The Marble Champion

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Every kid in the school yard at California Street Elementary in 1955, was watching the marble match.

A third-grader named Billy, was challenging a fifth-grader, named Jack, in a game of marbles. It wasn’t just another game. It was for the annual unofficial marble championship. Both put up all of their boulders, common cats eyes, aggies, and steelys. It was winner take all. Both contestants had captured hundreds of marbles during the semester.

The winner was the first to capture fifty marbles in a three-round contest. Each round featured 30 marbles – fifteen from each contestant. They used their prized aggies, confident that their special marbles would give them a winning edge.

A coin was tossed to see who went first. Jack won. He knelt down and bent over the circle in the sand. Then he calmly lined up his aggie using his thumb and forefinger, and let it go with a force that scattered the marbles in the center of the circle. Two rolled out of the circle. He picked them up and put them in the coffee can next to him. An excited chatter came from the spectators. The game was on.

Jack lined his aggie up again, and sent it careening into a small cluster of marbles near the line. Three were knocked out of the circle. He got to fifteen before he missed his first shot. Billy took up his position and drove his first marble out of the circle while staying inside with his sticker. He finished off the first round with 15 marbles. They were tied, but Billy got to start round two. He lined up his bumblebee sticker, and fired it into the center mass. Three marbles excited the circle so hard they flew into the crowd! A roar of approval went up. Jack looked on nervously as Billy ran the entire circle! As one of the judges drew a new circle for the last round, Billy’s classmates were patting him on the back in admiration. The shy kid in the classroom had finally earned the respect of his fellow students. And at the expense of the school bully!

Before they could play the last round, the bell rang signaling recess was over. According to their rules the game would be played the next day at recess. Billy went back to class feeling better than he had all semester. He was accepted. One of the guys now. His young heart sang with happiness. He spent the rest of the school day thinking how his life was really turning around.

When the last bell rang, Billy and two new-found friends walked home together. They went about a block when Jack stepped out from behind an oak tree accompanied by two of his friends. He towered over Billy, and outweighed him. In a menacing voice he warned Billy that he better lose tomorrow or he’d beat him up! The smaller boy looked up at him, his heart beating like a jack hammer, and said, “I’m not afraid of you. I’m going to do my best to win tomorrow.”

“What did you say pipsqueak? You’re not afraid of me? Bring it on punk!”

“I don’t want to fight.”

“Of course you don’t, mommy’s boy! You just want to go home and put a dress on!”

Jacks friends laughed so hard they were patting each other on the back in glee. They knew what was going to happen next. Jack pushed Billy hard. He stumbled for a moment and then did the unexpected, he lunged at Jack and hit him in the face! Gasps went up from the onlookers. Jack gave ground and held a hand up to his face. His nose was bleeding. Infuriated he waded into Billy and slugged him repeatedly, knocking the smaller boy to the ground. Then he repeatedly kicked him. Billy stayed in a fetal position but didn’t cry out. Finally Jack’s buddies pulled him away from the barely conscious boy. Billy was bleeding from cuts to his face and his right hand – his marble shooting hand. It was swollen because Jack had stomped on it. The fingers were already twice their normal size.

“See you tomorrow loser!” Jack told him before walking away. Billy’s two friends helped him to his feet and walked the rest of the way home with him. His mother was horrified when she saw Jack. Both of his eyes were swollen shut and he had bruises all over his thin body.

“What happened?” she asked him and his friends. Jack was silent. One of the boys told her a bully, a fifth grader, beat him up because he was winning a marble contest.

“Is this true, Billy?”

He mumbled something in answer, and went past her and into the house and his room. When his father got home he went into Billy’s room and sat down on the single bed next to him.

“Tough day?”

“Yea…”

“Your mom told me what happened. You were brave to stand up to the bully.”

“How do you know that?” he wondered.

“Apparently your friends told her everything that happened. What are you going to do tomorrow son? Should I contact the principal?

“No! Don’t do that! I’m no snitch. I’m going to school and I’m going to win the marble contest!”

“Okay, son. Take it easy. Have you iced that hand yet?”

“A few hours ago.”

“Do it again before you go to bed, okay?”

“Sure, Dad.”

“One more thing…I’m proud of you son.”

The next at school.

The word was out. Every kid at California Street School squirmed in their seats that morning waiting for the lunch recess. The big marble game came with an additional element this year. Nearly everyone knew Jack beat Billy up yesterday. The tension created by a possible fight went through the classrooms like electricity. When the lunch bell rang there was a general charge out to the farthest corner of the playground where the marble contest would resume.

Jack confidently made his way through the crowd and stood next to the circle and the two judges. Billy slowly (and painfully if you really paid attention) walked to the circle. With his left hand he took out his prized Bumblebee and knelt down next to the circle. A murmur of surprise rippled through the crowd when he prepared to shoot…with his left hand! Not his normal shooting hand. He only had to capture five marbles and he’d be the champ. One of many things his peers didn’t know about him was he was ambidextrous.

When he shot the marble and it slammed into the center mass, there was a cheer as two marbles exited the circle. He made the next three look easy. The crowd broke out into happy pandemonium as they cheered Billy’s victory. No one noticed Jack, who slung away with no friends in tow.

As It Stands, this tale is a bit of nostalgia sprinkled with marbles and bullies.

The Noise Under Denny’s Bed

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He heard the noise again.

Something was under his bed scratching the wooden floor. In the dark silence of his bedroom, seven-year-old Denny shivered in fear. He wanted to pull the covers over his head, but then whatever was underneath his bed might jump out when he couldn’t see.

His terrified brown eyes held back tears. He couldn’t go wake Mom and Dad again another night. Three times was their limit apparently, because they told him to be a big boy, and there was nothing under his bed. They both looked numerous times in the last week and declared the area safe from monsters.

Then they explained to him that there was no such thing as monsters. It was his active imagination, his mother said. “There was nothing to be afraid of,” his father reassured him with a hug, and a pat on his curly brown hair.

Despite all of his parents reassurances, the thing was scratching the floor underneath his bed again the next night. He held his breath so it wouldn’t hear him. The scratching stopped and he heard strange grunting sounds. He exhaled dramatically and jumped off the bed.

He could see underneath his bed by the light cast from the nightlight plugged in on the other side. Nothing! There wasn’t anything there. No monster. He turned on the room light and got down on his knees and peered under the bed expecting to see some scratch marks. There weren’t any.

Reluctantly, he got up and turned off the room light. The nightlight cast a shadow across the floor when he went back to his bed. He laid down on top of the covers…listening. Finally, he fell asleep out of sheer exhaustion in the early morning hours.

The next morning Denny’s parents asked him how he slept?

“Good,” he yawned, as he sat down at the breakfast table.

“No noise under the bed?” his father asked between bites of French toast.

“Yeah, there was a noise…” his voiced trailed off.

“But you stayed in bed like a big boy,” his mother jumped in with her cheerful voice that she always used to compliment him in.

He smiled weakly, took his fork and speared a chunk of French toast that she had already cut up for him. It was a Saturday. No school. No work. Everyone went their separate way most of the day.

Denny played in the yard with his friend Alec who brought over a baseball to play catch. They threw the ball back and forth for hours while talking about sports. His mother worked in the front yard garden, pruning the rose bushes. His father was in the garage working on one of his wood projects.

After lunch the boys went back to playing catch when Denny miss-handled the ball and it hit a screened opening that led to a crawl space beneath the house. The screen was barely on when Denny peered into the blackness after picking the baseball up.

Alec ran over to him and got down on his knees.

“See anything?” he asked.

“Too dark.”

“Ever go underneath a house?” Alec asked.

“No.”

“I have. Our house. There were spiders all over the place.”

“Was that all? Was there anything else?” Denny prodded him.

“My mom’s cat. She needed me to go in and help get him out,” Alec replied.

“Nothing scary?”

“No…but it was hard to move around,” Alec said.

A scratching noise suddenly got both of the boys attention. It was coming from the opening. They both heard the rustling of a big body moving around and sensed movement in the darkness.

When grunting sounds broke the silence, both boys got up and ran screaming to the front yard. Denny’s mother calmed them down while his dad went to investigate.

“What’s the matter?” she asked, concern dripping from each word.

“There’s a monster under your house,” Alec claimed.

“We heard it!” an excited Denny backed him up.

“Nonsense! Come. Let’s have a look.

She led the boys back around the house to the opening and got down on all fours. Dad came crawling out with dirt on his shirt and a shred of cobweb clinging to his hair.

“Was anyone in there?” she asked him.

“No, but we could use some more insulation in there,” he said.

“Okay boys.. are you playing a prank on me?” she asked.

“No!” they cried out in unison.

She looked closely at each boy and shook her head. “I’m going back to my gardening. You boys find something else to do.”

The boys watched her leave.

“I’m going home,” Alec said.

“I heard something.

“I know,” Alec replied as he picked up his mitt and baseball. “See ya later.”

That night when Denny’s parents were sure he was asleep they went to the guest bedroom and opened a hidden trap door that led underneath the house. Denny’s dad lowered himself down and turned on his flashlight.

He could see the body was partly unbound and one arm was free. He would have to find something stronger to knock them out with – yet not kill them. Lately there’d been some mishaps. The duct tape around their mouths was working, but some victims managed to get an arm or leg loose from the rope tied around them while waiting to be transported.

No one stayed under the house for more than 48-hours. When the lab technicians came to collect their human guinea pigs it was always in the early morning when most people were sleeping.

The arrangement worked out well for the clandestine company, and Denny’s parents pocketbook. They planned to retire early. The extra money would mean they could do so in style.

They decided to solve Denny’s problem by moving into a new home, with it’s own basement. Denny loved his new room – the view out of the second story window was great – and he quit hearing the noises under his bed at night.

As It Stands, this tale is a social comment on what people will do to get rich these days.

The Undertaker’s Son

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Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry.

Fred Dempsey, the town undertaker, and his wife Julia, had an autistic son named Timothy. He had the body of a 17 year-old, but the mind of a five-year old. He was already taller than his parents, and judging by his hands and feet, he was going to keep growing.

He was so skinny his six foot-six-inch frame looked awkward and unbalanced. His skin had an opalescent quality to its whiteness from the day he was born. Timmy, as his parents called him, was  good-natured boy most of the time. He was also non-verbal, but fully capable of making grunting noises when he wasn’t happy or wanted attention.

Because Timmy didn’t understand concepts like life and death, the corpses in their parlor never bothered him. He looked on them as dolls. But, unlike his smaller dolls, he wasn’t allowed to play with the big ones in the parlor. Or, the ones in the big ice box.

Dempsey’s Funeral Home was founded by Fred’s father, George, just after World War II ended. George who served in Patton’s 3rd Army corps, was a tank driver. When he mustered out he married Tina Weinstein, and used his GI Bill to get the schooling he needed to become a funeral director.

No one really understood why George picked a profession that dealt with dead people after fighting for two years in Europe and seeing people die horrific deaths. When Fred was born in 1953, their funeral home was the only one in town.

When George and his wife’s health began to fail in the late 1980s, they turned the business over to Fred and Julia, and retired to Miami, Florida.

When Fred and Julia had Timmy they had to learn to adjust their world so that one or the other, was always with him. They watching him and secretly wondered what they did wrong to have a child that was so disabled?

Dempsey’s Funeral Home was conveniently located near the town’s interfaith cemetery. Since Timmy was old enough to walk, Julia took him on hikes through the vast old cemetery that was over two-hundred years-old.

The newer cemetery, the one near their home, lacked the charm the old one offered with its eclectic array of headstones and epitaphs. The old one was also near a forest that offered miles of hiking trails.

Julia and Timmy walked those trails for 12 years before she was unable to because of  health issues. Timmy was mad for months when the walks finally stopped. He eventually forgot about the walks as Julia cleverly directed his energies into other activities he could do in their big back yard.

Fred worked hard maintaining the families good name. He was a member of the Rotary Club and sponsored a little league team called “The Titans.” Although he loved his son, he didn’t spend as much time with him as Julia did.

For seventeen years they did their best to shelter Timmy from the world. They only took him into town to see his regular doctor, or mental health officials when necessary. It was difficult because he often attracted attention when people saw him.

Timmy insisted on only wearing black clothes, and the contrast with his pale skin was unsettling. People saw this tall man-boy acting like a five-year old and looking like a character out of a Tim Burton movie.

One day two young girls were playing on a sidewalk just outside the doctor’s office when Timmy came out. Their screams of utter terror startled and scared him. Fred made sure to hold on to his arm tightly. Julia whispered soothing words and directed Timmy over to the family hearse parked nearby. He was grunting like he was in pain.

Since that incident, Timmy turned inward and quit smiling. He became morose and was quick to anger over the smallest thing. A few days later, Julia was looking out at the backyard from one of the monitors in the house. What she saw stunned her. Timmy was methodically twisting the heads off his dolls. A pile of decapitated dolls lay at his feet.

Instead of going outside and confronting him about his behavior, she called Fred. He took the call from a speaker phone in the embalming room. She told him what she witnessed and he agreed to talk about it more, after he was finished with the corpse he was working on.

When she glanced back at the camera Timmy wasn’t there!

She switched the full screen to multiple screens covering ever inch of the yard. He was nowhere in sight. This never happened before. He must have scaled the fence. A hint of fear, of her own son,  slithered through her brain like a cockroach avoiding light.

Where would he have gone? Then it hit her.

The forest trails. He loved walking there. She jumped into the hearse and drove up to the trail head. She called Fred while driving there. He assured her he was on the way.

When Julia got out of the hearse she looked ahead where the trail made the first of two splits. She texted Fred and said she was taking the first trail to the right and he should take the first one on the left.

The sun was going down rapidly as the frantic parents called out Timmy’s name. They were ill equipped with no flashlights. As darkness descended and a cold wind swept through the forest, they agreed to go back to the house and try to decide what to do next. Calling the authorities on the way home, Julia made sure to explain to them he was severely autistic and on medicine.

That night, deep into the forest, Boy Scout Pack 31 was camping out, and they had a bonfire going. The pack leader was telling scary stories to the group gathered around the bonfire when one of the boys saw Timmy in the shadows.

His scream had a multiplying effect and pretty soon everyone, but the pack leader, was screaming at the top of their lungs!

“I saw him!” the boy howled. “It was Slender Man!”

That set off another series of screams. It took the pack leader several minutes to settle the group down.

“All right, Jack. Tell me exactly what you saw and where,” the pack leader asked.

“He was tall and thin with black clothes, and his white face glowed! Right over there,” Jack pointed.

“Okay scouts. You stay here, and I’ll take a look.

The pack leader turned his flashlight in the direction Jack pointed, and set off at a brisk pace. He slowed down a little once he was passed the bonfire’s reach. It was a full moon and shafts of light filtered through the forest’s canopy creating shadows.

When a grunting sound started, the pack leader froze in his steps. His heartbeat increased as he rationally tried to think what animal made a grunt like that? A bear perhaps? No, he knew what it really sounded like…a human being.

Timmy saw the pack leader first. His excited grunts caused the pack leader to turn around and see him. His eyes rolled to the back of his head in muted terror, as the pack leader whimpered, “Don’t hurt me.”

When the pack leader finally screamed in mortal terror, the spell was broken and Timmy turned and ran away. The members of Boy Scout Pack 31 saw their fearless leader run through the camp shouting, “Follow me!

Meanwhile Timmy retreated back to the hiking trail and walked throughout the night. His greatful parents found him walking by the old cemetery, doggedly putting one foot in front of the other with his head hanging down in exhaustion.

They contacted the authorities and told them Timmy got lost, but he was home now.

From that night forward, Boy Scout Pack 31, and it’s intrepid leader, became famous throughout the country for claiming they saw a creature once thought to just be a rural legend.

Julia and Fred made Timmy wear bright-colored clothing after they read the excited scouts story in the newspaper. It became a family secret.

As It Stands, this tale is a reflection of what’s happening today in America, where cases of autism, especially males, increase yearly.

The Shoeshine Boy’s Street Story

Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry

“Shine? I’ll make ya shoes look fine!

The man passed 10-year old Leroy like he wasn’t even there. It was getting dark and soon there would be no chance of making any money. Reluctantly, Leroy folded up his little stand and seat.

He had a long way to walk back to Harlem. He couldn’t afford any kind of transportation. Not even the subway. Every penny he made went to keep his family from starving. His father was dead. His mother who had a terrible case of gout, could barely move on some days.

His three sisters, all older than him, did what they could to help provide funds for a roof over their head, and food. Being black, and poor, almost guaranteed they would never leave the slums of Harlem.

Because of bullies, and territorial gangsters, Leroy was forced to always keep moving where he did business. Some days he walked miles, relocating three or four times out of necessity’s sake.

Leroy learned his way around over the course of several years. He got to know which neighborhoods to avoid, and where it was safe to set up shop. Still, there was always new neighborhoods to explore in his search for money.

It was a new neighborhood where he hit his best payday ever!

All day long, men in dark clothes passed the Funeral Home near where he set up his stand. Many of them wanted a shoeshine. All were quiet and extremely generous, leaving him tips.

He lost track of time until the last shine, when darkness crept up on him like a thief. There were only a couple of street lamps working. Most were dark. Leroy pulled his threadbare coat around his chest tighter and shivered. A cold wind struck up as he starting walking down the street.

He was looking over his shoulder and didn’t see the man until he bumped into him! He immediately dropped his stand and covered up his head, fully expecting to be hit for his impropriety.

When nothing happened, he looked up and saw a tall pale man smiling at him.

“Sorry sir, I….”

“Don’t worry about it boy. We all get in a hurry sometimes, and make mistakes. Could I talk you into shining my shoes right now?

Despite Leroy’s misgivings about the strange-looking man wearing an 18th century coat, he set up his stand under one light that worked.

Fear tiptoed through his head as he dutifully buffed the man’s antique shoes. He knew shoes. He was sure he never saw anything like these ones.

When he was done, Leroy shyly asked if the stranger approved of his job?

The man stroked one end of his long black mustache and nodded agreeably. “Yes, well done boy. Here’s your reward.” He handed Leroy a gold coin. His eyes widened in surprise. The only gold coin he’d ever seen was in a pawn shop.

“Thank you,” he stammered.

“I’ll make a deal with you. Meet me once a month on this same day after dark, and I will continue to pay you with a gold coin. You must never tell anyone about our arrangement however.”

“Yes…” he assured him, “I won’t tell anyone.”

Then the stranger was gone.

After he got home that night he showed his sisters his prize. They were dumbfounded and excited. The next day all four kids went to the pawn shop where their uncle worked. The uncle’s eyes opened wide in surprise after examining the coin.

It was a $4 gold piece called a “Flowering Hair Stella” and was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars! The uncle was trembling when he picked up the phone and called an appraiser he knew.

“I’d guess you’ll get somewhere around $200,000 at auction,” the expert said.

All four kids screamed out loud in joy! The uncle was busy figuring out how he could get a cut of this sudden good fortune.

A month later life had changed drastically after they moved into a new house in a nice neighborhood. This sudden life of luxury caused them all to go a bit crazy and they spent most of their money.

Leroy thought about what the stranger said. He unpacked his old clothes which he couldn’t bear to throw away, and put them on. It took him a while to find his shoeshine stand. Someone had put it in attic.

He showed up at the same street where he met the stranger just before dark. The poor lighting caused shadows to undulate along the buildings and pour out into the street. He was looking at the ones across the street when he heard a cough nearby.

“Ahhhhum,” the stranger said, “You’ve returned to shine my shoes, I see.”

“Yes sir,” Leroy meekly agreed.

This time the stranger was more talkative.

“What did you do with the gold coin I gave you” he asked.

“I used it to put a roof over my family’s head, and for food for all of us,” he answered.

“Excellent! Good boy! Here’s your payment for tonight’s work.”

He handed Leroy a gold coin that looked just like the other one.

“In a month then?”

Yes…thank you!

When Leroy returned home that night he showed his sisters the gold coin. Their excitement soon changed to suspicion.

“Where you gettin these coins?” Latasha, his oldest sister asked.

“Told you. I got it for giving a man a shoeshine,” he said sullenly.

The same man?” she queried.

“Maybe...”

“What you mean maybe? C’mon lil man, this is me! Your sissy.”

Leroy began to feel guilty. He loved all of his sisters and he was keeping a big secret from them.

“Yeah…it was from the same man.”

“How did you find him again?” Tisha, his other sister asked.

“Well, that’s easy,” Tonya, the third sister claimed. “He went back to the same neighborhood. Isn’t that right Leroy?

“Yeah.”

The next day all four kids, and their mother, went to an independent coin appraiser to cut the uncle out of this windfall. He proved to be an ass the last time, demanding finders fees.

The coin was put up for auction a month later, and sold for $250,000.

This time, the mother and sisters paid off their accumulated bills, and took the rest and invested it in the stock market. Two days later the stock market crashed on Tuesday, October 24th, 1929!

The following night Leroy kept his appointment with the stranger. Once again the stranger was talkative.

“So, what did you do with the last gold coin I gave you?” 

Leroy hesitated. He hated telling the truth and risking rebuke, but he was an honest kid.

“My family lost it,” he admitted.

The stranger’s eyes darkened in anger. He looked Leroy in the eyes as if reading his mind. His countenance softening when he spoke, “I’m sorry to hear that. Here’s your coin. It’s the last one you’ll get from me. Better luck with this one boy.

Leroy looked down in his hand and saw the same type of coin as the other two. When he looked up the stranger was gone. He stood there for minutes on the sidewalk, watching the fog creep in.

When he got home he hid the coin. He would wait until he was 21 years-old and could lay claim to it without any legal challenges from his family.

As Leroy neared his legal age, he was still shining shoes. He seemed to enjoy the streets however, and started telling fantastic stories that his customers enjoyed. Their favorite story was how Leroy was really rich and was doing this – shining shoes – to pass time.

As It Stands, this was my twist on the generous stranger genre.

The Inmate’s Revenge

Drake County, Ohio – 2012

Construction workers were excavating a huge clearing next to a new neighborhood when they found a body. The badly decomposed corpse had its hands and feet bound with fragments of rope.

One of the workers called the supervisor over and asked him what to do. They both studied the corpse that was curled into a fetal position for a couple of minutes. The supervisor set up a perimeter with warning signs and secured the area before contacting his superiors.

Drake County, Ohio – 1854

The final touches were done and the Drake County Poor House was ready for occupancy. The insane asylum, completed a month ago, was located 300 years away, but in sight of the Poor House.

Local residents were pleased with both facilities, which they felt were needed for years. Officials were appointed, and staff members were recruited from the community. The mayor of Hicksville (the closest city) gave a speech to a crowd of two hundred people who picnicked afterwards on the Poor House grounds.

A year later, both facilities were at maximum capacity. When inmates of either facility died they were buried in unmarked graves, unless they had relatives willing to bury them properly at the county cemetery.

Three years passed before there was trouble at the insane asylum. A culture of cruelty had grown among the staff who took every opportunity to make the inmates lives miserable. There were never visitors. Family, or government.

The inmates very lives depended on cooperating and not causing trouble. The craziest were actually protected by the others. John Steele, who always seemed to have one foot in an alternate universe, was protected by other inmates.

The fact of the matter was, there were sane people locked up by their own relatives and corrupt courts.

One day Steele, who the guards called Daffy, got ahold of the cell keys from a dozing guard during lunch, and released the other inmates who attacked the rest of the staff!

The county marshal, with a posse, stormed the insane asylum and restored order by nightfall. After investigating what happened, the marshal had John bound hand-and- foot, and put in solitary confinement with no food or water.

Because his cell was in the same corridor as the community cells, everyone could hear his pitiful cries of hunger alternating with screams of rage!

Four days later, the guards opened his cell. Without water for the entire time, he died that morning. They carried his body out on a dirty sheet to the exercise yard. A guard was waiting with a shovel in his hand. They planted John, and promptly forgot about him.

Drake County, Ohio – 2012

Two county commissioners and their assistants were going through a pile of old maps laid out on a conference table. One of the assistants proudly held up a map and an old newspaper article.

The group converged on the map, and compared it to the present one.

“This isn’t good,” one of the commissioners opined.

“Building over grave sites is always a problem, but we’re committed to this project. The voters decided we needed a new elementary school. This is the ideal location,” the second commissioner said.

“You know we’re going to have to keep this quiet, don’t you?” 

“Yes. I’ll meet with the construction supervisor and his superiors, to come up with a plan if any more bodies are discovered.”

“What about the one we already found?”

“What body?” the second commissioner slyly asked.

It was left up to the construction foreman to quietly dispose of the skeletal remains as he saw fit. The foreman, Larry Freeman, wasn’t thrilled with the task. He knew it was probably illegal, but he needed the work.

It took years to finalize the project, but the finished result was what the community asked for. The first classes – K-6th Grade – opened up on September 2nd, 2014.

During recess for the 1st graders, one little girl ran up to the teacher just before the bell rang and handed her a green marble.

“What’s this Debby?” the teacher asked?

“Daffy gave it to me!” she squealed with delight.

As It Stands, Bad karma has a way of coming around.

The Abby of Little Horrors

When Ivan went to school Friday night he had one thing in mind; to get even with his classmate, Miles Newton.

Their rivalry had taken on new heights in the last week when Miles visited Ivan’s girlfriend, Celia, uninvited; while Ivan was taking an exam in the world spells department.

That was the incident that crossed the line.

There’s a saying among monsters, that if you mess with another lupine’s bitch, you better be prepared to eat silver. Touch a wizard’s woman, and there’s going to be hell to pay.

Ivan wasn’t as physically big as Miles who was a werewolf, but he was smarter. He was the son of a wizard. He wasn’t going to attack Miles without some help. That’s where the Jackson twins, who were vampires, came in. They were always ready for an adventure.

Because school hours were at night, it was easy to conceal oneself in the overgrown ruins of the ancient Abby that was their school. Dusky corridors echoed with the screams of monks that were brutally murdered by Viking invaders in dark days past.

Great stones still held up the roof of the Abby, unlike the outlying buildings that were in worse repair and roofless. Stars shone down on the venerable structure and it’s strange inhabitants like curious bystanders.

The creatures of the night that attended the unusual academy of learning at the Abby, were children of werewolves, vampires, and wizards. They were taught by their elders to abide by the laws of the school without question.

Generations of little horrors were prepped for their lives by savvy teachers descended from the most powerful warlocks, witches, werewolves, and vampires of lore. For hundreds of years it had been thus.

Things were about to change.

Ivan and the Jackson twins were waiting for Miles as he rounded the corner smack dab into the three waiting attackers. No words passed. The savage brawl that followed only ended when Ivan pulled out a silver knife and drove it into Mile’s chest!

The law was broken.

When Miles body was discovered, a general alarm went off among the students and teachers. Ghosts wailed pitifully.

Magic crackled in the air angrily. New dimensions opened up. Supernatural electricity darted though the Abby’ stone walls seeking culprits for the outrage.

Chaos was taking over.

The one main rule was violated – Thou shalt not kill a fellow student.

The Abby of little horrors depended upon dark magic and ancient spells for it’s existence. The meanings of the curses and spells were long forgotten, by the central message was always crystal clear. It was a safe zone.

No longer.

A very human emotion, jealousy, was the undoing of all the little monsters. They would never be safe again anywhere. Their universe shifted slightly. A new crack grew between the real world and the supernatural one.

The difference between man and monster narrowed.

As It Stands, the line between the supernatural and the real world is a very fine one.

The Killer Child’s Story

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Chapel Hill, Tennessee – 1975

Some people are born evil.

They don’t have to have an excuse like being brought up in a bad environment, or cruel parents, to become cold-hearted killers.

Murder is in their DNA. These bad seeds often go undetected for most of their lives.

They appear normal. They may be your neighbor, or a corner grocery store clerk. Or, the kid down the street.

Barry Lee Forrest was the great-great-great grandson of Nathan Bedford Forrest, one of the most feared Confederate Generals in the Civil War.

The Union general William Tecumseh Sherman called him “that devil Forrest” during wartime communications with Ulysses S. Grant and considered him “the most remarkable man our civil war produced on either side.”  

When Barry Lee Forrest was three months old he nearly bit his mother’s nipple off! His shocked mother immediately ceased breast-feeding him. After that, he was put on the bottle and fed baby formula.

Chapel Hill, Tennessee – 1981

Forrest School – Elementary 1-6  

Barry Lee Forrest was in 1st grade. He was the shortest boy in the class. The bigger boys mistakenly thought little Barry was a pussy. The first time one of them pushed him down for no reason on the playground, they found out that out wasn’t the case.

The bully was stunned when Barry got up and kicked him in the groin. Then in the head while he was squirming in pain on the ground. And then…it took a teacher to get him off the now terrified bully.

Barry’s parents were called in and warned that one more violent incident and he would be suspended indefinitely. After that, Barry learned to get his revenge when others weren’t looking.

By 3rd grade, his one fight was forgotten, and he became popular with most of the boys and girls at Forrest School. He got high grades and was an honor roll student. It seemed there was something about his size that encouraged bullies.

While eating lunch in the school cafeteria one day with a couple of friends a fourth grader came up to him and spit on his chicken salad sandwich, and laughed. He was easily a foot taller than Barry, and was huskier than most of the kids in his 4th grade class.

Barry reacted by throwing his metal lunch box at the bully. That was enough for the bully who pulled him away from the table and threw him onto the floor. He fell onto Barry and began raining blows upon him as Barry tried to cover his face.

When the teacher and the principle got there Barry was barely conscious and was no longer resisting. He was transported to the hospital with two broken ribs, broken nose, and jaw.

The bully was permanently suspended and handed over to juvenile authorities.

Barry was in fifth grade when he found out where the bully was living and going to school. The simmering anger he carried for two years over his beating was boiling over. He skipped school one day and went over to the other side of town to Chapel Hill Elementary.

He knew the bully was going there because he was playing football, and his team played Forrest School Elementary. Barry went to all the school games with his friends. When he first saw the bully playing a plan began forming in his head.

Today was the day. He was going to follow him home. He knew the route the bully took walking home. His trip took him through a community park where Barry waited for him with a baseball bat.

It was dusk and the bully looked tired, carrying his football pads and helmet like they were made of lead. It was a long practice.

Barry stepped out from behind a tree as he passed and took a solid swing of the bat to the bully’s skull. He never knew what hit him. When Barry was done he was barely recognizable as a human being.

That’s when Barry realized he liked the power he felt when murdering someone. It was a shot of adrenaline unlike anything he’d experienced before. He became an instant addict. His next kill, also in Chapel Hill, came a month after the bully’s demise.

Word spread. There was a serial killer in Chapel Hill. The police and detectives came up with numerous profiles but no evidence on either case. School authorities warned students to not walk home alone. If they needed a ride the school provided it.

Barry’s parents, both community leaders, saw to it that he no longer walked to school. Who knew if the killer would strike at his school next? Chapel Hill Elementary wasn’t that far away.

One day, Barry brought some rat poison pellets that he ground-up to school. He went to the cafeteria as usual after second period to help set up for lunch. It was part of a good citizenship program the school had, and that he’d been in for two years.

That morning he got there early, and unobserved by the lone cook, he poured the contains of his baggie into the pot of chili.

Still undetected, he left and came back twenty minutes later when the other volunteers arrived. The woman in charge of the cafeteria gave them all chores to do. A normal morning.

Later that afternoon the reports began coming in. Two students died after eating food in the cafeteria. Then more students were reportedly rushed to the nearby hospital with signs of poisoning.

By the time the authorities figured out what killed the sixteen students it became the crime of the decade. The police utilized every resource and never gave up looking, but the days turned into months with no leads.

Barry’s thirst for blood got worse. He stole a machete out of a friend’s garage and beheaded a kid that he knew since 3rd grade, that lived right down the street from him.

His reign of terror in Marshall County came to an end abruptly a week later when a car ran through a red light and hit him in the crosswalk. He died instantly.

Family, friends, and his classmates at Forrest School Elementary went to Barry Lee’s funeral. He was remembered as a good kid, and a good student.

As It Stands, irony is a fact of life. So his evil.