Marley, his long white hair unkempt, dressed in loose-fitting workpants and a foul-smelling flannel shirt, sat in the front seat of Claude’s car, watching eagle-eyed as his son guided it down winding roads and over humpbacked bridges that brought back memories of earlier days.
“Turn right!” Take a left!” he barked. “Go slow around the next turn, the driveway’s hidden and it comes on fast. Damn, you went too far! Turn around.” Marley’s voice took over when the car’s navigation system could not find the Kittle settlement.
They bumped down the potholed driveway with high grass clinging to the underside of Claude’s prized silver car, and came upon the deserted Kittle house buried in a tangle of pine trees and shrubs. The scene was idyllic, a lure to any photographer of calendar scenes willing to endure risky driving conditions.
Claude parked behind Gert’s Outback, still ticking as it cooled. He helped Marley out of the car and inwardly fumed at Gert, Nina and his mother. And blast Marley! The old curmudgeon could hardly walk, let alone stand. Claude had to practically carry the heaving, dead weight of the cursing old-timer to the Kittle house.
Through the partially open front door came the sound of voices deep inside. Claude cupped his hands to his mouth and called out, “We’re here!”
“In the dining room,” his mother’s voice echoed. “Follow the hall to the last room on the left. And be careful where you step. There’s broken furniture and old toys everywhere.”
Claude and Marley picked their way carefully through a dark-paneled hall where colorless landscape paintings curled out of wooden frames. In a large, quaint room in the back, Elsie, Gert and Nina stood staring down at a square hole cut into the floor. The two men edged their way to the hole and waited for their eyes to adjust to the dim light. Four gleaming eyes stared up at them.
© 2016, Patricia Crandall. All rights reserved.
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