Under The Steps

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you can find inspiration in the strangest places 

When I was a kid our next door neighbor was a nice old lady named Mrs. Hanley Parsons.

She lived all alone in a house full of old fashioned furniture that looked brand new and she always wore black dresses and around her neck she worse a string of pearls and her wristwatch didn’t have numbers on it.

In fact none of the clocks in Mrs. Hanley Parson’s House had numbers on them.

Once I asked Mrs. Parsons about her faceless clocks and she said, ” Time and I had a parting of ways years ago, but I like clocks, I like the sounds they make. Do you understand what I mean?”

I nodded and said ” No.”

Mrs. Parsons laughed and she offered me a plate of cookies (almond) and I took one. ” I make them myself. In the old days I used to do a lot of baking and cooking. I stopped though.”

” Why’d you stop? ”

” Oh, I fell into a career. And in those days women didn’t have jobs outside the home let alone careers. So I lost my husband and my children and even my family. With no one to make a home for, my domestic skills…” she seemed to be looking for the right word on the ceiling ” suffered.”

” Just because you got a job? ” I asked in disbelief.

” A career ” Mrs.Parsons told me. ” A job is something you do for a living. A career is something you become.”

” Did you like what you used to do? ”

” Very much so.”

” Do you miss it? ” I asked.

Mrs. Parsons nodded and said, ” It gave me purpose.”

I liked Mrs. Parsons, she taught me how to read when I was only five years old and by the time I started Kindergarten I was reading at the first grade level. By the first grade I was reading two years up.

All because of Mrs. Parsons.

Mrs. Parsons also taught me how start pumpkin plants in Dixie cups and how to prune Roses.

But no matter what we were doing, or how well I learned her lessons she would always get a little sad when she talked about the old days and her career.

When I was about 8 years old my parents told me we were moving away from Seattle and I went next door to tell Mrs. Parsons.

” Well, ” she said, ” that’s very sad news. I’m going to miss you. You’re very good company.”

” Mrs. Parsons ” I asked, ” do you think you could teach me your career? That way I could remember you always.”

Mrs. Parsons laughed and she said, ” I’ll make you a deal, I’ll teach you part of my job and you decide in the end if it’s something you like doing.”

So Mrs. Parsons told me to go down to her basement and look under the steps and to bring up the little wicker basket. I carried the basket upstairs to the kitchen where Mrs. Parsons was dusting her fresh baked almond cookies with powdered sugar.

I put the basket on the table and she reached in and slowly removed the contents and sat them on the table in front of us. ” So, where to start.” she said to herself.

 I looked up at her and shrugged and said. ” At once upon a time?”

Mrs. Parsons laughed and that’s how it started.

I learned about Mrs. Parsons career every day for about a week, and then one day I went to Mrs. Parson’s house and a man answered the door.

He was Mrs. Parson’s son and he told me she had died.

Just as I was about to turn away he reached down and handed me the little wicker basket and said, ” I suppose this is yours.”

I nodded and kept my hands behind my back.

Mrs. Parson’s Son looked a little nervous and he sat the basket down and slid it towards me with his foot and when he stepped back I reached down and picked it up.

I didn’t say thank you and looking back on it, I don’t think he expected me too.

So now at the age of 42, I still have that wicker basket (my cat uses it for a bed) and on the top shelf of my book case pushed against the wall is a fully functional hangman’s noose.

It’s all that left of Mrs. Parson’s career.

Unless you count this story of course.

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Burnstone

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One of my favorite places to visit here in Washington State is the Tymbal Cemetery and Funeral Home in the city of Burnstone.

Tymbal is a pauper’s cemetery from the old days so it’s not great shakes. No fancy monuments, no fancy gates but there are trees and they’re covered with ivy which is nice because the trees have been dead for years and they don’t put leaves out anymore.
 
The sad thing is everyone forgot the Cemetery was there and for awhile the City of Burnstone Streets Department used Tymbal as a storage place for their work trucks and they used the Funeral home as office space until someone realized all those garbage trucks and lawn mowers and a bunch of other maintenance tools were leaking oil all over unmarked graves.
 
So before you could say ‘ desecration ‘ the City decided to build a new maintenance facility for the Street Works Department and without as much as a backwards glance they left the graveyard to choke on weeds and nettles and blackberry bushes.
 
Looking back, it was sort of odd the way the weeds came back so fast.
 
Anyway.
 
About a month after the big move a young woman named Tamus Bloodroot slammed her car into one of the dead trees near the cemetery entrance and she never left.
 
They found her car, they found the door open and they found a large pool of blood about three feet away from the crash sight.
 
But they never found Tamus.

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The day after they found her car stories about an injured woman, who was identified as Tamus, asking for help at the side of the road started up. Some people said they actually stopped for her and picked her up and talked to her and she always said the same thing, “ can you help me now. “When they turned to reassure her that’s what they’re doing she’d be gone.
 
You can imagine Tamus Bloodroot’s family was pretty upset that they’re daughter had become an urban legend and people were suppose to be talking to her ghost.

” I doubt ” her Father had screamed into the face of a reporter doing Halloween stories for the evening news one year, ” that if my daughter could come back from the grave she’d spend all of her time asking drunken teenagers for rides to the hospital.”

That was true, in life Tamus wasn’t the sort of person who asked for anything, she’d tell you exactly what she wanted and if you didn’t come across…heaven help you. The girl had a temper and the holes in her bedroom walls and her trail of broken relationships were solid proof of that.

Life went on after that… even Tamus Bloodroot went on, people never stopped seeing her and they all knew she was out there asking for help.

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Bryony Middleton and his family live out on Cemetery Road. He’s lived out there his entire life and he knows that stretch of road so well he could drive it with his eyes closed.

That’s something he did almost every Saturday night after and evening on the town with his friends. He’s sort of famous around here for that, you might not know Bryony’s name or anything about him but you’ve heard of the ‘ guy who drives passed the cemetery in his sleep on Saturdays’.
 
Anyway it was one of his 10 or was it 12 kids that said to him after finding him and his truck at the end of their driveway one morning ” if you’re going to drive when you’re sleeping Daddy, at least wear your seat belt.”
 
Not to be mean, and Bryony loved his 10-12 children a lot even if he forgot their names and didn’t know exactly how many of them there were, but on more then one occasion Bryony was heard to say, ” Geeze, my kids, you know they’re okay as far as rug rats go but they sure aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, if you get my meaning.”
 
But this time Bryony’s kids were right and on that winter evening out on Tymbal Cemetery Road his kids were the sharpest tools to be found in any shed anywhere on the planet.
 
The roads were iced over when Bryony left the ” Corner Tavern ” only he didn’t notice. I mean he was sliding and tripping a lot…but you know he’d chalked that up to the liquid refreshments he’d indulged in for the past four hours.
 
So Bryony got into his truck and tried to buckle himself in, but he couldn’t make the lock work so he put the belt on and tied it closed and then he took a roll of duct tape and somehow managed to tape himself to his seat.

I’m not kidding I wish I were. Like I said, Bryony loved his kids and he’d do any for them even if they only had a handful of brain cells between them.
 
Then he turned the key in the ignition (he always left it in because it was pretty hard for him to fit that key into that little hole after a long evening out) and he took a sloppy left and turned out onto the unlit road, marked as Old Burnstone Highway but known unofficially as Cemetery Road by the locals.
 
He was halfway home and nearly asleep when he came to Tymbal Cemetery and saw the Funeral Home with the tape on it’s cracked windows.  Bryony mistook it for his house and in a panic he jerked the steering wheel and sent his truck into the ditch that surrounded the cemetery.
 
Like I said, Tymbal’s is a Pauper’s Graveyard and there are no frills about it. The people out there were forgotten in life and they were forgotten in death too.

So the residents of Tymbal’s have numbers, not names and they have pine boxes made at the Prison in Fallen not fancy caskets with brass handles. And there is no fence surrounding the cemetery just a ditch cut into a “V” shape and it’s lined with jagged sharp rocks that were once the face of an old Mansion that burned to the ground about 100 years ago.
 
The Old Mansion was wasn’t a good place and it’s owners were sort of an embarrassment to the City so after the fire Burnstone hauled off a mountain of debris and they decided to put it to good use.

Anything they could salvage went into the construction of The Tymbal Funeral Home and Cemetery.
 
The ” fence” is what Bryony hit that night. His truck went into the ditch head on and then it flipped and rolled and finally stopped almost in the middle of the graveyard.
 
Taped and tied to his seat Bryony was bruised and beaten and good thing he was sitting upright because if he’d been in any other position he’d probably have choked on his own vomit, of which he apparently lost a lot of that night.
 
When he was done he considered his options.
 
He could cut himself loose but more then likely he’d end up stabbing himself to death because at the moment one of his eyes was swollen shut and the other, well you know Bryony should probably be wearing glasses but he doesn’t.

Plus the crash had done nothing to sober him up he wasn’t sure he could find the business end of the knife if he wanted to.
 
” Poor Daddy, ” he could actually see one of his many children saying to his unborn grandchildren ” he survived the worse car accident ever and he ended up stabbing himself to death trying to cut himself loose from his car seat. No, he wasn’t trapped. Somehow he taped himself to his seat. No I can’t explain it. I loved my Dad but he wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed if you get my meaning.”
 
So Bryony figured all he could do was sit there and more likely then not someone would see him from the road in the morning. Resigned to a long cold smelly night he was about to try to catch some sleep when he saw the woman standing next to his car.

She was facing away from him and the way she was standing was wrong.  Her shoulders were twisted and one of her arms seemed to be hanging a little lower then the other. At first Bryony thought she was tilting her head to the side like she was listening for something, but then he realized her head wasn’t tilted it was flatter, much flatter then the other side of her head.
 
All Bryony could think to say was, ” heck of a night, ain’t it? ”
 
” Can you help me now? ” she said to no one ” can you help me now?”
 
She started to turn and Bryony knew, he just knew that the front of that woman was going to look worse then the back and he didn’t want to see that.
 
So Bryony did all he could think of to do. He turned the key, gave his battered truck some gas and there is a Heaven because it screamed (more then likely it was Bryony doing the screaming) to life and Bryony drove it blindly through the cemetery and towards the road…and the fence.
 
Only he never hit the fence, he never even made it out of the cemetery because before he hit the ditch he hit a tree and when he did the world around him exploded.
 
It was three of Bryony’s kids that found their dad and his truck the next morning. No, he wasn’t dead; Bryony is made out of tougher stuff then that. Plus, I’m sure that with his dietary habits of fried food and alcohol he’s pretty much preserved himself alive.
 
Which was good because Bryony had a story that people from all over the county wanted him to tell over and over again.
 
First of all the woman in the Graveyard, Bryony figured, wasn’t saying ” Can you help me now ” she was saying ” Can you help me down ” and he figured that out because on the night Tamus Bloodroot hit the Tymbal  ‘fence’ she wasn’t duct taped to her seat the way Bryony was so she smashed through her windshield and was thrown up and out of her car…
 
And straight up into a tree covered with Ivy.

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That’s the story of Tamus Bloodroot and that’s how it ends…with parts of her raining down onto the hood of Bryony Middleton’s truck.

The story about Old Burnstone Highway hasn’t ended. Earlier this year it earned this label as the most dangerous stretch road in the entire state of Washington.

It’s not a main highway and you can’t find it from any major roads but over 300 people have died along it this year alone. I mean, people from Arizona and Texas visitors from other countries in rental cars have met their end out there and if they don’t die in the wreck they can’t explain why they were there…at dark.

The ones that survive the road never say though that they were lost.

And they never say they won’t be going back there again.

Never.

Floaters

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elliot bay, 1907

I work up the street from Elliot Bay in Seattle, Washington.

It’s a pretty historic body of water and lots of important historic things have happened there.

One of my favorite historic things is when a Boeing 307 ditched into Elliot Bay back in 2002. It was flying from Seattle to Everett and it ran out of gas

Yes, really.

I mean they go up and like 3 minutes later they’re on empty and ditching in Elliot Bay and I’d have given anything to have over heard the conversation in the cockpit when that happened.

SOMEBODY forgot to check the fuel levels.

Anyway.

To add to the weirdness that you can only find in Seattle and the waters around her is the story about the Floaters.

It’s sort of embarrassing- we have this great waterfront and a lot of people will fly from the other side of the world to visit Pier 69 and these Cruise ships dock here and all these tourists will be taking pictures or eating caramel apples or eating at one of the restaurants or waiting for a tour bus and they’ll look down into the Bay and see…

A dead body in the water.

Floaters.

This time it was different.

Take a look: 

Ferry rider spots body in Seattle's Elliott Bay

Ferry rider spots body in Seattle’s Elliott Bay

Story Published: Aug 8, 2007 at 11:48 AM PDT

Story Updated: Aug 8, 2007 at 9:59 PM PDT

By Associated Press

SEATTLE (AP) – A ferry rider spotted a body floating in Seattle’s Elliott Bay on Wednesday.

Fire department spokeswoman Helen Fitzpatrick said the department, police and the Coast Guard were notified about the body about 7:30 a.m. north of Harbor Island.

A fire department boat picked up the man’s body and turned it over to the King County medical examiner’s office.

It Started Here….

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Here are some links to Story Starters that inspired me

to write the stories you can find here at Anita’s Owl Creek Bridge

FYI

They weren’t ‘strange’ until I got my hands on them…

 trust me…anybody can use them

so

!HAVE FUN!

Story Starters

Ceremony Of The Mirror

Descansos

The Deserted Farmhouse

Walk Inside A Painting

Not Quite Alice

The Lonely Ones

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