Tuesday, March 25, 2014

For the Atlantis of the Hideous Big Bad Wolf By Sean Leonard (Random Title #21)

Every day, on my walk home from school, I would pass row after row of pig farrowing houses, until one day I didn’t. It wasn’t that I took a different way home; there is no other way home. It’s that one day, those houses just weren’t there anymore.

Some days, I’d find headless chickens along my path, corpses that fell out of the trucks on their way to the poultry plant, day-late jailbreaks. But that afternoon, there were chunks of pre-pork pig scattered all across the road; a legless hoof here, a faceless snout there, here a leg, there an ear, everywhere some dead pig. It was as if an insurgent hog had snuck in and set an IED to go off just after slop was served. Whatever the case, there was nothing left of my halfway point marker save for some scattered wood and the smell of dead breakfast.

That night, as my mom prepared dinner, I tried to pry my dad’s attention from his beer and his baseball to tell him about what I had seen. 

“Same thing happened over near the Hanson’s farm, couple a days ago,” he responded, still not looking at me. “Whole damn pig pen leveled into mud and blood. Prob’ly them animal activists tryin’ to prove a point.”

“T.J., watch yer language in front of the boy,” my mom called from the kitchen. I might have made more of his extended middle finger aimed in the direction of my mother’s bodiless voice if her brief opening of the door hadn’t wafted in the intense odor of pork chops, which instantly sent me back to my own Vietnam that I had experienced just hours before, in which I had found myself in “the shit.” My immediate projection of vomit knew no bounds, splashing the carpet, the coffee table, the last three days’ newspapers in their pile on said table, and my dad’s unscuffed cowboy boots. I probably lost three pounds with that barf; probably woulda lost three teeth, too, if my dad had noticed the chunks of puke that found their way into his beer. Instead, he took a deep, final swig; Milwaukee’s Best turned into Kentucky’s Worst, a la my own personal recipe.


My cousin Randy disappeared from his family’s farm two months later. Coincidentally, their modest pig pen was also leveled about the same time. My mom told us we should go visit my aunt and uncle, bring them a hot meal, as they had been taking their only son’s vanishing pretty hard. The three of us loaded in the car, my dad grumbling in the driver’s seat, my mom checking her “mourning look” in the mirror, and me charged with the task of keeping numerous pots, pans, bowls, and hot plates upright in the backseat.

Awkward hugs were shared, and all the adults stood on the front porch, wordless and hesitant. My dad made me carry the food in, having to again and again excuse myself past their encumbering and unhelpful bodies each time as I opened the front screen door, carefully balancing the night’s meal under my chin. After placing the last bowl on the kitchen counter, I came back outside just in time to watch everyone make their way inside.

Food was barely touched that night, but everyone seemed thirsty enough for three. My dad and his brother swore non-stop, and for once my mom didn’t scold or raise an eyebrow. Their words became louder as the night went on, more liquefied, more pronounced and slowed. Once the cans were traded for bottles, I stopped stabbing my fork into the remnants of a slice of pecan pie and snuck outside, hoping the headache that was building would be pacified by the crickets and junebugs of dusk.

Me and Randy used to play ball down the hill, over by the lake. Me and Randy used to call it “Lake Stinkowski” because it smelled like a place dirty diapers got washed out in. Me and Randy would go down there, tie cattails into mini-grenades, and throw them at each other while safely reciting all the swear words we knew out of ear’s reach of our parents. Me and Randy used to have a lot of fun together around these parts.

There was no more me and Randy. But there, under the gum tree halfway down the hill, was part of Randy.

“Mom,” I called out, probably much quieter in reality than in my head, as I nudged the fleshy chunk of Randy Dayton with my Chuck Taylor. There was no doubt it was an arm, and the McGruff Crime Dog watch around the chewed up wrist made me fairly certain it was Randy’s arm. Which probably meant that bit of red tinting on the tree above the severed limb was probably not a result of the setting sun’s light; it was probably blood.

Before I could shout for another family member who wouldn’t hear me, I heard a rustling near the water behind me. I ducked around the tree and peaked back. At first, it was just shadows and figures and silhouettes of monsters that I wished my brain would stop tricking me with. But as my eyes adjusted, and I realized my brain and my eyes were on the same page, I’m embarrassed to say I peed a little.

There were multiple figures moving toward the lake, their fuzzy silhouettes wading into the water before submerging completely. Some carried lumpy piles in their arms, others dragged sleds of larger piles behind them. If it wasn’t for the full moon making its way into the night sky, I wouldn’t have seen them clearly. Then again, if it wasn’t for the full moon that was making its way into the night sky, they would not have existed.

I rubbed my eyes, I slapped my head, I squinted and I stared, but no matter what, I still saw the same thing. Man-sized wolves, an army of them (or would it be a pack?), carrying armfuls of something to an underwater destination. They were huge. They were amphibious. They were wearing people clothes. And they were ugly.

I focused on one to gain some perspective. He had a large, hooked nose, like a proboscis monkey, and a huge gap between his front teeth. One of his canines was broken, the other had a bit of black gunk on it (it was hard to miss, what with what big teeth they were and all), and his tongue hung a bit to the side. The wolf-man/werewolf/lycanthrope creature had the complexion of a teenaged pizza-face and the hunched back of, well, a werewolf. And then I noticed a familiar smell. And then I got a better look at what they were carrying. And then I started putting the pieces together.

Some carried wood; long, broken pieces of matching colored wood. But the rest, they carried meat. Well, chunks of pig to me or you, but ready-to-devour meat to them. And there was a lot. Enough to fill a small building. Enough to fill my aunt and uncle’s small pig pen, in fact. If my math skills had been better, I might have added it up already, but when one of them sneezed and it uprooted a bush and caused an inward current from the lakefront, enough to reveal descending stairs, it became all but obvious.

I pictured my poor cousin Randy, always the butt of the jokes at school. Porky Pig. Fatso. Suey! And I remembered my eighth grade science teacher, Mr. Bleeker, telling us that while it’s believed that wolves have great eyesight, in actuality they are probably near-sighted due to how their eyes are shaped. How horrible it must have been, poor fat Randy, bringing slop to the pen on a hot summer day, probably shirtless due to the heat, sweating, as they say, like a pig.

I left the piece of Randy there by the tree as I ran the uphill distance back to the house. About halfway there I got scared that no one would believe me, but by the time I reached the slurring, drunken adults, I was positive my voice would go unheard. My telling of the story and the subsequent whipping I’d receive wouldn’t bring my cousin back, so I decided to keep my mouth shut.

My aunt and uncle moved away soon after, but that hasn’t stopped me from finding my way back to the lake behind that house. Never under a full moon, mind you. But many a sneaked-beer drunken night has been spent there, staring at the rippled surface, remembering that night, safe on the shore, looking for the Atlantis of the hideous big bad wolf.


In 1987, after hearing Poison’s “Look What the Cat Dragged In” for the first time, Sean decided he wanted to play drums. After realizing all rock stars wore leather pants, he traded in those dreams of fortune and fame for 80’s sitcoms, horror movies (which he reviews at HorrorNews.net), and punk rock. Sean's short stories can be found in Solarcide’s “Flash Me! The Sinthology,” Bizarro Pulp Press's "Bizarro Bizarro: An Anthology," and online at Cease, Cows. www.seanofthedead.net

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