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The Hole in The Road. (Short Story).

May 10, 2019

cropped-12301412301.jpgThe day was cloudy but at least it was no longer raining he was glad for as he also thought about all the school work that still needed to be done. He had noticed the pot hole had yet to be filled in; what was taking so long? He frowned at his own thought, but it had been filled in twice already and yet, it remained again unfilled?

The elderly lady, one Mrs. Esther Johnson was talking to him with a very concerned look on  her face, “He’s missing.”

“Who’s missing?”

She cocked a head at him as if he should have known, “My cat, Mr. Peaches. He’s been gone for three days now and that’s not like him…”

He had encountered the Mr. Peaches before and wasn’t all that unhappy that it was missing, “Sorry to hear. Been missing for three days? Maybe he’s just being a typical male cat…” Speaking of pets he had to go and get dog food later that day he reminded himself.

A little upset, “He’s fixed, he cannot do that anymore…”

Might explain it’s bad mood it seemed to be in constantly thought Matt with a patient look, “Well, I am sorry, Mrs. Johnson, I have not seen your cat. I’m sure he will return….”

“Other’s have reported missing animals as well.’ She looked down the street with a nervous smile, “Mrs. Hanson’s cat is also missing….”

Matt didn’t like cats all that much but remained patient, “Sorry to hear.” He heard a car somewhere down the line of houses start up with a sputter and gasp; had to be the young kid and his piece of crap of a car.

Mrs. Johnson spoke up, “That’s the Martin’s kid and his car. He shouldn’t be driving that piece of junk on the road..All that smoke and noise….”

“Well, he is working on the car best he can for a teen age kid, Mrs. Johnson.” Returning to the original topic, “So two cats are missing?”

“Yes, my Mr. Peaches. Such a wonderful cat…”

Yes, for a min-saber tooth tiger but he didn’t say it as he knew the woman loved her cats; Mr. Peaches was not the only one she had. He took notice of a car going by and hitting one of the pot holes; the thud was loud and unpleasant. And oddly enough the thud didn’t sound right if that was possible.

Mrs. Johnson took notice of the thud behind her, “Their bad this year. Long hard winter will do that. My tax dollars at work…” The features seemed very displeased by her statement as she also noted her own well-manicured lawn with the way too many lawn animals; the woman liked rabbits that was very obvious and certainly there were too many of those mushroom figurines; Alice and the Mad Hatter would have liked it though he thought. “…George needs to trim the hedges again, such a lazy man. He’s suppose to be doing that today but instead he snuck out this morning to play stupid golf with his buddies from the AFW…George fought mostly in the Korean War even though he liked to tell people he fought in the last year of World War Two….”

He had stopped listening to the woman a while back as something caught his attention and wasn’t sure he was seeing what he saw or at least briefly thought he saw. It had been a brief movement that seemed to come from the crater in the ground. Movement? Well, movement might be stretching what he thought he might have seen but something about the pot hole that seemed to, well, move?

Mrs. Johnson was still talking, “….Yes, I am worried about Mr. Peaches. He usually doesn’t disappear this long. He’s an indoors cat really. I’ve told George countless times to not let him outside but did he listen. No, he let him outside the backyard…”

“Cat’s do like to be outside.”

“Not Mr. Peaches, he is an indoor cat…”

“I’m sure he is fine and just being cat somewhere and will show up eventually…” He was simply answering to say something because he was being distracted by something he wasn’t sure he saw ever so briefly but the woman standing in front of him was still talking; he didn’t want to be rude. “I’m sure, Mrs. Johnson, the cat will return and be just fine. He’s been outside before and returned just fine….”

Both heard a house door open and a young girl came running out of her house and toward her dad’s black truck. She noticed them and waved with her usual eleven year old enthusiasm at the adults she knew well.

“Hey Mrs. Johnson, Mr. McPherson….”

“Hey Caroline.” Replied Matt, “Got the cast off, back to playing the violin.”

Caroline, waved again with a smile, and waving her no longer broken left arm to make her point, “It’s the cello, Mr. McPherson. It’s always been the cello.” She stood at her dad’s truck and yanked on the door which didn’t open. “Dad, it’s locked.”

“Where are you going?”

Looking at the two adults still with her usual cheerfulness, “I have ballet class today.” Again toward her house, “Dad, the door is still locked!”

Mrs. Johnson spoke up, “Carol.”

“Yes, Mrs. Johnson?” The frowned said something only Matt understood.

“Have you seen my cat, you known, Mr. Peaches, he is the tabby?….”

It was the look in Caroline’s young features that Matt noticed and that was uncertainty she liked the question. In fact one would get the impression by her young round features that she really didn’t like the question and was hoping that no one asked her about it.

Yes, Mr. Preaches is missing for a few days.”

“The grey tabby is missing?” Her voice asked the question but it wasn’t happy about the question and it showed. She dropped the dark blue and green backpack on the ground, looked at the two adults, looked at her dad’s truck, returned to the waiting adults, “He’s missing huh?”

“Yes, dear, my Mr. Peaches is missing?” She seemed to want to walk toward the young girl who was quit happy remaining near her dad’s truck.

Caroline shifted a bit on her feet nervously, didn’t seem to want to get any closer to the old lady asking her questions, “Well, I saw a tabby yesterday that might have been Mr. Peaches…but I was looking out my bedroom window while practicing my cello,” She smiled at Mr. McPherson with a sweet look, “It’s a cello and I was looking out the window only briefly. So it might not be him…””

“That’s nice, Carol, but my cat is missing….”

“My name’s Caroline, not Carol.” She was very serious, “Caroline Christine Corkin.” She enjoyed saying all three names, “I am eleven, I play the cello, and I am taking ballet…and Mr. McPherson is a teacher at my school.”

Matt laugh a bit, “Next year you’ll be in my history class.”

“I don’t like history.”

Matt smiled, “They all say that until it’s time for grades, Caroline…”

The elderly hand went up with some impatience, “Yes, yes, Caroline, I just need to know what happened to my cat…”

To the point, “I think the pot hole ate him.”

Mrs. Johnson was not amused, “This is not a funny matter, young lady. Not funny at all.”

Her expression didn’t change, her bare shoulders in the bright blue sun dress despite the weather shrugged, “All I know is that I was practicing like I always do, was taking a break as mom had just brought in my hot chocolate without marshmellows, I dislike marshmellows, and was looking out my window and saw a grey cat walking across the road near one of those nasty pot holes, I looked away briefly because my little brother had come into room just too annoy me…”

“This is a very long story, Caroline….”

“You asked me a question, I am simply answering it.”

Matt could see from her house door her father standing there listening with a look on his face that was somewhere between amused and puzzled by his daughter’s comments.

“….I heard what sounded like a cat being grabbed but it didn’t last long and when I turned back to the window the tabby was gone. He or she was standing near that pot hole….” She really didn’t look directly at the offending hole in the road but all knew which one she was talking about. “All I know is I heard a cat make a terrible sound and then it was gone.” Hopeful, “Maybe it just ran away…but I think the hole in the road ate Mr. Peaches yesterday.”

“Nonsense, Caroline, you simply have too much imagination.” Mrs. Johnson was not happy, “It’s just a hole in the road.”

“Well,” Caroline brushed a hand though her long dark brown hair, pushed her glasses back up her nose, “I know only what I saw and then heard and saw after. The tabby was there and then it wasn’t. It made a sound of surprised and then it was gone.” Noticing finally her dad at the door, “Dad, the door is lock.”

Harry Corkin smiled at the kid who again demonstrated it was locked and yanked the door again, “Well, I thought I had unlocked it earlier.” To the others, “Mr. McPherson, Mrs. Johnson, stopped raining finally.”

“You’re daughter is quite a story teller, Mr. Corkin.” Mrs. Johnson laughed and yet she seemed nervous thought Matt, “She is telling a strange story of pot holes eating my cat, quite an imagination she has…”

“Yes,” Walking toward his truck, his kid smiling away but she was also impatient to get going, “Caroline has an imagination…” Looking up at the sky, “Finally stopped raining as well.”

“yes, it’s been a wet weekend. My wife, Abby, doesn’t mind. It’s good for her gardening…” So interjected Matt.

“Daddy, we’re going to be late and I didn’t make it up.” Looking at the three adults, “It also seems to move as well because it wasn’t there an hour ago, it was over there…” Pointing closer to the parked car on the road, “It’s moved about ten feet where it was last time I came outside…” Looking at her dad with an impatient look, “Daddy, we are going to be late and if no one wants to believe me, well, keep your cats away from it anyway.” Her father unlocked her door, kiss the kid on the forehead, and helped her into the car.

Going around the driver side of the truck, “Quite the imagination.”

Matt noticed the look in her eyes as she stared at him from the front seat as they drove away. It was the look of a child afraid of something and no one was going to believe her till it was too late. And she apparently convinced her dad to drive in the opposite direction of the pot hole she spoke about; her dad laughed at the request but didn’t anyway. Matt looked at the pot hole and saw nothing but something did seem to feel wrong for some reason. It was just a damn crater in the road!

“Very imaginative child.” Looking at the man, “Some story.”

“She seemed to believe it.” In fact Caroline seemed very afraid of what she claimed to have seen or at least heard part of. “Maybe she saw something?…”

Annoyed, “She’s a child, too much imagination, she saw my cat and then my cat ran somewhere…” Her features seemed to indicate something was bothering her, “George never should have let Mr. Peaches outside….Well, when he gets home from his pointless golf game I will give him a piece of my mind again on the subject of the cats…”

He looked over at the pot hole. It was just sitting there like any other pot hole created by the last long winter in Minnesota. It was a basic looking hole in the ground caused by winter and the effects of that weather called very cold and whatever else caused pot holes. It was just a pot hole so why was he having a hard time not looking at it as if it shouldn’t have been there. Caroline said it had moved ten feet from where she saw it before? How does a pot hole move he would have asked the girl if she hadn’t been in a hurry to leave. Of course it doesn’t move. It’s a hole in the ground! It’s nothing but a damn crater in the road only dangerous to cars and people on bikes. Then why did he have the bad feeling slowly creeping into his thoughts that it wasn’t normal? Because the more he stared at it as if hypnotized by something indeed but certainly strangely felt he wanted to go over to it and see for himself that it was nothing more than a crater in the road.

The voice interrupted him, “Are you even listening to me, Mr. McPherson?”

“She was very convinced she saw something, Mrs. Johnson.”

Laughing a bit, “You are taking the word of an eleven year old child.”

“True, but I see no reason why she would make up a story like that one.”

“She’s a child, they have imaginations.”

Matt studied the woman, “Well, then your Mr. Peaches will show up at some point.”

“You actually believe her?”

“Doesn’t it seem odd to you that it’s the only pot hole on this street that keeps showing up. Because I have seen the repair crews filling in the holes and the next day, that one is still here and still a hole in the road?”

“You should be her creative writing teacher next year and not her history teacher because all I see is a hole in the ground.” She seemed also to not want to look in the direction of the hole in the road, “I hope Mr. Peaches returns and that settles the matter of my cat being eaten by a hole in the ground.”

He had been barely listening because he was certain this time he saw something he knew would be pointless to point out to the elderly lady. It had blinked! It was the only way to describe it he thought, it looked as if something had blinked very fast.

“You have a very unpleasant look on your face, Mr. McPherson, what is it?”

“Do I?” He thought out loud to the woman, “Ever get the impression you’re being stared at but no one else is around?”

“No, I do not. I don’t allow my imagination to run away with me like Caroline apparently does.” Adding, “I don’t believe in ghosts or monsters or some spiritual realm. Been alive for eighty-eighty years and have never once seen a ghost or something I can’t explain using my brain…”

“Well,” Slowly because he wasn’t really sure what to do or say until this woman went away, “I believe that there is more to the universe than we see or understand….” He felt stupid saying all this to this woman who really only cared about her cat, “Maybe she did see something. The universe is a big place and maybe there are other creatures out there…”

Laughing at him, “And their using pot holes to reach out and eat my cat? Don’t be ridiculous, Mr. McPherson, that’s just a pot hole and nothing more.”

“Then look at it because you’ve been avoiding doing that for a while now. Why wont you look at it?”

She didn’t of course.

“It’s been bothering you for a while hasn’t it? When did that start?”

The woman’s face seemed to go ashen a few seconds before she spoke up, “Nothing is wrong. I am concerned for my Mr. Peaches. He’s been gone two days.”

“And George?”

“He’s golfing as I told you.”

He decided to not push the question as he was beginning to fear the hole in the ground wasn’t just interested in cats, “Why wont you look at it? It’s just a hole in the ground, Mrs. Johnson?” The hole just sat there and it seemed very much alive? He knew he saw movement and though ‘blinking’ was a bad term for what he was sure he saw it fit what he saw. The woman in front of him was growing greatly agitated with his questions was very obvious but it was making no sense; except to an eleven year old girl who was gone with her dad. If he were less imaginative he could blame it all on the weather and the lack of sunshine and warmth the last few weeks. Maybe even blame it on the coming to end school year of class work and having the kids take their final tests.

The weather wasn’t helping as it was still cloudy, still cold, and still either lightly drizzling or simply pouring rain. It was a wet May. But he couldn’t blame what he saw on the weather or being a little tired. It was a strange feeling when he looked at the crater as well and the odd feeling of being watched just seem to be growing. He felt an urge to investigate this strange feeling but everything else in his mind told him to just walk away and ignore the damn crater in the road.

“Something is also bothering you, Mr. McPherson about that pot hole. I’m not the only one…”

“You mean the fact it’s been filled in twice and it still looks like it does now. Yes, something lately has been bothering me about it before Caroline said anything.”

Laughing at him, “I was joking, Mr. McPherson, it’s just a badly filled in pot hole which is very common in this state.”

A little annoyed with the woman, “Then look into.”

“I have better things to do than looking into holes in the road for mysterious blinking or whatever. You’ve allowed that girl to get to you. She’s eleven, they imagine all sorts of things at that age.”

“That might be, Mrs. Johnson, but she looked afraid of something she saw or heard or both. The look in those normally cheerful eyes was nothing short of being afraid of something she experienced looking out her window…”

“My cat was not sucked into a pot hole by some creature or anything else. He is simply lost and can’t figure out how to get home…”

“And George?”

“Playing golf!”

“In this weather? It’s not raining but still it’s not exactly the greatest golfing weather.””

“Playing. Golf. Mr. McPherson. George is playing golf!”

He looked at her with a hard look, “Except I see his car sitting in your open garage. So, where is George? How long has he been missing?”

“He’s not missing, he’s playing golf! Friends picked him up earlier this morning to play golf…” She so badly wanted to walk away he took note of, “He likes golf, he knows I wanted him to do some trimming of the plants today and he snuk out of the house….” Her features were growing more annoyed, “I know where George is!” She simply stormed off muttering under her breath something Matt didn’t understand and maybe he didn’t want to hear as he was sure it was not good. He watched the woman waddle back across the road, avoiding the hole in question as if she expected a tentacle to reach out and drag her screaming into the small dark unpleasant hole in the ground, and then slam the door shut once she was inside her house; a few seconds later the garage door closed.

He wanted to laugh at the whole strange incident but he couldn’t shake the feeling that the hole in question was actually listening? Another strange thought indeed and made no sense to a rational mind he told himself. He stood his ground and yet wanted to walk up to the hole and prove that he was just have a bad day and letting his imagination take him to a weird place. Caroline was just a kid with an active imagination; Mr. Peaches was just lost somewhere which would please George to no end after his golf game if that was what he doing at the moment; and Mrs. Johnson was being, well, Mrs. Johnson. How exactly would he prove that all this was an over-active imagination due to a long miserable stretch of wet, windy, and certainly chilly weather and simple end of school year stress? He looked up into the dark and light grey cloudy sky and found himself walking toward the thing in the road that of late seemed to never stay filled let alone go away. He felt the impulse as he got closer to not get any closer but he kept walking. This was stupid he heard himself say but he ignored it. He felt the strange feeling of being watching, of being observed, of something just waiting for him to get closer. Or was that the feeling of being dragged ever so slightly toward the crater.

“This is idiotic!” He blurted out because what he was feeling was getting too strong that he was indeed being watched by something. The hole looked so normal he wanted to laugh as he slowly walked up to it and stood looking down at the deep darkness in the hole that he couldn’t see the bottom to. He looked at the pot hole and couldn’t see a bottom. No few inches of water but complete blackness that seemed to be looking back at him. He looked up to get his bearings again and felt the off and on dizzy feeling come over him. He shook his head and felt himself backing away but he wasn’t moving. He was actually falling. He certainly felt like he was falling. The dizziness was increasing and the feeling of vertigo wasn’t being helped to go away as he looked away from the hole in the ground. The landscape around him seemed to be growing brighter and yet fuzzy as well. He closed his eyes hoping the terrible feeling would lessen or go away. It didn’t. And fact he felt as if he was actually falling. He felt like he was falling into a cold icy darkness that was very much alive. He wanted to scream but the darkness was engulfing him and drowning him in a terrible cold. He stopped remembering after that.

“Just like George, just like George…” Mrs. Johnson muttered painfully from her living room window as she watched Matt McPherson simply dissolve into the mass of darkness of the hole in the road.

Caroline knew what happened better than the cops who were convinced that a normal crime had taken place and a man simply disappeared without a trance and it would be solved eventually. But Caroline knew better and watched and waited and felt the thing in the crater in the road watching and waiting for her to be too curious about it. Curiosity was such a human falling it thought that it was easy to hunt for them on the third planet from the lone sun in the sky. It could wait, it had all time in the world for it’s next trophy.

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2 Comments
  1. Russ Sharrock permalink

    Very good. Reminds me a bit of the old Twilight Zone series.

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