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Author Archives: allen0997

Give Me All Your Money

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And be quick about it!

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Washed in the Blood

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Washed in the Blood ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp

The funeral was Saturday the twelfth. Vincent spoke to no one for several days, but on Wednesday the sixteenth the telephone rang.

“Hello,” he said sleepily.

“Is that Vincent Spearman?” a deep voice asked.

“Yes,” Vincent said. “Who is this?”

“Vincent, this is Timothy Nesselrode. I’m the pastor at your mother’s church. I wanted to call you and see how you’re getting along since your mother’s funeral and ask if there’s anything I might do for you.”

“I’m fine,” Vincent said. “There’s nothing you can do. I don’t need a thing.”

“It’s hard to lose a loved one, I know.”

“Yeah.”

“Your mother was a highly regarded member of our congregation. She will be sorely missed.”

“Thanks for calling.”

“Well, Vincent, I’m going to be in your area later this afternoon and I was wondering if I might drop in and have a few words with you.”

“What about?”

“I promise I’ll only take a few minutes of your time.”

“Well, I’m pretty busy today.”

“Would tomorrow be better?”

“No, we’d better get it over with today. I might be going out of town.”

“Fine! I’ll be there in about an hour.”

After he hung up the phone, Vincent brushed his teeth and put on his shoes and sat nervously in his mother’s wingback chair waiting for what’s-his-name to get there. He couldn’t think of any reason why this man who preached his mother’s funeral would want to talk to him. Whatever it was, it couldn’t be good. He would hurry it along as much as possible. Why did people always want to bother him?

Thirty-eight minutes after the phone call, there was a loud knock at the front door. He opened the door as far as the chain would allow and peered out, seeing part of the big face of the reverend Timothy Nesselrode, Doctor of Divinity.

“Vincent?” the reverend Nesselrode shouted. “Is that you?”

Vincent undid the chain, opened the door all the way and allowed the big man to come into the house.

“My goodness!” the reverend Nesselrode said, taking Vincent’s hand in both of his own. “How are you?”

“I’m fine,” Vincent said.

“May we sit?”

Vincent led the reverend Nesselrode into the living room and watched as he placed himself in the middle of the couch. Vincent himself sat in the chair across the room in front of the window, crossed his legs and aligned the index finger of his right hand alongside his temple.

“What was it you wanted to talk to me about?” he asked.

“I want you to know that we offer grief counseling at the church,” the reverend Nesselrode said. “Open to the public and free of charge.”

“Grief counseling?”

“Yes, if you want to talk about your feelings of grief in a group setting with people who are experiencing the same kind of loss you are.”

“I don’t think…”

“The group meets twice a month, on alternating Fridays. I believe this coming Friday, the day after tomorrow, is their night to meet. Please feel free to attend if you’re up to it. The meeting begins at seven o’clock.”

“Well, I don’t really like groups,” Vincent said, “and I’ve always hated meetings where you sit and listen to somebody talk. That’s not for me.”

“Well, the people in the group are lovely people. I’m sure you’d find it a rewarding experience.”

“Thanks, but I don’t think so.”

The reverend Nesselrode leaned forward and locked his fingers together. “Your mother spoke of you on several occasions,” he said.

“Why would she do that?”

“She was worried about you. You’re about forty, aren’t you?”

“What does my age have to do with it?”

“She was concerned that, after her passing, you’d be all alone.”

“Why is that?”

“You have no other family, I understand?”

“I have some cousins living up in Minnesota. Or maybe it’s Montana. I get those two mixed up.”

“But no family nearby.”

“That’s right.”

“You see, most men your age have a family of their own, a wife and children.”

“Not all do.”

“You made it all the way through high school?”

“Sure.”

“Don’t get me wrong, Vincent. I’m not trying to pry. I just wanted to let you know that we have many lovely single ladies in our congregation who would be happy to get to know you.”

“Why would they be happy to get to know me?”

“It would be so easy for you to meet them. All you have to do is come to our next social mixer. We have one for the middle-aged—widows and divorcees and people like that—and also one for younger adults—people in their twenties and thirties who may have made a poor choice the first time around and are looking for another chance.”

“Another chance to do what?”

“What I’m saying is it’s no good being alone, Vincent.”

“It is for some people.”

“What?”

“Being alone is good for some people.”

“I’m sure that’s true, Vincent, but I hope you will at least think about what I’m saying. The message to you is this: you are not alone.”

“Got it.”

“What are your plans now that your mother is gone and you live in this big house all alone?”

“Plans?”

“Yes, what are you planning on doing now?”

“I’ll do what I’ve always done, I guess.”

“Are you able to take care of the housework on your own? The cooking and shopping and laundry?”

“Sure, I’ve done those things all my life.”

“I just want you to know that if you need help we have ladies in the church, volunteers, who will come in a morning or two a week a help out with laundry or household chores.”

“Ladies?”

“Yes, they’re older women, retired, with plenty of time on their hands. They like to help out bachelors and widowers. People like yourself.”

“Do they get paid by the hour?”

“They don’t get paid at all. They’re Christian ladies. They like to help out where help is needed.”

“Like Superman?”

“Well, not quite like Superman. Superman’s a fictional character. These are real people.”

“Okay.”

“So, shall I send someone out for you?”

“No, I don’t think so. I don’t really need any help like that.”

“Well, I’m happy that you are getting along so well,” the reverend Nesselrode said.

“Yeah, thanks for stopping by.”

“We’re having a special prayer meeting on Saturday evening for people like you.”

“People like me?”

“Yes, the theme is going to be ‘succor for the lonely’.”

“Sucker?”

“Yes, ‘succor for the lonely’. The meeting starts at seven o’clock. We’d be happy to have you join us. Dress is casual.”

“Okay.”

“So you’ll come then? To the prayer meeting on Saturday evening?”

“I don’t think so,” Vincent said. “I’m planning on being out of town on Saturday.”

“All right. Well, if you should happen to change your mind, please feel free to come anyway. I think you’ll find it very enjoyable.”

“Okay, but I won’t be there.”

“There are times in life where it’s a good to keep an open mind.”

“I know that.”

“You seem to be opposed to everything I’ve said.”

“Maybe I just don’t like your church. It’s not the idea of religion. It’s just the church.”

“They’re the same.”

“No, they’re not.”

“I find your reluctance difficult to fathom with your mother being the devout church member she was.”

“She only got that way after she got old. She was afraid of dying and going to hell. When she was young, she did some pretty bad things, from what I understand. She liked no-account men. She had some abortions.”

“Well, she was washed in the Blood of the Lamb. The Lord Jesus Christ has forgiven all her transgressions.”

“I hope so.”

“That’s the message: no matter what you’ve done, you have only to ask for forgiveness and forgiveness will be granted.”

“Just like that?”

“Just like that.”

“Was that all you wanted to talk to me about?”

“Just one more thing. Your house.”

“What about my house?”

“Your house has many rooms.”

“Fifteen,” Vincent said. “I used to go through and count them every day when I was little, as if the number might change.”

“Does a young man living alone really need fifteen rooms?” the reverend Nesselrode asked.

Vincent shrugged and wished the reverend Nesselrode would go away and leave him alone.

“This house would be ideal as a halfway house for young runaways or recovering drug addicts.”

“Halfway house! What’s that?”

“It’s a place for troubled young people to stay for a period of time, a few weeks or longer, while they’re getting their lives in order.”

“I wouldn’t want people like that in my house,” Vincent said.

The reverend Nesselrode laughed. “No, you don’t understand,” he said. “You wouldn’t still live here.”

“Where would I live?”

“We’d acquire the property from you and in return we’d swap you for a smaller house, more suitable to your needs, or a nice apartment in town.”

“So, you want me to give you my house?”

“Well, that’s not quite the way I’d…”

“I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

“Well, it’s something to for you to think about, anyway.”

“Yeah, I guess it is.”

The reverend Nesselrode stood up from the couch. “Well, I must be running along,” he said. “I have other calls to make. I’m so glad we had this little chat today and I hope I’ve given you something interesting to think about.”

Vincent also stood up. “Thanks for coming,” he said.

“Would you like to pray with me before I go?”

“No.”

“Well, here’s my card. If you ever want to call me for any reason, day or night, don’t hesitate to do so. And I hope you’ll think about coming to Sunday service or any of our activities during the week. I know it would have made your mother very happy for you to become active in the church.”

Vincent took the card and put it in his pocket. “I think I should tell you that my mother wasn’t what you think,” he said. “You think you knew her but you didn’t.”

“All right! Well, so great seeing you again!”

After the reverend Nesselrode was gone, Vincent triple-locked the door, turned out the lights and went upstairs. He went into his bedroom, locked the door and pulled the curtains closed.

In his dresser drawer he kept a small gun that fit snugly into the palm of his hand. He picked the gun up and looked closely at it as if seeing it for the first time. He hadn’t fired the gun in a long time but he knew it was loaded because it was always loaded.

He stood in front of the mirror and watched himself as he pointed the gun at the side of his head. Then he lowered the gun and inserted the barrel into his mouth. When he saw how silly he looked, he took the gun away and turned from the mirror.

“I don’t want to be a walking cliché,” he said.

Standing halfway between the bed and the dresser, his back to the mirror, he pointed the gun at his chest where his heart was beating and pulled the trigger. The force of the blow knocked him off his feet and the gun clattered to the floor beside him. Still, seconds passed before he felt any pain and when the pain came it was with the release of much blood.

He put his hands to his chest, covering the place where the blood was issuing forth. He was surprised at how much blood his body had in it and how warm it felt. It pumped out of him, soaking his clothes, pooling on the floor around him.

He had the feeling someone was in the room with him but he couldn’t be sure. He lifted his head from the floor and looked over at the bed and at the locked door but saw no one. Through clenched teeth, in gasping breaths, he spoke: “I am. Washed. In the. Blood of the Lamb.

Finding comfort in the words, he wanted to say them again and then again, but all the breath left his body and the light, whatever there was, went out of him.

Copyright © 2019 by Allen Kopp

1930 ~ Don’t Look Down!

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Not the job for me.

I Want You to Meet My Mother, Mrs. Bates

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She always has a lovely smile for you. 

World War I ~ Buy Fresh Fish

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A colorful World War I poster advises you to eat fish while the meat is saved for those who deserve it more than you do. 

A Visit to Miss Goodapple’s

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A Visit to Miss Goodapple’s ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp 

He sat on a hard-backed chair and wished he was someplace else. His name was Cleland Camden and he was eight years old. It was his day to stay with grandma and it was grandma’s day to visit friends. He had to go along with her whether he wanted to or not.

They were in Miss Goodapple’s home, in her comfortable living room. The chairs were arranged in a circle. Miss Goodapple sat in an upholstered chair next to the fireless fireplace. Then there was Gertrude Padovesi, Audrey Stoller, grandma, and of course, Cleland, who was there because grandma was. All the women were widows, except Miss Stoller, who never married. She was an old-maid schoolteacher, or had been, until she turned seventy years old and they told her she had to retire.

They had all lived a long time and had lots of memories to talk over. They liked to talk about things that happened to them when they were young. And, of course, there were always current things to talk about concerning people they knew: who had died or was about to die, who was in the hospital for an operation, who had a baby, who was stepping out on her husband, who came home drunk the other night and was dumped on the front porch, who smashed up her car, who was a slut, a whore, or a tramp, who was never any good to begin with, who was a shifty-eyed bastard or a known child molester, who had a nervous breakdown, who came into some money, or any number of things. The list went on and on.

“I had a conversation yesterday in the grocery story over the frozen foods with Ruby Zaza,” Miss Goodapple said.

“How is Ruby these days?”

“She’s put on a lot of weight and she stopped dyeing her hair, so now it’s an ugly salt-and-pepper.”

“It’s so sad when you think about what a beautiful girl she was in high school.”

“A bit of a tramp, too.”

“She knew how to have a good time.”

“One time she was arrested for dancing naked on the bandstand in the park. It was two o’clock in the morning and nobody was around but suddenly the police just appeared. Somebody must have tipped them off.”

“That story has been told about Ruby a million times.”

“Well, it’s true.”

“Were you there?”

“No, I wasn’t.”

“How do you know it happened, then?”

“Everybody said it happened.”

“That doesn’t mean it did.”

“We should invite Ruby for lunch one of these days. We could talk over old times. We could ask her if it was true about dancing naked in the park. ”

“Well, if I may change the subject,” Gertrude Padovesi said. “My niece Gloria finally found somebody who wants to marry her.”

“Isn’t she only about thirteen or fourteen?” Miss Goodapple asked.

“She’s thirty-two.”

“Who is she marrying?”

“He’s some kind of a doctor, I think, but it might just be an animal doctor. Maybe a brain specialist. I’m not sure.”

“I remember her,” Audrey Stoller said. “She was the one with the cleft palate, wasn’t she? She always looked like a scared little rabbit.”

“That’s why they call it a harelip, honey! A rabbit is a hare!”

“Don’t you think I know that?”

“Well, now she’s all grown up and no more ugly mouth.”

“What do you mean?”

“She got the thing fixed. After all these years!”

“And now she’s gorgeous?”

“Well, she won’t win any beauty contests but I guess she looks good enough for an animal doctor to want to marry her.”

“Isn’t that wonderful? Who paid for the operation?”

The operation? There were about four.”

“Well, who paid for it?”

“Her mother. Who do you think paid for it? She would have spent her last dime to make her little girl happy.”

“Well, I hope Gloria appreciates it,” Miss Goodapple said. “There’s nothing worse than an unappreciative child.”

“When I got my children raised to adulthood,” grandma said, “I figured my duty to them was over. They were on their own after that.”

“Some never grow up,” Gertrude Padovesi said. “They’ll keep on suckin’ at the tit as long as you let ‘em.”

“You don’t have to be crude,” Audrey Stoller said. “Especially with a child sitting here listening to every word.”

All the women turned and looked at Cleland. He hadn’t been paying much attention to what they were saying but instead had been looking at his intertwined fingers.

“How are you doing there, honey?” Gertrude Padovesi said. “He’s a manly little fellow, isn’t he?”

“That’s my grandson, Cleland,” grandma said. “You’ve all met him before. I had him with me at the Royal Neighbors’ dinner at the Baptist Church last summer.”

“Yes, I remember him,” Audrey Stoller said. “He wanted the neck off the turkey.”

“I like the neck,” he said.

“Well, of course, you do, buddy! It’s good munching, especially if you’ve got a meager appetite.”

“Now, is he Kenny’s boy or Andy’s?” Miss Goodapple asked.

“Andy’s,” grandma said.

“And his mother is who?”

“Janice.”

“Of course! I remember her. Awful pretty girl.”

“She’s got the lupus now.”

“Oh, isn’t that too bad!”

“I had a little brother,” Cleland said, “but he died. His name was Christopher. He was only six weeks old. He was in a little white casket with red roses all around.”

“Yes,” Miss Goodapple said. “We were all there and saw him.”

“There’s nothing worse than losing a child,” Gertrude Padovesi said.

“Your heart aches,” Audrey Stoller said.

“I think about him sometimes at night when I’m in bed and the lights are off,” Cleland said. “Sometimes it scares me and I have to cover up my head.”

“You need to think about happy things and then you won’t be scared anymore.”

“Andy and Janice are still young,” Audrey Stoller said. “They ought to have more children.”

“Janice can’t have any more,” grandma said. “And now she’s sick with the lupus.”

Tsk-tsk-tsk! What a shame!”

“What’s the long-term outlook for the lupus?” Audrey Stoller asked.

“Not good,” grandma said, “but we hope for the best.”

“That’s all you can do, honey.”

“What grade are you in, cupcake?” Miss Goodapple asked.

“Third,” Cleland said.

“You learn all about geography in school?” Audrey Stoller asked. “About where Canada is and Mexico and the Rio Grande River and the Gulf of Mexico?”

“Yeah.”

“Did you know I used to be a school teacher? I taught little boys and girls just like you for about forty-five years until they told me I was too old to do it anymore.”

“They told you it was time to go home?” Cleland asked.

“That’s right.”

He stood up and laid across the chair he had been sitting on. He spied, from upside down, a picture in a frame on the mantel of a gray-haired man in a dark suit.

“Who’s that man?” he asked

“That’s my husband,” Miss Goodapple said.

“Is he in the other room taking a nap?”

“No.”

“Is he at work?”

“No, he died.”

“What was the matter with him?”

“He had a pain in his head and he died.”

“What did he do before he died?”

“He was a businessman.”

“A businessman?”

“Yes, he owned a store downtown.”

“What kind of store?”

“A clothing store. Goodapple Fine Apparel. It was at the Corner of Main and Twelfth.”

“With suits and dresses and underwear and things like that?”

“That’s right. That was before your time.”

“What does ‘before my time’ mean?”

“It means it’s time for you to stop asking so many questions,” grandma said. “He sits there and doesn’t say a word and once you get him started talking, he doesn’t stop.”

All the women laughed and Cleland didn’t know exactly what they were laughing about, but it didn’t matter.

“Well, he’s a fine little fellow,” Miss Goodapple said, “and he’ll grow up to be a good-looking man with those dark eyes.”

“You got a girlfriend, honey?” Gertrude Padovesi asked.

“No. I don’t want one.”

All the women laughed again and Cleland, who enjoyed attention as much as the next fellow, wished they’d stop talking about him. What he wished more than anything was that it was time for him and grandma to leave.

“Grandchildren are the joy of your old age,” Miss Goodapple said.

“I don’t know,” Gertrude Padovesi said. “Out of my six, I’d gladly return two of them if I could.”

“Are you still having trouble with Diffie?” grandma asked.

“Yes, every time the phone rings I’m afraid it’s going to be her asking me for more money. I know that son-of-a-bitch Bean is standing right beside her telling her every word to say.”

“Who’s Bean?”

“Oh, he’s that silly thing she’s married to. The only way Diffie’s ever going to get her life straightened out if she gets away from him. One of these days he’s going to meet with a crowbar to the head, if there’s any justice at all in the world.”

“Invite him over and feed him some rat poison, honey,” Audrey Stoller said.
“I don’t think I’d care to spend my declining years in jail, honey.”

“If you do it right, you’ll never get caught.”

“I suppose you’re the voice of authority when it comes to poisoning people.”

“Sure, I’ve done it a few times.”

“The mention of rat poison reminds me,” Miss Goodapple said, “I’ve got mice in my basement. I hope it’s only mice and not rats. Mice are bad enough but I’m deathly afraid of rats! I don’t want to kill them. I don’t want to hurt them. I just don’t want them in my house.”

“Get yourself a cat. It’ll scare the living daylights out of any mouse or rat.”

“Hey! Have any of you heard that Una Fairdale is getting married again?” Gertrude Padovesi said. “I heard it yesterday when I got my hair done.”

“No!” Audrey Stoller said. “Who would want to marry her?”

“He’s a younger fellow. They say he’s really good looking. Looks like Robert Taylor.”

“He must be blind in one eye and can’t see out the other if he wants to marry Una.”

“No, they say she’s very attractive now. She got herself a facelift and looks twenty years younger.”

“A facelift? How could she afford that?”

“Haven’t you heard? She got a ton of money from her husband’s life insurance settlement.”

“That explains why a younger, good-looking man would want to marry her. As soon as they’re married, he’ll poison her, and all her money will go to him. Then he can live the rest of his life in luxury without having to listen to Una’s squawking mouth.”

“That’s the second time this afternoon you’ve mentioning poisoning someone, honey! What are you trying to tell us?”

“Anyway,” Grace Padovesi said. “If anybody wants to buy a beauty salon, I know where you can get one cheap. My hairdresser—her name is Ruthie Twitchell—is selling out and moving out to North Dakota to live with her daughter.”

“She’ll hate North Dakota,” Miss Goodapple said. “She’ll freeze her buns off out there. She’ll want to move back here as soon as she lives through a North Dakota winter.”

“I hate to see her go. She’s been fixing my hair for twenty years and she knows just how I like it. These younger ones coming up don’t know anything.”

“They don’t know shit!” Audrey Stoller said.

“Now who’s being crude in front of a child?” Gertrude Padovesi said.

“I heard that Miss Lewis had to put her brother in a ‘place,” grandma said.

“Poor old soul!”

“He’s been off his rocker for years.”

“What exactly is the matter with him?”

“Who knows? I think it’s heredity insanity.”

“Oh! Tsk-tsk-tsk!

“She kept him at home with her for as long as she could until he got to be too much for her.”

“Isn’t that sad!”

“Miss Lewis is a saint. Anybody else would have put him in a ‘place’ a long time ago.”

“Maybe now she’ll find herself a husband.”

“At her age?”

“Believe it or not, dear, not every woman is desperate for a husband,” Audrey Stoller said.

“Well, most are. I guess you were the exception, dear!”

“Yes, I was the exception. I chose a career instead.”

“Lots of women have both, you know!”

“Let’s not get started on that!”

“Well, when you die, you’ll die alone.”

“So will you!”

“I’ll be surrounded by loved ones.”

“That is, if they’re not too busy to come to wherever you are and watch you die, unless you’re leaving them some money and then they’ll be there to make sure they get their share.”

“That’s very cynical.”

“And true.”

“The thing to do is live for the moment and not think about dying,” Miss Goodapple said. “We’ll all die soon enough, but what good does it to do worry about it? The thing to do is live for the moment.”

“You can at least prepare yourself for it,” grandma said. “I went to Easley’s funeral home and bought myself a pre-paid funeral plan. I know exactly what casket I’ll be buried in, satin lining and all.”

“Didn’t that depress the hell out of you?”

“No. Why should it?”

“It’s cremation for me!” Gertrude Padovesi said. “It’s clean and quick and you don’t have to wait decades to turn to dust. It eliminates the part about your body turning to corruption.”

“And then you’re a pile of gray ash. Lovely!”

“Have you ever seen a rotting corpse, dear?”

“Not recently.”

“There’s nothing more grotesque.”

“I’ll take your word for it.”

“They do this thing now where they’ll turn your remains into a precious stone and your loved one can wear it around her neck, like a diamond necklace. How precious is that?”

“What if the loved one is a man?”

“He can have it made into cufflinks or a tie pin if he wants, I guess.”

“Or a stud for his ear.”

It was time to serve refreshments. Miss Goodapple went into the kitchen and came back a few minutes later pushing a little cart containing a pot of boiling tea and some cups, a plate of cookies, a bottle of wine and little glasses. She poured a cup of tea for everybody, without asking first if they wanted it, and then passed around the plate of cookies.

Cleland drank his tea, slowly at first and then faster. It was slightly bitter with a little tang of lemon and a little sugar, just the way he liked it. With his cup in his right hand, he took a cookie in his left hand and bit into it. Nobody admonished him about dropping crumbs on Miss Goodapple’s rug or spilling any of the tea. He was very neat for his age.

The cookies were lemon and delicious. He ate three of them and drank two cups of tea. The refreshments were always the best thing about the visits at Miss Goodapple’s.

When he was finished, he wasn’t shy about announcing that he needed to use the bathroom. Everybody stopped what they were doing and looked at him.

“Up the stairs,” Miss Goodapple said. “Down the hallway. The bathroom is on the left.”

He planned on taking his time because he was plenty tired of old-lady talk and wanted to go home. They wouldn’t notice he was gone. He enjoyed being in a strange house and he wanted to look at things.

He went up the stairs slowly, planting his feet firmly on the carpeted stairs and holding on to the mahogany banister. Halfway up the stairs, on a landing, was Miss Goodapple’s antique grandfather clock. It was old-looking and mysterious with its ponderous pendulum going back and forth, back and forth, counting out the endless minutes.

The bathroom was where Miss Goodapple said it would be. It was old-fashioned, all porcelain and white tile. He did what he had to do and, after he spent a long time washing and drying his hands, he opened the medicine cabinet over the sink and looked at the bottles, jars and little boxes sitting there. It was all stuff an old lady would use. Suppositories, seasick pills, denture cream and face cream. Nothing very interesting.

In the hallway across from the bathroom was a bedroom. It was cool and dark, with shades pulled down to the sills of the two windows and a high ceiling. He walked around the big bed to the other side, where there was a door. He opened the door and found it was a huge walk-in closet. Densely packed clothes hung on each side, high up over his head. He took a few steps inside the closet and saw something that startled him and almost made him turn around and run.

Standing at the back of the closet was a tall man in tuxedo and top hat. His head was turned slightly to the right and his arms extended at the elbow as if in supplication. Through smiling, red lips his teeth glistened like pearls.

“Hello,” Cleland said but the man said nothing and didn’t move an inch, so he said hello again. That’s when he realized the man was stuffed like people sometimes stuff wild animals they’ve killed. It must be the husband Miss Goodapple mentioned who died long ago, the one who owned the clothing store downtown. When he died, she had him stuffed and set him up at the back of her big closet so she could keep him near her without anybody knowing about it. It seemed like a good idea but also something that most people would never do. He wondered if grandma knew Miss Goodapple’s secret.

He walked closer to the man and reached out and touched the tips of his long, shiny fingers. He had never seen a dead body up close before and he was naturally fascinated. He would have something to tell the kids at school but, of course, without telling anybody in whose house he saw it.

A creak in some other part of the house made him think somebody was coming, so he started to leave the closet and go back downstairs when he saw a gray object at the feet of the man in the tuxedo. On closer inspection, it proved to be the body of a rat, dead for some time. Its eyes were fixed and staring, just like the eyes of the man in the tuxedo, and its little paws were outstretched, as if it had been in the act of running when it died. When Cleland saw how the whiskers had grown quite long and curved downward, he began to feel sorry for it and believed it deserved something better than being dead at the food of a stuffed man. He picked it up, stiff and dried-out as it was, and looked around for a more fitting place to put it.

On the dresser in Miss Goodapple’s bedroom was a jewelry box. He opened the box and saw it contained many precious jewels—diamonds, emeralds, sapphires and rubies. It was nearly full with the stuff, but there was still room in it for a good-sized dead rat.

From the top drawer of Miss Goodapple’s dresser he took two embroidered hankies. He refolded one of them length-wise, laid it on top of the precious jewels and placed the rat carefully on top of it. Then he covered up the rat with the other hankie and closed the box. He was sure the rat, if it could have known where it was, would like being in the box amid the splendor of precious jewels. It seemed a fitting place for a rat that had undoubtedly lived a good life.

When he went back downstairs, nobody remarked at how long he had been gone; nobody even seemed aware of it. He sat back down in in the chair he had been sitting in before and smiled.

The tea was all gone and now the women were drinking the wine. There was one glass still left on the little cart.

“Can I have some wine?” he interrupted the ongoing conversation to asked.

“Just a sip!” grandma said.

With his back to grandma so she wouldn’t see what he was doing, he filled the glass to the brim with the dark, rich-looking stuff and swallowed it down. It was bitter and sour and he hated it, but he said afterwards that he liked it.

Finally it was time for Cleland and grandma to go home. They put on their coats and hats and said their goodbyes. Audrey Stoller gave Cleland a wet kiss on the cheek. He turned away to hide his distaste and wiped his cheek with the back of his hand.

Going home, grandma had to walk slow because she was old and her legs hurt. She didn’t have much to say much because she wanted to get home and sit in her comfortable chair and rest for a while before time to start supper. Cleland wanted to tell her about the extraordinary thing he had seen in Miss Goodapple’s closet upstairs but he knew, even at his young age, that some things are better left unsaid.

Copyright © 2019 by Allen Kopp

November 1918 ~ Wall Street

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Wall Street celebrates in November 1918 when Germany surrenders, ending World War I.