☰ Ms. Burgess’s Pets

Hello, AMPs

My name is Sam. I’ve been a handyman for about 25 years now. I retired not too long ago, but I still think of myself as being a man who fixes things for a living. I always will. What I’m about to tell you happened a long time ago, but the thought of it still haunts me to this day.

My first clue that my day was about to go to shit was when Little Frank (his daddy was Big Frank) and me got a work order for Ms. Burgess. Ms. Burgess had a reputation for being an odd one, but I'd never been out to her place before. She lived way out of the way. Most people around this area have heard stories about Ms. Burgess. But, we don't discriminate against paying customers, and she called us because we have a good reputation for doing folks right.

The rumors about Ms. Burgess basically all boil down to: she's a Witch. Little Frank was already beside himself worried. He couldn't stop himself from giving me speeches about not pissing her off, "or else". I told him simply that you can't believe every little rumor you hear.  The kids those days were horrified of her. Little Frank was a grown ass man and he was scared of her.

The stories about Ms. Burgess were bullshit. (Well, that's what I thought at the time). It sure as hell ain't what I think now.

When we got there, I wasn't surprised to see how poorly Ms. Burgess looked. She was dressed in all black and as she greeted us, she patted her hands on her floor length dress, puffing flour everywhere. She ushered us inside her home, which was dark and musty. Through the dreariness of the dim entryway, I could see more flour sprinkled over the hardwood floor. Me and little Frank’s boots made marks in the flour, and Ms. Burgess reached right back into her apron pocket and re-sprinkled the floor with white dust as soon as we passed. Little Frank’s eyes got wide as silver dollars, but I gave him that look. The look that told him to keep quiet about Ms. Burgess and her strange behavior. It was her house, and if she wanted her floors covered in flour, well, that was her choice.

Ms. Burgess noticed that we’d both stopped in our tracks, so she grabbed my arm gently and led me into her kitchen, where she pointed out her reason for calling.  She was having an issue with her sink.  

"Is black." Her voice was husky and she had a thick accent. Polish, maybe. She pointed to the sink again. Thick black, inky water filled up the entire basin. My first thought was dread. I did not want to stick my hand in that murky, jet-black water.

Ms. Burgess looked at me sternly and said, "You fix, yes?"  
"Yes ma'am." I said and got to work. I made Little Frank run to the truck and grab a drain snake and a large bucket, because I knew he didn't want to be in that house if he could help it. Ms. Burgess stayed in the kitchen and began kneading bread dough on her kitchen table, which was also covered with flour.

Why so much flour? I refused to mention it, but I couldn’t help but wonder.

I kept quiet and went about my work. Honestly, at that point I just figured she was a little senile. And who could blame her? She was out here in the country all alone, all the time. I had been working with no help from Little Frank for about 10 minutes, when I heard a whisper that felt like it was right next to my ear. I jerked my head out from under the sink and looked around the flour covered kitchen for the source. Nothing.

Ms. Burgess stopped kneading dough and looked at me. I nodded at her politely and went back to work when it happened again. This time the whisper was closer to a laugh or a giggle. I couldn’t make out what it had said though. This second whisper was closer to my ear, and that made me uneasy, to say the least.

Again, I looked around the kitchen for what I’d heard but there was nothing, save for a trail of tiny footprints in the flour leading out of the kitchen. These footprints were the size of Barbie feet. (My daughter had about a million of those at the house, she was just a little girl at the time.) So you can see why a person might panic at the sight of something like that. It just wasn't natural.  

Ms. Burgess let out an aggravated growl, and shuffled over to the prints, then sprinkled another handful of flour over top of them. She was mumbling something in her native tongue. She seemed angry.  

"Ms. Burgess, do you have a pest problem?" I said. My voice was shaking and I wanted out of that house.

"No pest." She smiled just enough to show her yellowed teeth. "Is pet." She nodded at me, as if trying to say 'do you understand?'

I nodded. Whatever walked up to me on tiny feet; whatever had whispered in my ear, was her pet. My heart was hammering in my chest. This wasn’t like no pet I’d ever seen.

"Is... Hungry." She chuckled, pointed to saucer of cream in her kitchen window, then went back to kneading bread.  I kept my cool long enough to wait for the sink to drain into the bucket under the pipes, and when it was full, I grabbed it in a hurry. I toted it outside to dump that black water into the yard. I kept telling myself that Ms. Burgess wasn't a Witch, she was just an old lady. That Witches don’t exist.

Once I was outside and the bucket was empty, I started looking around for Little Frank. He wasn’t by the truck. He wasn’t near the front of Ms. Burgess’s house. I looked for him for a few minutes, even called his name a few times. He never showed up. I shook my head, regretting taking that boy on as an apprentice and went back inside.

There were no boot prints in the flour when I went back inside, but I heard Little Frank’s voice coming from the kitchen. I entered the kitchen just in time to see Little Frank swallow the last piece of a sandwich Ms. Burgess had offered him. Little Frank was all smiles. He’d completely gotten over his Ms. Burgess phobia, which I thought was strange. Ms. Burgess offered me a sandwich too, but I declined, even after Little Frank told me twice how good his sandwich was, and that I was missing out.

I listened to Little Frank and Ms. Burgess talk it up and laugh for the next 10 minutes like they’d known each other all their lives. Weird.

I finally finished with the sink. It was draining properly and everything was working fine. I never did find anything clogging the pipes up either, which makes me think that the whole damn thing was a trick just to get someone out there to her house.

Ms. Burgess paid us and we left, our boot marks being covered up with more flour before we were even out the door. About 5 minutes down the road, Little Frank started complaining that his stomach hurt. The pain got worse and worse until I finally had to pull over and let him out so he could be sick. When he didn’t come back to the truck after a few minutes, I got out and went to check on him.

He was on his hands and knees retching up whatever Ms. Burgess had fed him. He got sick for so long, everything that was coming up just got redder and redder.

Little Frank didn’t die or anything, but I took him to the hospital as soon as he was well enough to be in the truck and riding again. The poor boy was traumatized. That’s mainly the reason I never told him about the hundreds of tiny red footprints leading away from his sick in the direction of Ms. Burgess’s house. Little Frank was so busy being sick, he never even saw them, he was nearly delirious.

To this day, I don’t know what the things were that made those footprints, but Ms. Burgess was using flour to keep track of their movements throughout her house. I know that they are invisible to the human eye, because I never once saw a creature or a monster or anything, I just saw those footprints. What I also know is that whatever they were, they hatched in Little Frank’s stomach and forced their way out. Once they were free, they headed straight for home.

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My novel, Trigram, is in the works, but in the meantime, I'll probably be working on short stories such as the ones on Wicked Shorts. (Wink)

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