Urban Legend: Halloween Salsa Night

    “It happened at a club not far from here on Halloween night,” DJ Max looks at the lot of us hanging around outside drinking.

    The live band is playing, so DJ Max is taking a break before it’s his turn to entertain us again. He’s been in this dancing scene longer than most of us, for almost thirty years now. Dancing has been good to him. He’s charming, friendly, and the women adore him.  

    I settle in with my drink to listen to him talk. I have an hour-long drive home tonight, so I’m drinking a soda. My best friend, Suzie, was supposed to make the drive with me, but she’s sick with the stomach flu. Halloween only happens once a year, so I decided to make the drive solo. Plus, I had already bought my costume, a 1920s red flapper dress with fringes that look fantastic when I spin.

       “Her name was Daisy. She was a new dancer, and this was her first Halloween Salsa Night. Daisy had to drive two hours to the Salsa club, south on the 101 Highway, taking country roads and backways,” DJ Max begins, making eye contact with each of us, to make sure we’re listening.

    “I heard it was a guy named David,” Efrain interrupts.

    “And it was the Pacific Coast Highway,” Pablo, a plump Salsero, blurts out before taking a swig of his beer.

    “Wasn’t it north? She was headed to a club in San Francisco, right?” Maria pipes up, swishing her long curly locks with a flick of her hand, as she takes a seat next to me.

    “Like I said,” DJ Max gives them an annoyed look, which seems to be enough to quiet them. “Daisy was headed south on the 101 Highway, and she didn’t care about driving alone at night, because more than anything, she wanted to dance with Fernando.”

    “You mean Ricardo,” Rodrigo interjects.

    “Look when you tell the story, you can call him Billy, Bob or Fred, all right. But Fernando,” DJ Max raises his voice a little louder and stares us down with a raised eyebrow, challenging anyone to interrupt again. We stay quiet. Satisfied, he continues, “was the dancer that had captured Daisy’s heart. When she danced with him all her troubles floated away. He was exciting, the best dancer in the area. When he danced, people watched. And when Daisy danced with him, she felt beautiful,” DJ Max pauses so we can let his words sink in.

    I know that feeling. I feel that way about Daniel. He’s an amazing dancer and when I dance with him I feel like I’m able to move in ways I never have before. Every time I visit the club, I hope to see him. He’s sweet. Daniel always asks me for a dance, but never more than one. He dances with everyone.

    “Daisy was so excited to get to the club that night she forgot to fill her gas tank before leaving town. She didn’t notice that it was only half way full until she was miles into her drive. She shrugged it off. Daisy figured that she could always stop off to get gas on her way back,” DJ Max takes a sip of his beer. He doesn’t have to say what we all know. That is a mistake that will get her later.

    I feel fidgety. I don’t exactly like hearing a Halloween story about a woman traveling alone at night. At least I breathe easier knowing my car has a full tank of gas.

    “Now, Fernando was a player. There were so many women after him, even though he wasn’t the most attractive looking guy. His hair was receding and his belly expanding, but that didn’t seem to bother the ladies. Because when he danced with them, he treated them like a queen. Unfortunately, he didn’t treat them that way off the dance floor, and that made more than a few jilted women upset. In fact, one was mad enough to slash his tires, so he never made it to the club that night,” DJ Max looks at the men and shrugs. A few of them look guilty, all of them take a swig of their drink.

    “Daisy was extra excited that night, because Fernando had finally noticed her the Saturday before. He had asked her if she was coming to the Halloween Salsa Night. Unbeknownst to Daisy, Fernando had asked all the women that same question. But in Daisy’s mind, it meant that Fernando would be waiting for her. She used part of her rent money to buy an expensive costume and had her hair professionally done, just for him. But, he never showed.

    Daisy was the last one to leave the club, hoping to the last minute to see Fernando. She cried as she drove home and didn’t remember to fill her gas tank. It wasn’t until Daisy was deep into the back country roads that she stopped crying long enough to realize the tank was empty,” DJ Max takes a breath and shakes his head.

    “Daisy never made it home. Her car ran out of gas, and cell phones don’t work well in the middle of nowhere. She tried to flag down a car, but a tired truck driver didn’t see her standing in the middle of the road, and she was struck dead,” DJ Max lifts his drink and everyone follows his lead. They take a big swig for Daisy.

    “It’s said that Daisy visits the Salsa clubs on Halloween night. She’s searching for her Fernando, desperate to be in his arms twirling about the dance floor, feeling beautiful. Most of the time, she’s disappointed. At midnight, she vanishes, once again sad that Fernando never showed up. But every now and then, Daisy finds a dancer that is so talented she believes he’s Fernando. In her happiness, she’ll kiss him on his cheek. But it is the kiss of death, and her lips are as cold as ice. That’s how you know you’ve danced with Daisy,” DJ Max finishes his tale.

    “Yep, my friend Joe said he danced with her last Halloween in Miami,” Michael chimes in. “She was a gorgeous blonde dressed up as Marilyn Monroe. He was pretty sad when she disappeared at midnight.” He laughs before taking a drink.

    “So, follow these rules on a Halloween Salsa night,” DJ Max starts up again. We groan and laugh.

    “First, never drive alone, go with friends!” He starts. I feel a chill on that one. Oh well, I’m here. What can I do?

    “Second, if you have your heart set on a beautiful girl give her a kiss before taking her home,” he nods to the guys. They seem to agree.

    “Third, if you meet a stranger on Halloween, check to see if they’re around after midnight,” he smiles at us. “Okay, that’s it for me. I’ve warned you. The band is singing their last song. I have to get back to work. Come on, baila! Get off your asses. It’s time to dance!”

    I trail behind the group as we head back in. I watch from the doorway to see if I can find Daniel on the dance floor. So far, he hasn’t shown up, but that’s to be expected. The best dancers come a little late.

DJ Max is setting up while the band finishes their last song. The dance floor is buzzing with excitement. I watch Superman dipping a French maid. A pirate furiously spinning Cinderella. And then, I see Daniel. He’s wearing a Zorro costume.

The classic black hat and mask create an air of mystery, but his green eyes and devilish grin are a dead giveaway. He has a signature style. No one else moves like him. He captures the nuances of the music with such expression, I could watch him forever. But suddenly, I am whisked away to the dance floor by Dracula.

    “Are you having fun?” Vlad the Impaler asks. I nod as he signals a right hand spin.

    As I dance with Dracula, I catch glimpses of Daniel. I’ve been dancing for five years, but I’m nowhere near Daniel’s level.  I’ve been practicing every day, trying to improve, hoping he’ll notice. He’s so incredibly handsome tonight dressed all in black. Just the thought of him approaching me makes my heart race. Will I ever grab his attention?

    Oh, well, I decide to forget about it for now. Dracula and I are having too much fun to worry. This is Halloween night, and Daniel is here. I give into the dance and enjoy feeling alive. The music pulses through everyone and without having to say a word we all feel connected.

    My song with Dracula ends. I start to leave the dance floor, but I feel someone touch my shoulder. I turn and see Daniel’s green eyes. Have they always been this green? He’s smiling. He holds out his hand to ask for a dance. I place mine in his, and off we go.

    Yes, I’d know him anywhere by the way he moves. I’ve been dancing with him for five years now, just one song at each Salsa Night, but somehow it’s added up. I can follow him flawlessly. I know he can feel it too. We are completely in sync. He pulls me in closer this time. Holds me for longer. I hear him laugh. I see him smile more. Tonight is different. All my hard work has paid off. After the song ends, he doesn’t let me go. We dance another.

    And another.

    In fact, we dance so many songs in a row, I lose count. This is what I’ve always wanted. I wish he’d take off his mask and hat. He’s intoxicating in his Zorro costume. I’ve always had a thing for Zorro, but we feel so close tonight. I’d love to see his whole face as we dance.

    “This is the last song before midnight!” DJ Max announces. I turn to look at him. He’s holding his drink in his hand. I think he’s had one too many. With a big smile, he winks at me, an inside joke for those of us who know Daisy’s story.  

    He plays my favorite song. Before I know it, Daniel has me flying about him. Has he ever danced this good? He surprises me with new combinations, and I love it! He pulls me close and this time he doesn’t let me go. I feel how warm he is and my heart pounds as I’m sure there is something real happening between us. I laugh, and he lets me go into crazy twists and turns about each other until the song comes to a finish.

    I end up in his arms, and he leans in close. I take one last look into his green eyes before his lips touch mine.

    He pulls away.

    “Your lips are cold. They’re like ice,” I hear him say. I open my eyes and see him staring directly at me with a weird look on his face.

    “Daniel?” I ask. He shakes his head and takes a step back. He bumps into Pablo.

    “Whoa, watch it, Jacob,” Pablo teases as he puts a hand on Daniel’s shoulder to steady him. “Are you okay?”

    “Yeah, Jose. There was a beautiful girl dancing with me, and she just disappeared. Did you see where she went? She was right here wearing a red flapper’s dress,” he tells him pointing straight at me. Both men look through me as if I’m not there. I wave my hands. There’s no reaction.

    Pablo looks around the room and then at me, square in the eye, and tells Daniel, “Nope. I saw a girl like that earlier when I was outside, but I don’t see her anywhere now.”

    Daniel shakes his head and walks off, almost bumping into me as he passes by.

    I run to the bathroom and lock myself in one of the stalls. I can’t stop trembling.

    Why were they calling each other different names? Why did they pretend I wasn’t there? DJ Max’s story and Daniel dancing with me all night, did Daniel and his friends pull a prank? Did Daniel realize how much I liked him and decide to make fun of me? They’re probably out there laughing with DJ Max right now, having the best Halloween night ever.

    I see a Halloween Salsa Night flyer taped to the back of the stall door. I remember how excited I was last week when I saw this advertisement. DJ Max wearing a Frankenstein costume with a Salsa band behind him. I feel so angry at him. I could scream, but something catches my eye. I take a closer look at the flyer, and I feel my hands tremble. It doesn’t say DJ Max. No, it says, “Salsa Halloween with Ghoulish DJ Gary.” Shaking, I leave the bathroom.

    I walk through the club, but no one notices me. The bouncers at the door don’t even bother saying goodnight as I pass by. I just get in my car and drive. I just want to go home.

    For most of the drive, I feel numb. I replay the night. The creepy story, DJ Max, Daniel, dancing, the poster, and none of it makes sense. I just keep driving.

    It isn’t until I am on the quiet country road that I start to relax. It was a hoax. I wouldn’t even be surprised if they recorded it on their cell phones. Tomorrow I’ll see it posted on Facebook. Everything from the urban legend to the icy kiss, an elaborate scheme that they can use to advertise their next Salsa Halloween. I breathe easier.

    I glance down at the gas tank, grateful that I filled it earlier before heading out. My heart skips a beat. It isn’t full, not even half full. The gauge is hovering right above empty.

    I’ll never make it home.

    I take a deep breath. Even if I didn’t dance with Daniel, didn’t I have a good time? The music and energy of everyone around me, feeling so alive. And wasn’t Zorro to die for? His green eyes and devilish smile watching my every move. So what if Daniel didn’t show up this time. There’s always next year.

Red Lipstick

I smooth the red color along my lips and with it offer a simple prayer, “Change me. Change me into something else.”

“Do you like it?” The makeup lady asks. I look at her, Miss Perfect. She is wearing a perfectly white coat, her hair coiffed in generous curls, skin glowing (with the help of translucent powder, of course), and a smile enhanced with a complimentary shade of pink.

“Yes, I’ll buy it,” I answer. This is the exact color I saw on Mark’s collar.

The makeup lady rings up my purchase, and I stare into the mirror. The color is quite stunning, but my clothes don’t match it. A woman with this color of lipstick saunters through her day in clothes much classier than mine. I collect my fancy shopping bag with my red lipstick tucked inside and head over to the clothing department.

I look at myself in the fitting room mirror. “Yes,” I think. This is similar to the clothes she wore. It matches the lipstick. I recall seeing Mark seated in our favorite restaurant next to a beautiful woman. She was dressed in an elegant white silk blouse with a classic black skirt and red heels. Not a hair dared to be out of place on her pretty little head, I remember. Her nails had a French manicure, perfect for holding Mark’s hand as he leaned in close enough to smell her expensive perfume.Yes, this is the outfit I will buy today. All I need now are the red heels.

At home, I take one last look at myself in the mirror before heading out to the coffee house to write. I look like a different person with my silky white blouse, stylish black skirt, and stunning red heels.

In my closet, I see my old wardrobe. I have the heart of a Bohemian. My side of the closet is brimming with colorful skirts of all shapes and patterns. My blouses are treasures excavated from vintage shops. My closet reflects my writing life, nothing is color coordinated or organized. Mark’s side of the closet is empty. He gathered the last of his belongings last night.

I grab my new handbag (black to match my skirt, of course) and laptop. My writing notebook looks at me like a dog expecting to go on his daily walk.

“Not today, my friend,” I tell my notebook. Today, I will write on my computer. That is what sophisticated writers do, they don’t waste time on handwritten rough drafts scribbled haphazardly on white pages. I feel a twinge of guilt as I close the door behind me. My notebook knows I share my thoughts with it first before launching the words into the digital world. I am leaving my best friend behind.

I sip my coffee as I stare at my computer. I had to order a regular coffee. Would a woman wearing this outfit order a Venti Chai Tea Latte with almond milk and three pumps of raspberry? I think not.

Several men have noticed me. My handsome barista even winked at me before refusing to take my money. There is one man in particular that keeps glancing my way. He’s around my age with blonde hair and blue eyes. I’ve never had a man that good-looking stare at me before. What an upgrade from Mark! It must be my new outfit.

Everything would be perfect if I wasn’t suffering from a horrible case of writer’s block. No one would guess the terrible distress I am under. I have only written one sentence in the past half hour, “I can’t think of anything to write.”

My journal back home smiles. Yes, I am helpless without it. My colorful clothes would love to offer their inspiration, but I owe them an apology first. Trying to be someone else, I’ve blocked off access to the true source of my creativity, my self expression.

“May I join you?” The blonde hair, blue-eyed man asks.

“Sure,” I smile and gesture to the open seat.

“My name is Trevor,” he introduces himself and extends a hand.

“Nice to meet you, Trevor. I’m Sylvia,” I reach out, shake his hand, and smile.

“Are you a writer?” He asks.

“Usually, but not so much today,” I laugh. “Do you write?”

“No, but I love to read,” Trevor answers.

Wow! I think to myself. The outfit works like magic! Look at the men it attracts, handsome and smart!

We spend the next hour sharing our favorite books. We seem to like the same authors. I love hearing his thoughts and reactions to the storylines. He doesn’t just read books. He considers them on a deeper level. They haunt him just like they haunt me. Mark never bothered with reading. It’s nice to have someone to really talk to, especially someone this handsome.

“Can I take you out to dinner tonight?” Trevor asks.

I feel butterflies flit in my stomach. I’d love to say yes. He’s so handsome! Plus, I’d love to talk to him some more. But I have only one outfit like this, sooner or later, he’d see the real me. I’m not eager to set myself up for another heartbreak.

“I’d love to, but I’m not sure it would be a good idea. I’m going to be honest. I never dress like this. In fact, I’m kind of allergic to these clothes. I haven’t been able to write a single word while wearing this outfit, and I’m sure you wouldn’t much care for how I normally dress,” I smile back at him awkwardly. I’m already regretting my honesty. It would have been nice to have one last conversation with him.

“How do you normally dress?” He laughs.

“Oh, I am pretty much a mess of different colors and vintage clothes which I put together randomly based on how I feel that day,” I shrug my shoulders and just let my words be what they are.

“I have a confession,” Trevor replies. “I’ve read all your books. I almost didn’t approach you, because you look nothing like your picture. I saw you were trying to write, so I took a chance. I can’t tell you how happy I am that I guessed right,” he smiles. “Please join me for dinner. Wear whatever you want.”

I accept his offer. I have the perfect clothes in mind. I’ll pass this lovely outfit on to the thrift store. I’m sure they will be a good fit for someone else.

Thank you for reading! Please subscribe to the blog to see all of my latest stories. My debut novel, Dancing The Salsa, is available at Amazon.com. I have another novel that will be released within the next few months! I’ll be sharing more details in the near future. Be sure to visit my website raeshellrozet.com to see more short stories and videos!

The Blanket Maker’s Granddaughter

The only blankets I knew as a little girl were handmade by my grandmother. She lived far away in Hawaii, but she made blankets for us. Not only for us, but for all her children, and her children’s children, and even in later years for my boys-her great grandsons.

The blankets were a beast to make. My mother recalls helping her mom in the evenings when she was young. Together, they would cut tiny strips of used clothing that the family had outgrown. Her mother would then sew these tiny fragments together to create a blanket like no other.

The blankets were larger than what you find in a department store, and when you cocooned yourself inside the warmth was amazing.

I remember studying her blankets many times when I was sick with a flu or stomach bug that kept me in bed. Wrapped up in a bundle of colors and unable to move much, I memorized the printed fabric.

I imagined the shirts or skirts that might donate such crazy prints with huge flowers, bright orange hues, and miniature cars. My grandmother lived in Hawaii where Aloha shirts are famous. I wondered. What the hell kind of shirts did my grandfather wear? The thought would cheer me up even with a high fever.

I tried to recreate one of her blankets when I was in my early twenties. It was painstakingly hard. I admit I abandoned it halfway done.

Trying to find the energy to cut and sew tiny pieces of fabric together after working, cleaning house, and taking care of my boys seemed like a cruel way to end the day. Buying a blanket was cheaper, faster, and saved my sanity. Why, oh why, did my grandmother do this?

At first, the blankets started out of utility. They were poor. I mean they were really poor. My grandparents lived on a Sugar Cane Plantation, my grandmother would pull roots to make soup, and the family had to use an outhouse. There would have been no extra money for blankets.

But later, when my grandfather became a mechanic she could have afforded to buy blankets. Why did she go on to make dozens more?

It wasn’t until I started writing my first novel that I stumbled upon a possible answer.

I think it was her one extravagance. In a world filled with dirty dishes, laundry that continually piles up, and meals that are cooked, eaten, and need to be cooked again-the blankets remained finished. Not only finished, but beautiful and one-of-a-kind. Something only she could make.

As she ran her hand along the bits of sewn cloth, perhaps she could see the lifetime of her family woven together by her own hand.

When I write I gather pieces of myself and tuck them into the narrative. The fiction is peppered with a memory of my mother here, my sons there, and friends I’ve met along the way. Each fragment twisted to be unrecognizable to others, but obvious to my own eye whenever I re-read my work.

My grandmother gave me more than her blankets. She handed down a need to create and remember.

In that way, even though I can’t sew worth a damn, I am a Blanket Maker’s Granddaughter. Thank you, Grandma.

This blog post is dedicated to my mother and grandmother. Both women are beyond amazing. My grandmother has already passed, but I know in my heart she keeps track of all of us.

If you like this blog post, please subscribe! Visit and like my Facebook fan page, Raeshell Rozet, the Dancing Writer and stay up to date on all of my latest writings. Thank you for reading!

A Junkyard Horror Story Part IV Sammy vs. Benjie

Special Note:  This is the final section of a four-part series. If you haven’t read Part I, Part II, and Part III, please scroll to the bottom of the page so you can start the tale from the beginning.

I resist the urge to run straight out back where the cars are neatly stacked in tidy rows. Instead, I cut to the right and go behind the office into the oldest part of the yard where the cars are crowded together, and there are more places to hide.

I move quietly and quickly, trying not to disturb anything that might make a loud noise. I listen for everything, but hear nothing. No footsteps behind me.

Did he follow me out? Or is he still waiting for me in the office? Sitting on my chair, fiddling with his knife, biding his time until I do something dumb like make a run for the door.

A thought strikes my mind that chills me. What if Ernesto comes back? What if Benjie gets to him first?

The awful scenario plays before my eyes. Ernesto walking through the door unaware, and Benjie plunging his knife into him over and over.

I shudder. That horrible knife! I wince at the possibility of it cutting into my skin, going deep, of what it can do to me.

Don’t go there! I warn myself.

Instead, I focus on the bat in my hands. I recall feeling the thunk as it struck his body. This is not impossible! If I hit him once, then I can hit my again!

I have to stay hidden. I crouch low behind a grey Chevrolet Venture van. I don’t want to go any further into the yard. If I hear Ernesto call out for me. I want to be close enough to warn him.

The cars above me give some cover. I consider hiding in the van, but nix the idea. If I stay in one spot, Benjie will find me. I don’t want to be trapped. No, I have to stay mobile.

I feel my hands shaking, so I grip the bat tighter. No matter what, I will whack him as many times as I can I vow to myself.

He’s a giant! My fear talks back. Look at Dave and Bob, they’re both dead! Strong guys, mechanics who worked on cars for years. What can you do?

The weight of the bat gives me an answer. So help me, I will take out his legs and cut him down to my size.

I see Miss Kitty sitting in the row next to me. I’m crouched close to the passenger side fender and she’s just a few feet away. Her back is to me. She doesn’t look in my direction. I don’t dare call out to her. She keeps looking straight ahead.

I hear footsteps coming up on the other side of the van, heavy steps. I see his plaid flannel shirt through the car window and smell his stench. That nasty smell of not bathing for days. He’s heading towards Miss Kitty.

Why doesn’t she run? She must know he’s behind her! He’s almost close enough to grab her. She’s not moving! I see him start to lift his knife.

He’s not hurting Miss Kitty! The thought burns through me as I swing hard and I swing low. I hear the crack of the bat as it hits the shin.

“Aagh!” He cries as he doubles over to grab his leg.

“Keep hitting!” I yell at myself as I strike again whacking his upper arm and watch as his body wrenches in pain.

It’s not enough. He starts to get to his feet.  He’s not staying down.

I hit him again as he starts to rise. This time he stumbles back into a car.

The car is missing its door, so I’m expecting him to fall into the front seat, but that’s not what happens.

He’s sucked into the vehicle. That’s the only word for it. The car sucks him in with such force that his back slams into the passenger side door, and I hear the thump of his head against the glass.

We look at each other dumbfounded.

He tries to lift himself up, but he can’t. He’s stuck. Superglued. Banging his arms in panic, pulling on the headrest, trying anything to free himself, but nothing works.

He looks at me again. Hateful eyes, as if I am to blame. I shake my head as if to say no, it’s not me. His lips curl into a half smile as he throws his knife at me. I see the blade, but before the tip crosses the threshold of the car it disappears into thin air.

Benjie’s eyes grow wild. He starts screaming, but the sound is drowned out by a dozen car alarms. The yard is alive with the obnoxious alarms coming from all directions.

I watch Benjie scream in terror with his mouth open and eyes wide. His fists pounding the car, but I can’t hear him.

He melts into the front seat and the passenger side door. Any part of him touching the vehicle dissolves into it.  Quickly going away, even down to his head resting on the front seat. His hateful eyes still looking at me. Blaming me. Until that too is gone, and there is not a single trace of him left. The car looks as it did before.

The car alarms stop. All is quiet.

Should I be afraid? Benjie is gone, right? I didn’t imagine it, but then again I can’t exactly believe it, either. Whatever it was, it saved me, didn’t it?

Miss Kitty breaks my thoughts. She hops onto the front seat of the car and looks at me with her green eyes.  She wants me to come to her.

I’m scared, but I trust her. I lean inside and nestle my fingertips into her soft fur. I feel her love, and I feel safe. Gratitude. Miss Kitty reminds me to be grateful.

“Thank you,” I whisper inside the car. Miss Kitty purrs. Satisfied, she rises and hops out of the car. I follow her to the office.

“Sammy! Sammy!” Ernesto’s voice fills the yard.

“Over here!” I yell back.

I watch him run towards me. His eyes scanning all around. His hand clutching the crescent wrench.

“Sammy, the police think he’s here. They found a hole in the fence between our yard and Steve’s place. There’s footsteps leading onto the yard. They’re searching the place. I’m so glad you’re safe. I’m sorry, Sammy. I never would have left you if I’d known!” Ernesto’s voice has a slight shake to it. He holds me close, but his eyes keep scanning around us.

I see several police officers enter the yard, guns drawn, looking into the cars.

“Did you see him?” Ernesto asks.

“Nope,” I answer. Yep, I’m lying. The guys here never listen to me. They never take me seriously. Even Ernesto, who I love dearly, would never believe my story.

“Is Steve okay?” I ask.

“He’s messed up really bad, but there’s a good chance he’s going to make it. Sammy, I’m going to close the yard until they find Benjie. It’s too dangerous,” Ernesto announces as he pulls me closer to him.

“No way!” I look up at him and smile. “Listen to me, I don’t think we have to worry about Benjie Harris anymore. I’m sure he’s long gone. Let the police search the yard and then it’s back to business.”

“Really, Sammy? You’re not scared?” Ernesto laughs.

“Of course, not. I don’t think the Junkyard will let anything bad happen to us. We belong here,” I laugh and snuggle up to him.

“You’re sure?” He asks one more time.

“Yes, my love. Another day, another dollar!” I place the bat on my shoulder and walk hand and hand with Ernesto back to the office.

The Junkyard is open.

Thank you for reading! I’ve posted a video on my Facebook fan page, Raeshell Rozet, the Dancing Writer, sharing my thoughts about the story. Please subscribe to my blog and like the fan page, so you can stay up to date on all my latest stories.

A Junkyard Horror Story Part III Batter Up

Special Note:  This is Part III of a four-part series. If you haven’t read Part I and Part II, please scroll to the bottom of the blog and click on the previous links to read “A Junkyard Horror Story” from the beginning.

“Sammy, are you seriously bringing that to work?” Ernesto grins at me as I walk into the office.

“Another day, another dollar,” I answer back. I like feeling the weight of the bat as it rests on my shoulder.

I’m not a baseball player, but I am good at swinging things. My Grandpa, a sports connoisseur, taught me to play tennis.

I remember Grandpa’s words, “The power doesn’t come from the shoulder. It comes from the shift in the weight of the legs, the turn of the hips. The whole body, the power comes from the entire body and drives through the arm.” Grandpa would tell me this again and again. Then, I would practice for hours.

“Just don’t whack me by mistake!” Ernesto shakes his head and smiles. I’m a sucker for that smile, even after being together for ten years. It gets me every time. “At least, you’re here. Bill and John aren’t coming in,” Ernesto’s smile disappears after breaking the bad news.

“Really? Why?” I ask, even though the answer is obvious.

“They called in sick, but I think they’re just chicken shit scared. Most of our neighbors are closed for the day. Steve, next door, has the only shop open on the block,” Ernesto tries to smile again, but his eyes tell me that he’s worried.

“Paulo and Lorenzo aren’t here. That’s unusual,” I say out loud as I realize how quiet the office is with just the two of us.

“Nope, looks like you’re the only brave one,” Ernesto says as he takes my hand and pulls me close to him.

“I want you to go home,” he tells me as I settle into his arms.

“Are you closing the shop?” I ask. I know money is tight. We’re struggling to make the rent by the end of this week.

“Yes, we’re not going to get many customers today, and it’s not safe. Not with everyone gone. I don’t want you in the office alone. In fact, I don’t want you here at all.”

“Are we going to make the rent?” I see the worry cross his face before he can hide it.

“I’m closing the shop, but I’m staying to take off the engine for Francisco. That will cover the rent for this month,” Ernesto answers.

“Alone?”

“Yes, I’ll lock up the place. I’ll be fine. When I’m done, I’ll head home,” he kisses my cheek to reassure me.

“I have a better plan. We lock the doors. You take off the engine, while I stand guard with my bat. Then we head home together,” I take a step back, stand tall, and place the bat back on my shoulder. 

I’ve watched Ernesto work seven days a week for the past two years. He loves this place. No lunatic is going to take away his dream, not when I have a bat in my hands.

Ernesto smiles back at me. He knows how stubborn I am. He shrugs his shoulders and starts to gather his tools.

I might sound brave, but I’m terrified. Still, I’m not letting him stay here by himself. So, the two of us head out into the yard. He gets to work on the engine, and I keep a watchful eye out for any movement. So help me, I will spot Benjie if he takes one step in my yard.

Hours go by without so much as a sound. Ernesto and I barely talk to one another. It’s a silent agreement that we want to get this over quickly and head home. I try to stay alert as possible, because with Ernesto focused on his work I’m the only one watching out for us.

“Help me! Somebody please help me!” A gut wrenching scream cuts through the quiet. A man in pain calls out. It’s not just pain in his voice, but terror. You can feel it.

“That has to be Steve!” Ernesto jumps up from under the car. We run towards the office.

“Sammy, I want you to stay here,” he tells me.

“No! I’m coming with you. I’m not having you go over there alone,” I can feel tears ready to spill out, because I already know what he’s going to say.

“Not this time. I might have to fight, and I can’t be worried about protecting you. Listen to me. I want you to lock this door behind me and don’t open it for anyone! You hear me! No one! You are safe in here,” Ernesto gives me the look that tells me arguing is not an option.

“I’ll call the cops,” I tell him trying to think of anything I can do to help.

“Not yet. We don’t know what’s happened. He could have just had an accident. I have a cell phone. I can call them. If I don’t call you in five minutes, then go ahead and call the cops, okay?” He grabs our largest crescent wrench and heads next door.

With my hands shaking, I try to lock the door behind him. Damn it! I forgot it’s hard to lock the door with my keys. I’ve been meaning to get new ones. I have to jiggle it for a while to get it to work. By the time I have myself safely locked in, tears are already running down my cheeks.

I try to breathe and calm myself. I still have my bat. It hasn’t left my hands all day. But what can I do to help Ernesto? He’s over there without me. What is he walking into?

I look up to see Miss Kitty standing just outside the door leading into the yard. We always prop it open so she can come and go as she pleases. She’s a few feet away. She must have heard me crying.

“Miss Kitty,” I call to her as I start to walk towards her. I see her look beyond me and hiss. In the reflection of the window I see a figure and without thinking my body reacts.

As I turn, I use the power of my legs, hips, and everything I have within me to swing. I hit him full force in the chest. I feel a thunk and remember to carry my swing all the way through just like my Grandpa always told me.

I only watch for a second as Benjie stumbles and falls. His hand with that wretched black 1915 Ford Model T tattoo gripping a long bladed knife.

I have no chance of unlocking the front door in time, so I race into the yard. My right-hand clutching my bat.

I don’t dare call out to Ernesto, because I don’t want to get him killed. Besides, if I scream I’ll give away my location.

I’ve locked Benjie in here with me. Neither one of us can leave.

And I’m thinking, he must be extra pissed off at me. I did just crank him with my bat.

Stay tuned! Part IV (the conclusion) will be coming soon!

Visit my Facebook fan page, Raeshell Rozet, The Dancing Writer. I’ve posted a video on my page talking about this part of the story.

Please subscribe to the blog and like my Facebook fan page to see more stories in the future. Thank you for reading!

A Junkyard Horror Story Part II Benjie Harris

Special Note:  This is Part II of a four-part series. If you haven’t read Part I, please scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the link “A Junkyard Horror Story” to start the tale from the beginning.

“Another day, another dollar,” I mutter to myself as I pick up the empty Mc Donald’s cup and toss it into the trash bag. Every day, I walk the yard picking up garbage. Why can’t these guys throw away their own trash?

I feel uneasy after yesterday’s news about Dave’s murder. Ernesto checked the yard this morning and reassured me that it’s safe, but I don’t really believe him. All I see are hundreds of places a killer can hide. The chicken skin on my arms whispers that I am right.

There are so many freakin’ cars! They are stacked in pairs, one on top of the other, forming corridors throughout the yard. The cars are constantly being shuffled around, so a clear passageway in the morning can become a dead end by afternoon. It’s an acre of ever-changing twists and turns.

A person can get lost in this labyrinth. I can’t count how many times I’ve searched for Ernesto out here, shouting his name into the wind, only to eventually give up and wait for him to resurface on his own.  

As I approach the office, I hear Paulo’s voice bellowing out. Bill and John, our workers, are standing next to Paulo, hanging on his every word. Bill, dressed in a blue plaid shirt and jeans, is a foot taller than the rest of the guys in the room. The kid is only twenty and never talks much.  John is shorter, wider, in his mid-fifties, and always smells of cigarettes. Ernesto is center stage behind the counter. Lorenzo is in his usual spot holding up the wall. I see Old Man Conroy in the mix. Conroy is in his late sixties and has been a mechanic for over forty years.

“Benjie did it again! That bastard got Bob. Stabbed him to death in his own shop! The cops still haven’t caught him,” Paulo shakes his head and stretches out his arms to show his disbelief. He continues on, “Benjie better hope that the cops catch him before I do. If I get my hands on him there’ll be nothing left for the police!”

Although none of us think Benjie has anything to fear from Paulo, we share his anger. I can’t believe it. Bob was one of our regulars. He called me every day asking for parts.

I feel shaky and lightheaded as I understand what this means. The police search didn’t scare Benjie away. He’s still here.

“You do realize that Bob’s place is on the corner, that’s only half a block away,” John points out as he looks at Ernesto.

I feel my heart in my throat. I didn’t know that Bob’s place was so close to ours. That’s too close. An uneasy silence takes over the room as we think about what that implies.

“I knew Benjie about ten years back before he went nuts,” Old Man Conroy breaks the silence. “We worked together at Jose’s Auto Repair shop, before Benjie bought his own place.” He pauses waiting to see if anyone wants to say anything, but we are silent as children listening to a ghost story. Old Man Conroy clears his throat and continues on.

“Quiet guy, real quiet. Kept to himself. But he got the work done and didn’t bother anyone. He had a real liking for the Snap-on tools. You know, the real expensive ones?” Conroy laughs as if remembering an image from the past, “Benjie’d be wearing torn up jeans and shoes with holes, but he had himself a nice set of tools.”

“Yeah, those are nice. I don’t keep any at the Junkyard. Tools are lost and stolen too easy here,” Ernesto jumps in.

Conroy nods in agreement and starts up again, “I remember when Big Fred tried to steal himself one of those beauties. Benjie caught him. Didn’t say a word. Just walked over and broke the big guy’s nose. Blood was sprouting everywhere. Maybe even broke a couple of teeth, I think. All it took was one punch,” Conroy shakes his head obviously still impressed even after all these years.

“I thought Fred would sue, but something about the crazy look in Benjie’s eyes made him think otherwise. A week later, Benjie quit the shop and bought himself his own place. I didn’t see him much after that, but shortly after the killing started,” Conroy pauses to look around the room catching our eyes. As if to say to us, it’s starting again, watch out.

“Who did he kill?” Paulo’s loud voice snaps us out of the story.

Conroy smirks and looks at Paulo, “Well, you’d think he’d kill the loud fat ones. You know the ones always interrupting and running their mouths off. But no, the scary thing about Benjie is that he’d kill anyone. Customers would stop by his shop and then never be heard of again. A fellow mechanic might get an unexpected visit from Benjie and be found dead the next day. Cops found one grandma stuffed in the trunk of her car, dead for three days and stinking, but the car was in good repair and washed clean.”

I watch the men in the room. I can see the guys shifting the weight of their feet, fidgeting, like most men do when their scared but afraid to show it.

“None of us felt safe until they caught him. No one suspected that quiet old Benjie was doing the killing. Never heard of a motive. It’s like he just woke up one day and decided to start killing,” Old Man Conroy finishes the story and starts to walk towards the door.

“Well, I’ll be heading out now. You won’t be seeing me for a few weeks. I have some vacation time saved up, and I’m thinking now is as good of a time as any to use it. Best of luck to you guys. Watch out for one another,” and with that Old Man Conroy walks out the door leaving us to chew on his words.

His words haunt me for most of the day. The guys are all in the yard. Bill and John are outside chatting and possibly working. Ernesto is showing off his 1950 Ford Deluxe to Paulo and Lorenzo.

The office is too quiet. There is nothing to distract me from Conroy’s story. I feel ready to jump out of my skin. I imagine Benjie sneaking up behind me ready to strike.

Even Miss Kitty is missing today. She usually hangs out in the office with me, but I haven’t seen her since breakfast. That’s it. I decide to go looking for her. I’ll drag her back in here with me to keep me company.

I try to feel for her location and only one thought comes to mind. The black van. It’s silly, but I decide to try my luck.

Spooky as ever, I find her sitting in on the hood of the van looking at me. She doesn’t hop down and run towards me like she normally would. No. She waits for me.

I’m scared. Even though I know that Officer Frank checked the yard yesterday and Ernesto looked around this morning, I have a bad feeling about the van. It feels wrong. But looking at Miss Kitty sitting on the hood, it’s almost as if she wants me to come to her.

 I swallow my fear and decide to look inside the van myself. I’m not a wuss. Maybe seeing that there is no boogeyman hiding in there will settle my nerves.

My hands tremble as I grip the sliding door handle. I take a deep breath and ready myself to run if I see anyone. I slide the door open. Thank God, there is no one there. I breathe easier. I look around me instinctively to make sure there is no killer behind me like in the movies. But no, it’s just me and Miss Kitty.

As I’m ready to close the van door, a red and black object catches my eye. It’s a screw driver lying on the backseat. I recognize the signature handle. The red handle with two black stripes on the sides, a Snap-on screwdriver. My right-hand shakes as I pick it up. Miss Kitty meows and rubs up against my boots reminding me where I’m at.

“Let’s go, Miss Kitty,” I tell her, hoping she will understand. I walk quickly to where the guys are. I watch to make sure Miss Kitty is following me. My eyes dart everywhere praying I don’t see Benjie. I feel the panic racing through my body as I rush over to Ernesto gripping the screwdriver in my right-hand.

“Ernesto!” I call out as soon as he is in earshot. The guys look up at me, all of them; Ernesto, Bill, John, Lorenzo, and Paulo but then go back to talking amongst each other. Paulo being the loudest, of course.

“Ernesto,” I start to tell him as I reach his side, but he puts out a hand as if to tell me to wait so Paulo can finish talking.

Impatient, I decide I’m not waiting. “Look at what I found in the van!” I show him the screwdriver. He doesn’t react.

“It’s a Snap-on screwdriver!” I tell him. Still, no reaction.

“I found it in the black van. Miss Kitty has been acting strange lately. She’s been hanging out by the black van instead of with me, just staring at it. As if something was inside it. I took a look for myself and found this, a Snap-on screwdriver!” I hear my voice sounding high-pitched, not the calm tone I want to use.

The men look unimpressed, and Paulo starts talking again, “You should have Rodrigo paint it for you. He gives the lowest price.” I feel ready to scream at someone. How can they be so stupid!

I hold the screwdriver up high and speak more slowly so they can connect the dots, “Remember, Old Man Conroy said that Benjie liked Snap-on tools, right?”

“You think that belongs to Benjie?” Ernesto laughs and the others join in. “Anyone could have left that here. I think you’re just getting worked up because of Conroy’s story. Everyone tells lies around here. I bet he didn’t even know him!” The guys all nod and look at each other in agreement.

“I don’t think he was lying. I’ve been around a lot of liars, and have seen many here at the Junkyard,” I stare down the men around me. “I think he was telling us the truth. I have a bad feeling about this Ernesto, a really bad feeling about this!”

“Okay, I’ll check the yard again so you’ll feel better,” he kisses my cheek and Paulo starts talking again.

I walk away. I turn one last time to look at them huddled around the 1950 Ford. I think it will be a long time before he checks the yard, if ever. Yeah, I’ve worked the Junkyard long enough, I know when someone’s telling a lie.

“I’m heading home!” I call out to him. He might have tried to argue with me, but I didn’t stick around to listen. Why should I? They don’t listen to me.

I gather my stuff. Miss Kitty jumps up on the counter for one last snuggle.

“Don’t worry, Miss Kitty. I’ll be back. No one messes with my Junkyard,” I whisper into her ear and listen to her purr.

 Stay tuned! Part III coming soon!

Check out my Facebook Fan Page, Raeshell Rozet, The Dancing Writer. Each time I write a blog, I post a video on my fan page talking about the inspiration and thoughts behind the story. Please subscribe to the blog and like the fan page to stay up to date! Thank you for reading!

A Junkyard Horror Story

I took this picture of the Junkyard, a few years back, around Halloween time. The sky was a gorgeous blue. I had just finished making a video touring around the Junkyard saying how I’d like to dress it up for Halloween. When I snapped this picture, the colors came out distorted. Perhaps, the Junkyard agreed with me and started decorating itself, or possibly it just likes to give a me a chill from time to time, which it has been known to do.

You will never catch me here alone at night. There are too many abandoned cars with untold stories of their own. What horrors might they have witnessed? Or caused?

Sunlight keeps the dark things away. At least, that’s what I like to tell myself when I go to work.

So with October almost upon us, I thought I’d dress up the “old lunatic on the loose” urban legend with a Junkyard twist. I’ve even added a special character based on the real Miss Kitty.

And so the tale begins, the first of four parts. The story is seen through Sammy’s eyes, as she and her boyfriend Ernesto begin another day at the yard.

“Another day, another dollar,” I mutter to myself as I unlock the front door to the Junkyard.

“Let’s make lot’s of money today, Sammy!” Ernesto calls out behind me. I hold the door open for him as he hauls in his new battery charger and tool bag.

Ernesto is a handsome man when he smiles, like he’s doing now, as he does often, whenever he’s thinking about money. Dark hair, dark eyes, strong and sturdy with a beauty mark on his right cheek that sealed the deal when I first saw him.

He kisses me on the cheek as he passes through the door.

The office is a disaster. I want to go home. I only left work an hour early yesterday. How could the guys mess it up this badly?

I glare at used car parts left haphazardly on the floor, empty water bottles forgotten on the front desk, and wads of paper carelessly dropped, three of which are lying close to the trash can.

“Oh, well. It’s not like I haven’t been doing this for the past two years,” I grumble as I grab the cat food and head outside.

“Miss Kitty!” I call out. I can feel her before I can see her. I always do.

I have a connection with cats. It’s not something I tell anyone. Who would believe me? As an only child, I was raised with cats instead of siblings, and for some unknown reason, we understand each other.

Miss Kitty is a tabby cat with green eyes. She found me a year ago when I was utterly sad.

Back then, I hated the Junkyard. The men didn’t like having to do business with a lady. I had customers that refused to talk to me, demanding simply to talk to one of the men. I wanted to quit. Badly.

But one day, Miss Kitty came out from the yard into the office crying to me. I fell in love, and hundreds of cans of cat food later, we’re inseparable.

Spending the day with Miss Kitty in the office makes the Junkyard bearable, so I’m still here. Ernesto’s happy, because together we own this place.

Today, she’s not running up to me which is unusual. I let myself reach out to feel where she is and follow through the pathway of cars. I find her sitting upright staring at a black Ford E-350 van. She looks at me and meows.

“Miss Kitty! This isn’t like you. Aren’t you hungry?” I ask. She returns to watching the van.

“Is there something inside?” I ask her. “What are you staring at?”

I start to move towards the van, but Miss Kitty hisses at me and runs away. Worried, I forget the van and follow her with my can of cat food in hand.

I catch up to Miss Kitty at the front office. She’s waiting for me and seems like her old self, purring and snuggling up to my boots.

“You’re in a strange mood, my love,” I tell her as I give her the food and head back into the office.

The regulars are already crowding around talking to Ernesto. These are mechanics that I see every day. Each morning, they gather around asking about new cars entering the yard or sharing with each other how business is going. I’ve come to like these guys, even though I don’t join in the conversations. Most call me Senora and refer to Ernesto as my husband, rather than my boyfriend.

“He was stabbed to death over twenty times. The police are over there now,” Paulo tells the others. He has a loud booming voice and a beer belly which he stuffs into overalls.

“Poor guy, he didn’t deserve it. He was a good man. Did they find the killer?” Lorenzo asks leaning against the wall with his hands in his pockets and his baseball cap on backwards.

“No,” Paulo answers.

“Who was it?” I ask Ernesto. “Do I know him?”

“Yep, it was Dave. His shop is one block over. They found him this morning,” Ernesto answers giving me a hug to ease the shock.

“Dave. Oh no, that’s awful. He was a really nice guy,” I say remembering his face and how he always acted like a gentleman.

The room stays silent. Nobody knows what to say.

A policeman breaks the quiet, entering through the front door, his walkie talkie buzzing with police talk.

“Hello, I’m Officer Frank Mackenzie. Are you the owner?” He asks Ernesto.

“Yes, I own this place. Can I help you?” Ernesto answers.

“Well, you might have heard that there was a murder in this area last night. I don’t want to alarm you folks, but we’re searching for the killer. We have reason to suspect the killer is Benjie Harris. He escaped a few nights ago from a mental hospital twenty miles from here,” Officer Frank pauses so we can take his words in.

“A looney bin?” Paulo asks.

Officer Frank politely ignores him and continues on, “Mr. Harris was a mechanic for many years. Most of his victims were either customers or co-workers.”

“How many people did he kill?” Paulo interrupts.

Annoyed but willing to answer, “Twelve that we know of, and two more in his escape from the hospital. He’s very dangerous.” He turns to Ernesto, “I’d like to search your yard. We’re searching all the nearby establishments.”

“Yes, of course,” Ernesto answers. “Is there anything we can do to help?”

“No, you can go about your regular business. I’ll just walk around and make sure the place is clear. Do be on the lookout for anyone suspicious. Mr. Harris is roughly six feet tall with blonde hair and a beard. He’s in his mid-forties. He has a tattoo on his right hand of a black 1915 Model T Ford. If you see him, call us. Don’t approach him,” Officer Frank warns us as he stares down everyone in the room to make sure he is understood.

After making his point, Officer Frank enters the yard. We watch him look inside every car.

“Okay, time to get to work,” Ernesto announces as he grabs his tool bag. “When John and Bill get here tell them to meet me by the forklift,” he tells me while heading toward the yard.

“Wait! I don’t want to be alone. What if the killer is here hiding?” I ask.

“He’s not. We have an alarm system. Our place was locked last night. Besides, the cop is here checking. You’re very safe. But I need to get started on taking off these parts or our customers will be upset,” Ernesto says as he walks off. Paulo and Lorenzo follow him out, not wanting to cut their morning conversation short.

Ernesto is right, I tell myself. The cops are searching the area. The killer must be long gone by now. I hold onto my walkie talkie and stare at the parking lot watching for anyone suspicious, ready to run if I see a blonde bearded man.

After what feels like an eternity, Officer Frank returns.

“It’s all clear. Man, you guys have a lot of cars!” He says and smiles.

“Over two hundred,” I answer.

“Make sure you set the alarm at night. I don’t think it’s a good idea for anyone to be at the Junkyard alone, especially you. Keep that walkie talkie with you at all times, okay? Call the police if you see anything strange.”

I think about Miss Kitty this morning. I don’t think that’s the kind of strange Officer Frank is talking about.

“Of course, thank you for checking the yard,” I tell him.

“You’re welcome,” he says as he turns to leave.

With all the men gone, Miss Kitty decides to enter the office and hops up on the counter beside me.

“What did you see this morning, Miss Kitty? Should I be worried?” I ask. I know it’s silly, but I can’t help myself.

She simply looks back at me with her green eyes.

I’m fully aware I can’t read her mind, but that doesn’t stop me from being scared. Something isn’t right. Something is not right at all.

Keep a watch out for Part II which will be coming out soon!

The Fortune Teller Part IV The Box

Special Note: This is the fourth (and final) section of the short story “The Fortune Teller.” If you haven’t read Part I, II and III, then scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the link to start the tale from the beginning.

The story continues on with Joe the Mechanic leading Selena to the Keeper of Odds and Ends. This has been a crazy night, Selena thinks to herself. Never did she dream that having her fortune told would require so much work!

From her encounter with the Tall Man, the awful clowns in the Funhouse, and following Joe the Mechanic with his jiggling toolbelt halfway across the carnival, Selena feels like the main character in a Felini film. All of this to retrieve a box which the Fortune Teller, Madame Zofina, insists will tell Selena what she needs to know most about the future.

“Here we are!” Joe calls back to Selena as he ducks into The Sideshow, a large carnival tent selling knick-knacks. Teenagers crowd around tables with novelty pranks for sale; the bug in the fake ice cube, the shock-hand buzzer, the old fashion whoopie cushion, and many other items meant to trick an unsuspecting victim.

Throughout the tent there are mystical items such as magic eight balls, wizard wands, and Tarot cards. There are magic tricks and even books on how to become an Illusionist.

And for the daring, there is candy with disgusting flavors. Jelly beans that taste (and look) like snot. Trash can gummy bears like slimy banana peel and dirty socks.

There are nostalgic carnival souvenirs such as small replicas of the Ferris Wheel and Funhouse (a souvenir Selena can do without).

And then there are the items not for sale, but definitely crowd pleasers, inspiring pointed fingers with oohs and ahs. One-of-a-kind oddities, frauds of course, but fun nonetheless, such as scales from the Loch Ness monster, a trio of shrunken heads, dragon teeth, and a straight jacket once worn by Houdini.

“Maggie!” Joe bellows out as he heads towards a middle-aged woman with wiry long, blonde hair that stands on end as though it were styled by an electric socket. She looks back at the Mechanic with her hands on her hips wearing a purple hippie skirt and long pink t-shirt dressed up with a pair of dangling beaded earrings and sparkling bracelets.

Joe gives Maggie a quick hug and then keeps one arm wrapped around her shoulders, “Maggie, my darling, this is Selena. She’s giving this to you in exchange for the box.” After finishing his announcement, Joe officially hands off the token to Maggie.

“My job is done, so I’m heading off back to work,” he sneaks a quick kiss to Maggie’s cheek.

“Stop flirting with me, you oaf!” She laughs and pushes him away. Joe smiles back at her.

“Goodbye, Selena. Never mind my old lady, she might sound tough but she’s a sweetheart. Best of luck to you,” Joe shakes Selena’s hand before leaving. She can hear his toolbelt jingling along as he walks away.

“That man is insufferable, but I do love him. God help me,” Maggie mutters as she watches him go. “Selena, dear, it’s nice to meet you. Come with me. I have what you’re looking for,” Maggie motions to Selena to follow.

Maggie steps behind a wooden counter and proceeds to plunk down three boxes in front of Selena.

“Go on, love. Pick one,” she says with a smile and then rests her chin on her hands and her elbows on the counter. Her bright blue eyes carefully watch Selena’s selection like a cat observing a mouse.

“I have to choose? I thought the box was supposed to be special. You know “like very old and very wise”?

Maggie laughs. “Of course, all of these boxes are very old. But which one do you want?” She continues to study Selena with her chin resting on the palms of her hands.

“But what if I pick the wrong one?” Selena absentmindedly lets the words slip out. How silly, I’m being! She thinks to herself. I’ve almost forgotten that I don’t believe in any of this!

“You won’t. Most people are paralyzed by choice. Who should I marry? Which job should I take? What if I get it all wrong they say to themselves.” Maggie shrugs her shoulders. “Truth is. darling, you can’t get it wrong. True, some choices we’re sorely sorry for and wish we could undo, but they become a part of our story and lead to other choices, some of which bring out the best in us.”

Maggie leans in closer, “Here’s the secret. As long as you’re doing the choosing, in the end, your life will start to reflect more and more of you who you are. But if you don’t choose, something else will choose for you, and that’s when your life turns ugly.” She sighs and then Maggie’s smile returns, “So, go on then. Choose!”

Selena carefully examines the three boxes. The first is small like a jewelry box with golden pedestal legs and an oval light blue cushion top, something an admirer would give to a love interest. The second box is larger, the size of a Kleenex box, and made of monkey wood. A puzzle box, perhaps? Selena feels wary of this one for some unknown reason, as though it might have secrets of its own hidden inside. The last box is the largest of the three, but still no more than twelve inches tall or wide. It is sturdy; made of mahogany wood, but plain, as if what you see is exactly what you get.

“I’ll pick this one,” Selena points to the largest box.

“Then it is yours,” Maggie smiles and stands tall again. “I wish you the best, Selena.” Her bright eyes look at Selena warmly as if conveying the truth of her sentiment. Then without further fanfare, Maggie turns her attention back to the noisy crowd of customers collecting in her tent.

Selena leaves The Sideshow carrying her chosen box, ready to see Madame Zofina. Her fingers can feel the smoothness of the wood. A thought creeps up through her hands and wiggles its way into her awareness, “What’s inside the box?”

She laughs at herself. Really? Her little adventure must have suckered her into Josie’s world of fortune cookie logic. Now, she’s actually curious about what’s inside the box. Ridiculous!

Still, tonight had changed her somehow, hadn’t it? A tiny part of herself speaks up pointing out the truth. The Tall Man, Joe, Maggie, even the damn clowns, they had gotten to her somehow, softened her, made her see the world differently. What will happen when she opens the box?

Well, I guess I’m about to find out, she reasons. Back at the Fortune Teller’s lair, Selena takes a deep breath and goes inside.

“You’ve returned, child,” Madame Zofina’s voice fills the tent, “and I see that you’ve chosen a box. Good, bring it here.”

Selena’s eyes begin to adjust to the dim lighting and gradually she sees Madame Zofina seated at the round table.

“Have a seat, Selena,” Madame Zofina gestures with a wave of the hand. “Are you ready to open the box?”

“So, the box will tell me my future?” Selena asks as she places the box on the table. She catches the nervousness in her voice as it echoes back to her.

“The box will tell you what you need to know about the future, so you can be happier,” Madame Zofina answers and as she speaks she rises from her chair. Graceful as a kitty, she moves to stand behind Selena. “Go ahead, child. Open the box.”

Selena feels a tingling sliver of hope that maybe this might work. She opens the box. Stunned, she stares at it trying to make sense of what she finds.

“I don’t understand,” Selena utters the words out loud without taking her eyes off the box.

“You don’t understand?” Madame Zofina asks. “You’re such a clever girl. I thought you might have guessed.”

“There’s nothing in here, except for a mirror. It’s just an empty box!” Selena’s voice rises in pitch, unable to hide the anger at being played a fool.

“In that way, the box is exactly like the future, Selena. My dear, the future does not exist. Not really. It lives only in the imagination. It is a myth we tell ourselves to inspire fear or hope, a convention of time used for planning. But we never live in the future, do we? Each minute when it arrives is exactly as it has always been, the present.,” Madame Zofina sighs.

“So, this has all been for nothing. There is no special box that is “very old and very wise” that can help me,” Selena replies. Her words drop to the ground like a deflated balloon.

“You’re wrong, Selena. The box is very wise. Look into the mirror, child,” upon saying the words Madame Zofina places both hands softly on Selena’s shoulders.

Selena’s image begins to change. The color drains from her face and clothes melding into tones of white, black and red. She watches in horror as she sees herself once again trapped inside a clown.

“The present only becomes a nightmare when it doesn’t reflect who you truly are. Good and bad things will always come and go, but it is when you stop making our own choices that everything around you becomes distorted, and you’re left feeling like something is missing. What you are missing is yourself, Selena,” after hearing the words the image swirls and again Selena is staring at her real face.

“My dear child, start making your own choices instead of pleasing those around you. The more you express yourself, the more you will see your true face in your surroundings, the world around will start to reflect the world within.”

“I’m so lost, Madame Zofina. I don’t even know who I am,” Selena slumps in her chair.

“Turn the box over, Selena,” Madame Zofina’s voice floats gently like a grandmother coaxing a tired child.

When she turns the box upside-down, Selena sees a tiny golden lever. She’s holding a music box.

“The box is wise because it listens. It listens not only to words and thoughts, but to feelings that are rarely given voice. Tonight, it has been listening to you. Wind the music box, child,” Madame Zofina leans in closer still keeping her hands lightly on Selena’s shoulders. She whispers into her ear, “This is who you are.”

Words flood Selena’s mind like an ocean. Some phrases start to surface and she begins to hear them echo through out the room.

“I don’t need a Fortune Teller to tell me my life will be screwed up in the future!” She hears her thoughts out loud and watches in the mirror as she enters the carnival. A recording of the past, but unlike a movie, she feels the emotions.

Madame Zofina watches and laughs, “I love that you think for yourself. Very smart. No one dictates your future!”

Now Selena sees herself standing outside the Fortune Teller’s tent looking angry. She hears her own voice sharing her unsaid thoughts at the time, “Even if this is stupid, I’m not going to let Josie down. I can’t lie to her, so I’m going to do this.”

“Honest and loyal,” Madame Zofina whispers behind her.

The images start to blur together and the phrases blend out of sequence. She sees herself with the Tall Man and then trying to open the wrought iron gates. The words call out, “There’s no going back. I’m happier alone than with a man like that. When you can’t go backwards, you have to go forward, right?”

“You are strong, Selena!” The Fortune Teller’s voice rises above the blending memories.

Now she’s in the Funhouse watching her face turn from a clown into her own. “I’d rather be alone and laughed at than to be stuck in this hideous image. Set me free. I want to see myself.” She feels gratitude swell in her heart looking at her true image.

“Beautiful, my child. You are beautiful!” Madame Zofina’s voice rings out.

The Tall Man is back. He leans down to hear her answer, “Yes, I’m a writer. I love to write. If only I had a pen I would stop everything and capture it all.”

The flood of images takes Selena back to the beginning of her night. She sees Madame Zofina rise to retrieve a small object from a nearby shelf, “How could such a beautiful, strong, smart woman, such as yourself, not be happy? We live in a truly strange world, I think.” This time Selena sees the sadness in Madame Zofina’s eyes as she says the words.

Madame Zofina closes the box. The room returns to normal. The Fortune Teller sits next to Selena and gently holds her hand.

“The world is only strange when you are a stranger to yourself. You are beautiful, strong, smart and honest. Show yourself in your writing, your friendships, work, and in everything you do and to everyone you meet. Then your world will not be strange, because you will recognize yourself in it.”

Selena feels her eyes tear up not from sadness, but from a sense of feeling loved and understood.

“Madame Zofina, where does your magic come from?” Selena asks.

“Oh no, my dear. That wasn’t me. That was you. The box has been listening to you, remember? You put everything inside.”

“I don’t have any magic,” Selena shakes her head in disbelief.

“Don’t you? Creating worlds out of thin air, isn’t that what writers do?” Madame Zofina winks and laughs.

Not sure of what to make of that revelation, Selena decides to laugh with her, because laughing feels incredibly good.

“How can I repay you for this gift?” Selena asks.

“Your friend Josie asked the same question.”

“She did?”

“Yes,” Madame Zofina reaches into her pocket and hands Selena a ticket. “Give this to someone who needs it. All I ask for is a name. Can you think of someone?”

Selena stares into Madame Zofina’s green cat eyes and gives it some thought.

“Oh, yes. I have a name,” Selena answers.

Dearest Reader, the one who was willing to read to the very end of this long tale. The one who has walked hand and hand with me in this imaginary carnival. Did you guess the name given? You’re so clever, I’m sure you did.


The Fortune Teller Part III The Funhouse

Special Note: This is the third part in a four part series. If you haven’t read Part I and Part II scroll to the bottom of this page and click the link to find the beginning of “The Fortune Teller”.

“I don’t want to do this,” Selena whispers as she enters the Funhouse. She passes through the double doors that resemble a giant clown’s mouth and lets the Funhouse swallow her whole.

Inside, she sees crazy black and white stripes scattering in every direction on the walls, floor, and ceiling. It’s a dizzying combination of vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines running amok. Nothing makes sense. It’s like an awful B-rated black and white movie sprung to life.

Up ahead, across from her, she spots the opening to the next room. Selena takes a few steps forward, but the stripes makes her feel off-balance like she’s walking on a ship at sea. Just keep going, she commands her clumsy legs.

“Aaah!”A high-pitched, blood-curdling scream shakes the room. Everything goes black. Electric fear shoots through her. She can’t even see an inch in front of her. No moonlight shining through the window curtains to soften the blackness. It is pitch dark.

“Ha, ha, ha! Scared you!” An annoying disembodied voice that sounds like a wind up doll yells out. Horrible laughter fills the room. The laughter bounces off the walls in every direction, behind her, in front, from all sides. A terrible thought rises up, “What if I’m not alone?” She swings her arms around violently trying to feel the space surrounding her.

Then she sees it. A blue light flickers above the entrance of the next room. Anything is better than this darkness, Selena reasons, as she rushes towards it.

Selena walks into a nightmare. It is a hallway of clowns. Life-size clown mannequins line the passageway on both sides. There must be a dozen standing still and quiet.

Selena can see the opening to the next room laughing at her from the end of the hallway. What are the chances she’ll make it through without one of them grabbing her?

She studies them carefully, half expecting one to turn its head. Each clown looks the same; chalky white face plastered with makeup, rosy cheeks, bulbous nose, and an exaggerated smile. Fluffs of red hair surround a bald white cap like a friar Tuck. Each have ruffled Taffeta around the neck and are stuffed into a black and white polka dotted clown suit finished with shiny red shoes.

I don’t trust clowns, she thinks. Nothing about them is real. How can you trust something that smiles all the time?

The clowns are motionless. She walks swiftly trying to avoid the eyes. At the same time, she scans for movement and checks behind hoping there is nothing following her. It’s hard to breathe with fear gripping her lungs, but she makes her way.

“Stay with us!” A clown screams out as he lunges from her right side with over-sized hands. Selena escapes his grip and runs past him leaving him laughing behind her.

Selena steals a quick glance behind and sees him there frozen in place with his outstretched hands. A mechanized doll triggered to give a good fright. She breathes easier.

She enters a mirrored maze. Trapping her are passageways of glass and mirrors. Selena runs her fingers along the clear panels to try to get the feel of the maze. She scans around for hidden clowns. A nasty fear of a clown grabbing her by the shoulder creeps along with her as she moves about the maze.

As she twists and turns about the labyrinth, she’s given choices. She wanders each passageway until she reaches a dead end, a distorted reflection of herself staring back blocking the path.

She sees herself skinny, chunky, tall, fatheaded, and wavy; a dozen possible lives she could have lived. Each falsehood reflects an ugliness in the distortion. She starts to long to see herself as she truly looks, just to be sure her face hasn’t changed.

And then she comes upon the mirror that stops her heart. White flakey makeup, red clumps of hair, fat nose, and painted smile staring back with her own eyes underneath. Another Selena dressed in a black and white polka-dotted clown suit, wrapped up in a red taffeta ring around her neck. Selena moves, and it moves as if they are one.

“Oh, crap!” Selena says out loud. Fear wants her to turn away, but she can’t. She keeps looking at it until the fear dies down. Something about this image speaks to her. Seeing herself this way stirs compassion. What have I been doing to myself? She thinks.

“This is who I have been for the past five years,” she says to her image. Painting on a fake smile every day, trying to be the perfect girlfriend, going along with things she knew wasn’t right for her. Trying to stuff herself into a costume to fit in with the other clowns around her.

The only thing left that is real is her eyes and whatever lies inside watching and waiting to be let free. She has done this to herself, chosen this dead end. Hiding away what she loves, her writing, for fear of ridicule from the other clowns. Scared to be herself, if it means being rejected.

And this is what has happened, she has become a caricature of herself. Her eyes plead with her, as if saying, “I’d rather be alone and laughed at than to be stuck in this hideous image. Set me free. I want to see myself.”

Selena touches her image as if to comfort the eyes, and for a moment the clown suit disappears. She sees herself just as she is, her true face. But it quickly disappears, as the mirror opens and Selena finds herself staring at the carnival outside. The bright lights and music rushing to her as she exits the Funhouse.

“There you are! I’ve been waiting for you,” a man in overalls calls out. He heads towards her with his plump belly jiggling his toolbelt as he walks.

“I’m Joe,” he holds out a hand to shake hers. Selena stares up at him taking in his gold-rimmed glasses and blue bandana wrapped around his head.

“I’m Selena,” she answers still a little shaken. He seems nice, she thinks to herself.

“Do you have something for me?” Joe asks and smiles.

“I do,” Selena says as she rummages in her pocket and finds the token. She offers it to Joe.

“I hate those damn clowns. Don’t you?” The mechanic looks at the gold coin in his hands and laughs.

“More than you can imagine!” Selena laughs with him. It feels good to laugh again.

“Okay, my dear. Let’s take you to the Keeper of Odds and Ends,” Joe announces and motions for Selena to follow.

Selena takes one last look at the Funhouse. Inside, she thanks it for tucking away the clowns, preventing them from haunting her any further. She says goodbye to them in her heart, and walks forward more herself than she has ever been.