The Haunted Housewife

They called her the Haunted Housewife. She wore June Cleaver dresses from the 50’s. They were moth-eaten and dyed black to match the circles underneath her eyes. Her skin was doll’s porcelain, powdered into transparency. Some say she didn’t exist at all, that she was only a ghost who showed herself in the windows of the sinking Georgian manor on Pine Street. Holding a martini for a husband who would never come home and cooking dinner for children that could not digest anymore.

They called her the Haunted Housewife and her black hair was streaked white. Empty bottles of chemicals were found in the trash bin on the mornings after her sightings. Whole gallon jugs of Windex, tile cleanser, bleach and lye. The women would all whisper, what was she doing in there? Did she still clean that house? Did she polish the silver? Did she buff the floor? When did she emerge? Neighborhood children made a game of knock knock knock on her door. They ran away and hid behind the trash can and flaking picket fence.

She used to have a family the older women would say. She wasn’t always alone. One day no one was there, except the haunted housewife. Left to make empty beds, and iron unworn shirts. the police came. Everyone talked, but there was nothing said. Except that the husband and her two boys were never seen again.

Then, the children started disappearing in the woods off of Pine Street. Little boys with chubby cheeks, and a penchant for marble games, shooting things with BB guns. Winchester model. Hollering after a felled squirrel, compatriots would watch them fade into the forest fog. No one saw them after that. Now and then a boy’s sneaker would show up, smeared with mud with the faint odor of cleaning products.

Peering out she smiled, in the dark when they all slept. She was their joke but she had them all wrapped around her bony white finger, little did they know. Mounting the stairs she descended to the basement family room. It was set up just as they left it: trains, tv, molding floral print couch and reclining lounge chair. Underneath the big red wool rug, she pulled pieces of floor, exposing a locked door. Fitting the key carefully into the heavy lock the Haunted Housewife adjusted her heels, and opened up her real home. Down she twisted into the lighted hole where her family had multiplied like bunnies. Her husband sat at his work bench reading the paper, her boys were on the shag carpet with their Erector set, and the others . . well the others had come to live with them forever. Once her husband had said she should take up a hobby, now she was quite proud of her work. Taxidermy was a very considerate art after all.

By Emily Smith-Miller

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A Bloodied Ear of Corn

“When maidens find red ears of corn,

They shall be paired before the dawn”

This golden field slopes like her chest; the fence posts mirror my own.  But it’s not just breasts I lack.  She has the hair, in near pubic curls, dimples like pock marks, boring blue eyes… everything the village boys could want or need.  I can ride a horse so fast you’d swear I was centaur, slice a sickle through wheat as if twirling in dance, and twist a lamb in its mother so the feet slide out first and there’s profit for morning. 

But to my folks, to those boys with their awkward walks and sliding eyes, stiff trousers and fiddling pockets, I’m the runt of the litter.  Except when I try and talk to them about her, about the realities of living with my sister, her sniffs and whining, delicacies and deceit, they call me that but substitute with a ‘c’.

I need a mate, I need escape.  My own farm to run, and a cart for the market.  A bed to lie in, roll on, and share.  No more making do.

So I’m making don’t, won’t and can’t.

We’re out in the field, and I’m cutting the corn.  She bends to sniff a poppy then scarlet blossoms further than petals, wetter than tears, stickier than mud.

Who they going to marry now?

By Gill Hoffs

The Shadow Factory

She never needed to reload.
 
It had only been a week, and you said the word “bed” with the wide innocent eyes of a child as in “Are we going to?” and she really didn’t know what to say to you. She could see your expectant smile shining in the darkness, could feel your heartbeat thrumming the dead air of silence around her, but there were no words. Not for you.
 
She knew what you wanted, could feel it under your skin when you fucked her on the lino in the kitchen and against the dumpster in the parking lot and on the roof of your wife’s car. Yes, she could feel it, and she wanted to cut it out, wanted to find you in the morning, a distant dream, a sigh that barely brushed up against the linen. Too soon, it was just too soon. She’d made the same mistakes before…
 
Mathew 7:16. He wouldn’t kiss her on the mouth after she’d sucked the fuck out of him. “Selfish,” she thought, every single time he came. His blood was slow and thick and tasted of tequila and mothballs.
 
Sometimes the dead speak to her. She would strip the sheets from the mattress and lie amongst them naked, listening to their complaints in the dark, the streetlights through the blinds marking the room off like the scene of a homicide. Sweat, and piss, and shit, and vomit. She could smell them all, taste them all, on the soft folds beneath her body.
 
Jake 5:22 would never look at her when he came. Called her by his mother’s first name when he fucked her, and then he’d call her a whore. “Too needy,” she thought every single time he refused to look at her cunt. His blood was slick and gritty and tasted of grease.
 
Simon 3:18 would only ever fuck her in the ass. Said it looked like a nice tight schoolboy’s ass. There was no blood in his veins.
 
You were different though, 1 week 3 days and you couldn’t help but say the words, even if you didn’t mean it. But you’d have to mean it before you could join her here, in this private space between hope and pain.
 
You’d have to make her believe it,

Before she could ever accept your stain.

By Cheryl Anne Gardner