Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee
There was a patch of trees between an old motel, the fire-hose plant, and the house I grew up in. Eventually, they demolished the motel and the plant became a plumbers operation. The trees were cut and burned. It’s a car park, now, city trucks.
I remember two things about those woods: sledding through the trees in seldom NC snow and being watched by The Beast that lived there.
The house on the corner was lived in by a few kids and their grandparents. Off and on, their parents would be there, too. I can’t remember their names or faces, only that we played together. One day, the kids went away. They started showing up only sporadically, the way you catch the moon coming in and out of clouds. My parents told me something had happened. I saw dark looks on the kids’ faces. They had a tree fort we played in. The walls were painted blue. Later, I learned one of their parents had killed themselves.
The Beast was faceless. It had brown fur, dark and hard to get your eyes on like sesame oil. It stayed hidden in the day but stalked our neighborhood at night. Any stray cat that died was taken by it. It’s nose could smell you through brick walls, especially when you were sleeping. In the mornings, sickly white mushrooms grew in its footprints.
The Beast had two rules: 1) Never look directly at it; if you broke this rule, the punishment was that it would take three steps closer, a direct line to wherever you were; and 2) Leave an offering every New Moon, something significant, like a clean sock, or fresh mulberries, or a bit of your dog’s fur. Without the offering, The Beast would have free choice over what it took from you.
Eventually, the kids stopped coming altogether. I don’t know where they ended up. The grandparents lived on for a long time but we never talked to them. Finally, they moved too, or maybe passed over; death and departure are indistinguishable when you’re young.
The woods kept on while new residents moved in, and the old blue treehouse stood for a long time. As I got older, I stopped looking in the forest so much at midnight. I stopped catching eyes with The Beast. I was leaving little messes everywhere as a teenager, beautifully important things I cast off and couldn’t claim back, and I’m sure it took a few of them for offerings. But eventually it was gone. I can’t pick out the exact time, but somewhere between then and now The Beast had left us for good.
No-one remembers what happened in those woods. And maybe that’s just as well.
Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller
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Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill! You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close! I’m the reason why it’s no go? Why things are what they are?William Golding, Lord of the Flies