An old woman enters a local newspaper's Scary Story Contest with evil intent.
POLLY’S SHOCKING SCHEME AT HALLOWE'EN
On Wednesday, September twenty-third, Miss Polly Leanne Davenport neatly folded her morning News-Journal and laid it beside her empty tea cup on the kitchen table. She sat quietly thinking for a while then she got up from her chair and walked down the hall to her father’s study. When Polly tiptoed in the closed room smelled of mildew and neglect. Diminutive, gray-haired, the aging woman stood amid the ghostly shrouds and shapes surveying the room with grim determination. Then, clearing a narrow path, she moved aside stacks of ages old magazines and moldy books — chronicles of her father’s accomplishments. Tossing aside a dust laden sheet, she said aloud to herself, “This dirty work must be finished by the time Mr. Kirby comes.” Like a prop from an old adventure movie, Papa’s strapped and locked wooden chest sat moldering there; untouched since it, like Papa, had been laid to rest ten long years ago. Even now, as Polly turned the rusted death’s-head key protruding from the lock, she could hear Papa’s stern warning: “Never open my chest, Child, there’s hidden danger there.” But this wouldn’t be the first time Polly had. “Sorry, Papa,” she whispered as she raised the creaking lid. Peering into the forbidden chest of memories, she caught her breath, trembling. “Oh, Papa, has it been so very long?” A curious child again, Polly reached into the chest, exploring Papa’s belongings … trying on his beloved old topi sun helmet from India … fingering his hand tooled boots from Spain … stroking his Amazon hunting jacket — yellowed now and stiff with age. Mama had died of flu, Polly remembered, when she was only eight. After that, she had idolized her father, an anthropologist and author of some note, delighting in his stories when, together, they’d rummage through this treasure chest of souvenirs. Polly had vowed then that she’d be a writer, too, some day. But her amateurish efforts, regularly left on the table by Papa’s chair, through all the passing years never survived Papa’s rigid scrutiny. Disillusioned, unhappy, despite her enduring dedication, Polly failed miserably at pleasing Papa for most of his eighty-five years. Without a moment’s hesitation, from the Amazon jacket’s inside pocket, she drew a small metal box which she carried with care and placed on the kitchen counter. Then Polly dressed to go shopping. When she returned with her purchases, she set a pot of water on the stove to boil. Snapping on rubber gloves, she unlatched the little metal box, removed one of two dram bottles from its triform padded nest, worked out the tiny stopper and poured the vial’s viscous contents into the bubbling water as she had done once before. Then she dipped five sheets of quality bond paper into the liquid, and laid them on plastic wrap to dry. Later, she donned fresh rubber gloves and ironed the sheets till they were smooth. Thoughtfully, she typed the pages. This time, she folded and eased them into a stamped addressed envelope, sealing it with a glove’s dampened fingertip. She stripped off the gloves, inside out, and disposed of vial and gloves as she had before in a very deep backyard hole. When Polly saw the postman round the corner, she walked to her mailbox. “Afternoon, Mr. Kirby! South American curare arrow poison!” she said, handing him the envelope. “Did you know your skin can absorb it? Afflicts the nerves, kills quickly … but gently. Interesting, eh?” Mr. Kirby thought, “Batty old maid should be put away!” but he answered, “Yes, ma’am, sure is,” as he drove on. Polly carried the little metal box, containing one dram bottle, back to Papa’s study and replaced it in his Amazon jacket pocket. Smiling calmly, she said, “I know, Papa! You said, I have ‘this silly little problem’ with rejection.” She sighed aloud. “Oh, how you treated me! If those cintest editors read the story I just gave Mr. Kirby … if they handle that curare treated paper—” She smiled a subtle, triumphant smile. “—we know what will happen. Every time I’ve submitted to them, those story editors have rejected me. Just like you always did. So … on with this latest Scary Story writing contest!” Polly’s wild eyes reflected her madness. “Today, I wrote about the chest, the box, and us -- and every word is true . That deadly entry, that tormenting tale — if they read it — will make headlines.” Her voice grew hoarse. “Then, the last vial will be mine.” Dutifully, Miss Polly Leanne Davenport buttoned her father’s Amazon hunting jacket, replaced the topi helmet on his breast, and whispered, oh, so softly, as she closed his private chest, “Oh, Papa, dear, you’re such a bag of bones — rest, now, Papa, rest!” --Published in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, October 31, 2000 --Hallowe’en Scary Story Contest winner.