“I’ve got yooooouuu~ under my skin.” Henry hummed to himself as he finished shaving the undesirables from the meat.
“This is an art form you don’t see anymore.” in my stroll down memory lane I hadn’t notice someone else was standing in attendance of Henry at work.
“The amount of skill it takes to do his job took years to cultivate”
“I’m not following. If you’re talking about Henry here… I’m sure it doesn’t take that much to cut up a bunch of meat”, I was already over this conversation, but Henry had disappeared into the freezer and I still needed my salmon.
“The term butcher has been misused for years. In earlier times, the butcher was revered. Respected. His ability to navigate flesh, bone, muscle to present an item pleasing enough to the masses to go home and subsequently destroy… it’s art. He is a sculptor with a product we consume without reverence or appreciation.”
“Well, that’s one way to think about it. If I decided to think about it that is.” I moved to turn my cart to leave just as Henry made his reappearance. His deep vocals breaking up this awkward encounter.
“How can I help you two?”
“We aren’t together, but I need 6 salmon filets. The skin on and deboned, please. I also need 2 pounds of crab meat.” Henry the butcher left to put my order together and I was left alone with the stranger again.
“I understand your disinterest. You’ll have to forgive me. It’s a job hazard. I’m in plastics. Plastic Surgery I mean.”
“What would a cosmetic surgeon be doing up here in the mountains?”
“I have to spend my salary somehow. These cabins are perfect to find solitude from the hustle and bustle of Atlanta and my own private practice. I just purchased an estate on the other side of the lake; a few acres where I can relax. I’m Sullivan Grey.”
“Nero. Nero Lawton, my wife Kassidy is over by the fair-trade coffee. We inherit our cabin, just west of the lake.”
“Aye yes, that lovely cabin that sits just on the lake. The sunsets paint it exquisitely with an amber-like glow.”
“Um… yea, my wife’s grandmother loved how the sun would set on the horizon between the break in the tree line.” I was never one to just carry on a conversation with strangers unless I absolutely had too but here I was chatting it up. There was something about this man, that just made the hairs on my neck stand up, it was his eyes. In the youth of my years, my Oldman would tell me that the windows to a person soul were there eyes. If you look close enough you could see all you needed to know before they even uttered a word. The brown tint of his windows hid something that just didn’t sit all that well with me.
“My wife too fell in love with that scenery as a child and when her grandparent’s past; the home was handed down to her.”
Henry the butcher approached just in time to save me from this encounter. Another moment and I would have found a reason to walk away, as politely as I could of course. With my fillets in hand, I quickly took my leave to find Kassidy.
“Did yer need anything?” Henry spoke in a thick southern accent.
“I think I’ve found what I’ve been looking for, Henry, thank you.”
Nero Lawton. Watching him disappear into another aisle I knew I had finally found the clay I needed to mold my masterpiece. Educating Nero will be my Moonlight Sonata.
The butcher was a hefty fellow, years of dissecting animals for human consumption had given this man a very brawny physique. You could see the power in his arms as the cleaver in his hand was going to work on the back leg or the “round” as the meat cutters would call it, of a steer. Under the sweat and blood of his black leather apron was the letters H.E.N.R and a faded Y, Henry, that must have been his name. I was willing to bet my last dollar that the little town folks here called him Henry the Butcher as if that was his god given the last name. It sounded more like the name of a serial killer from a slasher film.
As Henry the butcher worked, he had the radio going, the classic tune of Frank Sinatra under my skin came soothing through the air. I remembered back as a child my father would play his guitar at my mom’s bedside. In his younger year, pop’s use to sing and play in a blues band, it was how they met, my mom would tell. One of her favorite songs she just loved to hear him sing and play was Frank Sinatra, “I’ve got you under my skin”. Even when he thought she would be tired of it he always asked, “What do you want to hear Baby?” With lips as pale as the moon mom would smile; using all her strength mom would reply in a raspy whisper “Play our song.”. While sick and weak in that cold room he would play that song so soulfully that even the doctors and nurses thought it would somehow bless her with some type of miracle.
The store had a traditional style, the type of look city fresh markets tries to imitate with its wholesome fruits and veggies in wooden crates stacked in the middle of the aisles. Even though I knew it would annoy her I decided to get started on the shopping, grabbing a pushcart. Kassidy had a knack for getting caught in conversation in what seemed to be with no end, I bore easily of extended banter that lacks any interest to me. I know this to be selfish, hell maybe even childish at times but I’m honest and will politely excuse myself so that I would not let the lack of care creep across my face.
Rummaging through the seasoning of the spices aisle, I picked just what I needed for tonight’s dinner. This evening supper would be a special one, Crispy salmon, with crushed new potatoes, Kassidy’s favorite meal. It was the initial dish that impressed her with on our first date, that eventually led to other dates and an “I Do”. At that time between student loans and bills, I barely could afford the mainstream stigma of a first date. Yet fortunately for me, I was taught some very useful skills as a young single man still making his way into the world. After the passing of my mother at an early age my best friend mom filled the role of “Mother” for me. Mrs. Flow could damn near cook any and everything you desired. Her cooking was so good it’ll have you wanting her to open a restaurant just so you could enjoy her meals whenever.
Looking over everything in the cart, I had just about everything I needed for tonight and the rest of the week. The only thing I was missing was the actual salmon itself.
The door chimed, announcing as we walked into the store. A young girl stood slumped over the checkout counter flipping through a teens magazine. She met us not with a warm southern welcome greeting I’ve sort of come to expect but as an alternative, a more rebellious “I rather be anywhere but here” glare while popping her gum at us.
“Welcome to Mama Ed’s.” A broad-shouldered, heavy-breasted, short merry woman hobbled from the aisles with a broom in hand.
“Not seen you folks around here before, wait a minute?” The lady reached for her glasses that hung from her neck, adjusting them on to her face. “Well, I’ll be you Mary’s grandbaby.”
Kassidy smiled with joy as she ran into the jovial woman’s arm, “Hey Aunty Edna.”
“Gurrrrrl it’s been so long since I seen ya!” Edna could not believe her eyes, holding Kassidy closely to her. “After Mary’s passing yawl hardly come visit us anymo. Heard you move to the city and made something of yourself.”
“Yea, sometimes it’s hard to come back from a loss, but I have missed being here. Besides I wanted to bring my husband, Nero, to my town.”
“Oh, Baby you got a husband? Where he’d wander off to?”
“King? Are you okay Baby?” Kassidy smile quickly turned into worry.
“Yea, just… I don’t know.”
“You were calling out some other woman’s name you know.” Her lips shifted, and her left eyebrow moved on its own, her look now was one of curiosity. It kind of reminded me of how WWE The Rock would do his to rile up the fans.
“I was, when?”
“Yes, in your sleep duh! Someone named Claire I think you kept saying. You wouldn’t be cheating on me would you and now your guilty conscience eating at you.”
“Wooooow, you funny but no. Claire Williams from way back at St. Ovaria.”
“Claire from when we were kids? Wow that’s going way back, I haven’t thought about her in ages”
“Yea, me either” I watched as the snow plastered pine trees faded into blurs, I tried to search the depths of my mind for a reason for the sudden trip to the past and what the hell did I dream to frighten me so bad about it. After pulling off to the approaching exit we soon past a large wooded, timeworn road sign with “Welcome to Remington” inscribed across its surface.
I awoke to a flash of dazzling lights. It was inviting, totally different from the cold of the lonesome shadows of death; I felt at peace.
Through Darkness, Comes the Light, from its warming brace I could hear the proverbial whispers of my mother. Could this be The Light, the Light found at the end of the obscure tunnel? The guiding light to Paradise, to Heaven almighty where the angel dwell?
“Jesus, Nero, are you really sleeping?” Kassidy scoffed. I turned from the brightness of the daylight wiping the sleep from eyes, to see Kassidy in the driver seat steering the Ford down the scenic mountain road. We had just past a green Stagg road sign that read REMINGTON 1 MILE. It wasn’t what I thought, just the sun, it was the sun which woke me some hours later.
“Maybe next time I’ll hold back from taking your soul if you can’t hang Baby.” Kassidy clowned while sticking her tongue out while tooting her ass.
“Don’t kid yourself, Queen, you’re good but you could be Hella lot better.” I retorted with a slight grin. I struggled out of a terrible dream — I was chasing after someone or something had been chasing me. I couldn’t remember vividly, the only thing that stuck was the heart gripping, skin crawling, soul-freezing fear I had experience, and a familiar name from my younger days of attending St. Ovaria private school, Claire Williams. I was unbearably hot; my skin was damped with sweat. Sitting back in the passenger seat I cracked the window letting in that cool mountain air. Could this have been fear of the nightmare? No, the sun rays had been gleaming down on me for only God knows how long as I slept. Beaming down on me through the window like an ant under a magnifying glass from a mischievous child. Better yet it was probably a combination of both the Heat of the sun and the cold fear of the dream causing condensation to emit from my flesh.
“Nero…” A familiar voice whispered my name. I instantly shot up surveying the halls.
“Nero hurry…” My eyes could hardly believe it, I don’t think I could believe it. It was Claire, Claire Williams! I wasn’t alone, an actual person and not the Snowman. Claire stood in the center of the hall looking at me with a slight smile. She turned walking down the hallway, I got up quickly following her.
Claire took a right down the foyer, as did I, she took a left and with no delay, I trailed behind. Locker’s begun to swing and close on their own, the closer I got to her, the louder they banged against each other. There was a flood of clashing metal clinging together. I tried drowning out the gaudy sound by covering my ears. Claire disappeared into the blackness of a classroom, just as I was to follow her the door slammed with a terrifying force, there was silence all around me.
“Please, Nero… where are you? I’m scared. He-He’s coming!” Claire called out. I rush to open the door, trying my hardest to pry it open but I stopped after looking at my feet, a pool of inky red fluid oozed around my tiny shoes.
Fear-stricken I took a step back as an earsplitting little girl scream could be heard from the other side, I slipped in the sticky rust smelling liquid. Out the corner of my eye there he stood with that smile and eyes made of coal at the center of the hall. His snow-white body stained with carnage.
The screaming stopped. The lights started to shut off, section by section the darkness started to creep. The Song of Moonlight, I thought to myself. I need the music box to keep the monsters away. I search my pockets only to come up with lint from the lining of my pants,
You Dropped it running after her… I thought to myself. I was now encircled by the darkness only a spotlight around me. But even in the darkness… even in the complete black, I could still see his Black Eyes.
“He’s Coming…” I muttered as the lights flickered on and off until the blackness finally consumed me.
“Daddy, Daddy please help me.” I shut my eyes even tighter now, shaking my head in disbelief. If I couldn’t see him then he can’t be real, it can’t be real. With the music box still in my hand, I would keep winding it and play the sweet tune, my mother adored so much. Yes, of course just keep playing the music box, the music kept the monsters away,
Nero, we are safe when bathed in the light. The sun in the day, and the moon at night, so long as there’s a glow the monsters hold no fright. Yet even the brave fears the darkness, fear the loneliness it what gives the things that go bump in the night their bloodlust. They smell terror, so when I am not at your side play this song of Moonlight.
Again, I opened my eyes merely to see the hall lined with the pale red lockers. Looking back out of the clear double doors, the Snowman was back at his post only this time he was gazing intently at me.
He forgot about you, the snowman seemed to utter from its smile of coal. I curled myself into a ball tucking my head tightly into the folds of my arms.