Posts Tagged 'horror short stories'

Tell-Tale Camera

Horror writer Jack Lehman stopped by the Coffee Spew crawlspace studio last night and videotaped what is either a chilling Edgar Allan Poe-inspired short story or else a deeply disturbing autobiographical confession.

“Tell-Tale Camera” by Jack Lehman

“We need one to keep a record of things. My garden, the cats…they are all changing and we don’t have photographs of them.”

“Yes,” I said, fumbling with the compact digital camera no larger than an old-fashioned metal cigarette case. The last camera we’d owned, I’d dropped in a shopping center parking lot. It had slipped right out of my pocket as I swung my sport coat out from the back seat of the car. Now I tend to keep a camera in my front  shirt pocket. What are the chances of it falling out from there unless I really bend over? Anyway, I’d brought the broken camera to several places and they told me it would cost over a hundred dollars to repair, “You might as well get a new one for that amount.”

I hadn’t. But mother took the big step. Oh, it was to be a present for my birthday, but I knew better. This would be our camera. I would figure out how to use it and she would take all the pictures. But until I pressed the “on” button, I hadn’t realized, it talked.

I was struck by its soothing female voice. And as someone who was, or would soon be, a 55 year old man still living at home, I didn’t often hear soothing female voices, at least not young, sexy ones.

“You are in the narrow focus zone.”  This was still better to hear than what Cynthia, owner of Cynthia’s bar down the street, said to me later that day, when she stopped her car as I was walking my dog.

“Robert, you must keep your mother away from karaoke nights at my place. She’s an embarrassment and actually driving away customers.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” was my sheepish reply. But I could do nothing. That, I thought, was why she bought a camera. She wanted pictures of herself on the bar’s deck, swaying with the microphone, a 300 pound woman in a miniskirt, with her hair piled on top of her head and sparkle around her eyes. She wouldn’t let me attend. Not that I wanted to. She would invite highway construction workers, UPS delivery men, even the guy who drove the big green garbage truck. She didn’t want them to know she had a son. Not that it mattered, I knew as I listened to the music from Cynthia’s Place down the street. These men never came anyway.

So what am I to do, I wondered. My Internet gift business was just getting started, I need a home and my computer. She owns this place outright, and will live forever. Plus she gets $400 each month in Social Security disability payments. I couldn’t live without that. I knew I could deposit the SSI checks in our joint account. I’d done this before. The bank didn’t care; after all I was the one who paid the bills. They didn’t want to deal with my mother any more than anyone else did.

She would steal the camera from my room and take it to Cynthia’s. The bartender reluctantly took photos of her. She forced him to somehow. Sometimes I clicked through the pictures. How disgusting. I could hear her toneless voice singing along to the recorded karaoke music. It was a bad Bob Dylan imitation: “But lately I see her ribbons and her bows have fall-en from her curls. She takes just like a wom-an, yes, she does. She makes love just like a wom-an, yes, she does. And she aches just like a wom-an. But she breaks like a little girl.”

To which my camera might add: “Low battery power.”

And then someone knocked at the front door. It was a miracle disguised as a man. He wore the orange vest of a highway worker. They had been widening County Hwy B, that went in front of our house, all summer. It was the main thoroughfare through the little village. In order to make the most of this the town board had allowed the state department of transportation not only to add curbs and gutters but also a sidewalk to the West side of the road. This cut into my mother’s hillside property by fifteen feet, but the result, I knew, would increase its value in the long run.

“My name is Ralph Switchgrass, I’m an engineer with DOT.” I stared at this strange little man. He looked like pictures I’d seen of the American author Edgar Allan Poe.

“How can I help you?” I asked.

“Well,” Switchgrass replied, “I’m afraid we’ve made a little discovery in bulldozing part of your hill today. It’s near where we are going to put some new steps down to the street.”


“Yes, we’ve uncovered an abandoned well. As I said, close to the place the stairway will go. It’s quite interesting, actually. You can come out and see the top circle of yellow stones. There was a makeshift wooden cover, but…”

“But what?”

“I’m afraid it doesn’t meet legal requirements. You will have to get it sealed off and inspected by a license plumber before we can go any further.”

“Listen,” I replied angrily, pushing past the man and walking quickly twenty feet toward the excavation, “this construction wasn’t our idea. We’re not paying for anything. You want it sealed off and some plumber to certify that, then you’re the ones who are going to arrange it.”

Switchgrass caught up to me and stood by my side.

I mellowed a bit looking at the hole. “Why would they close up this well and drill another right by the house. Does that makes sense?” I asked.

Ralph Switchgrass simply took an apple-sized rock and dropped it down the old well. It made a clunk thirty or forty feet below, but not a splash.

“Let me see what we can do,” the engineer said, blinking over at me.

But I was already lost in the world of possibility. The hole was round enough and deep enough for my mother.

“What do you want?” she asked impatiently, early that evening. She was wearing her karaoke outfit ready for another night out. “Why do we have to go out there and look at this now!”

I will never hear that grating, whining, peevish voice again, I thought as I looked quickly both ways and then— twe were standing on the edge of the old well— swung the baby sledge hammer I’d been holding behind my back, and wacked mom on the top of the head. For a moment, nothing happened. She just stood there. And then as her knees started to buckle I dropped the sledge and gently guided her body so that she collapsed not to the ground but into the gaping black hole before us. It was ugly, I have to admit. How her head had smacked against the outer rim before gravity sucked her huge body into the abyss. And the sound of her hitting bottom was grotesque.

But I couldn’t think about that now. I had work to do before dark. I got the rusty wheelbarrow from around back, dumped the water that was sitting in it and with a spade went down the rear road to a spot where the highway crew had dumped some of the earth they’d scraped up from the expansion. I filled one load, wheeled back to the old well and dropped it down the hole. Then I did this four more times. It wouldn’t do much in terms of filling the well, but it would hide any sight of mother’s body. The highway people would cap this, put the appropriate ground cover on top and that would be that.

Who would ask about her? Neighbors might notice she wasn’t riding her old balloon-tired bike toward town anymore, but they would assume it had fallen apart, or that she was sick, or maybe she’d gone to visit a relative in Florida and never returned. Even the most polite of them would not hazard asking me, her son, about her. Better to imagine the best. Let sleeping dogs, or in her case, let a dead, overweight, obnoxious cat, lie.

That night I took a warm bath. I opened a bottle of cheap Australian red wine and even found an old leather-bound copy of Poe to read in the tub. Afterwards, for the first time in years, I slept peacefully. Not even dreaming of “Annabel Lee” in her “sepulcher there by the sea, in her tomb by the sounding sea.”

Late the next afternoon Ralph Switchgrass was back at my door. This time. with him he had a plumber, Jim Lean, and Switchgrass’s boss, Rich Benson. DOT would take care of the well. Take care of everything. Cementing it closed, getting the signed legal documents, finishing the steps and seeding that part of the hill they had excavated to make way for the steps. This of course they had to point out to him on the property, by the old well.

“It’s a shame to cover an antique well like this,” Benson felt compelled to say to the group, “but who knows, in another hundred years there might be reason to unearth it once again.”

“What was that?” Jim Lean asked.

None of the rest of us standing there in the late-August twilight heard anything.

“It was a woman’s voice,” he insisted. “Listen.”

There was the slight ruffling of leaves, some distant earth-moving equipment from farther down the road, and then… A soothing female voice. Young, sexy and damning, echoed up from deep within the old well.

“You are in the narrow focus zone.”

“We’ve got to go down there and find out what that voice is,” Benson demanded.

In the distance, the sound of karaoke music began.


Recall: A Short Story

Walden West and the Twilight of Transcendentalism

eBook Single .99

Caffeine & Other Stories by Bob Wake

Order Caffeine to Go ($2.99 on Kindle)

Cloud Spew

"A Visit of Charity" 77 Square 2007 Man Booker Prize 2010 Wisconsin Book Festival 2016 Juniper Prize for Fiction 2666 Absalom Absalom! Adam Gopnik Adolf Hitler A Gate at the Stairs Alan Cheuse Alan Greenspan Alcoholics Anonymous Alfred Hitchcock Alison Jones Chaim Alive in Joberg Allegheny Mountains Allison Fiutak All the News I Need Al Pacino Alpha the Moralist Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself American Boy American Players Theater Amy Lou Jenkins Anchor Books And If It Be Mean Andrew Rieger Andrzej Wajda An Evening in Spring An Inventory of Lost Things Anne Donnellan Anne Enright Anne Frank Anne Lamott Anne M. Donnellan Annette O'Toole Ann Morrison Ann Prayer Ann Zindler Anthony Mann Anton Chekhov April Derleth (1954-2011) Arbor Vitae Arkham House Ashes and Diamonds Asperger's Syndrome A Theory of Lipstick At Home in the World A Tomb for Boris Davidovich August Derleth August McGinnity-Wake Autism Autism: Sensory-Movement Differences and Diversity Autism Asperger Publishing Company Avol's Bookstore B.J. Best Bad Axe Bangtail Press Barbara Buswell Barbara de Wilde Barbara Stanwyck Barry Levninson Battle of Stalingrad Baz Luhrmann Because You Have To: A Writing Life Bell Book and Candle Ben Armstrong's Strange Trip Home Ben Averill Bennett and Hastings Publishing Bernard Herrmann Bernard Schlink Big Bill Broonzy Bill of Lading Billy Strayhorn Birdman Birds of Wisconsin Blake Bailey Bob Dylan Bob Wake Bob Wake Goes on a Cruise Bon Iver Bonnie Friedman Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It Botteghe Oscure Bret Easton Ellis Brett Alan Sanders Brian Eno Brian Johnson Brief Interviews with Hideous Men Bruce Bodden Bruce Dethlefsen Buck Henry Burbank Byron Lindsey Caffeine & Other Stories Calamity Song Cambridge-Rockdale Wisconsin Cambridge Book Review Cambridge Book Review Press Cambridge Wisconsin Carol Quirk Cassandra Wilson Catch-22 Cathryn Cofell Cat People (1942) Cat People (1982) CBR Press Centennial Press Charles Baxter Charles Nevsimal Chelsea Cardinal Chicago Sun-Times China's ghost towns Chris Ellery Chris Hartsfield Chris Lott Christopher Nolan Citizen Kane Civil Rights Clark Street Rag Coleen Gray Coleman Colin Meloy Colony Collapse Press Common Ground Communist Poland Connie Lyle O'Brien Consultation Correcting the Landscape Cottonbound: An Audio Chapbook Council for Wisconsin Writers Cowfeather Press coyote mythology Criterion DVD Czeslaw Milosz D.T. Max Dale M. Kushner Daniel Berrigan Daniel Craig Daniel Fuchs Danilo Kiš Dan Parent Dark Card Darth Vader Dave & Phil Alvin David Allan Cates David Bowie David Carr David Foster Wallace David Hidalgo David Hill David Koch David Letterman David Lipsky David Mamet David Pitonyak Debbie Googe Deborah Eisenberg Deference Del's Supper Club Demilitarized Zone Denis Johnson Dennis Graham Associates Derek Almstead Derrick Harriell Detour DeWitt Bodeen DFW RIP Diana Krall Dierdre Luzwick Disability Studies Quarterly District 9 Dmitri Shostakovich Dorothy Malone Double Indemnity Doug Moe Dr. Tatsuaki Ishiguro draft resistance Driftless Area Duke Ellington Dwight Allen Eau Claire Wisconsin ebook ebooks Echoes economics econophysics Ed Begley Jr. Edenfred Edgar Allan Poe Edgar G. Ulmer Edmund G. Bansak Edmund Goulding Edmund Wilson Edna O’Brien Edward G. Robinson Eighth String Quartet (Opus 110) Elegy Elf Power Elia Kazan Elie Wiesel Eli Roth Elizabeth Strout Ellendea Proffer Elli Hazit Elmore Leonard Emily Dickinson Eric Harris Erik Richardson Ernest Hemingway Eschaton essays Ester Republic Press Eudora Welty Europe Central Evan Williams Every Love Story is a Ghost Story Every Natural Fact: Five Seasons of Open-Air Parenting Everything Ravaged Everything Burned F.J. Bergmann F. Scott Fitzgerald Fabu Facebook ads Fearing the Dark: The Val Lewton Career female jazz vocalists Film Noir Finishing Line Press Fireweed Press Fisherman's Beach Fisherman's Beach ebook Flight Patterns Flights For No One Fox 8: A Story Frances Kroll Ring Francis Kroll Ring Frank McCourt François Truffaut Fred MacMurray Freedom Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Freeman Walker From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity Future Islands Gail Godwin Gangnam Style Gay Davidson-Zielske Geoffrey Chaucer George Eastburn George Romero George Saunders George V. Higgins George Vukelich Georgia Ressmeyer Gerald Fosdal Geri Schrab Gerrit Welmers Ghosts in the Library Giorgio Moroder Giuseppe Cafiero Given These Magics God/Seed: Poetry & Art About the Natural World Go Down Moses Golden Bloom Goldmine in the Sun Goodbye to Language Graphic Classics Gregory Peck Greta Gerwig Halloween Hansa Kerman Pistotnik Harold Pinter Harper's Harvard University Press Heinrich Böll Helen P. Burlingame Helen Walker Henri-Pierre Roché Herbert Lovett Hieronymus Bosch High Noon Saloon Hitchcock Holden Caulfield Holy Week horror short stories Houdini Pie How Cow Press Hugging the Shore Hunger in America Ian Fleming Ian Keith Ian Murphy Icarus Himself Ida Lupino If I Could Tell You Inception In Envy Country Infinite Jest Inglourious Basterds Ingmar Bergman Inherent Vice Inside Outside Morningside Interior States In the Aeroplane Over the Sea Irish literature J. Allen Kirsch J. D. Salinger Jacket Copy Jack Lehman Jack Nicholson Jacques Tourneur Jaimy Gordon James Avati James Bond James Brown James Dante James Ellroy James Joyce James P. Roberts James Roberts James Sedwards Jane Smiley Jason A. Smith Jason Epstein Jason Smith Jay McInerney Jayne Anne Phillips Jean-Luc Godard Jean-Luc Marion Jeff Bridges Jeff Esterholm Jeff Mangum Jennifer Arin Jennifer Croft Jeremy Irons Jeri McCormick Jerzy Andrzejewski Jesus' Son Jet Airliner Jimmy Hughes Jim Somers Jim Stevens Joan Bennett Joan Blondell Joan Frank Jodi Robledo Joel Weisman John Berryman John Cheever John Donne John Heard John Irving John Koethe John Lehman John O'Brien John Smelcer John Tuschen John Updike Jonathan Franzen Jonathan Regier Joseph H. Lewis Josh Cohen José Ángel Valente Joyce Maynard Judge Judy Endow Jules and Jim Jules Furthman Junkie Nurse Justin Vernon Kamil Vojnar Kane County Illinois Republican Party Karla Huston Karl Elder Kate MacDonald Kate McGinnity Kate Winslat Kate Winslet Katherine Anne Porter Katherine Baker Kathy Kaebisch Kathy Sherwood Katjusa Cisar Katz Drug Store lunch-counter sit-in Keats Kenneth Slawenski Kim Garcia Kim Novak Kindle Kindle ebook Kloppenburg Korea Kristine Rusch Kurt Vonnegut Kyle Harper L. A. Times Laird Cregar Langston Hughes Larry Cyr Larry Watson Last Call Late Show with David Letterman Launchpad Laura Carter Lawrence Ferlinghetti Learning to Listen Ledgers of History Lee Garmes Lee Jing-Jing Lester Graves Lennon Lester Smith Lights! Camera! Autism! Lights! Camera! Autism! 2 Like a Cannonball Lillian Ross Linda Aschbrenner Linda Darnell Linda Lenzke Lindsay Lohan Lisa Ladson Lisa Pankratz literary contest Little Creek Press Little Eagle Press Local 311 Pipes & Drums Lon Chaney Jr. Look at the Birdie Lord of Misrule Lorine Niedecker Lorna Stevens Lorrie Moore Love and Theft Lucas Bielijewski Lyn Lifshin Madame Sul-Te-Wan Madison Madison 3/10/11 Madison Magazine Madison Museum of Contemporary Art Madison Wisconsin Madison Wisconsin protests Mahlon Mitchell Maile Meloy Main Street Rag Main Street Rag Publishing Co. Make it Stay Making Lemonade: Hints for Autism's Helpers Malcolm Lowry Malcolm McDowell Man Booker International Prize March 19 2011 Maria Rosa Lojo Marie Mundaca Marjorie Kowalski Cole Marshall Cavendish Editions Martha Leary Martin Amis Martin Scorsese Martin Sisters Publishing Mary C. Schuh Matt Girard Matthew J. Bruccoli Max Garland Mayapple Press Medium Meghan O'Gieblyn Members of Each Other Men without Meaning Metamorphoses Michael Epstein Michael Kriesel Michael Lowry Michael Pietsch Michael Sheehan Middle English Mike Baron Milkweed Editions Mobius Modern Times Mom's Canoe Monroe Stahr Montana 1948 Mort Castle My Bloody Valentine My Life as a Terrorist: Uncovering my FBI file NAACP Nancy Jesse Nancy Zucker Nan Negri Nastassja Kinski National Book Award 2005 Native American folklore Neill Blomkamp Neil Young Neutral Milk Hotel Neutral Uke Hotel New York Times Nicholas Gulig Nickolas Butler Nick Tosches Nick Whetro Nicole Eredics Nightmare Alley Night of the Living Dead Nikolay Middle School Noon Wine Norbert Blei Norma Gay Prewett North Country Notebook North Country Press Northwestern University Press Nothrop Frye Nutcracker Suite Oh Comely Olga Tokarczuk Olive Kitteridge online fiction Origins of FIS (Factory in a Suitcase) Orphan Orson Welles Oscar Swan Our Lives Ouroboros symbolism Ovid P.S. Mueller Painted Words: Aspects of Autism Translated Paradise Drive Parallel Press Parnell Nelson Passionate Nomads Patricia LeBon Herb Patricia Lundy Patty Berglund Paula Anderson Paula Kluth Paul Bowles Pauline Kael Paul McCartney Paul Michel Paul Schrader Paul Soglin Pencil Test Penelope Cruz Penguin paperback Peter Biskind Peter Yates Philip Roth Poetry Poetry Jumps Off the Shelf Polyester Popcorn Press Prairie du Sac Prairie Fire Poetry Quartet Press 53 Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin Proposals for the Recovery of the Apparently Drowned Psalms public housing Publishing: The Revolutionary Future Quentin Tarantino Quiet Nights Quiver Raging Bull (1980) Rain Man Ralph Murre Raw Deal Ray Bradbury Raymond Carver Raymond Chandler Rebecca Foust Rebecca Williams Recall Red Dragonfly Press Redshift: Greenstreem Return to Walden West Revolutionary Road Revolver Richard Ford Richard Katz Richard Quine Richard Roe Richard Sullivan Prize in Short Fiction Richard Widmark Richard Yates Rick Geary Riverhead Books RKO Robert Bly Robert De Niro Robert Fripp Robert Mitchum Roberto Bolaño Robert Phillips Poetry Chapbook Prize Robert Zoschke Robin Chapman Rob Thomas Rock 'n' Roll Consciousness Rod Clark Rogers Street Fishing Village & Museum Rolling Stone Rosalyn Coleman Gilchrist Rosebud Rosebud 51 Rosebud 62 Rosebud Book Reviews Rosebud Magazine Royal Trux Ruben Varda Ruby Dee Rush Limbaugh Sac Prairie Sally Wolff-King Salman Rushdie Salvador Dali Sam Spiegel Samuel Beckett Samuel Herring Sarah Busse Satellite Collective Satellite Press saturated phenomena Sauk City Sauk City Wisconsin sci-fi science fiction Sean Connery Sebastian Barry Seoul Sharlto Copley Sharon Hammer Shawn Fogel Sheldon Roth Shirley Hazzard short stories short story Shoshauna Shy Shotgun Lovesongs Shrine of the Tooth Fairy siege of Leningrad Sietske van der Veen Signs and Wonders Simone Simon Simon Knight Singapore Six Gallery Press Slumdog Millionaire Sly in the Morning Somewhere Piano Sonic Youth Soviet Communism Spencer Walts Spiro Agnew Split Personality Spoke Spring Green Spring Green Wisconsin St. Martin's Press Stefan Szczuka Stephanie Bedford Stephen Greenblatt Stephen Hinkle Stephen King Steve Erickson Steve Miller Band Steven Salmon Steve Shelley Stranger in the Window suitcase nuclear reactor Summer of the Cinetherapist sunnyoutside Supermoon Susan Firer suspended animation Sven Birkerts SXSW Tai Taeoalii Tama Janowitz Tamar Jacobsohn Taxi Driver (1976) Tchaikovsky Tell-Tale Camera Telling Time Temple Grandin Tenth of December Texas Review Press Thaisa Frank the 99 percent The Atlantic Monthly The Bagheeta The Best Day The Big Combo The Big Lebowski The Birds The Blasters The Broom of the System The Burning Monk The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari The Cambridge News The Capital Times The Captive Mind The Catcher in the Rye The Comedy of Errors The Conditions of Love The Corrections The Crack-Up The Curious Case of Benjamin Button The Decemberists The Dream Songs The Dude The Dying Animal the eelgrass meadow The Exchange & Other Stories The Frequency The Friends of Eddie Coyle The G.O.D. Club The Gathering The Gift of the Magi The Graduate The Great Gatsby The Green Suit The Hazards of Love The Humbling The Hungry Dead The Last Tycoon The Love of the Last Tycoon: A Western The Macomber Affair The Magnificent Ambersons The Masturbator The Motion Sick The Mysterious Location of Kyrgyzstan The National Lampoon The New Yorker The New York Review of Books The Pale King The Pat Hobby Stories The Permanent Press The Perpetual Commotion of the Heart The Reader The Second Pass The Secret Scripture The Sheltering Sky The Shield of the Valiant The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber The Silent Witness The Taking Under The Tiger's Wedding The Typewriter Satyr The Village Poet The Wolf Man (1940) The Writer's Cave Thich Nhat Hanh Thomas Christensen Thomas Fuchs Thomas J. King Thomas Merton Thomas Pynchon Three Years from Upstate Thurston Moore Time Out of Mind Tim Jonze Tim van der Meer Tim Ware Tippi Hedren Together Through Life Tom Connor's Gift Tom Pomplun Tom Sawyer Tracy Walczak Tree of Smoke Trimalchio: An Early Version of the Great Gatsby Twitter Two English Girls Two Rivers Wisconsin Ty-D-Bol Blue Tyrone Power UK Guardian Un Chien Andalou Under the Volcano Unexpected Shiny Things University of Massachusetts Press University of Notre Dame Press University of Wisconsin Press Until I Find You Up in the Air Ursula Le Guin UW Bookstore Hilldale Val Lewton Vampyr Verse Vera Farmiga Verse Wisconsin Vertigo Vicky Cristina Barcelona Victory Lap video technology Vietnam War Vote Kloppenburg for Wisconsin Supreme Court April 5 2011 W.E.B. Du Bois Wag the Dog Walden West Walk Awhile in My Autism Walter Berglund Weird Tales Wells Tower Wendy Vardaman Weshoyot Alvitre What's Up With Your Brother? What Did Jesus Do? Wiggle Room wiki for Infinite Jest Wikus van der Merwe Will Blythe William Cashion William Faulkner William Lindsay Gresham William Maxwell William T. Vollmann Wisconsin Wisconsin Book Festival Wisconsin labor protests Wisconsin literature Wisconsin People & Ideas Wisconsin People & Ideas 2017 Writing Contest Wisconsin poetry Wisconsin politics Wisconsin State Journal Wisconsin writing Writers from the Other Europe WTDY X.J. Kennedy Award X. J. Kennedy Award for Creative Nonfiction Yellow Sky Yuri Trifonov Zbigniew Cybulski Zora Neale Hurston