Tell You What

I tell you what. I buried them all. See them two stones up yonder on the hill, the ones with the barrel between them? That's Granny and Grandpa. Grandpa passed away in 1960, the year I was born. Granny was born in 1791. Grandpa was born in 1860, and they was married in 1880, when he was 20 and she was 89. He lived to a hundred, but she outlived him by exactly two decades, time enough to see me get married. They're buried up yonder on the hillside beneath them two stones. I need to move that barrel. It ain't right to leave it on their graves like that.

In 1961, Daddy turned into a pin oak. I was only a baby at the time, so I got this from Granny. That's his stump over yonder in that thicket. Granny used to tell him to stay away from the hill top but he wouldn't listen, he did so like to feel the wind in his leaves. That's where he eventually took root, and of course, it weren't long before lightning struck him. He was a long time in dying, and he went all hollow inside toward the end. In 1977, at Granny's direction I pulled him up with the tractor, dragged him down to the hollow, and shoveled him under. His roots was deep.

Mama commenced to turn into a chicken when she was 27, and by the time she was 29, you couldn't tell no difference between her and the other chickens in the yard. I tied a piece of ribbon around her neck, of a color of which she had always been quite fond, but she lost that eventually and by then I had lost sight of her. I don't know for sure whether she is still with us. Coons get into the chicken house, sometimes. And sometimes I like a fried chicken for dinner, myself. That mound of dirt by the tire swing is where I bury the bones of them I eat.

I buried three children and a wife on that hill, too. My eldest child was overrun by dandelions in the spring of '87. Youngest took up with a hive of bees the very same year and was transmogrified into so much honey. Middle child faded into the wallpaper while all this was going on, so that we didn't notice until there she was peering out from behind the hat tree in the hall. With her blessing, I scraped her off and laid her pieces in the ground.

After that, the wife climbed under the house and divided into a pack of half-wild cats that I eventually had to drown in the creek because they had begun to breed. I regret that more than my children, who went quietly, fading or overrun. But my wife called out to me in the voices of those eight cats as the tow sack sunk, dragged down by a field stone, fighting and biting and clawing at herselves. She didn't have sense enough to hold her breath until I got to her.

There's still some of her running around this place, though, some that I missed when I gathered her up and stuffed them into that sack. I know them to look into their yellow eyes. I see her staring back at me, blaming me for the children, for that day at the creek. I don't know why I didn't drown them all. I still may. Some days the loneliness is more than I can bear.

About the author:

Jeff Crook is a large, generally docile elemental creature, but he can become quiet dangerous when aroused or while shedding his stony skin. He is the author of four novels (The Rose and the Skull, The Thieves' Guild, Conundrum, Dark Thane) as well as several short stories published here and there. He is also the editor of Southern Gothic Online. He does not hurl stones.