I have one that I plan to put in a book called Tales from the Blue Dog Cafe. It will be a collection of weird stories told at a cafe in West Texas. We'll see how well I do with that. Anyway -- here is The Store. I hope you enjoy.
By: MJ Henry
As I sat having some lunch and going through my notes, and older gentleman came and sat down at my table.
“You seem pretty interested in all the strange stories people have to tell around here.”
“It’s what I write.”
“Would you like to hear one about our old grocery store and what happened to one woman there?”
“OK … Well, back in the late 50’s, there was a six year old, blond haired, blue eyed girl named Betsy, who had quite a fright in our old store. They say she was picture of sweetness. Everyone loved her and remarked about what a pretty little thing she was. She was her mother’s only child and went everywhere her mother went. When Betsy’s mother decided to go to the store to purchase some groceries for the evening’s meal, Betsy was right there.
They lived in a small town with only one store. The store was an old frame, two story building. The upstairs was where the store owners and Mother Agnes lived. The store itself was comprised of four aisles and one checkout counter. Off to one corner in the front of the store were the magazine and candy racks. This was always the first place Betsy would visit, while her mother would visit with Mrs. Smith, the owner’s wife.
Betsy sat looking at the most recent issue of McCall Magazine, searching for the Betsy McCall paper doll. She loved that she had the same name as Betsy McCall. Usually, if there was a new issue, her mother would purchase it. Then Betsy could have the paper doll and her mother could enjoy the articles and recipes contained within.
‘Betsy?’ Her mother called after she and Mrs. Smith were finished visiting. ‘Do they have a new issue yet?’
‘Not yet, mommy.’ Betsy put the magazine back in the rack and went to her mother’s side.
As they were shopping, this particular day, Betsy was self-absorbed and lost track of which way her mother turned. To her the store with its four aisles was enormous. She became frantic when she didn’t see her mother and ran to the next aisle. She turned the wrong direction, however, and went down an aisle where she saw an old woman standing with her back to Betsy.
The old woman turned and Betsy could see that she was eating some raw meat, blood dripping down her chin. ‘Hello, Betsy,’ the old woman said. ‘I’ve been waiting for you.’
Thirty years later, Betsy was still a picture of sweetness, with her blond hair and blue eyes. She was still a pretty woman, even in her late thirties – yet, she was so full of fear. It seemed she was never quite able to get over that fateful day when she met Mother Agnes -- face to face.
Now, as she visited her home town, and old friends, she decided it was time to face her fears at the old grocery store. She had been in therapy for years, but could never bring herself to re-enter that store. The store was long since deserted and stood in ruin. The windows were gone. The doors were gone. The people were gone.
Betsy stepped through the threshold, into what once was a grocery store. It had been a number of years since the town began to die. The Smith’s out retired and moved out of their upstairs apartment. They now lived in a small house on Front Street. Everything in the old store was covered with dust; the shelves were all empty. In the corner where Betsy once poured through McCall’s, she saw a stack of old magazines on the floor.
“Hmm, they’re McCall’s.” She looked at the pages of paper dolls littering the floor. ‘How funny.’
Betsy turned her attention to the aisle where she once met “Mother Agnes”. Agnes was Mrs. Smith’s mother. She had lived with them for years – every since she lost Mrs. Smith’s father in an accident. They always tried to keep her upstairs, away from people, but with just the two of them it wasn’t always possible to watch her.
‘Seems OK,’ Betsy told herself as she continued down the aisle.
There was nothing but dust and cobwebs on the shelves – once in a while she would see a stray can of some ancient food stuff. Suddenly she heard a slight rustling behind her.
“Probably a rat -- or something.”
She ignored the sound at first, but it continued. Then it began to sound like a slurp, or a smack – like someone or something noisily eating their food. She turned to see what was making the sounds. There she stood, with her back to Betsy. Betsy gasped.
Mother Agnes turned to reveal a piece of meat that had been ripped from the carcass of some animal. She hungrily devoured the meat with blood dripping down her chin.
‘Hello,’ the old woman said. ‘I’ve been waiting for you.’
They say that poor Betsy has been in the state mental hospital every since. You want to know something really funny about all this?”
“What would that be?”
“Well, they ended up sending Mother Agnes to the same hospital.”
The gentleman stood and walked away, chuckling to himself. I couldn’t help but muse over how odd this place and these people all were.