Welcome To Bocksbohne

written for the Soul Food Cafe

Halloween of 2006

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Have you ever been on a road trip, and ended up driving down those dirt roads that lead into the dead empty towns with boarded up fast food places with names like “ Chicken Basket “ or “ Hank’s Hamburger Haven “ and have you noticed  there’s always a gas station with those funny tin signs advertising a brand of cigarettes or beer that no one’s seen on a shelf in over 50 years?

No doubt on these trips you’ve seen the houses too, the odd gray houses sitting up off the road.

You’ve probably even seen curtains hanging in the windows and you weren’t  sure but you think you may have seen someone looking back out at you as you drove by.  Maybe you’ve even seen one of those old time drug stores with the Soda Fountain in the back but you know, you wouldn’t stop there on a bet to check it out because you’ll tell yourself you don’t have the time…you’ve got somewhere to get to.

There, you’ll reassure yourself that sounds good. But that little voice, it’s  the real reason you don’t stop because it’s screaming at you, “ don’t you dare stop! Hey are you listening to me? I don’t care if you run out of gas! You will not stop in this town because if you do you’re going to have to get out and push. Don’t you even think about stopping here, is that clear?”

Then when you hit the other end of “ Main Street” (which will only take about three minutes) and you’re back on that long empty dirt road that some joker of a map maker called “ interstate 101 or Highway 19” you’ll have forgotten you were afraid. 

After a few more minutes that empty little town that scared you half to death will be long behind you and it’ll be like you were never there at all. 

That’s what the town of Bocksbohne is like; once you leave it you’ll never be sure you were really there.

One summer Audley Frame was driving to Seattle and somewhere along Amorita Pass high in the Olympic Mountains she passed through a town called Turnsole (clearly marked on her map) and after a few miles she was on a dirt highway that lead straight into Bocksbohne.

That’s what the white sign with the peeling black letters read. Welcome to Bocksbohne 

It wasn’t suppose to be there according to the map, it had no reason to be there out in the middle of nowhere but it was there all the same and before she knew it Audley Frame was speeding passed a drive in theatre with a rusted swing set and a fallen over carousel under a weather-beaten movie screen. Across the street from the drive in was Chieko’s Drugstore and further up from that was little brick building with a sign in its window.

She slammed on her brakes and was snapped back in her seat by her seatbelt and she hardly noticed the pain because all she saw was the sign. It was a simple sign, the background was flat black and the letters were neon orange and the sign simply said: 

Help Wanted. 

The window was caked with dust and grime and right there in the center of the window screaming in brand new orange neon letters was the word: 

HELP. 

Not HELP WANTED

Now it just said  HELP.

Audley’ s foot came off the brake and she let her car roll forward and she turned to watch the window as her car tried to pull itself away from building.

Now the sign read   “ HELP WANTED INQUIRE WITHIN “.

The letters were blood red and the ink was so fresh it had smudged a little on the filthy glass window.

“ Red Ink” she heard herself say, “ it’s red ink.”

Then her foot found the gas pedal and Audley’ s car roared passed buildings and houses with broken windows and doors that were falling off of their hinges. She ignored the rusty children’s toys abandoned on the sidewalks and she hit a few curbs and before she knew it she was out the other end of Bocksbohne and when she looked into her rearview mirror she saw her dark brown hair had turned white. 

She put her hand to the mirror and turned it down, she had no intentions of using it until Bocksbohne was behind her. 

Far behind her.

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The Devil In The Details

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Kersey Goss works for an office supply store.She takes phone orders for pens and paper, for business cards and blank forms. She even orders jars of candy for office receptionists to put out on their desks next to acrylic card caddies that hold business cards.You might not get excited when things like fruit scented pens and new colors of post-it notes hit the streets but Kersey Goss does.

Last year Kersey parted her hair on the left side of her head instead of the right and even changed her perfume from “Sweet Lilly” to something called “ Lemon Splash “and everybody noticed.

Well to be precise, everybody was stunned into silence when they saw Kersey and her new look.Times may change and fashion may change and every time it rains the earth changes too; but Kersey Goss doesn’t change.

 It’s a fact of life out there in Stedman, Washington.

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It was a slow day around Harmon and Sons Office Emporium and Wayne Kirkland who was a Grandson of one of the “Sons” in Harmon and Sons was reading the newspaper. He was always reading the newspaper…if he wasn’t reading the newspaper he was doing the crossword  ( where he filled in the words WRONG and purpose in glitter pen ) and if he wasn’t doing the crossword he was doodling mustaches and horns on the pictures of politicians and anything else that caught his eye.  

Anyway,  on that slow day Wayne saw an article in the Stedman Times that nearly sent him into hysterics. He was about to start drawing and doodling when he looked up and saw Kersey at her desk.

She was smiling and humming and busy filling a phone order. She was telling somebody all about the new line of papers they would be carrying for computer printers. 

Wayne bit his lips to keep from laughing and as he did reached into his desk for his scissors.

Then he spread the newspaper across his desk started to cut.

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When Kersey came into work the next morning she reached for her inbox and pulled out her shipped order forms and was about to file them away when a news clipping floated down from the top tray and landed on her desk blotter.She turned it over and read the headline:

 Grave Robbers Strike Rural Cemetery- Law enforcement Officials now working with Local Health Department as the investigation into recent grave desecrations in GreenviewCounty escalates….

 Written across the story in red glitter pen was:

 KERSEY GETS A HOBBY

Kersey carefully folded the article in half and  dropped it into her wastebasket. Then she went back to her work.  

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A week later Kersey found another clipping in her in box and she turned it over briefly and saw something about “ Ghoulish Discovery” at Edmonds Cemetery and Funeral Home in Burr County. Written across this article in purple glitter pen was:

 COOKING WITH KERSEY

She pressed her lips together and looked up at Wayne. He was trying very hard not to laugh and finally he couldn’t help himself. “Why are you doing this Wayne? It’s not funny you know.”  Kersey shook her head but instead of throwing away the article about the Ghoulish Discovery she read it…she read it twice.   

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For the rest of the month Wayne kept dropping the Grave Robbing stories into Kersey’s mailbox and he finally stopped one day because Kersey wasn’t neatly folding the articles up and dropping them into her trash basket anymore.

Wayne noticed Kersey was smoothing the articles  out and then she paper clipped them together and then she put them into her desk drawer.

On that last day Kersey  looked up at Wayne and caught his eye.   She shook her head and she said in the clear and concise way she talked to vendors who didn’t deliver to her customers  on time, “I really need to do something about you Wayne. I can’t have this kind of attention”

 “Oh come on Kersey. Can’t you take a joke?” Wayne asked.  Then he went on, ” no one could ever believe you were out there in the dark with a shovel robbing graves and if my Uncle is right… and he probably is considering he’s the Sheriff in Burr, you’re not doing a little midnight snacking on what you dig up after all that work.”

 Kersey dropped her pen into her pen holder and then she got up walked over to Wayne’s Desk. “Grave Robbing isn’t something you do Willy-Nilly, Wayne. You have to be prepared and meticulous and quiet. You have to know exactly what you’re doing.”

When Kersey was at Wayne’s desk she dropped her cool lemon scented hand on top of Wayne’s head and said,  “Organization, Wayne,  is the secret to be a success at any given profession. But if you knew that you would be a full partner instead of be working for your Daddy. Isn’t that right?” 

 Wayne nearly picked up his glitter pen and stabbed Kersey in the eye with it because at that moment he never realized how awful it was to be that close to Kersey.

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The next morning Wayne was at work an hour before anyone else got in…including Kersey who was always exactly 15 minutes early. He flipped on all of the lights and without realizing it he grabbed a box cutter from the sales counter and took it with him to Kersey’s desk.

He sat in her chair for a minute without moving a muscle and then he reached down and opened her bottom desk drawer.   It was as neat and organized as the rest of her desk.  

The first thing he took out were the newspaper clippings with his glittering comments.

The next thing he took out were maps and Wayne could see they weren’t street maps they were the maps you got from Funeral Homes so that you could find graves out in the cemetery.

Each of the maps had little blue boxes with red check marks inside of them written in Kersey’s neat hand.

Then one map  caught his eye in particular because it was for the “ Pioneer Cemetery”

Pioneer was were all of  the Harmons were laid to rest; it was also a famous place not because of who was buried there but because of the statue that was suppose to come to life on Halloween if you walked around it three times backwards and said “ Satan Loves Me.”

But Wayne wasn’t really thinking of that statue, he was looking at a little area on the Pioneer Cemtery map called “Reflection Meadow” where Kersey had written“Wayne Harmon for dinner next Friday”

Wayne dropped the map on Kersey’s desk and as the papers floated downwards  a cool lemon scented hand dropped down onto the top of his head.       

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The Devil Had A Hold Of Me

just a little tune to whistle the next time you take a midnight

stroll by

Anita’s Owl Creek Bridge 

A Gillian Welch song sung by Michelle Foster

Lyrics:

The Devil Had A Hold Of Me

 

Now I was just a girl of two

Now I was just a girl of two

With a golden heart and a button shoe

The devil had a hold of me

The devil had a hold of me

I turned my head and I could see

The devil had a hold of me

 

There was something wrong with the butcher’s boy

Was something wrong with the butcher’s boy

He trembled in his hand and voice

The devil had a hold of me

The devil had a hold of me

The others knew to let him be

But the devil had a hold of me

 

Now the tailpipe spit and the engine roared

The tailpipe spit and the engine roared

I’s waving out the Plymouth door

And the devil had a hold of me

The devil had a hold of me

The old folks saw the last they’d see

The devil had a hold of me

 

I dreamed last night that my time was done

I dreamed last night that my time was done

And my soul flew up to the holy son

But the devil had a hold of me

The devil had a hold of me

I snapped back down when he pulled my lead

The devil had a hold of me

 

There’re those who’ll laugh and not believe

There’re those who’ll laugh and not believe

Until you feel that touch upon your sleeve

The devil had a hold of me

 

The devil had a hold of me

I turned my head and I could see

The devil had a hold of me

I turned my head and I could see

The devil had a hold of me

 

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The True Story of Hanley Parsons

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after several inquires about a short story published by the Soul Food Cafe  our staff writers have provided this follow up article and requested it be printed here:

 

In A.M Moscoso’s Soul Food Cafe short story  ” Under the Steps ” an elderly woman named  Mrs. Hanley Parsons is portrayed as a retired Executioner living out her final days on a quiet suburban street in Greenlake, Washington- shunned by her family and friendless except for her young neighbor.

The story is supposed to be a fictionalized account of their Moscoso’s and Parson’s real life friendship. In her story  Moscoso credits Parsons with influencing her as a writer. For those who know Anita it’s widely assumed Parsons also influenced her decsion to become a Funeral Director as well.

In our research the Soul Food Cafe found three documents  bearing the name of a Mrs. Hanley Parsons who lived in Greenlake, Washington. 

One is a newspaper story published in 1983 about the ” Pioneer Families of Snohomish County ” that  shows that Hanley (formally Gravesend) Parsons was born on November 5th, 1864 and that she died on her birth date 1964.  Another is a Wedding Certificate dated from 1904 and the third was a title for propery located in the town of Fallen, Washington.

The former  Miss Hanley Gravesend, came from a family carpenters by trade. They sidelined as Coffin Makers and supplied most of the funeral homes in this area. To those familiar with the Snohomish County area you probably know that Gravesend Fine Home Furnishings is considered in the larger King and Snohomish County areas to be one of the ‘upscale’ stores of it’s kind.

However the Gravesends of present day Snohomish County are very insistent that no connections exist between them and the present day  Parsons.

Pressed Mr Barrow Gravesend said, ” Well, I’ll tell you, I ‘ve never met Anita but for the most part she knew some things about Hanley that she couldn’t have known- like those cookies that Hanley made and the ‘cat basket’ as she called it. Now that just made my blood run cold to see that turn up again. Oh and you’d never have know it, but Hanley was a gifted teacher. In fact that’s what she was younger days for a short period and several of her students went on to be doctors and scientists and the like.”

And what really became of the real life Mrs. Hanley Parsons?

” The truth of it is, no one knows.  Some people say it her heart gave out one morning when she was working in her garden and that her family buried her in her yard. Some people who made it through that fire in Union Landing would swear she died out on the Marina and there’s even this Doctor who says went senile and died in a nursing home that he worked at in Edmonds.

…and other people say, the ones who have been to the Executions in this state that have taken place since Hanley retired, that you should take a good look at the Executioners eyes.

They say you’ll see long dark lashes- just like the kind a woman would have.”

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Fatal Lane

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In the town of Bury, Washington there is a street named Fatal Lane.

The Planning Department in Bury changed it’s name to the less obvious name of 51st Ave West because there were always accidents or underage drinking or people in gray and black robes drawing pentagrams and runes on the trees and then someone did something to Mrs. Machin’s cat Darwin that snapped  Bury’s last nerve.

Darwin came home one Halloween with a pentagram shaved onto the top of his head and Mrs. Machin took Darwin, her shotgun and about a dozen angry pet lovers to the next City Council meeting and she spoke for about 15 minutes on those ” Looney Tunes ” from Seattle coming out to Bury to look for ghosts.

At that point she launched into a long and colorful speech about the lack of mental health care in our health care system and how that would be responsible for ending the world, as we know it.

Then Adeen launched into a speech about going Green.

It’s not like the Council could stop her from talking because she’d called ahead and had herself put on the agenda. And nobody in Bury was going to try and pull that gun out of her hands because it was loaded.

As a matter of fact it was always loaded

Everyone in Bury knew you could end up with a backside full of shot for no other reason then Adeen was trigger happy and she had a very bad temper. Even a few ‘ Looney Tunes’ from Seattle learned that fact the hardway.

To placate Mrs. Machin, because at one point instead of waving Darwin around she waved the gun around and blew a hole in the ceiling a motion to recommend the street of Fatal Lane be renamed 51st Ave West was made and passed by the City Council.

” And what purpose will that serve? ” Mrs. Machin asked with gun firmly in hand.

” Well Adeen, it’s not likely that those Ghost Hunter TV shows are going to want to waste air time talking about 51st Ave West and it’s high traffic fatality rate are they?” asked one Councilman.

One of the Councilwomen said from under the table, ” they’ll end up sounding like a traffic report on the five o’clock news Adeen. It’s that darned name that makes it sound Supernatural. Fatal Lane. Who was the Mental Defective that gave it that name anyway?”

” It was your Grandfather Marisol. And get up off the floor would you?” the Mayor said as he rubbed his forehead.

” Look Adeen, we’ll Fatal  turn it into a one way one lane street. Nobody will be able to park out there and you know how ticket happy…. I mean diligent our Officers are about traffic enforcement. It’s a start, all right? ”

Adeen Machin stared up at the hole in the ceiling and then she spit some plaster out of her mouth. ” Fine, but if Darwin or anyone else’s pet gets abused again 51st Ave goes back to being Fatal Lane…. do we have an agreement?”

Somebody from in back of the room made a motion to Adeen’s proposal.

And it passed.

51st Ave W turned up on Maps and Fatal Lane disappeared and then stories new stories about a lost road in the town of Bury that spirits used to travel to the next world turned up.

That same year Darwin came home, two days before Halloween with a goat’s head drawn onto his side with White Out.

On Halloween Mrs. Machin and her friends went out to Fatal Lane and waited for ” those loonies ” to show up.

Mrs. Machin was the first to step out onto the road and when the robed figures saw the all five foot nothing of Mrs. Machin they tried, to their credit, not to laugh.

Only when the five foot nothing Mrs. Machin held Darwin up they did laugh and the rest of Mrs. Machin’s friends came from the shadows the laughter…. died.

” So tell me, educate me please ” Adeen said in a low roar ” why you lot insist on coming up here and tormenting us for every damned Halloween.”

” This road is a path to the next world, it’s cursed, and that’s why people disappear from here- never to be seen again.”

Adeen practically choked ” Are you out of your minds?” This road doesn’t go into the next world; this road leads straight to the back door of Fallen Prison. That’s why they call it Fatal Lane you numbskulls. This is the road the Prison uses to transport the condemned on.”

 No it’s not, ” said a young woman who forgot to speak through clenched teeth thus returning her voice to its naturally shrill state. ” Fallen is shut down, there aren’t any executions going on out there.”

Adeen raised her shotgun to her shoulder. ” Guess again…okay people let’s go.”

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In Defense of Insanity

from the continuing adventures of

Insanity Jones

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When my Grandmother would write Insanity Jones, her cat, would sit on her shoulder and ” Inspire Her “.

Most of us hated it when she said told that story to the press because Insanity only inspired one thing in our family and that was loathing.

When he walked through a room the lights would flicker the air would turn cold and if  Insanity  looked up at you your first reaction would be to cry.

To be honest, it’s hard to love something that holds you in such low regard. I’m talking about our Grandmother, not the cat.

Or whatever it was.

As I started to tell you our Grandmother was a famous writer in her day and presently if you’ve ever been a student of literature you’ve probably stood in line somewhere buying a copy of ” Cliff’s Notes ” to one of her books.

In case you’re not familiar with them, my Grandmother’s books looked simple they sounded simple but they were far from being considered light reading.

Over the years there was lots of speculation about what inspired her to create her characters and what they really meant and of course she was famous for her ‘unique perspective’ about human nature and relationships.

People took this discussion very seriously.

There are College Classes dedicated to studying the works of Estrella Derrick. I’ve even heard that there are Estrella Derrick Societies and all they do is sit around and talk about the ‘true meaning’ of Grandmother’s stories and they even talk about how her life played a role in her writing.

I wonder then how these diligent students would feel if they were to find out that the reason for ‘unique perspective on human nature and relationships’ was coming from a cat.

It would explain a lot.

But it’s true- every book, every play every lecture ever written by Estrella Derrick- were all authored by a cat. When I started to put that idea to the rest of the family they said I was crazier then Insanity, but I was right all along.

I’ll prove it to you.

Our Grandmother threw Halloween Parties twice a year- one for the holiday itself and the other for her birthday which was actually in December.

Coming in from the outside you’d be impressed- Grandmother was an avid collector of skeletal remains- human skeletal remains and she even had two mummies- one from Egypt and the other from South America.

So along with the bones she had body parts in jars and lots of candles and lots of photographs of people all over her house.

Those photographs weren’t of us (of course). They were all dead people in coffins so I guess that looking back on it now it’s a relief that we weren’t in any of those pictures.

So anyway, Grandmother’s house was dark and moody and on the surface you’d think she went all out to welcome her guests.

In reality, all she really did was to bring in a cleaning staff to dust and polish and she brought  caterers in to do the food and  the serving because domestic things had never been Grandmother’s ‘thing’. I mean her house always looked like Halloween anyway so it wasn’t a lot of work on her part.

But it certainly was on everybody else’s.

Just last Halloween it became pretty obvious that Grandmother and Insanity Jones were getting along in years. They both slept a lot and they both seemed too quiet and when they walked that Pirate Swagger they both had was gone.

I figured this conversation had to happen now because time was obviously working against us. So that evening I waited for Grandmother to go into her study and when I heard her chair slide up to her desk I went in without knocking.

She was reaching down for Insanity and she carefully put him up on her shoulder. When she saw me standing there and realized I had seen her lift Insanity up they both looked like the cat that had eaten the Canary.

Or the Eagle as it was in their case- neither one of those two ever did anything small.

” He’s the writer here, isn’t he? ”

” Excuse me? ” my Grandmother snapped- and I do mean snapped I could hear her teeth click together and no- she did not where false ones.

” Don’t be an idiot, he can’t write, for Pete’s sake Akela he can’t even read.”

” So that line about him being your inspiration…”

” That is true. Insanity if very inspiring, or haven’t you noticed that yet?”

“So he didn’t tell you what to write.”

” He most certainly did not…the idea”

I guess I should have known better, my Grandmother who loved herself way more then anybody else ever did simply because she thought no one else could do that as well as she could was not exactly a candidate for the role of being a Ghost Writer.

” So a cat didn’t write your books…” I said as my face turned hot.

Suddenly I could see how foolish I must have looked to everyone I’d been talking to. On top of that my dear Grandmother would probably find a way to work my idea into one of her stories and now the rest of the world would know how crazy I was.

I figured on my way home tonight I’d take that Bridge, the badly lit one home and the next day they’d find me…

My Grandmother turned around in her chair and looked up at me with the perpetual smile that she always seemed to have on her face, even when she was angry. Then she turned around and went back to her writing and she said with that smile in her voice:

” I never said that Akela.”

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