Behind the building called the school house, under a black twisted tree is the Unquiet Grave of Iris Winterbark.
Iris Winterbark was the teacher in that little schoolhouse and the rotted oak tree out back is where she was suppose to have dispatched her more unruly students by hanging…either that or she was suppose to have hung them by their heals and burned them alive.
At any rate, the town of Deuil is very famous, or infamous depending on your point of view, and most of the stories you’ll probably come across aren’t true, but the one about Iris Winterbark is.
When Deuil was founded back in the early 1900’s there were 30 families living there- and it was exactly 30 families that live out there to this day.
That’s a guess of course because the rest of the County leaves Deuil to itself.
You see, up there in the hills the men and women of Deuil had taken Indians and other dark skinned people as their husbands and wives.Worst of all, no request had ever come from the Town of Deuil for a Minister to come out and visit them.
Not that one would have made the trip.
” There isn’t a soul up there ” the people around Deuil would say.
In a way they were right.
Iris Winterbark showed up to teach school in April.
The new Teacher was small and thin and nobody liked her.
It wasn’t because she was strict and she kept the razor strop on her desk that she could snatch up with lighting speed that you’d never think a woman her age was capable of.
No it was because of something no one could put there finger on – it wasn’t easy to notice but it preyed on your mind like a starving wolf all the same.
Iris Winterbark never seemed to take a breath and she never blinked.
She would spend her teaching days looking out at her few dozen students with disgust because they were filthy little creatures that smelled like they never bathed and she would hiss out history lessons and math lessons and spelling lessons and geography lessons.
The rest of the time her gaze and face was as slack and expressionless as a corpse’s face. That is until some unfortunate student made a mistake. Then those flat blue eyes would suddenly spark to life and her face would crack into a smile and then bang!
The strop would be in her hand and some poor slow pupil would be bleeding and Iris Winterbark would be at her desk again as prim and still as a marble statue in a cemetery.
And then she would blink…almost.
Now every class has its odd student out and in this class it was a boy named Petty Morel. He’d glare at his classmates and he’d glare at his parents and he’d glare right back at Miss Winterbark hardest of all.
One day after failing an arithmetic lesson and after writing the correct answer 500 times on the blackboard and Miss Winterbark had administered the strop Petty stood at the front of the class and dripped blood all over the shiny wood floor and said, “ you’re just an evil old witch.”
Miss Winterbark had said, “ There are no such things as witches Petty, but I’m very real and I would be very careful of what you said if I were you.”
“ Then you’re not a witch? “ Petty had asked as a wide beautiful smile crossed his face.
“ I most certainly am not.”
“ I’m glad to hear that Miss Winterbark, I really am.”
None of his classmates were paying attention to anything Petty and Miss Winterbark were saying. They were too busy watching the blood pool at Petty’s feet.
The next day Petty Morel walked up to Miss Winterbark’ s desk after class and he asked her, “ is it true you hang people out behind the school house and they come back to life when you want them too.”
“ No it isn’t.”
“ Do you bury people alive?”
“ I most certainly do not!”
Petty almost looked disappointed, then he sighed.
Petty stood there in front of Miss Winterbark’ s desk with his hands folded behind his back and was about to say something more when Miss Winterbark slammed her hand on her desk and made Petty jump about six inches off the ground. “ I have never a group of such dull slow witted children as I have in this town. And look at those nails and your hair…. dirt and leaves in your hair. My goodness, what do you children do, sleep outside with the rest of the animals?”
“ I don’t sleep outside in the open, my Parents would never let me do that Miss Winterbark. Its not safe you know.”
Then Petty watched the sun sink behind the window and he said with his sharp pointed white teeth “I’m so glad you’re not a witch Miss Winterbark, I really am. “
Petty wasn’t really worried about how angry his Mother was, he could deal with her being angry. It wasn’t the same this time because his Mother was furious and she shook his arm so hard it made his teeth rattle. “ Who on earth is going to clean up this mess Petty Morel? “
“ I am mother, “ he said. He looked around the blood spattered walls and what was left of Miss Winterbark on her desk and what was left of her under the window and over by the door and he sobbed, “This is the biggest mess I’ve ever seen in my life! It’s going to take me all night to clean up!”
“ Well, being that you already ate all I can do is deny you dessert and playtime with your friends. This is very serious Petty, do you know how hard it is to get a teacher to come out to places like this?”
“ I don’t know why we have to go to school at all, I don’t see why it matters anymore.”
“ Listen to me Petty Morel, we maybe living out in the middle of nowhere in these godforsaken mountains, but our family has been well educated since we left our home in Transylvania and I see no reason now why that should stop. Do you understand me?”
Then Petty’s Mother handed him a shovel, gave him a good solid whack on his backside and she sent Petty out back to dig the only grave they ever needed in the little town called Deuil.