Saturday, October 31, 2015

31 Days of Halloween Tales - The Cottage

For my final tale, a delicious taste of an old favorite entitled:

The Cottage

"Let's go camping he said…. It'll be fun he said. "

My sarcasm not being lost on him, Harrison glared at me through one partially open green eye. The other eye which was also green, was swollen shut and showed no sign of being able to open, let alone glare.

I glanced up at the darkening sky above us. Being the queen of stating the obvious I quipped, "It's getting dark already."

"We will find our way back to the RV, babe. All we have to do is go North."

It took every reserve ounce of patience I had left not to bop him upside his head.

"And which way would that be, Oh Great Indian Navigator? The closest you ever came to being an outdoorsman was the time you took me hiking in Griffith Park." The one green eye turned one shade darker. "And if I remember correctly, we got lost then too."

I could tell Harrison Michael O'Grady's Irish temper was about to get the better of him as I watched him choke down a nasty remark as if it was a bitter piece of fruit.

"Okay smartass, well, I know it is getting dark and if nothing else we should be able to follow the North Star."

How this Venice Beach born and raised Angeleno might recognize the North Star even if it fell on his big head was beyond me but for the moment I refrained from asking him.

"You mean you want to stay here until it gets completely dark?"

His face turned the color of the poison ivy that had been the cause of his swollen eye, without the shine.

"No Gill, we don't have to wait for it to get dark. I am fairly sure we are going in the right direction already."

Whether or not he noticed my condescending tone, he never said and without so much as a look in my direction, he walked off through the thick web of shrubbery mumbling beneath his breath.

"And besides, the North star can be seen before dark."

Once again I fought the overwhelming urge to slap him.

I thought about sitting down at that moment, right there in a pile of wet, decaying October leaves and just let him go off on his own but the trip to Maine had been my idea after all, although to be fair to myself I had envisioned a queen size down quilted bed in a quaint, and warm, Bed and Breakfast in Portland and not the motorized hotel room that we had driven up in from Boston.

Suddenly it didn't seem so bad, the massive RV sitting back at the scenic overlook, now vacant save for our ten year old Golden Retriever, Mr. Darcy, and our cell phones which Harrison had insisted upon leaving behind.

“We need to unplug, babe. Just leave them here.”

The poor boy was going to be wanting outside soon, luckily I had left enough food and water down for him and even though we might die out here in the Mashapequot Woods, Mr. Darcy would be just fine for a couple of days at least.

Alhough I was quite sure the carpet by the camper door would be a goner if we didn't make it back before long.

Pointing out that fact to Harrison as we were trudging through the dense coppice that appeared to ramble on for as far as we could see, and the fact that his thousand dollar deposit would disappear right along with the carpet, did not seem to be a wise move on my part so for once I kept my over exuberant mouth shut and followed him further into the woods.


"Do you smell cinnamon?"

Harrison crinkled his perfect Celtic nose and frowned. “Not really cinnamon I don’t think.” He looked at the massive maple tree that he was currently leaning against as if he might discover the origin of the smell from within.

“I smell something but I really can't tell what it is." He turned his head around to look at me and I could see the puzzlement in his eyes. "It reminds me of something but I can't quite put my finger on it."

The soft scent reminded me of something as well, something sweet yet rotten like an overly ripe cantaloupe that has just gone bad.

It still smelled good though, good enough to eat you might say, even though it would most likely make you sick and you would spend the next day or so praying to the porcelain God or at the very least, sitting upon his throne.

This knowledge however, did nothing to dispel the urge to indulge in the dark sappy sweetness that was still there even when you knew better.


That was what it was. The smell was tempting you to come forth and eat even when you knew if you did, you were damned.

“Maybe there is a house near by.”

By this time full night had arrived right on schedule and with a thick cloud covering kissed with the promise of rain later on, not one single star, including the great all knowing North Star, was in sight. Not to mention that the blackness that currently shrouded us gave no indication that there was any house in our vicinity, and certainly none where someone was doing some very fragrant late evening baking.

And while all this was true, it did nothing to explain the fact that the scent was still there, even though we couldn’t comprehend where it was coming from or why it might exist in these remote Maine woods to begin with.

“It sure smells… good.” There was a hint of a question in Harrison’s voice that suddenly seemed quite faraway as he if we were talking to me on some ancient overseas telephone line where you can only guess at exactly where they might be.

I shouldn't have asked the question of a man who thought he could follow the North Star to safety but I couldn't help it.

"Do you think you can find where it's coming from?"

"Of course," he said without so much as a second's hesitation. "It's really close I think."

Without another word Harrison disappeared in front of me, slipping further into the darkness of the forest.


"There it is. That is where the smell is coming from I bet."

Now I am from New England and as such I have seen every type of architecture there is but this house was a new one even for me.

It was your basic two story Cape style and at first I thought there was nothing odd about it at all, other than the fact that it was out here in the middle of nowhere.

"I told you I could find it. We should go and see if anyone is home."

I grabbed his arm before he could move any closer.

"Wait, Harrison. Something isn't right."

"What? Look Gill, we are lost and this is the only house we have come across in four hours."

"There is something familiar about this house. I have seen it somewhere before."

"What do you mean? Do you know who lives here?"

"Maybe. Just maybe."

I snuck up closer to the cottage until I could peek into the window.

"Harrison, come here. And be very quiet."

"What is this siding on here? Is it cork of some kind?

"No, it's gingerbread. Look."

We both stared as the old hag inside twirled and danced around her kitchen. The stove was covered with steaming pots and a large industrial size oven was wide open just waiting for  something to be put inside.

I heard a soft whimper come from somewhere inside the cottage then I heard Harrison gasp.

"She has Mr. Darcy."

The hair stood up on the back of my neck and I froze. I almost asked him if he was sure but from the look on his face, I could tell he was.

"Where is he? Do you see him?"

Harrison gagged. "She has him in a roasting pan."

I couldn't see what he was looking at nor did I care. There are times when instinct takes over and your better judgment goes right out the window, or in this case, right in the window.

I was inside the witch's cottage before you could say Jack Robinson and Harrison was right behind me.

As shocked as the hag was to see us come crawling through her window she wasn't nearly as shocked as I was to see my poor Darcy lying in a large roasting pan, tressed up with baking string like a Thanksgiving turkey.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?"

I did notice the hag was wielding a very large carving knife but honestly, I didn't give a rat's arse.

I was already five steps ahead of him by the time Harrison stepped in front of me and told me to get the dog.

The witch made the mistake of coming towards me when she should have been much more worried about Harrison. Before she could raise her knife to strike, Harrison tackled her like USCSB football player he was in his college days.

The witch, the knife, and Harrison all went flying but I lost sight of all of them as I tried to cut away the string that had my poor dog bound.

Harrison could take care of himself and I would deal with her when Darcy was free.

Darcy was biting what he could of the string and I was yanking on the rest. It probably took no more than seconds to release him but at the time it seemed like an eternity until he was free and able to jump off the table. Without fear for himself he ran towards Harrison to see if his master needed any assistance.

Harrison did not.

I called Darcy back to me and the two of us stood in the corner and watched Harrison take care of business as he always had.

The nearly unconscious witch was neatly folded in half and popped into the waiting oven. There was nothing at first but after a moment or two the screaming began.

There was always screaming.

"I can't believe we went on vacation and you still had to work."

Harrison refused to look at me as he held the oven door shut until the screaming stopped.


Harrison peeked into the oven and satisfied there was nothing more than ash left inside, turned the oven off. He is a stickler about wasting energy.

"Harrison, did you know there was a witch in these woods?"

When he finally looked at me he had a wild, guilty grin on his face.

"I couldn't help it. You know how hard it is for me to take time off and just relax and I knew you would get ticked if you knew."

He was right about that. The man simply loved his job way too much and getting him to take time off was like pulling teeth.

I scratched Mr. Darcy's ears. "That's all well and fine for you Mr. Witch Hunter, but you nearly got our dog eaten."

Another voice came from outside the front door.

"Darcy was never in any danger, I was here all the time."


The cousins embraced then stood next to each other like two proud peacocks and exchanged fist bumps.

I wanted to belt them both.


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