One Thursday evening I was repairing some irrigation pipes in the front yard when my neighbor came by to make conversation with me. My neighbor is my new favorite person. She knows everything about my new neighborhood, and she relays this information — positive, negative, banal and bizarre — with the same inflection, as if she loves telling all stories, regardless of the content, and that none of her stories seem more or less strange to her than the other. They all have value. They must all be told. (In a similar sense, she also loves all colors equally, provided they look like ones you might see on some rare jungle flower, and I feel I don’t often enough see such chromatic boldness. You could learn a lesson from her, reader wearing head-to-toe taupe.)
One story had ended and another began with this sentence: “You know the house around the corner? The white one? With the pretty plants?”
I said that I did.
“Well, no one want to buy it when it for sale.”
The house is admirably done-up, and so I asked why anyone wouldn’t want to live there.
“The lady who own it before, she have no husband. And she out gardening one day, and she die back there. And, you know, no husband, so no one know. No one miss her.”
“And then they get her.”
I asked who “they” were. She seemed to search for the word.
“No eskunk… but the other one. You know…”
I guessed it was “raccoon.”
“Yes. Raccoon. The raccoon get her.”
I grew increasingly worried about the direction this story was taking, but my neighbor seemed unfazed by it. She looked as calm and pleasant as she might if she were just telling me about a neighbor who bought a lovely new hat or who maybe saw a blimp once. She continued.
“The police come and ask questions, ask if anyone hear anything. I tell them I hear nothing, and I ask what happened. They tell me they never see nothing so bad in their whole career. The raccoon, they eat her. They eat her for a long time. The police say ‘She everywhere.’”
This was a lot to have suddenly sprung on me.
“And so for long time no one want to live there, because that lady die there and that lady everywhere there. But then eventually, someone buy it. Two guys. No wifes. You know.”
I nod that yes, I do in fact know.
“And they move in and now it look beautiful. They make it such a nice house. But you know what?”
For this last part, she lowered her voice to a stage whisper.
“She still everywhere.”
And that, I suppose, is true, in both the metaphysical and literal senses.
Every night, when I see the English bulldog-sized mother raccoon skitter down the fence line with her two raccoonitos, I remember this story and remind myself that there’s a good chance all three of these have tasted people-flesh. I wonder how much of a difference they see between me and the unfortunate neighbor lady, who I did not get a chance to meet. And then I decide not to sleep with just the screen door protecting me from the rest of the world.
Creepy stories, previously:
- The Woman in White
- “Beware the Ragman if You Stay Up Late!”
- The Unusual Incident on the Fourteenth Floor
- The Day Storke Tower Broke
- My Name Is Drew and I Was a Childhood Logophobe