The RaVen In this issue:
The Bizarre Death of Edgar Allan Poe The Calico
Miserable The Hungry Shoes A journal of the Macabre, the Bizarre, & the Unexplained
From the Editors May you live in interesting times. Oh wait...you already do. When January 1, 2020 rolled around, did you think a deadly virus was already making its way around the globe, wreaking havoc on every country, town, and village? Did you think we’d entered a time where social distancing, walking, washing groceries, and online shopping would be the new standard of living? The coronavirus certainly neutralized us, and it continues to restrict in ways we’ll talk about for generations. We can’t help but think about dear old Edgar Allan Poe during a time like this. Obviously we don’t know the man (he was long dead before any of us were born; for more on that, read “The Bizarre Death of Edgar Alan Poe” on page 5) except through his writings and biographies. Still, your humble editors surmise that a time such as this would have given him even more fodder for his macabre creations. Don’t you agree? If so, we’d love to involve you in a challenge. Throw us a couple of Poe-worthy titles or scenarios that reflect the times we’re living in. Better yet, create a poem, short story, film, or artwork. Send it to us and we’ll happily share your creation in the pages of this mag. Have you had a real-life paranormal encounter you’d care to share? Ditto. Think about that as you enjoy this, the inaugural issue of The Raven, a magazine dedicated to the macabre, the bizarre, and the unexplained. Within this issue, you’ll be entertained by a calico cat that is more mysterious than any black cat you’ve ever met. You’ll meet two artists—working in two different mediums—with whom Poe would have loved to sip absinthe. You’ll look askance at your shoes and reexamine your personality after reading two of the featured short stories. A world of the dark and mysterious awaits you. Read on, and for a short time forget this interesting time we’re living in.
The Raven Contact Us!
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Ann Fields Juan R. Hernandez Brandy Herr Sue Latham Lesley Morgan Jose Vargas
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A Passion for Poe
The RaVen Your humble editors, collectively known as the Ghost Scribes are Sue Latham and Ann Fields, but not necessarily in that order. It is our privilege to present the first issue of our first collection of missives from the dark side. Sue Latham is a native of Dallas, TX. Her travels have taken her to the Nazca desert where she endured a harrowing flight over the lines in a small plane; to Africa on a quest for a glimpse of the rare white rhino; and to the Australian Outback, where she was stranded by a flash flood and had to spend the night in a Subaru. Her novels, The Haunted House Symphony and The Science Professor’s Ghost, are ghosthunting mysteries featuring a team of ghost hunters led by Sue’s intrepid alter-ego, Margo Monroe. Both books are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online bookstores as ebooks and in paperback. Ann Fields published four romance novels and one novella under her pen name of Anna Larence before she encountered her first ghost. That one brush with the supernatural shifted her focus from love and happily ever after to love and life in the here and after. In her novel, Fuller’s Curse and her short stories featured in Voices from the Block (Volumes I & II) and Lyrical Darkness, she explores life in all its many dimensions. You can learn more about her and all of her subsequent run-ins with the supernatural at www. annfields.com.
A Ghost Scribes Publication Ghost Scribes and the ghost logo ©2020 wait for it...the Ghost Scribes
Inaugural Issue 5
A Passion for Poe The Bizarre Death of Edgar Allan Poe
The Ghost Scribes present our favorite unsolved mystery.
The Calico By Brandy Herr. Nice kitty.
Miserable By Ann Fields. Don’t be like Miranda.
The Hungry Shoes By Sue Latham. Think before you buy.
What We’re Consuming
Ann & Sue’s TBR List
Speaking of Art
Issue # 1 September 2020* *Year 1 of the Plague
Tell Us Your Story Ghostsâ€”weâ€™ve seen a few. What about you? Have you had a real-life paranormal encounter? Want to see your name in pixels? We want to hear from you! Send your real-life ghost story to GhostScribesDallas@gmail.com. Just be sure to follow our simple guidelines.
Submission Guidelines 4
The Raven is a Politics- and ReligionFree Zone.
The Bizarre Death of EDGAR
POE By The Ghost Scribes It should come as no surprise that the Ghost Scribes are big fans of Edgar Allan Poe. So it is with great reverence for the Master of All Things Creepy that we kick off our inaugural issue with one of the most tantalizing mysteries in literature.
Elmira Royster Shelton was at last going to marry her childhood sweetheart, Edgar Allan Poe. During her early years, her parents had objected to their relationship and kept them apart. Now the widowed 39-year-old Elmira would finally have her chance at happiness. The wedding date was set for October 14, 1849. On September 26, Elmira and Poe spent the evening together. Painfully early the next morning, Poe left Richmond on a steamboat bound for Baltimore. His final destination was his home in New York. He intended to be back in Richmond in two weeks for the wedding. In Baltimore, Edgar had plans to board the train for Philadelphia for a quick editing job that would provide a much-need payment of $100. He planned on being in Philadelphia no more than a day or two, which would have him home
“There are some secrets that do not permit themselves to be told.” –Edgar Allan Poe, “The Man of the Crowd,” 1840
The Raven Poe’s Last Journey
Poe’s home in New York
Sarah Helen Whitman
R ic hm on d
Dr. Carter’s Office
Washington College Hospital
s dock steamship dock
Poe’s Movements in the Days Preceding His Death
* July 1849 - Poe leaves his home in New York for Richmond to give a series of lectures. * August - Poe becomes engaged to Elmira Royster Shelton in Richmond * September 27 – Poe boards a steamboat from Richmond to Baltimore * September 28 – Poe never reaches Philadelphia…or does he? * October 3 – Poe is found in the gutter outside the tavern, Gunner’s Hall in Baltimore and taken to a hospital. * October 7 – Poe dies at Washington College Hospital, Baltimore. * October 7 – Poe’s death announcement in the Baltimore Sun. * October 9 – Poe’s death announcement in the Richmond Daily Whig.
A Passion for Poe
Cause and Circumstances of Poe’s Death
* Congestion of the brain as relayed to Elmira was the accepted cause of death at the time. * When found on October 3, Poe was raving and incoherent. He eventually fell into an unconscious state and never regained consciousness. * Poe, a normally fastidious dresser, was wearing filthy clothes that were several sizes too big. He was clearly wearing someone else’s clothes. * He died calling repeatedly for someone named Reynolds.
in New York by October 1. The trip home was necessary so he could retrieve his mother-in-law/aunt, for whom he was the sole support, and bring her back to Richmond for the wedding. The agreed-upon plan was for Edgar to write to Elmira as soon as he reached New York. In Richmond, Elmira waited and waited for the expected letter. It never showed. On October 9, a few days before the scheduled wedding date, Elmira glanced at the Richmond Daily Whig. A headline caught her eye: “Death of Edgar A. Poe.” The short announcement was a reprint from the Baltimore Sun from a few days earlier which read, “We regret to learn that Edgar A. Poe, Esq., the distinguished American poet, died in this city yesterday morning after an illness of four or five days.” Shocked and heartbroken, Elmira tried to discover what had happened to her beloved. But the only real fact she learned was the cause of Edgar’s death. He had succumbed to a “congestion of the brain.” Yet, even this cause of death was later disputed.
171 Years Later
carbon monoxide poisoning, mercury poisoning, and syphilis. One interesting modern theory is rabies. Another is a brain tumor. Mercury poisoning is plausible; at the time, it was used to treat cholera. In the summer of 1849, a cholera epidemic was raging through Philadelphia when Poe passed through on his way south. Even a brain tumor isn’t too far of a stretch. But surely the fact that he was found in the gutter by a tavern must mean that what finally got him in the end was his Achilles’ Heel: alcohol.
At the time of his death, Poe was the country’s top celebrity poet (back in the days when there was such a thing). As such, one would think his would be an open and shut case. And yet, it is not. On the next few pages, we seek to give the poet and short story writer more due by laying before you, dear readers, the facts and theories of Poe’s death. At the end, we ask for your help in writing the closing chapter of the dark, mysterious death of Edgar A. Poe.
Poe was notorious for being unable to hold his liquor. In his defense, modern research has raised the possibility that he suffered from a rare genetic condition that prevents alcohol from being metabolized normally. All it took was a single drink to get our friend—apologies for the descent into crudeness, dear readers—snot-slingin’ drunk.
Poe’s death and the odd circumstances surrounding his death have the makings of a fine Poe-inspired tale. One hundred seventy-one years after his death, questions still remain about the cause of his death, speculation abounds regarding his movements between September 27 when he left Richmond and October 3 when he was found in a gutter, and head-scratching theories exist about his state and manner when found.
Theories regarding the cause of death include cholera, meningitis,
But did he really drink himself to death? That seems to be the popular theory, then as it is now. But consider: Poe had more than his share of enemies. Take for example one Rufus Griswold, a bitter professional rival. Not to put too fine a point on it, Griswold hated Poe.
Issue 1 | September 2020
The Raven Griswold wrote a scathing obituary, then went on to write the first Poe biography. He, possibly more than anyone else, was responsible for cementing the image of Poe as a drunken, drug-addled madman in the popular imagination for all time. Other early champions of the death by drink theory may have had less nefarious but equally regrettable motives. An old Baltimore acquaintance, Joseph Snodgrass, who came to Poe’s aid when he was found in Gunner’s Tavern, was a staunch temperance advocate. He had no qualms about using Poe as an example in his efforts to further his own cause. His chronic condition notwithstanding, it is accepted that Poe did indeed have an alcohol problem. In fact, on his way to Richmond in July of 1849 he managed to get himself thrown in the slammer in Philadelphia on a drunk and disorderly. (Although possibly even more interestingly, Poe himself would claim it was because he was suspected of passing a counterfeit $50 bill.) And yet, while in Richmond, and at Elmira’s insistence, he famously joined the Sons of Temperance, a fact that was reported far and wide in the Richmond newspapers. Then there’s the testimony of Dr. Joseph Moran, who attended Poe as he breathed his last. Dr. Moran specifically stated that there was no smell of liquor about him and that he had refused alcohol even on his deathbed. Modern hair sample testing backs this up. Your humble editors maintain that a fatal drinking spree may actually be the least likely scenario. Could it mundane?
be something more The flu, perhaps?
A Passion for Poe
On their last night together, Poe mentioned to Elmira that he wasn’t feeling well. She would later assert that he had a fever and claimed she tried to talk him into staying in Richmond for a few more days. Alas, he had no room in his schedule because of the editing job in Philadelphia. He went forward with his plan. A week later he was admitted to Washington College Hospital and was not only talking to objects on the walls but also calling out repeatedly for someone named Reynolds. Unfortunately, after more than 171 years we will probably never know what killed our Master of the Macabre.
What Happened Baltimore?
Why was Poe still in Baltimore a week after leaving Richmond? And where was he between September 27, when he was known to have left Richmond by steamship, and October 4, when he was discovered in the gutter outside Gunner’s Tavern? One oft-touted theory involves “cooping.” There was an election in progress in Baltimore, and it was claimed that persons were kidnapped and drugged, forced to don disguises, and ushered from polling place to polling place to cast multiple votes. Such is said to have happened to Poe. Could he have been accosted by thugs while he waited for his train and forced to coop? He would have arrived in Baltimore by 6:00 the morning after his departure from Richmond. He would not need to board the train for Philadelphia until
9:00, plenty of time for all manner of mischief to take place. This theory would explain the odd clothes, but evidence that cooping was going on in Baltimore at the time is thin. Clues that something more sinister may have been afoot emerged in the years and decades to follow. In 1875, 26 years after Poe’s death, a Philadelphia publisher named John Sartain went public with an intriguing tale. In interviews for various publications, including Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine and The Philadelphia Press, Sartain claims that Poe suddenly barged into his engraving room one evening in 1849, “looking pale and haggard and with a wild expression in his eyes.” Poe had left Philadelphia and was homeward bound on the train to New York, Sartain claims, when Poe overheard two men plotting to kill him and throw him from the train. Giving them the slip at Bordentown, Poe returned to Philadelphia on the next train where he approached Sartain for protection. In the ensuing conversation, Poe revealed to Sartain that he was embroiled in “woman trouble.” In an effort to disguise himself, Poe asked his friend to loan him a razor, so that he might shave off his mustache. The apparently hirsute Sartain replied that he had no razor, but proceeded to divest the poet of his famous mustache with scissors and offered him a place to stay for a couple of nights. After a few days, Poe conceded that he must surely have been imagining things and went on his way. It is not too much of a stretch to imagine that Poe might have bought some secondhand clothes in Philadelphia to complete his disguise, then headed back from
The Raven whence he came in an ultimately futile effort to confound his attackers. Modern theorists have suggested that Poe’s symptoms suggest he may have been suffering from a severe head injury. However, Dr. Joseph Moran, the attending physician at Washington College Hospital in Baltimore, specifically stated that there was no evidence of any kind of a beating about his person. Dr. Moran would spend the rest of his life writing and lecturing about the last days of his famous patient, and over the years gained some measure of fame as something of an expert on Poe’s final hours. Although Moran embellished his story as the years went by, and over time added odd new bits of information into the mix, he provides some of the most vital clues to this mystery. Dr. Moran claims that decades after Poe’s demise, he was approached by one George Rollins, who in 1849 had been the conductor of the train between Baltimore and Philadelphia. Rollins told Moran that he saw Poe on the train twice: on the Baltimore-to-Philadelphia train, then “very soon after” on the Philadelphia-to-Baltimore train. Rollins added that he saw two men, whom he described as “sharks,” follow Poe when he got off the train in Baltimore. Then in 1902, almost 60 years after the fact, a Richmond physician named Dr. John Carter reported an extremely odd incident in an article in Lippincott’s. Dr. Carter revealed that Poe appeared at his office unexpectedly and rather late on the night of September 26, 1849. Poe had said his goodbyes to Elmira and was passing the time before he
had to board the steamship bright and early the next morning. Carter’s office was roughly halfway between Elmira’s house and Poe’s lodgings at the Swan Tavern. Walking sticks or canes were at the time the fashion accessory no well-dressed man would be seen in public without, and Dr. Carter had recently acquired one that concealed a sword. Poe seems to have been quite taken with Dr. Carter’s cane-sword, and when he left, somehow managed to leave with the doctor’s cane-sword instead of his own walking stick. Puzzled but unperturbed, the doctor expected that he would see Poe again soon. As it happened, the cane-sword was discovered in Poe’s room at the Swan Tavern after he left town. Putting these pieces together, one can reasonably surmise that Poe must have suspected, or at least imagined, he was being followed. The sword, cleverly concealed in the walking stick as it was, may have seemed like the perfect weapon to defend himself against any potential attackers. He must surely have been most distressed to discover he’d left it behind, for if we take the story from Rollins the conductor at face value, it might have come in handy over the next few hours. One authority on the subject is John Evangelist Walsh, who theorizes in his delightful little book Midnight Dreary that Poe was attacked and left for dead by Elmira’s brothers. There were three of them, and they were vocally and adamantly opposed to a marriage between their sister and Poe, as indeed were Elmira’s teenage children. In the eyes of Elmira’s family, Poe was nothing but a lecherous gold-digger who would certainly besmirch the family’s good
Who Was Reynolds? “ ‘Reynolds!’ he called, ‘Reynolds!, Oh, Reynolds!’ The room rang with it. It echoed down the corridors hour after hour all that Saturday night.” Israfel , Allen. The Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe. Farrar & Rinehart (1934)
Spoiler alert: Nobody knows. It’s possible that the mysterious Reynolds may have been one Jeremiah Reynolds, who was the author of an article about exploration in the Pacific and South seas that appeared in the Southern Literary Messenger in January 1837. The article was edited by Poe and is thought to have been Poe’s inspiration for his novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Poe owed Reynolds $10—about $277 in today’s money. Other theories name one Henry R. Reynolds, one of the presiding judges in the Fourth Ward, where Gunner’s Tavern was located. If true, it could lend credence to the “cooping” theory, although this seems a stretch. There are gaping holes in both theories, however, and modern critics have pointed to numerous inconsistencies in Dr. Moran’s own telling of Poe’s last hours to posit that the whole Reynolds story is but a myth.
Issue 1 | September 2020
The Raven name. Poe was a celebrity, and it would have been widely known that Elmira wasn’t the only woman upon whom Poe had recently turned his attentions. It is understandable that the recently widowed Poe would be in the market for a new relationship. But he was also penniless and seeking financial backing for a new magazine called the Stylus that he hoped to launch. Elmira was conveniently quite wealthy. But since the death of his wife two years previously, Poe’s name had already been linked to seven or eight different ladies, one of whom he had come very close to marrying only a few months before his scheduled wedding to Elmira. Sara Helen Whitman, like Elmira, was a wealthy widow and a poet of some renown. Upon discovering that his intended had arranged to have her fortune put legally “beyond the reach of a husband,” Poe deliberately violated their engagement by getting rip-roaring drunk one evening and barging into her home. Walsh theorizes that Poe made it as far as Philadelphia on his northbound journey that October of 1849 and checked in to his hotel. At some point he was confronted by his followers but managed to somehow escape and make his way to Sartain’s. Apparently believing that he had thrown his pursuers off his trail, he was headed back to the safety of Elmira’s loving embrace. However, he only made it as far as Baltimore before being pounced upon by rapscallions and kidnapped, drugged, and perhaps beaten.
Not The End
Poe was but 40 at the time of his passing. We can only imagine what delightful tales of darkness might have come from his fertile imagination had he lived longer. As many have remarked before, Poe’s demise is a tale much like one he himself might have written. Surely, the Darling of Darkness is pretty darned pleased with the closing chapter of his life. But we’re interested in your opinions, your thoughts. What do you think happened to Edgar Allan Poe? Email us at GhostScribesDallas@gmail.com and let us know.
A Passion for Poe
By Brandy Herr The popular superstition says that you will have terrible luck if a black cat crosses your path. But for me, that wasn’t the case. What brought about my downfall was a calico. It began late on a Monday evening. Earlier that afternoon, my wife of twelve years had stormed out the door, carrying a hastily packed suitcase, screaming at me for not listening to her or something. That night, I found myself sitting alone in my ragged recliner, staring blankly at the television, tuned to some program about dysfunctional marriages. In my left hand was an empty glass. In my right hand, I held an almost empty bottle of Jack
Daniels. I decided to bypass the frivolity of mixing it with Coke this time and simply get straight to the point. I had just finished the last of the bottle when I heard a distinct “Mew!” come from the front porch. I rolled my eyes and ignored the call, desperately attempting to extract just one more drop from the dry bottle. Darn neighbor cats, I thought. Probably that stupid tomcat. I should go out there and show it the underside of my boot. The mewing graduated steadily to loud, plaintive meowing, and I became convinced the cur was not about to leave anytime soon. I sighed as I heaved my body out of the armchair then trudged to the door, determined to put an end to the
Brandy Herr is the co-founder of the Granbury Ghosts and Legends Tour and co-host of the annual Spooky Spectacle. She is a member of the ghost hunting team Research and Investigation of the Paranormal. Her love of sharing the ghost stories of her historic hometown led to her writing Haunted Granbury. Brandy is a native Texan and graduated from Pennsylvania State University. She now lives in historic Granbury, Texas with her husband, Matthew, and their dog, Luna, and cats Emma and Goblin. Learn more about Brandy and her work at AuthorBrandyHerr. com and follow her on Facebook at Facebook.com/AuthorBrandyHerr.
The Raven racket one way or another. I flung open the door, my foot at the ready, but I paused in mid-kick. Sitting on the doormat, looking up at me, was not the mangy old tomcat that constantly yowls outside my bedroom window, always on the make for another cat in heat. Instead, I saw a beautiful little calico cat. The brown and black splotches contrasted brilliantly against her snow-white backdrop of fur. What stopped me cold, however, was her piercing gaze. She stared knowingly at me, looking deep into me, with bright, emerald green eyes. I didn’t know what else to do so I stepped lamely to the side, holding the door open as the cat walked casually inside the house. The calico followed me into the kitchen and jumped onto the table, watching me expectantly. “You hungry, girl?” I asked. “Sorry, I don’t have much in the way of cat food, but wait … Francine always did like tuna. Maybe I can find her stockpile in the pantry.” I dug through the shelves and finally came up with one dusty, slightly dented can. I used the handheld can opener then dumped its contents into a dish. The cat stared at me, blinked once slowly, and licked her lips before diving her head into the bowl and devouring the food. I watched her eat still somehow mesmerized. When she finished, making sure to leave a few morsels of food so as not to appear desperate and pathetic as proud cats are prone to do, she jumped off the table and sauntered into the living room with me following behind. I lowered myself into my recliner while she curled up
A Passion for Poe
neatly on the couch, her eyes on the television. I wasn’t all that invested in the TV program so I switched it over to the nature channel, thinking she could marvel at her brethren. Looking at her lounging on the couch, I couldn’t help but laugh. Francine had always wanted a cat, sometimes even begged me for one. “It would give me someone to talk to, someone to listen to me when you’re too busy watching your sports,” she would plead. “Francine,” I would tell her, “If I wanted to invite something into my home that pukes up hairballs and poops in a box, we might as well have your mother move in!” With that, she would usually curl her lip, sniff haughtily, turn on her heel, and storm from the room. “Look at that!” I said to myself from the recliner. “It took Francine leaving for me to finally give her what she wanted. If she could see this, she would have a fit!” Suddenly, I was struck with a thought and cried out. “That’s it! That’s what I’ll call you. New Francine! That’s a nice bit of karma for that broad. I like getting the last laugh!” I chuckled and leaned back in the chair. New Francine slept soundly on the couch. Lulled by the soothing voice of the show’s narrator, I soon fell into a deep sleep.
The sun made its way through the blinds and shone directly on my face. I woke up. Groggy, I wiped drool off my chin and shoulder and stood, stretching off the stiffness from a
night spent sleeping in a chair. My throat felt like sandpaper and my stomach was gurgling, a symptom of the hangover that was just starting to rear its ugly head. I needed something in my system to stave off the worst of its effects. I trudged into the kitchen, started the coffeepot, and popped a couple of pieces of bread into the toaster. While I waited for coffee and toast, I heard a faint and unusual sound. Wap, wap, wap, wap. I looked down and smiled when I discovered the source of the noise. The little calico had followed me into the kitchen and found the twist-tie from the bread bag. She was batting it enthusiastically around the floor. “You like twist-ties, huh?” I said to her. “Here. How about this?” I pulled open the junk drawer and grabbed a fistful of the twist-ties that Francine liked to collect for God only knows what reason. I held my hand high in the air above the cat and opened my fist. The little bands floated down in a rainbow of colors. New Francine went crazy, batting at them, determined to hit all of them. “It’s not like Francine’s going to be here to yell at me for not using twistties anymore! Might as well get some use out of the ridiculous things.” I grinned, spinning the newly opened bread then tucking the open end underneath as I placed it on the counter.
The next few days passed without much incident. New Francine and I were getting used to each other, learning the boundaries and setting
The Raven up our routine. I actually managed to scavenge a few more cans of tuna, which meant I didn’t have to leave the house to go to the store for a while and that made me happy. Early Thursday afternoon, I was sitting in the recliner with New Francine on my lap when the doorbell rang. I groaned as I pulled myself to standing. New Francine slid gracefully to the floor. I continued to grumble as I made my way to the front of the house. I flung open the door and snarled in fake anger, “What do you want?” “Hi, Daddy!” cried the beautiful nineteen-year-old blonde as she threw herself into my arms and planted a kiss on my cheek. She pulled back quickly, pinching her nose. “Ugh, Dad, gross! Toothbrushes. Ever heard of them? They’re not expensive.” “Hey! I’m on vacation. I can let myself go.” I chuckled, grabbing her for another quick hug. “Candice, what are you doing here?” I was overjoyed at seeing her. Candice pushed past me into the living room. “Aunt Charlotte said Francine called her a few days ago and said she’d left you. Aunt Charlotte’s been trying to reach you and finally called me. I’m on Spring Break so I thought I’d come spend a few days with you and see how you’re doing! I have to leave on Sunday to go back to school, but Aunt Charlotte will be here then to stay with you. She can’t get here any earlier; her cat sitter isn’t available until then.” I rolled my eyes. The only thing that could dampen a spontaneous visit
from my daughter was the thought of my nosy spinster sister, oh I’m sorry, that’s not very politically correct, my nosy confirmed bachelorette sister invading my house and ordering me around. She has been hinting, and not very subtly, about wanting to move in here since there isn’t much room for her and her seventeen cats at her tiny rental home. She’ll take any opportunity she can to weasel her way in here, I thought to myself as I watched Candice float around the kitchen, picking up discarded beer bottles and microwaveable dinner containers. “Oh my God, Dad, when’s the last time you cleaned this place? Here … “ Candice turned me toward the stairs. “Why don’t you run upstairs and get a shower, and for the love of God, brush your teeth. It’ll make you feel better!” Candice had a point. I made my way upstairs to the sound of her wiping and dusting. I turned on the faucet and in a few seconds, I was stepping into a steaming shower. She was right. I was already starting to feel better. Candice had always been a sore spot between me and Francine. She for some reason did not like the fact that she was the second wife. Candice was a constant reminder of the life I lived before her. Francine always tried to create excuses for why Candice couldn’t visit, but she was my daughter, and God help the person who tried to stand in the way of me seeing my daughter. I stood under the showerhead until I felt the first hint of cold water rain down. Reluctantly, I turned off the faucet, stepped out of the tub,
and walked to the sink. I wiped a streak through the fog on the mirror and took a close look at my face, releasing a sigh at what I saw. Dark brown eyes, bloodshot from all the beer and whiskey I had been consuming as of late. Dark brown hair to match with more gray at the temples than I remembered. Still no crows’ feet. Thank God for small favors. But the dark stubble on my chin and the deep frown lines flanking my lips made me appear much older than my forty-two years. I grabbed at my toothpaste and toothbrush and scrubbed as hard as I could at the layer of grime coating my teeth. Once I got all I could, I spread foam across my face and shaved with a dull Bic. After patting my face dry and slapping on aftershave, I took another look into the fog-free mirror. I smiled, a tiny one, and saw a small glimpse of the young man I once was, before Francine and I started going downhill. “You clean up rather nicely, old guy,” I whispered to myself. I dried off and pulled a t-shirt over my head, the first clean shirt I had worn since Monday. I paired the shirt with a fresh pair of sweatpants. I may have been clean but I still didn’t care about being too fancy. Barefooted, I padded down the stairs and headed to the kitchen where I found Candice sitting at the table, petting the calico. Candice turned her head at my approach. “Look at you, Daddy! Looking good!” she squealed. I kissed the top of her head. “Thanks, darlin’. I guess your old dad still has a few good years left!”
Issue 1 | September 2020
The Raven Candice stood and ruffled my hair then did the same to the cat. “What a sweet kitty, Dad! When did you get her? I thought you didn’t like cats!” “I didn’t. I don’t. She just showed up on my doorstep Monday night after your step-mother left, and I don’t know, I just felt like I needed to let her in. I’ve named her New Francine.” “New Francine?” Candice lifted a lip in a grimace. “Dad, that’s kind of sick. You’re using a cat to replace your wife?” “You’ve been watching too many indie movies, sweetheart. I just thought it would be funny. Now that Francine’s gone, I get the one thing
A Passion for Poe
she always begged me for and I name it after her? It’s about time I get the last laugh!” “I guess…” Candice conceded, still with her lip curled. “It still just seems weird to me, though. But at least it’s good you have someone to keep you company! Well, except for me and Aunt Charlotte.” I groaned inside. I had almost forgotten about Charlotte’s impending arrival. “Let’s head into the living room and have a chat,” I said, changing the subject. “Bring a couple of beers, and we’ll put a saucer of milk down for New Francine, and you can tell me all about what’s going on at school.”
“Daddy, I’m only nineteen!” Candice protested. “Yeah, and I happen to know your college is ranked one of the top party schools in the state. You mean to tell me you haven’t already had a beer or two?” I teased. “We-ell, I guess you’re right.” Candice looked sheepish as she snatched two bottles from the fridge and headed to the living room. New Francine followed close on her heels and me, with the milk, made up the rear. I settled into my recliner asking, “So? How’s school?” Candice perched on the sofa, leaning
The Raven over to watch New Francine, who happily lapped milk from a saucer on the floor. “School’s great, Daddy! I’m taking some really interesting classes this semester. I’m almost done with the basics so now I’m starting to get into classes that actually relate to my major.” “Imagine that,” I said with a sarcastic grin. “Only a year-and-a-half and $20,000 later, you’re finally getting to learn what you wanted to learn in the first place.” “I know, right?” Candice nodded. “It’s all a big scam. Anyway, there’s this really nice guy I met in my biology class …” “Oh no,” I interrupted, playfully clapping my hands over my ears. “I don’t think I’m ready to hear this.” “Daddy! It’s not like that!” Candice threw a sofa pillow at me, which I caught with ease. “He’s a great guy, so nice and smart, and he’s pre-med just like me! He wants to be an orthopedic surgeon. His name is Jimmy and we’ve been seeing each other for about three weeks now. I would love for you to meet him sometime. I think you’ll really like him.” “Ok, darlin’, if you say so,” I said with an exaggerated sigh. “I’m sure he’s a perfectly sweet guy with no ulterior motives. Just let me know when you want to bring him around and I’ll have the shotgun ready and loaded.” “Oh, Dad, you are just the worst.” Candice stuck her tongue out and grinned. We settled into a pause. The only sound that filled the silence was New
Francine’s purr. It should have been a lovely moment, watching Candice stroke and scratch New Francine’s head and the cat so obviously loving it, but unease gurgled in the pit of my stomach. Or maybe it was just the remnants of my latest hangover. “So, Dad,” Candice began apprehensively. “Do you, you know, want to talk? About Francine or … whatever?” With just two questions, Candice shattered our peaceful pause. I slumped in the recliner. “Not much to talk about really,” I muttered out of the corner of my mouth. “She screamed at me, I screamed at her, she packed a suitcase, she left. Same stuff, different day, you know? And that’s the last I heard of her.” “You haven’t tried calling her? It’s been three days. Hasn’t she always come home before now? You don’t think she’s gone for good this time, do you?” “Nah, I haven’t tried calling her. I’m not about to go crawling to a woman on my knees. I tried that with your mother and I’m still looking for my dignity and it’s been fifteen years. If she’s gone for good, then it’s good she’s gone.” I snorted and took a big gulp of beer. Okay, so maybe that was a little bit of a lie. But Candice didn’t need to know about my weakness. I did try calling Francine once, late Tuesday afternoon, after the haze of Monday night’s date with Jack had cleared a bit. The call went straight to voicemail with not even a single ring. I slammed the phone down and vowed not to resort to such stupidity
again. If she wants to talk, she can darn well turn her phone on and call me herself. I glanced over at Candice and noticed the little calico staring at me with her head tilted to the side as if she knew about my little white lie. Maybe she did. She had been in the room when I attempted the call and I suppose cats are probably more perceptive and intelligent than we give them credit for. Still, though, I wished she would quit staring at me like that. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat as memories of Monday afternoon came flooding back to me. Francine and I had been on the rocks for some time. The first few years of our marriage had been great, filled with love, passion, and romance. Then, old habits started creeping back into my life - first the beer, then the hard liquor. Francine took my drinking in stride at first, but it slowly took a toll on her as my increasing inebriation became harder to ignore. It didn’t help matters when Candice hit puberty and began blossoming into the stunning beauty she was to become. This only compounded Francine’s jealousy of my daughter. The passing years and our fractured marriage were playing a part in Francine’s looks. Her once fiery red hair became a dull orange. Body parts began to sag, others expanded, and lines appeared on her face. She was still a lovely woman, at least in my eyes, but women are always the most critical of themselves especially when in comparison with a perky blonde co-ed. Her growing hatred of my daughter only succeeded in driving a wedge further between us, and I began retreating to the comfort
Issue 1 | September 2020
Spooky Happenings The Raven
All you Poe folks out there, listen up: Poe Fest International is still happening this year. No need to shell out for travel to Baltimore—this year it’s virtual, and it’s FREE!
They’re also offering additional ticketed events at a very affordable price, including—hold on to your scruffy little toothbrush mustaches—the Poe Places Death Weekend Tour. Find out more here. (Click the big red Tickets button and scroll down to the Add-ons sections.)
The International Edgar Allan Poe Festival and Awards
practicing social distancing and wearing masks, of course)
October 3 & 4, 2020
Streaming Live Get tickets at https:// poefestinternational. com/festival-program
Poe Dramatic Readings Christopher Lee Fireside Tales
“The Midnight Collection”
Presented by Chamber Theatre Productions Continuous, starting October 1, 2020
Poe House Presents Author Series
https://www. chambertheatre.com/ “Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe” By Jonathan Christenson Buy the script and read aloud with friends (while
washing the dishes an everyday sort of chore then a sudden shock haiku by Lesley Morgan A Passion for Poe
Presented by Poe Baltimore & the MD Writers Association October 11, 2020 https://www.eventbrite. com/e/poe-house-presentsauthor-series-virtual-tourpay-what-you-can-tickets103855273920?aff= ebdssbonlinesearch
The Raven of televised sports to complement the alcohol, leaving Francine alone in a house with no one to talk to, not even a cat. The fight on Monday had been the worst. Francine came home from her women’s empowerment group, or whatever they’re calling it these days, to find me in my natural environment, leaning back in the recliner, bottle of beer in hand, football on the television. She stood in the darkened doorway, hands crossed tightly over her still ample breasts, and stared hard at what she could see of me illuminated by the television screen. I became aware of her presence during a commercial break. “Good Lord, Francine!” I yelled with a jolt. “How long have you been standing there? You trying to give me a heart attack?” “I think you’re doing a pretty good job of that yourself,” Francine replied with a disgusted sniff. “All that alcohol and sitting around is going to get you one of these days.” “Oh good, apparently they’re teaching medical science at your group along with all that feminist garbage. Keep it up and in a few years after Candice graduates, we can have two doctors in the family.” I sneered at Francine and turned back to the football game. “Don’t you dare call my group garbage!” Francine screeched. “Those women have done more for me in the past month than you’ve done in the past six years!” “And just what have I not done for you, Sweet Thing? Have I not
worked hard, providing you with a paycheck that you can spend on crystals and metaphysical whosits and whatsits and all that other selfhelp nonsense you seem to think will fill this imaginary void in your life? Have I not remained faithful to you all these years even through our expanding dry spells? So what have I not done for you, huh?” “Oh, please.” Francine dismissed my words with a wave of her hand. “If you had half as much energy for me as you do for drinking and sports, we wouldn’t be having any dry spells!” “What’s that supposed to mean?” I countered, really irritated. This was an important game, a playoff! Why did this nagging shrew not understand that? “You saying I’m not a man?” “I’m saying I don’t know what you are anymore,” Francine replied, deflated. “You’re certainly not a friend, a companion, or a lover. We’re just sharing the same space and barely that. I just don’t know. I think we need to talk to some-” “GO, GO, GO … TOUCHDOWN! Yeah!” I jumped from the recliner, arms stretched out in victory toward the television, beer bottle still clutched in my hand. “Are you serious?” Francine screeched. “Are you seriously more interested in your stupid game than you are in our life together? THAT IS IT!” Francine stormed up the stairs and within seconds I heard the sounds of frantic scurrying coming from our bedroom. Doors and drawers creaked and slid open. There was
a dragging sound and zipping and finally the unmistakable sound of a suitcase bumping down stairs. The sounds of her leaving had played out seemingly hundreds of times before. I rolled my eyes and continued watching the slow motion replay. “I’m done, Larry,” Francine shouted at me from the doorway. “I’m done! I’m leaving and I’m not coming back until I take this house from you! Do you understand me? WE ARE THROUGH!” “Yeah, yeah, yeah, don’t tempt me with a good time!” I retorted. Francine showed me her finger, whipped around, and flung open the front door. The last I saw of her was a white shirt sleeve hanging out the back of her suitcase, waving at me as if in defiance. I stared after her for a second then shrugged and turned back to the television. It was the fourth quarter and I’d seen this charade before. She’d be back. Movement from the corner of my eye brought me back to the present. New Francine had hopped onto Candice’s lap and now both of them stared quizzically at me from the couch. I laughed at their almost identical looks of concern. That only served to deepen Candice’s frown. “Dad, you okay? I thought I lost you there for a second.” “Yeah, I’m fine, darlin’. Just got lost in my thoughts. Hey, I got an idea. How about I go put on some real pants and we go out for some ice cream?” Candice’s frown turned into a grin. She could never resist ice cream.
Issue 1 | September 2020
The Raven “You got it, Daddy. It’s a date!” After waffle cones of Rocky Road and an invigorating walk in the park, Candice and I returned home. The cat waited expectantly at the door. “Sorry, girl,” I told her. “They were all out of tuna-flavored ice cream.” New Francine sniffed at the air and did an about-face, walking away stiffly with her tail straight in the air. Her tail twitched in rhythm with her stride. I rolled my eyes and looked at Candice. “Cats can be so sensitive, can’t they? They’re a lot like wives.” Candice giggled, punched me playfully on the arm, and headed for the living room. The next two days with Candice were some of the best days I had had of late. We spent a great deal of time talking and catching up. I got to hear all about her classes and her friends and even more about this new boyfriend of hers. She opened up to me in a way she hadn’t in a long time. We had always been close, but now I was starting to view her as my friend and not just my daughter. While we talked, Candice was constantly on the move, flitting from one room to the other with a trash bag or a dustpan, making sure every corner of the house was spotless. “Just because a woman doesn’t live here anymore doesn’t mean it can’t look like it’s got a woman’s touch,” she would gently chide me. “Hey, now, don’t forget, a woman does live here.” I grinned and pointed at New Francine. Candice bent at the waist to give New Francine a pat. “Well, until
A Passion for Poe
she starts pulling her weight and running the vacuum, I guess I’ll have to be the woman.” Similar exchanges went on throughout the weekend. Saturday night was especially memorable. After dinner, we retreated to the living room. Candice and New Francine took their respective places on the couch. I, however, remained standing. “Since this is your last night here I thought we would celebrate,” I said with a grin. Candice cocked an eyebrow in question. New Francine blinked slowly. I turned to the closet in the hallway and made a production of digging through the stacks of junk buried there. Finally, I found what I was looking for nestled among the multitude of winter coats and empty clothes hangers waiting for phantom sweaters: Candice’s old Super Nintendo system. I pulled out the gray box and blew the dust off the top. Candice yelped with joy and excitement. “Oh, Daddy, you still have it! I can’t believe it! I haven’t played with this in years!” “Wait up,” I told her. “I think I still have some of the old games in here, too.” I dug around some more and came up with a black shoebox filled with game cartridges. “Aha! Here we go!” I handed the box to Candice. “So, what game shall we start with?” We settled on the classic Donkey Kong Country and spent the rest of the night and the early morning hours, fighting our way through the jungle. New Francine simply slept,
curled on the couch, lightly purring. Her tail twitched occasionally, I imagine in contentment, boredom, or something in between. Later that morning, the brilliant sun streamed through the window onto my bed. I struggled to keep my eyes closed, holding the misguided hope that if I prolonged my waking that would somehow prolong Candice’s leaving. And just as we were starting to bond. Eventually, I could put it off no longer. Reluctantly, I opened my eyes and swung my legs over the side of the bed, pressing my feet to the cold hardwood floor. Candice beat me to the punch. She was already in the kitchen frying bacon and eggs for our last breakfast together. She smiled sweetly as I trudged into the kitchen and kindly avoided making cracks about my disheveled appearance. New Francine was on the table, enjoying her breakfast of tuna mixed with a scrambled egg. “You’re going to spoil my cat, you know,” I grumbled unconvincingly at Candice. “Well someone has to! You better get used to doing so yourself. Cats tend to expect a certain level of luxury. It dates all the way back to the Egyptians when cats were worshipped for their alleged metaphysical attributes.” I groaned. “You, too, with the metaphysical mumbo-jumbo? You’re starting to sound like Francine. Can we postpone any more history lessons until after I’ve had my coffee? I don’t have the brain power to focus on much of anything right now.”
The Raven Candice rolled her eyes and turned back to the stove. After breakfast, Candice retreated upstairs to pack for her trip back to college. I sat sullenly in the living room, wishing I could prevent the inevitable. Soon, the only company I would have would be my cat and —God help me—my sister, Charlotte. As if on cue, the doorbell rang. “Aw, man, she’s here already?” I moaned. “I was hoping to at least say goodbye to Candice before that harpy showed up.” I forced myself to the door and opened it unwillingly, my eyes cast downward, waiting for the nagging and the lecturing to start. They always began immediately. However, instead of seeing Charlotte’s practical brown flats, I saw shiny black boots. And instead of hearing her high-pitched, excitable voice, I heard a deep male voice say, “Excuse me, Mr. Cochran?” I looked up to see a solemn, yet kind-looking young police officer holding a badge. His eyes were full of sympathy and regret. Puzzled, I cleared my throat. “Ye-yes, that’s me. Lawrence Cochran.” “Husband of Francine Cochran?” I was now on full alert. “Yes, that’s my wife.” The officer briefly shifted his eyes as if to gather the strength to say what he’d come to say. “I’m sorry to tell you this, sir, but your wife is dead.” The news hit me like a blast of heat from an erupting volcano. I fell back a step. “Dead? How? When?”
“May I come in, Mr. Cochran? I’m afraid I have some rather upsetting things to tell you.”
are inconclusive …”
I stepped aside awkwardly, allowing the officer to enter the living room. From her perch on the couch, New Francine stared at both of us intently.
“Well, you see, sir, I’m afraid …”
“Mr. Cochran, my name is Officer Williams. Your wife’s car was found this morning in the ravine that runs parallel to Old Latham Road. Your wife was still in the car when we found it. I’m sorry, but there was nothing we could do for her when she was found.”
Officer Williams coughed and took a deep breath to steady himself. “You see, sir, when the responding officers answered the call that a car had been found in the ditch, there was a rather large feral cat colony in and around the vehicle. I’m afraid, I’m afraid there wasn’t much left of your wife for the coroner to autopsy.”
I swallowed hard and asked, “How? How did it happen?” Officer Williams lowered his head a moment before meeting my eyes. “There were no signs of skid marks and no signs of a struggle. I’m afraid we are having to rule this … a suicide.” This pushed me another step back. Suicide? I knew she’d had trouble with depression in the past, but I thought she had been doing much better. Wasn’t that what those infernal women’s club meetings were supposed to help with? My voice came out barely above a whisper. “When did she die?” The officer slowly sucked in a breath as if to steel himself for the answer. “Mr. Cochran, I’m afraid that is the difficult part. From the coroner’s initial investigation, he estimates the time of death at Monday around 4:30 PM. Cause of death, a severe blow to the head most likely from the windshield. The toxicology report has been sent off and won’t be back for a few weeks. However, results
“Please stop stalling and spit it out already!”
The room started to spin and my knees buckled. Had I not thrown out a hand, latching on to the back of the recliner, I may have collapsed at the officer’s feet. “Please leave,” I told him feebly. “I really need to be alone right now.” “Yes, sir, Mr. Cochran, I understand and I’m very sorry for your loss. There is just one more thing.” Officer Williams reached into the small case he’d been holding. “When the officers found your wife, they found this clasped in her hand. I thought you might want to have it.” I looked down at the object the officer held out to me. It was a wellworn, slightly crumpled photo of our wedding day. I reached for it. Tears sprang to my eyes. “Thank you,” I whispered. Staring at the photograph, I sank into the recliner only vaguely aware of the officer leaving. Gone. Francine was truly gone. I couldn’t believe it. Yes, times had been rough these past few years and there’d
Issue 1 | September 2020
The Raven been times when I couldn’t stand the sight of her, but deep down, I never stopped loving Francine. I couldn’t take my eyes off the happy couple in the photograph, beaming widely at the unseen photographer. God, but Francine was beautiful. Clad in her mother’s heirloom wedding dress with the high lace collar, she glowed with her fiery red hair cascading in waves around her face, her piercing green eyes, her dazzling smile. And now she was gone forever. I put my head in my hands and wept. “Mew.” The noise came softly from the other side of the room. “Mew.” I looked up to see the little calico sitting on the couch, staring at me. “Mew,” she said again. A dawning realization struck me. Francine’s time of death was thought to be Monday around 4:30, not long after she walked out of my life and only a few hours before this cat entered. Francine had always loved cats and would go out of her way to avoid harming one. There were feral cats all over the area where her car had been found, and there’d not been signs of a struggle.
with an ease known only to cats, disappearing from the corner of the cabinet, then reappearing on top of the kitchen table. I knocked over pots, pans, and chairs in my lumbering attempt to exact revenge on my wife’s murderer. I took a giant swing at the table. She disappeared again. “Daddy!” screamed Candice as she hurried into the room. “What are you doing? Don’t hurt the cat!” Startled, I swung around to face my daughter and walked toward her intent on explaining. But, mid-step, I felt soft, tickling fur pass across my shins. A moment later, the cat slipped between my feet, toppling me and sending me sprawling. The knife flew out of my hand. My ankle twisted and I heard a sickening crack. Pain shot up my leg and I landed on the floor with a thud, heaving and gasping, trying to catch my breath through the pain. “Urp!” came a cry nearby. I looked up and there stood Candice, eyes wide in disbelief, clutching the knife that protruded from her stomach. Blood spread in a growing stain. “Daddy?” Her eyes rolled back into her head and she slumped to the floor.
alleged metaphysical attributes. I’m never coming back until I take this house! Francine with her never-ending love for cats. Francine with her obsessive interest in the metaphysical. Francine with her piercing green eyes. Oh my God! “You,” I spat at the cat. “You, you didn’t kill Francine, did you? You are Francine!” The cat blinked at me, looked deliberately over at Candice’s body, then back at me with that devious smirk on her face. She had finally come between me and my daughter. She had won. With a twitch of her tail, the calico slipped gracefully out of the kitchen. “Come back here, you wretch! I’m sorry I ever loved you!” I screamed after her, attempting to belly crawl my way into the living room. The pain was so immense all I could do was lay my sweat-soaked forehead onto the linoleum and sob in despair. “I love you, Candice. Daddy will always love you.” I reached out and laid a hand on her lifeless body.
“You,” I growled. “You did this. You ran out in front of her car, causing her to swerve. You killed my Francine!”
“Candice! No!” I crawled to my daughter, knowing there was nothing I could do to save her.
The doorbell rang. Knowing I couldn’t answer it even if I wanted to, I ignored it, praying whoever it was would go away. Moments passed and it rang again.
I lunged at the cat, who darted from the couch with a loud screech. I chased the demon into the kitchen where I grabbed the first knife I saw. “You killed her!” I screamed. “Why did you do it? WHO ARE YOU?”
Sitting on the floor, just far enough out of my grasp, sat the little calico cat. She stared at me, almost smirking and yet seeming to peer into me with her piercing green eyes. As I stared into her eyes, the room began to spin.
“Knock, knock!” a singsong voice filled the house. “I rang the doorbell but no one answered. You know, it’s really not safe to leave your front door unlocked …”
The animal escaped my attacks
They used to be worshipped for their
A Passion for Poe
Charlotte screamed. From the doorway of the kitchen, she looked
The Raven from Candice, to the knife in her stomach, then to me with a look of shock and disgust. “You monster!” she shrieked. “How could you murder your own daughter? Did you think in some sick way this might win Francine back? How could you?” She raced from the kitchen. “Charlotte, no! Wait!” I called after her. “You don’t understand. It was the cat!” The admission sounded false even to my ears. There was no way she—or anyone else—would ever believe me. I heard the frantic murmur of Charlotte on the telephone, explaining the situation to the police. “Come quick!” I heard her yell before she slammed down the receiver. Once again, there was nothing I could do. I lowered my head to the floor and waited. Within minutes, the sound of sirens filled the street. Paramedics rushed into the kitchen with two stretchers, one for my beloved Candice, who was quickly covered with a sheet, and one for me. Officer Williams himself handcuffed me to the railing while he read me my rights. The whole time, he stared at me as if I was a disgusting slug he had found on the bottom of his shoe. I only half-listened, resigning myself to my fate. After all, my wife and daughter were both gone. What was left for me now, anyway? Charlotte stood by, watching the circus in my kitchen. The calico slipped into the room and jumped into her arms. “Ooh!” she cried out in surprise. With a coo in her voice, she murmured, “Hi there, little girl! Ohhh, you must be so upset and scared with all this excitement. And now your daddy is going away for a very long time and you’re worried no one will take care of you. Don’t you worry, little sweetheart. Auntie Charlotte will stay here with you and she’ll bring all her cat friends with her so you’ll always have someone to talk to!” As the paramedics wheeled me out of my house, I stared into the piercing green eyes of the little calico cat one last time. I’m never coming back until I take this house! Looks like Francine is the one who got the last laugh.
Issue 1 | September 2020
Image: Side Projec Photo
What We’re Consuming Welcome to the maiden voyage of What We’re Consuming. Here you’ll find discussions of books, videos, blogs, podcasts, music, and maybe even a recipe or two.
What We’re Watching We’re seriously impressed with the creepy creativity in this series of stopmotion short animations from the multi-talented Juan R. Hernandez. If evil clowns is what keeps you awake at night, be sure to check out “Afterhours part 5”, which you can find here, and “Afterhours part 6” here.
Image: Juan R. Hernandez
We caught up with Juan to find out about the inspiration behind his work: “I like the feeling of wonder. The feeling of looking at a piece of work and figuring out what was going on in the artist’s mind. They say the eyes are the window into the soul. I say art is the window to the mind. My artwork is deeply influenced by my dreams and past experiences. It is dark, sometimes humorous, and for the most part, surrealistic. The sky’s the limit when you have crafting materials and an internal library of ideas!”
Juan R. Hernandez was born in Monterrey, Mexico but moved to the US when he was seven years old. He has resided in Dallas, Texas for the last 25 years and is now a middle school teacher, artist, author, polyglot, and filmmaker. His work is currently exhibited in Dallas’ Bishop Arts district. He has written and published three books, Chronicles of Delta, Little Peach goes to the Beach, and The Writer. Watch for his latest book, Dark Hourglass, available on Amazon in October 2020.
What We’re Reading In this issue, Lesley Morgan reviews As the Crow Flies, Enter Haddonwood Book One by Rysa Walker and Caleb Amsel, published by Starry Night Books in 2019. This is a freebie on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, with the audiobook available as on add-on for $7.49. I loved Rysa Walker’s Chronos File series, so when I discovered that her newest book was of the paranormal genre, I gave it a shot. I can recommend that you do the same. And I recommend the book over the audiobook, unless you don’t mind hearing every male character sounding like Homer Simpson or Yogi Bear. At 436 pages (physical book) or 11 hours 31 minutes (audiobook), As The Crow Flies will keep you busy for awhile. The story is written from the point of view of a number of main characters, each of whom narrates a section of a chapter. I didn’t find it difficult to keep the characters straight since they are well-delineated. The book is written in present tense. It’s a writing
technique that’s supposed to make the action seem immediate and fastpaced. Maybe I’m a jaded old writer/ reader, but I find it tedious. You’ll note some resemblance to Stephen King. The characters are the everyday people next door that you’d find in a King book. There is the King-like ambience of a small town. There is the requisite haunted house, strangely behaving humans and animals—and it’s Halloween. It’s a creepy, puzzling world. You see something out of the corner of your eye and when you look directly at it, it might not be there. What’s real? Is that person alive, or sort of dead? How can you count on anyone when you don’t know who or what they are? How do you protect yourself from something that might not exist? Is your history really your history? Is the world you’re in the one with the horrors, or is it one of the others? You think, therefore you are... or are you? A boy named Chase is the one who’s supposedly responsible for all the weirdness. He’s the only person who
says that another world is the real one, and that his 18-year-old brother is really his 34-year-old father. Of course no one believes him. For awhile. But then the main characters begin comparing notes. They’re all experiencing alternate histories and just-out-of-reach memories. And they have to take action before their reality—whichever one it is— becomes the point of no return. The prologue seems unrelated to the rest of the book, but there are some similarities with the epilogue. Neither makes much sense to the rest of the story. The ending leaves the story unresolved, but with tantalizing hints of what’s to come. So obviously there will be a second book (or more?). I like to think I’ve figured out what’s going on, but maybe not. Who are the 72? I hope to find out in the second book, which I intend to read when it’s released in October 2020. I can recommend that you do the same. Pull up a chair Haddonwood.
hardwoods in autumn red and yellow and orange a carpet of death haiku by Lesley Morgan
Issue 1 | September 2020
t her birth, Miranda Norwalk was miserable – bawling when it wasn’t necessary, grimacing even though she was dry, fed, and rested, and fussing when other babies were content. And even though her parents tried day and night to soothe her, they failed to make her happy. Needless to say, as Miranda grew in age, so, too did her miserable
in and immediately back out of Miranda’s house. They, unlike her parents, had a choice, and they chose not to be around someone who was always whining, complaining, and downright negative. In a word, miserable, which is what they called her behind her back. They said, “Miserable’s frown was especially dark today.”
often people forgot her real name, but they never forgot her disagreeable personality. One day in her elementary class, Miserable’s teacher looked wistfully out the window and said, “The sunshine is nice but it’s been so long since we’ve had rain. However will the flowers grow?” She turned to the class and teased, “Maybe we should all carry a raincoat and umbrella.
Miserable disposition. At day care, the teachers drew straws to see who would be stuck with the inconsolable toddler all day. At church, the children’s ministry staff called in sick rather than counter Miranda’s negative take on the Bible stories. At home, family, friends, and neighbors ran
A Passion for Poe
Or, “Did you hear? Miserable scared Junior with her tale of woe.” And, “In class, Miserable threw away all the pastel-colored crayons, leaving only the dark colors.” Miranda was called Miserable so
by Ann Fields
That is sure to bring the rain.”
The other kids laughed with the teacher at such a silly notion, but not Miserable. She loved rain! That type of weather perfectly suited her temperament – dark, gloomy, wet, and sometimes stinging when
The Raven it came down really hard. So even though the teacher had been teasing, Miserable began the very next day wearing a slicker and carrying an umbrella everywhere she went. At the beach in the summer, there was Miserable with her rain gear. At church on Sunday, there piled beside her on the pew, her coat and umbrella. At birthday parties her classmates were forced to invite her to, well, you know what Miserable gave as a birthday gift. That’s right! A dark gray slicker with a dark gray umbrella. The years continued to pass and during that time, Miserable perfected her sour nature while sporting her raincoat and umbrella. Now, it is said people like Miserable live a long time. Why? Because God doesn’t want them in Heaven and the Devil doesn’t want them in Hell. So leave them on earth, right? Well, that was the plan except an unintended oops! by the Grim Reaper landed Miserable at the Judgment Gate at the ripe old age of 27. Wide-eyed, pointing a finger, God asked in an earth-shaking tone, “Is that Misera – err, err, Miranda Norwalk?” The Devil, who’d just arrived to collect his souls, exploded. “What the heaven is she doing here?” “I’m sorry!” the Grim Reaper quaked. “With everyone calling her Miserable, I got confused. I thought for sure the Miranda Norwalk having a hissy-fit in the ER was the right Miranda Norwalk. Certainly not the Miranda Norwalk who was smiling and laughing at the park.”
God took a deep breath and held it for a count of ten, then slowly blew it out. “It’s okay,” he said calmly even though one eye twitched. “Anyone can make a mistake. We’ll just have to figure out where to put her.” “Not in Hell,” the Devil emphatically shouted. “I have enough to contend with what with wicked denizens trying to overthrow my rule.” “Well certainly not Heaven!” God shot back, losing his faux calm. “Why, she would make all the angels fly away.”
perfect job for her.” Relieved, God and the Devil hugged Mother and left. Shortly after, the Grim Reaper escorted Miranda to Mother Nature’s home. The dark and brooding young woman grumbled and mumbled the entire trip. She’d really been looking forward to going to Hell and was remarkably unhappy about landing in nature. But when she arrived and Mother told her she’d be in charge of rain, Miserable almost smiled.
Feeling awful about his mistake and knowing it could not be undone, the Grim Reaper suggested, “Miserable loves rain. How about placing her with Mother Nature?”
Miserable went to work immediately, causing rain to fall on picnics, parades, and other activities people planned with care. All with the sole intent of blessing people with the one thing she loved – rain.
God and the Devil looked at each other. Their eyes lit up. They smiled.
And finally, in all her miserable life, Miserable was happy.
“That’s perfect!” God exclaimed. “Mother is a wonderful nurturer, so patient and loving. There’s no way Mis…err, Miranda will be able to rattle her.” That settled, God and the Devil went to Mother Nature. Like all mothers, she was busy doing a million things at once. But, she made time for her distinguished guests, inviting them to sit at her table full of nature’s delights – honey and nuts, water and fruit juice, and so much more. God explained the situation. Mother Nature smiled throughout. When God presented the solution, he crossed his fingers under the table. He need not have. Mother’s smile grew. She nodded gladly and in a tender voice said, “Of course dear Miranda can reside here. We’ll get on just fine. In fact, I have the
Misery, hopelessness, anguish, despair— you get the picture.
Issue 1 | September 2020
Ann & Sueâ€™s TBR* List
Tsundoku is a Japanese word describing the tendency to buy more books than one can possibly read, and both your humble editors suffer from this delightful affliction in spades. Oh, if only there were just a few more hours in a day. Alas, the laws of nature refuse to make an exception for us, and we continue to build our to be read (TBR) list. Peruse the list below and tell us what you think. Which of these are worthy of our indulgence? Did we miss any good books? Send us your thoughts and suggestions at GhostScribesDallas@gmail.com. * To Be Read Victor Lavalle | The Ballad Of Black Tom Nyx Halliwell | Pumpkins & Poltergeists, Confessions of a Closet Medium, Book 1 Tracey Baptiste | The Jumbies (series) Nathaniel Hawthorne | Young Goodman Brown (an oldie but goodie) Junji Ito | Uzumaki Shirley Jackson | The Haunting Of Hill House Aaron Campbell, Jose Villarrubia, Pornsak Pichetshote and Jeff Powell | Infidel Caitlin R. Kiernan | The Red Tree Neil Gaiman, Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III and Sam Kieth | Sandman Joe Hill | NOS4A2 Available at an independent bookstore near you. Online is good too.
A Passion for Poe
The Hungry Shoes
By Sue Latham
Detective Baxter Scott pushed aside the papers on his desk with a grunt of annoyance. There were no real leads in a recent series of serial murders, so the case had been assigned to him. He knew he should consider this a compliment, but this case looked like it might be the one that cost him his reputation as the force’s miracle worker.
partially devoured post-mortem, but Forensics had yet to find any identifiable teeth or bite marks on any of the victims. He was tired and knew he should call it a day. But something about this case kept bugging him and he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. He leafed through the folder again, taking a photograph from each crime scene. When he arranged the crime scene photographs side-by-side, it was suddenly obvious what it was that had been bothering him. There were footprints around each body, and they were identical to those from the previous murders. But the footprints didn’t go anywhere—there were none leading up to or going
Detective Scott puzzled over this fact as he took off his glasses and rubbed his tired eyes. Apparently somebody forgot to tell the Shoe Murderer that serial killers usually targeted victims with similar physical characteristics. Each victim had been beaten to death, but no murder weapon had been found. All had been
SHOES FOR EVERY BUDGET AND OCCASION! proclaimed a sign in the window. Charlie opened the door and went inside cautiously. “Good afternoon,” said a voice in the darkness. “Anything in particular I can help you with?” The man was pleasant looking enough. His clean shirt and tie and shiny shoes made Charlie suddenly conscious of his own shabby appearance.
Aside from the fact that all the victims were men, there was but one similarity between the cases: in every one of the three unsolved cases, the victim was missing his shoes. One of the victims was an elderly homeless man. The other was a young college student who was found in formal clothes—what remained of them, anyway. The most recent victim was an as-yet unidentified man in a business suit. The college student was black; the two other victims were white.
nobody was watching him. It had taken him weeks to accumulate this much money. He needed some new shoes desperately, and if anything happened to this money he would have to make his old ones last somehow until he could save up again. They were his only pair and they weren’t long for this world—he doubted he could coax another two weeks out of them.
“Um, I just need some shoes,” he said lamely. You dumbass, he thought to himself. What a stupid thing to say. Why else would anyone come in here? “Certainly, sir. For a special occasion, or just a good everyday pair?” away from the scene of the crime. Yet the footprints around the body were quite distinct. “Bax, old boy,” he said out loud. “You’re losing it.” He gave up for the night and went home.
Charlie Johnson counted his money again carefully and stashed it in the inside pocket of his grubby jacket. He looked around to be sure
“For every day. I’m trying to find something really comfortable and, um, affordable.” “Is something like this what you had in mind?” he asked, motioning Charlie to a display. Charlie noticed with relief that there were several pairs of shoes here within his budget. He looked over the display for a minute, then picked up a shoe that looked like it
The Raven might be just the thing. “Yes, could I try these in a size 11?” he asked. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw another pair that he hadn’t noticed before. The price was right, and they looked so comfortable he just had to try them on. “And maybe some like this?” For just an instant, Charlie thought he saw a flash of something in the man’s eyes. Fear? Pity? C’mon, Charlie, get a grip, he admonished himself. Stop being paranoid. “Certainly, sir.” The man bowed and disappeared into the stock room and reappeared a few minutes later with a shoebox. “Unfortunately, we only have a size 11 in these,” he said with a smile. Charlie saw with disappointment that the pair the man was carrying wasn’t the second pair, the ones he really liked. The man was helping Charlie try on the shoes when another customer entered the shop. “You’ll want to walk around in them a bit. I won’t be a minute.” The salesman scurried off to help the other customer. The shoes were really great, Charlie thought, but he couldn’t help but steal a glance at the other ones. He picked them up discreetly and saw that the display pair was just his size. The clerk returned. “Well, sir. How did they fit?” “Oh, they’re just fine,” said Charlie. “Say, I noticed that this shoe on display here is my size. Could I try them on?” “Certainly, sir.” Charlie imagined for just an instant that he saw that look again, but then the salesman flashed a friendly smile and Charlie thought
A Passion for Poe
no more of it. The man crouched down to help him try the second pair on. Charlie knew immediately that these were just the shoes he’d been looking for. He couldn’t imagine buying any other shoes than these. Why, they were so comfortable it almost seemed as if his feet were tingling! “I think I’ll take these,” he said. The salesman bowed his head slightly. “Just step over here so I can check you out and box them up for you.” “You know, these shoes are so comfortable, I think I’ll just wear them home.” “Certainly, sir.” This time Charlie was certain he saw sadness in the man’s eyes. Charlie paid for his new shoes and left the shop with a spring in his step. He ditched his old shoes in the first trash can that he saw, which was unusual for him. He typically held on to things, just in case they might be useful some day. But not this time. He felt like this must certainly be the last shoes he would ever have to buy. Charlie was half way down the block before he noticed he was going in the opposite direction from his small rented room. But he thought nothing of it. These shoes were so comfortable, he could walk around town all day! He was having so much fun, he didn’t even notice when he turned down a dark alley.
Baxter took a sip of coffee from the styrofoam cup and grimaced, as he did every morning. At least the coffee was free. He reminded himself that he passed one of those fancyschmancy places every morning. If he wanted better coffee, he could go there and pay through the nose. A new report and the morning newspaper were on his desk. There had been another Shoe Murder. The victim this time was an unemployed man in his mid-30’s. The newspaper article did not give a name—pending notification of next-of-kin, Baxter assumed. But according to the crime report, the victim was one Charles Johnson, age 35. Johnson’s landlord had been able to confirm only that the victim had lost his job several months previously but somehow always managed to pay the rent more or less on time. Johnson had last been seen alive approximately nine hours before the body was found. The modus operandi was the same: no shoes were found on the victim, but shoe prints around the body were the same as in the previous murders. Frustrated, Baxter drummed his fingers next to his computer keyboard then typed “Shoes”. A few minutes later, Baxter was on his way to his unmarked police car with a list of shoe shops tucked into his folder.
Baxter stopped at the crime scene first. The crime scene tape was still up, but he suspected last night’s rain would have compromised much of the evidence by now.
The Raven He was greeted by the officer on the scene, Alvin Shelton, whom Baxter had known for many years. â€œMorning, Shel. Having any better luck with this one?â€?
told him it wasnâ€™t just nothing. He made a note to have the forensics people test it. A few doors down he saw a sign: SHOES FOR EVERY BUDGET AND OCCASION!
â€œHowya doinâ€™, Bax? Nope. No murder weapon, no witnesses, no nothinâ€™. Just like the last one. Just like the last three.â€?
Reaching into his pocket for his badge, Baxter entered the shoe shop.
â€œShoes? Shoe prints?â€?
A barely perceptible tremor in the manâ€™s voice was Baxterâ€™s first clue that he was on the right track. â€œDetective. Detective Baxter Scott. Homicide Division. Just wondered if I might ask you a few questions.â€?
Shelton shook his head. â€œVictimâ€™s shoes missing. Rain last night had already washed away any prints by the time the body was found.â€?
â€œMay I help you, umâ€“officerâ€Śâ€?
Baxter climbed carefully over the crime scene tape and stood for a moment, looking at the scene and trying to picture the crime as it might have happened. It seemed an awfully small space for so much violence. There was barely room to move around. It didnâ€™t look as though the crime scene photographer had missed any useful prints. Baxter consulted his list of shoe shops. Climbing back over the crime scene tape, he decided to walk to the closest one, only a couple of blocks away. â€œHey, Shel. Iâ€™m gonna leave my car here for a minute.â€? Shelton smiled and waved. Baxter strolled along the sidewalk, stopping abruptly at a faint rusty mark on the sidewalk under an awning. His detective instincts
â€œDo you recognize this man?â€? asked Baxter, showing him a recent photo of the latest victim. The man coughed nervously. He glanced quickly over his shoulder and suddenly smiled brightly. â€œWhy, yes, Detective. I do believe that a man who looked very much like this was in here just yesterday.â€? â€œDid you notice anything strange about him? Was he nervous?â€? â€œOh, no sir. He seemed quite
â€œMind if I take a look?â€? asked Baxter. â€œThe case has been assigned to me.â€? â€œLucky you,â€? said the cop. â€œKnock yourself out.â€?
â€œCertainly, sir,â€? he answered, bowing slightly.
I have quite possibly the coolest job in the world. Officially, I call myself a â€œresearch specialist.â€? My name is Margo Monroe and what I really am is a ghost hunter.
Issue 1 | September 2020
The Raven ordinary. He was just looking for a good pair of everyday shoes.”
bit light-headed. “No thanks. I never shop while on duty, Mr. …?”
“Was he alone?”
“Payne. Roland Payne, at your service, Detective.” The man winced, almost as if in pain.
“Yes, Detective. Quite alone.” The ever-so-slight emphasis on the word “quite” was Baxter’s second clue, but he kept a poker face. “Can you remember what time it was when he came in here?” “I’m sorry, Detective. All I remember is that it was in the afternoon. We had quite a few customers yesterday, you understand.” “Of course. Do you recall if the victim, Mr…” Trying to remember the victim’s name, Baxter uncharacteristically drew a complete blank. It was his job to remember names and faces. He glanced at his notes discretely. How could he forget a name like Johnson? Suddenly, Baxter felt uneasy. He suppressed a strong urge to make a hasty exit. “Do you remember if Mr. Johnson bought any shoes?” “Why, yes, Detective, he did. It was this very shoe here, in a size 11.” He hesitated for a moment, then pointed to a pair of shoes Baxter hadn’t noticed when he first came in. ”Perhaps you’d like to try them on, sir. If my guess is correct, you’re a size 11. The display model is all we have, but they’re very comfortable.” And the strange thing was, Baxter did want very much to try on the shoes. They were such wonderful shoes. He thought perhaps he should examine the tread to compare it with the crime scene photos, then dismissed this as an extremely silly idea. He shook his head, feeling a
A Passion for Poe
“Are you OK?” asked Baxter, alarmed at how pale the man’s face had suddenly become. Payne held up his hand. “It’s nothing, sir. Just a little headache.” With a twinge of regret, Baxter put the shoes back on the display and turned back to the salesman. Payne was smiling again and his face was no longer as pale, but a telltale sheen of sweat had appeared on his forehead. Baxter wished Payne a pleasant afternoon and left the shop with instructions to call if he remembered anything else, no matter how trivial it might seem. Once outside, Baxter felt better immediately. He breathed in the fresh air. As his head cleared, he tried to put his finger on exactly what it was that just wasn’t right about this man Payne and his odd little shoe store.
When Detective Scott arrived at his office early the next morning, last night’s beat reports were already on his desk. He usually waited until he had his coffee before looking at them, but he knew that this morning, coffee would have to wait. A note from last night’s patrol officer was paper-clipped to the report: “Shoe Murderer strikes again.” The name Roland Payne jumped out at him.
Twenty minutes later, Baxter was at the shoe shop. He flashed his badge at the officer on duty and crossed the crime scene tape. They had already taken what was left of Payne away, but any rookie could have seen immediately that this crime fit the pattern. Something else was wrong here—the shop seemed somehow different. He didn’t feel that strange feeling from yesterday, when he’d wanted nothing more than to bolt for the door. Today, it was just a shoe shop, with all the shoes still neatly in place. Except for one blank space on the display carousel. He knew instinctively that it was the wonderful pair of shoes the old man tried to get him to try on yesterday. And he knew instantly that all he had to do to solve this case was to find those shoes. Baxter waved at the crime scene team and stepped outside. He had a sudden strange urge to grab a coffee before heading back to the office. And none of that swill like they had there—he wanted some good coffee for a change. There was one of those yuppie coffee places just a block or so from here…if he took a shortcut through the alley. Whistling, Detective Baxter Scott started off toward the coffee shop. He was in such a good mood that he failed to notice a pair of shoes next to a trash can. It was an unusual mistake for someone whose job it was to notice such things. And for Detective Baxter Scott, it would turn out to be his last, fatal mistake.
Speaking of Art
El Corazon Negro an Interview with José Vargas
Never let it be said that the Ghost Scribes don’t appreciate great art, ‘cause, you know, we’re all cultured and stuff. In this issue we dissect the black heart of Dallas artist José Vargas. (That’s a joke. He’s actually a really nice guy.)
curating art exhibitions in Dallas for more than 27 years. Besides curating art exhibitions, Vargas also works with prints, art photography, acrylic painting, and mixed media. Vargas works in a variety of styles, depending on the subject matter. He likes to work in series, but also creates individual art pieces to fit a theme of an ongoing art exhibition. If you’re in Dallas, check out his exhibition at the Latino Cultural Center from September 18 to October 24, 2020.
The Raven What was the inspiration for Corazon Negro? Well, since 1993 I have been organizing an annual art show in Dallas titled El Corazon. Over a year ago I created a large art piece to display in an art exhibit I had at the Latino Cultural Center in Dallas. That particular piece was mixed media, and it was my interpretation of a 1977 Mexican movie poster advertising Star Wars. I called it Estar Wares and I created a large wooden cutout of Darth Vader and next to him was a black wooden heart (to represent his inner dark side). I used a colorful Mexican zarape as the background. I liked the look of it so much that I decided to create a smaller piece, using a black heart, for the El Corazon art show. How would you personally define your style of art creation?
A Passion for Poe
Hard to say, really. It depends on what the theme or subject matter is that I am working with. My styles vary, because I have interests in various forms of art. I think that artists should not be stuck in one style or form of creativity. I guess you could say my work is kinda zany, colorful and sometimes dark, sometimes mysterious, with a tinge of humor, religion, spirituality, and metaphysics thrown in. Where can people view your art? In September, I will be participating in an art exhibit at the Latino Cultural Center (Dallas, Texas) along with three other Latino/ Mexican American artists: Genaro Hernandez, Juan J. Hernandez, and Samuel Torres. It is called Quetzal Quatro. I purposefully used a Q instead of a C in the word Quatro because I like the way it looks.
The dates are: Sept. 18 to Oct. 24, 2020. And in October, in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, I will be displaying my art along with Ms. Lourdes Osorio at Dallas Love Field Airport. When/How did you know art was your thing? As a child in the first grade, I noticed my teacher talking to my mom and my sisters about my drawings. I did not think that my art was special, but she did and so I became aware that my art had an effect on other peoplesâ€™ behavior. Where/How did you learn your craft? I feel I was born with a gift. And I am grateful for that. Maybe all people are born with gifts. Some persons are great in sports, or dance, music, and so forth. In elementary,
The Raven junior high, and high school, I took art classes. I did some art when I was in the Army (during the Viet Nam War era). Later on I took some art classes at El Centro College. I am grateful for some of the teachers in my life. I enjoy working with mixed media, photography, and painting (oil and acrylic). Sometimes I dabble with graphite, clay, prints, and watercolor. In closing…I do art because I enjoy it. Well, most of the time. Sometimes I don’t because, well, it is work. Sometimes it can get frustrating and challenging. At times, especially when I am getting ready for a large art exhibition, I might put in about twelve to fourteen hours a day getting ready for it. So when the show is on the walls, the last things I want to see are brushes and canvases. But then again, it is in my blood. In the past, I have gone many years without doing some artwork. I quit painting for thirty years. It felt like something was missing in my life, in my heart and soul. I was not being true to myself. So, if I could give any advice to anyone out there, it would be: if you want to create art, just get off your butt and do it! Don’t let reasons and excuses get in the way of your creativity!
Calling all artists! Do you create
downright scary art? Or know someone who does? We’re always looking for content for upcoming issues! Contact us at GhostScribesDallas@gmail.com.
For more about Jose and his artwork, visit https://www. facebook.com/LCCDallas/videos/3864863633540288 Jose can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Issue 1 | September 2020