THE NISQUALLY EARTHQUAKE

by Anita Marie Moscoso

written for The Soul Food Cafe’s

 The Lumerian Project

I have first hand experience with closed off and forgotten rooms- those creepy ones that you just know you shouldn’t go into – I go into those places.

ps

This is a true story.

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This clock stopped at exactly 10:55 when the Nisqually Earthquake struck. It’s down the street from where I work in Pioneer Square

Seattle, Washington

Feb 28, 2001

We found a closed off room in the back off the warehouse I work in.

We went into it after the earthquake because part of a wall had slid away from the building and it need to be repaired.  Anyway we went  back there because we  were checking places we didn’t use often or at all for for damage.

As we inspected the building we found lots of little weird things.One of the strange things we found  were windows between the walls that  had been painted black and we found burn and scorch marks under floorboards but not above the floors.

The oddest thing we found  was a little workroom where a new wall had been built in front of the doorway and there was actually a little hallway between the new wall and the old wall.

The door to this ‘hallway’ was behind an old chalkboard and if you wanted to find it all you had to do was lift the board.

 It wasn’t even locked

Anyway….

This second door was locked and we did have to force that one open. 

We found this room full of  fixtures still hanging from above the workbench waiting to be repaired. There were coffee cups on the desk and really nice and expensive tools all over the place.

There were even boxed fixtures waiting to be sent out.

By the looks of it the room had been shut up back in the 1970’s during the middle of a regular workday.

As we stood there I remembered a co-worker told that me his good friend use to be the warehouse manager years ago and he had died down in the workshop from an aneurysm.

I thought he meant the workshop that’s in the open corner of the warehouse now. It’s a small work area where they build displays in now. Anyway, I couldn’t imagine any other place in the warehouse he could’ve been talking about.

But finding that room after the Nisqually Quake was the oddest thing I’ve experienced down in that warehouse .

Shortly after I began working at my Warehouse I kept seeing a man in his 40’s wearing a blue plaid shirt walk by me on the stairs or walking by me as I was receiving stock.

Once he even looked at me, with a cup of coffee in his hand and smiled.

I remember thinking he was one of those fake people who smiled because he had to…you know to be polite. Because when he smiled at me, it was like he wasn’t really looking at me.

Something kept me back from asking people who he was, I’m not sure if it’s because I was a new employee and was simply overwhelmed by all the new faces or if I didn’t care because he was creepy…he was just there and then he’d walk away and never say anything.

So at the same time I was seeing  Mr Phoney Baloney ( as I thought of him ) I started having this nightmare  about this AWFUL voice coming up out of the elevator shaft.

Our elevator is a VERY old fashion freight elevator that looks like an open cage and has double doors that slide up and down because it’s not enclosed so you feel like your falling when you’re riding in it. People hate that thing. I don’t, I think it’s cool. It’s an antique and when we’ve had to have work done on it we have to have the parts made by special order.

Back to the voice that seemed to be coming up out of the elavator shaft.

The voice didn’t sound like a voice. It sounded liked rocks hitting each other…grinding against each other, only I could understand the words.

The last night I had the dream I dreamed I was in the store and there was this little pile of broken fixtures on the showroom floor and that weird voice was telling me it was coming, it would take what it could and that the elevator was it’s domain.

I was so intimidated by that dream I was sending stock from floor to floor on the elevator by itself and then take the backstairs through the offices to get to the elevator to take freight off.

It was the long way around, but I couldn’t after having that dream night after night go anywhere near that elevator.

That included the stairs that go up along side of it.

Everytime I tried to use the stairs I started to get what felt like claustrophobia and I’d get angry just thinking about having to walk anything up stairs because I hated going into that stairwell.

The morning the Quake hit I had been standing all morning assembling this complicated crystal chandelier at my workbench and shortly after starting the task I started having problems with the fixture.

The problem I had was that the little crystals were rolling off the bench every once and awhile. I kept dropping things; I was nervous, short tempered on the phone, snapping answers to my co-workers. I would look at the directions for the fixture and they made no sense. It was like looking at a foreign language.

Along with that I felt like someone had been yelling and picking at me all morning. When this set of wire cutters fell off my bench and almost hit me on the foot that was IT.

I  decided to give it a rest and take and early lunch.

I went  upstairs and got my friend and we were walking out into the hallway in front of her office when I heard the elevator car start to slam against the wall of the elevator shaft and for some weird reason I started to laugh.

That’s when the Nisqually Quake hit.

During the earthquake I saw the man in the blue plaid work shirt standing next to me while the floor was buckling and the building was shaking. I was hugging the wall, dragging my friend and trying to get under a doorway when I saw him. I thought it was strange he didn’t seem to be having trouble following me because he was walking so steady.

I ignored him because first of all he looked like he was okay and my friend was about to pass out from shock and I had other things to focus on.

Like the lighting fixtures hanging from the ceilings.

We have those hanging fluorescent lighting fixtures in our building  and I didn’t want one to break and fall on us because the powder in the bulbs  BURNS.

But this is what I saw when I looked up- I saw those old fashion single light fixtures that look like little round cages.

We don’t have those old  fixtures  anywhere in our buidling.

When I looked down  I saw that the coke machine looked like it was going to fall on us and there was these book cases falling away from the wall too that I didn’t have time THEN to wonder what the heck was going on.

I just wanted to get to a safe spot

Finally we got under the doorframe and could stand upright, the man was standing next to us and this time he really smiled at me.

Then I looked out the window and saw  Seattle shimmering like a mirage, I saw bricks sliding away from buildings, I saw people standing in the middle of the crosswalks and streets paralyzed in fear.

When I glanced to my left, the man in the blue plaid shirt was gone.

I found out later that the elevator shaft itself was damaged after the earthquake and that the stairwell had been constructed wrong many years before.

We were lucky it didn’t collapse as well.

In fact, the inspector red tagged it after he taking a brief look at it and started yelling up the stairs to anyone in there to get out ” RIGHT THE HELL NOW! “

People had been using those stairs right after the earthquake to get from one floor to another. Except for me, I used the back stairs.

After all of this, I would have to say the architects and FEMA inspectors who explained to me that the old foundation of our building actually buckled up and tried to come through the new foundation best explained my experience that week.

That’s what I think had been happening all that week until 10:55 when the Nisqually quake hit; the past had somehow found it’s way into the present.

They were right; I saw it happen.

                                   

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Eye Of The Beholder

by Anita Marie Moscoso

PROUD WINNER OF THE

CELLULOID BLONDE

 AWARD FOR

best fiction post

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Abney Hawkweed taught music for 25 years in the Caswell School District and those were the best years of her life.

Not that she liked teaching; in fact Abney didn’t even like kids.

But the hours were good, she got the Summers off and at the end of the day not many people go out of their way to pay attention to plain looking women with wire rimmed glasses who know how to play the violin and trumpet and the saxophone.

Which suited Miss Abney Hawkweed just fine.

In the old days, after school was over and Abney was on her way home she used to roll the windows of her fuel-efficient little car down and she use to turn the radio off just so she could hear the honking horns and screeching tires. Sometimes she even got an earful and eyeful of some road raging driver screaming their lungs out and waving their fingers around in nasty gestures.

Sometimes, just for the fun of it Abney would go out of her way just so that she could drive by the Great Mall of Felton Hills.

She just loved to watch people dodge buses and trucks and cars and then no matter how many cars were behind her honking their horns she’d drive slow just so she could see the same people sprint, jog or run across the parking lots with baby strollers and shopping carts- all so that they could get into the shops and the food court and consume anything they could lay their hands on.

It all seemed so trivial and innocent and final.

 There was no mystery to life in the suburbs.

You worked, you shopped, you watched TV and then you got to die.

Some people, Abney thought, don’t know how good they have it and that’s a fact.

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Abney’s day job paid the rent; what she did at night was who Abney Hawkweed was. She could always find another day job, but there was only one Abney and when the Sunset came she couldn’t be anything else.

So just after dinner she would gather her tools into a little black leather medical bag- the one she inherited from her Grandfather and she turned the little gold clasps counter clockwise to lock it.

Then for luck, just like Grandpa taught her, she would touch the little brass plate that said, ” Post Mortem Case ” three times.

The luck thing was important because she usually needed it.

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Like with most family businesses you could either take up the reigns and do the family proud or you could skate by and make them wish they could at least say you were adopted or ‘from the other side of the family’.

The worst you could be neither, the worst thing you could be is mediocre.

And know it.

Abney figured she could get the job done-  and that  phrase pretty much summed up Abney’s job performance. She wasn’t as glamorous and thin and blond as her cousin Inez and she wasn’t as smart or athletic as her Father Dr Setwell Hawkweed had been.

They were impressive figures at work and well respected.

No doubt, Abney could dig up a coffin  pop it open and hammer a stake into the heart of a bloated red faced vampire before it could open it’s mouth and spit blood into her eyes-which is what they did when they were about to attack.

If they got you it was bad news because that mess could make you blind.

That’s how they brought you down.

Anyway…

The problem was it was just plain old Abney Hawkweed in some old decrepit church or over grown cemetery carrying on the family trade.

There was no sense of style about how Abney did her work so she did it quietly and efficiently as possible and then she’d go home feed her cat, listen to a little Mozart and then she’d turn in for what was left of the evening.

She did that for 25 years and she never complained.

She didn’t even complain when she had to go into a house on Halloween (of all nights) and take out a family of Vampires who had been sleeping in their basement and then  had taken to hanging from the rafters like water logged Piñatas-dripping blood and purge from their hardly working bowels onto the floor.

All Abney figured when she slipped in the gunk and broke her wrist was that they had done that on purpose.

It wasn’t like the books and comics and video games you know.

Abney learned the hard way that oxygen deprivation at death and then waking up to find you had been turned into a mosquito was enough to make anyone crazy.

Very Crazy.

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On the day Abney retired- both from the Day Job and the Family Trade, her work friends had taken her out for lunch and given her some neat gifts and they had promised to keep in touch.

She doubted they would.

And of course they didn’t.

Her family same to celebrate her retirement and of course they promised to stay in touch too- and Abney figured they’d make good on that and of course they did.

Especially when they needed a night off.

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As time went by Abney started to play the Violin again for the simple pleasure of it. She never got calls to lend a hand at this Graveyard or that Morgue because the Vampire Problem was a Problem Solved and Abney decided to take up the guitar.

It was at Inez’s birthday part last winter that Inez had told Abney, ” You know in the old days we could never have all gotten together like this. It’d have been too dangerous. I mean, a couple of nutty blood suckers and a can of gasoline and before you know it we’re crispy critters and people are dropping like flies from ‘ the plague’ again.”

” You had a lot to do with that Abney. Thank you.”

And Abney decided right then and there that she may not have been the sleekest of models to hit the showroom floor but she had made a difference all the same.

That was when Abney really felt it for the first time- her life; her simple quiet life was all she ever was.

And she missed it.

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When Spring came Abney had decided to take up sketching. She was pretty awful at it, but she had nothing but time on her hands and if this didn’t work she could always try something else.

So one day she’s at her favorite park sketching her favorite tree when four teenagers went walking by.

Shoulder to shoulder they looked like a little black thundercloud rolling along on the cobble stone pathway.

Their faces were pale, their lips were black and they smelled like the perfume counter at the Bay Side Department store.

Abney watched them for a moment and then she called out, ” You there…are you  suppose to be Vampires? “

There was a chorus of snorts and chuckles and someone tried to growl ” suppose to be ” but his his voice cracked.

One of the little black clouds broke away from the rest and she tried to glide up towards the middle-aged woman with salt and pepper hair ” We’re Goth ” she said slowly with her jaw clenched tight and her black hair falling into her face.

” Is that a new type of Vampire?” Abney asked cheerfully.

” I guess you could say that.” the girl with the pointed white teeth said. Then she tried to stare the old woman down. ” Why do you want to know? “

Abney shrugged, ” just checking. “

And as the little black cloud drifted down the path Abney got up, reached for the black bag under her chair and touched the little brass plate three times.

Then she went to work.

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Mrs Beenettle’s Garden

by anita marie moscoso

Inspired by The Soul Food Cafe Project

The Solitary Reaper

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Outside the town of Dewhurst is a little Country Cottage House standing all by itself up off of a long dusty road. There’s  a rusty mailbox out front leaning over a ditch and a low stone fence that runs for miles  along the Cottage’s property line.

Within the borders of the stone fence the  small white cottage has potted plants on it’s porch and at each of it’s  lace covered windows  there are flower boxes full of purple and white and yellow Pansies.

That’s where Mrs. Beenettle lives.

People who drive by Mrs. Beenettle’ s House always comment on the old fashioned looking elderly lady with the straw hat and the basket of flowers on her arm.

” I wonder how old Mrs. Beenettle is, ” they’ll say ” she’s been out working on that garden of hers since I was a kid and that was over 20 years ago. ”

Then they forget all about her until the next time they drive by.

You see, Dewhurst is an up and coming town with streets full of houses called ” Mini-Mansions ” and roads with names like ” Glen ” this and ” View Ridge” that and the people who live in those developments aren’t the sort of people who slow down their cars or themselves for anything.

That includes sweet old ladies who tend Old English Cottage Gardens in the suburbs of Seattle.

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Last spring, after years and years of waving to people somebody actually took the time to stop and drive up to Mrs. Beenettle’ s Cottage.

That somebody was named Betsy Ware.

Betsy Ware swears too much and drives to fast and when her kids moved out and left Betsy and her husband with an empty nest Betsy filled their old bedrooms with boxes full of their books and old furniture and outdated clothes and broken toys.

” If they want to move back in they’re going to have to haul all this crap away. ”

A fool is a woman who doesn’t know her own children and Betsy knew her kids would rather live in a dumpster then to be responsible for their own messes so they never did come back-not even for visits.

Betsy was either one step ahead of you or maybe a half a step behind. But she was never far off the mark. That’s what made Betsy such a hard person to mess with.

It was a gift she guessed.

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One day Betsy just got it into her head to make the drive up to Mrs. Beenettle’s. She wasn’t sure where the idea came from; it just seemed like the right thing to do on that nice cool Spring morning.

She got out of her jeep wearing a faded black t-shirt and her hair tied back in a braid and Mrs. Beenettle came from the side of her house with her basket full of flowers.

Mrs. Beenettle smiled her roadside smile. ” Well Good Morning!” she said bright as a daisy.

Betsy stood there and smiled back and the thought came from nowhere and locked Betsy’s smile into place…” I have no idea why I’m here…no idea at all.”

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Mrs. Beenettle was pleasant enough, she knew all about plants.

What she said was not exactly what you would read in The Lady Gardener’s Companion Books.

 ” Flowers are just cool and cunning as any gambler or card shark” Mrs. Beenettle said in her soft warm voice. ” They will wine and dine and seduce anything they have to in order to get what they want.”

” What is it they want Mrs. Beenettle ” Betsy asked because Betsy had the feeling this was going to be a whopper.

” Why, they want to take over dear- simple it truly is as simple as that. I mean, if you think about it the only thing that consumes and reproduces with such blind determination are humans. We’re a lot alike, plants and humans.”

And Betsy found she couldn’t really disagree with that.

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They chatted about plants that ate bugs and flowers that smelled like cigarette smoke and Betsy asked, ” are there really such things as plants that eat people?”

Mrs. Beenettle laughed and so did Betsy and at that moment they both knew what the answer was-which only made them both laugh more.

The sun was starting to set and it was getting cooler when Mrs. Beenettle said, ” All kidding aside Betsy- if you’re interested in Man Eating plants this may tickle your funny bone-follow me.”

Behind Mrs. Beenettle’ s Cottage there was a grove of Hazel Nut trees. The trees had long thin spidery limbs and they were covered with moss and the bark on the trees was leather like and dark brown.

That surprised Betsy, she thought it would be more fitting if they were  bone white, but she was far to interested in what was growing beneath the little trees to wonder why the bark was the color it was.

Under each tree was a large flower.

The petals were black and purple and red and the flowers themselves were as large as the trees themselves.

And they smelled bad; they smelled very, very bad.

” Whoa ” Betsy said.

The sound of awe in Bety’s voice seemed to please Mrs. Beenettle a lot. In fact Mrs Beenettle smiled wider then ever and then  she put a Motherly arm around Betsy’s shoulders.

” I am curious about the smell Mrs. Beenettle.”

” These beauties are called Corpse Flowers Betsy. In order to thrive they attract blow-flies, and in order to attract Blow-Flies they have to give the flies what they desire which of course is the scent of death.”

” Is that all they attract Mrs. Beenettle?  The Blow- Flies?

Mrs. Beenettle held her arm out and Betsy took it. ” Plants always seem to find the perfect environment to survive in- they’re very cunning in that respect.”

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Towards Sunset Betsy left Mrs. Beenettle’s Garden.

Tucked into the back of Bety’s Jeep was a flat box filled with tiny compartments. In each little square were tiny shoots that were coiled  and spiraled upwards and each little shoot was tinted black and red purple at their edges.

Next to the flat, wrapped in oiled paper were Betsy’s shotguns and in a little plastic envelope under the guns were tags from sweaters and jackets and shirts.

Like Mrs. Beenettle said, plants always seem to find the best enviorment to survive in- they’re very cunning in that respect.

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