Is there really a “Normal” family?

As promised, here is the first in our visits with the boy’s families. I thought big David would be a good place to start since his family serves as “home base” for our boys. As a child I knew a big David, and his family was very similar to the David in the books, and yes, I envied him quiet a bit. They didn’t have money, didn’t live in a fine home, didn’t drive new cars, or go on vacations, but they had each other and that was enough.

Those things don’t make a family, and most certainly don’t make a happy family. My granny would say, “blessed be nothing, no trouble at all” and “better a peaceful penny than a stricken dollar.” I think you’re gonna find this true with all the boys, but by the end of the book, one of them will have to learn this the hard way.

Do you see your family in big David’s? Great, then that’s your normal, soak it up, enjoy it as you would sunshine on a summer day. If not… well hang around for Stick’s family, maybe you just might see yourself in them. They’re a bit different than David’s, after all…there is no universal “normal,” each one is custom made. What matters is what we do with it.

Excerpt; Chapter 6 “It ain’t much but it’s home”

The next stop the bus makes is big David’s. He lives at the end of a long steep dirt road in a small timber house built by his Pa.

Locals know the hill as Owen’s ridge. His family has lived up there for generations. He shares that little house with a whole passel of brothers and sisters. I think there may be as many as ten of ’em but I cain’t swear to it. I reckon the whole bunch get along just fine.

No matter the weather, the yard is always full of bare footed kids of all ages. I don’t think a man could sling a dead cat without knocking over at least a couple of ’em. All of ’em laughing and yelling, running and fighting, screaming and crying. There’s an odd sense of joy in that house. Joy that’s seldom found in other households. Joy that with a bit of embarrassment I have to admit; I’m a great deal jealous of.

David’s ma sells some of the finest butter, buttermilk and bacon on the planet. That’s where ma gets most of our eggs. The ol’ boy’s dad’s pretty cool too. When he’s not in the hole chasing coal, he’s out there playing right along with his kids. Laughing and running, playing and screaming. It pains me a great deal to watch them, I cain’t help but wonder what my life would be like if my pa were still around. As I watch ’em I think about that a lot.

Excerpt: Chapter 28 “The worst lie I ever told.”

I was the first there. When David opened the door; puppies came rushing out; yappin’ and  jumping all over me.

They ain’t gonna bite friend; they’s just gittin’ to know ye is all. Come on in and make ye self at home. I walked through the door and into utter bedlam.

It was a big living room by any standard. A long well-worn couch sat in front of a large picture window. Clear plastic was stretched over the windows; sealing out the cold. Home-made curtains with pretty flowers hung gracefully; framing the glass like a picture frame.

Next to the couch sat a small simple table. The only thing on it was a large family bible. It was clear that it had been passed down through countless generations. The cover was tattered around the corners from use; while loose leaves of dog-eared paper covered with all manner of dates and notes poked from the sides. A faded and  frayed crimson ribbon was laced through the pages and served as a book-mark.

Standing with great prominence was the woodstove. A huge “Warm-Morning” sat on the brick hearth. A tall pile of split wood stacked neatly to each side. The entire house smelled of burnt hickory and oak; no wonder big David smelled the way he did. The smell of the wood combined with the intense heat of the stove soaked into my bones; making me sleepy and comfortable.

They was kids from floor to ceiling, all of em running and jumping, laughing and playing. It didn’t seem to faze his ma, not one bit. She came over, drying her hands on her floral apron before wrapping me in her arms with a big hug.

How ye doin’ young man? We’ve just finished supper, but I’ll heat ye up somethin’ if yer hungry.

No thanks ma’am, I eat before I left the house. Ma says it’s nobody else’s job to feed this bottomless pit but her. But if you don’t mind, I sure would like to call her and let her know I’m OK.

Phones right over there. Make ye self at home. David said his friends was comin’ by fer a visit. He’s sure been excited about it. Her comment made my conscience bother me a bit; causing the pangs in my belly to start up again.

I called ma to let her know I was there and found myself a seat on the couch (between two puppies). It was soft as a feather bed and I sank down into it as I sat. I just…sat there for a spell; enjoying the heat, the serenity, and the aroma of the wood while letting the worries just melt away.

I understood why David acted so. Even with all the noise and commotion I felt at ease; at home even. His ma had the same easy grin as he did, and the same easy nature. His brothers and sisters climbed on him like he was a set of monkey bars; and he seemed to love it as much as they did.

It seemed all too soon, but a knock came at the door; dragging me back to reality.

David stood up, looks like that’ll be the fellers. The dogs exploded though the door the second he opened it.

I heard a ruckus on the front porch. Good God we’re bein’ attacked by a pack of rabid lassies. Git down dogs I ain’t got no hot-dogs in my pockets.

Chuckie’s panicked voice was unmistakable. The two of em, Chucky and Stick tumbled into the living room in a pile; puppies nipping at their britches, and licking the boy’s faces.

Big David was grinning from ear to ear, even showing some teeth. Aw… They’s just gittin’ to know ye is all, ain’t no use in gittin’ ye drawers in a bunch.

I gotta have em in a bunch cried Stick, if I didn’t those hounds would pull em right off me.

Chucky was already standing in front of the stove, his backside turned to it while he rubbed his tail.

Ain’t nothin’ like a hot fire, my tail is soaked to the bone. Stick kept runnin’ me through mud holes the whole way here.

What? I didn’t do no such thing. Just cause you cain’t ride don’t mean you can blame everybody else.

I interrupted they’re little quarrel. That’s enough guys, yun’z gotta call yer folks so’s we can be on our way. We’re burnin’ daylight.

David looked worried. You sure you wanna do this friend? I mean, they ain’t no shame in not goin’. Heck, I’d wager ol’ Mark ain’t even gonna show up.

I’ve gone too far to back out now. Side’s, if he does show and we ain’t there, I’d get a poundin’ fer sure.

What ’che gonna tell my ma? He asked.

Oh… I ain’t thought of that. I got up and went to the kitchen.

David’s ma was sitting at the table; checking a pile of soup beans before she put em in water.

Excuse me Ma’am.

Stick forgot a couple things at his house; we’re gonna run down and git em if that’s OK with you. We’ll be back shortly.

OK she replied (with out looking up from those beans), but you boys be careful. Ya hear?

I could tell she weren’t used to being lied to. She never batted an eye at my excuse. As I turned and walked back to the guys; I felt all kinds of dirty and those pangs were back in my stomach.

Light was beginning to fade as we walked out on the front porch.

As always Thank You for choosing to spend just a little of your time with The Tin Cup Clan. I know there are a lot of other things you could be doing. A like or a share would be greatly appreciated, so go a head and make my day. Until next time…

Let Me Introduce You to “The Copper Lady”

Around here we got a habit of classifying any and all manner of machinery as “female.” I don’t know why, that’s just the way it’s always been. Truck, car, tractor, still, makes no difference, “The ol’ girl,” or “Fire her up,” are common phrases. If she refuses to start or breaks down, then things get a might personal, “That ol’ heifer up and quit on me” we might say. But we can be equally as forgiving, if you make it back home on a dark night you might give her a pat on the fender as you utter a loving, “atta girl.” My little girl named my truck “Big Blue,” Bi-weekly trips to Chemotherapy take about four hours driving each way. But when I finally get back home I never fail to proclaim to the wife that, ” the ol’ girl got there and back one more time.”

Mikey’s family is no different, he views his papaw’s still with a fearful reverence, she scares him. In the story, the still has a menacing personality, he compares the noises she makes to breathing, when shes’ cold, shes’ sleeping, waiting for the old man to wake her up.

Below is a few paragraphs from Chapter : 11 titled “Karma is a fickle mistress”

To most folk, it’s just an old shed full of hog feed and tools. An old weather-worn building that looks like it might collapse at any moment. But don’t let appearances fool ya. Its true purpose lies hidden just inside. On the left just behind a weather weary 6-panel door. The ol’ man keeps it pretty well hidden with sacks of feed and rolls of barbed wire to block the entrance.

I had to make sure and study how every sack and spool was stacked or placed. If even a single one was out of place, the ol’ buzzard would know some-one had messed with them for sure.

I poked my head out one last time, making sure I wasn’t seen, then quickly went to work. I was on a strict timeline cause the old man was sure to notice if I took too long. Once I had enough sacks moved to the side, I opened the door.

 There she was, the dim light gave the still a menacing appearance. The bottom was covered in black soot, scars from years of coal fires. Her copper skin had turned an ugly shade of olive brown from age, it’s no telling how old she was. A large coil of copper tubing spiraled down-ward from the top of her large belly and into the top of the smaller “thump keg.” (so named because of the thumping sound it makes when steam enters from the coil.) Another coil of smaller diameter called the “worm,” came from the top of that tank and curled its way into a barrel. It’s empty now but gets filled with cool spring water when the ol’ man is a cooking.

The spaces between the boards allowed streaks of dusty sunlight to play strange tricks on the eyes. In this setting, it was easy to believe she was alive. Sleeping for now but waiting for the ol’ man to come and wake her up again. On the back wall sat jar after jar of clear liquid. Realizing I had lost some time staring at the still, I picked up my pace a bit. My heart was beating out of my chest and I could feel each beat in my head. I stuck a shaky hand into my pocket and pulled out the first bottle.

As always we Thank You for your time. I know there are plenty of other things you could be doing. Likes, shares’ , and comments are looked upon like Christmas morning around here, so go ahead and make our day. Until next time…The Tin Cup Clan

Time to meet the Witch

Well… here it is, the central theme in the first “Tin Cup Clan” book. I admit I’ve put the ol’ girl off for awhile, after all, there were other subjects we needed to address. I need to begin by reminding all, there are always at least two sides to every story. The Witch is certainly no exception.

We all grew up hearing old ghost stories, as the teller changed, the story evolved with each telling. But, as I’ve said before… I firmly believe there’s a grain of truth in each one. It’s inevitable that such truths, after time and telling, become lost or difficult to recognise.

Our boys are out to find that truth, one way or another. Was she really a witch as the legend says? Or… was she simply an innocent victim of superstition in a bygone era. I’m gonna leave that question right there, and allow you to decide for yourself when you read the book.

So dear reader, I present to you, the “Leech Cemetery Witch.”

Excerpt : Chapter four(4)

The Tin Cup Clan-(Mystery of the Leech Cemetery Witch).

Even though we had all four grew up hearing the story. Stick was only too happy to tell us all again.

The way I heard it goes like this. You see, back nearly a hundred years or so, there was this old woman what lived up around Sinkin’ creek. I don’t think nobody knew her name fer sure, most folk called her Wilmide. She lived in the opening of an old spent mine shaft along with an old one-eyed dog.

Folks said she was spose to wear clothes she wove from the hair of what-ever animals she ate. She even wore a hat made from chicken feathers and stuff like that. And a necklace that had chicken feet tied to it to boot. Papaw said, that if you wanted a love potion, or maybe somebody had wronged you, or even a hex, or somethin’ like that, she was the one to go see. But she weren’t gonna do it for free.

David couldn’t stand this silliness any longer, before finally blurting out. “If she didn’t have no use fer foldin’ money, what did a body pay her with then?”

Stick raised his hand, putting him in his place before continuing. “I’m gittin’ there, I’m gittin’ there.”

Papaw said, you could bring her anything from dead chickens to dead goats, the deader the better. What kind depended on what you were askin’ her to do. The bigger the hex, the bigger the price.

Well; this went on for a number of years, nobody paid a crazy ol’ woman in the woods much mind. That was till one cold snowy winter. I mean it was a bad one too, cold like folks round here never seen before. Snow so deep, they say a horse’s belly would rub raw against it. It was durin’ such a winter, a young lady came to pay the ol’ witch a visit. There, by the light of that ol’ fireplace, she told a sad, sad story.

She said, her ol’ man worked the hooty owl over at the Blue Diamond. At least that’s what he told her he was doin’. But he was lyin’ ya see. He had himself a woman on the side. Nobody knows for sure who she was, some folk say the mayor’s wife or maybe the sheriffs.  To make matters even worse, he went and had himself a baby with her.

Well, if that weren’t bad enough, his wife had a baby of her own to tend to, a wee little baby at that. Well, he was stayin’ gone all the time, sayin’ he was at that mine, workin’ and such. But, even “workin’” as much as he said he was, he weren’t takin’ proper care and providin’ for his family. Blamed it on the hours at the mine I reckon.

One night; it got cold, I mean really cold, in that ol’ cabin there weren’t no coal for heat, so that poor little baby up and froze to death. Of course, this drove the wife nuttier than a squirrel turd. Somehow, she had heard through the grapevine about Wilmide, and in her terrible grief, took a mind to go see her.

She wanted revenge on her ol’ man in the worst kinda way, no matter the cost. And she wanted double for the woman he was seein’ as well. She felt she deserved that woman’s baby to make up for the one what died cause of the cold. But old Wilmide asked a hefty price, she wanted that baby fer herself.

Why an old woman would want a baby, nobody knows. But the woman was so mad, and so depressed, she agreed to the ol’ woman’s terms. So, hands were shook, the deal was done.

Weren’t long after that, there was a massive cave in at the Blue Diamond. Twenty-three men lost their lives in that horrible accident, including the woman’s husband. Mine explosion they said. Some died right away, them was the lucky ones. The others lingered for quite some time, days even, till finally the air gave out. A few even managed to scribble death letters to their families.

The man’s girlfriend went crazy with grief. I reckon she couldn’t live with his diein’ and all. So, one cold dark night, she went and jumped to her death over at the bluffs. That same night, the man’s wife found that little baby sittin’ there on her front porch, near froze to death, no note nor nothin’.

Big David interrupted. I thought you said the ol’ woman was gonna git that baby.

Hold yer horses, I’m gettin’ there, I’m gettin’ there, replied Stick.

Well… word got out amongst the town folk, and like it usually does, gossip turned to panic. They just knew it was ol Wilmide’s hex what killed all those brave men. A hangin’ mob was put together by the town leaders, and they took off up the mountain, after the ol’ witch.

There they found her, sittin’ in that ol’ mine, that one-eyed dog by her side. I reckon she knew they was comin’, cause all’s she said was, “come on in boys and warm ye-self over by the fire a spell.” When they made their way over to the warm fire, someone heard a baby cry, and there on the stones they found an old basket. In that basket lay that ladies’ baby, all wrapped up in rabbit skins.

The excitement was getting to Chucky. What’d they do, what’d they do? he asked.

I’m gittin’ there, I’m gittin’ there, hold your horses. First, they grabbed the ol’ witch, bound her hand and foot with iron cuffs, cause everybody knows, a witch cain’t escape from iron bindins’. Then, they went over to the hearth to gather up that baby. Low and behold. They’s no baby there, but over to the side they seen a baby’s basket held tight in the jaws of that one eyed dog just as it went runnin’ up the holler. Search parties looked high and low, but the baby, and the ol’ dog were nowhere to be found.

They tied that ol’ woman behind a couple of horses and dragged her all the way into town. That’s where the men beat her to the point of death, even tortured her with hot brandin’ irons and everything. Still, she wouldn’t tell em where the dog or the baby was, or even if her hex was to blame for the cave-in.

It didn’t matter how much they beat her, she just laid there, laughin’ at em. Through all that torture she never uttered a single solitary word.

They built a hangin’ post right then and there, and that’s where they hung her. Right smack in the middle of town. Some folk say, she never stopped laughin’, even as she hung there swingin’ in the wind. But at the stroke of midnight she went silent and limp.

Now, everybody knows, you cain’t bury a witch on Holy ground. So they picked a spot way out back of Leech Cemetery. Just outside the fence so’s not to be sinful. Then they sealed her body in an iron box so’s she couldn’t escape and buried her there with nary a single marker.

Folks say some seen a big dog standin’ on the next ridge, watchin’ the whole burial. And when the first shovel of dirt fell, that dog began to howl, eerie and ghostly. That howl was said to have been heard for miles up and down the hollers.

That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard scoffed David, “you said there weren’t no headstone.”

That’s the scary part said Stick. You see, a number of years later, a gravestone mysteriously appeared, almost outta nowhere. No writtin’, no drawin’, no nothin’, just a blank head-stone.

Many a folk have tried to knock it down, but the next day, it’s always back up. The best anyone could do was punch a hole in the back of it, that’s right, its holler, holler as yer head. And that hole is said to go down, way down. To what? Nobody knows.

A lot of folk think it was the child and dog what put that stone up. If so, they’d have to be as old and gnarled as the ol’ witch was by now.  It’s said, they keep it up to this day, nobody knows fer sure.

Rumor is; if you go there, just at the stroke of midnight, the witchin’ hour and drop a dead animal into the hole, she’ll answer a question for you. But you might not like the answer. If you ask a question, and not give her payment, they say the one-eyed dog will come fer you and yer soul.

The Cryptic Mr. Bill

By Michael Miller

When I began to write The Tin Cup Clan the first character that came to mind was Mr. Bill. I hope that we all have cherished childhood memories of that “one” person that seemingly with-out knowing influenced us above all others. I count myself richly blessed as I have several to fall back on. Mr. Bill fits this description nicely.

Throughout the books Mr. Bill’s importance is slowly revealed. But as his influence on our boys is increases, the mystery of this old gentleman deepens. Ultimately leaving the boys with far more questions than answers.

Even when he is sharing his story with our group or lending sage advise there is an ever present aura of secrecy. Leading them all ask themselves, How does he know so much about each of the boys as well as their families? What does he know about the legends and above all, what’s he not telling us. No one in town really knows where he came from, it seems he’s just always been. Even the adults have childhood recollections of the kindly old man and his age is a mystery to this day.

By the end of “The Leech Cemetery Witch” he lets the boys in on one of his childhood exploits. Sending the Clan off on another adventure to a place known to locals as “The Blue Hole” and a long dead “shiner” known as Hambone. This revelation aptly becomes the title of the second in our series.

Excerpt Chap 18 The Leech Cemetery Witch

I found the ol’ man at his usual station, crisp white apron and matching paper hat. A pack of Camel cigarettes rolled tightly in the sleeve of his wrinkled white T-shirt. Both of his thin arms are covered with old military tattoos’. Anchors and hula girls, hearts with faded writing. Most had begun to fade beneath his leathery skin, betraying the ol’ man’s years. But one stood out; on the inside of his left wrist was a thin blue circle enclosing four sets of letters.

Well now; who do we have here? I was wondering about you. News travels fast round here ye know. Especially when it involves a high-profile felon such as yer self. You alright?

Yea, pap gave me a beatin’ but, I reckon I’ll live.

He stopped what he was doin’ and wiped his hands on his apron. He walked over and pointed to my shiner.

Was he the one what done that to your face?

Naw. That was from this mornin’, I kinda got into a scrape with Mark.

Mark? What Mark? You mean that Green boy? You’d best steer clear of his kind, ain’t nothin’ but trouble. You’re too good a young man to git tangled up with his kinda mess. His sort is like a tar baby, the more ye play with it, the more ye get on ye. Know what I mean sport?

If ye don’t mind me askin’. How’d ye come out anyways?

Pretty good I said proudly, I got more of him than he got of me.

He threw his head back in a loud laugh… Well, that’s the important thing he said, always make sure and leave yer footprint I always say. Specially if that print is right up the crack of his behind.

He threw me a new apron and paper cap. You’re gonna be workin’ next to me fer today, till you git the hang of it, then come tomorrow you’re on your own.

Mr. Bill, you ever heard any-thing bout that witch what’s sposed to be buried up at the old cemetery?

Huh… what in the world are ye talkin’ about son?

I went a little further, you know, the witch, the one folk talk about up at Leech cemetery.

He gave a moment’s pause, scratching his head thru his paper hat. I could tell he was thinking about what he was saying next. Yea he knew about her, I could tell by the way he was acting. He just didn’t know how to change the subject.

What’s a young-un like you wanna know about such gobble-de-gook as that fer?

I dunno, just curious I reckon.

He stopped loading the trays and pointed at me with a dirty fork. His tone and face turned dead serious.

Now, listen, and listen good and proper. You and your buddies need to stay well clear of that old cemetery. You hear? They ain’t been nothin’ but bad come from bein’ up there messing around where a body shouldn’t. You need to mind ol’ Bill you understand? Most folk say they’s evil up there, and believe you me young man, there’s more than one kind of evil, a lot more.

He turned and went back to loading the trays. I stood there for a second, pondering what the ol’ man had just said. His words sent a chill up my spine. I began to seriously doubt the wisdom in my little dare.

My time in the washroom flew by, it was soothing in a way. The clatter of trays and dishes, the warm steam coming from the washer. I even enjoyed the company. I was sorry that I had only three days here. I would be more than happy making it an everyday thing.

Too soon Bill walked up. That’s the last of em son. Looks like a job well done. I reckon I’ll be seein’ ye pretty regular for the next couple days, right?

Yes sir, I’ll be here, lookin’ forward to it. Hanging my apron up and throwing my paper hat in the trash, I ran to class. Bill’s ominous warning firmly in my head.

Back in the day, everybody owned an outhouse

By Michael Miller

Built onto the rear of my papaw’s auto-shop was the little two room shack my mother, father and my brother and I called home. It wasn’t much by any standard, just a single bedroom shared by the four of us and an primitive living area.

In the far corner of our living room sat a small table and a counter fashioned from an old piece of laminate, together these served as our “kitchen.” Indoor plumbing was a dream yet to be realized, naturally this meant a great deal of time was spent carrying water up from papaw’s house.

We didn’t have a T.V., not even a radio. Even that was no deterrent come Saturday mornings,. That one special day of the week was sure to find us in papaw’s living room, flat on our bellies, chins’ in our hands while we stared wide-eyed at the Saturday morning cartoons.

Living in a home free from the encumbrance of modern conveniences is a “joy” most young folks will regrettably never have the opportunity to experience. Such conditions made simple things such as taking a hot bath or relieving ones self somewhat of a “big deal.” And as such, these ‘big deals” were accompanied by a great deal of pomp and circumstance.

Bathing for example was generally reserved for a Friday night and followed a very strict set of social protocols. Most important of which, and source constant aggravation on my behalf entitled the youngest to be first in the tub. This particular tradition was in my opinion, without doubt an early form of age discrimination.

I, being the older brother, as one might expect hated this rule. It usually meant I was forced to clean myself in a some what slimy and always cold liquid that my mother loosely referred to as “water.” This so called “water” came complete with all manner of flotsam and jetsam that may have been scrubbed from my little brother’s filthy body. Not to mention the public humiliation derived from being forced to bath in full public view smack dab in the center of the living room.

Of course, there was always the far less desirable option of walking down to papaw’s house and taking a shower deep in the bowels of his creepy basement. Which to this very day I swear was home to an entire community of ghosts, goblins’, witches, and countless other dark and dangerous creatures of the night.

Any one of the aforementioned creatures was forever on alert. Looking for that one careless child, only to grab said child and drag them kicking screaming and flailing to the furnace, stuffing the poor soul inside never to be seen again. All this suffering, just to make a boy’s dirty butt stop itching, and make us “in their opinion” more presentable to the general public. Highly overrated if you ask me.

In those days, a boy wasn’t worth his salt if he didn’t have some manner of earthly perfume following him about, and respect was earned by the number of black snakes (dirty rings around your neck) a body might accumulate in a short day’s time. At any rate, it was an absolute social injustice for a young boy to be forced to take a bath every blooming Friday.

To add insult to injury, no indoor plumbing meant no indoor toilet, that’s right none. That simple fact on it’s very own was enough to haunt the dreams of any “modern” kid. Not having an indoor toilet meant one thing and one thing only, we like most households back then relied on an old outhouse.

Now for the normal everyday run of the mill grownup this didn’t mean a whole heck of a lot, but for a kid, well, the old privy brought about a unique set of problems.

Most homes of the period placed a great deal of pride in their out-door toilets, most sported some manner of fancy cut out on the door, or maybe even some type of decorative landscaping around the perimeter. There were those who even went as far as to paint their little building to match the house, but we would never do that. I mean that would be kinda like putting on airs and everyone looked down on folk who tried that.

Our’s was pretty normal by the standards of the day. There was a half-moon cut into the door, and mother usually planted a few marigolds (left over from planting the garden) around the bottom, (they were used as natural insecticide by most folk). The wind and elements weathered the outside a warm natural grey. Sheets of rusted tin covered the roof and every year some species of small songbird would build its nest under the eave.

The most remarkable thing about our privy was the fact that it was a two-seater, (though I can’t imagine a person wanting company at such a private time). Otherwise the interior was pretty standard, containing the usual equipment, old newspapers, (for cleaning purposes) and the obligatory Sears and Roebuck catalog, (entertainment purposes) along with an old worn out fly swat.

It can be argued; an entire novel could be written based solely on countless childhood hopes and dreams brought about while perusing the wonder filled pages within that old catalog. It’s an absolute shame they are no longer printed.

However, any kid knows that amid all this tranquility, a dark secret lies hidden deep within the outhouse. A secret known only to those less than thirteen years of age. You see, those ghosts, demons, monsters, and other creatures that resided in papaw’s creepy basement had kinfolk.

Those kinfolk lived no where else but smack under the seat of that outhouse, that’s right, smack dab under the seat. We all knew that if we had to go number two after dark we put our very lives on the line.

Because resting just under that seat in the pitch black they waited, they waited for any unsuspecting kid to set his or her butt down. Then at that very moment, they were known to grab you by the cheeks pulling you under into their world, no trace would be left, nothing. Nobody would ever know what happened to you, just, “poof”, gone forever. It’s an absolute fact, just ask anybody.

To make matters worse; it was also a well-known and trusted fact, that the danger increased with the advancing hour of the night. This meant no reasonably intelligent kid would ever be caught dead out there at two or three in the morning. By this time we were certain that an absolute feeding frenzy was taking place deep under the outhouse.

What were we to do? Well, we did what any street-savvy, born an raised country kid would do, we formulated a plan. And a whopper at that.

This plan required a great deal of stealth and no small amount of courage.

The bed where my brother and I slept sat in the far left corner of the bedroom, our parent’s bed sat in the far right corner of the same room. The objective was the window on the right wall just a couple of feet from where my father lay sleeping.

At the very first bladder twinge the plan was immediately put into action. Planning was everything. What obstacles lay hidden that may hinder our approach? Where were the landmines of discarded shoes and dirty clothes located? What else lay on the floor, hidden in the dark just waiting to trip up some unfortunate soul? It could be anything, even a loose creaking floorboard.

Next were breathing patterns, a true veteran knew instinctively how to interpret breathing patterns of the grown-ups and the cadence of snores. Which ones meant deep sleep, and which ones meant danger. Eyesight was paramount as well; a kid had to have the eyes of an owl to notice subtle parental movements in the pitch black. All the while keeping a steady eye on the floor, scanning for obstacles.

It was a balancing act of course, and time was not on our side. Once the bladder started to fill, we were on an irreversible countdown. And the routine was always the same.

Quietly slip out of bed, silent footsteps on the bare wooden floor, watch for the work boots, they can be deadly. Make certain to step over dad’s dirty work pants, all this while keeping an eagle eye on the sleeping parents. Carefully slip along dad’s side of the bed. Listen for the cadence, listen for the breathing patterns. Looking up for a split second I can see the window illuminated by the moonlight, I’m almost there.

Like a cat I slide along the wall until I reach the glass panes. Like a burglar I slowly slide the window up. WAIT! dad begins to move, the cadence changes to a dangerous pattern, which can only mean light sleep.

Suddenly he rolls to his right side, I’m as still as death, the consequences of getting caught are too much to think about. After what seems like an eternity the cadence returns to a normal heavy sleep, snoring sets into a reassuring pattern, whew, that was close.

Finally move again, window is up and it’s time to empty bladder, the relief is almost beyond description, the feeling of accomplishment indescribable. As I stand there, I stare at the outhouse dimly back-lit by the hazy moonlight. With a smirk I say to myself, “not tonight monsters not tonight”, then turn and proudly make my way back to my bed.

There was always a mystery at our house, no matter how much the ol’ man mowed, no matter how much he fertilized or seeded, he simply could never get grass to grow beneath that bedroom window. My brother and I never told a soul till this very day, and as you can well see, the monsters never got us.

There are precious few outhouses now, and even fewer kids that know what one is, its time for that chapter to close I reckon. Time moves on and most things fade into the past, forgotten. The old shop is gone, as well as the two rooms we all called home. Even the bare spot under the window has been taken over by weeds.

But I remember, and I hope my brother does as well.

Oh, but just one more note, I’m not really sure where the monsters live now a days. I’m sure they were forced to find employment elsewhere. I personally believe most of ’em now live under our beds, waiting, watching, and hungry for an entirely new generation of kids.

Well… at least that’s what I tell my kids anyway. When was the last time you looked under yours?

If you liked this little story please hit a button or two at the bottom, two would be nice. A share and a comment would be even nicer. Thank you for your time, I know there just ain’t enough of it these days, and we’re honored that you chose just spend a bit of yours with The Tin Cup Clan.   God Bless

Every Class has A Bully

Mark’s character arguably has the most important role in the book. Proof that ofttimes there really are second chances in life. What we do with those chances is completely up to us, the results how-ever affect every one around us.

Excerpt: Chapter 2

There he was my mortal enemy, my worst nightmare, my one and only nemesis. An absolute giant by fifth grade standards, or any standard as far as we were concerned. At least one hundred and fifty pounds of muscle and mean. He keeps his blonde hair cut in a flat top so level you could build a house on it. He also wears a varsity jacket even though he was only in fifth grade, we don’t know where he got it, and it didn’t really matter. Besides; nobody was brave enough to ask him anyways.

As usual, his cronies surrounded him like he was the President. A pitiful lot all of em, clambering around, bending to his every whim. He took what-ever place in line that he wanted, slowing down only when he got to Mrs. Tuttle, he had to stop there.

Other kids vacated where-ever he and his posse decided to sit. Staying put was tantamount suicide. The best that one could hope for was losing part of your meal. The worst, well, made even the biggest kid shudder.

Just me, it’s just me, “Mikey”

Who am I? Nobody really, just a normal eleven year old. Kinda skinny I reckon, long slim face and dark hair. I don’t like my hair, or my nose, never have. My hair has a mind of it’s own and I think my nose looks to big for my face. I live with my ma in an old trailer a bit from my papaw’s house. The old man’s been gone for a while now. I reckon the pressure got to him so he took off a while back. That’s all I want to say about that for the time being.

The trailer sits on the far corner of my papaw’s land. The old girl has a mind of her own and it’s all ma and I can do to keep her a going. If the pipes ain’t leaking the outlets might quit working on which ever side she chooses. And there’s always the furnace, it’s alive I tell ya, and has a mind of it’s own. For the most part I got her figured out, but every winter the two of us are locked in an epic battle of wits, neither one willing to admit defeat.

Papaw works on big trucks in a large garage behind his house. It’more or less the local hang out, but that’s not where he makes his real money. Folks for miles around know him as “the” source for home-made whiskey. Let me tell ya some thing, this cat makes the best hooch in the state, it’s a tradition in our family, past down from generation to generation. That little fact (as you’re gonna find out) is destined to bring me no end of hard-ships. He’s my pa’s old man and I reckon he lets us stay here outta pity or something like that. He can be kinda hard to deal with but I’ll get into the reasons for that a bit later on. Ma say’s we’re gonna get outta there some day, but for the time being I don’t see that happening.

I ain’t got much in the friends department other than the guys I’ve mentioned. Cain’t say that I’ve got much of an interest in sports either. Matter of fact, I generally do my best to avoid those jocks at any cost. It’s not that I haven’t tried because I have, Lord knows I have. The end result of such an endeavor usually leaves me with some manner of personal injury or mental trauma. In other words; jocks are to be avoided at all costs. Trust me on this one, I know from experience.

Remember that hooch thing, yea that’s what got this entire mess started. It seems one of those “jocks” got word of my family’s little side business and figured he’d found himself and his buddies a ready supply. The resulting series of events would prove to change our lives in ways I’d never have dreamed of.

Spoiler alert; we all survive our first mystery. We figured out friends can come from the most unexpected of places. True friends always and I mean always got your back. It’s not just the old folks who have the best advise. Every body has a secret. And most important of all; no matter where you live or who you are, you’re a lot stronger than you may realize.  Life is full of wonder with no end and The Tin Cup Clan is gonna find it.

A laugh like a chipmunk “Chucky”

Next there’s Chucky Mathews. He’s kind of an odd duck. A dark headed short kid with an abnormally large mouth. Not big like he talks a lot, even though he does. I mean big bright red clown lips that cover the entire bottom of his face. They remind me of the wax ones you can buy at the dime store.

They make him look kinda silly, and he’s all kinds of sensitive about it. He has a laugh that’s just as weird, sounds a lot like a chipmunk or squirrel. He uses that weird laugh all the time, laughing at everything, funny or not. Even when he’s in trouble, especially when he’s in trouble, which now that I think of it is a lot. Him and Stick are pretty tight, makes you kinda wonder if slapping one will bruise the other.

His dad works the belt and washer, just as dirty, if not more, but maybe just a little safer.

The pay’s not near what the hole pays, but he’s lucky to get it. He used to work at the mill in the next town over, but when they cut back he was one of the first to get the axe. Big David’s dad pulled some strings and got him on at the Blue Diamond mine. He ain’t been there to long so he’s still playing catch up as far as money goes.

Chucky’s place is about a mile down the road from me. He don’t like us coming by his place much. We all figure it’s because he’s kinda embarrassed by it. It’s been tough for him, his place ain’t much really. His Pa lost their house to the bank when he lost his job at the plant. No warning or nothing, just went in one day and found a piece of paper with his time card. Right now, they’re rebuilding, they all live in a Shasta camper with a room built onto the side.

The room’s not very fancy, just boards and tar-paper topped off with a metal roof. Just stuff his dad could scavenge up I spose. He ain’t never let any of us inside yet, we don’t say nothing about it. Out of proper respect I reckon.

That’s one goofy lookin’ red head

Excerpt Chap 22: The Leech Cemetery Witch

“Stick made his opinion clear regarding the trash bag theory. “Great, we all gonna be seen ridin’ thru town, in the dead of night, in the pourin’ rain, totin’ a bag of dead varmints, and wearin’ trash bags.” Cain’t get any better than that.”

Let me introduce you to “Stick.” David Byrge was his real name, but nobody calls him by that, it’s just plain ol’ Stick. He’s as skinny as a hoe handle. His bright red hair usually looks like the bowl it was cur around. When I say red, I mean “RED,” not light, not dark, not almost, but bright flaming red. He wears bib overalls a lot and worn sneakers.

  You cain’t put a finger on him no-where’s with-out covering a freckle, I mean he’s covered with em. So much so that you’d think they were on the whites of his eyes. He’s been known to drop a fib or two as well, but other than big David, so have the rest of us. I swear he knows about every single dirty joke on the planet, and he ain’t afraid to tell any of em to just about any-body at any time.

Stick’s ol man drives a coal truck.Takes a special kind of stupid to climb on top of sixty thousand pounds, then try to control it down steep mountain roads and switchbacks. It takes years to learn how to operate and control one of those things. They’s been quite a few lose their lives on the mountain. Once that truck takes off down that hill, she takes on a life of her own.

If she gets loose, you got two choices, step out on the tanks and look for a soft spot before jumping and hoping for the best. Or hold on and try to ride it out, either way you’re probably gonna die, simple as that. The secret is picking a gear at the top and leaving her there. Once you try to shift down, she’s gone for sure.

Once she goes over, the grounds to steep to get her back up out of the holler. The mountain side is littered with dead trucks, overgrown with weeds and rusting away just where they landed.

The character of “Big” David

First and I my opinion the very best is my friend David Owens, “Big” David to the rest of us. He’s a big un’ with huge fingers and thick hands. Even though he’s just in fifth grade he’s already nearly six feet tall. His head is covered with wavy dark brown hair which he keeps parted to one side. His face is wide and a pug noise barely sticks out from the center. That big head sits on top of a pair of broad shoulders by way of an unnaturally short thick neck.

His size is betrayed by his temperament. He seems to exist in a continuous state of mild mannered happy. I don’t reckon I’ve ever seen him with out a slight smile on his face. I’ve come to believe he’s just made that way. When he speaks the words come out soft and low, slow on the ears and easy to listen to. There’s a simple wisdom in his words, he don’t say much, but what he says is generally worth hearing. I’ve never seen him put one bite of food in his mouth with out asking for the Lord’s blessing first, and I ain’t never heard any sort of curse or swear from his lips.

Him and his folks live down the road on a hilltop known as Owens ridge. They’s a lot of em’ and like the rest of us, money is tight. I believe the ol’ boy’s got more brothers and sisters than were animals on good Noah’s ark. They’re always out in the yard, running and chasing, screaming and hollering. Climbing their big brother like an old oak, and David loves it, every minute of it.

When his pa ain’t at work in the mines or home in the garden, he’s always out there with the kids, running and screaming as loud as they. That’s the part that make me a bit jealous, my pa’s gone so it’s me and ma. Even when he was here, he didn’t have much to do with me.

The oddest thing about big David is the ever present smell of wood smoke. It follows him every where he goes and even goes so far as arrive just a little before him in most cases. Of all my friends he’s the best, ma calls him a sweet spirit, says friends like him are hard to come by. I reckon she right about that.

David’s size is about all our little group needs to stay out of trouble. We know if there are any problems all we gotta do is yell for him, that’s about enough to diffuse any situation. Even though Chucky and Stick have pushed that theory to the limit more than a few times.

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