Elster's World

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Stillwell House

The car came to a stop at the intersection of Route 63 and River Road, red brakelights lighting up the springtime dusk. From this spot, where the bottom dropped out of the hills, he could get a view of the entire town of Oak Valley.

The rented Taurus idled at the stop sign. He wasn't worried. In this part of the country you could wait an hour before another car came by and you'd hear it well before you saw it anyway. He put it in park and got out of the car

For the first time in over ten years, Chris Carpenter stared down at the place where he had spent the first nineteen years of his life. He took it in like a deep drag on the Chesterfields his old man used rip through, two packs on a slow day. Back before the big LC had put an end to that nonsense anyway. Not that the old bastard didn't keep smoking them, even as the Reaper's hands had finally squeezed his ash-dry lungs closed for the very last time when Chris was sixteen.

There beyond the trees, almost untouched by modernity, lay Oak Valley. He saw the skeletal remains of the mill, now years closed, where more than half of the town's male population had worked at one time. He saw Oak Valley High, almost five miles away, a one story brick structure that seemed lost in a time warp where all the old values still held true.

He let his gaze run down to The Fishkill river, following its curvacious path to the dreaded Deadman's Fork. Bear right on the Fishkill ye wily traveller's. If you took the left fork, you would hit The Falls, where Tommy Mularkey's brother had drunkenly tumbled over the side, crushed to death on the rock's sharp teeth below. "Horsepucky," Less Walter's dad would cackle whenever the story was told. "Tommy Mularkey didn't have no brother. He just had a whore sister who slept with every fella in Oak Valley high 'till the day she got pregnant with Bill Kinder's baby. After that their parent's made 'em get married and they moved away. To San Jose I think. Who really gives a shit anyway?" Then he'd take a swig of Miller High Life and that would be the end of that.

Chris smiled at the memory. It has been a long time since he'd thought about his old buddy Less. He wondered what had happened to him. Chris had gone off to college in New York City after high school, but Less was never much of a student. He had a beer gut and a full time job at the paper mill when Chris had loaded his two suitcases and worn backpack onto the Shortline Express; up north to A Better Place. Chris and all of his buddies had hugged at the bus depot, swearing oaths to keep in touch. That was the last time he had ever spoken to most of them. Chris felt a pang of regret for those things lost and got back in the car.

A wave of apprehension washed over him. He fought the urge to turn around; to go back to the place where he had made a life for himself. A great life. To go back and put this madness behind him. Chris closed his eyes and took five deep breaths. Then he counted to ten, put the transmission in drive, and started forward. He hadn't returned for a trip down memory lane. He had come here, no been drawn here, for a reason. He had come to find out was had happened in Stillwell House.

Stillwell House. Just the words put fear into every Oak Valley-er. Jason Stillwell was the wealthiest man in Oak Valley. He owned the mill, the outlying farms, and the mortgages on just about every house and business in the town. And he was about as unpleasant a sonofabitch as there could be. His nickname was the Mean Ol' Bastard. If you were talkin' 'bout a mean old bastard in Oak Valley, you were referring to the infamous Jason Stillwell.

When I was eight years old, Whitey Trellis, who had just lost his house to Stillwell's bank, filled his belly up with county moonshine and took a ride out to where Jason Stillwell and his family lived. Well on this particular summer evening, Stillwell's family was vacationing in their summer home. As the story goes (and no one was around to verufy it except for Whitey Trellis, who was at this point loonier than a drunken monkey) Trellis begged Stillwell, alone at the house, for an extension of time to make good on his loan before foreclosure. Stillwell told him to remove himself from the grounds before he called the sheriff to do it for him. According to Trellis' own account, he told The Mean Ol' Bastard that he'd give the sheriff a reason to come out there, pulled a snub nosed .38 Police Special from his waistband, and pulled the trigger six times. Stillwell was dead before he hit the ground.

While you'd have thought no jury would convict him, Whitey Trellis died of lethal injection three years later. Justice was slow but sure in this state.

As for the Stillwells. Grace Stilwell, Jason's wife, took his horrible death as a sign. After an appropriate mourning period (three weeks) she liquidated every asset Jason Stillwell had and made a break for Los Angeles with her two kids and over seven million dollars in cash. As for the house, it lay bare. She couldn't find a buyer so she had the furniture covered with sheets, boarded up the windows and that was that. The house lay empty, every year, the elements beating it down a little. Stillwell's house became Stillwell House. Then came the rumors. Of course they did. What kind of town didn't have its very own haunted house? But then weird things started happening there.

TO BE CONTINUED (Maybe).....


  • Is this a short story or the start of a novel? What d'ya mean to be continued "maybe"? I want to know what happens next...

    By Blogger MC Aryeh, at 10:36 AM  

  • I have no idea - I wrote it last night. It could be either or, or it could stand on its own I guess.

    By Blogger Elster, at 2:00 PM  

  • If I say pretty please, with a cherry on top?

    That's really good for "I wrote it last night"!

    By Blogger turquoiseblue, at 10:59 PM  

  • I was thinking about doing it as a serial or something. I guess if ppl are interested, I could keep it going...

    By Blogger Elster, at 10:01 AM  

  • One of your details doesn't match up. Miller High Life is an awfully classy beer for someone who uses the term 'horsepucky'. I think he should drink Pabst or The Beast.


    By Blogger AnySara, at 9:43 PM  

  • Haha, very funny

    Everyone's a critic

    By Blogger Elster, at 9:46 PM  

  • In all seriousness, I admire your writer's eye for detail - both physical and emotional. Well done.

    By Blogger AnySara, at 10:15 PM  

  • THAT's better.

    By Blogger Elster, at 10:19 PM  

  • I stand by my choice of beer, though.

    By Blogger AnySara, at 12:35 AM  

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