking chair and wrapped the granny square afghan around his quivering shoulders, hiding his blue “The Dog Ate My Homework shirt”. 

“You w-wanted to talk to me, Ms. Sinclair?” Why couldn’t Johnny see her pupils? It almost seemed she didn’t have any. Strange, like a witch. He shivered, pulling the afghan tighter around his body.

“Yes, I wanted to talk with you, Johnny. Just a friendly talk. Nothing bad. Give me your hand,” Ms. Sinclair beckoned, sliding her rocking chair closer to the couch.

Johnny knew that voice. It was the lying voice, the kind of voice Dr. Martin used when he told him the shot wouldn’t hurt much or the voice his sister used when she promised to take him to the park if he left her alone for awhile and then didn’t. It was a dark, bruised voice, the lying voice. Johnny didn’t want to disappoint his mother again. He really didn’t, so he gave Ms. Sinclair his left hand, palm up, and squeezed his tongue tight against the roof of his mouth to keep from screaming.    

“Close your eyes, Johnny.”

He closed his eyes.

Clarice put her bird whistle to her wizened lips and blew once. A piercing squawk hurt his ears. He winced. “Tell me about your sister, Johnny.”

Johnny’s voice hung wasp nest thin on the air, his eyelids fluttering like insect wings. “I don’t like her. She threatens to cut the heads off my G.I. Joes and steals my candy. And she tells on me and gives me purple nurples and stuff."

“I see.” As Clarice held the boy’s soft, clammy hand, she saw a long-legged girl with a slender coltish neck and a delicious mischievous grin. “Is that why you beat her up?”

“No,” he blurted. “She beats me up first.”

“I see. And how does that make you feel?"


“Keep talking.” Clarice pressed deeper into the boy’s nubile consciousness, searching, searching for … Ah yes, there it was. She wet her lips and stroked her bird talisman. It grew hot and malleable like the boy’s hand.

When Johnny was younger, two, maybe three, his mother had read him the story, Three Billy Goats Gruff. The long rickety bridge they had to cross didn’t frighten him and the troll with the nasty eyes didn’t frighten him, but for some reason he did not like the goats, even though they were the heroes of the story. Goats were vile and dirty. They stank at the petting zoo. They ate your nametags and slobbered slimy spit in your hand, leaving you all germy, while flies buzzed around them to bite their smelly legs. At night he’d gone to sleep and the goats plagued him with their malodorous odor and their red eyes like glowing pinpoints in the dark as they bared their brown stained teeth, their hooves tapping with anticipation. Click, click, click … Why was he thinking about this now?

The boy was strong -- almost too strong. He knew something was wrong. Clarice saw it written in his scrunched up face, his mouth tinier than a shriveled raisin. She tasted his fear in the air, alkaline and slippery. Continuing to stroke her bird whistle, she whispered, “Johnny, do you remember the goats?”

“Y-yes.” His grip on her hand could have crushed a drinking glass.

“When I say ‘hippopotamus’ and tell you to open your eyes you won’t remember me asking that question.”

“’Kay.” His lids fluttered and stilled. Johnny thought of the ballerina elephants in Fantasia now. It must be the mention of hippos. He grinned.

“Hippopotamus. Open your eyes, Johnny.” Clarice startled as her office door opened. Mrs. Hammond had a bag of Einstein Bros® bagels in her hand.

“Hi, Johnny. Did you have a good talk?”
“Y-yes, mom.” He really couldn’t remember. That was odd. He remembered something about a hippo or a dancing elephant. His tongue felt swollen and his head felt thick like he’d been sleeping.

“Well, Johnny, you’d best get out of here and make the most of what’s left of the daylight while you can. It’ll be dark before you know it.” Ms. Sinclair grinned.


“Johnny, why don’t you wait for me in the car? We’ll go get a Happy Meal after I finish talking with Ms. Sinclair.”

She waited until he safely rounded the corner. “Anything I should know about?”

End of Part Two


Sandra Tyler said...

Wow. Some great writing here. Love the little tons like" wasp nest thin." memorable!

Shah Wharton said...

Oh I am loving this Nora. I'm not into kids as pro tags, but this is some excellent writing! I see your issues have not effected that. :)

Jennifer said...

Looking forward to reading parts 3 and 4!

At first I thought Ms. Sinclair was going to be a very kind sympathetic character...but she's so...creepy. Interested to see where you're going with this.

Thanks again for visiting my blog earlier. Hope you'll return as well. Parts 3 and 4 in my series are posted.

Veronica Lee said...

Like Jennifer, I too, was surprised that Ms Sinclair wasn't what I thought her to be!

Great writing as always, Nora!