Watertown. Creek County Sheriff’s department, along with local police and volunteers, searched the area of Beggar’s Woods yesterday in hopes of finding 8 year old Toby Maxwell. Young Toby went missing late afternoon on Tuesday of this week. He was last seen in the front yard of 409 Primrose where he lives with his parents and older sister. The search in Beggar’s Woods near Diamond Creek began in earnest after a child’s shoe was found near the north bank. That shoe was later identified by Toby’s mother Elaine Maxwell. “The shoe was a big break in our efforts. We are hopeful that the boy will turn up.” Said Creek County Sheriff Preston Forge. Sheriff Forge refused to comment on a rumor that a ball of human hair had been retrieved at the creek bank. As of this morning, the search in Beggar’s Woods continues. The Maxwell family has yet to make a statement regarding the disappearance of their son. It has been confirmed by the Watertown police that the FBI has offered their assistance. No word yet on whether that offer has been accepted, though agents from the Boston field office arrive at the scene on Wednesday. Citizens of Watertown and the surrounding area are being asked to call in to the Sheriff’s hotline if they have any information on the whereabouts of young Toby Maxwell. That number is: (717) 427-1191. Michelle Sayers, Watertown Press.,
Consider please, the choices that we make everyday. Not only the major decisions but the minor as well. You’re walking down the street and you see a delightful pair of shoes in a shop window. You turn and step forward. That decision has altered the universe. Your choice to inspect the shoes rather than move along to your planned destination, changed the course and the outcome of life on the planet for you and all living things. Don’t believe me? What if I told you that if you had continued down the block, a man driving a green Ford Focus would turn left against the light and hit you. Not killing you of course, but you are forever paralyzed from the neck down. You piss and shit yourself every hour, and strangers have to clean you and feed you. Still not convinced? Consider the driver of that car. Was it his intention, when he left his house that morning, late for work, to run you over? Of course not. However, the affect of hitting you caused a number of, let’s say, unwarranted circumstances. Apart from the legal trouble, which, in truth was not all that terrible, he began drinking; often heavily. The guilt he coveted from injuring you consumed him. His wife left him, and his life never recovered. He was sentenced to ten years in prison for aggravated battery. In his cell, he cut his own throat with a sharpened, plastic fork. Let’s take it a step further, shall we.
Why was he late for work? Well, what if I told you that his wife was pregnant with their first child and he was up late taking care of her while she was sick. So, he didn’t get enough sleep. His wife begged him to take the day off but with a baby on the way, how could he? I would wager now that you’re glad you stopped to look at those shoes. I think it might be time for me to frighten you; just a bit. Because you chose to turn and gaze at those gorgeous shoes, your life goes on. No hospital. Your not paralyzed. And our driver? he goes on to work, being only a few minutes late. He clocks in and proceeds to perform the duties of his job. He is a good worker. A hard working family man. His performance at the company has been exemplary. He deserves a promotion. The manager calls him to tell him that he would like to see him in his office. The driver of the green car apologizes and says that he cannot at the moment because he’s doing the work of three people. The manager tells him that it’s no bother. He will come see him right away. He has good news. The manager, happy to be giving a good man good news, trips on his own feet and stumbles head fitst down a long flight of stairs, killing him instantly, and leaving behind a wife and two children. The greedy manager who takes his place fires the driver for being late. All because you liked those shoes…
Susie never had any trouble getting to sleep. All it took was three glasses of bourbon and two sleeping pills and she would be out for at least eight hours. Sometimes more. On this particular night, however, something stirred. There was a slight ringing in her ears, and with the window open next to the bed, she heard the bustle of Friday night traffic. It wasn’t too late, was it? She rolled over and glared at the alarm clock on the nightstand. 11:04. Somewhere off in the soft grass of the Watertown night was the cry of a guitar. The only club that provided live music was Murphy’s, of course they were still open and she was in bed trying to sleep. She squeezed her eyes shut and thought of Michael. The image was black and white, slightly burnt at the edges with a deep vignette. The whites were almost washed out but the shadows were suspenseful, mysterious even. She licked her lips and brought her knees up to her chest.
Michael was the reason she was alone in bed on such a jubilant evening. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. She was tired, it’s true, but she had promised the man that she had just met that afternoon that she would meet him for breakfast.
“Breakfast?” Her friend Lucy gasped at dinner earlier that night. “Since when do you ever wake before noon?”
Lucy was right. Susie didn’t even know what 7 AM looked like and that’s the time she agreed to meet him. She sighs and picks up the folded piece of paper on the nightstand next to the half full glass of whiskey that sits next to the alarm clock and traces his phone number with her index finger. She thinks of the man that wrote those ten numbers. She imagines his dark hair caressing his face in the wind. She could draw his ice-blue eyes from memory.
She closed her eyes and let the slip of paper fall.
Sleep was on its way. She realized just then that she had forgotten to set the alarm. With a groan she reached for the alarm clock and froze; not out of freight or severe cold, yet she stopped moving altogether. At this very moment, unknown to Susie, the traffic out on River Road had stopped. The band at Murphy’s had stopped playing. The spinning sign in front of Peter’s Doughnuts stopped spinning. If Susie had been able to turn her head at that very moment she would’ve seen a single mosquito right outside her bedroom window, trapped; frozen, as was the rest of Watertown. Perhaps even the rest of the world.
And just like that, as if someone had accidently hit the pause button, Susie set the alarm for 6 AM, rolled her eyes and threw her head onto the pillow. She tried to close her eyes but it was no use. She was wide awake. She sat up and looked out the window. The night was muggy but cool for July. She heard what sounded like thunder off in the distance. She didn’t remember hearing anything about rain in the forecast.
She turned the lamp on that stood just next to the half empty glass of whiskey and stumbled into the bathroom. In the mirror was the reflection of a haggard woman. Thunder. Too much whiskey. Too much cocaine. Or maybe not enough. She peed, then ran a brush through her dirty blonde hair and felt the tiles of the bathroom floor rumble.
“What the fuck?” She ran back to the window and peered out. The thunder was getting closer. This was going to put a damper on her plans with Michael if it was going to storm all day. Why isn’t there any lightning? She thought. There wasn’t any rain either.
Susie jumped onto her bed, scared as the floor of her apartment began to shake. From the kitchen she could hear the sound of the dirty dishes rattling in the sink. It reminded her of just how lazy she was. She kept a clean house, but dishes? Nope. From outside her window she saw a flash, like lightning but not so much. It lasted only a second but it was brighter than any lightning she had ever seen. She wasn’t normally afraid of storms but this one was bad. She stepped down off the bed, trying to walk to the kitchen for a drink; not realizing that she already had one there on the nightstand. She fell onto her face before she had a chance to stand.
The explosion, if that’s what it was, was loud. Close to being the loudest thing she’d ever heard. That was no thunder. She told herself. The walls were shaking so badly that Susie believed that would come down on top of her. There was a crash from the kitchen as the microwave hit the floor. With her hands on the floor, she felt the earth trembling. She rolled onto her back and attempted to get ahold of herself. She saw her phone balancing on the edge of the bed and reached for it. Quickly, she swiped through her contacts and dialed Lucy’s number. No service. Of course.
Once it felt like the world had stopped vibrating, Susie got to her feet. What she saw out her window took her breathe away. She shook her head in complete, utter disbelief. Her eyes welled with tears as she reached for her hoodie and stepped through the carnage that was once her kitchen and opened her door. The stairway that once led to the ground-level was gone. Not broken or in pieces as if hit by lightning, but gone. Only a few rotted shards of wood remained. Using what was left of the stairwell’s frame, she climbed down onto what appeared to be, for lack of a better word, volcanic ash. But not just. There was heaps of garbage and waste. Human detritus.
The door to her building was hanging on its frame by a single hinge bolt. She pushed on it and it fell away, breaking into hundreds of pieces when it hit the ground. The ground. What she was standing on was ground, yes, but not the ground she once knew. In front of her was what used to be River Road. Across it was a gas station and an all night sushi bar. Gone! The word that crawled to her lips was abandon. All was gone. All was lost.
The shock of it all forced her to her knees. The dust that flew like a sandstorm tasted ancient. She turned to look at the outside of her apartment building. Gone. The breath caught in her throat. She couldn’t breathe, and she didn’t know if she even wanted to.
For those of you unadventurous types that refuse to wake up at dawn, I was a guest this morning on the fabulous, local radio station: 95.9 THE RIVER to discuss my latest book; The Blood Red Box. I had first met Scott Mackay and Danielle Tufano while on a trip to the Dominican Republic, sponsored by the station. I met some really great people that week. Scott introduced himself to me in the pool one afternoon while hurling a pool-water-soaked ball at my face. Danielle, never without a drink in her hand, stayed clear from the boyish games. I have so many memories from that trip. None of which have anything to do with it being my honeymoon. Here are just a few…
It was a Wednesday. I know this because I remember saying, “hey! it’s Wednesday!” It was hot. The kind of hot that leaves you breathless. Our plan was to head down to the beach, but as we passed the pool, (the time being roughly 9: am) I proclaimed that I needed a drink. Upon submersion, I trudged to the bar and kindly requested a shot of Mamawana. This is a local concoction, made with rum and red wine. I was there at the bar with many others from the group until about 1:00 pm when I quietly announced that I needed to lie down. I went up to the room and passed out; not waking until the next day.
My final memory of that trip is also of the pool. You see, there was this ball. A beach ball if I remember correctly. Someone began hitting it up in the air to another person, attempting to keep it in the air. Before you know it, more and more people joined in until most, if not all of the 95.9 group were playing. Those that weren’t playing were counting how many hits until it hit the water. We were all drunk then too. Good times!
Thank you Scott and Danielle for the memories and the opportunity to talk about the book today.
Below is the conversation from this morning. Enjoy.
Consider the following statement: Keep Out of Reach of Children. This conjures up images of rat poison or drunken mothers with coinciding drug habits. Does her bottle of prescribed OxyContin really need to state this? She takes enough of it to know that she shouldn’t offer it up to her child. But I digress. This is not a treatise about your mom’s opiate addiction. In a world of keen insight and heightened, altered realities, a child’s safety is usually a priority of all parents. This is also true in my case. Perhaps more so. Allow me to explain…
My daughter Olivia has…well how should I say it, powers. Even as I write that I realize how completely fucked up that statement is, but I feel the urge, no, the outright obligation to inform you that I am all too truthful. So it is with extreme care and trepidation that I relate my story to you.
Now, it didn’t happen overnight to be sure. Her mother and I came to the understanding that little Olivia (then only five years old) was special, one morning during breakfast. She had already had two bowls of oatmeal with chocolate chips. My wife instructed her to rinse our her bowl and go brush her teeth, but Olivia stayed seated.
“I want more.” She exclaimed.
Her mother had told her no. It was then that Olivia’s demeanor changed. It was as if (this is hard) she became something or somebody else. At first, we did nothing. I simply shrugged it off as a temper tantrum. But when she floated up and across the kitchen to the cabinet where the oatmeal was kept, opened it and hefted out the box with ease, we took notice. The spoon and the bag of chocolate chips appeared in her hands as if she willed them to be there. I had to lift my wife off the floor after pouring a glass of cold water on her face. I was shocked certainly but relatively calm; calm for a man that just saw his five year old daughter levitating across the kitchen. Personally, I don’t think that oatmeal is that good to require such insistence, but who am I to judge. After the performance and certainly after my wife had regained her composure, Olivia sat and ate; looking at the colorful box of oatmeal as if what she had just done was okay with the world.
“I have to head out.” I told my wife. “Sam has got a shipment coming in and he wants me to inspect it.”
My wife glared at me as if I had just threw up on her. I had my bag around my shoulder and stepped towards the front door. I wasn’t able to comprehend this now. My wife was the more down-to-earth of the two of us. She would analyze this and find an explanation. I, on the other hand, would forget it ever happened. I would sit in my office and go threw the paperwork from the day’s shipment. Cross-reference buyers and sellers, phone numbers, and selling prices. Then once that was complete I would take a leisurely stroll through the warehouse to inspect the new acquisitions, safe in the knowledge that my daughter Olivia was possessed by Satan. I sent a text to Sam to inform him he was on his own for the day. I was embroiled in family matters.
Today, at the tender age of twelve, Olivia keeps her “special activities” mostly to herself. Unless of course she needs oatmeal or some boy in class needs his nose broke and she doesn’t want to get her hands dirty. We made the unwise decision to take our daughter to a therapist. I say this is unwise because the doctor thought we were crazy. Olivia did nothing to prove his theory to be incorrect. Olivia’s best friend Maria is the only other person that knows of Olivia’s gift. Let’s talk about this special gift shall we. My beautiful, young Olivia is of course able to float, or fly or whatever. You know that already. But that’s just the beginning. She can do things by just thinking about them. In many ways she attempts to brighten our lives. In the winter she warms my car before I leave, and makes sure all the roads a free of ice. But she can also be a pain. She will change the television channel if she chooses to, even if she’s in her room, just to be funny.
Another form of Olivia’s special gift, and the one aspect that her mother and I are must concerned of, is her ability to cause intense calamity. At twelve, my sweet Olivia has been going through some physical changes if you know what I mean. So once a month the house erupts in flames. She’s able to put it out quickly enough but it’s impossible to keep the carpet clean. On one particular afternoon at school. Olivia witnessed her best friend Maria knocked down by a gangly 8th grader by the name of Beatrice. Maria’s books scattered to the ground and Olivia stood rigid while Maria dusted herself off and look at her friend. I can handle this, she told Olivia and Olivia watched as the two grappled and pulled on each other’s hair. Maria was able to gain some balance and she threw a right hook at the older girl who dodged but the punch landed at her chest and she stumbled back slightly. Beatrice wasn’t strong but she was tall and awkward. Her extra long reach landed square on Maria’s chin, throwing her body back on to the grass of the playground. Olivia felt a shudder go through her like a bolt of energy. She stood in place waiting for a cue from Maria. But Maria was on her back, struggling to get up. Beatrice saw this as an opportunity and placed her inappropriately large foot on her neck. Maria’s eyes widened with fear as she fought for air. Olivia took a giant step forward.
“And what are you gonna do, retard?” Beatrice said with malice in her eyes. Olivia took another step forward and closed her eyes. The crowd of children that had gathered around them gasped in horror and ran away when the heard a crack and Beatrice fell to the ground. Both of her legs snapped forward awkwardly at the kneecaps. Olivia, as if it were nothing at all, lifted her friend off the ground and the two of ran home.
To be continued…
This book is fucked up! I mean that in every possible way imaginable. My reading preferences tend to vary but I usually stick to the themes that I enjoy. I have a tendency to focus more on the fantastic. What I mean is that if the story is so unbelievable, then I like it that much more. This story checked all the boxes. There’s a Witch with a curse, a New England town suffering from that curse. The human factor of this story hits you in the gut repeatedly. Go get it.
As many of you may or may not know, I am a musician; a drummer. My band: Whiskey Road, played a show this last Saturday to a roaring crown of eager fans. This was our return to the stage from the lockdowns caused by COVID-19. I was nervous. Rightfully so because we had sold out the venue. I guess you could say it was nervous energy. I was excited to play; to be back on the stage with my brothers and sisters (not literal but more fraternal).
I was ready, to say the least. I arrived an hour ahead of schedule because I had a new set up in mind and I needed to have enough time if the set up didn’t work.. I lugged all my gear in (I need a roadie desperately) and began organizing the hardware on the riser. My back began to give me some trouble so I ordered a whiskey, cheeseburger and fries, and sat down for a moment. Let’s fast forward a bit…
With 15 minutes before we went on, I got dressed. My ensemble was black jeans, faded grey shirt, black leather vest, and an American flag scarf. I can tell you right now with all the humility in my heart, that I do not look good in leather. But the show must go on. We rocked the place. Other than a few minor problems that went unnoticed; it was really a remarkable show. Currently, my hands look like chewed hamburger. I should use that imagery in an upcoming story.
I don’t believe in aliens. Let’s get that outta the way right quick. But when them frogs were fallin outta the damn sky, I lost my shit. Some idiot said it was some kinda weather thing. No sir! Them frogs were real and fallin from the friggin sky! Aint no weather can do that. I jumped out the truck and scooped five or six of em an threw em on the seat there. Whatcha gotta know is that these frogs here aint no normal reptiles. How do I know? Cause they friggin talk to me, that’s how I knows they aint no normal friggin frogs. The proof is there on the inside. Tommy Pistil came over last night an set about cuttin one open. Now, I aint what you call smart, but I know a real frog from an alien frog, an I’m tell you for sure that these frogs are settin to work some kinda magic or somethin.
Tommy grabbed a blade that I once used to peal somethin off my foot an set in to cuttin one open. Right down the friggin middle of it. He went to school an all so he’s knows all about frogs an shit. After he’d cut a big hole he showed me all the regular frog stuff like the guts an shit. He told me that it was a normal lookin frog. But the hell I say! That’s just what these frogs want us to be thinkin. If’n you was a frog from space, you’d be makin yourself look normal too. Tommy lost his shit an went inside to grab a beer. That’s when the friggin thing sat up and started in to speakin. I tell you right now. You don’t ever want to listen to frogs when they got that talkin shit goin on. Tommy came back out and I told him what was goin on with the dead frog and he laughed like he’d been listenin to one of them funny people on that you tube. I told him it was real and he fell back on a chair an opened his beer with his one tooth that points kinda outward like.
Ma came out an set about yellin somethin fierce. Why were we messin with all these frogs an shit? I told her they was from Pluto or some place like that an she lost her shit too. Everybody’s losin their shit over frogs that aint normal. I put the rest a them frogs in a shoe box my old man had left me in case any a them frogs fell outta the sky and I went inside. Aint nobody gonna tell me that sky frogs are like normal frogs. Now, I sleep like a baby or some shit like that. But that night I couldn’t sleep at all. I kep hearing that frog talk comin from the box, an there was a little shinin too like the moon had been in the box with em. I sat up an looked inside that box and you know what, those frogs were playin poker. Not hold ’em, but regular poker, like draw or some shit. They all looked up at me with that froggy look and told me to go the fuck away. An you know what I did? I kicked them friggin frogs in the friggin teeth. Aint no sky frog gonna mess with my sleepin. No sir.
In a cold, dark basement a 13 year old girl sits on an uneven bed; cold and afraid. Unfortunately she is not there because she wants to be. She has been kidnapped. Taken by a man wearing a mask and disguising his voice. The man hasn’t hurt her but she knows that if she doesn’t do what the man says, he will. She is unaware of how long she has been there. Her only hope of survival lies with the man that took her. Eighteen years later, Charity Daniels suffers from post traumatic stress syndrome. She has no recollection of the ordeal. All she knows is that she isn’t well. Has she ever been well? With help from her therapist, Charity begins to remember things; small things at first. As her past comes back to her, Charity comes face to face with the knowledge of why she was taken, and by whom.
You’re watching me. I can see that you’re watching me. I saw you the moment I stepped on the train. The puzzle here isn’t necessarily that I know that you’re watching me, but that you know that I know. What is it about me that makes you so interested? Is it my hair? I did just have it cut recently. When was that? Tuesday? Is it the way I walk? I have a slight limp on my left foot from slipping on the ice just this morning. Perhaps it’s my eyes. Yes, my eyes. I get complimented all day long on my eyes. They are grey if you must know. No, I do not believe it is any of those things. I get a sense that you are watching me because you are following me. Yes, you were there when I came out of my apartment this morning on my way uptown. You watched me as I entered the bookshop for some light holiday reading. You followed me too close as I entered the parking garage. I heard the door open and close while I was walking up the stairwell. Was that you? Of course it was. You saw me enter her apartment. Then you watched as I left and followed me here to the train station. But what you didn’t see, my friend, is what I did to her; while she slept. After I sliced her from from her neck to her ribcage, I took her eyes. I fed them to the pigeons outside her window. She was watching me as well. But not any longer. So, my friend, my advice to you is this. Keep watching me.