THERIOPHOBIA: FEAR THE BEAST Part 32
Ron Whitlow slowed to a stop at the curb in the rear of his partner’s house.
“What is she doing now?” Roosevelt Brewster said. From the air-conditioned interior of Whitlow’s pick-up, they watched the old woman moving around in the back yard. Mathilda Jackson got down on her knees as though praying.
“She still acting funny?” Whitlow asked.
“Gettin’ worse,” Brewster said.
“Poor old lady.”
“Yeah.” Brewster unfastened his seatbelt. “I hope she don’t get into that fire ant hill,” he said. “I haven’t had the chance to poison it yet.”
“I always just pour gas on ’em,” Whitlow said. “Burn ’em.”
“As dry as it’s been? I don’t think that’d be too good an idea.”
“I guess not,” Whitlow said. “You going to the street dance tonight?”
“Oh, yeah. Becky wouldn’t miss it for the world. Wants Savannah to see the fireworks.”
“Think she’s old enough to notice?”
“No. But it gives Becky a chance to show her off. You coming out?”
“No, sir,” Whitlow said. “I’m goin’ home and puttin’ these tired old bones to bed.”
“That sounds nice, too.” Brewster watched Mathilda get to her feet, a slow, painful process. The old woman tugged a bag from the pocket of her dress, opened it. She reached inside, grabbed a handful of some white, powdery substance and began to sprinkle it on the ground. She walked backwards as she did so, in a circle. Brewster shook his head.
“At least it looks like all the TV crews pulled up stakes,” Whitlow said. Trying to change the subject, Roosevelt assumed. “Won’t be gettin’ in people’s way,” Whitlow added.
“I figured they’d stay around to cover the funeral,” Brewster said. “Not that I’m complainin’.”
“Vale’s funeral? They won’t be buryin’ him around here, Rosebud. Unless it’s in the middle of the street, so everybody can walk all over it.”
“Or spit on it,” Roosevelt added.
“Or take a piss on it,” Whitlow said. “I never did pay that little bastard back for taking a plug out of my arm.” Whitlow patted the bandage for emphasis. “Forty-six stitches.”
“Forty-eight,” Roosevelt said.
In the back yard, Mathilda Jackson raised her hands to the sky. Roosevelt could hear her even inside the cab of the truck, even with the engine and AC running. Praying. But he couldn’t understand a word.
“She’s wound up about somethin’,” Whitlow said.
“Yeah. Gettin’ herself all worked up like that, she’s liable to keel over with a heart attack. It ain’t good for her.”
“Tonight’s a full Moon,” Whitlow said. “Maybe that’s it.”
“You ought to have smelled that godawful mess she was cookin’ the other day,” Roosevelt said. “Stunk up the whole house with it.”
“She could’ve burned it down,” Whitlow offered.
“You’re gonna have to send her back to the home, Rosebud.”
“Yeah, I know it,” Brewster said. “I’m just puttin’ it off, I guess. We been so busy, I ain’t had the chance to think much about it.”
“I know that’s right.”
“I told Becky I was leavin’ it up to her, but she won’t never do nothin’.”
“It’s always up to the man of the house to do the dirty work.”
Whitlow stretched, groaned. “Well, Rosebud, my easy chair’s a’ callin’ my name.”
“Enjoy it,” Roosevelt said. He opened the truck door and slid out into the heat of the evening. “See you tomorrow.”
“Not if I see you first.” Whitlow grinned. “‘Night, Rosebud.”
Roosevelt walked towards the house as Whitlow drove away. Mathilda had already gone inside. He went to where he and Whitlow had seen her standing.
The fire ant hill. It rose up out of the ground like a festered sore, churned-up Alabama red clay, peppered with coal dust. Working alive with thousands upon thousands of biting ants.
*Tillie got ’em stirred up.*
Roosevelt noticed the ring of white encircling the hill, what looked to be salt. The old woman had stuck something into the mound, where the ants were now crawling all over it, attacking it as if it were some living invader. Roosevelt recognized the effigy, the fur and the little painted skull, the artifice fashioned to resemble a wolf.
The voodoo doll. Shoved into the ant hill almost up to its head.
*Poor old Tillie.* He turned and headed for the house. *Crazy old Tillie.*
Roosevelt knew the time had come to make a decision about the old woman. He knew it had to be done, but he dreaded it.
*Not goin’ to worry about it tonight.*
Roosevelt allowed his thoughts to wander to more pleasant things. Becky and Savannah, fireworks, ice cold homemade lemonade. Tonight he needed to relax. No reason to worry about Mathilda tonight.
There would always be tomorrow.
* * *
WAYNE MILLER is the owner and creative director of EVIL CHEEZ PRODUCTIONS (www.evilcheezproductions.blogspot.com, www.facebook.com/evilcheezproductions), specializing in theatrical performances and haunted attractions. He has written, produced and directed (and occasionally acted in) over a dozen plays, most of them in the Horror and Crime genres. His first novel, THE CONFESSIONS OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER: WEREWOLF, is available for purchase at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/734763
MORTUI VELOCES SUNT!