John Patrick Robbins, is the editor in chief of the Rye Whiskey Review and the author of The Still Night Sessions published by Whiskey City Press .
His work has published here at Punk Noir Magazine , Fearless Poetry Zine, San Pedro River Review, The Dope Fiend Daily, Schlock Magazine, San Antonio Review, Piker Press, Heroin Love Songs, 1870 Magazine.
His work is always unfiltered.
Where The Buck Stops
The ride up to grandpa’s farm was always misery for everyone else and total peace for Sally.
“The mountains always call it’s true people home sweetheart.”
Her grandfather had told her on more than one occasion.
She much like her mother always felt better in the mountains over the chaos that was the yuppie infested Virginia Beach.
Tennessee was always more home to her as was being at her often colorful grandfather’s side.
“Why the fuck are we up in this hillbilly wonderland?”
Alex said as he continued playing with his phone.
Sally’s father had barely said two words the entire trip just clenched the steering wheel.
“Because it’s what she wanted, now zip it before I toss that fucking phone out the goddamed window!”
Alex just shot his father a look and said nothing, even he knew not to press their father in a time like this.
Sally’s father Mike hated their grandfather Terry with a passion.
But after their mothers passing it was well known she wanted her ashes spread on her father’s farm in Hampshire Tennessee.
Terry was everything Mike was not including fun.
He was a local character that was rumored to have been a moonshiner for years and in fact that’s how he had made most of his money not from cattle farming.
Mike loved his wife and although he had rather died with her in that hospital he promised to fulfill her dying wishes.
The trip was as silent as a cemetery, all the way until they finally turned off that winding road that led to the 281.59 acre farm that was the only happiness Sally had felt in a while.
Mike grabbed his cell as they turned on the driveway.
“Terry we’re here, just wanted you to know we’re heading towards the house right now.”
Mike looked in the rearview at Sally attempting to smile.
“Well sweetheart least you can spend some time with your grandpa.”
“Yeah and hopefully not slip into a coma listening to all his bullshit stories.”
“What, like you want to be here dad? The fucking guy is crazy as dammed loon and smells like a distillery.”
Mike slammed on the brakes grabbing Sally’s brother by the collar of his shirt.
“Look you little shit! keep running that mouth of yours and I will rip your tongue out of your fucking head understand!”
“Jesus Christ Dad! I was just joking.”
Sally’s father pulled her brother closer and his voice lightened only in tone as there was an intensity that scared the hell out of both kids.
“I don’t like being here Alex and I damn sure hate being here without your mother, but that’s the hand I’ve been dealt. So let’s just get through these few days. I don’t want to deal with any of your bullshit.
Because if you haven’t forgotten, military school is just a phone call away when we get home understand?”
Alex went silent as even he knew the devil thrived in their father’s temper.
And just as quickly as he had shown his face their father returned to his usual icy self.
And as they approached the house as always their grandfather stood disheveled and happy as ever.
“Kids welcome home.”
Terry said as he grabbed Alex’s hand.
“Oh hell feel this grip on this fucker, I swear boy must be jerking off twenty times a day, oh lord superman don’t cripple me.”
Terry acted as he was going to fall on the ground from the young boy’s grip then cut a huge fart that was matched only by its stink.
Sally busted out laughing as her father simply shook his head.
“Damn think I’m gonna have to clean out my boxers, little fucker squeezed the shit out of me.”
“Damn gramps bad as you stink, I think you better dig a hole and bury your ass.”
Terry busted out laughing as Alex’s father shot him a look.
“Sorry grandpa I didn’t mean any disrespect.”
Terry looked at Mike then back at the boy.
“Shit son, don’t worry about a damn thing here even your tightass father there. I swear you could mine diamonds out his ass he’s so stuck up.”
“Always good to see you, Terry.”
“Damn Mike, you should head to Hollywood with that convincing performance. I mean it sounds so sincere, almost brought a tear to my eye you grouchy bastard.”
“Terry I’m pretty tired can I just please go lay down?”
Terry calmed for a moment.
“Of course my home is yours you know that.”
Mike replied as he grabbed his suitcase and made his way to the old farmhouse.
As again the awkward silence filled the air as the kids stayed behind with Terry.
“Guess I should tone it down a bit.”
“He’s just on edge gramps, because of Mom is all.”
“We all are son, I’m sorry I didn’t get down there more often I just couldn’t stand seeing her that way is all.”
A tear rolled down the old man’s face as he looked off into the distance.
And just as quickly the old man snapped back to himself.
“Hell son I almost forgot I picked you up some fine reading when I was down at the store. Figured with that grip you must be in training for the Olympics.”
The old man said as he pulled a copy of Hustler magazine from his back pocket.
Alex just shook his head and thanked his grandpa. He knew it was pointless in telling the old man he could watch porn on his phone.
That and he figured if the old dinosaur knew about that, he probably would be asking to borrow it every two damn seconds.
Sometimes he questioned if the old man wasn’t some space alien or something or simply a teenager trapped in an old man’s body as horny as the old bastard was.
Terry turned his attention finally to his beloved granddaughter.
“Sweetheart I got something extra special for you.”
He said as he pulled a sparkly keychain from his pocket.”
“I give you the keys to your very own semi new car sweetheart.”
Sally took the keychain looking puzzled at her grandfather.
“Grandad, I appreciate the keychain but where’s the keys?”
Her grandfather snatched the keychain from her abruptly.
“I swear it had to be those damn gremlins around here those little bastards! But nonetheless look at this beauty I got over here for you.”
He said as he pointed off towards an empty field.
“Holly shit! The little bastards done stole the goddamned car as well! Sugar we better call news right now, those little monsters are probably raising hell all over this damn county!”
Sally cracked up.
“You’re crazy grandpa.”
“No darlin they’re trying to make me look crazy, I swear on the good book I had I slightly used Camaro for you just had it repainted had your name on the side with flames on the hood. It breaks my heart, baby girl honestly it does.”
Sally just hugged her bullshit artist grandfather.
It was good to be home here with him. Anything beat the hell that was the last few days.
Supper had been pleasant and their father had been a ghost at the dinner table.
And even Terry was semi silent out of respect for the situation.
“Terry, is it alright if we head to the cemetery towards sunset tomorrow?”
“Hell Mike, why not wait a few days let the kids settle a bit before you do that.”
“I want it done with Terry I just want to know is it okay to be heading back there is all.”
“Morning is better than at sunset, you don’t want to be out there when it’s getting dark is all.”
“Look Terry I’m not going to go wandering around for your stillhouse so stop worrying okay. I just want to carry out your daughter’s wishes is all.”
Terry seemed nervous when talking about the old family cemetery it was the only time Sally could ever recall her grandfather ever seeming uneasy about anything.
He always told them to not go back on the old trail that led into the woods even Sally’s mother had always told her to avoid that place.
And in all the years she had been coming up here she could only recall going back to that old family cemetery once.
And even then it was just oddly silent and felt weird.
Even her grandfather kept looking around. There was just something in the air in that place that always felt wrong for some reason.
“We can in the morning if you want Mike I’ll make sure to take my shotgun just in case.”
Sally’s father shot her grandfather a look.
“We’re going tomorrow evening that’s it. Don’t worry you can sit on your ass and get drunk if you want like you did as Rebecca was dying in the hospital needing father!”
Mike snapped as he sat up from the table while her grandfather just remained silent.
“We will be leaving the following morning so I suggest you say your goodbyes to the kids cause I damn sure won’t ever be dragging them here again!”
Mike stormed off to his room and Sally’s grandfather went to go sit on the porch.
It was always like this but never as intense.
But now with her mother gone there was no common ground aside from the kids.
And Mike was bitter and knew the only cards he held were them.
Alex saw it more clearly than his fifteen-year-old sister.
She was enamored with her grandfather but she didn’t see his flaws for what they truly were.
He was a drunk who depended on his workers on the farm to drive him everywhere being he had lost his license permanently.
For him booze was as lethal as heroin but he was a charmer and first class hustler.
His stories were as worn as the lines on his face.
But he had loved his daughter and now that she was gone he knew he was going to be kept from seeing the grandkids.
People at times are the most toxic substance that walks upon this earth, at least to one another.
The following day had been no better as instead of arguing Mike and Terry just maintained their distance.
As the kids tried to remain invisible and as Terry began to make dinner Mike gathered the kids to head to the cemetery to scatter his wife’s ashes.
Terry called out as Mike and the kids were getting ready to head out the door.
“At least take this just to be on the safe side.”
Terry said as he handed Mike the shotgun.
I know it’s turning cold but still there are bears here so please just take this.
And take the ATV the trails rough ride but least it will get you there faster.
“Terry just come with us. I can’t shoot for shit anyways besides it’s wrong you not being there and all.”
Sally said looking at the sad old man who was clearly scared of something, she just didn’t know what.
The old man reached into his jacket pocket pulling out a flask.
He kicked it back, almost draining its entire contents.
He only paused to offer Mike a drink; for which he quickly passed on.
“Y’all get in the ATV I’m going to grab a refill.
And my other shotgun Mike, take that one don’t argue.”
In the ATV Sally looked to her brother.
“What’s wrong with grandpa?”
“He’s just superstitious, is all sweetheart mountain people sometimes are. And he drinks too damn much so he probably imagines he sees shit is all so don’t worry there’s nothing in those woods I promise.”
Her father interrupted before her brother could reply.
As no sooner that was said they were joined by the old man.
Who took his seat next to their father.
“Well kids let’s go.”
The drive as Terry had told them was rough. And as they entered the woods the trail seemed to swallow most of the light.
The old man remained oddly silent looking around.
The trail went on for what felt like a mile before finally opening up to the small little cemetery.
Sally knew they said some words as they scattered her mothers ashes.
But she could not shake the feeling she was being watched.
Sally stayed by her grandfather’s side who kept his eyes trained on the surrounding woods.
Her and her grandfather both almost jumped at the sound of a snapping tree branch.
“Mike it’s getting dark now so make your peace and let’s go.”
“Terry calm down.”
It was then they heard the sound.
It was unlike anything Sally or her brother had ever heard before.
It wasn’t a howl of a wolf or the sound of a bear it was something altogether different and made everything in this forest take notice.
Terry shot up in the air.
“Come on we got to get the hell out of her now!”
“God Dammit Terry! Cut the shit its just an animal of some kind.”
It sounded again and this time it was closer and seemed to have another answer it.
The old man was already in the ATV with the kids as the tree fell, making the earth itself seem to shake as it crashed into the clearing.
It was then Mike saw what the old man he believed to be a fool was so terrified of.
It’s face was human yet somewhat deformed it was filthy yet it seemed human and it wasn’t like anything he had seen before aside from in displays in museums.
It was a missing link; it was strong and large but Mike found himself oddly hypnotized looking at it.
He leveled the shotgun and fired.
The creature screamed and stumbled backward but did not fall.
Mike prepared to shoot again as the old man grabbed him from behind.
The old man threw Mike on the back of the ATV.
As soon they were crashing down the trail.
“Fire some shots off goddammit!”
“But I don’t see anything. I think he stayed back there.”
“Fire them anyways!”
Terry replied as the kids were silent as Sally clung to her brother shaking as even Alex could not process what he had just witnessed.
And if the journey to the cemetery seemed rough before. This return trip felt like a damned roller coaster.
As their father unloaded the shotgun into the darkness.
And as finally they exited the woods their grandfather’s heavy foot didn’t lighten in the least, as he sped to the house almost crashing into the front porch steps.
“Mike get your kids in your car forget your shit just go now!”
Terry didn’t wait for a reply for he knew what had been done was an act of war between himself and them.
They were always there it seemed as long as Terry had existed he heard stories about them.
They took people and hunted them as we hunted as well.
Fools believed them to be a race of peaceful giants living in the woods and mountains all over this country.
But the native people knew better they knew they were not to be played with.
“Terry calm down it’s not going to follow us I shot it for Christ’s sake!”
“Yeah and that’s precisely why you have to get the hell out of here. Because now you have pissed it off.”
Terry shot back as he continued tearing his place apart searching for something that only served to puzzle his son in law.
“Terry I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you but you never told me about this. Why didn’t you just try to explain it better?”
“Explain it how, Mike? That I have the discovery channel’s wet dream living in my backyard? Yeah that would of went over really well wouldn’t you say?”
Finally Terry found the orange container that held the flare gun.
“What the hell are you going to do with that!”
Mike asked as Terry pushed by him heading out the door.
Terry Wallace walked past his grandchildren without batting an eye and stood out in his yard flare gun in one hand shotgun in another.
Mike followed suit picking up the shotgun from the ATV, reloading it as he stood behind the old man unsure of what he was even doing.
“Terry there’s nobody out there.”
“Shut the fuck up Mike just look!”
Terry replied as he fired the flare gun into the night sky.
Mike watched as the flare illuminated the darkness as it slowly descended to the ground and as it did Mike viewed in the distance what seemed like an army of those things in the distance as they stood viewing the two men.
Then came that sound not of one but many.
The shots fired and the screams cut through the darkness first of the creatures then of the family who would soon vanish without a trace of their existence.
Much like the lost colony a mystery would exist where people once did.
As legends were far less interesting than demons that embraced the truth.
God may have owned the heavens above but the devils walked the unlit paths that snaked through the darkest parts of the night.
Sometimes knowledge truly is not power, keep to the light and never stray from the paths.
That lead to answers you are not prepared to fully comprehend.