Title: 13 More Tales of Horror by Various
Summary: A terrifying journey into horror – thirteen tales guaranteed to fill you with fear. What are the mysterious creatures stalking the woods at night, and who will be their next prey? A chilling game of cat and mouse! Who is the mysterious party guest in the frighteningly real costume? Each breath he takes is death. Isn’t it lucky that the beautiful ring is so cheap? It’s all she wants for her birthday. Only this gift drives Kate out of her mind… Thirteen master storytellers invite you on a rollercoaster ride through the imagination. How much can you take?
Note: As Dove requested, I’ve updated my template, because we now apparently call the Bad Guys Muffin Man. Hey, it makes as much sense as most Point Horrors.
I’ve read this one before, mostly because Dove threw it at me and told me I would love the first story, “The Cat-Dogs” by Susan Price. She was not wrong. I remember enjoying this collection a lot more than I did 13 Tales of Horror (Part One, Part Two, Part Three), but we’ll see if that is actually true. So far, it is true.
I will not be doing counters for the stories, because last time I find it annoying with short stories. I originally planned to do this in two parts, but I forgot how long each short story recap is, so instead we’ll break it into three parts. Go to part one or part two.
J.R.E. Ponsford by Graham Masterton
(Masterton is mostly a UK horror author who wrote books with a ton of sex in the horror. That makes me leery about this story.)
Kieran (small for his age, freckles across the bridge of his nose, green eyes like his mother) is supposed to be at a cricket match between First XI and Milton College, but he hardly ever attends these mandatory events because Benson and his friends have tormented him for the last five weeks that he’s been at the school.
It all started when Marker, the head boy of Mallard’s House (tall, blond, spotty, and noble), asked him if he was any good at eccer. Kieran knows that “eccer” was slang for games and “ducker” swimming and “short ducker” cross-country running only because he read the Heaton School booklet. That is a comprehensive booklet if it includes student slang!
Kieran told him he was good at cricket, and Marker challenges him to name three famous Irish cricketers, because Kieran is Irish; he can’t. Marker invites him to have a house game in the nets that afternoon. Kieran agrees because he’s homesick already. When Marker asks if he has a proper cricket kit, Kieran shows him a sweater his granny knitted for him from one of the school photographs because they are poor, and of course all the boys start making fun of him for it. I now want all this rich boys to burn, so this story is going well.
Since then, Marker forgot about the whole thing, but the other boys haven’t; the other boys are Benson and the Removes, which sounds like a terrible band name. Benson is a swarthy, thick-necked boy with black curly hair, boils, and a black silky moustache. How the hell is this kid growing a mustache thick enough to be considered silky? He’s like 17! And I’m side-eyeing the use of “swarthy” which is often code for Not White. There’s a bunch of information about Benson’s rich family and his father’s divorces, blah blah blah.
Kieran doesn’t understand how Benson isn’t sadder about his father’s divorces, because when Kieran’s parents divorced, it broke his heart. Plus shortly after, his father told him he won a scholarship to Heaton, and now he’s there, miserable.
Kieran hides instead of attending the cricket match and rereads a letter from his mother. She misses him a lot, but she’s certain he’s made a ton of friends. I’m actually feeling pretty sad for Kieran.
As the sunlight moves across the cricket pavilion where he is hiding, it illuminates a tall glass case that holds a cricket-bat, worn-out pads, old-fashioned wicket-keeper’s gloves, a First XI tie, a black tasselled cap, and a faded black- and white-striped blazer. In the back of the case is an oak-framed photograph of J. R. E. Ponsford, who was the school cricket captain 1931-36 and a public schools’ champion batsman, 1935. Pretty fancy stuff. Kieran likes the look of him because of all the things he hasn’t done to Kieran that the other boys have (teasing, tormenting, etc.), which is sweet enough, except for the fact that Ponsford is probably, you know, dead.
Kieran has been writing letters home to his mother about how he’s homesick but he’s doing fine and having fun, which is a lie. This time he writes that he’s made a good friend in the sixth form named Ponsford. I’m sure this lie is never going to come back and bite someone in the ass.
Kieran falls asleep for awhile, and wakes up at nearly ten, so he’s missed supper and callover and prep and everything. He also finds himself locked inside the pavilion, though he eventually finds a way out through the windows in the ladies’ toilets. He takes a shortcut back to his house through the housemaster’s garden, and runs into a group of boys smoking in the shadows. Benson is there, because of course he is. The boys tease Kieran, and Benson shoves him across an old rusty lawn-roller that tears his trousers, they beat him up a little, and keep picking at him and picking at him.
He finally gets away from the boys and of course runs directly into the head of the house. The matron takes care of his scrapes and scratches and gives him a weak painkiller. She’s Australian and tells him a story about the Aborigines and their spooky traditions. Yes, yes, not a gross use of their stories to prop up a white boy, not at all. /sarcasm
Kieran and his mother exchange more letters, and Kieran keeps writing about Ponsford, including that he’s been invited to stay at his family home in Kent for half-term. His mother is relieved because money is tight and she can’t really afford to fly him home. When half-term comes around, Kieran hides in the cricket building again, because he can’t be caught around campus, but he can’t go home either. He’s been living on sweets and crisps for two days and is starting to feel sick.
He’s been passing the time reading books about the Aborigines. Of course he has. He’s looking for information about the potion from the story the matron told him, where people took blood and bird feathers and mud and bone to bring spirits back to fight for them. I have no idea where this is going, do you? And again propping up the white boy’s story with native myths is racist bullshit.
When all the boys come back, Benson immediately starts picking on Kieran, and Kieran thinks about the injured starling he found and killed that morning. [Dove: NO! Not starlings. Starlings and sparrows are my birds.] He loads his plate with food, but someone trips him just as he reaches the table and he drops the entire thing. Benson teases him and throws a handful of beans and mashed potato into Benson’s face. That’s pretty awesome. Kieran flees to the pavilion, and Benson and two friends chase him.
Kieran manages quite a lead and gets into the pavilion through the open window in the ladies’ room. The other boys follow him eventually, and we switch to their point of view. It’s very dark, but they don’t look for any lights because it is off-limits except during cricket matches.
Kieran is upstairs next to the glass display case. He keeps whispering things that are supposed to be a part of the Aboriginal spell, though in English. Right. He paints the potion all along the frame of the cabinet, begging for help.
Benson and his friends slowly climb the stairs. When they reach the gallery, they hear a slight scuffling sound, sharp knocks, and then the rattling, rumbling noise of cricket-studs against parquet flooring. Then a tall figure approaches, dressed all in white, his face as white as death. He hits one of the boys in the side of the head with the cricket bat, and then the other a couple times until his right ear is smashed into red gristle. Benson tries to run, but the white figure comes after him, breaks his collarbone, hits him again and again. He tries to run down the stairs, but Kieran is standing there, eyes wide, hands raised as if he were praying or invoking a spirit. The white figure then hits Benson so hard his skull cracks open.
Kieran whispers his thanks to the figure, over and over.
Kieran’s mother waits at the housemaster’s office. The housemaster tells her that Kieran will be suspended during the police investigation, and his mother is aghast because he says his friend Ponsford did it to protect him. The housemaster of course doesn’t know any Ponsford in their school. She gives the full name, J. R. E. Ponsford, and the housemaster tells her he joined the RAF as a bomber pilot and disappeared over the Dutch coast in 1942.
Kieran takes one last look at the Ponsford display, and the crack down the famous cricket bat.
This is not terrible, though very predictable. It’s all very standard stuff, from the bullying to the ghost to the “surprise” reveal, but the boys are horrid enough we’re pretty much rooting on the killer anyway, and we’re supposed to be doing so, so for once that is a successful, intentional use of the trope.
[Dove: As a terribly unhappy twelve year old, I adored this story. Not quite to the point where I want my imaginary friend to crack a bully’s skull, but I definitely felt for Kieran back then. As an adult, there’s plenty to pick apart, but my twelve year old self will always enjoy this.]
The Buyers by David Belbin
(Allegedly, Belbin writes a lot of young adult stories that deal responsibly with difficult social issues such as racism, rape, and homosexuality. After reading this story, I’m pretty sure I’d want to set everything on fire if I read more of his work, and also, one of those things is not like the others.)
Karen can’t concentrate on her homework because down the street a dog is barking, a high-pitched, insecure yelp. Karen is frustrated because Mr Briggs will knock off marks if her homework is late. Karen shouts for the dog to shut up, and of course more dogs start barking in response, and then comes a deep, ominous howl. That’s from the guard dogs up the road that roam around the small private park surrounding Bob Bosco’s home. Bosco is a well-known comedian, but Karen doesn’t find him funny.
Karen tries to leave for the library, but her mother stops her. After Karen grumbles a little about how tired she is of living surrounded by dogs, which sounds like an ideal place for me, to be honest, she asks if they will ever find a buyer for the house. It has been on the market for six months. Her mother says the recession is ending and they’ll sell it eventually. And here we’ve had at least two more recessions since this book was published. /weeps
Her mother also reminds her that the library is no longer open at night because of budget cuts, and Karen has no place to escape to do her work. The dogs have stopped barking, but before Karen can close the door, two gray shadows come through the front gate. They ask if they can look around the house, and her mother is going to let them, but Karen says her dad is in the bath.
Mum asks the visitors to come back in half an hour, and they agree. The man has an accent Karen can’t place, and the woman doesn’t speak. Once they’re gone, Karen points out that the sign says “by appointment early” and shouldn’t they wait until the estate agent can take them through? Her mother points out they don’t have a ton of options right now, and shouts for Dad to get out of the bath.
Karen is set to work vacuuming, and she shouts at her younger brother, Max, to pick up his comics. Max does, and even cleans the bathroom quickly. Twenty minutes later, the couple turns up again, which is not half an hour, but who’s counting?
Karen lets the couple into the house, but they don’t give her their name, nor will they let her take their coats. Her father hurries up to show them around, but they like Karen doing it, because that’s normal when buying a house.
She points things out to the couple, and they pretty much walk upstairs to Karen’s room and they start looking around at all her things. CREEPY. They barely look at anything else and then ask for a moment alone. Karen is just telling her father that she doesn’t think they’re interested based on their attitude, when the couple comes in and asks how much, and they agree to pay that price. They leave, and the family celebrates.
Of course, the couple then disappear for the next few weeks. Everyone is disappointed, but her parents still think the buyers will come back. Karen spends a lot of time at Mike’s house (her boyfriend).
Then the house the Connors want to buy has another offer, and the sellers call to tell them that the price has gone up another two thousand pounds and if they can’t close soon, they’ll go with the new people.
Karen is home alone when the couple comes back. She lets them into the house, even though she doesn’t want to be alone in the house with them. She also tells them her parents are out, and immediately starts to regret it.
They dump out a pile of cash, saying it is a ten percent deposit, and leave her to count it while they explore the rest of the house. [Dove: Even back in the 80s/90s, a cash desposit would raise eyebrows. Most law firms wouldn’t want to deal with this sale based on that.] Karen counts it and it’s all there. She quietly heads upstairs, not wanting to disturb them, and overhears them talking about her room. They get the names of her parents’ solicitors and gives her the name of the firm that represents them, as well as their names (Mr and Mrs Todd).
Karen is celebrating and wishing someone else would come home so she could tell them the news when the front door opens and a hand works the chain. Karen is terrified, but of course it is Mike. They hang out awhile until her parents come home, and Karen gives them the good news.
They frantically prepare for the sale of the house. The surveyor comes around, creeps Karen out, and tells her dad that they need a new roof. This leads them back to waiting to hear from the buyers again. Karen finishes her exams and frets about everything. After she gets home from a visit with Mike, her parents tell her the buyers came around again, didn’t mention dropping the price, and explain why Mrs Todd never talks — she can’t. Except then Karen remembers that she heard Mrs Todd talk the last time they were there. She writes it off as misremembering.
The Todds want to complete the move within four weeks because Mr Todd is starting a new job, and Karen’s family ends up moving into rental space for a few weeks until the house they are buying is ready.
On moving day, two detectives turn up because of the cash they deposited in the bank. It was part of the ransom paid for the Moretti kidnapping the year before. (The daughter of a rich Italian industrialist was kidnapped while on holiday in the city, and the ransom was only paid after the kidnappers cut off one of her fingers.)
The detectives take their parents to the station to “talk” to them and leave Karen to watch her brother. I don’t for an instant believe they would do that, whether Karen is over sixteen or not, but whatever. Also, they’re acting like they don’t know the money came from the house buyers, but the trail is there and they’ve gone through lawyers and everything, so that information would be easy to find.
Karen calls Mike to come over, and then talks to the solicitor, who can’t really help because, you know, conveyancing, not criminal law. (REALISTIC! I’m impressed. [Dove: … I don’t know what to do with this. This is the first time I’ve ever seen realistic solicitors in books, especially PH.]) The solicitor does tell Karen that the Todds filed a fraudulent mortgage application and suggests that the police are after her parents for that rather than the marked money. Comforting, solicitor. [Dove: And they’re money laundering. A very good way to launder money is to start a sale, pay a deposit, let it go through your solicitors, to their solicitors, and then bounce back to you from two law firms, once the sale gets stopped in its tracks. You lose a chunk of pennies for the failed sale, but the rest of your cash is beautifully clean.]
Then the phone goes dead, because they had arranged to have it shut off. Shortly after, people get out of a van, and Karen tries to run Max out the back door, but the people bring something around to the back. People are at the front door, too, and Karen and Max run upstairs.
Two men carry a carpet into the house and upstairs and Karen and Mike hurry up to Max’s attic bedroom. Downstairs, they hear Mike knock on the door, but he’s sent away. They hide upstairs for awhile, but Max can’t stay still, and finally she agrees to let him try to sneak out to get help. UM. KAREN. THAT IS YOUR LITTLE BROTHER. If anyone is going to do the risky thing, it should be you. She knows that, too, but she’s too scared.
Karen hides for hours, through a storm, through someone stopping by and knocking at the front door then leaving, through it getting dark, and then hears people walking from the pub, which means it is half eleven. She decides to make a move under the cover of their noise.
Karen hears someone moaning in her old bedroom, and finds a girl tied to the radiator. She tries to untie the girl, but instead a pipe comes loose, and of course they hear that downstairs. Mr Todd comes into the room, and Karen hits him in the head with the pipe.
Karen rushes the girl downstairs (and notices that they’ve cut one of the girl’s fingers off already), and unlocks the door, but the buyers have added another padlock and bar, and they can’t go out the front. Karen recognizes the girl as Stella, the comedian’s daughter.
The back door has been boarded up, so Karen takes Stella into the cellar so they can climb out through the hole where they would deliver coal. She shows Stella the hole, then sees Max and Mike dead on the floor, their clothes drenched in blood. Karen climbs out first, standing on Stella, but is dragged back into the cellar before she escapes.
In the distance, there are police sirens, and one of the men stabs Karen in the heart. She’s barely alive when he throws her on the other bodies, and they drag Stella upstairs. The man thinks that it’s a good thing the police don’t know about all the dead bodies, or they’d never get out, but with Stella, and this still being a kidnapping, they’ll be able to get out alive.
This is really crap compared to the rest of the stories. The convenience of the police leaving two kids alone in the house like that, the police arriving just a second too late, the cash deposit not raising red flags sooner than the four weeks it took for this sale to go through — none of it is realistic, and yet this is supposed to be the most realistic story yet, no hint of the supernatural.
[Dove: And one thing I’m never clear on: why are they buying/pretending to buy the house? Sure, launder money through the purchase, but keep your kidnapping business separate from your money laundering. Jeez, criminals, this isn’t hard. I will admit, I skim this one, because I hate it, so there may be a good reason they’re buying the house.]
Closeness by Chris Westwood
(Westwood was the first English rock journalist to cover U2. That’s pretty great.)
Cameron is sitting at a coffee shop where he spends a lot of time watching people; he’s never been with a girl before, and he’s creeping on the girl next to him. She leaves, and he picks up the newspaper she left behind. It’s open to the small ads page, which includes the personals. He reads through some with a mix of amusement and disbelief.
Then he sees this ad:
Lonely? Bored? In need of that special someone?
We at Forever would like to hear from you.
For years we have been bringing people together, young and old alike, priding ourselves in the lasting nature of their friendships.
We are NOT like other date-link organizations!
No payment unless completely satisfied!
Phone for our free brochure and videotape NOW!
He plans to forget all about it, because it is ridiculous, but takes the paper home with him, and thinks about it all night. In the morning before class, he goes downstairs to the communal payphone in the hall (communal payphone!), and calls the number. After he gives them some brief information, they send him a package.
It comes wrapped in brown paper with a local postmark, and has a VHS cassette, a photocopied application form, and lots of promotional papers. The video has a dude talking to the viewer, and it’s mostly boring, so I’m skipping it. Just a typical sales pitch for dating websites today, basically. Cameron is convinced and scared at the same time, but fills out the application and mails it in. He waits for a response, feeling all the while like it is too good to be true. And when he gets a response, he thinks the price for a life membership is the problem (200 pounds, which today would equal about 250 USD, but would probably be double that with inflation/the rise of online dating companies). Cameron immediately sends a cheque, but after he does, he starts to doubt himself again.
Then he gets a call inviting him to the Forever offices. They’re even sending him a driver. Cameron is nervous but excited. He gets cleaned up, then fidgets around his flat waiting. The car that shows up is a sleek black stretch limo, and he is overwhelmed by the VIP treatment.
(I was once picked up at the airport for an interview by a driver in a stretch limo. It seemed overkill.)
Forever is in a large brown mansion with great white stone pillars flanking the steps. There is a white, high-ceilinged entrance hall with chrome fittings and shag-pile carpets. (Oh, man, the days when shag-pile was considered posh.) The stairwell is carpeted in white, which seems to be a bit dangerous, but also shows how immaculate they manage to keep the place.
Cameron meets with Dr Ludgate and David Gill in a lush room with a Persian carpet and mirrored ceiling, Impressionist paintings on the walls. Cameron’s chair seems too small for the room, and he feels shorter than the others when he sits. Subtle manipulation, that sort of thing. Always make people look up to you.
Ludgate and Gill talk about how they don’t send their people on blind dates and they don’t use computer dating because people are living things, not statistics. Instead, they make introductions right there on the premises, supervise at the beginning, and let people take their own course.
They take Cameron to a big laboratory that smells faintly of disinfectant and even more faintly of a sweet, mild sour scent like spoiled meat. There’s a huge reinforced door marked: Disposal Room 1. There’s a girl on duty, the girl with the easy smile from the coffee shop who left the paper behind that he read.
The girl opens the door and the faint muffled voices become an agony of cries and screams, and he’s left alone with the mob of people, a riot of thrashing arms and legs and eyes with wild, hungry stares. There’s blood and red meat and white bone.
And another girl, crouched low against the wall near the door. He knows that she, too, had been trapped on the outside for too long, something he has in common with her, and already he knows her as well as he knows himself. She smiles at him and he goes to her, and for the first time, he has all the courage he needs.
This is weird. The idea could be creepy enough, but the execution doesn’t work, and mostly it just leaves me feeling confused and let down.
[Dove: I kind of want a longer version of this, not a full-length story, but something with a bit more heft to play with the idea more.]
The Ring by Margaret Bingley
(Bingley worked for the BBC, writes creepy books, and doesn’t like “political correctness’ which is generally code for “I want to be as offensive as I damn well please” and is never a good sign.)
Kate sees a ring, a small gold band with a ruby red stone set in the center that is surrounded by tiny diamond-like chips, and she immediately knows she needs to own it. It appeals to the Kate that she wants to be: tall and slender, not short and slightly plump, witty and popular instead of quiet and lonely, everything that she hoped to one day become.
Her sixteenth birthday is soon, and she hasn’t yet asked for what she wants from her mum and stepdad (Louise and Steve) and her dad and stepmother (Lizzie, and they have twin sons, Jake and Ben). Her dad’s family always gives her money, but her mom and Steve give her an actual gift, so she might be able to talk them into getting her the ring.
She shows it to her two best friends, Samantha and Clare. They aren’t as impressed, because it is old-fashioned. Kate gets snappy with them, and they are surprised, but back down. They do talk a bit about how antique jewellery is always expensive, and Kate gets worried that it will be too much for a gift. Kate goes inside to ask about it, and her friends talk about how she must be snappy because she doesn’t got a boyfriend, and she’d do better if she dressed up a little and chatted more. Way to be gossipy stereotypes, girls.
Inside the shop, Kate talks to a man about the ring; he says it is cheap in money but expensive in other ways, and though she finds that weird, she is not put off. She explains that her birthday is soon and there’s not a lot of money now that her parents have other kids too. She babbles at him before she realises what she’s doing and cuts herself off. The man tells her to try it on and if it fits without any need for alteration, he’ll sell it for twenty pounds (about 25 USD today). That’s exactly what Steve told her they could afford to spend for her birthday, even though his daughter from his first marriage, Laura, got a computer for her birthday. Kate tries it on her ring finger of her right hand. The ring looks too small to fit, but it does fit, perfectly, and Kate almost doesn’t recognise her own hand as she stares at it. Kate has a hard time removing it, but the man slides it off with ease, and he takes her details so her mum can come pick it up.
Kate starts to feel a little uneasy that it has all gone so well, too good to be true. Then she pushes it away, because surely nothing could actually be too good to be true. At sixteen, I definitely knew that was something that could happen, but I’ll cut Kate some slack, I guess.
Her mum goes the next day to pay for it, and when she gets home, she tries to talk to Steve about it, because it seems too good to be real to her, too. She also feels a little sorry for Kate, but her lack of self-confidence also annoys Louise. She compares Kate to Steve’s girls, who are lively and quick and popular. Man, Kate really gets the short end of the stick with both her families. [Dove: Agreed, I really feel for Kate who doesn’t actually seem to do anything to provoke everyone bad-mouthing her.]
On her birthday, her family brings her presents and tea in bed, and the first thing she does is put on the ring. Her mother gives her a birthday kiss, and as she does, Kate hears her say: What a pity her fingers are so fat.
Except her mother’s lips don’t move. Kate pulls away, stung, and hears Steve next: And unless I’m very much mistaken, I’m the only man apart from her father who’ll kiss her today. She really ought to do something to smarten herself up.
Her stepsisters give her make-up, and sure enough, she hears Sara say: We thought it might help cover your zits!
She actually responds out loud that she doesn’t get zits. Sara denies she said it, but then Kate can hear her thinking about the fact that Kate can hear her thoughts. Kate is then overwhelmed by all their thoughts. She’s just about to tear off the ring when their voices fade, and she makes some apologies about feeling strange. She finishes opening her cards and gifts, and when she’s alone, tries to remove the ring before her shower, but it won’t come off. She’s afraid the water will ruin the ring, but it comes through just fine.
Kate hears some more thoughts from them as she’s heading to her father’s house, and they’re, of course, nasty. She tries to take off her ring all during the walk, but only succeeds in turning her finger red and sore.
Lizzie sees her ring and thinks nasty thoughts about how much it must cost, and then that Kate is a liar when she tells her about finding it so cheap in an antique shop. Kate is frustrated and angry, but then realises it could be quite useful to be able to read other people’s thoughts, because now she’ll know the truth. UGH, KATE. This is not going to work the way you want it to work.
Sure enough, she hears her dad’s thoughts, bitter about giving her money, and feels terribly alone and hurt. The twins take her outside to see their new treehouse. They only allow their friends in, and when she asks if she is their friend, they nod, and she hears them think about how much they love her.
That moment of lightness soon dies beneath the adults’ nasty thoughts over lunch. Her dad thinking about her being out of shape is the last straw, Kate shouts and them and then runs out, leaving her dad feeling kind of guilty.
She goes to Clare’s house for comfort, but instead learns that Clare is dating Jeff, the guy Kate fancies, and Clare actually lies to her face about it.
Kate goes home, tells her mum she’s feeling ill, and takes herself to her room. Her mother comes in to check on her before she goes to sleep, and the weight of her lies hurts Kate so much that she is determined to get the ring off, no matter what.
Her mother finds her dead on the kitchen floor in the morning, her ring finger nearly severed in too. She dies of a combination of blood loss and shock to her nervous system, and no one can ever find the ring she was wearing, and when they go try to buy a new one to put in the coffin, the jewellry shop is gone.
On the morning of Kate’s funeral, hundreds of kilometres away (around 130 to 200 miles, depending on exact measurements), Grace walks with her new, rich husband who adores her, and her eye is caught by a small gold ring with a beautiful ruby, set with diamonds. Her husband, it turns out, isn’t nearly as rich as Grace believes, and has insured her for a large sum of money and is trying to figure out how to kill her without anyone being suspicious of him.
I do love cursed object stories, especially jewellry, and this was kind of delightful. A little heavy-handed with the lesson that everyone lies all the time, but I liked it.
[Dove: I kind of want this ring. I want to go to meetings at work wearing it.]
Bone Meal by John Gordon
(Gordon is a British author who mostly writes supernatural and horror stories for teens. A+ choice there, Gordon. Hope your writing is awesome.)
Eunice (… that is quite a name) has to answer the door, and finds a young man standing on the porch. She thinks he’s a student that Richard must of sent to her. The man is a little cheesy, then hands her a card to introduce himself; she asks if Richard sent him, but he doesn’t know Richard (who is apparently no longer her boyfriend, but used to be).
The man is a door to door salesman, and he tries to sell her cleaning supplies, but she doesn’t want anything. She teases him some, but it ends quickly. She expects him to be angry when she tries to shut the door, but all he sounds is earnest. He then asks if she’s had many salespeople around, because one of her neighbours told him she was tired of seeing them come by. Eunice says that he’s her first, and it turns out the man is looking for a friend of his who used to do that patch but has vanished.
Mrs Barnes, Eunice’s mother, comes downstairs to talk to the boy, and she is even sharper with him than Eunice is, so he leaves.
Eunice has always loved the hall that is the heart of the house, and Eunice feels like she possesses it. Mrs Barnes says the boy was lucky that her father didn’t see him, and Eunice giggles that her daddy would never hurt anyone. They laugh together at that, and then Eunice cries and tells her Richard has hurt her feelings, and then her mother shouts at her for wiggling her toes at the boy. It’s all very creepy and overbearing and weird.
She cries in her room for awhile, and then goes out to see Mr Barnes who is working in the yard, putting bone meal and blood into the ground. She teases her dad a little, then asks if her mother got him to run off some boy. Sure enough, he did, because he was very insulting to her mother. He tells her not to mention it to anyone, because it is embarrassing. He also tells her not to get her feet into the bone meal and blood.
She doesn’t dream when she sleeps, but that night, she can’t stop thinking about Richard and how he got sharp with her in the cafeteria one day. She can’t stop crying. She goes downstairs to get a drink, but the glasses have been moved out of the cupboard. Instead it is full of feather dusters and other cleaning supplies.
The next morning she talks slyly to her mother about the new supplies and the boys, until they hear the squeal of an animal in pain. Her mother says it is just her father, who is putting twigs through his shredder.
Eunice talks to her father about blood and bones and cheeky boys, then borrows his car to go get Richard. She gives him a lift home, but doesn’t turn the right way, and, in fact, drives him out to her place. She teases him and her parents about the missing boys, and then takes Richard out to the garden, where she orchestrates her father finding them in a compromising situation while she shrieks that Richard is hurting her.
Eunice sits with her mother while her father shreds most of the body, but goes to do the last bit herself, and puts his head into the shredder, because she wants to hear the shriek of the blades against the hard bone, wanted to hear him suffer.
I like it, but I think it could have been creepier with more description. It’s a pretty bare bones short story, and a lot of Eunice teasing her parents in sly ways.
[Dove: I kind of wanted to slap Eunice. She seemed to enjoy playing at being a little girl, and that kind of nonsense doesn’t really endear her to me. But it was a creepy story.]
And that is the end of this collection. The only story I thought didn’t belong was The Buyers by David Belbin. I think this book was more balanced than the last, though as with any short story collection, there are highs and lows. The Cat-Dogs remains my favourite, though I also really like The Devil’s Footprints, The Ring, and Bone Meal.
[Dove: This is by far the best Thirteen anthology they’ve done. Very British and very supernatural. I adore The Cat-Dogs and The Devil’s Footprints also. This is generally a fun read. Wing is correct that The Buyers seems out of place. She also mentioned to me over Skype that the same thing happend in Thirteen Tales — The Guiccioli Miniature by Jay Bennet didn’t fit either — which is weird, because you would think that the last thing they would be short of is short YA horror stories.
Also, big thanks to Wing for pinch hitting and covering my weeks. My cat was poorly and I was going to just skip the recap (I figured you guys would understand), but Wing stepped up and did a recap on two of my weeks. Because she’s a badass. All hail Wing!]