Mr. Gooseberry’s Shed

by Anita Marie Moscoso 

Insprired by the Soul Food Alphabet Prompt

“N” is for Nigredo

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Just above the railroad tracks that lead into the town of Mount Prefontaine is a Gardener’s Shed.

The windows are caked with dried mud and pine needles and above the door of the Gardener’s Shed, which is not locked, is a sign that reads,

” Mr. Gooseberry’s  Gardening Shed. “

That’s all the warning you’ll get to stay away.

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Arnella Day, Julia Barnwell and Cynthia Stevens all rode the commuter train that ran through Mount Prefontaine.

They’d sit in the passenger car and drink their flavored Lattes and oh and ahhh over each other’s shoes and laugh way to loud at each other’s jokes and of course they’d try to comment on the passing scenery so that it would at least appear they cared about what went on outside of their world.

Then one day Cynthia pointed out the little green and white Shed that was built on the stone outcrop above the tracks.

She pointed the shed out because it occurred to her that you could only say so much about trees and shoes and makeup and tell stories about the bottomless lake that the train crossed over before people just tuned you out all together just so that they didn’t have to hear another one of your dull stories.

If there was anything Cynthia really hated it was being ignored

So instead of talking about the Devilbit Lake she decided to say something about the little shed and when she opened her mouth and spoke she was as surprised as anyone else at what came out.

What she said was, ” I wonder if there are any dead bodies buried in there? ” Cynthia looked up and around and then she realized those words really did come out of her mouth and she took a long drink of coffee to keep herself from saying anything more.

” I guess ” Arnella said, ” You can’t really find any live ones buried there right? “

Julia felt like she was standing next to herself and watching as that someone who looked like her and sounded like her said, ” I guess there’s only one way to find out- I guess we should come back and see for ourselves. “

So they did.

The three of them met at the Prefontaine Park and Ride early the next Saturday morning and they were all dressed in the newest word in day hike gear from Lady Olympus Sportswear at the Bellmark Mall and each one of them had little backpacks that had those special pockets for your cell phones.

Arnella brought the camera and some granola snacks and little bottles of water, which was good because all the other two remembered to bring their makeup and sunscreen.

That’s how their day started- it was bright and sunny and all was right with the world. They chatted about shoes, about what were on TV the night before and how ugly the new guy in the accounting department was.

So as the three women made their way up the trail none of them really noticed how quiet it was all around them. There wasn’t a sound, not a bug, not a bird, you couldn’t even hear the cars drive by from the road that ran right in front of the  trailhead. 

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It only took them 20 minutes to reach the hill and when they got up there they looked down at the tracks their train passed over every single day and they stood there and wondered if Devilbit Lake was really bottomless and then they turned around and read the sign above the door that said

” Mr. Gooseberry’s Gardening Shed “

Arnella slowed down and then she nearly stopped walking and she asked her friends, ” Why do you suppose there’s a gardener’s shed up here? I mean, look around there isn’t a house to have a garden for- so what’s the deal with a Gardener’s Shed?”

Julia and Cynthia stopped at the door and turned back as Arnella kicked at the ground. ” See, it’s all rock.  You can’t plant anything up here.”

The three of them still didn’t notice the silence, or the cold that was creeping out from under the Shed’s door and they only paused for a moment before Julia reached out and pushed the door open.

The smell that rushed out the door wasn’t bitter and dusty and old, it didn’t smell like earth or fertilizer.

All three of the women thought they could smell wet leaves and somewhere in there they picked up the faint scent of rubbing alcohol and antiseptics.

They could have turned back and headed down the trail and after a short drive they could have been at The Floral Hills Mall drinking iced coffees.

But they didn’t.

They went in.

The Shed was both humid and cold and everything on the shelves and leaning against the wall was covered with a dark mold that looked spongy and soft.

Arnella went in first and she started looking at the little jars on the shelves that lined the east wall and at the ones that were arranged neatly on the workbench- she couldn’t tell what kinds of plants and powders were inside dusty containers but she understood what the little symbols drawn in ink on the labels meant.

” These are all poisons…what the Hell kind of Garden Shed is this? ” She thought she was saying out loud ” there’s enough poison here to kill an entire city.”

Cynthia was looking at the shovels hat were leaning in the corner of the shed and she was thinking, ” I wonder how it would feel to actually dig a grave. “

And Julia who was standing next to Cynthia wanted more then anything to reach for the pickaxe that was leaning against the shovel. She could actually feel how right it would be if she picked that axe up and swung.

Arnella felt the shed get smaller and the air became more acrid and her skin started to crawl all over her muscles and bones and she left her camera, her backpack and her friends in that shed.

They found her around the back of the shed leaning over a ruined fence vomiting onto the hard rocky ground.

” Why did we come up here? ” Arnella asked her friends ” we don’t do hikes, we don’t camp the closest we get to nature is the flower kiosks at the Mall. So why are we here? “

” It just seemed like the right thing to do today, ” Julia said.

” Whatever, I’m going back in to get my stuff and then I’m leaving. “

Arnella went back into the shed and as she crossed the threshold she could see in her mind’s eye Julia and Cynthia wanting and planning the trip to this shed. She could see the way enjoyed their little stroll up here and she thought she could hear them out there laughing right next to the place she had just vomited.

” They really hate me. ” she said into the cold acrid darkness and the darkness seemed to agree and the air seemed to warm just a little.

She went to the workbench and picked up her camera and put it inside of her backpack and when she turned around…The shovel and the pickaxe were gone.  And then the image of her friends laughing at her  as she got sick turned to another image of them digging a hole just before the trail head.

Arnella was sure one thing.

She wasn’t going to be standing there with them, she wasn’t going to be digging or snickering- in fact she was sure she wasn’t even going to be doing any breathing.

” Damn them…” she hissed into the warming darkness, ” damn them both to Hell…”

Arnella went back to the work bench, unzipped her backpack and when she was done she opened the shed door with a bang and called out ” let’s go…”

Then as she slammed the door after herself the moldy dust fell away from the window by the shelf  full of glass jars…and there in the new light, leaning against the shelf was a shovel and a pickaxe and a smooth clear round spot on the workbench where a jar used to be.

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Mrs. Gavet’s Son

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by Anita Marie Moscoso

based on the Soul Food Cafe Chocolate Box Writing Prompt

An Imaginary Friend

Gianna Guzman never met Mrs. Gavets son- none of the kids who lived on 51st Pl SW Street over the past 25 years ever did

Kids like Gianna didn’t know that Mrs Gavet’s son was two days away from getting his drivers license and his first girlfriend and that he was going to get a new stereo for his birthday because two days before all this neat stuff happened to Mrs Gavet’s son-

he disappeared.

None of those kids would remember seeing  Mrs Gavet and her Mother driving away from 51st a year later just after dinner time. Mrs Gavet was wearing black and her Mother was wearing a hat with fake fruit on the brim.

And none of those kids were there, just before Easter, when Mrs Gavet’s  family from Oregon showed up and cleared out her house and how everyone on the street remembered how the family wore black and how tired they looked and how slowly they moved – even the young ones- as they moved boxes from the house to the moving truck.

Right after they left a sign went up selling the house-  and it read ‘ for commercial zoning ‘.

Then a few days after the ‘sold’ sign went up a wrecking crew came by  and Mrs Gavet’s house was torn down and an apartment complex called ” Gavet’s  Place ” went up in the lot where a light blue house with cherry trees in the front yard and a duck pond in the back yard used to be..

It really did happen that quickly.

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Mrs Gavet’s disappearance was always tied to her Son’s- and it was assumed by everyone in the telling of Mrs Gavet’s story ( which was told mostly at Halloween ) that the police were probably about to arrest her when she and her mother drove off that afternoon.

So this dark story about a Mother who killed her son two days before his birthday because he yelled at her about the color of frosting on his birthday cake circulated around Chaplin Harbor for years and years until they put a new bridge up over Old Creek Road.

And down there in that rock filled gully, which was choked with dead trees and nettles they found Mrs Gavet’s Car with Mrs Gavet and her Mother and parts of them still buckled into their seats.

From what I understand they even spent some time digging around down there thinking maybe they’d find Mrs Gavet’s son.

But they didn’t find him-

not in that Gully anyway.

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Mrs. Gavet’s son was suppose to be out on Old Creek Road, trying to flag people down to give him a ride home- ” It’s my birthday ” he was supposed to say to the people who stopped for him.

Then Mrs Gavet’s son would get into the back of the car and you’d drive for a little while and then you’d heard coughing coming from the backseat.

When you’d turn around there would be Mrs Gavet’s son with a knife in his chest and blood flowing from his eyes and ears and nose and he’d say, ” please get me home, it’s my birthday.”

Lots of people believed that story and why shouldn’t they?

It’s a good one and it’s a great story to tell around a campfire or when you’re driving passed a cemetery in the middle of the night and you want to make yourself and your friends laugh so that you don’t have to think about all those bodies turning to dust in their graves.

Stories are safe, even the scary ones as long as you can tell yourself they’re just stories.What happened to Mrs Gavet’s son I’m sorry to say isn’t one of those safe stories.

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Two days before his birthday Mrs Gavet’s son cut through the Chaplin Harbor Junior High-school so that he could get home before his Mom did. he knew she was getting him a stereo for his birthday and he knew it was in her closet and he knew she hadn’t wrapped it yet.

Plus it was a tradition- she bought the presents and then he peeked. And then he pretended to be really, really surprised. It was a dumb game but Mrs Gavet was one of those people who never smiled or laughed without a reason and her Son took a lot of satisfaction in knowing her could get her to do both things when he wanted to.

Mrs Gavet’s son was part way across the field when he saw Donna Gamble and Cheryl Headwall tearing out of the school parking lot in Donna’s beat up silver car with the little pink feet stickers in the rear window.

Then he saw the car speed up and drive right into Mrs Green’s brand new car parked at the edge of the lot.

He was close enough now to see into the car and Donna and Cheryl weren’t hurt they were angry- Donna jumped out of the car and was shaking something from a baggie onto the grass and Cheryl was screeching about how Donna didn’t even have a license and that they had just hit a teacher’s car then they both saw Mrs Gavet’s Son standing there looking right at them.

” Hey can you come here a minute? ” Cheryl cried ” Okay? I think I’m hurt…”

So Mrs Gavet’s Son went to the passenger side of the car and looked in and Cheryl said, ” we can’t get into anymore trouble man, you know?”

Actually Mrs Gavet’s son had no idea and then Cheryl looked over his shoulder and Mrs. Gavet’s son turned around and straight into the knife in Donna Gamble’s hand.

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It was that sad, and that stupid and that tragic- Mrs Gavet’s son died slowly in the back of a car that reeked like perfume and beer and vomit because two girls didn’t want to get into trouble for hitting a teacher’s parked car.

The two girls took his body and jammed it behind a huge rock that little kids liked to use as a Pirate Ship at this park that’s behind- of all places- the Chaplin Cove Police and Fire Department out there on 51st.

Gianna Guzman was one of those little kids- she was out at that rock every single day playing Pirate Ship.

Gianna was famous in the neighborhood for setting up the best games for Pirates- no one could come up with the monsters and villans and demons to fight like she could.

Pretty soon the kids that were coming to play Pirates were showing up to hear Gianna’s stories and sometimes a few adults would hang around and wonder where this kid was coming up with her wild stories that always seemed to end right here at this rock and in this park.

She’d start in a cave or graveyard or out on a battlefield with knights and and devil dogs and sooner or later all those characters would end up  standing right next to you and then…

Gianna grew up she took a job in a Funeral Home and as she worked she’d tell her Pirate stories to the dead.

She probably could have writtent them down and made a ton of money off of them but that just seemed wrong to Gianna- those stories never really felt like her own so she never sold them.

To be more specific,  she did sell a couple of her stories but she never cashed the checks.

As each one came through she held it up and sort of enjoyed the moment and then the words ” grave robbing ” came from nowhere and she put them in a drawer and never looked at them again.

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Last winter Gianna was out at the Police Station – her friend Archer Ward had just been assigned there and just before they said goodbye Archer said, ” Hey Gianna, want to take a look at your old Pirate Ship?”

Gianna was wearing her work clothes and she almost took a pass and then she said, ” Yes I do.”

They walked out to Gianna’s Pirate Ship and of course- as it did in most conversations the story about Mrs Gavet’s Son came up and then before long there was Gianna’s Ship- covered with graffitti and surrounded by coke cans and squashed cigarettes.

Gianna put her black folder and purse on top of the rock and gave it a little pat, ” it’s still pretty great ” she said and she almost didn’t hear what Archer said next because suddenly Gianna was watching a man with a knife following a girl down a street and…

” Hey Gianna…” Archer was laughing ” Earth to Gianna…”

Gianna took her hand away from the rock and said, ” Hmmm? ”

” I said are you going to …”

Then Gianna watched in slow motion as her purse and folder slid off the rock and back towards the fence.

Archer went to reach for her things but Gianna waved him back, ” Don’t worry about it Archer I got it.”

Gianna went to the other side of her ship, leaned over and got her purse first. Then she reached for her folder and after she lifted it up she saw, tangled in weeds and grass the smooth white skullcap of Mrs Gavet’s Son.

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Like I said, Mrs Gavet’s son isn’t out on Old Creek Road, and he doesn’t haunt the apartments that stand on the lot where his house used to be. He’s not out on the road asking for rides home so that he doesn’t miss his birthday party.

I think Mrs Gavet’s Son is in a place where people don’t get knives stuck in their chest for stupid reasons, I think Mrs Gavet’s Son is in a place where ghosts and monsters and every nightmare you’ve ever thought was just a story is real. I think Mrs Gavet’s Son found someone a few days after his birthday who could hear him talk about all of the things he sees now.

But I’m just a writer and it’s my job to think about things like this and wonder…and if you don’t mind I have to leave now

I think Mrs Gavet’s Son just took a seat and I have work to do…

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