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

To Free Yourself

 I’m sitting in the kitchen sink.

 Some rags, twisted and corded like sundried snakes, sit beside me and I’d like it if one of them was long enough so I could string it to the light fixture on the ceiling, hang myself and get this charade over with, but at the end of the day, I couldn’t do that to the kids.  Not that I haven’t thought about it.  Not that Duane would miss me a whole lot.  He keeps telling me I’ve let myself go to hell.

 “Why don’t you take those damn wedding pictures down?  Aren’t you ashamed when people come over and wonder who that is?”

I don’t know how I got here.  They say no little girl imagines herself growing up being a prostitute.  No one dreams of being homeless.  I sure didn’t figure on ending up this way, as this version of me.  Yeah, I guess this is me: Darlene Rosemary Schadle Hockaday.

How did I even get in this sink?  Blackout?  My butt’s so big that I’m stuck now.  Kids are fishing with their daddy.  When Duane gets back he’ll probably keel over from laughing.  Bet he’ll say, “I’ma leave you there till you lose enough weight to free yourself.  How’s that for a homemade diet?”

Duane thinks he’s witty, a card, thinks I don’t know about Lila and the reasons why he started trimming his beard and nose hair.  The poem I found broke my heart, not because it was about her, but because it was beautiful.

Don’t think I can’t see you there, Mr. Butcher Block with your black-handled knives.  I do.  I know I could grab the longest and shove it through my chest and be on my way home to meet my maker or the other guy that runs the hot springs.

Come to think of it, I will have me one of those knives.  It’s a stretch—it’s always a stretch when you’re my size—but I reach over and get a big blade.  I don’t even think about it, just set to work right quick because I know if I hesitate I’ll plumb chicken out.

My housecoat rips apart easily, like toilet paper.  It’s the meat around my hips that gives me fits, that hurts like hell, but even still I’m committed.  The blood comes in rivers.  I don’t care.  I wince.  I slice and saw.  When I’m done there’s a real mess to clean, yet it feels good in a queer sort of way, having freed myself.

By Len Kuntz