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 Cave Dwellers

When Terry and Bradley found the cave deep in the Missouri woods they didn’t tell anyone about their find.

The two teenagers decided to make their discovery a secret because they didn’t want their classmates, or anyone else for that matter, to explore it before they were done. The cave was vast, stretching out in a network of tunnels that disappeared into the darkness.

They didn’t go far the first day they found it. Without flashlights they’d be lost. Terry kept flicking his bic lighter to give them quick glances. The two long-time friends agreed to come back the next day with some supplies.

Bradley adjusted his backpack for the third time as they trudged through the woods.

“Damn thing doesn’t fit right,” he complained for the third time.

“Like I told you when we left, you just have to adjust the straps on it,” Terry said.

“I did. It still doesn’t fit right…”

Bradley’s words trailed off as they both saw the cave. A skull lay in the entrance! There was a brief silence as they both absorbed the shock, then Terry said, “Looks like someone is messing with us Brad.”

“I don’t know Terry. This is real creepy. Maybe we shouldn’t explore the cave.”

Terry’s eyes glowed with defiance.

“Nobody is going to get away with trying to intimidate me with a prop skull.”

Bradley bent over and examined the skull closer.

“This ain’t no prop buddy,” he assured him.

“Doesn’t matter,” he said, with a tone of defiance.

Terry pulled the utility flashlight off his web belt and looked at Bradley, “Well?

Bradley hesitated for a moment then pulled his out, “Okay, let’s go.”

Side-by-side, the two friends walked into the cave and turned their flash lights on. Terry took his back pack off and opened it. He took out a hammer, wooden stake, and a ball of heavy twin.

After pounding the stake into the center of the entry way of the cave, he tied the spool of twine to it. After he was sure it was securely fastened with numerous knots he took the spool, pulled on his back pack, and headed for the first tunnel to their right.

They flashed their lights at the stalactites high above them. They looked like dragons teeth to Bradley’s active imagination. As they continued on they noticed marks on the walls, and thought nothing of them at first. But as they went on the marks started looking man-made.

Terry, a history buff, examined one wall for several minutes, muttering to himself a he tried to decipher what the figures meant. Oddly, they didn’t look like any prehistoric caveman art that he’d ever seen in books.

“What do you think?” Bradley asked.

“I don’t know man…I’m no expert. Let’s see what else we can find.”

Curiosity was driving Terry forward. Bradley was grudgingly following, as his fertile imagination slipped into overdrive.

The both smelled it at the same time. The stench assaulted their nostrils. They both automatically pinched them shut.

Cripes!” Bradley sputtered.

“C’mon…let’s see what it is,” Terry encouraged him.

The tunnel opened up into a large cavern with purplish stalactites. Tapering columns of dark purple stalagmites rose from the floor of the cave. The floor itself was rocky and uneven.

The whole effect was like looking into another world. An alien landscape. Perhaps even a hostile one as Bradley dreaded. The smell was almost overwhelming! Terry noticed a large circle of rocks and went over to it.

When he saw the partly burned and chewed on bones, his eyes widened. Arms. Legs. No skull among the ashes. When Bradley approached and saw the contents of the circle he vomited violently!

It took him a few minutes to get his breath back, and to speak, “Let’s go man.

Terry’s eyes were fixed on a ledge above them. Huge hairy human-looking things were staring down at them. They had crude spears, and some were holding big rocks over their heads.

When Bradley looked up, he grew even more pale than he already was! Terry took his back pack off and opened it. He pulled out a vintage “Lemon Squeezer” Smith and Wesson revolver with pearl handled grip. It was his great grandfathers. It was loaded.

“What now?” Bradley softly asked.

Terry was looking up at the hairy creatures and saw that there were young ones among the adults. This was their home. They were invaders.

“We slowly walk out of here,” Terry finally said, waving the pistol back and forth warningly.

The creatures never made a sound, and waved their weapons threatenly as the two boys backed out.

Once they got outside the cave Bradley unleashed a torrent of questions.

What were those things! Who should we tell about this? Should we tell anyone? They might think were crazy. And…

“Take it easy Brad. Let’s just think about this for a little bit,” Terry pleaded. He paced back and forth in front of the cave for several minutes, then broke his silence, “I don’t think we should tell anyone,” he said.

“They kinda looked like Bigfoots,” Bradley suggested.

“I wonder if it was human remains in the circle, or one of their own?” Terry speculated.

We’ll probaby never know. They didn’t attack us as you noticed. Just the same, I don’t ever plan on coming back here,” he assured him.

I’m with you on that buddy!”

As they walked home, Bradley suddenly said, “Hey! We could be famous!

“Don’t even think about it Brad!” Terry growled.

As It Stands, the Bigfoot legend get’s another look.

The Dauphin County Horror

Listen to master story-teller Otis Jiry narrate this story here 

You can also find it on Creepypasta

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 1981

People began disappearing in the fall of 1979.  Not long after The Three Mile Island accident happened on March 28th.

The partial meltdown in reactor number 2 of Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station (TMI-2) in Dauphin County, caused widespread panic. Locally and nationally. Despite company denials, radioactive gases and radioactive iodine were released into the environment.

Nuclear agency experts assured the public there was no lasting damage done. The radioactive gases that escaped would soon dissipate, they told Dauphin County and Harrisburg residents.

The incident was rated a five on the seven-point International Nuclear Event Scale: Accident with wider consequences.

It wasn’t long before residents in Dauphin County reported seeing strange things in the woods in the aftermath of that accident. Strange lights and colors. A local farmer disappeared without a trace, leaving behind a bewildered family.

A year later, a couple of hunters claimed they saw a man-like thing tearing a deer apart – limb by limb – on their way back to their pickup truck. It was dusk.

When asked by friends at the bar afterwards why they didn’t shoot the thing, both men said they didn’t want to take the chance of killing a man. It was hard to make the figure out. He could have been a really big strong man. As far as they could tell, he wasn’t breaking any laws.

That night, on their way home, one of the hunters asked the other, “Why didn’t you say something about that thing eating the deer’s raw flesh? How it tore pierces of meat off the legs with its bare teeth?

“Who would have believed us?

“But, it’s true.”

“Don’t you understand Bob? It sounds like crazy talk and people would be laughing at us. You don’t want people laughing at you. Do you?

Henry dropped Bob off at his trailer. He didn’t want Bob to know how shaken he was. He wasn’t sure what they saw in the woods, but the next day when he backtracked their trail he found freshly broken deer leg bones, half a rib cage, and a skull with the eyes missing.

In the following months people began disappearing. Authorities searched everywhere. Including the woods. People were warned not to go out alone after dark. A dark pall had descended over the county. Fear.

Coffee shops were crowded with old men trading conspiracy theories like baseball cards. Bob and Henry went hunting again. They were both combat Vietnam veterans and never tired of one another’s company. Or hunting.

Both men lived alone. Bob’s wife had died of breast cancer. Henry was divorced. His wife couldn’t stand living with his PTSD. Both men carried Remington Model 783 Bolt-Action rifles, with 3-9×40 scopes. They were both expert shots and trackers.

For weeks they hunted for deer, and signs of the mysterious man who now haunted their dreams. Was it a man? If not, what? It was obviously powerful. And elusive.

The county sheriff was frantic. People continued disappearing. The word was getting out to the world. Something bad was happening in tiny little Dauphin County. National reporters were seen around town talking with residents. Sniffing around like curious squirrels on the scent of a story.

Henry adjusted his new Pulsar Challenger GS 3.5×50 mm Night Vision scope. He’d made a decision. He was going to “return to the jungle” and hunt the thing out there. He didn’t tell Bob. Both men were in their late 30s, but Bob wasn’t in as good as shape as Henry was. There wasn’t a pound of fat on him, unlike Bob who was losing the battle of the bulge to sweets and pasta.

As Henry prepared for his hunt, donning camos, and filling ammunition clips, he thought back to his days in Vietnam as a tunnel rat.

A flashlight and a .45 caliber pistol were all that stood between him and death when he slithered into the enemy’s tunnels. He was bit once by a venomous snake, but survived thanks to a savvy medic who carried snake anti-venom with him in the bush.

He packed his rucksack with enough supplies to stay out for a week. His web belt had a military K-Bar knife, two 20-round ammo pouches, two 30-round ammo pouches, and two 40-round ammo pouches,  a compass, and a length of rope. He had a custom-made sling for his Heckler & Koch Mp7 automatic pistol.

The Mp7 fired 4.6×30 mm ammunition capable of penetrating soft body armor. Henry liked that it was light – only weighing a couple of pounds but could bring on major heat. He grabbed his bolt-action Remington with the new night scope, and locked the front door. He pinned a note on the front door: “Back in a week. Visiting family.

The first three nights there was no sign of the thing. On the fourth night – on a hunch – Henry was checking out a perimeter fence surrounding the 3-Mile Island Generator Plant when he heard a scream.

Alarms went off and two security guards ran out of a small wooden shack. Henry watched them though his scope. They ran around with automatic weapons, shouting. Two more guards appeared and they were also shouting frantically.

From his position in the tree line, Henry watched the chaos unfold. Then he saw the thing! It had a man’s body tucked under one massive arm, and was loping along seemingly unconcerned with the noise less than 300 yards away.

Suddenly he burst into a run and disappeared further down the tree line. Henry jumped up from his kneeling position and gave chase. The thing was moving amazingly fast. It didn’t make a lot of noise but Henry’s ears were still keen enough to hear it.

After a hard five-minute run, the trees opened up and Henry saw rolling hills. And nothing else! Where did the thing go? He felt exposed out in the open on a full moon that caused shadows to appear everywhere.

Henry went back to the tree line and climbed halfway up a tall spruce. He picked a sturdy branch to sit on and lashed himself to the tree. He slept soundly, dreaming about a large underground complex he discovered in Cambodia in 1970.

The next day Henry walked around the hills looking for tracks and tunnels. It was well into the afternoon when he discovered a well-hidden cave that was big enough to stand upright in. The charnel house smell told him dead things were inside.

He loosened his Mp7 and popped a 40-round loader into the gun. Turning the LED light on his helmet to bright, he cautiously stepped into the dark interior. Minutes ticked by. At one point the cave branched off to the left, before continuing on in a straight line. Henry checked out the new opening and discovered mutilated human bodies inside!

Skulls and rotted flesh in piles. Broken bones. Gnawed on bones. Flies and maggots. Scraps of torn clothing clinging to headless torsos. This is where the missing people were. Butchered and forgotten.

As Henry took in the horror his sense of survival kicked in when he heard a noise from within the cave. Something was grunting and growling. That’s not Charlie out there good buddy, he murmured to no one.

The best defense is a good offense Henry use to tell his friends. No more thinking. Time to act.

Henry stepped out into the main tunnel and fired quick bursts in both directions. The shots thundered through the tunnels. No sign of the thing. Only the scent of gun powder. He popped the loader out and replaced it with another 40-rounder. It was time to get out of the tunnel.

It took him longer than he thought. He wasn’t out of the putrid tunnel until nightfall.

Instinctively getting out of the open, Henry trotted over to the edge of the forest. He re-slung his Mp7, and unhitched the sling holding his Remington Bolt action. He held the rifle up and peered through the night scope, waiting for the thing to appear.

It troubled Henry that he didn’t know what the thing looked like. Or what it was. It was best to know your enemy. He learned to never underestimate the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong. To do so could mean your life. The more you knew, the better.

Hours later he spotted movement on a nearby hilltop. He focused the scope and found himself staring at the thing’s face. It might have been a man’s face once, but the grotesque thing he saw in his cross hairs was so misshapen it was unrecognizable as any known animal.

He squeezed the trigger on his Remington. The shot caught the thing near one of it’s uneven eyes. It looked startled at the impact, but didn’t fall down. Instead, it turned in his direction and charged!

He fired the Remington one more time, and dropped it while grabbing the Mp7. In one motion he popped a 30-round clip in it and fired away. The full burst only slowed the thing down. He tried to pop another clip in when the thing slammed into him, sending him violently backwards!

The Mp7 flew out of hands as he fell. Without thinking he drew his K-bar and staggered to his feet. His nose was bleeding profusely as the thing drew itself up. It was an abomination of a man. A hideous reminder of the perils of radiation, and body transformation.

Henry was startled to hear a gun shot. Sounded like a 12-gauge. Part of the thing’s head disappeared, and another shot followed. The thing swayed drunkenly and took a step towards Henry. Two shots this time! Both barrels slamming into the things chest. A pause. Then two more shots, and the thing crumbled to the ground, both legs blown away.

Bob stepped up to the still heaving body and ejected two shells. As he popped two more shells in he asked Henry if he was alright? Then he fired both barrels again into the midsection. They burned the thing afterwards.

As the two old friends walked away from the bonfire, Henry finally asked, “How did you know what I was doing Bob?”

“You haven’t got any family left like the note said. Other than me,” he chuckled. “I figured you wanted to hunt the thing, but didn’t want me to go along in case I’d get hurt. So I just followed you my friend, and covered your back.”

“Are we going to tell people what happened after the murders quit?” Bob wondered.

“Hell no! They’ll just think we’re crazy veterans telling war stories,” Henry assured him.

As It Stands, as the bard said, “all’s well, that ends well.”

DeLaney’s Pet Demon

 

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The Brusters were proud of their baby girl Delaney. She was a beautiful.

Her brilliant blue eyes captivated everyone’s attention, and she had a sweet disposition.

Until she turned five years-old.

That’s when the demon came to her one night and promised to always be her best friend. She was sitting on the edge of her bed and pouting, because she had to go to bed early as punishment for kicking the cat, when a sympathetic voice said, “That wasn’t fair.”

She looked around the room but couldn’t see anyone. “They didn’t have to punish you like that,” the soothing voice asserted.

“I can’t see you. Where are you?” she asked.

“Close you eyes, DeLaney.”

She meekly obeyed. The first thing she saw was a cute little black puppy.

“OOhhhh!…she squealed in delight.

“Keep your eyes closed.”

Eyes closed, she reached out to pet the puppy, but he was just out of her reach. That night she listened to a bedtime story by the invisable puppy.

She couldn’t remember it in the morning but vaguely remembered dreaming about puppies. At breakfast, she asked her mom and dad if she could have one. They were both surprised at her request.

Delaney had never mentioned wanting a pet, even though many of her friends had pets. They both agreed it would be good for her, and took her to the closest animal shelter.

She walked up and down the cages petting the puppies. When she came to the cage where a little black mutt was waiting she stopped and petted the eager pup.

“This one, Mommy and Daddy,” she said, smiling happily.

As soon as they brought the puppy home, she named him “Max.” They became inseparable. When Max started talking when no one else was around, DeLaney wasn’t scared, or surprised.

He told her where he’d be waiting and the minute she saw him at the shelter she knew it was him. Her parents noted that from that day on she quit acting like a spoiled brat. It was a small miracle that made life around the house go much smoother.

Twenty years later, DeLaney and Max moved out and bought a one-bedroom house just outside the city limits. A three-hour drive from her parents house. Close, but not too close.

Thanks to Max’s help, she had a successful start-up business that sold for more money than she ever imagined.

Max always had the answers to anything DeLaney needed to know. The only thing she knew about Max was that he was cast out from living with the other demons, and exiled to her dimension.

DeLaney, never was a social type, and was more than happy to have Max to go on long hikes in the nearby national forest. As the years passed peacefully by, she realized Max wasn’t aging. Again, like everything about Max, it didn’t surprise her.

In fact, the thought comforted her in her old age. She did worry about what Max would do without her, however.

Their favorite walk was on a trail overlooking the Pacific Ocean. There were places along the way where they could set and stare out at the vast sea, talking about every subject under the sun.

DeLaney was spry enough at 91 years-old to take care of herself. With Max’s help, of course. She never regretted not getting married, or having kids. It just wasn’t her. She was too independent to have a close relationship with anyone but Max…her lifetime confident and best friend.

One day, while indulging in her newest hobby of oil painting outside in the great outdoors, DeLaney dropped her brush, and died from a massive heart attack. Max was there when she went down.

His howls of grief attracted two young hikers who came upon them. The man bent down and took her pulse. He looked at the woman and shook his head sadly. She called 911. When they tried to catch Max he ran away.

The priest blessed the coffin one more time, and the workers lowered it down slowly into the grave. There were no friends or family to mourn her loss. When the priest and workers left, Max came out from behind the bushes that lined the perimeter of the cemetery.

Without hesitation, he laid down on DeLaney’s grave.

Then a miracle happened.

The supreme being who banished Max to be with the demons forgave him for his transgressions and brought him to the Elysian Fields where DeLaney was waiting for him.

As It Stands, this tale (no pun intended) was an exercise in exploring unusual friendships.